Elite Learning Environments and The Outlier 360 Project with Peter Fallenius

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In this LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX discusses elite learning environments and the Outlier 360 Project with Peter Fallenius, including what defines an outlier, what motivates them, and how understanding them can make you more successful.

Peter’s early involvement in e-business and background as a competitive athlete give him a deep interest in peak performance. He defines outliers as people who are performing on a very high level. He hopes to learn from them in order to boost his own performance as well as teach others how to do better.

The Outlier 360 Project seeks to understand the basics of motivation, meaning, survival, and success in relation to how outliers achieve their elite level leadership, learning, and team results, and then create an environment in which others can learn to work that way, too. Especially for new businesses, outlier leadership, outlier learning, and outlier teams can be crucial to scaling the business.

Three things outliers have in common are a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness that give their lives meaning. Instead of identifying a pain and seeking to solve it as most businesses do, outliers focus on making life more meaningful for themselves and those around them. Outliers also tend to do what matters in simple, yet excellent and elegant ways. Simple, so it’s understandable. Excellent, so that doing it matters. Elegant is efficient, and it works.

In an online learning environment you seek to keep students engaged. Establish a sense of meaning in your learning environment and you’ll create momentum and energy. People want to learn, and they will if you show them how to do things that matter. Outliers imagine what they want to do, then focus on what they actually can do. Through doing that they quickly learn to do more, and that progress motivates them to go even further.

Chris and Peter continue discussion around how outliers think and do things differently from other people. They examine how outliers look at relationships, why companies need to create environments that support people rather than push them to perform, and why a focus on gaining wealth is less effective than seeking to improve people’s lives. They also show how consumer mentality prevents people from being successful, and how outliers learn from failure and acquire knowledge through ROI (Return on Ignorance).

Listen to this information-packed podcast to learn even more about the outlier approach to learning, the Tao of Peter, elite learning environments, and the Outlier 360 Project with Peter Fallenius.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Episode Transcript

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today, we’re talking with Peter Fallenius about the Outlier 360 project. Peter is an entrepreneur and athlete. Originally from Sweden, he’s been an entrepreneur involved in many projects. He was involved in the internet, or e-business, back in the ’90s. He’s even taken a company public from the early days of the internet startups, which he originally got started with in Taiwan, and he’s done business on four continents. Peter’s also an accomplished athlete. He’s a runner. He’s competed at the international level as a running athlete, and we’re going to get into a lot of things in this episode about peak performance and really going beyond that into this Outlier 360 project. I think you’re going to get a lot out of this episode and what we talk about here, but first, Peter, thank you for coming on the show.

Peter: Thank you, Chris.

Chris: What is the Outlier 360 Project? What are we talking about here? What is an outlier, and help set the stage for the listeners.

Peter: Yes. Outliers are people that are achieving or are performing on very, very high level. They are … in some areas you would call them geniuses, and Steve Jobs could be an example of an outlier, Leonardo Da Vinci. Elite athletes are outliers, and so outliers is a term where they are very, very much away from the average. Researchers often don’t like them, because they mess up all the readings. To me, on the other hand, from my background, I was always interested in them because I thought that those were the people I could learn from, and to see how they were doing things. Fortunately, I was lucky to not just model them, which is a very popular way of trying to learn from outliers, but looking at the basics, what created outlier performance.

What we can say is that geniuses or outliers are often achieving things because of superior mental models. We will talk a little bit about what mental models are, and also what meaning, motivation, and success, what they have in common, and that doing meaningful things, and things that leads to success, are really the same things. They just happen to be very motivating, too, if picked the right ones, and if you understand things correctly. Another thing that is important to outliers is that success is not an event, but a process. It’s a thing that it’s not like a lottery where you hope to win. It’s more a structured process, and it can be imitated, or you can do it because imitation is not good in that way. That is kind of some of the background.

Also, the reason I call it Outlier 360 is that many outliers are outliers within one area of their lives, so what they are doing, and then they are quite … Then they may not be at all good in a whole lot of other areas. You have scientists that are having so-so personal relationships. There are also scientists that have great personal relationships, and the other thing is that some people are performing like elite athletes, they don’t understand. They have great coach that help them to become great, but they couldn’t coach anyone else because they never understood what the coach was doing. The great athletes or others that are in an environment where they understand what leads to the success, they can often coach other people themselves.

The 360 part is looking at how you help someone be successful in all parts of their lives, and that is not really as impossible as it seems like. We need to take a step back then, and do it from scratch, because the basic things that are leading to that are a very solid foundation and where you understand things much better.

Chris: That’s great, and if you’re listening to this episode, you obviously care about learning, and helping others, and you need to be operating at a high level yourself, so this is really relevant to you out there if you’re looking to improve your own life not just a little, but do what we’re talking about here to the outlier level. Also, help others get outlier elite level results, and also to create environments, almost more important just creating the environment for outlier results, and processes, and training to happen. Keep that in mind as Peter unpacks this. I’ve learned a lot from Peter about what outliers are, and how it’s different from pretty good results, like what outlier results are, and how that’s something completely different, and also how the process for achieving those and operating at that level is completely different.

Peter: Yeah. I think we go through a whole lot of examples of the difference between what average people do and what the smart way of doing things, and then the outlier way of doing things. We will get to a number of examples of that, and so that is very, very important. Maybe we should start with getting into a thing called self-determination theory. Self-determination theory was a model for research that was done by two great American researchers, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, started in the ’70s, and have been going on ever since. What they found out about people that live meaningful lives were that they were quite successful, and also that there were three things they had in common. The three things they had in common was that they felt like they had autonomy, they had influence over their lives, they felt that they were competent, they had competence in some area, and they felt relatedness, and relatedness is another word of having friends and so forth, and having great social life.

Those things were commonalities that they found in just everyone that heard that they lived a meaningful life. However, the research didn’t give clear directions of what to do, so I rework that a bit from my experience with what outliers do, and what they’re looking at. What I introduced then was that autonomy is really leadership, and competence is really learning, an ability to learn fast, and relatedness is relating, being able to create great reams, both in personal environment and in a professional environment. People can do those things have huge advantages, and people can ignore these and do a whole lot of other things. If you’re interested in motivation, meaning, survival, and success, then you maybe should take a serious look at them. All of those things, leadership, learning, and team, and outlier versions of them, outlier leadership, outlier learning, and outlier teams, are crucial for survival and success.

The reason why they are important for survival is that if you’re not leading yourself, and leadership on the basic level is not leading other people. It’s leading yourself, because if you’re not leading yourself, you can’t lead anyone else. If you don’t want to follow yourself, it’s not really that surprising if no one else wants to. If you’re excited about where you’re leading yourself, then there is a chance that other people will be. Otherwise, don’t try to get anyone to follow, because like someone said, what kind of leader are you? Look around and look who’s following, and there won’t be any outliers or great people following you unless you’re doing something worthwhile. When we get to a few simple rules for what is necessary there later on.

Leadership is a necessary thing for survival, because otherwise you just have to hope for that someone else will take care of you. That’s not a good survival strategy, not even today. Previous in history, it was even worse. Learning in relation to survival and success, in a constantly changing world where jobs disappear and then you show up, and new possibilities, if you can’t learn fast, you will constantly be scared about what is going on. You won’t see new opportunities, and you won’t see the dangers. Ability to learn fast and understand changes is quite crucial, and the alternative is very dangerous, I would say. If you can’t great teams and attract great people, and have a team around you, you will fight or have to do things yourself, and that is not the most effective way. You won’t win anything big, or anything of any significance, or even achieve something or have fun on a bigger scale if you’re doing it alone.

If you’re doing it with people that are just around you for the sake of that they just were too bored by themselves, I’m not sure, but they may not be the most fun people to hang out with. If you hang out with people that they’re, or do things with people that have lots of great alternatives, then they are probably great resources and can be very, very useful. This is some of the ways that the … Also, if you’re building a company, leadership is a bit important. The faster you can learn, the more likely it is that you can innovate, because learning is one of the key things in any great company. It’s the foundation for innovation and development. If you don’t have a team, or a great team that works extremely well together, then you have a serious problem, and the company will not scale.

Create outliers, and outlier teams of outlier learners, and getting them to understand how they can lead themselves, and lead others, is crucial. The way I look at it is that any company that wants to do really, really well, or any person that wants to do really, really well, the more they can help other people get the meaningful life, and become better leading themselves, learning faster, and both lead teams, create teams, and be part of great teams, those would probably be extremely motivated people. They probably will love what you’re doing. For a company delivering teaching services or courses, or for any other company, if they can deliver products and help the people internal in the company become better at at least one of these things that Deci and Ryan pointed at in self-determination theory, getting more autonomous, becoming more competent, and getting better relationships, they probably will have an extremely loyal workforce or associates, and they will probably have great success with the products, because they are actually helping making the lives of their customers more meaningful.

That’s a completely different way of looking at things than looking at a pain and solving that is often looking at something where you’re solving it by addressing the symptom rather than looking at fundamentally helping people become more successful and happy, because they will have the things that makes their lives more meaningful.

Chris: When that meaning is there, it’s just so powerful. It’s almost effortless. We talk a lot about engagement, and keeping things engaging, but if you have meaning in your learning environment, or in the company that’s delivering the training, or whatever, that meaning really carries 95% of the momentum and the energy. You don’t have to try to keep up the pace, because meaning is, it’s like an engine and a fire that pulls a lot of the power and the force.

Peter: Yes.

Chris: As opposed to punishment and reward-based training.

Peter: Yes, and people want to learn. Humans are designed to learn, partly because they had to in order to survive. That fire for learning is kind of getting almost extinguished, but it’s still there in all people, whatever age they have. They just need to do something that matters, and also they need to do something that can work. What unfortunately in today’s society, people are taught that if you can imagine it, you can do it. Leonardo Da Vinci had a little bit of a different view on that. He was focusing on doing what he could do, not what he imagined. Doing what he could do made him learn very, very fast, and he did what most people couldn’t imagine. The thing there about starting with imagination, that is completely disconnected from reality, and what someone’s abilities are, and what the world allows … There is a reason why the first Apple Mac wasn’t as fast as a Mac today. The technology was not there.

In a whole number of ways, the technology wasn’t there, so now it wasn’t because the people were stupid back then, and if one looks at what is written by the chief technologist of Microsoft today, Bill Buxton, most of the people knew 20 years ahead of time a bunch of things that would likely be possible to be done. The building blocks were not there, so if I can do the things that are possible to do 20 years from now, that’s not really that useful. Those guys could imagine it, but they had to help produce the things that made it possible, step by step, but if you focus on what matters, what can work, and what you can do, and doing that on the foundation of what we talked about before with that determination theory, then it’s amazing how much progress you can make, and how quickly you can make it. Progress in that way, in what matters motivates like nothing else.

Chris: What are some examples of that? What do you mean by progress motivates?

Peter: What should we say? When you train, being able to run faster, lift bigger weights. I started with a thing that … I did a thing a couple of years ago that I wanted to see. I want to improve my balance, and so there were some small balls that were kind of dense, that were used in a gym. They were quite so hard, so I kind of figured that, see, if I could stand with two feet on that ball and balance. That was very easy, and then I figured that it should be possible to stand on one foot on there. That was a whole lot harder, and especially that the ball, if you didn’t have the balance pretty good, the ball could just shoot out, and you kind of fell off. When it started to move to the side, and you know you were lost balance, you just needed to jump off before you hit the deck pretty hard and jarred your back.

Basically, I kind of knew the model for how it could work. It was basically just get back and do it, and after half an hour after a lot of not all polite language about the ball not cooperating and me not being balanced enough, I could start to do it for a few seconds. The thing was that I knew that if I can do it for a couple of seconds, then to extend that would be fairly easy. When you can catch the balance at all, then do it for longer periods, that’s just practice. See, that’s more practice. The same thing with learning things. The first thing, I think we both listened to an interview of Heinemeier Hansson, one of the founders of Basecamp, or previous called 37 Signals that was made by Tim Ferris. He pointed out that his programming was the first version of the program was getting it to work, and then after that, it was not just leaving it that way, but to make it better, cleaning up the code so he understood it better and could make it more effective, and also more elegant.

The second or third version usually became a whole lot better and faster. Those things are with everything, and if you focus on what you can do, and learn from the basics of anything, most people can learn very, very fast, and talent for things. People say, “Oh, yeah, but that person has so much talent.” It’s very often when you have a great coach somewhere, all of a sudden, you have a lot of great talent. Coach moves on, and in the place where there was so much talent, there is no talent any longer. All of a sudden, where the coach goes to, the level of talent rises dramatically, which to me says that talent is everywhere. Developed talent, that is what is rare. Most people use the excuse that, “Oh, yeah, but I’m not talented. That person is lucky,” and so forth.

Yeah, that may be the case, but we can either complain about that, and sit and wait, or look at what we can do. Like you said there, yes I’ve been involved in long distance running, that long distance running, and I’m 187 tall, or six foot two, and my weight is, I carry around like 20 kilos, close to 40 pounds more than most of the other guys that were running. Some of them were a little bit heavier, but there were few of the top athletes that I competed against that were carrying around as much weight as I did, which in long distance running, is not an advantage. I knew that my height and my body size was not optimal. However, it didn’t stop me from doing what lots of people told me that I couldn’t do, because I focused on what I could do, and that got me very far. It gave me lots of opportunities, and I learned a lot from it. That’s another thing.

Another thing there about doing what matters. Do what matters in simple, excellent, and elegant ways. The alternative to not doing it at an excellent level, that’s to do mediocre things. Mediocre things, no one cares about. Excellence, and excellent work attracts people, and that is what goes viral. That is what people talk about, so we have talked about this before, and if you look at very successful people, they didn’t randomly get to excellent work. Steve Jobs set out to do excellent things from the beginning. Richard Branson had a standard of excellence when he started most of the projects. He wanted to do excellent things because he knew that if we don’t do it on that level, there is no point, and the chances of success are very slip.

Like Sapos became very successful because excellent customer service, and which generated enormous trust. The same thing with anyone else that has been very, very successful. You start with aiming for doing excellent things, because otherwise you will never get there. If it’s not simple, so simple, excellent, and elegant. Why simple, excellent, elegant? Yes, because if what you’re doing is not simple, you do not understand it. If you don’t understand why you’re doing something, then you might as well buy a lottery ticket, because if it doesn’t work, you don’t know where to look for improving it. It needs to be simple, so you can explain it to others. It needs to be simple, so you understand it and can correct the things that don’t work very well.

I guess like I just said, you need to make it excellent, because excellent … If that is the standard, you can’t do everything in your life excellent, but if you focus on what matters, like I said, then you do the things that matters excellent, and then you will improve in those things very, very quickly. You will compare the work you have just done with what would be excellent work in the area. Elegant, elegant might seem like, who cares, but in most areas, elegant is not for the sake of it. Elegant is in running, for example, elegant running, whether it’s a human or an animal, is energy efficient. If it’s jerky and so forth, there is energy lost somewhere, and it’s not very effective. Elegant things, humans recognize elegant things instantly because it is good.

Elegant code for a programmer is usually very good, and it has less likelihood, if some other programmer has to look at it, it would be easy to look at, easy to understand. If it’s elegant teaching, it’s something that is explained in a way so that people can understand and can use it, can be given models that improve the lives of people. If you don’t do that, you’re wasting … You likely do not understand what you’re doing, and you likely don’t give people information, or something that is useful that is really beneficial for them. That’s kind of some ideas about what I’m working with, and you were mentioning before about engagement. We could talk a lot about that, and we should probably not do it right here and now, but progress, and the other things that I mentioned, creates engagement like nothing else.

Chris: Another way to look at that issue is people talk a lot in learning about gamification as a tactic to make something more engaging. Whereas from the outlier perspective, is gamification necessary?

Peter: No. The reason why people love games, one huge reason is that first of all, they do not … The world that is outside and dealing with people is usually not that convenient, and people prefer the virtual world, and they also make progress. They’re going from one level to another, and if people can do that outside in the real world with other people, people usually prefer to hang out with other people.

Chris: If the meaning is there.

Peter: If the meaning is there, and if they do things where there is progress, and there is a thing about relationship building. We can get into the thing that I can … It’s connected to the how we’re looking at average smart, and outlier way of looking at it. One thing that is how you look at relationships, like the average way is kind of not focusing on relationships, but being annoyed with other people not being bad. We could list a whole lot of names, or labels that people put on people, like narcissist, bully, this, that, or the other, and yeah, maybe there are narcissists, maybe there are bullies. However, my experience is that there are way more cool people out there if you allow them a chance to be cool.

I’ve seen good people do things that, isolated, don’t make them look too good. Have I done that? Yes, probably, and I think most people have. If you look at the snapshot of what someone does and so forth, and the most evasion models that are out there is try to push people, et cetera, et cetera, when no one wants to be pushed. The companies and others have not created an environment for people to give them a chance to do great in life. Where they are doing things that benefit their lives in a way, and that is, in many ways, people are seeing that as, “Yeah, but that’s life.” I’m not sure that it has to be. If we’re taking relationships further there, the smart way is to understand the relationships are very important, so you network, and try to get people to sign up to your email list, or getting their business card, handing out business card, this, that, and the other, and then you try to monetize that in some way, shape, or form.

The reason why people signed up was often no connection to what it is that people are trying to sell them, and I’m not sure that that is a very effective way. Anyway, John Wooden, the famous basketball coach, pointed out that rather than beginning with relationship building, relationships evolve out of getting something done that everyone agrees is important to accomplish. If you get people around doing something that people find extremely important to get done, and you have a path forward where people make progress and eventually successful, if that is in sports, or if it’s in anything else, relationship usually develops very effectively around that. You meet a lot of cool people. It can be a hobby. It can be anything.

Chris: It’s a byproduct of doing something meaningful.

Peter: Exactly.

Chris: Could you say the same thing about wealth?

Peter: The same thing there. Steve Jobs never focused on making money. He focused on helping delivering great products, and when he was successful, that kind of turned into a lot of money. The same thing, Leonardo Da Vinci was developing weapons and so forth, and the fact that he was very good at what he was doing. He was in high demand by people that wanted to get help for creating new things, because he had the competence. If you deliver something that improves the lives of people in a meaningful way, then you have the basis for also making a lot of money. The people that are doing that, they are often doing it for other reasons, because they want to do something exciting, and they want to do something that benefits other people. You look for the intersection of one of those things.

Chris: What would be an average and a smart approach to wealth creation that’s different from what you’re talking about here?

Peter: Okay. Most people are brought up to be consumers. They’re looking for consuming things, and if you’re consuming things, you are looking at what you can get. There is no limit to … You have a serious problem because traveling to exciting places, playing with exciting things, doing all manners of things, what you can imagine that you want to get. You will always be disappointed by what you do not have, and I happened to go to school at Boston, and there were lots of people from really, kids from really wealthy families. Some of them could get pretty much anything they’ve pointed at, and I’ve been around some very rich people afterwards, too. The ones that were creating things, a number of them were really happy about their lives.

Then you had people that were, they could get anything that they wanted, and they were absolutely miserable. Consuming things, I have not seen any connection to happiness. Then you have, many people are starting business, and very many online, or looking at making money online, or creating a product, and so forth. They have as a goal to get to a beach, and lay down on the beach, and so forth. Their goal that’s producing something is to producing something that people will pay money for so they can consume. Most people will not succeed in making so much money so they can afford to go and lay down on the beach, but I’ve also been around people that have had that possibility. Very many of them go and travel, and lay down on the beach, and realize that they are bored to tears soon.

The problem of them is that they have sold the company and so forth, and cashed out, and now what? If they do it young, they may do it in their late twenties or even earlier, or their thirties, and they have 50, 60 years or so to go. Little bit of a problem there. If that was success, they are not that well about it. The outlier way of doing things is, you’re doing things, producing things that have value for other people, that you’re excited about doing, and you’re doing it because it gives you a chance to do something that is good for the world, and work with some really cool people to do it. That very often can generate huge amounts of money, too, but that’s not the reason the people are doing it. That’s another way of looking at it, if that makes sense.

Chris: It does. What if we go to the opposite side from success or wealth, and look at a concept like failure? What would a average way, a smart way, and an outlier way of approaching failure look like?

Peter: The average way of failure is, failure is often something happens and you don’t like what happened, and so forth. You’re upset about it then. Yeah, that’s it. The smart way is something didn’t go your way. You analyze it, and try to learn as much as possible from it. The outlier way would be, you design and experiment, like an engineer will test something for it to be able to know when it breaks, so you design with intention for it to fail, but you have an idea of what will happen, when it will fail, and in what way it will fail. If it doesn’t fail, then you have a serious failure. Usually if it’s something that is tested to failure, if you just push it far enough, it will fail, which may not be a useful thing to do in relationships. You need to be careful in some areas.

Then you learn, you decide on what areas where you could learn the most from and then you learn from designing things to fail, so you can see how it fails, how you can learn the most from it. That’s a completely different way, and it gives a completely different level of learning, and the speed of learning is completely different. It also has everything to do with things that most people, that average and smart people are afraid of. They want to know things. They are afraid of being wrong. Outliers are thrilled about realizing that they were wrong about things, because that very often gives a possibility to have a big leap in performance. They stop doing the thing that they were wrong about, and that delivered probably a whole lot of bad results, but they were unaware of it. That’s mental models that are behaving like viruses, and most mental models we learnt without knowing we learnt them. We don’t know what assumptions they were built on, and they are invisible to us.

Chris: Let’s look at something like ignorance. How would you funnel ignorance through an average, smart, and outlier framework?

Peter: I would say that ignorance is something that is seen as very negative things by most people. People want to know and believe that knowing is great, and being ignorant and not knowing scares a lot of people, and doubting. However, it is the thing that most outliers are friends with. I have an expression that I’ve started to use more and more. Return on ignorance. ROI. Most people refer to it as a return on investment, but return on ignorance. What is the area of ignorance that you have, that would give you the biggest improvement if you could get a better understanding about it? That’s the the way that scientist researchers are discussing. They rarely get together and discuss what they know, because they all ready each other’s papers, and know each other’s things, so they’re discussing about, what other things that, if we could get better funding, the areas of ignorance, that would make us know more about the subject?

That’s where they focus their efforts, rather than randomly try to learn something. If you start to think about what are the areas that I should learn something, that being excellent in them would be of serious value, then you can start to learn must faster. Most learning, and what people refer to as learning, and people looking up things in Google, is they’re getting some facts that means nothing. Yeah, they can parrot it, and sound intelligent. However, if they’re going to use it in any meaningful way or create something new with that information, if it’s just a loose fact, they can’t do it. Understanding and where it fits into other things is crucial, and when you understand something and how it connects to other things in the world, and understand how it connects to other things, then remembering it is very easy.

The things that you understand, and that connects with other things, you don’t need to remember them. They are almost impossible to forget. School is rewarding that you can give the right answer, rather than understanding how it fits into something else, and how it’s connected to something else, and how something works. Without that knowledge, you know nothing, really. Ignorance and not knowing are friends of someone that wants to learn and do great things. The thing where there is the story about Edison and the light bulb, about that he found 1,000 or how many ways of how not to do it, that was only half true. Edison has lots of working light bulbs. The reason he tested all the different filaments was that in order for it to be a product that could be produced, first of all, he needed to have pretty good knowledge to be able to put together a light bulb that would work at all.

The reason that he tested all 1,000 things was that he needed to find a material, a filament, that could last. He couldn’t sell something that lit up for a few minutes. The market for lights that you need to change every two minutes was very limited, plus the cost would … It was just not a commercial venture, so it was not the idea of just getting it to work. It was the fact of making it useful, making it excellent to a level to where it was functional and useful for people to use. That’s a completely different story. It was not randomly testing things, and then happily ending up with the result. It was very targeted, and where he knew where he needed to get for it to have a future.

Edison had also habit to read up on the research that everybody else had done in a new area, and then take his experience that he had from other areas, and see what they had done already and tested, and what were the things that they did not see, that would give him huge opportunities? Because of his experiences from all manners of different areas, so that was the first thing he did. All of that made a slightly different story than many self-help books and other people that are teaching those stories, that the way they have looked at it. Edison was also created an environment, the same way Steve Jobs did, an environment where people did really meaningful work. They worked really exciting things, and they got a chance to work with other great people. They were at the cutting edge of things.

That’s crucial to build something really successful. One of the employees that Edison had was maybe a man that was way smarter than him. Many people may have been smarter than Edison, but one in particular, Nikolai Tesla. He was thought that Edison was stupid in many ways, and he quit, and then ended up working by himself. The difference with Tesla and Edison was that Tesla could not work with other people. He could not create a team. He was absolutely brilliant, but he could not create a team. His ability to work together with other people, and create a culture and an environment where things could be done, like at Edison’s lab, was nowhere close. Both of those men had enormous impact on the world we live in today. However, in very different ways, and Edison had a happy family life. That could not really be said about Tesla. He did not get along with … He got along with pigeons, I think, better than humans.

Chris: What about this concept of self-interest?

Peter: Self-interest is a thing that I find a bit interesting, because most people see as self-interest as, self-interest is really bad. To me, it’s not bad at all. I’m doing what I’m doing for completely self-interested reasons. This may sound bad, but I want to work with, do things with, do really things with really cool people. If I’m going to do that, I need to do things that gives that type of people a great incentive or interest to work with me. If I’m not the person that they want to be around, then they won’t want to be around me. Self-interest, and in doing good things in the world, if you want to be around great people, are really the same thing. You’re doing things that are great for yourself, and are great for other people in the world around you.

In general, it’s not a huge conflict there. You do things with great people that you enjoy doing together, that are exciting. If you only look after, if you step on other people when you do that, then great people will leave very quickly. The people you have left are people that have no other alternatives, and are desperate, and that to me would be a failure. Self-interest, if you really want to have great people around you, learn fast. Then you also won’t have great people around you, and do things in any possible way then that’s the highest level of self-interest, I think. Most people, when they’re smart, they unfortunately end up on the side where they try to manipulate other people, and where they are using games and other ways of trying to get people to do things.

If you offer people a great opportunity that is good for them and for you, they would be thrilled to go for it. The other thing there is that people know and have read books about that authenticity and being genuine is very important. Trying to manipulate, or trying to get someone to do something that is not in their own interest, is not genuine. Then you’re faking genuine, which will never work. The whole thing there, and you have another thing that is very interesting. People are worried about not being their true selves. First of all, when people are doing really exciting things, they rarely think about themselves. The self is not there, and you cannot do something on a high level if you play a game in sports, or competing, or you’re not constantly checking out, thinking about yourself. You’re so focused on what you’re doing, and enjoying that, so self does not really exist.

You’re having a great time, so you cannot really have a self there. What people often find that they are losing, or that they are not themselves, that’s when they are trying to fake, faking who they are, and then you will have a problem. You’re afraid of being exposed about who you are.

Chris: Now we’re talking about confidence.

Peter: Yeah.

Chris: That sounds like maybe an average or a smart way to work with confidence, or fake it till you make it. Make sure you have all the paraphernalia, and the things you’re supposed to do to be confident, and put off an era of, I know what I’m doing. Therefore, I could be confident. How would an outlier approach confidence, or is it a non-issue because they don’t have time, it’s just a byproduct of …

Peter: Yeah. The confidence is a very interesting thing. People try to get rock solid confidence, that cannot be shaken whatsoever. That’s the same thing as having something that will be shattered easily. The truly confident people know that there are limits to things. The best athletes are not certain they will win. They may be convinced that they have a very good chance. Military special forces when they go out on a mission, they know that if they are well prepared, their odds are really good. They are confident in their own skills, they are confident in their training and so forth, but they are not certain of success. If they are, that’s dangerous, because then they will be careless, and not be prepared, and check things, which is, you don’t want to have people like that on your team. You want to have people that know what they are good at, but also know the limitations of that.

Knowing the limitations of what your skills are is crucial, because otherwise, you do things that will end up with really bad consequences. Which is another problem that when you cheerlead people to do things without knowing if they have the skills to do it. It causes serious problems, and if it’s someone that is really good … You have a really big problem, and when you have someone that is telling you you’re doing great work, and you know that it wasn’t that good, that tells you two things, one of the two things about the person that said you did a great job. One, they are incompetent. Two, they are lying. Neither one looks, reflects very good on them, so if you tell someone about something that you do not know about, if it’s someone that is good at the other end, they will just discard you, or dismiss you as someone that is incompetent or lying.

If it’s a great person that you try to impress that way, you have almost certainly disqualified yourself from their interest of having anything to do with you. Congratulations. People that are good, they know that, and they may be polite afterwards when you continue, but they have almost certainly made a note that this is a person to keep at a distance.

Chris: That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. Let’s bring it all the way around, and look at the smart, the average, and the outlier approach to learning.

Peter: Yeah. To learning. Average way of learning is to really try to avoid learning.

Chris: Right.

Peter: Learning in meaningful way because that seems to be a whole of trouble and giving no rewards. Which is a reasonable way to look at it, after having most people have been through school and so forth. Jumping through the hoops there, and trying don’t really deliver the rewards that people were saying. They were told to do things and didn’t see the connection between why they should do it, and then the exams or tests mainly focused on everything they did wrong. That’s not really encouraging. Smart people are looking after looking at, how can I find the shortcut or a way where I can imitate someone to get the result as quickly as possible? The problem with that is that you do not really know … First of all, whatever progress you may make, it’s very hard to understand learning so that, because you don’t know where it fits in, and how it helps you in the rest of your life, or in your business.

Chris: I may have some really advanced mental models I pulled off the shelf, but I’m lacking understanding.

Peter: Yes.

Chris: True understanding.

Peter: Yes, and if you don’t do that, if you don’t have an understanding about what it is that makes them work, you cannot see if they fit where you’re trying to use them, if they are a good fit. Second, even if they are almost right, you only need one step that needs to be adjusted a bit, and if you don’t adjust it, the whole process may fail. If you don’t understand at all, you won’t know to adjust that, and the whole thing may seem like a failure when only a small piece needed to be adjusted. If you understand the whole thing, you don’t need that script, or that model, because you take a look from scratch. What are these steps that I need? Then you design it yourself, and you design it way more elegantly. If you take a thing off the shelf, you usually include lots of things that are meaningless, and in some cases, may even annoy the person or the people that you were trying to do things with.

It’s a little bit like when you have scripted things. I can give another example. I was involved in a bunch of things, and I was looking at hypnosis. A lot of hypnosis that are taught this using scripts. Problem with that is that if you know it works, then you know what to do and what to look for, and you do what makes sense, and what is meaningful in the moment there. The scripts often so clunky, so they are doing some things right, and get a few steps forward, and then completely crashes the whole thing, and then it does not work at all. The same thing in anything. You’re not doing the things that matters, and you don’t know when you can cut out things, or you just build something from scratch, which is what most people that understand the subject, any subject, do because they design, they create the thing that is needed. Does that make sense?

Learning, it’s also looking for a whole lot of, like we said before, what do I not know that could be useful?

Chris: The ROI, the return on ignorance.

Peter: Yes. Yes, and looking at it like Edison did, what is the cutting edge? What has other people done already before? The most effective way is to do the things where you learn a whole lot of basic things about how the world works, and how human nature is, if you want to work with people. So many things that are taught in schools and so forth are completely ass backwards, or are things that they work, but they are simplified models that only work in special cases. Anything outside of that, they don’t deliver.

Chris: The model breaks down.

Peter: Yeah, and people don’t know what to adjust. Considering that everybody else uses the same model, it doesn’t need to work that well to look great. Until someone comes around and do what Sapos did, or in any number of other cases, or look at things like Apple did with how they built things under Steve Jobs. All of a sudden, it changes the game completely, and everybody else tried to imitate the outside appearance of things without understanding why it was created in the specific way, how it helped people, and how it made it easy for people.

Chris: In that light of helping people, if we look at the Outlier 360 project, and we look at what you’re pointing to here, the concept of helping build outliers from scratch, you also have a concept called the Tao of Peter. What is that? What are you referencing? The Outlier 360 project is a spin off or a part of the Tao of Peter. What are we talking about here?

Peter: The Tao of Peter is basically … The Tao is referring to ancient Chinese, and there’s a book called Tao de Jing, and there’s another book called The Art of War. Both of those are coming from the same area, and I said many, many years ago that those two books, if people understand them, they don’t really need to read any other books. The Tao is basically the nature of things, reality. If you work with the Tao, and understand what that means, you will be … You have mental models, and then understanding that makes it easy to leverage things, and see new opportunities. The Art of War is still seen as the best book ever written on strategy, after two and a half thousand years, but few people understand what’s behind it, and the thinking that lays behind it.

It’s read, and I would say very rarely understood, but the concept of the Tao and reality, and understanding that in a better way, that is very powerful. I’m basically, it’s a playful way where I bring my perspective on how you can understand that better, and I’ve used it my whole life. Now I’ve started to help other people see it, and when I tried starting to do that, the success was very, very limited, because I thought it was obvious, many things I said, and it wasn’t. I needed to find a way to help people see what I saw, and when people do that, then they usually change a lot very quickly. A lot of things that they did before doesn’t make sense to do any longer, and that’s a very, very … It has very little to do with intelligence.

Someone said that, not in relationship to my work here, but with mental model, says that mental models that are closer approximation of reality. Someone that understands that better and improve that a lot, that’s worth 50 IQ points, and that’s a lot. I think that that’s also, that’s very true from what I’ve seen.

Chris: The Tao is this ancient wisdom coming from China, with a focus on ultimate or true reality, which is the world that the outlier operates in, and looks for feedback from, and runs experiments, and takes things to failure.

Peter: Yes.

Chris: The Outlier 360 project is through you, and the Tao of Peter is a application of this ancient wisdom to help people rebuild from scratch, or become an outlier from scratch, potentially 360, all the way around in their life and work.

Peter: Yes, and the reason it is from scratch is that otherwise you’re trying to unravel piece by piece of things that are not working, and …

Chris: Peeling the onion, as you say.

Peter: Yes. It’s onion peeling, and one layer after another until you get closer to the truth.

Chris: Or deconstruction.

Peter: Yes, and it’s onion peeling, and I’ve said that about searching for the truth or searching in history. It gives you lots of reasons to cry, like peeling an onion, because you take one later off, and you believe you’re close to the truth. You probably are, but you have lots of layers left, and lots of reasons to cry, because … Doing it from scratch and focusing on what is meaningful in life, what matters, like from self-determination theory, is a much, much faster way. When you start to look and compare to, “Does this help me learn faster? Did I learn something today that is really meaningful? Did I do something that I was getting closer to become excellent? Did I learn or be better at working in a team?”

If you look at it that way, and then you have something to compare with, and you can improve very quickly. Also, you can work with other people by learning together in pairs, and learning ways where you look at things and get a better understanding. When you do that, you can do it online, or around you, and when you do that, things can change very, very quickly. It doesn’t mean that you will be ready to compete in and win the Olympic games in two years’ times, winter games or, that’s less than two years, or win summer games in four years’ time, or get a Nobel Prize for something. However, the odds will definitely increase, but even if you don’t get the whole way there, I think that it can change your life in dramatic ways, both personally and professionally. That is what I’m focusing on.

Chris: If anybody listening to this, you want to find out more, I’d encourage you to check out the Tao of Peter dot com. That’s T-A-O-O-F-P-E-T-E-R dot com, and also Peter Fallenius dot com. That’s P-E-T-E-R-F-A-L-L-E-N-I-U-S dot com. What do you want to send people off with, Peter? What’s your closing thought for getting into outlier learning and Outlier 360?

Peter: Check with yourself if you’re doing things that truly matters in your life, that helps you getting better relationships, and enjoy time with great people, and doing great things. The only way to get there is to look at starting with excellence, and starting focusing on what is truly meaningful and matters to you. Otherwise, you will probably end up regretting a lot in your life.

Chris: Peter Fallenius, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming on the show, Peter. We’ll have to do it again sometime.

Peter: Thank you very much Chris.

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