Neil Parikh:Truthfully, it's a little bit hard to accept because as a perfectionist, I want to be right or successful a hundred percent of the time, but you know, you're, it's an interesting point to think about you have, if you don't engage in the values, you never learn. You never get better. And so you can never realize your vision unless you're continuously doing that. Jeff Hunter: Hi and welcome. I'm Jeff Hunter and you are listening to coaching in the clear, the podcast committed to help you learn about coaching. Coaching is more popular than ever, and we believe that sharing in-depth, personal conversations about coaching experiences is the best way for you to learn whether coaching is for you and how you can get the most out of your coaching practice. We are especially interested in how people use coaching to unleash their potential while creating market-leading big change businesses.Coaching in the clear is a production of Talentism, a business dedicated to helping the world's most ambitious leaders achieve their ultimate goals by systematically turning confusion into clarity. We send out a weekly newsletter called the sense-maker, where we offer our latest thinking about issues affecting big change companies and their leaders, as well as provide other helpful content and enable you to unleash your potential. Learn more and sign up at Talentism.com. Today we're talking with Neil Peric, the co-founder, and chief strategy officer of Casper. Casper has been an amazing story of growth and success, but it's also had its struggles along the way. Neil has been there leading since day one. He and I met about three and a half years ago, and it's been a true honor to watch him and his co-founders and the team of Casper take the dream of a better-rested world and make it a reality. Through our time together Neil has consistently demonstrated a huge vision and a desire to make a big impact on the world. We're going to talk about accepting shortcomings and leaning into strengths, catching frustrations at the root of the logical fallacy, the way safety plays into acceptance, and discovering capabilities that the perfectionist in us wants to hide. Neil, thank you so much for joining and welcome to the conversation.Neil Parikh:Thanks for having me, Jeff. It's an honor to be here and an honor to work with you. Jeff Hunter: Well, thank you, sir. So, Neil, you have helped build and grow one of the preeminent sleep brands. You've worked with me and partnered with Talentism. So, you know our approach and thinking, and of course, you've done your own coaching over time as a successful executive and investor. You and I have often spoken about how I think you have a significant talent for coaching in your own right, and so that all leads me to ask, how do you think about the value and importance of coaching?Neil Parikh:Thanks for the introduction, Jeff. So coaching is a, it's a kind of a funny thing because to your point earlier, it can be so many different things, right? From giving advice to helping people understand something. What I've always loved about the model that we've been working on and that you've brought us into is that to me traditionally, coaching was about behavior change. And in my life before this, it was you're doing something wrong. You need to get better at it and work on this. And the problem is that when you're in a fast-paced environment, you know, you're reordering every six months, you have new problems every three months. I used to joke when people said, hey what's, you know, what's our year-long plan. I said I don't even know what's going to happen next month, let alone six months or twelve months from now.And so when you actually apply a different lens to it and think about, how do we get people to be unconfused? And secondly, how do we think about, how do we design systems to enable success rather than just people? Because people are kind of hard to change. It takes a really long time, a lot of effort, and maybe, I've always believed, maybe you can get five or 10 degrees off of center, but you know, it's very hard to radically change people in a short amount of time. And so it kind of goes back down to, for me, coaching has been a space first and foremost for self-reflection and understanding to have somebody to bounce ideas off of, or to be that person for people to help them work through a framework, to get unconfused, to take something that seems like it's creating chaos in their world and to try to make sense in order of it through a systematic process. So that's a repeatable thing. And so that both for me, so that I could, you know, be successful in whatever it is that I wanted to do. And for the people that I've worked with as an investor mentor do the same. Jeff Hunter: Yeah, so, I'm glad you brought up the concept of behavior change. First of all, just using one of our principles and starting with me, I have to be open and honest with the audience that I have a huge, what we call autonomy trigger and that leads me to be a contrarian about most things. So if everybody's saying, Hey, it's all about behavior change. My mind habitually really goes to, it must not be, it must be about something else, but even within the context of that self-awareness, the thing that sort of struck me about growing up and, you know, being a founder of fast-growth companies, venture-backed companies, working with very fast-growth companies. I started my career at a place called Connor peripherals, which at that time was the fastest-growing company in history. And you know, in my formative years being 21, 22 being a manager inside an organization that was achieving billion-dollar $2 billion marks year after year, just growing at an exponential rate and listening to the CEO say the most important thing about a five-year plan is how you rewrite it every three months.And so really growing up inside of that and realizing that human beings, as you were saying are just so difficult to change, right? And not, I think this is an important distinction and I think it's consistent with what you were saying, actually change isn't that hard. Attention is really hard. And so like I, if I say I want to change my diet, I can change my diet. I just have to put all of my attention on it in a fast-growth environment. You don't have that attention. The attention is going through to the context shifts, rapid changes in the environment, and trying to make rapid decisions with limited data, stay one step ahead of the competition or funding, or whatever it is. And you just don't have the attention to allocate to behavior change. So the question is going to be, how are you going to get successful?How are you going to unleash your potential and achieve your goals when you just don't have that attention available? Then I think it really is through the concept of self-awareness, knowing yourself, and then designing for that, you know, and I've seen you, who've been especially good at the South awareness piece of that, which is, I think is incredibly difficult for people. We, human beings are not wired for self- awareness, it's a habit that has to be developed. Some people are lucky they developed very early in life. Some people have to develop it through struggle over long periods of time, but it doesn't come naturally. The mechanics of our consciousness is very much about trying to make sense of the world by blaming others and believing we've got the answer and nobody else, you know, anybody who doesn't see it is a dummy and all those kinds of things.So to put ourselves at the center of any confusion narrative and say, wow, this is probably about me. It's probably about the insufficiency about something in my mental model. What I don't understand and have that self-awareness to work through and say, I need to design right now for success. And I also need to get better over time within the container of the safety that success will create. Then I think it gives you the opportunity of behavior changes, an outcome of good design. Not as the goal of coaching itself. And I've seen you engage really well in that. So I think it's an excellent point.Neil Parikh:Yeah. I appreciate that. I think it's a good point and also, traditional coaching never really thinks about the system design, right? I know we've talked about this before. To me, it's a blend of maybe not management consulting, but really the point of view of you have to have the container along with the capacity if you want to change. So agreed. And I think that that's an important part to be aware of as you think about going down the journey, is that it's not just about the singular idea that I'm going to change. You have to really set up the circumstances for that as well. Jeff Hunter: Yeah. Well, I think one of the interesting, again, when you're in the midst of not having your goal be behavior change, but the goal being, building a great company or being great at your work or finding your individual path excellence, whatever that may be, then change is a result of doing things the right way. It's not the goal. It's sort of a measure. It's not a goal. And I think this is one of the things that I struggled with. You know, I didn't, I was an entrepreneur by practice. I wasn't a coach by practice and over the last seven years spending my life coaching or a good portion of my life coaching, I've had to learn a lot cause I was blind to a lot of things.I didn't know a lot of things, but one thing that always struck me was a sort of internal contradiction in the classic coaching models I understood to the degree. I do understand them. I'm sure there's a lot I'm missing, but the contradiction was sort of like the goal is behavior change. But in order to go through that, you really at the very beginning are failing to engage on one of the most fundamental things about a deep, fundamental behavior change, which is self-acceptance. In other words, like I think psychologically what happens is that we set this stuff up in our mind where we're like, oh, I'm really bad at this. Or you know, there's a negative impression of this thing. Or I don't like this about myself and it sets it up as something that's painful in your mind. And one thing we know about basic biological cognition is, your mind doesn't like painful things in it, it likes pleasurable things. So you set this up as this really painful thing, like, oh, I'm really, really bad at this. And then your mind is actually not seeking to engage it well in the unconscious, it's like seeking to avoid it. And so I just, it always struck me as like, if I could, I remember the first big talk I ever gave as a coach. And I was talking to all these executives and they said, well, what's the one big thing, you know, the big secret, because everybody wants the one big secret. There is no one big secret, but if I was to wish for any one thing for you, it would be self-acceptance. And they all, of course, all thought that was a terrible answer because I don't know, I kept using the F word or something, but like, they were just like, this is, no, no, you don't get it. I'm like, you don't understand the fact that you can't accept what you're like prevents you from change. And because it prevents you from change, it prevents you from adapting and because it prevents you from adapting, it means you're always in structural fragility. You're always waiting for a competitor to come along who, through lock or discipline or practice or whatever, is just going to be better at that thing than you are. So the only way you stay at the head of that is self-acceptance as a key part of that change. Neil Parikh:Well, I was just going to set it to double click on that though. There's also this beautiful thing about self-acceptance because you know, a lot of the people that are coming to want to get coaching have been probably extremely successful at something in their life, right? You're usually, you're an entrepreneur or an executive you've made it. And so I think the beauty of self-acceptance is that there's also this ability to accept the amazing parts about you and how to unleash the potential and lean into the things that you do really well. And then also accept the things that you don't do well so that you know where to focus your energy. And, you know, we've talked a lot about unleashing the potential of people. And so I think that there's something actually really interesting on both sides about accepting the things that you're not good at as well as, you know, leaning into things you are.Jeff Hunter: Yeah. I love that. I think I brought up in one of the prior podcasts, I was talking about the, what they call the American Idol effect. So my wife is a singer and so we used to watch American idol. And so there's a, there's always like, there's one of three things that are going on in American Idol. There's a singer who is terrible and thinks they’re great. There's a singer who thinks they're great and they are great, and there's a singer who thinks they're terrible and they're great, right? And so the people think they're terrible and they are terrible don't show up. Because they know they're terrible. So you've got this group that is, of course, they get up there like, hey, I'm a really good singer. And then they sing something and it feels like cat scratching glass, but then you're like, Oof that’s terrible.But the things that are always so amazing is how many people show up saying, I feel compelled to sing, but I'm really bad at it. And they're good at it and that was one of the, you know, I'd spend time within organizations that had more of a tradition of your superego involved in all your strengths and you know what your strengths are and you're clear on that. The problem is you won't deal with your weaknesses and that struck me as wrong. My work has always been, human beings are sort of evenly confused like they’ve got these incredible strengths they don't know about, they've got these incredible weaknesses they won't face, it's all sort of a confusion battery and you can't go in assuming like the weakness is the thing that you gotta go after. You have to more take a picture of like, how does the pattern of confusion emerge?Because when people, you know, this thing we've worked on over time, this big four model, in order to populate that and get the evidence to sort of figure things out, you have to have evidence of when you do things well. And what circumstances are you in when you're doing that well, and people don't pay attention to that stuff. All the diagnostic procedures are against the negative, right? The bad outcomes and the bad outcomes can provide a lot of really good, a lot of really good insights into what we're like, what context, etcetera. So I'm a big fan of spending time when things don't go well to figure out what's behind it, but it's absolutely just powerful to spend, you know when things do go well to spend time there and figure that out because it's so easy for us to dismiss that. There's this thing about as we gain mastery, that again, another weird facet of cognition, as we gain mastery, we tend to undervalue our own excellence. And I see it all the time. It's like somebody who's really good at something, but it's just so obvious to them. It just is so apparent to them that this thing is true, that, you know, this would be the way you would paint, or this is the way you would act or where you know, where you're like it's so obvious it's not valuable. So I'm not going to pay attention to it because of course, everybody knows how to do that. And then you'll have these experiences where you'll do something or have some insight or say something to somebody, and everybody will be like, whoa, where the hell did that come from? And in that moment, the person is just as confused by the positive feedback as most people would be about negative feedback. They're like, what the hell do you mean?Where did that come from? That's just so obvious. So you just can't depend on human beings to have clarity about what they're like, you just can't. And that's the problem to tackle. It's not like, Oh, you're, you know you're bad at communication. So let's go fix that. Maybe you are bad at communication. Maybe you aren't, maybe you're bad at communication because in certain contexts you don't feel comfortable, so let's try to address that. Not like, here are three tips for, you know, faking your way through a conversation. Now, of course, everybody's got their own impressions and ideas about this, but that's sort of at the root of what I was realizing is as we were developing our stuff and hopefully bringing it to incredible entrepreneurs like yourself.Neil Parikh:Agreed. I think a corollary to something you were talking about is also that when you're really good at something, I think it's really hard to sometimes understand that other people might not be good at that. Yeah. Because we're living in our own world. I've seen this because I've spent a lot of time just thinking about the way people think and act, and, you know, being coached by you and you sometimes forget, Oh, wait, my worldview, because it's so Neil centric and yours is so Jeff centric, you can very easily forget that other people might perceive the exact same situation completely differently because of, you know, where they're coming from or their strengths or weaknesses. And so it also makes a fascinating set up for coaching because you're coaching people that are going to go through conversations on a daily basis with other people, and in some ways, you're only getting one side of the story, but you've got to coach the person to be able to try to understand the whole situation, which is challenging.Jeff Hunter: Yeah. I see this all the time. And it's so interesting you bring this up. We all have this. One of my favorite things ever is David Foster Wallace’s This is Water. His speech at Kenyon College. And while he was making a point about the necessity of education and how it opens our minds, he is in fact talking, he has this thing where you're in traffic and the guy cuts in front of you and you start going to road rage, and you're screaming at him. And in that moment, how you're not stopping to ask yourself, what is their experience? Let's say they were on the way to the hospital to, you know, to see somebody who was important to them. And they wanted to say their last goodbyes, would you give them a pass for cutting you off then? And most people would say, Oh yeah, that case, of course, but that's not what we experience.Right? What we experience is, Oh, that guy just put me at risk or he's making me late or whatever. And so, you know, you son of a bitch, and I think it's just this thing about how we're all self-involved in our own world and getting back to this point we were talking about before, about self-awareness, how difficult that is, because our mind is really scanning the environment all the time for risk to us. And it's also scanning for opportunity for us, and to get out of that and to be in the moment of above we, as opposed to me, and to be thinking about what am I missing about, you know, how I'm interacting with others. Or about how I actually feel or what my actual motivations are or how, what I could do to help this person and how that might be helpful to me, all those things, those are acts that fall outside of our sort of basic biological wiring and require help to get there.We don't naturally fall into it. We all need help to become better in any particular moment or overtime to discover that thing in ourselves, that we can become better. And the absence of that, all these things that you and I are talking about happening, we don't see what we're good at or bad at. We don't see where opportunities are. We think that things are obvious. And so therefore we dismiss ourselves or we dismiss others because they don't see it. It's all this, again, confusion in our minds that leads us to be less than we can be. And I've always loved coaching leaders who are open to that, right? Who are open to that, like, okay, there has to be a level of self-awareness and self skepticism here for me being able to build the thing I want to build. Because my mind is messing with me all the time and that's job one, today and every day is I got to deal with that effectively.Neil Parikh: So I have a question for you. And I've been, this came up as you were just speaking now because part of what I was thinking about is that, you know, that coaching sometimes people think you know, I'm just going to do four or five sessions, learn it all, and then get right to the rest of my life. I've learned the frameworks and I'm good. And I found it actually to be more and more helpful over time to engage in continually thinking about this. But is there a point at which some people just aren't confused anymore, you think? Or that they're so attuned to this? Or how does the progress of self-development as you go through the model work? Jeff Hunter: Yeah, It’s an awesome question. So I think you can get to a point where you're not confused, but if you get to that point, then you're not getting better. So you can't have both. And so what I mean by that is, I think, and I wrote a short piece about this last week. There's like two dimensions to this question for me. And I was a philosophy major in college, and that was a real trip. But you know, you end up saying, all right, all these impressive people over time have had all these fundamental and insightful questions. What are my questions? And for me, the question was like, do I want to get better or not? And then how am I going to measure what better looks like? And so, you know, for me, that was the nature of a life well-lived.If I could ask myself those questions and answer them, well, then I was probably doing okay. And I said, yeah, I do want to get better. I want it. Like, I hope the best I can ever be is on the last day here on earth, that's the best I wanna be, like every day, I'm trying to get a little better. And then I'm going to measure myself against what is possible, not against what has happened because what is possible is almost an infinite set. And what has happened is a finite set and it's usually protecting us, right? But if I was to just step back from those two questions and not to judge anybody, I would say, if someone says, I don't want to get better either because I don't know that opportunity exists or I've thought about it. I'm really super comfortable right here right now.And I want to measure myself against what has been now, you know, what is in the future, then I think you can probably design your world so that you were never confused, right? Because nothing is ever happening that isn't what you expect, right? Like you live in a very contained world. You get up every morning at a certain time, you eat a certain breakfast. Everything's sort of going as you expect. And that's great. But if you do that, there's a thing you have to pay. There's a penalty you pay for that decision or that blindness, which is, you're never getting better. Confusion is required to improve because you have to see that what you believe about the world is not accurate or complete or useful and that's where confusion flows from. And so you have to be able to keep experiencing new things and being like, wow, I was wrong about that.Oh, I missed that. Or I am not good at that. Or I am good at this. These are all things that, where we have beliefs about ourselves, about the world and the connection between those two things, that are not, they're not productive, right? And so that's awesome, confusion is a signal that we've got something to learn. And so I do believe you can create a life that is where you get out of confusion, but then that's a work. That's a life where you're not growing and learning. And of course, that's a very fragile life because you lose all the ability to adapt and so then, you know, if unexpected shit happens, you're probably really in a bad place with regards to it. But sure, I think you can, you can live a life of no confusion.Neil Parikh:So then if you're thinking about the people that you've seen that are, you know, very successful what percentage of their, maybe this is a trick question, but you know, I'm trying to think about if I were to build a grid, should I be in a high confusion, but also high ability to get out of confusion state or, you know, I guess you can't be in confusion all the time either. And so when you think about like, what's a place, you know, where you can deal with enough of it, like where should we be targeting?Jeff Hunter: Yeah. It's not really a percentage cause everybody's going to be, you know, different, not just in their beliefs about this, but also in what their brain can handle and all kinds of other things, the circumstances they're in. You know, as an example, I think there's a large portion of the population that every day has to spend significant attention to elements of survival, to housing and food security and do, you know, communal security and all the things that we're seeing people talk about now are really about like, there's a group of people and it's a large group that has to take every day and apply attention to trying to figure out how to navigate a world that a guy like me can take for granted. And so I get to apply my attention to other things. And so I get to grow and learn faster and discover my potential faster because I can allocate my attention to those things.So I don't want to give a blanket answer here because the playing field is not level, and not everybody gets to play in a way that they can allocate a ton of their attention to turning confusion into clarity. Because that's really what you're trying to do is take these confusion signals and turn them into productive learning in the form not of coming up with a final answer, but in the form of coming up with a useful next step in your experiment of discovery, right? And so I think as a general rule for those of us who are fortunate enough and privileged enough to have the opportunity to think of these things and engage in these things, I think if the day goes exactly as you expected, you probably failed. And if the day feels completely overwhelming, you probably failed.Where you want to be is more in that flow dynamic of what is coming at you can be productively engaged with. In a way sort of sounds like this. That's interesting, I expected A and I got B, I wonder why that is, and wonder what I'm missing and now how am I going to go test that and get better? Like, that's a mental process that you want to go through when you get to confusion, right? A really productive self skeptical sort of engagement. Well, you only have a certain number of those you can give yourself. And after a period of time, your brain's like, yeah, I'm on full meltdown, this is not going to work anymore. I'm in full protection mode. I just want to get in the fetal position and go to bed. So if you hit that point, you can't turn your confusion into learning.And in fact, you run the real risk that your confusion is going to turn into certainty, right? It's going to harden into the, I can't deal with this stuff anymore. And so I'm just becoming close-minded, but if you don't have every day something that sort of gives you the opportunities say, huh, that's interesting. I'm surprised by that. Or I'm curious about that or I expected one thing and got another, then you're probably not pushing yourself well. There was this one, there was this very early in my career I had the great, good fortune, this was the early eighties, they had the great, good fortune to listen to a guy named Bob Graham, who is one of the, you know, originators of the integrated circuit. Everything we're doing right here right now is partly because Bob Graham worked with the right group of people to develop entirely new technologies.And Bob Graham was talking about how to make silicon chips, the things that drive our world now. And he was saying, you know, the amazing thing we found out is that if you're ever making silicon chips and they make a whole bunch of them on a single wafer, if that wafer goes through, we make the chips and it gets tested and there's a hundred percent throughput. In other words, every chip on that thing works, that we have failed. And I remember hearing that at the time and thinking that makes no sense. Of course, you'd want every chip on the wafer to work. Of course, you'd want that perfection. And his point was our goal is to stress test the tolerances of these chips through our designs every day. And you need to get a certain failure rate to know that you're at that limit. Too much failure and you know that you've designed beyond the tolerance, you know, that these chips are actually not capable of working just as a design element, too few errors, too few failures and you actually haven't pushed far enough against the physics and against the design. And so that stuck with me, you know, that was 1982. I heard that and I remember being in that room and hearing that, because it just blew my mind that your life is about being in that range, right? It's like, if you're not getting any failures, you're not pushing the tolerances hard enough. If you're getting too many failures you're pushing the tolerances too hard. And so you're trying, each of us is trying to find our place inside of that bounded region. Neil Parikh:I love that framework. It's hard, truthfully, it's a little bit hard to accept because as a perfectionist, I want to be right or successful a hundred percent of the time, but you know, you're, it's an interesting point to think about. You have, if you don't engage in the failures, you never learn. You never get better. And so you can never realize your vision unless you're continuously doing that. Jeff Hunter: Right. Well also you don't know who you are and you don't know what you're capable of. This is, I have seen so many people. One of the joys of my work is I have seen so many people discover things, capabilities in themselves that they didn't know existed. And the perfectionist never finds those. And I'm speaking as a perfectionist and somebody who has failed to take risks and do things because I couldn't find my path to perfect. And in that, you never find out truly who you are. And to me, that's the amazing thing about being a human being is we get to design a life where we can actually figure out what we're capable of and who we are. And the people who are given to perfection are people who are like, I'm only going to try it.If I know I can get it now, if I can nail it now, which is great. I mean, it's incredible. It's important to have high standards, all paths to excellence lead through high standards. But if you don't try stuff, then you don't discover, you know, the thing that is hidden from you but is actually within you. And so there's so much you have to do, my father in law, I've been married a long time, and my father in law, who is a man I hold him incredibly high estime, and he's an aeronautical engineer. And he has planes from the Smithsonian. He's this amazing, amazing guy, humble, incredibly humble. And he said, you know, if you want to make it, if you want to have a world record, then you’ve got to understand a very, very simple fact.And that is if it's worth doing, it's worth doing shit. And I remember when he first told me that I was like, that makes no sense whatsoever. That can't be true. You're an engineer. One of the best engineers I know, I'm sure you sweat every tolerance, I'm sure you sweat every scenario. And he said, sure, but if you don't push the plane out of the hanger, you don't know if it's going to fly. And so like, you got to get the plane in the air to get the data. So do your work but you gotta get the plane in the air. And that always struck me as this guy who I thought was the ultimate perfectionist had achieved all these things because he was willing to get the plane in the air. And he was willing to figure out whether this is going to fly and if the plane crashed and they lost everything. And, you know, they were literally at the point of ruin, that was a real risk they were taking by going too soon, but that risk was preferable to the risk of never having gotten it in the air in the first place. And so to me, it was just another example of hearing something where I thought at first, wow, that just doesn't make any sense. And over time I realized the wisdom of that approach.Neil Parikh:Right. Fascinating. Jeff, appreciate you having me on, I think it's always interesting to talk about the intersection of coaching, clarity, confusion, and how this is such an important thing for all of us as we think about growing and scaling our companies, but are trying to create systems and continuously unconfuse ourselves so I appreciate the guidance.Jeff Hunter: Well, thank you, Neil. I really appreciate you being part of this inaugural podcast. And it's again, it's been a great honor to work with you and I can't tell you how grateful I am that you agreed to show up and try this experiment with me. And I look forward to continuing to watch you and Casper do amazing things in the future. And as a Casper user, I just want to say anybody, I have bought Casper mattresses, sheets, pillows, bed lights for everybody in my family. And I strongly recommend you do this same, some incredible products that are led by an incredible team. So thank you so much Neil for your time. And with that, we’ll sign off. Coaching in the clear has been a production of Talentism. It was recorded, mixed, and edited by 46 ad studios, original music by John Hunter. If you found this podcast valuable, please share on social media and make sure to leave a review. To support this podcast please sign up at Talentism.com. There you will find important content in up to date insights on how to unleash your potential. Thank you so much for listening.
Duration: 37 min