Mark Monchek, author of the book Culture of Opportunity, a #1 bestseller on Amazon, and long-standing consultant of companies such as Google, Apple and JP Morgan Chase shares his tragic story, showing us that people and companies can find opportunity in anything. Learn about a few secrets of happy people and successful companies.
You claim that opportunities exist everywhere. If I have doubts, how can you persuade me?
Imagine you have just gotten married, bought your first house and six days after moving in somebody lights it on fire. On top of that burglars steal half of the stuff from your apartment and you are forced to move into this half-burnt house with no hot water, electricity, heat, kitchen or windows. You are totally devastated and you have no idea what to do. This can happen. It is actually my story. When my wife looked at me in horror, I told her: “You always wanted a new kitchen, now you can have a new kitchen.”
How did this disaster become an opportunity?
I found a deeper meaning for my life. I learned that the real wealth lies in love of your family, caring of your friends and community, and in your inner strength. Secondly, I learned the importance of interdependence and a social network which eventually helped us resolve the situation. In my life, most radical changes happened during a crisis. Finding an opportunity in anything that happens to you is key.
How about if I feel that I am failing and everything is falling apart?
First of all, we should redefine failure. Albert Einstein was a failure in primary school but later became a Nobel prize-winning physicist. Failure comes about when you are not able to do something that is expected by other people. But why should you? In my view, you should take away the judgment and use failure as a way to learn. OK, I did not succeed at what I was hoping at, but what is it that I learned in doing that and how can I use that learning in the next thing? You are basically failing into success.
Did companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft fail into success? What’s their secret?
They all have their specific SuccessDNA. Google relies on a few excellent products (search engine, Gmail and YouTube) and does risky investments into other areas (self-driving cars, Google glasses, internet connectivity in cities). Apple’s strategy is to design and manufacture simple, functional and beautiful products that operate well. Microsoft releases many versions of software which are imperfect but improve over time. If Apple tries to be Google, it doesn’t work and vice versa. When companies divert from their SuccessDNA (like Apple did with Apple Maps), it doesn’t bring them anywhere.
Alright, so apart from focusing on what they are good at, what else should companies do?
Businesses should be responsible towards customers, employees, communities and the environment. Since they have the greatest impact on our lives they need to solve social problems. We cannot depend on government and NGOs for that. The economic crisis in 2008 has shown us that adaptability is an important factor for successful businesses in our unpredictable world.
Success factors, responsibility and adaptability are the magic components. Anything else missing?
Another important thing, whether we speak about businesses or people, is purpose. We should all find out why we are here on Earth. My mission statement is to live with passion, grace and joy co-creating opportunities with people I love and causes I believe in. It guides me to how I want to live my life.
That’s a wonderful calling. But if some people cannot find any purpose?
I believe anybody can. I will tell you one more story. I heard on the radio about a man who called himself the Captain Happy, the happiest man on Earth. I flew from New York to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet this man who works as a captain of ferry which takes passengers and cars across river on a 7-min trip.
What did you find out?
Imagine you are waiting for your car to be loaded on the ferry and he comes to you and says “Hey, Veronika, how are you? How is the blogging going? How is the family doing? Did you take your bike out this morning?” He greeted everybody as if they were his best friend. Everybody felt so happy and loved. I went to him after the ride and asked him what the secret to happiness is. He said: “Find your truth.” He believes he has the best job in the world because he found a purpose in it.
That is a lovely story. In my previous job I interviewed 100 millenials to see how happy they felt about their job and many of them missed the meaning.
I don’t want to make people feel that every company and every job allows you to live your purpose. Not all companies let their employees be themselves. If I were not satisfied I would first look for options inside the company and if the company was totally unsupportive of my needs, I would look for external opportunities.
If you were a 25-year-old today, what career what you jump into?
I do not have a specific position in mind. In general, I would first look into what I am really passionate about, what I am excellent at and I would then try to find a market opportunity. This approach comes from a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins. In general technology, healthcare services, sharing economy and content creation are prospective areas nowadays.
Networking plays a huge role in career and you teach it in a course called Unlock your Network. Tell me how do I gain great contacts?
You first need to understand that networking is about mutuality and interdependence. It is about caring that everybody gets better. My parents came to the US in the 19th century and in one generation they rose from poverty to the upper middle class. They understood that in order to be successful, they needed to support their family, friends and neighbors. Besides that, we teach people to use the three magic questions: What are you most passionate about? What are your unique gifts? And what are the social circles you most like to travel in? When you know all this about a person and they know the same about you, you can help each other tremendously.
Caring, helping and becoming conscious is what leaders (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Fred Kofman, Seth Godin) have been speaking about. Are we on a brink of a new era?
I think we are. Firstly, the relatively new successful companies (Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Zappos, Whole Foods) have a purpose. Whether it is helping people get income, travel easier and cheaper, connect with friends, get excellent customer service or support organic farming. Secondly, there are 90 million millennials in the US, the biggest ever in history, who want to work for and buy from companies with a purpose, and they want to live more sustainably. They are now becoming leaders in companies and applying their values inside them.
It seems we can expect a lot of change in the future in terms of companies turning to conscious capitalism. It is partly because of your work, Mark. Thank you for sharing your personal stories and giving advice to people who want to find a meaning in their life and job.
Be curious and dig deeper:
- Get to know Mark Monchek at The Opportunity Lab.
- Read an interview about conscious business with Tereza Černohorská.
- Listen to an inspiring speech by Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard Commencement 2017.
- Learn more about Conscious Capitalism and sharing economy.