Business futurist Adrian Slywotzky is an American consultant of Ukrainian origin and the author of several books on economic theory and management. After obtaining his undergraduate degree at Harvard, Slywotzky also received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has worked as a consultant since 1979 and is currently a partner at Oliver Wyman. Slywotzky is one of the most renowned consultants of the United Statesand was elected as one of the 20 best consultants in 2008. Adrian Slywotzky is a member of the LvBS Advisory Board.
HOW TO SUCCEED?
I’ve been asked to talk about success, Ukrainian success. What it looks like, how to achieve it. Am I qualified? I don’t know. Will I say a lot of things you won’t want to hear? Absolutely. I’ll talk about the 12 commandments of success. And about one teacher.
Imagine two big stone tablets. Inscribed in them are the 12 commandments.
The 1st Commandment. Learn English. Perfectly. Within one year.
We’ve talked about this for many years now. It’s time to make it happen. English – is not a language. It’s a tool.
It is direct access to the world’s knowledge – in technology, business, art, media, science. It’s a different prism through which to see the world. A different culture.
It’s also a test of character. If I learn English, perfectly, within a year, I can accomplish anything.
The 2nd Commandment. A postcard.
Not from America, not from Europe. But from the future.
Have you ever received a postcard from the future? No? This is your chance. Write it yourself. No, not tomorrow – right now.
What does it say:
- From: Oksana
- To: Oksana
Oh, your name isn’t Oksana? That’s OK. Use your own name.
What does it say?
- I want to become __________
- I aspire to _______________
- My destiny is to ___________
If we do not have a goal, we will for sure never achieve it.
What will we see on those postcards?
Fascinating question. Here are a few examples.
- I will become the Shevchenko of Ukrainian prose.
- I will win the gold medal at the Olympics for my country.
- I will develop the best startup in Ukraine.
- I will be the best teacher of physics in Kharkiv, or L’viv, or …
- I will be the best pastor in my eparchy.
- I will build the best startup in the world.
1. Do this today. Not today, but now. In this moment, in your mind.
2. You can change this message in a year, or two, or a month. It’s often not easy to track down your vocation.
3. Do not tell anyone what your postcard says.
Why? My father once taught me: Don’t say “Done” until you’ve finished. Every time I violated that rule, I got into big trouble. Please allow me a tiny suggestion, a 10-year moratorium. For 10 years, let’s stop saying “how talented we are.” I’m the first sinner. I say this hundreds of times.
No, let’s rather say: “Here are the results I created. Here’s how I changed reality.”
It’s a much shorter conversation. It’s the only one that matters. Balzac said: “Great talent is a matter of great discipline.” It hurts to hear him say those words.
Actually, it’s truly hard to understand talent, and we don’t. We all think, let’s be honest with ourselves, that talent is about the most gifted. Here again, I’m the first sinner.
But “the most gifted” argument is simply not true. Bruce Lee can help us. “The successful warrior is … the average person, … who works with laser-like focus.”
Talent is not someone else. It’s you, and me. And plain old discipline. Especially the discipline that comes from that postcard from 2041.
The 3rd Commandment.
Let me ask a question: Am I an empty glass, or am I a proactive manager of my own learning?
An empty glass has arms and legs. It walks into a class and says to the prof: “Fill me with knowledge, and be sure to make a lot of jokes to keep me entertained.”
The active manager, he or she, thinks in a completely different way. They say: “I am responsible for my learning, I have an agenda, I want to act, I search for knowledge in order to apply it, to change things.
I search for knowledge in books and classes.
I search for it among friends and customers.
I search for it from my own mistakes.
I find it, and I apply it.
Knowledge – application = 0
The active manager – of their own learning – quickly discovers that the best learning is ACTION LEARNING, is learning by doing. And she organizes her time, her energy, and her work accordingly.
SELF LEARNING. ACTION LEARING.
This is a source of nuclear energy to fuel our development, our success, our service to others. The very famous Zen saying tells us: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I say: “Don’t wait for the teacher!”
The 4th Commandment. Listen to rock and roll.
There have been thousands of articles trying to decipher the secret of Steve Jobs’ massive success. They all missed the main point. Steve got to work, put on his earbuds, and started listening to rock and roll. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, ABBA, The Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt.
This created a powerful internal momentum that he then translated to the external world: his team, his products, services, his stores, his ads. It created and transmitted a whole wave of new energy to the world.
You have the advantage over Steve. Poor guy, Steve never listened to the Hadiukin Brothers, his playlist didn’t have Okean Elzy, Maria Burmaka, nor did it have “Don’t Worry,” nor the Picardy Trio. He never had a chance to hear “The little trolley car.” You can listen to the Beatles and to Burmaka, to ABBA and to Elza.
So, the 4th commandment: “Listen to rock and roll!”. It’s free. You’ll find it all on YouTube.
The 5th Commandment? Ethics
You’ll say “ethics?” Why ethics? Ethics costs. Ethics slows down the rapid rise of my career.
Dear friends, let’s avoid superficial thinking. I know, we all know that TV and the internet have compressed our attention span to 7 seconds. But this is not obligatory. Let’s take a closer look. Kyr Andrey taught us this a hundred years ago. Ethics is not a barrier; ethics is the most powerful engine of growth and development. It’s an enigmatic, mysterious source of limitless energy. Don’t believe it? Just look at UCU.
I won’t try to explain it; I’ll just ask a question, a sort of new age Zen koan: Why are the very best companies and leaders in so many fields the most ethical? Why?
1. Munger and Buffett – Berkshire Hathaway
2. John Bogle – Vanguard
3. Scott Cook – Intuit
4. John Lasseter – Pixar
5. Jim Sinegal – Costco
6. The Wegman Family
7. Sal Khan – Khan Academy
8. Jimmy Wales – Wikipedia
9. Fazle Hassan Abed – BRAC, in Bangladesh
10. Vladyka Borys and the entire team – UCU
This is an unbelievable list. Every Ukrainian organization, your organization can work to join this list. This will change the world. These are not words. This is a law, like the laws you see in physics.
The 6th Commandment – very unpleasant.
“Do not seek inspiration. Seek pressure.” Don’t seek comfort. Seek pressure, yes, pressure.
What are the sources of pressure?
1. A deadline – ours are too mild
2. A competitor – a great competitor is a great gift. Every athlete knows this.
3. A crisis
4. A catastrophe
5. A budget – ours are too generous
6. An impossible goal
Do you want progress? To break through, search for pressure. Search for constraints (time, budget, impossible goal). This is an iron law, again like the laws of physics. Comfort, inspiration never led to a breakthrough. Never. You know this yourselves. Every one of you has experienced this. Harness this truth for the benefit of your customers.
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, my teacher is Kyr Andrey. I recommend him to every one of you. I’ve been studying with him for four years. Four years ago, I received a fascinating e-mail. Sophia Opatska sent me a chapter of Mr. Marynovych’s book. It was the chapter on the economic thought and economic program of Kry Andrey.
I was stunned. Why? I won’t tell you. Read it yourselves, and you’ll understand. It’s far better for you to experience it for yourselves. I’ll provide just a single example of what I learned. Just one. We can discuss all the other dimensions of his work a little later.
If you read Kyr Andrey carefully, you’ll recognize a very clear, concise code that captures his economic thought and action.
1. Quality product
2. Fair price
3. Fair pay
4. Constant learning
5. Work together – cooperatives
6. Be an owner
Please go back to the 10 companies we mentioned earlier, and take a careful look at how they do business. They all do business according to Sheptyts’kyi’s code. They – are the exceptions. It’s our job to change this. So that they are not the exceptions, but rather the new standard of business behavior. In our economy, and throughout the world.
The Seventh Commandment: “Don’t seek motivation, seek method.”
Do you want unlimited success? Don’t look for inspiration and motivation, look for method, technique, tools, smart ways of working.
An example: Yo-Yo Ma is the greatest cellist in the world. His Dad taught him: Learn one measure. Just one. Don’t look forward. Don’t look back. Learn that one measure.
When, and only when you have mastered it, go to the next one. Easy to see, almost impossible to do. Friends, let’s not look for motivation, let’s look for brilliant methods.
The Eighth Commandment
You know, let me ask you, why 12 commandments? Why not 10? Answer: The spirit of healthy competition. Moses gave us 10; we have to think our way up to 12.
By the way, please read Shevelov’s essay about Ivan Franko’s “Moses.” The essay is titled “The Second Testament of Ukrainian Literature.”Then read Franko’s “Moysey.” I guarantee you won’t regret it. Oh, yes, the 8th commandment. One word: NETWORK.
Do you want a small success? Build a micro-network of 10–20 people (including your brother-in-law, uncle, nephew, etc.). Want a big success? Build a network of 100–200 people (not counting your brother in-law, uncle, nephew, …). Do you want to create a breakthrough? Build a network of 500–1,000 people.
A soloist doesn’t change reality. Isolation doesn’t change reality. To change things, you need a great team, and you need an extensive network.
This is incredibly hard work. And incredibly essential. Two principles from Kyr Andrey can help.
1. Authentic love of neighbor (yes, you can help the people in your network a lot).
2. The spirit of the cooperative – on a very personal level. Working together.
The Ninth Commandment
Every day, constantly search for asymmetry. We have to face the fact that we are behind in our development. We need to find opportunities to create disproportional impact, to achieve disproportionate returns.
The essence of asymmetry is an extremely different approach, a very different angle of attack, and – disproportionality. If I invest a dollar, I’m trying to create a return not of 20%, but of 20X.
The discipline of asymmetric action was developed by the best startups in the world, including our own. Such as GitLab, Grammarly, people.ai, Ring, Djooky, Petcube, MacPaw, and others.
You can read a summary of this approach in “David Wins.” Seek to apply this approach in your organization – every single day.
We are too poor to work only for proportional returns. To break out of the circle of history, we have to learn to think and act in a radically different way. To act asymmetrically.
The Tenth Commandment
Who is the most important person in China in the last two decades? This is a fantastic question. It deserves intensive discussion and debate. For my money, the answer is unambiguous. Notice that everybody in the world knows Jack Ma. And that’s not even the most important thing.
The most important thing is that every super-talented 16-year-old in China knows Jack Ma. They know Jack Ma, and they say six simple words.
The tenth commandment is to create the Jack Ma effect. It’s like the atomic bomb of development: a model, motivation, method, an energy. Jack understood one cardinal principle. It’s not enough to be a genius value creator; it’s also critical to become known.
To work to create a breakthrough, and, and, and.
To make yourself known.
When you do that, it will be very hard to calculate how much good you’ve set in motion.
The Eleventh Commandment
One word: HUMOR. NO, that’s wrong. Two words: UKRAINIAN HUMOR.
For breakthrough success, it’s essential. You’re not sure? Read Hohol’. “But, he wrote in Russian,” you’ll say. Dear friends, he wrote in Russian because in the first part of the 19th century, an urban Ukrainian language had not yet emerged. But, if Hohol’ had written in German, or English, or French, or Chinese, read just one page, and you’ll know it’s a Ukrainian writer.
Read Hohol’, read Lys Mykyta (yes, one more time), read Zhadan, and many others. In very difficult historical circumstances, there emerged in this country a powerful underground current of unstoppable humor.
Let’s learn it, and let’s drive its further development. In times of great distress, we always face the same choice – reach for the anti-depressants, or turn to your legacy energy-giving humor. Make your own choice. No joke: )
The Twelfth Commandment: Learn Ukrainian, perfectly.
I know what you’re thinking. Adrian is constantly contradicting himself. He says don’t say we’re talented, but he talks about talent all the time. He says don’t wait for a teacher; then he says go find a teacher. He says English is the most important language. Now he’s going to tell us Ukrainian is.
I have two answers:
1. Thank you for listening, not daydreaming.
2. If you’re looking for great, non-trivial success, you will encounter contradictions and paradoxes at every step of the way. I promise. So:
GET OVER IT! AND MOVE ON! So, Ukrainian, perfectly.
Is there anyone among us who has learned Ukrainian – perfectly? If we have not read every essay that Yuriy Shevelov wrote, then we don’t understand the potential of this language.
If we haven’t read the two-page long, yes two-page long sentences of Oksana Zabuzhko and Emma Andijewska, we haven’t grasped the potential of this language, to create visual effects, tough situations, dialogue, and complex molecules of subtle, sophisticated thought.
If we don’t read every issue of Forbes Ukraine, then we don’t understand the potential of this language: in technology, business, organization, economic development.
A different aspect of the issue: this language is not a language, but a warrior. Name me another language on the face of the globe, which people have spent several centuries trying to eliminate and eradicate. If you find one, please tell; I really want to understand its history.
In the meanwhile, let us all in unison send our greetings to Mr. Valuyev. Mr. Valuyev, you wanted to erase this language in just a few years. As our daughter Vira always says: “How’s that working out for you?”. Mr. Valuyev, our sincere apologies that our cooperation in your project was so unsatisfactory.
The Ukrainian language is not a matter of language, but of character. Toughness. Resistance. Self respect. Tenacity. Pride. Not a language, but a warrior.
But Adrian, you’ll say, what does this have to do with my career, with great success in my career? If you’re not a warrior, you won’t have a great career. If you don’t have character, you won’t have a great career.
But there’s another aspect to it, and that the discipline of bilingual thinking. Bilingual thinking and mental development. Not familiar with two-language thinking? Here goes. When I write an English text, on the facing page I write the Ukrainian version. When I write a Ukrainian text, on the facing page I write the English version. It doesn’t matter whether I write for UCU, Forbes, UGS, or Z Club. The process is the same. Cost: 2X. Quality of thinking: 10X
Try it, you’ll see. Two-language thinking. It has miraculous powers. To make you smarter.
In the next two decades, we will see an accelerated evolution of the language, in every field. Let’s join this process, reinforce it. It will provide tremendous satisfaction.
Let me close with the teacher. But first, to keep all these challenges in front of you, top of mind, for the next several weeks, you’ll find the text of this talk on the website:
1. In Ukrainian
2. In English
You’ll also find links to:
1. Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford’s graduation ceremony
2. Denzel Washington’s graduation speech, which beings with:
Put God first.
Put God in everything you do.
3. A presentation entitled: “10 Women.”
They are my heroes. Get to know them.
* * * * *
What did Kyr Andrey teach me? What does he teach me every week?
He taught me that we have absolutely no idea how great our true potential is. Absolutely none.
Consider for just one moment the multi-dimensionality of his contribution. He is not “a great talent.” He is a great “results-creator.”
- Economic thought and action
- Interfaith thought and action – decades ahead of his time
- The rules of political discourse
- Support of students
- Support of healthcare – hospitals and clinics
- Support of women – school, clinic, entrepreneurial investment
- Support of artists: photo studio, film studio, painter’s studio
- Acting globally
- Etc., etc., etc.
Sheptyts’kyi is an absolute enigma – who shows us what we too are capable of. What does he teach me every week? Well-meaning, friendly conversation. He listens, never judges; he helps articulate questions, gives hints, constantly refers to first principles.
Most of all, when there’s a really tough decision, he’ll say: Adrian, which choice do you feel is the right one, what do you feel in your gut? How would you like to be treated by others in this situation?
All of a sudden, a long conversation becomes very short. You make the right decision and move forward. What does he teach us? That deep spirituality and extreme pragmatism are not a paradox. They are essential partners. They are an absolutely necessary, and deeply joyful partnership.
The speech was delivered at the festival “Viter Na-Diyi” as part of the discussion “Recipe for Success – Ukrainian version”, September 12, 2021.