Alex Banayan - The Third Door

Alex Banayan
July 06, 2021

Alex Banayan

Author of the #1 international bestseller The Third Door and Expert on exponential growth, perseverance, and high performance
Motivation Inspiration Story Personal Growth Business Leadership

Introduction:

Welcome to Beyond Speaking with Brian Lord, a podcast featuring deeper conversations with the world's top speakers.

Brian Lord:

Hi, I'm Brian Lord, your host of the Beyond Speaking Podcast. Our guest today is Alex Banayan, the youngest New York Times bestselling author in American history. Alex's book, The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World's Most Successful People Launch Their Careers, details his search to interview and learn from some of the top minds in the world. From Bill Gates to Maya Angelou, to Steven Spielberg. As the speaker, he focuses on exponential growth, perseverance, and persistence during times of uncertainty. Alex's messages help get teams inspired, think strategically, and get ready to thrive in our changing world. Alex, thank you so much for coming on and joining us.

Alex Banayan:

Thanks, Brian, I'm excited to do this.

Brian Lord:

So where did you get the idea? So what is The Third Door and where did you get started on this path?

Alex Banayan:

So the idea of The Third Door is I spent the past 10 years studying the mindset of success. And what ended up happening is after all these years of interviews and research, it didn't matter if it was, you know, Bill Gates for business, uh, you know, Lady Gaga for music, Steve Wozniak, for computer science. It didn't matter where they grew up, what they did at the end of the day. I realized every single one of these people, I interviewed treated life and business and success, the exact same way. And the analogy that came to me is that it's sort of like getting into a nightclub. There's always three ways in, right? So there's the first door, the main entrance where the line curves around the block, where 99% of people wait around hoping to get in. And Brian, you know, you know that line, you know, people standing out in the cold, hoping the bouncer lets them in- that's the first door. And then there's a second door, the VIP entrance where the billionaires and celebrities go through. And for some reason, society has this way of making us feel like those are the only two ways in you either wait your turn or you're born into it, but what I've learned and what I'm sure you've seen in your own career is that there's always, always the third door. It's the entrance where you jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, go through the kitchen. There's always a way in, and it doesn't matter if that's how they'll get sold his first piece of software or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest director in Hollywood history. They all took The Third Door. But when I had started the journey, that was not in my mind in the beginning.

Brian Lord:

Where did you, where did that idea come from? And it's interesting that you're going with with this. So I do interviews as part of my job. Obviously you love doing interviews. Where did you get this idea to do interviews and who is your very first interview?

Alex Banayan:

Ooh, so the origin of The Third Door mission, you know, like all good things in life sort of started with a crisis. And I was going through a very, very early life crisis. I was a freshman in college and I was spending every day lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. And Brian, I don't know if you went through the, you know, what I want to do with my life crisis, but I was going through it and it was hitting me hard. And to understand why I was going through it, you have to understand that I'm the son of Persian Jewish immigrants, which pretty much means I came out of the womb. My mom cradled me in her arms. And then she stamped MD on my behind and sent me on my way.

Brian Lord:

[Laughing]

Alex Banayan:

You know, you think it's funny, but I'm not kidding, man. I literally, I was in third grade and wore medical scrubs to school for Halloween and thought I was cool. I thought that would impress all the kids at school. You know, I was that kid. So, you know, in high school I checked all the boxes. I took all the biology classes. I studied hard for the SATs. I even went to pre-med summer camp. So by the time they get to college and I'm the pre-med of pre-meds, but very quickly, you know, I find myself on that dorm room bed, looking at this towering stack of biology books, feeling like they're sucking the life out of me. And at first I assumed, you know, maybe I'm just being lazy, but very quickly I began to wonder, maybe I'm not on my path. Maybe I'm on a path somebody placed me on and I'm just rolling down. So now not only do I not know what I want to do with my life, you know, I had no idea all of the people, I looked up to how they did it. And as I mentioned, how to Bill Gates sell that first piece of software out of his dorm room, when nobody knew his name, how did Lady Gaga get that first record deal without a single hit under her belt? Now this is what they don't teach you in school. So I just assumed, you know, there has to be a book out there with the answers. You know, I assumed every book had to be written at this point. So I'm going to the library. I'm just ripping through biography and self help books and business books assuming there had to be a book, not on a particular age in life, but really a stage. You know, when you're starting something new, when you have a big goal, a big dream and no one's taking your calls, no one's taking you seriously. How do you find a way to break through? And that's when my, you know, naive, eighteen-year-old thinking kicked in, you know, I, I was left empty handed and my next thought was, why not just write it myself? And I thought it would be super simple. I thought I would just call Bill Gates, interview him, interview everybody else I'll, be done in a few months. I thought that would be the easy part. The hard part I figured was getting the money to fund the journey. You know, I was buried in student loan debt. I was all out of bar mitzvah cash. So there had to be a way to make some quick money. So two nights before final exams, I'm in the library doing what everyone does in the library right before finals, and I'm on Facebook. And I'm on Facebook, and I see somebody offering free tickets to The Price Is Right, Now. I'm going to school in Los Angeles at the time, not too far from where the show films, my first thought was, what if I just go on the show and win some money to fund this book? You know, not my brightest moment. Plus I'd have probably, you know, Brian, I never seen a full episode of the show before. I'd seen everyone watches The Price Is Right when they're home sick from school in fourth grade, you know, there's nothing on TV at the time. So I'd been, I had seen bits and pieces, but I'd never seen a full episode. I thought, you know, how hard could it be? So at the same time though, you know, I had finals the- I had finals two days later, you know, I told myself it was a dumb idea to not think about it. Um, but I don't know if you had any, any moment like this, where no matter how preposterous an idea, for some reason, it won't leave your mind. So you have to prove to myself, this was a bad idea. I remember, you know, I'm sitting at this round wooden table in the corner of the library and I take on my spiral notebook and I write best and worst case scenarios, you know, to prove to myself, this is a bad idea. And I remember writing, you know, worst case scenarios, you know, fail finals, get kicked out of pre-med, lose financial aid. Mom stops talking to me, mom kills me. You know, there's like 20 cons. And the only pro was, maybe, maybe win enough money to fund this dream. And it's almost as if somebody had tied a rope around my gut and was slowly pulling in a direction. So that night I decided to do the logical thing and pull an all-nighter to study, but I didn't study for finals. I studied a hack for The Price Is Right. And I go on the show the next day and do this ridiculous strategy and ended up winning the whole showcase showdown, winning a sailboat, selling that sailboat. And that's how I funded the book. And that's really how the journey set off. So that's, that's the, you know, the long answer to, you know, how this journey began.

Brian Lord:

One thing I really like about your approach, cause I've read part of that book. I love the little you got listed out, you know, the pros and the con or the, the pro and the many cons, um, is kind of the humility and the arrogance mixed together. Like, "Hey, I could, I like" having not arrogance- the confidence to go out and say, "I can win this," but the humility, because you, you, even before you're interviewing famous people, uh, you went out and interviewed everybody like in line and everywhere else, like, Hey, how does this work? How do I do this? And the humility to do that. And people are shocking- Like these are your competitors basically that are giving you all these inside tips. So where did you kind of get that mentality to just be open about saying, "I don't know what I'm doing, help me out."

Alex Banayan:

You know, I think about this a lot. And you know, when I speak to different organizations, it's one of the biggest lessons I share, which is, you know, everyone knows there's an advantage to being the, you know, the top dog in an industry. Everyone knows what the advantages are of being the expert. You know, you have all the knowledge, you have the resources, you have the, uh, you know, the industry standard, you know, everyone knows. That's not hard to explain to people. What people don't seem to understand is that there's also a tremendous advantage of being, you know, the naive underdog, which is number one, you don't know what doesn't work. And number two, and probably the most important, instead of seeing the world or problem through the lens of restriction, you see it through a lens of possibility, you know, there's, you know, there's a great scene- Remember the movie Dumb and Dumber. There you go. You know, there's a 0.001% chance. And the guy goes, "So you're saying there's a chance." And that's almost like this energy of, you know, you're saying it's possible. And you know, it goes back to what you said, which is like, when you don't know what can't be done, it actually creates all this possibility of what can be done. Um, so that's a thread that followed me my entire 10-year journey and, uh, served me well, but also led to, like you said, a lot of struggles and mistakes that I had to learn along the way.

Brian Lord:

So I know you mentioned this as a, been a 10-year journey. The last year of this has really changed obviously 2020 in a lot of ways, extremely unique year. Um, what, how has your message changed or what have you learned as you're talking to people over this past year?

Alex Banayan:

That's, you know, that question sort of gets to the heart of what I've spent, you know, the last 12, 13, 14 months thinking about. And I came to a surprising realization that I wouldn't have expected. You know, when I started the journey of The Third Door, the intention was really to uncover this mindset of success. You know, it doesn't matter if you're starting out on your first inning of your career or your fifth inning, what does it take, you know, to achieve, you know, to achieve these really big goals and dreams. Only now, can I see that that's not exactly what I was studying. That's what I thought I was studying, but it's not exact, it actually is a bit more specific and I can only see it now in hindsight, after a year like this. Only now, can I see that success implies a singular destination, just the word and of itself. It has this, you know, this implied meaning that there's a singular place you're trying to get to, but you know, it doesn't matter if it's the people who I interviewed for the book. It doesn't matter if it's, I'm looking back at my own journey, but particularly, you know, the organizations, companies that I speak with, you know, Brian, what's the first thing a company says when they had a really good year or a really good quarter, you know? "How do we improve for the next year? How do we improve for the next year?" Right. There's always that there's always... You know, Brian with the Premiere team, you know, you guys had, you know, one of your best months ever, what are you thinking for the next month? You know, how do we, how do we improve it? So what I've realized is that it's not success exactly that people are looking for its continued growth. And while it's similar, the mindset and the approach and the perspective has to be a bit different. So that's really what my research has really focused on this past year is how do you cultivate fertile soil for continued growth? So the, you know, the trees and the fruit take care of themselves, if you take care of that soil in the right way.

Brian Lord:

So one of the things I really like too is, is just taking that wisdom from others and building it up. And I know you have a lot of interviews in there, so I'm going to give you some different topics and I'd love it if you could share maybe a story from one of your interviews about how that applies. So what is it, what is an example of, uh, of growth of, of having that growth mindset from one of the people that you've interviewed?

Alex Banayan:

There was one interview that happened toward the end of the journey that changed my understanding of growth the most, because it completely, almost rejiggered my understanding of the relationship between success and failure. Because if those two things change, then your whole perspective on growth changes. So this took place, like I said, toward the end of the journey of doing the interviews. And you know, the thing with The Third Door is, you know, it's not a random series of events, each interview there was something that happened right before it. So right before this final interview, there was a, just for some context, a disastrous situation with Mark Zuckerberg. And you know, it's a story for another time. Um, but what you need to know is I ended up getting introduced to Zuckerberg over email. We had a whole meeting set up, but because of a logistics error, the event security, you know, I was 22 years old, the invent security thought I was an imposter. They thought no way, this is the guy who's supposed to go to the meeting, they wouldn't let me into the building. I missed the meeting with Zuckerberg, and it was just one of those. It felt like for myself, I had fumbled the ball on the five yard line during my Super Bowl. Like I just couldn't forgive myself. And I just, it was one of those things where I would just wake up morning after morning after morning, replaying it in my head and just beating myself up internally. So that's how I felt my insides being black and blue. When I walked into this final interview with Quincy Jones. Now I knew what a lot of people know about Quincy Jones going into this. And I knew he has more Grammy awards than anyone in history. He's produced the best selling album of time, Michael Jackson's Thriller, the bestselling single of all time. Um, We Are The World he, you know, has worked with Sinatra and Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder he helped discover Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith. He's undeniably now one of the most successful people in entertainment history. But the second I walked into his house, I realized, I know the half of it. All right, Brian, you have to sort of picture this. So, you know, his living room is this perfectly circular room with like gold lighting coming from the floor. You just feel like you're walking into like the alchemist's house. And there's, you know, there's like Egyptian statues and you know, it's a whole, it's a whole vibe. So you go in there and there's this one couch right in the middle of this circular room. And you know, I sit down on the couch and a few minutes later in walks in Quincy Jones. You know, he's about 80 years old. So he walks in very tenderly and he is wearing this long blue velvet robe with gold stitching on the bottom. And he sits down and he, you know, he asked me where I'm from. And I'm like, "Oh, hi, Mr. Jones. My name is Alex. I'm from Los Angeles." And he goes, "No. I said, where are you from?" And I'm like, looking around like wondering if this is like a trick question or a, you know, a riddle. And I go, "Oh, oh, oh my family's from Iran." And he goes, "That's what I thought." And he launches into like a 30-minute story of dating a Persian princess, trying to break the Ayatollah out of prison. And he sucks me into the Quincy Jones vortex. And it is the happiest place on earth. You know, he has a story for everything we're talking about the pyramids in Egypt, we're talking about Rio's Carnival and he has this way of looking into your soul and telling you exactly what you need to know without you even having to ask. And about halfway through the interview, he tells me a story from early on in his career that as I mentioned, completely changed my understanding of the relationship between success and failure. So this story takes place when Quincy was just starting out in the music industry. And he's explaining to me that at that point, the whole music industry was run by the mafia. You know, the whole industry was run by the mafia. So one day, he goes in to get a music publishing deal. So he goes into this executives office and you know, the executive is sitting behind the desk and Quincy sits down. Um, and the executive slides the contract across the table. And on the contract, it says that Quincy will only get 1% of his own publishing and you know, Quincy's about to say something, but he looks up and sees that standing behind the executive are all his cronies and executive goes, you know, leans in and goes, you can ask for whatever you want, but you're only getting 1%. You know, I'm sitting on the couch listening to the story. You know, my body's tensing up. I look at Quincy and he's laughing. He's like, "Oh man, they took all my stuff." And you know, I'm getting more and more tense. Quincy is like, "Oh man, I'm still trying to get that stuff back." And I'm like that's messed up! And he looks at me, you know, pretty surprised why I would have an outburst like that in the middle of his story. And only in hindsight, can I see, I was still so beat up internally from that experience with Zuckerberg, that any story of someone young making a mistake, getting taken advantage of was completely setting me off. And it's almost as if Quincy understood something about me that I didn't, because he put a hand on my shoulder and he said, 'That's all right, man, it's how you learn." And it's almost as if my body was this overinflated tire, and Quincy, I just hit this escape valve and all this excess pressure's rushing out. And he looked at me and he said, "Listen, 99% of people hate their mistakes. They pretend they're mistakes never happened. They try to cover them up. They treat their mistakes as their biggest enemy. And that's the biggest mistake you can make. Because it's only when you treat your mistakes as your best friends, it's only when you cherish your mistakes, can you learn from them. And only then can you grow. Your mistakes are your greatest gift." So, you know, of course that was yeah. Amazing advice. But before I know, you know, the Quincy goes, vortex keeps on going. And, you know, I checked my watch and I see at a certain point, it's been like three hours now. And you know, Brian, you know, you do interviews all the time. You know, the feeling when you feel conversations, you know, slowing down. So I just looked at him and I said, "Mr. Jones, I just have to tell you, this conversation has changed my life." And he's like, "That's so beautiful, man. You know, how so?" And I said, 'Well, you know, you really showed me what it means to grow and be a person of the world." And he's like, "Amazing, you know, in what way?" And I said, "Well, you showed me that the only way you can really grow is by traveling and going on adventures." And he's like, "No, no, you need to cherish your mistakes!" And it's almost like as if he wasn't going to let me leave that room until the lesson sunk in. And in that moment it did. And I remember sitting on that couch and having this epiphany that I had spent my entire journey, assuming that the opposite of success is failure, you know, what do they teach us in kindergarten? The opposite of up is down opposite of successes is... failure. It wasn't until I was sitting there with Quincy Jones, I realized that success and failure are not only not opposites. They're different sides of the same coin. They're both a result of the same thing. They're both a result of trying. So the opposite of success isn't failure. The opposite of success is not trying. And I remember sitting on my couch and swearing to myself that from this point forward, I would be unattached to failure, unattached to success instead be committed to try and growing. And that's one of the biggest lessons that changed my life forever.

Brian Lord:

One of the other people that you interviewed is Maya Angelou and, and we have, um, you know, obviously a lot of people I've had a dark time and, you know, from 2020 moving into 2021. And the theme that you have for that chapter with her is moving from darkness into light. Can you explain that?

Alex Banayan:

You know, that chapter has a very special place in my heart. Um, Maya Angelou has been one of my big heroes throughout my life. Um, and you know, for millions of other people as well, and you know, no one could have known that at the time, but that interview was done in the final year of her life. Um, and you know, as a remarkable, you know, testament to who she was, she had just been in the hospital right before. And when her team told me, I said, you know, we should cancel or postpone. And they said, "No, no, no, she insists. She wants to do it, but just, you know, she'll do it over the phone." And, you know, um, it was pretty remarkable. And when I was talking to her, that became a big theme of when you have darkness, whether in your personal life, in your professional life, how do you turn that into light, that not only heals you, but heals those around you. Um, and it's no simple task. And you know, there's two big ideas that she shared. She said, number one. And she has this amazing way of speaking. She goes, she goes, you know, she goes, "Mr. Banayan, I'd like you to write this down, write this..." I'm like, '"Okay, I'm writing it down." She goes, "Write this down, take out a pen and write this down." And she goes, "Write the following sentence down on a sheet of paper and post it above your desk. I want you to read it every morning when you sit down at your desk." And I'm like, you know, I'm all ears I'm leaning forward. And she goes, "Every storm runs out of rain." Every storm runs out of rain. And, you know, I, I remember sitting back and just letting that soak in. And then she goes without missing a beat. And she goes, "But you have to get to work. You have to get to work." So that was one that has been ingrained in me from that conversation. And the second one, and it's a very popular that she's shared throughout her life is that, you know, the best gift you can give someone is to be a rainbow in their clouds because everyone, it doesn't matter if it's a year like we just had, or if someone's family member just passed away, if they're going through a hard time, you know, in their career, everyone has those moments where there's a storm. The best thing you can do is to be that rainbow that lets them know they're going to be okay. And that's not only, you know, the biggest lesson Maya Angelou shared with me it's has become part of my mission moving forward in life.

Brian Lord:

So what do you feel is a really good story for persistence? So, you know, we've talked about those two things, uh, with, with growth with coming into that light. Who's a really good story on persistence?

Alex Banayan:

Okay. This is a funnier one. Uh, this there's one story in particular, you know, when you study success for 10 years, of course, persistence comes up a lot. There was one in particular that changed my understanding of it the most. And this story takes place about halfway through the journey a bit, or maybe a little earlier. And again, the context of the story is I had just spent eight months writing letters back and forth with Warren Buffet. And, and of course my letter for two pages long, his responses were two sentences and it was always, no thank you. Um, but you know, we would go back and forth and I ended up being invited to a shareholders meeting, asking my questions in front of 30,000 people, but it sort of blew up in my face and was this big disaster. And it was just one of those times where I felt I was at my lowest points. And if there is a theme of this journey, it's that when I was at my lowest points, it would always be my best friends who would pull me back up. And I have this one friend named Corwin and, you know, he saw me sort of moping around for a couple of weeks. I was like, all right, let's go get some lunch. You know, he wanted us to get my energy back up. So we go to this local grocery store in Los Angeles and get some sandwiches. And we're sitting on the sidewalk, eating our sandwiches, watching the cars pass by my friend. Corwin's like, you know, "Dude, don't you, you know, don't you have any other interviews lined up?" And I'm like, "Dude, I got nothing." He was like, "Come on, you know, let's say you had an interview lined up, you know, who would you want to talk to?" And I said, "Look, man," and I was in a real bad mood. I was like, "Look, look what happened with Warren Buffett. Even if I had an interview, I'd probably mess that up, too." Corwin's, he's like, "Listen, you can't be so hard on yourself. You know, interviewing isn't a science, it's an art." And as we're talking about this, the single most miraculous moment of the entire journey happens. A car pulls up parks right in front of us in the loading zone, the door swings open and out walks Larry King.

Brian Lord:

[Laughing]

Alex Banayan:

Brian, if you are anything like me, that's actually, when I get the most nervous. When things line up so eerily perfectly like that. That's actually, when I get the most nervous and I even give that feeling a name, I call them the flinch. And you know, when I talk to salespeople, they know the feeling. It's when you're, you know, when it's something so big, it's right in front of you, for some reason, your mouth feels wired, shut your throat is tightened up your feet, turn to stone. And I remember watching Larry King walk right past me, right into the grocery store, sliding doors. And I don't say a thing. My friend Corwin, you know, jabs his elbow. And he was like, "Dude, why didn't you say anything?" And this is the thing about fear. Fear is very good at making logical excuses, right? Fear is very good at making logical excuses. So of course, you know, my fear came up with a good excuse. I said, "Oh, you know, he's probably going into, you know, into the store to get something for his family. You know, I don't want to bother him. I don't want to be that kind of guy." And Corwin goes, "Dude, you are that guy." And youknow, again, I was like, "Oh, you know, he's probably, you know, deep into the grocery store. Now there's no way I'll be able to find him." And Corwin goes, "He's 80 years old. How far can he go?"

Brian Lord:

[Laughing]

Alex Banayan:

So very reluctantly, I stand up and I walk into this grocery store looking for Larry King. And then I look around the bakery section. No, Larry. You know, I jog over to the produce section, fruits, vegetables, no Larry. And that's when I realized he had parked in a loading zone. So he must be leaving any second now. So this old bolt of adrenaline kicks in now, he started running down the aisles, looking at each one, you know, no Larry, no Larry, no Larry, no Larry. I'm cutting through the frozen food section. He's not there. And I figured he's gotta be at the checkout counter. So I'm sprinting to the check-in counter. I'm looking at each one, you know, no Larry, no Larry, no Larry. And at that point I wanted to kick myself because he had been right in front of me. I hadn't said a thing. So, you know, I'm walking out of this grocery store, you know, staring down at my feet, walking through the parking lot. And slowly I lift my gaze right there, 20 feet in front of me, you know, there's Larry King suspenders and all. And I don't know it gets into me, but it's almost as if this rumbling in the pit of my stomach, you know, as if all the excess frustration was building up. And I started yelling uncontrollably at the top of my lungs, "Mr. King!" And the echo in the parking lot was so long, you know, so loud that I remember Larry King literally jumping up in the air and turning around every wrinkle on his face, sprung back, you know, terrified. I didn't know what to do. So I just sort of ran over and I was like, "Mr. King, I'm so sorry. You know, my name is Alex. I'm 20 years old and I've always wanted to say hi." And he goes,"Okay, hi." And he starts walking the other way. So now he's walking out to his car, I'm trying to think of something intelligent to say, to save myself. And I finally, you know, we're out on the sidewalk. He stuffs his groceries into the trunk. He opens the driver's side door. He gets in and I go, "Wait, Mr. King, can I go to breakfast with you?"

Brian Lord:

[Laughing]

Alex Banayan:

Now, he looks at me like I'm a lunatic, but before, you know, he can respond. He looks around and sees there's about a dozen people on the sidewalk watching this go down. Yeah. So for some reason he just shrugs his shoulders and goes, "Okay. Okay. Okay." And I'm like, "Oh my God, thank you so much." "Great. See you tomorrow." And you know, he tells me where to meet him and he's about to shut the door and I'm like, "Wait, Mr. King, what time?" And he just looks at me and slams the door shut. And now I'm like, you know, shouting through the window, you know, "Mr. King, what time?" And he looks at me again, he starts the engine. I'm now standing in front of the windshield, flailing my arms, begging "Mr. King, what time?" And he just looks at me and mouthed the words nine o'clock and speeds off. So by the way, the moral of the story is not to chase any clients down through a grocery store, particularly not in a year like this. Um, the moral of the story comes next. So the next morning comes around and yeah, no, I had had some time to reflect the night prior about how it acted the, you know, the day before. And I thought, you know, today, maybe I can take a different approach. Maybe be a bit more gentle. So, you know, I would walk over to his table and I see right there, corner table, Larry King and his best friends. And there's an open seat at the table. So I walk over and I just sort of, you know, sheepishly put a hand up and I'm like, "Hey, uh, good morning, Mr. King." And he goes, you know, sorta mumbles a hello. And I think, okay, maybe he wants a few minutes with his friends before he's ready to call me over. So I see there's an open table, you know, right. To his left. So I sit down at the open table and I wait for him to call me over 10 minutes, pass 30 minutes, pass an hour, goes by. And finally he stands up and starts walking toward me. I can feel my cheeks lifted. And then he walks right past me and head for the exit. And I, you know, put a hand up and I'm like "Mr... Mr. King?" And he goes, 'What is a kid? What do you want?" And at that point I felt a very sharp, you know, familiar pain in my chest. And I said, "Honestly, I just wanted some advice on how to interview people." And then a slow smile spreads across his face almost as if to say, "Why didn't you just say so?" And he ends up giving me the greatest monologue of interview advice I've heard in my entire life. At the end, he looks up to the ceiling as if he's debating something in his mind. Then he looks back at me, locks his eyes onto mine, puts a finger in my face and goes, all "Alright, kid, tomorrow, nine, o'clock see you here." I showed up the next morning at nine o'clock. He waves me over to the table. He asked me why he wanted to even learn how to interview people. I tell them about the book he goes, "Alright, I'm in!" And over the course of the next five years, we went to breakfast together over 50 times.

Brian Lord:

Wow.

Alex Banayan:

And, you know, of course, you know, the interviews with him changed my life, but it took me many years to realize sometimes it was my journey on the way to get to these people that taught me the most. And this Larry King situation was a great example. And you know, I'll get to the lesson about persistence in a, in a minute. What I'll say though is, you know, I'm sure, you know, you know, you and your sales team can, you know, relate to this too, which is one of the unexpected things of me spending, you know, 10 years tracking down. Some of the hardest to reach people was I ended up having 10 years of pretty much consistent rejection. And one of the side effects of that, uh, was, you know, 10 years of having to go to therapy. And one of the things I had to, I had to come to terms with one of the things I have to come to terms with, and I had to learn is that there's a big difference, huge difference between the implicit and explicit messages we learned from society, huge difference between the implicit and explicit message we learned from society. So I'll give you an example, an explicit message: You know, we learned from our family is, you know, your mother telling you to eat your vegetables. That's an exquisite message. We hear an implicit message as you wake up in the middle of the night and you see your mom eating chocolate ice cream in bed, right? That's the implicit message. And what I've learned is that it's the implicit messages that have the strongest, hold on our thinking. It's the implicit messages that actually control our behavior and our decision-making. It's the implicit messages. And you know, let's look at the business world. It's crystal clear, a company says we love innovation, we love risk taking, you know, that's in their company culture. They have banners all around the office. That's the explicit message. Brian, I'm sure you see this all the time. Someone at a company takes a risk fails, he gets fired on the spot. What's the implicit company culture?

Brian Lord:

No risk.

Alex Banayan:

Right? And it's the implicit messages that control the way a team operates the most. It's the implicit messages. It doesn't matter how good your banners are. It's the implicit messages. And you know, when you think about persistence specifically, you know, I grew up, you know, in Los Angeles. And if you think about the pers- the messages we have around persistence for young people in America, it's pretty strong. You know, what do we explicitly tell young people, try, try again. If you think that you can do it, you know, anything's possible, never give up. These are our explicit messages around persistence, but what's the implicit reality, right? Let's say you're Brian. Let's say you're trying out for the baseball team in high school and you don't make it a first-year and you try out again the second year, you still don't make it. Let's say you are extremely brave and you try out the third year and you still don't make it. What are the people who love you the most tell you? "Maybe try soccer, you know, track and field. What about basketball?" These are the people I've noticed. These aren't your competitors. These aren't your enemies. This is your mother. These are your best friends. These are the people who are taking care of you. They tell you after a few attempts, it's best to pack up and go home. And it's not like, you know, we enter the workforce and someone at HR sits you down on the first day of the job and says, all right, let's unpack your implicit messages and unravel them to see where you're bringing into the salesforce here. No, we just go right into, you know, right into the sales process. The, you know, the leadership position, we just take all of these implicit messages from our lives with us without knowing. Now it wasn't until this experience with Larry King, that my implicit understanding of persistence completely got shattered for the better. And what I took away from this experience is that the truth about persistence, the way it actually operates in the business world is that when it comes to persistence, you have as many at-bats as you're willing to give yourself, you have as many at-bats as you're willing to give yourself. And that's changed my life forever.

Brian Lord:

Well, Alex, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the Beyond Speaking Podcast, we really, really appreciate it.

Alex Banayan:

It was a ton of fun, and I appreciate, uh, being able to share these stories with you and, you know, thank you for all you do. You and your team really share this message of possibility, um, from the podcast and of course, through all the events that you put together. So I'm very grateful for you.

Brian Lord:

Great. Hey, thank you so much, Alex. And thank you to everyone who is listening. Make sure to subscribe to the Beyond Speaking Podcast. You can check out more on Alex's page on premierespeakers.com and nationalspeakers.com. So on behalf of Premiere and National, thank you everyone for listening and make sure to listen in next time.

Beyond Speaking is hosted by Brian Lord and produced by Eric Woodie

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Introduction: Welcome to Beyond Speaking with Brian Lord, a podcast featuring deeper conversations with the ...
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Introduction: Welcome to Beyond Speaking with Brian Lord, a podcast featuring deeper conversations with the world's top speakers. Brian Lord: Hi, I'm Brian Lord, your host of the Beyond Speaking Podcast. Our guest today is Alex Banayan, the youngest New York Times bestselling author in American history. Alex's book, The Third Door: The ...
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