Rob and Sherry talk about two articles from Entrepreneur Magazine, one is an interview with Expedia’s CEO about critical traits developed early in his career, and the other deals with things to add to your morning routine.

Expedia CEO Shares the Critical Traits to Develop by Age 30

10 Tweaks To Your Morning Routine That Will Transform Your Entire Day

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Episode Transcript

Sherry Walling:I’m working in I-themes office today from Oklahoma City, which has been really fun. Just like a really cool creative group of people working here at I-themes. And they have, they have like a bunch of Lego sets around the office, including this Ferris wheel that I really am trying to inhibit myself from taking down and playing with. I feel like there should be more Legos in offices around the world.
Rob Walling:Yeah, that sounds super cool.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, it’s cool.
Rob Walling:I’m envious.
Sherry Walling:You have Legos in your office.
Rob Walling:This is true. As well as a 3D printer and some other random things. But the I-theme office is pretty cool.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, it’s in a storefront so it looks sneaky from the outside, it just sort of looks like a random strip-mall storefront. But then you come in and they have kind of this maze of rooms that are a combination of conference rooms and open space offices and then some smaller offices, but you can just tell that the crew that works here is, you know, they’re playful, they’re creative. There’s lots of white board walls all around that have legit work on it, and then lots of fun doodles and pictures of turtles and then they have Legos around. I don’t know, it’s just that cool, the cool startup vibe.
Rob Walling:Yeah, that’s fun. It’s always good to get to a new place and it kinda gives you a, like working from a new place gives me new perspective. I tend to get a ton done in the first few days when I discover a new coffee shop or when I’m working out of a new office like that, or a new co-working space, just this different stimulation.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, there’s kind of this infusion of fresh energy.
Rob Walling:Totally.
Sherry Walling:Based on the new location.
Rob Walling:Yeah.
Sherry Walling:So, we’ve been sending in some article links back and forth, and I thought maybe today we could talk about a couple of the articles that we’ve read lately that have been interesting.
Rob Walling:Yeah, I think that’s a good plan. I know one of them is an interview and it’s not super meaty, but there are some kind of cool takeaways, and then the other one has a lot more points to it, although some of them may be things we already know, but it’s always good to refresh.
Sherry Walling:So, the first one is an article from Entrepreneur magazine, and it was an interview with founder of Expedia. And I am not sure how to pronounce his name, do you know?
Rob Walling:You know, I have no idea. It’s Dara [inaudible 00:03:10] is what it looks like. I don’t, I know he’s a CEO, I’m not sure that he’s a founder, but he’s definitely running a big company like that. He’s gotta have some chops, in some former fashion.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, I’m thinking yes he has some chops.
 The article is an interview and they were asking him about, basically like, different life skills that he developed at different phases of his life, and it’s called “Expedia CEO Shares the Critical Traits to Develop By Age Thirty”. I didn’t really figure out why these things need to be developed by age thirty, that sort of timeline didn’t really make sense with me.
Rob Walling:Pretty arbitrary.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, it just sounds like a headline.
Rob Walling:Yeah, they phrased the question “what were the key talents you developed during your twenties?”, and it’s like, okay maybe this is just aimed at millennials or something and they wanted to angle it that way.
Sherry Walling:The two that he highlighted were “focus” and “flexibility”. And I really like that combination, in terms of thinking about leadership, being a founder, getting things done in life. They seem like a nice balance. He actually talked about them sort of separately, but I like how they balance each other out.
Rob Walling:Yeah, it’s really interesting, I mean we can say these two words, focus and flexibility, that doesn’t have a ton of meaning on their own, but he specifically gives an example when he says “when I was in my twenties, I learned not only how to work hard” which I actually think is a third one that he touches on, but he says, but, about the importance of focus, that he was in investment banking, and it was the go-go days of media mergers, and they were super busy. But he said he felt empowered that they didn’t have this formal FaceTime culture and they were allowed to focus. And then he says, you should identify specific takeaways from your first few roles as a young professional that will prove relevant for a lifetime. Early on I learned the importance of being acutely focused on my goals and the importance of fostering a culture that avoids unnecessary restrictions.
 I think that’s something when you’re in your twenties, I know I had no clue that what I was doing and building and learning, I would then use in my thirties and my early forties, and it really has. You know, if you’ve ever heard the Steve Jobs graduation speech, he talks about how he learned, I think it was calligraphy or fonts or something when he was auditing classes at a J.C., and later on that was one of the reasons that he really pushed for the Mac to have amazing fonts. And there were a couple other things like that, that he’s like, these things didn’t seem to be a big deal at the time, but over the coming decades they shaped the way he created product. And I feel the same way about some of my younger experiences. It’s your unique take, it’s the things that you bring that are different, that you learn in your early career that allow you to bring a unique take to things as you get older.
Sherry Walling:This is where I really differed with, at least, the author of this article putting a timeline on this skill. Because when I think about my twenties, one of the best things that I did, and I think this is actually what you’re referencing as well, is I said yes to sort of everything, I did lots of different kinds of projects. And, I wasn’t ready to focus, I wasn’t necessarily ready to really dial in to one specific area of expertise. We could also say that I’ve never really been ready to dial in to one specific area of expertise, which is maybe another topic. But I think, especially early career in my twenties, having just this real breadth of experiences and just going lots of places, doing lots of things both professionally was really important and allowed me to focus more in my thirties.
 Obviously as an academic, my timeline is different, I spent ten years in graduate school, roughly. So, I had ten years to try everything and then there’s sort of this decade progression of your career process as an academic. So, I like this focus in terms of being really clear about learning well, because you’re all in, you’re focused on the task at hand, you’re focused on what you’re learning, you’re focused on that present moment. You’re not overly distracted or overly burdened by meetings or things that don’t matter that much. But I would at least put in a plug for early career focus to, rather than focus on one specific expertise, to use those early years to really have a variety of experiences.
Rob Walling:Yeah, I think you bring up a really good point when you say “say yes to everything early on”. I was taking his focus as, focus on what you’re doing at the time but not necessarily decide on a lifelong focus in your twenties. I think both can be right, I think you saying get a breadth of experience is exactly what I would recommend as well, but while you are getting that breadth, don’t try to do five things at once. He’s saying he was able to focus on investment banking and learn a bunch of stuff, and then he bounced to the next thing. And that’s, I feel like you could do both.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, absolutely. And then I would talk about focus differently, in the sort of middle iteration of your career.
Rob Walling:Right, yeah in your thirties, mid-thirties or whatever, it’s probably time to, and it depends, but it’s probably time if you want to be really good at something and have a legacy, that you need to kind of pick one or two things and really really dive neck deep into those.
Sherry Walling:Right, that’s when it’s time to learn to say no.
Rob Walling:Yup, exactly.
Sherry Walling:So, the second thing that he talked about as a critical trait that I really loved was flexibility, which I think I love because that’s kind of core to who I am.
Rob Walling:Right.
Sherry Walling:But I think it is such an incredible skill when you think about running a company and having your own business, the ability to just, to be able to pivot and move and know that very few things in business or in life are static. That there’s a lot of movement, and to be able to adjust and anticipate shifts, I think, is a really super important skill.
Rob Walling:Yeah, and I think, you know obviously I work with and talk with a lot of developers who become entrepreneurs, not exclusively, but I’d say sixty, seventy percent of the folks who come to [inaudible 00:09:16] and listen to [inaudible 00:09:17] or the rest of us who read the blog are developers, and we tend to be a little more rigid, left brained, and this is a weak spot, it’s a blind spot of myself, and I think of a lot of the developers who are trying to become entrepreneurs.
 Dara, you know again, the guy being interviewed, he say he learned in his twenties how critical flexibility is. Learning to cope with endless demands on your time at a young age will both position and prepare you for advancement and growth as you move up and business problems become non-linear and systems less predictable. A uniform approach just won’t cut it, so you have to approach problems differently with flexibility. This is the thing I didn’t learn until my thirties, mid-thirties. I mean, as you run any type of product or company, you’re going to realize how little you can control, unlike when you’re writing code, right, or you’re building, doing a design, or even writing an article where you can be super structured, get in do it all yourself, then you issue it to the world. Building products, running companies, being a founder, it’s just gonna constantly be these curve balls that are thrown at you, and while flexibility is not, may not be something that you really want to embody, I actually think it’s a really good trait to have in founder.
Sherry Walling:One of the other questions that the interviewer asked him, something about leadership skills. And he said, I’m paraphrasing, but something to the effect of, people assume that leadership is about communication, being the public face of something, getting out a message to your team, to your customers. But he really talked about the importance of listening as a leadership skill, which I just thought was really really important. And I think there’s tremendous super power in being a good listener, both in one-on-one communication but in also being able to listen to your customers, to your clients, being able to listen to the world around you. And really not being so, I’m gonna say burdened, like so burdened by the sound of your own thoughts and your own words and the voice that you want to put out in the world, but really being able to process information and take in ideas and perspectives from a variety of sources really makes, I think, a deep leader.
Rob Walling:Yeah, and this is a really tough balance right because as a leader, or even, and this doesn’t need to be some grandiose thing where you have hundreds of employees. If you’re leading a team of 5 people, with all the chaos that goes on and how hard it is to build a product, launch a product, and you have to start developing a thick skin at a certain point right. Because you launch something, and customers or prospects will, whatever. One person will have a bad experience and then they, you know, they rail on you on Twitter or they email and they flame your support people, and you have to start developing that thick skin, but also continuing to listen to the right people and figuring that out is really hard.
 And I do see some founders make that mistake of going one of the two directions too far, either listening to everyone, and every time anyone makes a suggestion about what to build in your product or that you did this wrong, that they instantly do that thinking it’s the right choice, and that’s too far in one direction. Almost listening too much, or listening to the wrong people in addition to the right ones. And then the other side of course is that you stop listening to everyone, and you just kind of do your own thing. And there’s this middle ground where it’s discerning who are the right people to listen to? Typically, that’s your team, is a no-brainer right? Everyone that you’re working, whether you’re managing, being managed, or left to right at the same level. It’s like discerning, they’re typically in that bucket. And I think some really key customers that you know have your back and have your best interests in mind, those are the other folks that are pretty easy to listen to. You get ten thousand people using your app and listening is a skill that you have to use with caution, if that makes sense.
Sherry Walling:And I think there are degrees of listening. I mean, there’s hearing, there’s just sort of taking in the sound. And then there’s this deeper level of listening that does require action or that is really letting yourself absorb or internalize what you’re listening to, what you’re hearing. And that of course should be done very selectively. Only certain people get to have input into the inner parts of your brain or the inner parts of your heart. And I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about in terms of using listening well, being selective and intentional about how deeply you’re influenced by what you hear.
 I think I just have sat in the room so often with people who fill up space with talking and just aren’t good at asking questions or really listening. And then, like I said, the thought right on top of that is, as a therapist, really the essence of my training is deep listening. People are always really surprised by what I remember. Like, you know, their dog’s name from when they were 6 that they told me a story about one time. But that’s because I’m really listening, and collecting lots of information and details about the conversation or about a person, because I’m really paying attention when I listen. Not always, definitely when I’m in my personal life might not be using that super power as much, but it gives great power, it gives great ability to form insight and make connections when you’re listening really carefully.
Rob Walling:And the other article that we wanted to talk about is another article. We’ll link up both of these in the show notes.
 This article is a little click-baitey. It’s called “Ten Tweaks to Your Morning Routine That Will Transform Your Entire Day”. And while I’m not sure that’s totally accurate, there are 10 points here that I think that are kinda worth talking through and worth digging into even if you’ve heard some of them before.
Sherry Walling:I was struck by the introduction to this article, and the kind of the why this is important. The author talks about optimizing for energy, which is obvious, and self control, which I thought was a cool way to phrase what is important about how to begin your day, and what you wanna bring to your day.
 I sort of expected it to be about energy and focus, or energy and something, but self control is a really higher order executive function skill. And when we think about using self control well, you’re really filtering out what is not important, you’re filtering out distractions, you’re focusing on your goals or what you’re trying to accomplish for the day. And your capacity to regulate and filter is in essence self control.
 So, I guess I just haven’t heard that phrase talked about in entrepreneurial circles that much. You know, we often talk about focus, but I think self control is a more nuanced and perhaps more accurate and more insightful way to talk about what skills we really need to bring to each day in order to optimize for awesomeness.
Rob Walling:Yeah the author said there’s a study and they said that researchers found that self control and energy are not only intricately linked, but also finite daily resources that tire much like a muscle. Even though we don’t always realize it, as the day goes on we have increased difficulty exerting self control and focusing on our work. As self control wears out we feel tired and find tasks to be more difficult, and our mood sours.
Sherry Walling:I was a little bit surprised you sent me this article being as you’re not really someone who enjoys mornings.
Rob Walling:I hate mornings. I wish mornings would…
Sherry Walling:…start at noon.
Rob Walling:I wish mornings would start at noon. Yeah.
 I’ve gotten better over time, but you know, one thing that, I don’t know if it’s just getting a little older or if it’s I’ve changed my morning routine. I don’t drink coffee in the morning usually util I get to work. I eat a high protein breakfast, so I eat all my, I try to eat no carbs for breakfast. I do some other stuff. I mean, there’s 10 points here that I think are interesting. They say to start with exercise. I’ve never been able to do that. When I used to try I would almost hurt myself ‘cuz my body was all stiff and I tend to be just super tired and groggy in the morning. But you often start with exercise at like 5:30 or 6:30 in the morning.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, that’s my optimal time, mostly because of the kiddos. I mean, that’s really what motivated it, it’s just, it just wasn’t happening later in the day. It’s never gonna happen after school. I don’t like doing it in the middle of the day because I wear makeup and do my hair. So yeah early morning exercise has been, it’s just been functionally when I could do it. But also now love it. Days when I don’t exercise in the morning for whatever reason I feel really laggy and my body’s like “wait, we haven’t gotten to play yet!”. So I feel like early morning exercise has been super super important for my focus, productivity, and mental health, to be honest.
Rob Walling:Yeah, you know I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, but I have been riding now that the weather’s nice. I ride my bike to and from work, which is about a twenty five minute ride at a pretty good clip. And although that’s not first thing in the morning, right? I get up, we do music with the kids, and we eat breakfast, and shower, and all that stuff. I do find that once I get into work, I’m almost like I kind of have like a caffeine buzz even though I haven’t drank any caffeine. My heart’s pumping, and I’m all wired, and tends to be in a good way. Some days I get a little out of control, but I sit down and I’m amped up.
Sherry Walling:I think that’s what it feels like to be awake, honey.
Rob Walling:Mmm-hmmm, yeah. That never happens to me in the morning. It’s like a new, it’s a novel experience to feel that. It says researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercise during the workday have more energy and a more positive outlook. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases [inaudible 00:19:18] a neuro-transmitter that makes your brain feel soothed, and keeps you in control of your impulses.
 The number 2 point they make after exercising, they say start with exercise. Number 2 is but drink some lemon water first. Drinking lemon water as soon as you wake up spikes your energy levels physically and mentally. What do you think about this?
Sherry Walling:I definitely start the day drinking water.
Rob Walling:I do too. I guzzle.
Sherry Walling:The lemon would be a new addition, but hey why not?
Rob Walling:Yeah, I guzzle a big ‘ole thing of water right when I get up. It’s just, ‘cuz you basically haven’t drank for, what, 8 hours or whatever, so I think that’s pretty good advice.
 Third point is no screen time until breakfast. So I tend to do that. I don’t in general do screens, unless we’re having queue issues or something. I don’t jump on screens, and I do that pretty intentionally. You do some days look at screens before breakfast.
Sherry Walling:Sorry.
Rob Walling:No, you know, it says, “when you dive straight into email, text, and Facebook, you lose focus and your morning succumbs to the wants and needs of other people. It’s much healthier to take those precious first moments of the day to do something relaxing”.
Sherry Walling:So I usually get up and exercise. I come home and I will usually hop on email real quick. Sometimes it’s because no one is awake yet, and it’s like twenty minutes of quiet that I have. And I’m often checking for any variations in my schedule for the day, so if anybody has contacted me that needs to meet with me, or anybody is canceling a meeting with me. So generally at that time I’m kind of thinking through what my day looks like, and so I usually do check my email just to see if there’s a scheduling issue that I need to know about or be aware of. I don’t often respond to emails at that point, I just sort of, and I realize that there are definitely reasons to go throughout your day without doing that, but I think because of the nature of my day, and the time mainly of when our kids go to school, if I don’t do it at that point I’m often not going to have time to do it until 9:30 and I’m often I’m jumping into my first meeting. So, it’s important for me to have at least a schedule gauge of the day. And I don’t read things carefully at that point unless they have to do with what’s happening in my day that day.
Rob Walling:Yeah, that makes sense.
 Their 4th point, I think we do a good job at this. I know a lot of folks who do not, but it’s to eat a real breakfast. They say eating anything at all for breakfast puts you ahead of a lot of people. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese. They have more stable blood sugar levels, and they tend to be less hungry over the course of the day. When you eat a healthy breakfast, the doors to a productive day swing wide open. A healthy breakfast gives you energy, etc. etc.
 I think we do a pretty good job of this, what do you consider a healthy breakfast? Low carb?
Sherry Walling:Yeah, and variety of nutrients. Like, my favorite breakfast right now is whole wheat toast, half an avocado, and a little bit of Greek yogurt with some berries in it. That works for me.
Rob Walling:Yeah, whereas I’m more of an egg person with some spinach on it. That’s kinda been my deal.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, so I think when you have, you’re basically talking about the food groups, right? Something green, some kinda veggie in there, something with protein. Something that’s gonna give you energy. Not a thin sort of flaky carb, but something like a wheat toast or something that will help you power up. And I think drinking a lot of water in the morning is a great strategy. I know for me, when I get going throughout the day, I can often kind of forget to have water with me, so I try to drink a really full substantive glass of water with my breakfast. And then I usually have a cup of coffee.
Rob Walling:Yeah I noticed you’ve been pretty deliberate about that. You’re like no coffee until I drink all this water. [crosstalk 00:22:55]
Sherry Walling:Well, partially because I’m often just been working out for an hour or just gone for a run or something, so my body really really needs water.
Rob Walling:Yeah.
Sherry Walling:So I don’t think we have time to talk about all 10 of these, but what was 1 or 2 other ones that you thought were really important in terms of thinking about optimizing your morning routine?
Rob Walling:Yeah another one on this list is number 7, and it says no email until you’ve eaten at 3 frogs. “Eating a frog”, this is from the article, is the greatest end to procrastination and the most productive people know the importance of biting into this delicacy first thing in the morning. Eating a frog is doing hard work, it’s doing work that you don’t want to do. It’s sitting down and cranking out that blog post, or writing that book chapter or outlining the thing. It’s the stuff that takes the good glucose and feels very exhausting, and you tend to not wanna dive into it, and you’d rather be bouncing around checking email, checking Twitter, or just kind of letting your brain, letting your monkey brain take over.
 And so, getting into a habit of doing, I have not heard of eating 3 frogs, I’ve always heard of eat the frog before you do email. Do 1 thing, kind of your big thing for the day, before you even crack open email. This is very very hard to do. I do not do this. There’s no chance, I get an email really early and it’s a bad habit that I’ve developed. But I actually think this could be a real boon to someone’s productivity if you really wanna get things done early.
Sherry Walling:Yeah I don’t think I eat 3 either. I do try to do the hardest thing first. The thing that I most want to avoid, I try to do it first and get it out of the way.
Rob Walling:That’s a good habit.
Sherry Walling:But I also will say that when I exercise in the morning, that feels like a frog to me. I know it’s not a work frog, but it’s like I did something substantive today.
Rob Walling:Yup.
Sherry Walling:You know? Already I’ve checked something really big off my list.
Rob Walling:Right.
Sherry Walling:And the other thing that we, that I have really been working hard for in terms of the morning routine with our family, is for our kids to practice their instruments in the morning before school. And it’s for this reason. It’s that, our 6 year old plays the violin, our 10 year old plays the cello, it’s one of the parenting things I’m a little bit crazy about, but when they practice in the morning, I love after school. Because they come home, they’re tired, they want a snack, they want to play outside, they don’t want to do anything structured, they just want to be a kid. And I love being able to say, absolutely, you’ve already done your frog for the day. You’ve done your hard discipline thing.
 I also really like having them do their chores in the morning. So, chores, instrument practice, go to school, and then it’s play and relaxation time. The days that we don’t do that, and it’s 6:30 and we’re trying to do instrument practice, it’s such a bummer for everybody.
Rob Walling:Yeah, I think that’s a really good hack and you’ve picked up on finding the optimal time of day for certain things, right? Most people have really good creative energy in the morning, and then they get tired in the afternoon, and then maybe they have creative energy late at night, depending on your body type. You’ve figured out that our kids, and probably most kids right, the witching hour is between 4pm and 8pm. And so, you just don’t want to make them do hard things, which instrument practice is. You’ve kinda instituted this thing, whatever it was, 6 months ago, and I remember at first it was tough for them to get used to. It was a bit of a shock to the family but as we develop that habit it has become a really positive thing. On the days we get it done, the days are better. On the days we don’t, they’re more of a struggle in the afternoon, as you’ve said.
 So, I think, it’s not in this article, but it’s just kind of something you picked up on is figure out when your body type or when your mental energy is at it’s peak. The way I do this in my day to day is I tend to push all my calls and meetings, I try to push them into the afternoon, because then I’m gonna tend to be less productive then anyways. I like my developers to have time all the way through lunch uninterrupted, right? So our weekly meeting is at 2:00 in the afternoon instead of sometime in the morning. This is something that I think people aren’t necessarily aware of, and I wasn’t aware of it even as recently as a few years ago. Realizing when you’re most productive, and then protecting that time is essentially what we’re talking about here.
Sherry Walling:I think that does circle back to the frog thing, doing those most important tasks. Like the article says, most of us have most self control earlier in the day, and that self control and energy wanes as the day goes on. So, I like to organize more solo focus tasks, things that require my full non-multi-tasking or undivided attention in the morning, and as the afternoon goes into the evening, it’s more like social energy or playfulness or maybe creativity, but not creativity where I have a hard deadline or something that I need to produce. It’s just sort of more focus in the morning and becoming increasingly flexible in the afternoon and evening.
Rob Walling:So I think that wraps us up for these. If you enjoyed this episode, or you’ve been getting value from these ZenFounder episodes, head over to support and help us out with even a dollar, 3, 4, 5 dollars a month helps us pay our editor and keep the show going.
 We look forward to seeing you back again next week.
Sherry Walling:Hey we also have a link to a mailing list and we do not use it very much. Considering that Rob started an email marketing company, we really don’t do a lot of email marketing for this podcast at all. But, I am scheming some things coming up, including some group coaching sessions and maybe an in-person event or 2. So, that’s a good way to keep tabs on potentially interesting exciting things that may be on the horizon. We will be using that list to communicate that information in addition to talking about it on the podcast.
Rob Walling:Yup, and to sign up for that you can just head to and you’ll see a signup in the lower right of the page.
Sherry Walling:Try not to get distracted by how awesomely designed our site is.
Rob Walling:Pretty cool, that whole stock WordPress theme really panned out for us.