Beyond Busy


How to Deal With a Fast Changing World with Azeem Azhar

Ep. 129

My guest today is Azeem Azhar. Azeem is a serial entrepreneur, a journalist, startup investor, technologist and is the founder of Exponential View, a weekly email with 200,000 subscribers including many of the leading lights in tech. His new book ‘Exponential’ is a fascinating look at how humans can learn to thrive in an age of accelerating technology.

It really is a must-read for all of us right now. If we want to keep pace with the rapid changes happening right now and perhaps even more importantly, with what's to come. So in this episode, we talk about exponential technologies and it's not all about AI. Azeem talks us through what he calls the exponential gap.

We also talk about the future of work, adapting to shifts in power, and whether he's optimistic or pessimistic for the future. 

We talked about what is the world of startup right now:

Startups are super, super hard and the reason it's challenging is that no one knows the answer because you're building something that hasn't been built before. So not only do you not know what you need to build, you don't know how to build it.

And also you have to bring a bunch of people on that journey with you and you have to motivate them. You have market challenges, you have technical problems and you have people problems. And at the same time, you've got to hit milestones given the funding that you have available. It's really intense.

And the other thing that you know is that you're not special. 

That the fact that you have figured out that this technology could meet this market need and create a new product means that a thousand other people have figured that out too.

Azeem explains why it is so hard to get what is the exponential gap:

So obviously these things are changing so quickly. And they're driven by the technology and by entrepreneurs and scientists who are able to take advantage of it. But the rest of us live in a world that is much more linear, that changes much more slowly and we don't necessarily understand that there are exponential processes, and we don't necessarily understand what the impact of those processes are. 

And one question is, why don't we understand it? And you know, I'm a bit laissez about this, I can explain it in over 20 cases or so, but that is we're really bad at maths. We don't see exponential processes in the real world. Our child goes from one to two to three to four every year. They don't go from one year old, two years old to four years old, to eight years old, to 16 years old. We see linear processes, we experience linear processes. 

And so there are probably evolutionary reasons why it's not in our makeup to naturally understand these very, very fast changes. We don't see how quickly things are all shifting.

And, we found out if there is anything that Azeem do that has the biggest impact on his own work and his own experience:

All the things that I do, they're all connected to the main thing that I do that has the impact. I think we are going through a transition to the exponential age. I think it's gonna need new ideas, new institutions and new businesses. And, what I do in my work with my newsletters and my podcast is I use those to learn and to share my learnings. And then, I work with entrepreneurs by investing in them to help them build those businesses as part of the transition.

So it all hangs together in my head, even if it doesn't necessarily look, you know, maybe it looks a bit disaggregated, it's diffuse from the outside, but they are all meant to sit together and be part of this change that we all kind of privileged to be part of.

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How to succeed as a workparent, with Daisy Dowling

Ep. 128
My guest today is Daisy Dowling. Daisy has worked in senior leadership roles on Wall Street and has now left that behind to start workparent helping companies to best support working parents. She's also the author of ‘Workparent: Thrive in your career while raising happy children’. So, if you have kids or you're thinking of having kids this episode and Daisy's book are for you. We talk about how to support working parents, which organizations do it well, what to do if your boss isn't so understanding.We talked about the Zeigarnik effect, how to think about money and also what it was like to leave the Lehman Brothers just before it collapsed in the 2008 crash plus much more.Daisy talked about how to set up a dialogue between a manager and a working parent:(What do you think organizations can do to support managers to change those practices and to, and to really make it more of an embedded cultural response?)"So one thing I always advise managers to do and listen, most of the managers who I talk to are supportive there. They may not want to spend all of their time coaching working parents because they're busy or they've got their own kids at home.And they feel a little bit overwhelmed themselves. So, sometimes they don't want to cross the line or get into the support and counselling business and I understand that, but the one really powerful thing that managers can do. It's small but it really works is to ask the people on their teams, open-ended questions to signal support, to signal the fact that the door is open, that this conversation has permission that you don't have to hide what you have going on as a working parent.And as soon as you ask that, then. You're relating in a more human way. You're not making any promises. You're not telling somebody you can work at home five days a week, but what you are doing is putting yourself into a sort of a peer to peer conversation in which some problem solving can begin to happen."We also touched on the topic of productivity and guilt for lack of it:(I think, you know, that's also true of people's general sorts of guilt around how productive they've been, right?)"What I also see a lot of people do, and this is kind of to the productivity point is they compare themselves to other parents, particularly to their own parents or to pass mentors kind of, you know, early-career role models.And they say, well, they were able to do it. We are in a different productivity era, than our parents were, right? They, your mom or dad, may have worked full time. But he or she wasn't doing that with an iPhone in their pocket, that they had to remain glued to all the time, even while on holiday.So the pressures are different. And now it's time to pivot and to learn some of the compensatory skills that allow us to kind of manage and live the lives that we want today with the current set of circumstances, the current environment that we have."And we talked about the best way to interact with your children:(​​The importance of blank space and, and sort of being able to create space for play and like play really comes from being spontaneous and having, and, and just having a few bits of art materials or dressing up stuff around you, but it's actually just about almost being bored or just having to muse yourself as a kid as well.)"Well, one way is to kind of unschedule it and to do instead of to try to talk. So, you know, to just get down on the ground with your kid and start playing Legos, or to take, you know, a ball into the backyard and start kicking it around. And to have that be the connective time with your kid, that you don't have to be doing something that's outcome-oriented or asking your child, how was your day.Because that's a very adult thing to do. Your child just wants to feel like they're not performing for you. They're just got your attention. They don't have to be stressed or answering questions. I think she was five when my daughter said, I used to come home and say, how was your day? What happened at school? Whatever. And she said, first hugs, then play, then talk. Which were great advice and good coaching for me."🎙 About Beyond Busy:Beyond Busy is a podcast by Graham Allcott of Think Productive, author of “How to be a Productivity Ninja”. In this show, he interviews people from all walks of life about productivity, work/life balance, happiness and success.​​✔ Links:Workparent: Daisy Dowling: to Graham's Newsletter:​Buy “Workparent: The Complete Guide to Succeeding on the Job, Staying True to Yourself, and Raising Happy Kids”: Show Sponsors: Think Productive - Time Management Training:​​Useful links: by Pavel Novikov:

Ready for Anything with Dr Samantha Boardman

Ep. 127
This week on the Beyond Busy podcast we welcome Dr Samantha Boardman. Samantha is a clinical psychiatrist and she has a Master's in positive psychology, so her work joins the dots between all those different fields. She combines years of training in medical school and psychiatry with studies in the field of positive psychology. Samantha is also the founder of ‘Positive Prescription', and the author of a new book called ‘Ready for Anything'.In this episode, we talk about resilience being on you, how to create uplifts in your mood, and many other practical ways to deal with stress and be happier in your thinking. Samantha kindly shares her background, her education, and the way she came to positive psychology.She also said what was the reason to turn to positive psychology:"It was about 10 years ago, I was seeing a patient who had this. Maybe she didn't qualify for a full sort of diagnosis of depression, but she wasn't, she wasn't thriving. She wasn't feeling great. She was having issues with her husband. She had three kids. She was exhausted at home. And we were trying to minimize the conflict with our spouse.We were trying to help her have less issues with her mother-in-law and her kids. And one day she came into my office. I'd been seeing her for about six weeks. You know what, sometimes I just dread coming here. All we do is talk about what's wrong in my life. And even sometimes I'm having a good day and I have to think, what can I complain about?And it makes me feel worse and you know what I'm done. And it was this weird sort of wake up call to me that I had been. So laser-focused on everything. That is, you know, on her symptoms, on her issues, on her problems, on her chief complaint, in everything sort of radiated out from, from that, that I wasn't focusing at all.And I actually hadn't been trained to focus on what actually sort of promotes well being even. Could I help her with some of these issues, find strength within her stress and find sort of meaning within the madness of her everyday life. And that got me to go. Back to school and I, and to study applied positive psychology.That was the opposite of everything. One learns in medical school, in residency, in psychiatry, and it's really the study of, of health and wellbeing. And what are the factors that promote that and, and trying to now, I really, my, I think of myself as a positive psychiatrist and that I really try to.Ameliorates symptoms, but also how can I sort of promote wellbeing and they're not mutually exclusive and the idea of wellbeing being icing on the cake. Oh, let's just get somebody to feel a little bit better. And then you can talk about that other stuff. And I think you can, they can really go hand in hand."We also got an interesting insight on vitality:"I think of vitality is this sense of this feeling of a liveliness and energy that, you know, sort of tells you that you are ready for anything. And it's the opposite of feeling sort of depleted or down. And I think people often think that happiness is the opposite of depression, but it's actually vitality and it's what we need to counter the hassles.And it's something that then I think gives rise to little, our resilience, the idea of having resilience on a daily basis, not the big, our resilience, the are you know, the response. You know, big sort of bad stuff that can happen, but vitality is what fuels that everyday resilience. And it's, I think it's, it's really maybe undermining even our ability to feel strong.And, and they're just little things we can do in our daily lives, like connecting and contributing something and challenging ourselves that are really the wellspring of vitality. And it's not in your head again, it's actually in your everyday actions."The full conversation is available on the Beyond Busy YouTube channel. If you prefer listening, you can find the audio version of the episode on Podtail. Graham Allcott is the founder of the time-management training company Think Productive.Brought to you by Graham Allcott of Beyond Busy.✔ Links:Positive Prescription: Dr Samantha Boardman: Weeks to Ninja: Masterclass: to Graham's Newsletter:​​Buy “How to be a Productivity Ninja”:​​Our Show Sponsors: Think Productive - Time Management Training:​​Useful links: by Pavel Novikov:

The First 100 Days as CEO with Ndidi Okezie

Ep. 126
This week on Beyond Busy podcast we welcome Ndidi Okezie. Ndidi is a rising star in the charity World, the CEO of UK Youth and a board member of three boards, including Centrepoint. In this wide-ranging episode, we chat about having courageous conversations, kindness and much more.The conversation starts off with Ndidi's current plans and the mission of UK Youth:'So UK Youth is a leading charity with a vision that all young people are equipped to thrive and empower to contribute to every stage of their lives. We are an open network organization. We have about 7,000 youth organizations and national partners in our network. Based on our new strategy, we are very much focused on unlocking youth work as a catalyst of change that we believe is needed now more than ever.Fundamentally, we are a bit of a hybrid organization. So, we're an infrastructure body for the youth sector. We are a direct and program delivery organization as well. And, we're a campaign for social change. So collectively our work is to kind of build a movement of like-minded people who are determined to create a society that understands champions and delivers effective youth work for.'Ndidi also reflects on the problem of youth homelessness:'Well, if it's not school and it's not home, where do young people go? Because there's a question there about when home isn't a place you can go. What happens there? And when they're there, you know, there are issues with home. When you think about how young people end up homeless,there are so many different things that tend to happen for young people before that can happen.And having that safe place to go is such an obvious thing. But I think the sad reality is as a society we can't answer if they can go to a youth club. They can go to a youth provision because we know that the majority of young people. Don't have access to that. I think now most people can understand and accept that young people are one of them, if not the hardest hit demographic coming out of COVID, whether it's from the economic perspective, in terms of job prospects, whether it's from academic learning, whether it's from issues around online safety.'Then she shares what is like being a CEO as a black woman:'I would love to think about it: well, you're hired to be a CEO and that's what you are. But the reality is that I am a black woman CEO, and actually each of those things comes with its own thing. And then you compound them together. And again, I've experienced the gender dynamic. I've experienced that through my own leadership journey where you are invited to speak on things because you are a woman. You're invited to feed into issues and topics because you're a woman. I've been invited to speak on issues on the race for many, many years.Right. So it's not, it's never really been something I've been able to decouple. As a teacher, students would come to you because they could identify with you in certain things you've got speak on issues from a place of connection, whether that's a locality based on like London. What it is to work, grow up in particular environments all the way through to, you know, being African, being black, being female. So I think we all draw on all or aspects of who we are. I've never experienced a way where I just get to be the thing I am, as opposed to all of those things together. But yeah, I think again, the CEO level, I wasn't expecting it.I, again, feel very naive walking into it. When my appointment was announced, I just cannot explain to you the reaction and the responses that I got, the messages, the people kind of reaching out like, oh my God, celebrating the appointment more than celebrating me. If that makes sense. It was like, oh my God, you know, a black woman is leading youth charities, you know, an organization and the third sector.And this was all before everything that's happened. So I didn't even know all the issues the charity sector had when it came to be. So, you can almost understand that now, but at the time I was really taken aback.'The full conversation is also available on Beyond Busy YouTube channel. Graham Allcott is the founder of the time-management training company Think Productive.Brought to you by Graham Allcott of Beyond Busy.✔Links:Subscribe to Graham's Newsletter:​​Buy “How to be a Productivity Ninja”:​​Our Show Sponsors: Think Productive - Time Management Training:​​Useful links: