Tom Tonkin - Corporate Thought
4:56PM Sep 9, 2021
Welcome to corporate thought, the podcast where we talk about everything, food, family, music, life of entrepreneurship, anything and everything else that makes life worth living. Welcome to the show.
Hi, welcome to corporate thought. I'm Mark Marling. Today I am so excited to introduce you to Tom Tonkin, the CEO of the conservatory group. This was basically the first time that I met Tom. And we really hit it off. We had a wide ranging discussion with a definite emphasis on lagging versus leading indicators and their effect on business making decisions. Tom is a fascinating guy, and I took much away from our conversation, including Tom's daily ritual. I won't spoil the ritual for you yet. You'll hear it for yourself. But I have begun to experiment with something similar. Having heard how he starts his day off. Stay tuned for more as I develop it, but in the meantime, please enjoy my conversation with Dr. Tom Tonkin. Hey, morning, Tom. Welcome to corporate thought.
Good morning to you, sir. A busy morning here for me. I look forward to conversation.
I'm excited to have you here for sure. You know, we don't really know each other, but we got introduced to and it sounded like you had a cool story and a lot of words of wisdom for entrepreneurs and thought leaders. And so I thought why not have the conversation and share it with the audience?
Well, I appreciate the time. And and I think I do I what's interesting is when when you had called and I sort of contemplated this conversation, I thought to myself, the best way of getting 30 years of experiences over a period of 30 years.
True. I'll give you that.
I don't know if you I don't know if you can shortcut it.
You know, it looks like these. Each has made me think I see I travel a lot. And I know there's not really magazine, like the built in air air line magazines anymore. But you remember, I know they're still out of these ads. You know, these companies that take a book and then and then summarize it for you. And they sell it like for busy CEOs, whatever you can, you can get all the wisdom of the book in, you know, in a half hour. I'm like no, I don't believe it.
There's there's a charm, if you will have the experience. I have a NLP background, neuro linguistic programming background. So I've got a perspective here. And I don't know exactly how you would measure the following statistic. But it's, it's it's an interesting thought. And basically, in that world, in the auto pill world, it says, you know, at any moment that the second anything, any moment, any second, you Your body is conscious of 134 different inputs, you know, things like, you know, lighting and temperature and how you feel, and that's on the conscious side. But on the unconscious side, apparently there's like 2 million inputs. So you can't fabricate those 2 million inputs. And I think those inputs and the things that actually make us who we are is the journey and the experience, because maybe we can fabricate the 134 inputs, but that isn't what shapes us.
No, right? No, I mean, it is. And that's actually what a lot of this show is about is by telling people's origin stories, I hope to get a glimpse into some of the experiences they had, because it's more than those 134 it's all the subconscious or unconscious decision making or things that went on. And I have often had people who have told me, the, you know, their obstacles they overcame, and it came down to this, you know, they were about to give up and then you know Got the contract or the next or something, some, some, the next shoe dropped and something else happened. And they were able to press on, or they chose to press on no matter what the obstacle was. But it's all those little those decisions, those non decisions, those life experiences that all add up to really, really formulate who you are both as an individual as a leader, as an entrepreneur. I mean, I don't think there's gonna be one, one thing that defines us.
Yeah, I agree. And, and, and yet, I think we all live with, you know, a model of the world and through our experiences, you know, I'm very outcome based, and I kind of back in to what I think I need to do, you know, fast forward and say, imagine if you had whatever it is that you wanted to do, what would what would need to be true to have these things happen? And so so I think, as we as we go through this conversation, you know, I'll hopefully be able to drop some ideas, but also some experiences here that, you know, maybe useful I, I live by a couple mottos in life. And when one of them is I don't know if it's a motto, but it's a it's a statement by my favorite British statistician of the 1700s. Which everyone should have, I guess, a p E. Box,
everybody have a brilliant British statistician from the 1700s. Okay, um, yeah, exactly. Every
What's your favorite quote? No, he basically says, All models are wrong, some are useful. Hmm. And I think, I think there's a lot of truth to that, right? The the idea that you take a model of whatever that might be, and then and then evaluate it for yourself and say, Is it is it useful to use that model in whatever it is that you're trying to solve? And in this case, we are talking about entrepreneurships, the, the ups and downs, and again, I've always been very outcome based. In my life, I always ask myself the question what needs to be true for for something to happen, and then and then you just you just back out of it. And sometimes you you land in a situation where and I use the term ecology, right? The The, the set of values and beliefs that you have to have for something to happen, really aren't who you are. And so that thought process has brought me to, to change my mind a lot. over the period of of the 30 years, I've been doing this kind of stuff. And I can get I can give you examples. I remember. I was a musician, man, when I was very young, I guess I'm still a musician. I still play that one of those ones. musician, always a musician. Yeah, you know, it's, uh, whether or not you get paid, I think is really the conversation that adds. And I remember being in high school and just outside of high school, thinking of myself, if I was just good enough, if I if I just was the best technical musician, right, didn't miss the notes, kept the beat, you know, all of this other stuff, fame and fortune would come my way. I really believe that quickly came to the realization on February 6 1986. every musician has that day, by the way, that you basically say, I'm not doing this for money anymore. Okay. You know, there's that thing, that date everyone has it. And that's my day. And it was a Tuesday, a rainy day and in North North Wilmington, Delaware, at a place called the buggy tavern.
And that was the day you walked away from being a professional musician. Is that what Yep. Okay,
because it turned into a job and it turned into a set of disappointments. And that is a very important part of where I come from because I've taken that same mentality and move forward I think many people in business will have that similar idea you know, if I was just good if I'm just if I'm just the best fame and fortune come my way. And the fact is that that's just not true. Sorry to drop that little knowledge early on on our conversation.
No, your your I agree with you. I mean, I think if you believe you can sit back and because you're good, people will flock to you will them know you or they'll they'll buy your goods or services. I think you're kind of have a very long and unfortunate road to hoe
Yeah, and and i and i, i started that early and and as I look back, it's it was probably a gift here, because I've taken that forward and and started looking at Well, what are those things that have to be true? What needs to be true to something to happen? So if I go back to that same analogy, what needed to be true? Well, I needed to know the right people in the music business. Right, I needed to be able to get in front of, you know, producers and directors, in a more of a networking kind of way than necessarily some kind of musical gift that I had. These are things I did not pay attention to when I was young, and I'm not going to beat myself up for it. But it's a good lesson to move forward to sit there say, Okay, well, if you're trying to succeed in business, or whatever it is that you're trying to do, what are those things that need to be true? And I can tell you, it's not going to be being proficient in whatever the heck you think you need to be professional.
No, it's the that. That other part of it for sure, it makes me think of, of a topic, maybe a quote or topic, but that I recently mentioned on this show comes from Tony Robbins, where he talks about it's not a lack of resources. It's a lack of resourcefulness.
This Yep, I know that quote. Well, and I absolutely agree with. I mean, that that's interesting, because that takes us down a different path. I don't know if you want to go down this path.
I'll go down whatever path you feel like chatting about?
Well, because well I do when you say resourcefulness. And you have to understand I have I'm sort of a recovering academic, or no, a recovering executive, more of an academic as of late because I've been asking myself, Why do these things in business actually work the way they work. And I literally flipped the book on myself and went down an academic path to do all this kind of research, but in a rigorous kind of way. And I landed in a place called self directed learning. And the reason I bring self directed learning is because self directed learning has four components. And one of the components is being resourceful. Okay, the other three components just for completion sake, is having a desire having a persistence, and having initiative. And it all emanates from a part of our mind called the conative brain. We all know about the cognitive where the knowledge lands, and the effect of which is all where our emotion lands, there's a third part called the conitive and that's where those four things reside. And, and tapping into that is what I have found to be my secret sauce anyway, maybe somebody else on the on the podcast listening may find it to be useful as well. And so that's why I'm kind of dropping some of these words made me want to people want to Google it, and, you know, figure it out for themselves.
Well, my, you probably don't know this. But unlike many shows, whose show notes are just like an introduction to the guest, my note, my show notes, as my, my regular audience knows, are full of links. So I'll go back. And I'll research some of this. And I'll give them jumping.
Oh, that's good, good, because I didn't, you know, you don't know what those show notes end up looking like. And as I kind of try to drop some of these things, people don't want to take notes. As we go through it, but but the main premise of the reason I bring this up and you were brought up resourcefulness on why that works is because we are wound up in knowing what to do, it's very important to know what to do. That's a lot of people ask questions, but I land on the how to do it. And back into it, because once you understand how you learn or how you work or, or have a lot of self awareness and self reflection, the the, what becomes either contextual or irrelevant at some point. So do you have the desire, the resourcefulness, the persistence, the initiative? To learn or to create? Any? If the answer is no, then you have two choices, right? You can just say, well, this isn't for me. Or you can actually improve all four of those things. Right? And and go down that path of, you know, what, what is what? What do I need to do to be resourceful? And, and use the resources I have correctly or to some to some goal. And so I've done a lot of work in this space. I'll pause there for you have any reaction?
No, I mean, I think you're hitting it on the head. And actually, it makes me want to go backwards now. To understand you, Tom a little bit and how you how you got to this place. You mentioned even how you moved away from sort of corporate side to the academic side, but also how you explored these things. And got to the kinds of questions or thoughts about?
Well, yeah, I think it starts way back when I was. I was a State Department Brad. So actually started my formative life. My first 40 years of my life, I lived in South America, English was my third language. Okay. And I think that's an interesting discussion, because it gives you this different cultural perspective, whether you like it or not, you're a kid, you're absorbing things. And you're, you're learning a bunch of stuff. along the way. I also was enamored with gear. I wanted to be a dentist, when I was seven. And I think the reason I wanted to be a dentist is the first dentist I went to, you had a lot of gear, yes, tools, cool stuff, all this cool stuff. And this is where the premise I came up with, with this music side of things. Were saying, Well, if you got the cool stuff, and it's the best cool stuff, then you you'll be the best cool guy doing whatever the thing is that you're doing. Okay. And I and I, I, as I said earlier, I stayed on that path for some time. So it was a, it took a while to land in this place. Now, as I got in the corporate world, and I started as a math major, wanted to be an architect, engineer, right, all of this sort of the stem stuff, if you will, because I thought again, right, if you had that figured out, right, all this other stuff would show up.
And this is in the United States. Now, by the way?
Yes, it is, sir. Yeah, I moved. moved up when I was 14, and went to high school here and on. Fast forward to my early corporate life, I quickly came to the realization that it didn't matter about gear didn't matter about intellect or skill as much as it mattered more about understanding other people and behavior and, and all that, you know, the cycle, the psychology of things, and the psychology of people, which again, I think it's discounted pretty quickly, in the business world. And that's, that's kind of where I started living my, what I said earlier, my 30 year experience in corporate America to get 30 years of experience, so then I could think about what I wanted to do about it.
So it wasn't what I'm hearing skill. I'm just I want to make sure I break it down as we go. Sure. It's not It's not the gear. And it's not inherent talent or skill, but it's about people.
Yes, it is. And it sounds so mushy, and you know, but it's, but I'm talking about really understanding people. And so I've taken so I switched, I switched my majors in college, I went back to school, got my masters, I got my PhD, because I thought, you know, I got it all wrong. I went and got myself an organizational behavior degree, and then got a master's in organizational leadership and management, a PhD in organizational leadership, because it goes into great depth about understanding the psychology and the social psychology and how we all interact. And the reason I did this, I think this is one of those top three items of this podcast, is I wanted to have a better understanding to predict outcomes. Okay, I think that was important, like what like, what are the leading psychological and behavioral indicators that go towards something to an outcome? Like, what are the thing I need to do or someone else does? That would say, Yeah, you're heading down the wrong path. And I call those leading indicators of some kind of lagging indicator outcome.
Are those guideposts or others important? If If our? Do we need to be reminded that we're on the right path? Or if we just have silence along the path? Is that good enough? I was facing an obstacle or do we need some kind of positive reminders along the path?
Well, it's interesting the obstacle you bring up a good point because one of the things I say about self directed and self directed learning is a predisposition to learn. Right, this idea that my awareness is heightened if I, if I have a problem to solve, right, I mean, learning for learning sake. You know, there's probably a handful of people that, like I remember, my father was one of those people, my father. I'd come home from high school and he'd be sitting in his favorite chair reading a textbook geology textbook. Oh, why am I a Jew? He worked for the government. He was a diplomat. And he's reading a geology, you know, the sediments and whatever. Whatever it is that there's in the geology textbook. And he's reading this thing. It's not it's I guess, I think it's high school level. And I like, Dad Like what? He Right, right, I'm walking, I'm what I'm coming home from high school, I don't think and the last thing I want to be doing. And here he is with with joy, right. And one of his full volition wanting to do this.
So this is this is this is learning for the joy of learning as opposed to, and I guess, when you talk about self directed learning, you're really meaning there's a there's a, there is a goal. So it's somewhat, you're sure there's at least, I mean, I like a wide variety of subjects, you can see and know, when we see each other, though the audience won't, you know, all the books on my shelves behind me. And there are a variety of subjects, because I'm interested in a lot of things. But I think like even through this podcast, as I'm trying to unpack what makes for a 21st century leader, I'm interested in certain types of books. As a result, I'm interested in certain kinds of guests. You know, it's all feeding to that, that idea.
And yeah, but letme ask, let me ask you a question from Yeah, cuz I did I see all those books. But I'm going to make the assumption because I've got similar I don't have books, where are you see me, but I've got a whole literally, I have a library, you know, one of those books, you know, floor to ceiling, all the wall books. But I will tell you that every book on that shelf came from a eight event or some level of curiosity that I had, I was predisposed to wanting to know about that. And it had it there's a reason attached to it. So the question I have for you is, if you were to turn around and look at those books, would you be able to take a look at that book and say, Ah, I remember what led me to wanting to purchase this book or what that event was?
I think so I think to a very large extent, I mean, there's some that are gifts. There are some that but I think I have a whole collection of books on a wish list on Amazon. books I haven't gotten to, because I have so many on the shelf I did for a while, kind of go into the and I still do like the Kindle for the ease of carrying it with me when I'm traveling. But I prefer a book, I prefer to take notes in the margins and have and have a physical book in my hand. But yes, I can tell you I it may be that I'm I made a book reading mood or something. And I wandered into a Barnes and Noble and I just happened to glance at it. There are times that because I someone has recommended or referred me to a book that I'm geared towards it. But at the same time, a lot of times I happen upon books, I'm like, you know, I'm browsing and I see something of interest. And so I stopped and I pick it up and I turn it over and I read a few pages I go Yeah, I don't know why I want to read this one, but it now hits, it has something you know, it's connected with me in that moment. So it gets purchased.
I'm going to suggest that maybe you know you're you're in the minority of people that have that level of interest. And maybe everybody listens in your podcast because you have this kind of bent to curiosity that are listening probably going How else would you do it? Okay, but I'm here to tell you it's not like that in the quote unquote average or common world there is has to be usually some kind of deep predisposition to wanting to learn something because I'm trying to solve a problem. I am not going to go to YouTube and watch how to fix a lawn mower. For fun. I'm going to watch that YouTube because my alarm was broken.
But I go down I actually go down rabbit holes very quickly. Like I was looking for a backpack. I this is a dumb analogy, but I was looking for a new backpack and people who know me know that. I have been for many parts of my life very mobile. I might have a physical office to go to but I consider my backpack to be my office because wherever I am I have the computer and all the tools I need to do what I do. So it is really my office. So my office was wearing out and it was time for replacement office if you will. And I found myself down a very long path on online backpack reviews. And there is a guy who does. He hasn't he has hundreds of backpack reviews. And I cannot tell you how many hours I spent watching videos until I picked up the backpack which I love. Then when one of my daughter's was needing a new backpack for school, like a couple years ago, I said, Oh, we can watch the backpack tie together. And I think I made her sit through about eight of them until she looked at me. And she said, Dad, I'm not watching any more backpack videos.
It's amazing. Just when you know, just when you think you can do something, somebody over does it. There you go. It's but but you you've touched on an interesting topic yet again, on this idea of curiosity and predisposition, I want to I want to venture off to a different side topic you brought up around curiosity. So and again, you're gonna put this in the show notes. But Google has this interesting tool. It's called the Ngram viewer. Are you familiar with that?
I don't think so. Tell me about it.
So So we all know that, you know, internet, the web is synonymous with Google, basically, I mean, if you if you know, you're going to search something, you're probably going to use a Google engine.
As command is it's a verb to now, right? Google things.
Yep. And it's actually in a dictionary, which I find fascinating. But um, so they have this tool called the Ngram viewer for anyone's listening to no crack open a web, the N gram and the letter N. gra. And what it does was, because Google has all these websites, and these online books, and articles and blogs, text, they've gone off and indexed all of this, all of this stuff all the way back, believe it or not, to the 1800s, you know, stuff that they've loaded before. And what they do is they bring up this thing, you can type in a word or a phrase into the Ngram viewer, and it gives you a graph. And the graph shows you the usage. Like how often does that word or phrase show up? somewhere? Okay, it's a frequency graph. And if you type in the word curiosity, you don't have to be a statistical genius to see that that term is as been going down since the 1800s. Is this trending line all the way down to very little usage?
We're just less curious is what you're saying yet?
Well, we're certainly using the word curious blot less, which leads me to believe that we are being a lot less curious. And again, being an academic, looking at that thinking to myself, well, what are the causes of that? I'm just wondering, is, is getting data so easy. And we don't necessarily ever have to be curious if we want to know many over restaurant, we just go again, to your point, Google it. And I don't necessarily have to be curious about anything else. I just need to know stuff.
So that actually, so I think two things from that. And actually, things for me, I'm about a third but one, perhaps you're right, that the the data is just there, so so at the fingertips, you don't have to think about it or be curious about it, the answer is instantaneous, to perhaps we are so inundated with so much information these days, that our brain just can't possibly process it. So we have less time to be curious, perhaps. That's something I have thought about.
Yeah, I, you know, I it's, it's with so many things I got going on as an entrepreneur. I don't get to do some of this, these kinds of studies as rigorous as I'd like. Sure. But But I, you know, it's interesting to ponder what what what does these thing you know, what causes these things? And by the way, if anybody's curious, go there, and if you're you are it's just it's a fascinating little tool, you type in whatever word or phrase and it gives you fluctuations in the, in the English lexicon of its frequency. And then you ponder whether or not that's representative of who you are. Because I think my curiosity has actually going up as as time has evolved, that could tell you in my ripe old age of 58 here I I just seems to me that I know less as Daigo goes by not because of what's in my brain but what I am discovering right through curiosity the world just seems to be expanding more and more and you find out go there's this whole other field of you know, fill in the blank
is that because you moved away from sort of the corporate world into this more academic world so that have Can you can you use that if you were looking at the calendar to say hey, this change and so as a result, I became more curious.
Yeah, I think Yeah, cuz By the way, Curiosity is also another developed behavior. You're not just born with, you know, whatever the Curiosity units are just, you can you can make more, but I think you're right I have been part of it is because my academic background has given me a structured way to examine things. Right? So Right, so the I, so I'm pretty particular about that, where you you go and you try to find out about something and I, you know, before you, you kind of sort of lucked out, or maybe you didn't luck out, or you ask somebody what you thought knew, but they really didn't know it was so very haphazard. I think this brings me back to an earlier part of the reason on when I was in the corporate world. And by the way, I'm sort of still am in the corporate world, but I don't consider myself you know, the, you know, rank and file hierarchical person in a company. I, I'm more of an observer of those, those people. But when I was there, to me, it always seemed like it was, it was haphazard, like there was no predictability of how things can happen. And I always thought we chase things down. Because we sort of had this gut, or we really didn't have any solid data, I'll give an example. Anybody who's listening in corporate world, if you ever run reports, like let's just say sales, or finance or something like that. 99%, and I'm just pulling a number out of thin air of reports are really good about tell you what happened. Right? Not very many tell you what's going to happen. If they do, they are taking the same units of what happened and predicting in those same units.
Okay. So I know, their report there. You're right. They they, they are essentially looked backs as opposed to look forwards.
Exactly. And we get and then so what happens is, we now have to sort of fabricate what it is that we thought we did to get to those numbers, let me give you an a real concrete example, losing weight, losing weight is probably one that everyone can connect to. My lagging indicator of losing weight is I get on a scale, and I look at the number as a number that tells me that is what I weigh. And that number is representative all of the good or bad decisions I made prior to that moment in time. Sure. My leading indicator would be what? Well, it's the math or losing weights pretty easy, right? You got to burn more than you consume. That's I think that's pretty much it. And so what do you do? Right? So you, you can't use a scale to do that. What do you have to do? Well, you kind of count calories, and you have to have some kind of calorie counter tool, or you have to burn more in doing some exercises, minutes on the elliptical or running or whatever those things might be. But it's not a scale. And so I so that the leading indicators basically say look, if I at the end of the day, which are lagging indicators to themselves, but if at the end of the day, I have burnt more than I've then I ate then tomorrow, most likely, again, we know weight fluctuates. But But tomorrow, that number that I was on the scale should be smaller than number before. Make sense. But what I'm saying is those right, those units, the the equipment, all that stuff completely different. What I have found in the corporate world is we try to use the same equipment for both things.
Okay. So we're going to tell both the past story and the forward story from the same measurement.
That's correct. Like, for example, we go back and we say, you know, as a matter of fact, it's very interesting if you ever, you know, read listen to the, the the financial investor ads, right, you know, past results don't influence future performance, whatever, whatever that term is. Yeah, that's that's the it's like the it's like the insurance clause, right? We you know, we don't we, you know, we don't cover acts of God. Well, Jim implies a hole so now you believe in the God Are you gonna go down that path? Because I can bring up all sorts of stuff. counter to that, but but my point here is that Yeah, we go back and we take a look at Well, we've done this thing for three months, and we've gotten to this result. So now we we need to do something different. What what reports are what, what tools do we use to indicate or think of doing something different to get a different result. Right? You have any ideas? I mean? So think of it, you're just
doing a sales report or if you're doing like you're using examples of sales or finance, how could you take your past performance to? And I get your point that we extrapolate that to future future to anticipation. But how would we, but why? How to? I mean, yeah, I get the respect that everything else stays constant, right?
Yes. Because all my I do a lot of work with salespeople. It's kind of one of my things, but you know, what happens? I'll give you an example. And less salespeople are going to chuckle when I say this. So let's say, you know, it's the end of the quarter, and we're all scrambling to, you know, to try to bring in more revenue at the end of the quarter. So the quarter looks good. So what do we do, right? Well, you we usually have, you know, weekly sales calls. Well, now what we're gonna do is we're gonna have daily sales calls. Okay, by the way, we're just gonna do that this week is to do the same thing we do on weeklies, but we're just gonna do it every day.
Because that, that in itself, at least someone thinks that should make the difference. Correct. Okay.
And, and, and the idea is, if you would ask somebody like, well, then if I know of something, then maybe you know, me, as a manager, I can do something about it sooner if there's a stole in the process or something. But what I find interesting is, if there's a stall in the process that should be reported anyway, do you need an entire meeting to be able to go through that. And what it really is, is sort of this heightened awareness of the importance of generating revenue, but the process itself, believe me salespeople out there, no, and managers, if you're listening to me, your salesperson one time to you don't need to have daily calls, they are very aware of the importance of trying to close revenue. So I find it funny that and by the way, the reports get run more often to the lagging indicator reports, instead of getting run weekly knew that now they're getting run daily, as if that of itself, is going to change the outcome. So we pound on the going back to my weight loss scale, we pound on the on the scale itself thinking that, you know, we'll burn more calories. But that has real that's that's really got nothing to do with it. Well, it's, it's ridiculous is what it is. And there's got nothing to do with it. But so this, this brings me back to why I ended up doing what I ended up doing, why I am introducing a lot of that, as an entrepreneur, to have a better understanding of these two types of leading and lagging indicators, what are the associated behaviors, that give me an understanding of what I'm doing the right way? And trying to find the analogies and the metaphors to explain that to other people, and then operationalize all that stuff? How can I then operationalize all this? Well, so then I don't have to worry about it.
Right. So what I would take a break right there, because that's a perfect place for you to come back and kind of explain, you know what you're doing with this? So let's go with you. We'll take a quick break and come right back. Here thought about starting your own podcast, when I was trying to get this podcast off the ground, I had a lot of questions. How do I record an episode? How do I get my show into all the apps people like to listen to? How do I make money from my podcast? The answer to every one of these questions is really simple. Anchor. Anchor is a one stop shop for recording, hosting, and distributing your podcast. Best of all, it's 100%. Free, and ridiculously easy to use. And now anchor can match you with great sponsors who want to advertise on your podcast. That means you can get paid to podcast right away. In fact, that's what I'm doing right now by reading this very ad. So let me tell you, it is so easy to use anchor. And sometimes when you've heard some of the short episodes in between the regular long form interviews, I record those right on my phone, because anchor has an amazing app that makes it so easy to do, even from your phone. So if you've ever ever wanted to start a podcast, go to anchor.fm backslash start, maybe that's just forward slash start. I always get those confused. Let's try that again. anchor.fm slash start to join me and the diverse community of podcasters already using anchor that's anchored RFM slash start. I can't wait to hear your podcast Okay, so we are back with Tom Tonkin, and, Tom, you were just explaining a little bit about how these kinds of indicators, unfortunately fascinate you, or otherwise became this ambition of yours as you went down sort of an entrepreneurial path to sounds like uncovering these and understanding them better.
Yeah, so I love to take credit for a lot of this. But there's a lot of stuff out there. And I'm going to point you to some of it. You know, it's it's almost like when you're trying to you're thinking about buying a car. And you have a model and a color and a goal in mind. And you just, you know, now you're driving your old car and you look out the window, you're like, it just seems like everyone's driving the stupid car. Like all of a sudden, not that it you just noticed and that's just because your brains heightened awareness of that particular car. You're like thinking like every other car seems to be the car I want to buy. You know, and that's confirmatory bias. See, look, everyone likes it. So I'm doing the right job.
Okay, so there you go. So they're there. There's another place where I'm maybe very different. I drive a car right now that a lot of people drive, and that that actually bothers me, because I have always found having a unique car or something slightly different, to be more to be it's like, it's like me and socks, right? People who know me well know, I wear crazy socks because yeah, my dresses otherwise pretty, pretty standard and not special. But I, I wear different talks. So it's like I drive a different car than the majority. But I think that most people actually look to the market to indicate they've made a right choice. I think the weird one?
Well, you might I mean, that maybe that's that's the thing that that turns you on. There might be other things that you are looking on. When we go back to your books. There. I'm sure some of those books on your shelf there. Were probably bestsellers. Right, like, well, I see. Everyone seems to be reading this. I probably should take a gander at it as well. Sure. And I think that's that's fine. I mean, that's, that's just human nature. But what I what I did was I started thinking about this, this whole predictive aspect of business and life in all the way back to my musical days and trying to figure out, you know, well, is it all really about gear and skills? Or is it about all this other stuff? And then I landed on all this other stuff. And I thought, Okay, so now that I know this, so maybe there's this logical mechanical part of me is trying to uncover this, but a great book, and I'm sure it's on your shelf. And I'm sure many people as atomic habits by James clear, it's up there somewhere. Yep. And he then takes this, this idea of these lagging and leading indicators, and he abstracts them up and basically says the lagging indicators, measure results, leading indicator measures systems. And I thought that was pretty interesting. So let's, you know, let's talk a little bit about that. Because it's, it's the, it's the system, you know, the habit, if you will, which is he explores habits of systems, sure, it's the engine, right, that keeps going, and you have to think about it, and you just do this thing, like if I again, burn more calories than I consumed. And I just did that. And every day I just measured that. I don't have to worry about the lagging indicator, because I'm pretty sure that the weight will come off. And that's his premises is getting that system or that leading indicator, correct. The lagging indicators were just come along for the ride.
Reporting meeting, which, you know, I always wonder why do I ever meet a meeting people report information back when I can read it for myself? So I always say I don't need I don't need reporting meetings, I need meetings that we actually are going to have action items, as opposed to reporting meetings.
Well, it's interesting when I was in the corporate world, I used to have what I call the LA law meeting. Okay. So I don't know how people I'm not a big TV viewer, but when I was long time ago, there was a show on TV called La law. I remember it. And every Yes. And and the show always started this was there. The way they started the show was you saw all of these lawyers, it was a law show. All coming into the main conference room, you know, and you'd have the music and the credits rolling, and they're all rolling into the conference room and then the credits are done. And they pan into the room to the lead partner. And he basically starts asking all the lawyers what they're working on.
By the way, that's a very real phenomenon. I have been partners in law firms. And one firm that I was a partner at in Savannah, Georgia. We had Friday morning, the engagement meeting, where we reviewed all of the new files that came in that week. So it's a real thing.
Yeah. And what I liked about it was the big, obviously, it was a setup to the show. But if you thought about it, you'd have lawyer number one say, Well, here's my plan. Here's what I think is important. Here's how I'm going to prosecute it, whatever, go to the second lawyer, and so on. And a lot of corporate meetings always ended on Fridays. And I've been no into, I would say, the preponderance of meetings, those kind of weekly meetings with corporate work, or the corporate world, we're always on Fridays, and it ended up talking about all the stuff no one got done. Right. So it's like, and so you you hung up, or you walked out of the room and you went, man, I don't want knows I'm tired, but I haven't yet. I didn't get anything done.
Most of those meetings be on Mondays, you talk about what you should be doing that next world?
Exactly. Right. That's why I called it the La La meeting. So I moved my my meetings when I was when I became a big shot. I moved my meetings to Fridays, I mean to Mondays. Because you had the weekend, everything expunged. And you had this sense of hope. And you you verbalize that. Now there's a whole bunch of other psychology that basically says, Look, if you create this, this, this unconscious accountability, the chances of you getting that stuff done, actually increased dramatically. And and I didn't have those Fridays and those meetings, but you could read it to your point, right? I would say, okay, not having a meeting about what you did, just send me an email about what you did. So it was a Friday face to face accountability. Here's what I'm gonna do la law meeting. And then Friday, send me your status report of all the stuff you did. And it was it was interesting, because I did this intentionally. So I saw the change. I saw we just got more done when we did it that way. Because there was this built in accountability. And then, of course, to your point, I could just read what you did or didn't do. And I can make my own decisions at that point. But it ended up being a managing by exception, as opposed to everything being an exception.
Gotcha. So did so. Do you advocate for that still, today that if you're going to have that kind of meeting that
Well, if you go Yeah, if you land back to the research and to all of the other I mean, I can give you a whole bunch of sort of goal oriented productivity researchers a there's a study out of Dominican University in Northern California. First name's Gail Cameron, last name basically said, hey, look, if you write something down, like physically, like with a pen or pencil, of what it is, you can do you have a 42% greater chance of getting that done, than not have done not had done that at all.
Right, so the act of writing it down. And I've heard that before. I've even heard that with regard to digital tools, that if you if you've because I'm, for a lot of reasons, I like digital tools, maybe part of its like gear thing to to be quite honest about it. But I do like digital tools. And yet I do find myself going back to the notebook. The problem with the notebook is the preservation of the data, I can flip back, but then when I get to the next notebook, I know that I start worrying about which notebook was that in. So there's a value to the digital in my from my brain for me, but at the same time, I understand that the act of writing it down is, for whatever reason, it ingrains better than even if I typed it just seems harder for me to understand the reason why but I do believe it's true, that the writing the aspect of picking up a pen or pencil and writing it has a greater likelihood of getting in green and the lack of a better word.
So I've spent a significant amount of time years trying to perfect all of this stuff in perfect, probably too strong of a word, but pretty good at this. And so I am a hybrid digital as well as analog person. All my digital stuff is all the long term stuff I do. So a task and long term by the way is next week might be a long term thing. What I mean by short term is all my analog my notebooks is I actually take what's on the screen in my digital tools and write it into my notebook for that day. So take a look at it and go, okay, out of all of these things, what are the top three most important things I have to do? What are all the other things I need to do? I've got a schedule. And it only for that day is one page. And by the way, by definition, it's one page can't be more than one page, because there's a little bit of physical constraints are put on that as well.
So you limit yourself to one handwritten page of that's correct action items per day.
Yep. And, and then, and I write them, and then I work out of the notebook.
Okay, so but you've but you've captured it all digitally, first. Correct. Gotcha. What is your particular tool you use for the digital? Because I'm always ticking. Again, is that if that gear apart?
You know, yeah, so I'm a to do list person. Yep. Okay, I know that. You know, I've been down the rabbit hole, you know, I think the way I like to explain it is my, my PC is a graveyard of applications, or applications. So, but I throw it all in there. And by the way, it's not necessarily just tassets ideas. It's, you know, a task could be as simple as think about x. Okay, right. And so somewhere in my calendar, in my time I put down, okay, it's time to think about x. And then I sit around, I think about it, and maybe journal or write about it. But I work out of the notebook, and you're talking about gear, I'm particular about my notebook, in particular, I'm a fountain pen user as well. I have a whole collection. And the reason is because you just it gives you joy to use that. Yes, exactly. It becomes a it's like a ritual, cleaning the pen what pen, I must have a couple 100 inks, colors. Wow, you know, it's a whole thing for me. And then when you sit down and you put that pen to paper, which by the way, anybody who's ever written with a fountain pen can tell you there's there's just no comparison, in the the physical feeling of a of a phone pen versus a ballpoint or whatever. Sure. And you know, getting the right paper and you sit down and it just becomes a ceremony. As a matter of fact, when we're done here, and I do this every morning, when we're done, I'm going to pack up get my, my backpack, which is probably not as cool as yours, but I got my backpack ready to go in the front door. And I'll go to the coffee shop. And I will do the ritual. I will look at my to do list, which is electronic. And I will create a daily page of what is going to happen today. And then I'll put away the digital. Go about my business with the my notebook. my notebook, you know, and in my note I'm writing right um, some stuff happens to write me phone somebody rings and like I don't go and crack open my, my my electronic thing I put it in the notebook. Okay. If somebody calls and says, Tom, I need this, okay, let me write that down. But at the end of the day, then I have the same ritual. Okay, now all the stuff that happened now goes back electronically,
So you hoping your day by by doing this and you close your day by bringing it back to the digital.
That's correct. And then the other thing too, I'll talk about is, is email on roll now we got down this path, but why the heck right. So I don't, I don't keep email open. I read open in the morning, we'll all stuff that came in night, I might open it up at lunch. And I will close email and that'll be the end of that. And I'm pretty ritualistic about email. I want to paint
Your email boxes, do you uh, you uh, like, what do they call that a inbox? Zero?
I am. I am. And I'll tell you why. And I'm going to paint this picture and you might even chuckle we all have mailboxes, you know, like at our house, right? Sure. And every day or however many times a day you go you go to your mailbox and go get your mail correct. Of course. Right. Let me ask you this. Do you go to your mailbox look at the mailbox and then this stuff everything back in your mailbox. Now that's what we all do with their inbox, don't we? Yes. It's not the storage right? That's right you open up your mailbox you go Oh, look at this I got a bill I got an appointment or I got an invitation. You know all these things right and, and then we take them and then we prosecute him I put them in our physical inbox or maybe we put them on electronic reminder, whatever. But at the end of the proverbial day, whatever that is, your your mailboxes, your physical mailbox, you know, out in front, your house is empty, ready for more. But for whatever reason, in the digital world, we choose to keep all It's our storage. It's our to do list. It's your calendar, it's our notes, everything stays in the inbox, and then you start missing stuff. So imagine if you kept everything in your mailbox. You went back again. And you go, Oh, look, here's the bill I missed. Let me stick it back into the mailbox. Yeah. And it's usually when I, I provide that metaphor, then people kind of smile and chuckle and go, yeah, I guess I do do that. Think about it. Maybe Maybe there's some truth to emptying out that that your inbox? No,
it's it gives me shade, it gives me great joy, it creates a lot of stress for me right now. I'm something in the neighborhood of 2700 emails behind. There you go. And that creates anxiety and stress for me. And so I really do try to go through and take blocks of time to, to process email. But some days, I can't keep up with the pace. So it's like the it's like your physical mailbox. They they keep the mailman shows up every every every 10 seconds. Right, exactly. So you just came out empty, and it's full again. So this is a little bit of a problem that that you can have. But I think it's a good point. What um, you said you're very particular about these things like the fountain pens or what have you. So what brand of what's the notebook? I'm just curious.
So I use something called the barren fig. Bear in fig, okay. barren fig. And the reason I like barren fig is they have for those that are true notebook nerds. We know that notebooks come in sizes and eight and a five and an a4. By the way, the bigger the number is smaller the notebook, go figure. But barren fig has a really nice. By the way, this is not a paid advertising. I get nothing. But I like I like learning about new new products. Yeah, so it's got great paper, heavy paper found pen friendly paper. But they have this notebook that is in between an a five and an a4. So the a five is the smaller it's the What is that? Eight by five, whatever. You know, that standard looking one? And then a four is that big one? It's like the 11 Yep, an eight and a half by no no that like the almost like the legal size. It's big. So it's like this huge jump, and barren figs got this one? Right in the middle. It's seven by 10. So mostly, you find it through the perfect size. Yeah, I find that to be because I've had By the way, of course, as you can imagine I have all the different sizes, I've taken them all out for a spin. Like, it just seems like that one is a really nice size. You know, Goldilocks, right? Not too big, not too small. And so I yeah, so I use that and I you know fountain pen and I've got a few colored pens and that I take with me and make it ritualistic I put it all there. And I find it that the ritual itself. It's It's interesting, because I because of the ritual and everything I do, it all kind of goes into my conscious and unconscious. And it's it's fair, because I could tell you that once I'm done and I close that book, I can tell you exactly what's in that page without referring back to it. So there's, it's so it's so there, I think that's where the research kicks in. Right? Because you're like, now this darn thing is in my head. And I feel like I have to get rid of it. Um, you know, you might have heard this. I'm sorry. So it sticks. Yeah, it does. I mean, I'm sure you might have heard of this. But you know, the brain is not meant for storage, but for thinking. And, you know, to get a little deeper into it, you know, there's a part of brain called the hippocampus. And the hippocampus can hold about 15 to 20 minutes of information as we go through it, and then when it does, it just starts rewriting what what was there before, right. That's actually one of the secrets of the TED talks on February, but he knows that so you know that TED talks have to be around 15 to 18 minutes, right? And everyone goes on to have really liked that Ted Talk. And they just it because why? Because it doesn't overflow their hippocampus. And so they walk away and they remember stuff, and they can write it down and it sticks to them a lot better. Same thing with you know, you've I'm sure you've heard people sitting through PowerPoint presentations of two hours and they always go you know, look, I remember we are people always remember the last thing you said Well, that's because they've overwritten an hour and a half of stuff. The last 15 minutes.
Now I've actually tried to find a way to make these shows a little smaller, but they are what they are. And I there's I just enjoy so many aspects. So I figured that the show notes make up for it a little bit by making
Oh yeah, but this is different because this is recorded and so people can go back. I'm talking about sitting in Front of live audience, I get you, I get your fish and trying to absorb all of that and walk away and say know what the heck the guy say? Yeah, remember the last thing you said? Well, of course he did.
So um, so in fairness, you haven't had an opportunity to tell us really about I know, you're running the concert conservatory group.
So, um, everything I have said in this call is, is the reason for the conservatory group. Let me be very specific. A conservatory is where you learn music. Sure. And where you learn to fine arts. And for whatever reason, going back to what I said earlier about being a musician, as in being really good at it, is I learned a bunch of stuff on how to be a musician, actually, you know, if I may, I was a pretty good one.
Hey, Tom, what instrument?
Well, I started with the saxophone. And there was in this was in the, in the late 70s. Getting out of disco going in the hair band days, and there wasn't a lot of call for saxophone. I just wanted to play but I was, I was. I was taught, you know, I was classically taught, right? You know, theory and all that. So I thought, okay, I went to the music shop, and I said, Well, what is most needed and was bass players. There's always a gig for bass.
I knew you were gonna tell me that you were a bass player. I don't know why, but I was completely I was, I was betting myself, he's gonna tell me as a bass player, I have no idea why I thought that.
So I, so I basically picked up the bass. And since I knew it was more about the mechanics of where my fingers went, then it was about the music itself, because I knew how to read. But so I went to a music conservatory to learn all this stuff. And I was pretty good at it. And as time went on, and I went in, just like I've laid out my foundation on your, on your podcast, how do I predict how do I learn? How do I do this stuff? And I thought, you know, what if I lifted these models into the business world, so the so the conservatory group, its main premise is, can I take these, these models, these fine art musical models, and create a parallel universe in the business world?
I love it. That's, that is a great way to maybe flip the script a little bit on traditional business learning.
Exactly. And by the way, and I have, and I've done it, and I've got, I've tested it, I actually have a few trademarks and working on some patents. To take this idea and make it real and staple, I have a passion for just education as a whole. And by the way, education stems a lot of things. I'm not talking about sitting in the cloud. Well, I am as well as sitting in the classroom as well as solving problems. I think learning is part of solving problems. I mean, on and on and on. So I use learning, learning as the broadest term possible. And so so the conservatory group is a umbrella group. For all the different conservatories that I'm standing up, I have something called the sales conservatory is exactly what I do is I take these models is how can I make salespeople better salespeople, not for themselves, but also for their customers. Okay, and using these same models that I've learned and gone back to academia for to be able to do a little more predicting as to what those leading behaviors should be. So they can have lagging results.
That's great. So if people want to reach out, have their own conversation like this with you get to get to know you better, how can they? How can they find you?
What's interesting, one of my claims to fame is, and I say this? I chuckle if you were to type in Tom Tonkin and Google, you will, my whole front page will be me. Okay. That's not because I'm a that's not because I'm some sort of famous important dude, but because I think I figured out what the algorithm is for Google. Okay. And, but certainly LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, it's Dr. Tom Tonkin, all one word, Dr. Tom Tonkin, but I want to leave your listeners with an interesting connection point. I've been trying this tool called voxer. And be familiar with voxer knows no one for me. So voxer is kind of this fancy synchronous, asynchronous tool. So think of it as an asynchronous, synchronous voicemail, like a walkie talkie that gets recorded. Okay. And I have to tell you, it's made me incredibly productive. And I'll tell you why. So anyway, Dr. Tom Tonkin is my voxer ID, this is free, you don't have to pay for anything, download an app, that kind of thing. look me up. And then you press a button. And you start talking and within, like nanoseconds really, really fast. I get that recording from you. And I can respond immediately to by pressing the button again, and you get that recording right back from me. So it's or you know, if I get it, or maybe I won't get it till tomorrow or whatever, right?
This is easier when you choose to listen to it.
Correct. But I will tell you this. Like if you were to go to the conservatory dot group, there's a place that you could certainly book time with me. I'm not I'm not. I'm not ceremonious about that if you want to talk to me, I'd love to talk to you. But sometimes somebody says, Look, I just got this like, easy, simple question. I don't want to book half hour, 15 minutes or lawless. I just need to ask you a question. Great. Guru boxer. Dr. Tom Tonkin asked me the question, I'll send you the answer.
There you go. Very cool. Well, Tom, I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. You heard my brain working in lots of different directions. You've given me new things to check out. And I really appreciate the time.
Mark, I sincerely This is a different spin to to podcasting, which I've truly enjoyed as well.
Thank you. Awesome. Thanks so much. So that was my conversation with Dr. Tom Tonkin. I clearly geeked out on so many of the things we were talking about, but really enjoyed it. I hope you did as well. As always, thank you so much for listening and for your ongoing support. If you're not already subscribed, please subscribe to this podcast, wherever you get podcasts, including at Spotify and Apple podcasts. And please rate us and write a review to let me know of people who should be on the show. Future guests. And thank you so much. Until next time, I'm Mark. Bye