Feb. 27, 2023

Ozan Varol | How to Ignite Your Creativity to Awaken Your Genius

Ozan Varol | How to Ignite Your Creativity to Awaken Your Genius

Through exploring your first principles and shedding limiting beliefs, you'll learn how to break free from intellectual prisons and awaken your genius.

In this episode, we learn from Ozan Varol, a rocket scientist turned award-winning author and speaker, about how to unleash our creativity. Through exploring your first principles and shedding limiting beliefs, you'll learn how to break free from intellectual prisons and awaken your genius.

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Ozan Varol: So much value in stepping back and asking, "What do I want?" What do I actually want? And then going off the menu, like asking for what you want and if, if what you want doesn't exist, creating it for yourself, creating your own career, designing your own life. But so much of life operates the other way, where someone handing you a menu and saying, "These are the only options."

It's like a multiple-choice test, right? You've got A, B, C, and D, but there's actually a hidden option E where you get to fill in the blank with whatever it is that you want. So that moment really stuck with me and the importance of going off the menu and asking for or creating whatever it is that you want.

Srini: Welcome back to the Unmistakable Creative podcast. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.

Ozan Varol: It's great to be back. Thank you for having me back. Yeah, it is my pleasure to join you.

Srini: Pleasure to have you back here. So we had you back when your previous book, How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist, came out. And as I was mentioning just before we hit record here, that is one of those books that I've referred back to repeatedly over the last several years.

And when I saw that you had a new book out, it was a no-brainer to have you back. But before we get into the book I was trying to think about what I did and didn't ask you the last time we spoke. So this time I wanted to start by asking you, what was the very first job that you ever had, and what impact did that end up having on what you've ended up doing?

Ozan Varol: With your life?

The very first job I had was working in my middle school library. And I would like, put the books back on the shelves, clean up and whatnot. And I probably did that for about a year. And the biggest joy of that for me was just like getting lost in the shelves and like picking up random books, flipping through a random page and just reading it and seeing what comes up and like following the breadcrumbs of curiosity and serendipity into the next random fact that I would discover from these books.

And so that really stayed with me. One of my favorite activities to this day is just getting lost in a bookstore and walking past the bestseller section and looking past the book that's on everyone's bookshelf, but really trying to find undiscovered gems that most people haven't heard of before.

So don't let me lose in a bookstore with a credit card. It's a dangerous thing.

Srini: You and I have that in common because I noticed that the difference between going to a bookstore versus Amazon was on Amazon, you're searching, and in a bookstore, you're browsing. And I think people don't realize there's a big difference. There's really no room for serendipity when algorithms are recommending everything. Like it was because of just a random trip to Barnes & Noble that we ended up having Andrew Yang as a candidate as a guest on this show when he was running for president. And I think that sense of discovery is something that is lost on the internet.

What struck me most about what you said was that this was while you were in middle school. And when I think about going to the library in the school, particularly after your third, fourth, and fifth grade, when you know you're not really checking out books just for pure curiosity or enjoyment, but you're pretty much always there for an assignment. Why do you think that happens? Like I, I remember a friend of mine at Berkeley when we were at the library once, he was like, "They actually have other real books here. Like The Great Gatsby." I was like, "How did you not know this? This is a

Ozan Varol: Yeah. And I think the reason why I knew that from an early age was that I just fell in love with books. The moment I began to learn to read and write, I would just get lost in fantasy worlds created by people like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. And so before I got into the education system where you're told what to read, this is what you should read, and you need to finish this, and have that sort of shove into my hands.

I had that sense of discovery of oh, I get to choose what I wanna read, and there are all of these books out there that sound really interesting. And so I did that from an early age. Which means that was already ingrained in me before middle school. And so it was a natural transition from then to be like okay, I'm in the library and I wonder what else I can find here that, that might be useful to me.

Srini: Why do you think that is not more prevalent? Because I have this theory that a lot of people have this idea that they don't like to read and that's because they've never been able to choose what they get to read. And it's funny because my dad is a college professor who doesn't read books, which I'm always stunned by. I'm like, how the hell did he get a Ph.D. if he doesn't read books? But he hasn't even read my books. Like he had to listen to the audiobook 'cause he reads very slowly. But that love for reading, like for me, wasn't something that was prevalent. Like our house wasn't filled with books until I got much older. So why do you think that is? Like, why is this not more prevalent in the way that you think about reading and books in our education system?

Ozan Varol: I really do think it has a lot to do with just the education system, the way that it's structured where you've got this authority figure and you've got a school board and everything is predetermined. Here's the approved list of subjects and here's the approved list of books. Here's how you need to interpret history. And then whenever something is forced upon a child, the initial reaction is to just refuse. Again, awaken your genius. In my new book, I tell the story of Carl Sagan and how he hated calculus when he was in school.

This is Carl Sagan, right? As you'd think he fell in love with math and physics at an early age, but he hated calculus. In his book, he writes that calculus was invented by - this is what he thought initially - by ill-meaning teachers for intimidation purposes until he came across a book. I think it was Arthur C. Clarke, actually, on calculating interplanetary trajectories. And in the book, Clarke was using calculus to calculate these trajectories. And Sagan then could see for himself why calculus was useful and why calculus would be helpful in doing the sorts of things that he found interesting. Not somebody else found it interesting and told him that

Srini: We're talking about sun cost bias there. It's funny 'cuz I was just thinking back to this book that I wanted to read called Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom 'cuz it was recommended by a bunch of other people in different AI books. And I was like, you know what? This book is really difficult to read and mind-numbing. I'm not really finding this that interesting, even though it's a bestseller. So one of the things that you say early on in the book is that too often schools cure students of curiosity, stifling any desire they have to pursue what they're interested in.

Instead of asking their own questions and figuring out their answers, students are compelled to memorize someone else's answers to someone else's questions. The word "educate" is related to the Latin word "educere," and "educere" means to deduce or draw out of a person something potential or latent. In other words, education is supposed to help students develop and ripen what's already within them. Most education systems do the opposite. Now, you have been here before or know that I'm going to ask you this question again three years later, if

Ozan Varol: Oh my God. I would change so many things, like let's just start with the fact that most education systems resemble a dictatorship. You've got a strict hierarchy. Any unauthorized movement is subject to discipline. Essential bodily functions require a pass. You have to raise your hand to be able to pee.

You've got these arbitrary rules. You can't, like, wear a hat or chew gum because why? Because somebody said so. And then you've got the way that knowledge is actually dispersed, which is this one-directional. The authority figure behind the podium gives knowledge, and then all the students just sit around the classroom and absorb it by osmosis.

And so textbooks operate the same way too. You've got these right or wrong answers in a textbook and students are supposed to memorize them and then spit them back out on a standardized test. So one of the first things I would do is, let's just start with textbooks, right? I think textbooks need to do a much better job of giving students the behind-the-scenes look at how ideas are actually formed and discovered.

There is no nuance to be found in a textbook, right

Srini: We are talking, it seems like right now, about high school or primary education, and what I realized was that I could basically crush it in primary education through memorization and rote learning. Of course, that doesn't work in college. Like I remember telling a friend, I was like, "Any moron can get straight A's in high school because it's not an indication of intelligence. It's an indication of discipline. It doesn't mean you're smart if you get straight A's. And what I realized was that when you get to college, the way you're tested is you're presented with information, but then the context changes when you're tested on it."

But I wanna come back to that. Dan Pink said something to me about the current education system when we're talking about primary education. And part of what's problematic with it, take a listen. What this system tends to reward is respect for authority and giving the authority figure what he or she wants neatly and on time.

And I think what it does is that...

Ozan Varol: It inculcates this. What you have in elementary and secondary education is

Srini: You have the good kids and the bad kids, in a way. The good kids are compliant and the bad kids are defiant. But nobody's engaged. And the reason for that is that it's a system built on control, and control leads inevitably only to those two kinds of behaviors - compliant behavior or defiant behavior.

Even things like in elementary, even elementary classrooms where the teachers focus on, and this is not a knock on teachers at all, but it's just in their professional training, they

Ozan Varol: Focus on quote-unquote "classroom management." What do you make of that? I agree. And I agree and I was nodding here as I was listening to that clip from Dan, and I agree because in part because I was a complying kid as I graduated first in my law school class and I'm actually when people say that, when they're like introducing me, I'm embarrassed because what that says is I was really good at complying. I was really good at conforming if the teacher said, "Go read this book," I would go and read that book. If the teacher said this is important, I would, I would also think that it was important. And I was just really good at trying to figure out what my teachers wanted and then just, putting that out on an exam somewhere.

And so I do think that the system is built on control. And control means you've got kids who comply and do as their teacher tells them. And those are the kids that excel in the education system. And then you've got the defined kids who don't conform and research. This is study after study shows that most teachers rate creative students as problematic in the classroom precisely because of the

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Ozan Varol: Why don't we take some time to discuss this?

Srini: Is a system that's two hundred years old so resistant to change? Because, yeah, I just finished reading Todd Rose's book, Dark Horse, and he basically describes us as what he calls the 'standardization covenant'. And basically, it's a system that was standardized to produce standardized output. Yet that's not the world we live in today.

And I don't think this is any secret to anybody. I've had enough guests here who are educators who have mentioned the idea that the modern education system was based on the industrial revolution to produce factory workers. So why is this system so difficult to change? Like, where are the incentives misaligned?

I know for a fact my dad's a tenured professor, so I looked at tenure and I was like, okay, my joke with my dad, it's yeah, you have this cushy retirement, and guess who pays the cost for that? Basically, people like me take on mountains of student loan debt in order to pay for an education that doesn't lead to its intended outcome.

Ozan Varol: Yeah, I agree. And there, look, there are so many variables at play here. You've got structures that are basically, in many ways, forcing well-meaning teachers. And I don't wanna, I don't want to portray this or give the impression that this is the teacher's fault. Yeah. You've got so many forces at work requiring teachers to teach to the tests, to standardize, to become more efficient, to overload their classes with students.

And so the only way that they can survive and get through the day is to teach in a way that, that we just described. Looking back on my life though, I think the best teachers that I had, and I, the book is dedicated by the way to teachers who helped awaken my genius, and their names are listed on the front page there, they were able to, even operating within the strictures of that system, they were able to move out of it and bring their own creativity into the classroom. And I could see how hard it was for them because they had to juggle these responsibilities, juggle the demands placed on them from outside forces, but they still were able to bring out the creativity of their students, not

Srini: I missed the law school part of your background because of the fact that your previous book was How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist. I didn't even know that you had gone to law school.

I want to come back to that. Sure. Because I think there are a lot of things you learned about how to think and construct arguments from legal education. Two questions come from what you just mentioned. One thing that I noticed with college was that it felt like I was picking options from a fast food menu and that they just got narrower and that the options in front of me would blind me to the possibilities that surrounded me.

And I felt like, at least in the mid-nineties, the sort of strategy was going and choose what you think will make you employable. And of course, I got shit. I did terribly in school. And also nobody taught me how to learn. I realized the way I studied in high school was just not going to be sufficient.

Cause I feel like if I went back to Berkeley now, I could sit in on a final exam for economics. And just through the thought processes I've learned on this podcast, I could probably get a decent grade on it.

Ozan Varol: Yeah, for sure. Do you want me to reflect back to you?

Srini: Yeah, so I guess the question is why is it that people are not choosing in a way that leads to potentially a fulfilling career in the future?

The way it's set up seems less than ideal for that. Totally.

Ozan Varol: Because you're given, as you said, you can choose the picking options from a menu. And I agree with that. I remember I went to Cornell, so I was a freshman looking through the course catalog and being dissatisfied with the menu of options, basically. I just kept scrolling through it and I'm like this looks okay, but really I also want to add this other piece to it. And so I wanted to like, put together my own menu. So going off the menu, ordering off the menu, and saying I want the fried chicken, but the side here doesn't work for me, so I want a different side and I don't want the drink that comes with it. I want a glass of wine instead. Or something along those lines. So I went to, I remember just trekking to the registrar's office and I just went up to the person in the front and I said, I'm a new student here. This menu doesn't work for me. Is there a way for me to design my own major, to design my own menu? And the answer shockingly was yes. So there was this little-known program that you had to apply for and you needed recommendation letters, but if you got accepted

Srini: Have you ever seen the movie Accepted with Justin Long?

Ozan Varol: Sounds familiar, but I don't remember it. The premise

Srini: Basically, if this kid doesn't get into college, in an effort to get his parents to stop nagging him, he has his friend build a fake website for a fake university. He gets an acceptance letter sent to himself and his parents to say, "Great, you got in!" They hand him the first year's tuition, and he goes to this place. His friend accidentally makes the website fully functional, with "Acceptance one click away." When he finds an old mental hospital, he opens the door on day one and there are a thousand people there who've all paid tuition. Lewis Black is the dean and he's unsure what to do. He says, "What do I do for a curriculum?" He decides to take everybody's tuition and appropriate it to whatever it is they're interested in learning. One guy's tuition will go to learning the culinary arts. Lewis Black always thought to himself, "God, I wish an educational institution would do a pilot program that did exactly that."

Ozan Varol: Yeah. That would be amazing.

And it just started at an early age, right? Before college in primary school, just giving some room to students to just ask themselves, get used to asking what am I interested in, what am I curious about? And then creating an environment where they can actually, where they can actually follow their curiosity versus the curiosity completely leaving their body.

So you mentioned

Srini: You were basically standing in front of a classroom, realizing this was no longer energizing or uplifting to you, and you decided to put an end to your academic career. Why do you think that so many people ignore things like that and spend the bulk of their lives doing something they hate, only to wake up and realize that half their life has passed them by?

Ozan Varol: Yeah, great question. And I know the answer because I struggled with it. So this was not an easy decision for me. I struggled with it for a while because the signal for transformation for me really arrived before 2020. It was like these little messages from within that inner voice saying, I, this was, this has been really fun.

And in 2017, I'd been teaching for seven years. This was shortly after I got tenure. But there was a part of me that was like, man, I spend a year of my life writing an academic article that only 20 people read. And I wanted to write for broader audiences. And I wanted to write about subjects that I cared about.

That's not to say that I didn't care about the academic articles that I was writing, but the way that academia works are, you're writing about this really narrow subject in a really narrow field, and you're operating within this really defined container that I didn't want to be in.

I wanted to write about rocket science or whatever it is that I wanted to write about. And so even when the signal arrived, I ignored it for a while because I was

Srini: What was the impetus for this as the natural follow-up book to How to Think?

Ozan Varol: Like a rocket scientist?

It actually was not a natural follow-up at all. Yeah. I, a lot of people probably expected me to write something similar, to think like a rocket scientist. And I did too. And I tried it. I sat down and I took, thinking like a rocket scientist was successful, at least, by my metrics.

It's been translated into nearly 25 languages now. And there was so much impetus to take what worked for that book and try to do the same thing, copy and paste. I imitate the thing that worked before the same structure, the same three parts, the same nine chapters, the same everything. And I tried it, and for the first time in my life, I got writer's block like words just stopped flowing.

I find delight. I would say 90% of the writing process is delightful for me. And all delight completely about left the room. It totally stifled my writing and my creativity. And then I was like, all right, I'm just gonna, I'm gonna let this go. I'm gonna let all expectations go about what this next book is gonna look like.

And instead of trying

Srini: We'll actually get to that 'cause I know you talk about that as one of the issues yourself. Let's start at the beginning. One of the very first things that you say in the book that caught my attention was that content is something you stuff inside a bag. It's something you produce on an assembly line. Nobody wants to get up in the morning and read content over coffee. And no truly self-respecting creator wants to generate content either because the content is normal, content is fungible, and content creators can be replaced.

Artist: Can't expand on that?

Ozan Varol: For me. Yeah. It's this part of the book that is about artists and art and I tell the story about Gordon McKenzie, who is a longtime artist, I think at Hallmark Cards, he would visit schools and ask a question, and he would ask, "How many artists are there in the room?"

In the first grade, all of the kids would jump up from their seats and say, "Yeah, we're all artists." In the third grade, the number would drop to five or 10 out of 30 kids who would raise their hands. And then by the time you got to middle school, only one or two students would like to admit to such deviant behavior as being an artist.

And so, as you quoted from the book, we don't even call it art anymore, right? We call it content. A part of me dies inside whenever someone calls themselves a content creator instead of an artist. And I think we tend to assume that art only happens inside a studio. Like artists are these tortured souls, poorly compensated, they're working by themselves inside a studio, painstakingly creating a work of art.

But if you think about it

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So if you

Ozan Varol: Sure. And that was definitely true for me. I thought of myself, as I said, as a professor, and the moment you say, "I am a professor," or the moment you say, "I am a podcaster," or the moment you say, in the case of Annie, "I am a poker player," it becomes really hard to divorce yourself of that identity, particularly if you've been successful at it.

So if you've been successful as a podcaster, as you have, if I've been successful as a professor as I had, it becomes really hard to say, "I am actually not this thing that I do. That's one of the things that I do. It's one part of my multidimensional, multifaceted personality, but to define yourself in a singular fashion by the thing that you do, whether it's a podcast or a lawyer or a doctor, I think is to do yourself a tremendous disservice because you are so much more than that.

And not only that, but the moment you've identified that strongly with anything, and it doesn't have to be your profession, it could be a political belief system or it could be even, these days

Srini: Yeah, it makes me think about my own experience. I realized at a certain point after my second traditionally published book came out that maybe my career as a published author was over. And it wasn't until I stopped resisting that other opportunities started to just reveal themselves.

And I told you earlier about this entire YouTube channel with tutorials I've built, which has become like an entire business in and of itself, which I never anticipated starting. But I realized if I had stuck to that "I'm a published author" narrative or identity, I would've been completely stuck with that.

Ozan Varol: Yeah, exactly. Because then you've only defined yourself in one narrow way. And it's interesting too, the way when I look back on my life before I completely let something go, the other thing didn't fully materialize. It's like you're this empty container, and the more you keep holding onto things for fear of letting them go for the reasons that we talked about before, the longer it will take for the next thing to materialize.

The moment I said I'm done with academia, all these opportunities to speak, to give keynotes, to consult, and to do other things began to materialize in a way that they hadn't. I didn't quit cold turkey and just jump blindly off a cliff. I was experimenting on the side.

I started blogging back in 2016 or 2017 when I was still in academia. Think Like a Rocket Scientist came out when I was still in academia. So it was only after that book achieved some level of success that I ended up quitting. But until I quit, the new opportunities did not actually come.

So the moment you say I'm done with academia or that, in your case, is I'm done with being

Srini: Going through that process of, submitting proposal after proposal to my agent and to her constantly saying, "No, there's no book deal here." One of my friends said, "Don't you remember the reason you got your book deal in the first place is that you self-published?" And I was like, "Jesus Christ. How did I not remember?"

Ozan Varol: That? Yeah, exactly. And then, we end up losing sight of what we did or why we're doing something in the first place, which, like, it's happening right now. We're recording this on February 20th and we're about two months away from the launch of the new book.

And as I said, the writing process is totally delightful for me. But the moment I start thinking about marketing and publicity and sales numbers, and all of that, it's yeah. And so you end up losing, and I have to constantly remind myself of like, why I wrote the book in the first place and making sure that I actually live by the principles I write about in the book because it's really become hard to do now that marketers and publicists and all of this external noise are in the mix that wasn't there before.

Srini: I can relate. I remember I had a book called An Audience of One, and my sister called me, I think a week or two after it came out and she said, "How's it going?" I was like, "It's not selling as many copies as I hoped it would." She was like, "You're an idiot. That's the entire message of the book." She said, "If you don't believe what you wrote, why would anybody else believe it?" And it just struck me so much that, yeah, because I'd said in interviews, I was like, "Yeah, we call it an Audience of One. I'm sure a publisher would be happy if it reached an audience of millions." I want to come back to metrics, 'cause I know you read about them.

But I want to go into something that I think was really an important part of the book that was probably one of my favorite parts. You say that we follow narratives, not evidence. We judge the message by the tribal affiliation of the speaker. We accept information endorsed by our tribe without investigating it or thinking it through for ourselves. Conversely, we reject information from competing sources regardless of its quality.

Ozan Varol: Sure. On the first point about critical thinking and the passage you quoted and how it relates to law school, I think one of the best things that happened from my legal education—and by the way, a lot of people go to law school for all the wrong reasons, but setting that aside—one of the, one of the best things that happened from my legal education was I really crafted the ability, which had started with my science education, of being able to see different perspectives on the same issue; not being blinded by your own ideas or your belief systems and not falling victim to confirmation bias, but actually seeing the same issue from completely different perspectives, because that's what the best lawyers do. The best lawyers know the opposition's argument better than the opposition does because the moment you know your opponent's argument better than they do, then you're able to craft counter-arguments, anticipate what they're going to say, and take the wind out of their sails in so many different ways.

And so the best law professors and the best legal education systems really teach you how to do that. And I think that skill is, in so many ways, absent from modern discourse, right? We live in these

Srini: Writing a book titled Everybody is Full of Shit, Including Me. And it was a book about, exactly, how cognitive biases distort our ways of thinking because I saw it over and over again in my own thinking.

And I know you go into, talking about causation and correlation, particularly when it comes to stories about success. But before we get to that, let's get into the concept of first principles. And you say that this is the power of first principles thinking - distilling into its core ingredients and building it back up into a different system.

The power of first principles thinking can be used far beyond the world of business. You can also use this thinking to find raw materials within yourself and build the new you - take a moment to tease out your own basic building blocks - the Lego blocks of your talents, interests, and preferences.

Can you explain the concept of first principles thinking to us, I think the story that always stayed with me about first principles thinking from your previous book was the Tim Urban story.

Ozan Varol: Oh yes. I was like the Tim Urban story. One of the dangers of writing a book and then not thinking about it for three years is that you don't worry. I, you forget what stories you put in there.

Srini: Know what I mean, because I've spent so much time reading everybody's books, doing these interviews. I remember when I had Tiago Forte here, I'd asked him some question about the book and he was like, oh yeah, what were those things again? Exactly. I'm like, I know them because I've studied your book inside and out.

But yeah, that story always stayed with me as a first principles example. So explain the first principles and then bring it back to that example so people know what the hell I'm talking about.

Ozan Varol: We're talking about. Sure. Yeah. And correct me if I'm not thinking about the right example, the one I actually included in the book. But, so first principles thinking is taking a system and then distilling it to its core components and then building it up from scratch. And so you are letting go of everything except for what is essential. And then once you've identified the core components and the raw materials, then you can build it up and build it up in a different way. So reimagine as you go. And so I think the two examples come to mind from thinking like a Rockstar scientist. I think one of them was involving the way that SpaceX started. And one of the ways that they've been able to cut costs is because they applied first principles thinking in terms of distilling a rocket into its core components.

So instead of saying, oh, we're just gonna buy rockets that other people have built, stepping back and asking wait a minute, what is a rocket actually made out of? What are the non-negotiable raw materials of a rocket? And then building a rocket based on those non-negotiable raw materials and re-imagining things as you go.

Srini: It's funny to listen to you describe this. It just got me thinking when you said storytelling. Cause I know that's a part of mine, I'd never thought about this. I didn't realize one of my, probably other first principles are using technology to express creativity that is at the core of everything that I think, like my first instinct every single time I see a new tool is, what can I make with this? And I hadn't thought about it that way. But yeah, the thing about the Tim Urban story, I think that struck me most was that he broke it down to first principles. And Tim Urban basically doesn't follow any of the common wisdom of blogging. Which is basically writing an 80,000-word blog post once every, two months or something like that.

Which I think was really such a contrast to the way that people did things. But speaking of that, it's funny 'cause we're not doing this in a linear order. It wouldn't make sense now that, given what this book is about, but you go on later in the book to talk about formulas for success.

And as I said, I think my favorite quote from your previous book, one that

Ozan Varol: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And I think the copy and pasting are so ingrained. Part of it is genetic wiring. We're wired to conform in many ways, but part of it is what we talked about before, which is what the education system teaches, right? Education system to circle back, come full circle to the beginning of the conversation is all about copying and pasting somebody else's path to success.

There is one path, one right answer, one right curriculum, and one right way to interpret history. And that's the message that people hear over and over again. No wonder they go into the real world and assume that if you just copy and paste what some successful person did, you're gonna get the same results.

But life doesn't work that way. As you said, there's that huge variable, the person in the mirror and you're just not seeing all of the, you're not seeing all of the failures. If you pull up, this just popped to mind. If you pull up an online course sale page for an online course, you only see the testimonials from the people who love the course, right?

Srini: Metrics matter, obviously. You and I are both published authors, and publishers are going to determine whether or not we get another book deal based on how many books we sell. But what you said is that when we're too focused on the things we measure, we can lose sight of everything else, including common sense. Measurement has another downside, too: it prompts us to focus on outcomes that are easy to measure. And that really struck me because we live in such a metrics-driven world.

Ozan Varol: We do, and I think it leads us astray in many ways for the reason you quoted from the book, which is that when Peter Drucker has this famous quote attributed to him, which is that "what gets measured gets managed," but then what gets measured also gets all the focus. We focus on what's easy to measure, not necessarily what matters. So like lawyers count billable hours in six-minute increments. Computer programmers count lines of code, writers count words. A lot of people count the zeros at the end of their bank accounts. But then what are the metrics that we are not measuring or that are not easily measurable? Like values like humility and courage and beauty and play are a lot more shapeless, so they get ignored. It's not easy to say, "Am I a better colleague or a better parent than I was last year?" because there is no quantification attached to it. And I think the epitome of what happens when we focus too much on measurement is a strip mall.

The strip mall is like the epitome of trying to get efficiency from every square foot. It's the result of a mindset that asks, "How do we get every single dollar that we

Srini: I feel like I could talk to you all day about this book. It's so deep and so rich with so many different ideas. But in the interest of time, I'm going to finish with my final question, which I know you've heard me ask you before. What do you think it is that makes somebody hear something unmistakable?

Ozan Varol: I'll reply. We with a story since, the theme has been storytelling. And I'll make it shorter than it is in the book, but so I grew up in Turkey, and the education system, as we alluded to was extremely conformist. So much so one just example from the book is our principal called us by, we were assigned a number when we started school. Kind of like, in that Netflix show, Stranger Things like 11. And our principal would call us by that number instead of our first name. Talk about enforcing conformity, stripping your individual qualities, and growing up in that system, I felt so much pressure to conform, so much pressure to become normal that I ended up even changing my favorite color. When people would ask when I was growing up. What's your favorite color? I would say blue and the truth would've been purple, but I would say blue because blue is what normal people were supposed to like, and I really wanted to be normal cuz my eccentric tastes and differences had gotten in the way in many ways.

And so it's been a lifelong journey for me of discovering my purple and reconnecting with it. And I believe unmistakable people are the

Srini: I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story, your wisdom, and your insights with our listeners. Where can people find out more about you, the book, your work, and everything else that you're doing?

Ozan Varol: Yeah, the book Awaken Your Genius is available wherever books are sold. If you want an easy way to find the links to get the book, you can go to geniusbook.net. That's geniusbook.net. And if you want to keep in touch with me, I am not active on social media, so the best way to do that is to join my email list.

I send out one email a week that you can read in three minutes or less with one big idea. And you can join that by heading over to my website, which is ozanimaral.com. That's O-Z-A-N-I-M-A-R-A-L.com. Or speaking of using technology as part of creativity, you can text my first name, Ozan, O-Z-A-N, to 54444 to join the email list.


Srini: And everybody listening, we will wrap up the show with that.

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