In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Jason Feifer. Jason Feifer is the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine and the author of the book — Build for Tomorrow: An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career.
The moments of greatest change can also be the moments of greatest opportunity. We experience change in four phases. The first is panic. Then we adapt. Then we find a new normal. And then, finally, we reach the phase we could not have imagined in the beginning, the moment when we realize that we wouldn’t go back. In this episode, I talk with the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, Jason Feifer, about how to make change happen on your own terms.
Questions I ask Jason Feifer:
- [1:19] What does an editor-in-chief at a magazine actually do?
- [3:23] Your book is essentially about embracing change, and there are four phases. As I was reading I saw panic and adaptation, and that sort of reminded me how that’s exactly what we’ve been doing these last two years — right?
- [6:28] Would you say that when you read and write things you’re always looking to answer the question – “where’s the insight in this?”
- [10:30] You talk about the payoff for change being – you wouldn’t go back. Could you describe that idea and then share what a wouldn’t go back moment for you?
- [13:35] What would you say is one of the greatest benefits of change?
- [19:24] What do you mean by future-proofing your career?
- [23:54] Where can people connect with you, learn more about your work, and grab a copy of your book?
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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Marketing Against the Grain, hosted by Kip Bodner and Keion Flanigan is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. Look, if you wanna know what’s happening now in marketing, what’s ahead and how you can stay ahead of the game, this is the podcast for you, host and HubSpot’s, CMO and SVP of Marketing. Kip and Keion share their marketing expertise unfiltered in the details of truth and like nobody tells it. Fact. A recent episode, they titled Half Baked Marketing Ideas They Got Down In the Weeds, talked about some outside of the box campaigns with real businesses. Listen to marketing, its grain wherever you get your podcasts.
(00:55): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Jason Feifer. He’s the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine and the author of a book we’re gonna talk about today, build for Tomorrow, an action plan for embracing change, adapting fast and future proofing your career. So Jason, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me. Appreciate it. So I’ve always wondered what is an editor in chief at a magazine Actually do
(01:54): I also am very involved in the editorial direction of digital, though we have a digital director who’s involved, who’s really running that day to day. And then I’m involved in very high level decisions about the brand more broadly. And I, I work very closely with the ad sales team. I’m often on calls meeting with clients and I’m also the face of the brand. So I’ll go out and represent the brand on television or radio or in podcasts like this. So that’s, you know, that’s what it means. Basically I’m, you know, part of, I’m part a director of brand, I don’t know, connection. I’m trying to come up with corporate language here, but I don’t, you know, I don’t really know. But basically I’m the guy who decides what we should be covering and why and the tone and feel of the brand. Yeah, so you might be the one saying, you know what, sometime in the next quarter we need to do an issue on AI or something like that.
(02:46): Yeah, that’s exactly right. And then what are those stories exactly gonna be and who should we assign to write them? And now that they’ve come in, let me read through that, you know, and give feedback and work with the other editors to make sure that everything is really up to stuff. And also make sure that, that I’ve set the tone for, you know, well if we’re gonna do a thing about AI then we gotta make sure we have a nice mix of these stories and who’s gonna be on the cover and now I gotta go negotiate with some publicist about which celebrity we’re gonna put on and on. And you were, uh, as if Memory serves me, you were a fast company in that capacity at some point as well. I was not as editor in chief, I was a senior editor of Fast Company.
(03:21): Yeah. So that, you know, sort of in the middle of the totem pole there. Okay. So let’s talk about your book. I’m gonna jump right into the middle of it. You talk about change, which essentially that’s what the book’s about, right? Part of the subtitle Embracing Change, you, you talk about it in four phases, panic, where do I have it? Panic, adaption, new Normal wouldn’t go back. And it’s funny, but as I read that component, I was like, well that’s exactly what we’ve been doing the last two years, isn’t it? It sure is
(04:12): I mean often, I mean, change is happening to us all the time, but in sometimes it’s just so slow we don’t really perceive it. So, so that was a great exam. I mean that was a great sort of laboratory, if you will, for, you know, how it actually happens, wasn’t it? Yeah, it sure was. And it was incredibly instructive. I had gone into the pandemic thinking a lot about this subject and I had come to this conclusion that the thing that drives success more than anything else is somebody’s ability to be adaptive. But I hadn’t quite gotten down to what they’re doing and my big theory of the case, and that really came because of the pandemic. And in particular, funny enough, it came because, you know, I had mentioned a minute ago that I have to go on all these or have to, is not the right phrase.
(04:59): It is my pleasure to go on all these sales calls with entrepreneurs, sales team talking to clients. And I was being asked all the time during those calls, especially in the first year of the pandemic, well what is, you know, what’s on entrepreneurs’ minds and what are they doing and how are they reacting? And because people kept asking me, I was trying to come up with a kind of simple narrative of what it is that I was seeing. And as I told this story over and over again, it just sort of coalesced into this little four phases of change thing. And as I said it, people responded very positively and said, you know what, that makes a lot of sense. And I started to share it with entrepreneurs who were going through major changes or had gone through major changes and they said, yeah, I think you’re really right about that.
(05:40): So I started to try to map on top of that all the lessons and insights that I was gathering from people and it just felt like a real progression of, of what the experience was. And I came over with a couple things from that, but one of the big ones was how incredibly powerful it is to be able to take observations and turn it into narrative form. That when you’re trying to share insights and information with people, whether it’s in a sales call or a book or anything in between, being able to map insights on top of a story is incredibly valuable because it helps people understand conceptually what you’re talking about. And it also helps them find themselves within your story. And that’s where I think you can really hook them and start to have more interesting conversations. Well, you probably have become possibly
(06:39): Oh yeah, all the time. I mean, I am obsessed with how my theory of media for whatever it’s worth is that I don’t think that anybody wants to read a magazine. I don’t think that anyone wants to read a book. I don’t think that anyone wants to listen to a podcast. I think what they want is valuable information that they can use and or a useful experience, right? Right. I mean, sometimes people are just doing things for entertainment and that’s fine, it’s an escape or whatever the case is. But you have to be aware that the medium by itself is not the reason that people come. Nobody picks up the magazine because they love a magazine. They pick up a magazine because they love useful information and a magazine just happens to be a good delivery mechanism for them. So I try to take that insight and really remind myself of it on a minute by minute basis.
(07:25): So if I’m having a conversation with somebody or if I’m, you know, if I’m on stage being asked questions, I understand that even if you’re asking a question about me, you’re really asking a question about yourself. So I better in my answer, make sure that I’m taking insights and then turning them back and making them useful to you. Um, it’s, it’s why, you know, if you ask me on this podcast, you’re welcome to. So sort of personal question I’ll answer it. But what I’ll try to do is instantly search for the way in which whatever you asked me, whatever I’m talking about myself, how can that offer some kind of insight for an audience? Like how could this be useful to you? Cause again, I’m thinking just like, I don’t think that you care about picking up a magazine. I don’t think you care about me or there’s no reason that somebody’s listening to this right now because they care about me.
(08:09): What they care about is that I might say something that’s useful to them and that’s great. That’s exactly how we all should think. So I and everybody else who creates any kind of content or anything that people consume, we should be very aware of that at all times. So, so now we are going to continue our show on cynicism.
(09:05): It’s funny cuz I, that reaction that you gave is one that I get a lot when I say things like this, but I don’t mean to say that this is, this isn’t a cynical thing at all. This is like, know your value. Yeah. Because if you know your value, you can pay off to people incredibly well. Yeah. And I was completely getting, um, you know, I understand because it could be interpreted that way, but I’ve said for forever as a marketer, you know, nobody wants what we sell. They want the problem solved. And that’s really how we have, that’s absolutely the right framework to look at it. Are you an agency owner, consultant or coach that works with business owners? Then I want to talk to you about adding a new revenue stream to your business that will completely change how you work with clients.
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(10:31): Going back to these phases again. Yeah, I, my personal favorites panic, I mean I like the messy, but you, you’re talking about wouldn’t go back as really the payoff, you know, for going through the change.
(10:42): So maybe two, two part question here. Maybe describe that idea or that you know what’s in that and then maybe talk about, you know, put you on the spot a little bit. What’s a wouldn’t go back moment for you? Yeah, so wouldn’t go back is what I say is the real payoff of the four phases of change where you reach a moment where you say, I have something so new and valuable that I wouldn’t want to go back to a time before I had it. And what this really is recognizing that there was more than one way to do something and that in fact that these other ways that maybe you were forced into through some kind of crisis or disruption or that you were proactive in trying to figure out how to grow beyond whatever it is that you initially built. That this requires discovering something that wasn’t on your original roadmap, but that once you get there you recognize it has tremendous transformative transformational value.
(11:37): And, and one of the ways I think people can do that is to do what I like to call to reconsider the impossible, which is to basically take stock of the ideas that you had discarded because they possibly are actually the ones that are gonna be the most transformational. I think we all build these filters for ourselves and, and we say the good ideas are in here, the bad ideas are out there, but you know, those filters are faulty, they’re understandable. We can’t consider every idea at every moment of the day. We don’t have the time for it. But we have to recognize, especially as we build systems and we start to incentivize the people around us to, you know, do everything better, faster, and cheaper, that we also have to make sure that we’re building systems that take into account that, that people are gonna have new needs.
(12:18): That, that the way in which we operate is going to shift and change and we better make sure that we’re alert to how to be adaptive to that or else we’re gonna become irrelevant. You asked about me, I mean, one of the things that I, when I started at Entrepreneur Magazine, my background is in media. So I was at, as you mentioned, fast Company, but also me, men’s Health Maxim. I freelanced for everybody from GQ to Slate to whatever. And, and so I got to entrepreneur, I really thought of it as a media project. You know, I’m here to remake the magazine, I’m here to make media and, and then people, when I would go out into the world, they wouldn’t treat me as a media person. They would treat me as a thought leader in entrepreneurship. And I was deeply uncomfortable by that at first because, you know, I just did, I felt like a fraud.
(13:01): But eventually I realized there was a massive opportunity if I could just understand what it was that people wanted for me and also find the honest way in for myself. Because look, I’m not the guy who can tell you exactly how to grow your business from a, you know, $1 million company to a $10 million company to a hundred. That, that’s not me, that’s not my background. But my background is in people. I understand people, I understand how they think, I understand how they process information and I can take those lessons and I can turn them into value for other people. So I wanted to figure out where’s my place in all this and if I could do that, then I could remake the way that I think about myself and also seize the larger opportunity, which is really the reason I’m talking to you right now.
(13:43): Nobody asked me to write a book, nobody asked me to be on all these podcasts or to go, uh, you know, do keynote talks for companies. But that was the opportunity available and I wanted to make sure I was able to rise to meet it. What would you say is one of the greatest, ultimate benefits of change? I mean, sometimes change is hard, sometimes change hurts, sometimes change ends you up somewhere that wasn’t as lucrative, for example, as you previously were, but there’s a payoff isn’t there to going, having gone through that or can there be Oh, I think, yeah, certainly there can be, and I think that there often is, you know, I mean look, oftentimes when we’re talking about people navigating change is sometimes of their own making a decision. And a lot of times it is reactive. It’s that we were doing something for a long time and it stopped working and so we had to do something else.
(14:32): So look, part of part of the value of it is not drowning is is building this kind of knowledge that things are going to change into the way in which you operate so that you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a disruption that is incredibly hard to overcome. That’s really the power here is to be thinking is the reason I called the book Build for Tomorrow, is like, what are you doing today that is anticipating tomorrow? Because Harvard Business Review ran this piece a couple years ago that asked this question, which is why do big companies stop innovating? And the answer that was offered was because big companies start with an innovation and then over time they shift all of their energy and all of their incentives towards efficiency. How do we make things better, faster and cheaper? And that’s fine, nothing wrong with efficiency, but the problem is that if top to bottom everybody’s incentivized towards efficiency, then nobody is thinking about how this company is gonna have to change because you know, your blockbuster and Netflix is coming along and that’s how you see complete destruction, not just disruption.
(15:41): So I think that’s one, one way to think about it. The other way to think about it is that, is that they’re, I think oftentimes we sell ourselves short. I think that successful people sell themselves short because they say, you know, maybe the reason why I have this level of success was some combination of luck and timing that doesn’t exist anymore and there’s just simply no way that I could recreate it. And I just don’t, I just don’t think that’s true. I think that’s a good, that’s a way in which people end up holding onto old things for too long. But if instead you give yourself some credit and you own some of your success, then you say, you know what? Maybe I have something here and I could build even more than I have right now. Or I could build even bigger. I could solve problems that I can’t just let sit around until they eat at the foundation that I’m standing upon.
(16:26): The more that we just accept that new does not equal bad, then the more I think we can liberate ourselves to try to build that new ourselves. Well, I mean in a way it sounds like you’re advocating that, you know, if somebody’s been in a job, been in a career, been doing something for, you know, a certain period of time, that it may still feel comfortable, but maybe you almost need to force change that to put yourself out there to say, Hey, I need to do new things because I’m starting to do mediocre. I mean, I think this is a concept to call work your next job that I think everybody should be doing. Whether you own your own company or you are working for someone else’s company work, your next job is to remind that in front of you you have two sets of opportunities.
(17:12): Opportunities set a opportunity, set B opportunity, set A is everything that’s asked of you. So you have a boss or you have clients, whatever it is, like your ability to deliver on their expectations is opportunity. Set a opportunity set B is everything that’s available to you that nobody’s asking you to do. And you know, that could be within the work structure you have that could also be outside where you say, oh, I like podcasts, maybe I should start a podcast. My belief and the way that I built my career and the way that I watch others do too is that I think that they, I believe that opportunities set B is always more important. Opportunities say A, you know, doing the things that are expected of you, those are not unimportant, you have to do those. But opportunity set B is where growth is gonna happen.
(17:58): That’s where you’re going open up additional opportunities that you hadn’t seen before. I mean, you know, you look at the greatest companies in the world and what they tended to do was start in a very narrow space, prove their model and their understanding of what their value was, and then start to expand outward from there by understanding what people need and therefore building that back into who they are. And companies transform as a result, right? What you’re watching is really people who are, uh, leaders who are recognizing that the greatest thing that they can do for their company is test something now so that they can understand what’s going to be of value tomorrow to people. There’s just, you know, look, there’s nothing wrong If you have something and it works for you, I’m not telling you to throw it away, that’s ridiculous. But what I am telling you is that the, there’s a high likelihood that the thing that you’re doing right now is simply not going to work as well tomorrow as it does today because the world changes.
(18:52): And if you don’t change with it, then you become outmoded slowly but surely. So let’s build that reality into what we do. Let’s build systems in which we’re recognizing what’s changing around us and then running little experiments. Let’s make sure that, you know, if we’re running a business, that we’re constantly talking to our customers and understanding where they are moving towards so that we can take those insights and build them back into the way that we serve them now. Because everything has to be an evolution. And if you don’t think of it that way, then you’re gonna be stuck in the past. Yeah, and you know, again, um, subtitle the book, future Proofing Your Career. I mean, what you’re talking about there is really, I mean there’s probably always gonna be a market out there somewhere for that plan B, bucket B stuff you’re working on, right?
(19:37): If it’s not appreciated where you are, that’s really how you, I mean, I’m guessing that’s an element of future proof proofing your career, isn’t it? Oh yeah, without question. And I think that you, if we’re just talking about individual people and individual careers and individual skill sets, then, you know, then, I mean just to simplify it then it’s so interesting because what, look, think about your own career or the careers people who you know you’re close with are very impressed by it. And what you’ll see is this kind of wacky zigzag, right? Where they did one thing and it led to something that seemed completely different, which led to something else. I mean, how am I running Entrepreneur Magazine? It, it’s not because of some straightforward path, it’s because of like all of these random roles that I held over time that, that, that have a logic to them because I worked at Men’s Health and that taught me this particular kind of writing style.
(20:25): And then, and then I went to Fast Company, which fine, I worked at a magazine, but really the value there was that I worked at the video team and, and I got in front of the camera and I learned how to present, which many years later, the CEO and president of Entrepreneur Media would see that stuff and say, oh, this guy can be a good representative of this brand and that helps us feel confident that he should be an editor in chief Chief. So the more in which we are embracing this little zigzag path, while being mindful that some of the greatest opportunities are the ones that we aren’t going to have anticipated, the more that we’re really clearing the way for success. Malcolm Gladwell told me, I interviewed him, you know, bestselling author and podcast her and all sorts of things. Malcolm Gladwell, he told me when we were speaking for the magazine a couple years ago, he said, self concepts are powerfully limiting.
(21:15): And I mean, I just, I love that so much. I wrote it down and stuck it on my wall. Self-conception are powerfully limiting that if you have two narrow a definition of yourself, then you will turn down all the opportunities that don’t meet that narrow definition and therefore you will actually limit your ability to grow. I try to take that to heart pretty much with everything that I do. His audiobook with Paul Simon right up there with one of my favorites. Malcolm Glad was what you just said is interesting though, because there’s a fine line between that idea of limiting yourself and staying focused on, you know, not just chasing every new thing that comes down, you know, and that’s, that’s the real trick is under, is understanding where to get off path, what to chase, what not to chase, where, how to stay focused. And I think that’s, that that’s the part that many people stumble and have trouble with.
(22:06): Yeah, I think you’re totally right and look, it depends upon your circumstance, right? I mean, I hear lots of different versions of that problem from, I’ve been speaking to a lot of college students lately and cuz of the book, I’m going to a sort of college tour and there was a kid at Drexel University who just came up to me and he was like, you know, he wants to do seven different things and they’re all like wildly different, you know, and so which one is he supposed to do? And, and I hear that and then I also hear companies who have 10 different ideas of what they should be doing right now is not the resources to pursue all 10 of them. And one of the, I mean look, there’s, there’s all sorts of ways to answer that question, but I think one of the foundational things to think about is it came from conversation I had with Katie Milkman who studies sort of how people change and make decisions at Wharton.
(22:55): She’s a professor there and she said, you know, one of the greatest mistakes that we make is that we think of everything that we do as permanent. And, and so, you know, she told me, she was like, look, this advice is not gonna sound revolution. It kind of is because people often overlook it, which is to just give ourself, give ourselves the permission to run experiments to, to simply think, you know, I’m going to try something and it might be of value and it might not be of value. And both of those are, okay, so let’s go into something and maybe let’s set a three, three month check in and a six month check in and see if there’s value here and if there is, let’s continue. And if not, maybe we move on to something else. But you know, there’s no fault in having tried it. The more that we can just think of what we’re doing as experiments, the more in which we give ourselves the freedom to just explore some of those avenues and see whether they’re worthwhile. But we have to pick some of them and we have to go down that path. It’s the only way to know whether there’s value there.
(23:53): Speaking with Jason Feifer, the author of Build for Tomorrow, Jason, you wanna tell people where they can connect with you, obviously in other than the mass head of the magazine, there are other places you might send people and of course to get a copy of your book as well. Yeah, sure. So built for Tomorrow, you can find in any format you like. So, uh, hardcover, audio book, ebook, what basically any retailer you like. So anyway, again, it’s built for tomorrow. And then otherwise my website is JasonFeifer.com. It’s got links to all sorts of stuff that I produce from podcasts to free audio guides and, and also you can find me on LinkedIn or Instagram where I’m extremely active and responsive. Awesome. Well thanks again for taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road. Hey, appreciate it.
(24:38): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It’s called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it @ marketingassessment.co. Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That’s just marketingassessment.co. I’d love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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