This conversation is CANDY for the mind! I’m so fortunate! Matthew Ferrara is my MENTOR and more importantly my FRIEND! He’s an extraordinary, unique and deeply interesting man! On his website at Matthew Ferrara and Company, you’ll see his bio that reads “Speaker. Writer. Capitalist. Survivor. Photographer. Teacher. Listener. Find out why organizations worldwide ask Matthew Ferrara to engage their leadership, train their management, inspire their sales teams and energize customers.”
Already you should be good and intrigued, and rightly so. We delve into all of these traits and interests. He’s far smarter than your average guy. A deeply value driven, artist and a very talented speaker and world traveler! He’s home based in Las Vegas ~ nice and central, and for someone who’s in an airport about 3 days a week makes it the ideal location! He’s already been to Italy this year for a creative writing course AND just back from China! He took some AMAZING photography!
“Life is a philosophy course every day.” ~ Matthew Ferrara (Click to TWEET!)
We have a lot of fun playing with philosophy, science fiction, and business and then we dive deep into some life challenges. (And here is the quote that Matthew references: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” which is the Founder’s Fund Manifesto subtitle for their Manifesto called “What Happened To The Future?”)
Top take away : LIVE A LITTLE MORE! 🙂
I’m TRULY looking forward to seeing Matthew close the Hawaii Life Worthshop Conference in Maui this December!
Teri: So welcome to Conversations that Matter. This is for people who are living on purpose. We’re having very purposeful conversations. This is literally one of our very first recorded conversations that matter, and I really want to welcome Matthew Ferrara who is a multitude of things, and I’m going to go over almost every single one of them. First and foremost, you are a very good friend of mine. You are my mentor. I continually learn from you, and one of the big reasons that I’ve asked you to be my guest today is because of the respect that I have for you, everything that I’ve learned, and for many, many other things.
One of the things I want to do is go to your website because I think this is really fun. It says, “Meet the philosopher, Matthew.” So one of the ways that I know you is as a philosopher, of course, and a speaker, and a writer, and a capitalist, and a survivor, and a photographer, and a teacher, and a listener. You have all these great things that describe you, and I really want to take the time to go through why each one of those things have been very strategically placed right there under your picture on your home page.
Matthew: Sure, that’s certainly not your typical resume, you would think. Yeah, I did have to put a lot of thought – actually, I had to decide on a few of them, whether I would even put them out there in some ways because some of them are really personal. I think that is something, for me at least, every time I hear my resume, in a sense, or my profile spoken back to me, it’s always kind of like hearing it the first time even though I’m a little bit used to it now.
Teri: Right, so let’s touch on a couple. First of all, I met you because you were doing some sales training down at Caldwell Banker Bank in Seattle. You are well-versed. You’ve been in the real estate industry speaking and doing training, particularly in the sales and technology and marketing side of the business and well-revered, huge industry leader doing a lot of speaking now like big stage speaking, a lot of leadership-style speaking, which I love. Of course, that’s a subject we could dive deep into.
Let’s go back to – one of my favorite things that you talk about is being a philosopher. I certainly have picked up on that in our time that we have known each other. You draw on a lot of old philosophies, but you also – or I would say, creating a lot of your new philosophies yourself. Why don’t we go into some of what is that passion around philosophy?
Matthew: Well, the funny thing is, like many things in life, you don’t actually set out to be a philosopher. I actually set out to be a chemist, believe it or not. That was my original goal in high school. I loved chemistry. I hate math, so I had a really good high school counselor for college who said, “You’re never going to be a chemist because you can’t do the math. You need to do something else.” When you get kicked out of your dream degree, if you will, you start looking around. I was really lucky enough to go to a school where there was a real philosophy department. I graduated Phillips Academy Andover. I mean, there was a real department with multiple teachers. It really unlocked that thinking side, which ironically enough was the part I really liked about chemistry I liked the thinking part about chemistry, not the math or the computer part about it.
Yeah, my degree is actually in philosophy, although I also have a degree in political science and a minor in economics. Of course, all those things are lots of things. What is philosophy? What is political science? What is economics? There’s 20 studies in each one of those.
Teri: Do you have a favorite? I’m going to have to drop this in at some point, so I might as well drop it in now. We have a shared fascination with Ayn Rand, which sort of speaks to the capitalist side of you, as well.
Matthew: Sure. Well, Rand is a really special philosopher for me. I did four years of philosophy at school, at university, and never really – there are always these little pieces that were coming together, and nothing really clicked. I had amazing philosophy teachers and amazing political science teachers, but for four years in two departments in a very large university, no one ever mentioned her name. The year I graduated, I actually found myself in Italy sitting, just reading a bunch of books. One of them was actually a book a friend had recommended to me about eight years earlier, believe it or not, that I’d never got around to reading.
It’s called, “The Virtue of Selfishness.” It’s a tiny book that just changes your entire life. It’s a fascinating experience when suddenly things start clicking, almost like a mental chiropractic. You’re like, “Wow, wait.” Suddenly things make sense. They’re explainable; they’re understandable. The world is not a bunch of misty, weird shadows that all these other philosophers want you to think it is and feel dis-empowered as a result of it. One thing leads to another, and I real literally almost every work that she has in about a 12 to 15-month period.
As I stayed in contact with my teachers from university, the first time I went back to have a coffee and a cigarette with them, I said, “I’m just curious how come we never studied Rand on either side of the equation, politics or philosophy.” It was as if you had spoken some secret formula. Everybody shut up, and turned around, and walked away. I liked the renegade element to it in a lot of ways, but it really does, to me, explain the world. It gives me a really powerful grasp on – you talk about things that matter. Politics comes last, believe it or not. There are four or five other real studies of the universe that comes first; your theory of knowledge and your theory or morality and ethical choices. People will say, “Wow, you did political science,” but to me, unless you know all the back-story, if you will, then political science doesn’t mean anything. This is true even in my work.
When I talk to people who want to make a decision about something, I say, “Let’s start with the back-story. What are the premises that you’re taking for granted, that you’re not even sure you’re taking for granted? What would be true if we accept one decision over another?” They like to say that philosophy is a dead study, but to be honest it’s alive in every one of us. Every decision and choice we make is a philosophical one.
Teri: I love that, but we don’t discuss philosophy as a subject ever. It just never comes up, and that might be one of the reasons that I just adore listening to you speak and reading so much of your writing, because I think you really do open up that very closed space. The Ayn Rand thing we definitely bonded over because my father was a deep love of Ayn Rand, as well. The idea that selfishness is a good thing – she was so ahead of her time. There was just nobody talking like that, especially a woman. For a woman to’ve been so outspoken and completely derailing off of every other thing –
Matthew: I think that’s a good point and actually, believe it or not, I find a lot of women really find Rand very empowering. My wife loves Rand. In fact, we were both reading “Atlas Shrugged” at the very same time, which was again, a weird moment in our lives to have that happen after almost all of your primary learning was supposed to’ve occurred, and then really to have just a handful of books kind of put things in place. I know a lot of women who, especially in the business world, are very big Rand readers.
Carly Fiorina is one of the most successful women in business and in politics, to some extent. She didn’t win her last election but still quite prestigious It’s funny; she also has a degree in philosophy. It’s as you look around as a philosopher, you start to see other people who had degrees in philosophies. People always say, “What are you going to do with that?” It’s almost worst – and I say this in a sense of you know how people throw away certain professions. “What are you going to do with that study? Just be a teacher? What are you going to do with philosophy?” It’s almost like you can’t do anything because nobody goes to philosophy classes.
Life is a philosophy class every day. The most exciting thing I get to do now is give my card to people on the airplane. In fact, this week’s blog will have a story around that where I handed a card to a guy, and it just has my name on it, says Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher. He looked at me as if he were seeing a unicorn or something. He’s like, “Wait, aren’t you all dead?” I said, “Well, not yet.” It’s fascinating because people say, “What is it that you do?” I make a living – I make a life out of thinking. That’s what I do. I think about things a little bit more maybe than other people, sometimes maybe too much, but that’s what I do; I think for a living.
Teri: I love it. Of course, this is what I admire so much. I do think – we’ve talked about this at length before in the past about – and maybe it’s just that we’re – there’s no bandwidth. Everyone’s so busy, and maybe that’s why there’s a living for you as a thinking, because everyone else needs somebody else to be doing the filtering and what you call throwing spaghetti at the wall and trying on different ideas. Maybe we’re all just to busy to actually do that for ourselves, and that’s why there’s room for people like you to come in and direct companies.
Matthew: I think that’s a really common scenario. I think it’s a really good observation because when you think about it, we are pretty much in an on-demand world today. Everybody wants to know what you think now, right away. If you can’t tell me, tweet it. If you can’t tweet it, text it. What’s ironic about that – and it’s not even just modern, it’s not just a modern phenomenon – this is something that is really “the modern age,” if you will. I’m supposed to make a decision that might affect my life in the political arena, based on, what, 1500 words in a newspaper article? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a newspaper or Twitter, the question always has been, what’s the rest of the story? What else isn’t being spoken? What’s being taken for granted? You’re right; in the modern day, we have a little less time for reflection.
I have this kind of rule, this cardinal rule, if you will, that I have to work at, just like everybody else. In the morning, I try to spend at least a half an hour before touching any inputs; TV, radio, social media. It’s hard; it’s really, really hard. I have to actually build an exercise around it – get up, go out, water the tomatoes, those kinds of things, like play in the backyard for half an hour – so that your brain has a chance to do reflective thinking. I don’t think that we give ourselves enough time, but always know that people love when they have time to reflect. They jump out of the shower with an idea, and they only had five minutes to reflect. Imagine if they gave themselves an hour, or a day, or a week. It would be really powerful.
Teri: I love that because I have a bunch of people in my world that are really pushing meditation on me, and I so want to love the idea of meditation. I really, really do. I believe it would be healthy. I’m just not that girl. I’ve often thought that when I’m doing my walk, if I take my 30 minutes to go do sort of a power walk in nature, I’m combing my spiritual side, my nature side, and my reflection side. I love that; I’m going to use that.
Matthew: Not all meditation is just locking yourself in a quiet room. Some meditation is done through song, and some meditation is done through repeating some words, or dance is a form of meditation. I think what they mean by meditation, in general, is just a chance to just be there with yourself in the moment and to give yourself permission not to have to be communicating to anyone else but yourself.
Teri: I agree. I think it’s that mental break and allowing space, just like quieting the mind enough to allow for other things to sort of occur. I think that’s true.
Anyway, so back to philosophy. Now, to really throw a corkscrew in the whole what an amazing philosopher you are, there’s this other side of you that is Star Trek-y, which I think also ties in.
Matthew: Science fiction is in and of itself a kind of philosophy. It’s a view of the future. It makes certain assumptions about human nature. The best science fiction stories are still good versus evil, good guy versus bad guy, where mostly the good guys still win, which is still good news, I guess. My love of science fiction is partially a love of believing that the future’s going to turn out all right, that people are going to create some really cool and amazing things that help us live really good lives.
Also, I think it’s – in a sense, my love of science fiction is also a love of writing because most science fiction writers and fantasy writers are just really, really great writers. They have to work in a world that doesn’t even exist, and so they have to create it. In a way, that’s philosophy; trying to imagine a better world, a better way of living, or a better of getting something done is that kind of same thing. Though we might not have all the crazy technologies, I think, at the same time, it starts with the imagination. We imagine those things, and then maybe we’re able to create the same outcomes, even though we don’t have all the fantastic devices, for example.
Teri: No kidding, which is an amazing gift, which not everybody has, but you are a very, very talented writer. You just did a trip to Italy, which was, I believe – was that a creative writing course?
Matthew: Yes, it’s the second year that we’ve done this. The last year I went to this creative writing course, that was an opportunity just to be in a farm house in north of Florence with 10 or 12 other people with no internet access; pens, papers, reading some good writing, talking about good writing, and practicing good writing, and sharing it with each other. I had so much fun doing it last year, and I’m a terrible student. I truly am, which is probably not a surprise to anyone, but – so I’m always a student leader, if you will. As a result of last year, they asked me if I would come do some presentation this year, as well.
This year, I was like a hybrid doing some creating writing. What happened was really quite amazing. Last year, I changed how I – I really did have an impact on how I wrote. Up until then, I would say I was a rather sort of fact-based writer, try to lay out all the arguments and make a convincing close. Creative writing is about writing stories that people can associate with and the last year, almost all of my writing has become more stories, personal stories, situational stories. To be honest with you, my readers seem to have really gone crazy for it, which is a big surprise to me. It’s very validating, but at the same time, it’s far more fun to write in that space.
Teri: One you wrote last August, actually – so almost a year ago – was “Pursue Happiness to Attract Success.” This was one of my favorites because you were talking about seeking happiness, and then the success will follow, as a philosophy. I wondered if we might sort of play with that idea a little bit. What spurred you to write that post?
Matthew: I’ve spent 25 years helping people pursue success. From a professional standpoint – and a lot of it has been best practices, skills, techniques, but at the end of the day, no matter how many tools or techniques you have, a lot of people actually don’t become successful because, deep down, they’re not very happy about either their job or something else. Something else is going on in their life, and I’m not a psychologist. I don’t put my readers on the black couch and say, “Let me fix all of your problems.” I just talk about what’s kind of talk about what’s happened to me. I use my own story, and if it relates to someone, it works well.
What I’ve discovered in my life and what I see in a lot of successful people is they’re all incredibly happy people first, and then they seem to attract the elements of success. It’s not just business success – other successes. Maybe they’re running an organization that’s doing something charitable in their community. Maybe the success is as simple as helping one person. They’re working with a veteran or a child or whatever that thing is. Sometimes, the success is a personal success. They finally master the piano or finally write that book that they wanted to write. It had to start by really evaluating whether what they were doing was making them happy and how they were thinking was making them happy first. Then it’s really kind of magnetic. The happier you are, I think it’s very magnetic.
The more you attract the conditions of success – and I’ve seen a lot of people with a lot of tools who never go anywhere, and I’ve seen a lot of people with no tools – no money, no time, no technology, no skills – but they’re just really happy with whatever they’re doing, and the rest kind of follows. For me, it was like a bit of a contrarian flip. Let’s not wait until we become rich and successful to then say we’re happy. Why don’t we just wake up every day and look around and decide what we’re happy about, and success comes. Some of that comes, also, from our personal experiences. For some of us, getting up every day is enough to make you happy, just getting up every day.
Teri: Oh, I thought that was the success part, just getting up.
Matthew: And it’s successful, too. This writing, this piece, was definitely a result of learning to tell stories and to tell those stories better. What’s so funny is that – on reflection, people would come up to me years later, after seeing me on stage, and say, “Oh, I saw you in 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia, and I loved your story,” of whatever. They could never remember a fact or a figure or whether I told them to do this or some other speaker told them to do that, but none of them ever forgot a story that made them laugh or cry or think or whatever. I was always a little bit of a storyteller, but last year, I really took up the mantle of being a good storyteller. Ironically, this year, my push from my fellow writers is to write mystery stories. For some reason, they think I’m going to be good at writing mystery stories, so I’ve actually started penning some mystery stories. Again, what is the point? I don’t know yet, but maybe the practice of writing mysteries will help me solve something else that I’m working on.
Teri: Absolutely. That would be like a puzzle, right? You, the ultimate thinker. I can see that being very fun for you.
Matthew: What’s weird about mysteries is – so I love reading mysteries because you love to know who did it, what happened, etc. Writing mysteries is very hard because you actually have to figure out who did it and then tell the story in such a way that people don’t know who did it, if you will. It’s actually quite harder for me because I almost want the story to unfold without knowing who will do it until I write that portion. Who knows if that’s even possible, but it’s a different way of thinking. That’s, of course, one of the wonderful things, for me, at least. I’m perfectly open to thinking about other ways of thinking.
Teri: I find that a fascinating process because I would think, particularly working with brokerages, for instances, if you’re walking into a brokerage, and you’re trying to help them solve some internal problems, figuring out what is the end game that we want to achieve and then reverse-engineering that would be sort of the same kind of process.
Matthew: The ironic thing is that most people don’t start there. Most people will hire someone, a consultant, a speaker, a trainer, or whatever, and they’ll come in, and they’ll tell them what the problem is. They will tell them what the desired outcome is, but they don’t do the rest of the work. Great, great, great consultants – I use the term broadly, but whether you’re a consultant who’s speaking, or whatever it is, you’re all detectives. You’ve got to find out the rest of the story.
I’ll just give you a really quick example. During the downturn in the housing market, we worked with a real estate broker who was just losing money hand over fist. Had three offices; one was losing more money than others, and so logically – and other consultants told him, “Listen, you have to close that office,” but he refused to do it, until someone did some detective work. After having lunch with him, I discovered the reason he’s not closing the third office is he has three sons. He promised all three sons an office. Further detective work turns out the son who’s running that office doesn’t want to be in the business and run the office, which is, of course, possibly why it’s not doing so well.
Again, going in and just solving the problem – I have a financial crisis; what do I do? – is not really it. What are the premises of this crisis? Where do they come from? This is philosophy. This is detective work, and this is the fun stuff. When I get to speak, sometimes just to engineer experience like that in someone’s mind for an hour is really rewarding. It’s like giving them a mystery, if you will.
Teri: The fact that you used the term engineer, I think it speaks a lot to your personality, Mr. Puppet Strings.
Matthew: Yeah, I mean, you do have to really create the right conditions for an ah-ha moment. I could tell someone a thousand times something, but if I can get them to realize it on their own, if I can engineer that moment where they step over the line themselves, it’s good. It’s far more powerful.
Teri: We do that in coaching, too. They say you can tell somebody what to do, or you can lead them to discover the answers for themselves, which is always going to be so much more powerful. Yeah, so that’s the trick.
Matthew: Yes, and what the irony is, is that that works beautifully one-on-one, and it works beautifully in business, for example. Ironically, we don’t apply that in the rest of the world today. When was the last time you saw a politician go on the television on a Sunday and say, “We’re facing this problem, and here are three things we could do, and here are three things that would result if we did them, and I’m just going to leave now. I’m not going to make a decision. I’m going to let people think about those decisions”? Now, on some degree, we could argue that people don’t want that in the world of politics. Politics is actually an area that people just really would wish they didn’t have to deal with, believe it or not. On the other hand, they’re never happy. I rarely hear anyone who’s ecstatic about the political decisions in their country, and that’s because they’re also not thinking through the decisions they’re being told to make.
Teri: Politics is a sticky area, but I’ve always felt – and I have an actual fascination with the idea of politics but at the same time, do politics just attract a certain type of people? I’ve always felt that whoever ends up in politics and people are ragging on them for making so much money, I figure, “You know what? I think they kind of earn it. I think they kind of earn that money because they work really hard.” They’re on stage all the freaking time. Their life is not their own for the entire time that they’re in office, and their hands are very tied. They’re toeing to party line most of the time. Everything that they’re idealistic self who was running the campaign wanted to do probably learned not quickly after they were –
Matthew: The reality of politics.
Teri: Yeah, exactly. Anyway, that’s a whole other conversation.
Matthew: Just along those lines of thoughts, think about all the things that we took for granted, just in that conversation. It’s taken for granted that for some reason politicians shouldn’t make money. Why?
Teri: Why? Yeah.
Matthew: We want doctors to make money. We want lawyers to make money. It’s a premise we’ve never challenged. We’ve never challenged that I’d rather have successful people as politicians than unsuccessful people as politicians –
Teri: I think you have a strong argument there.
Matthew: – right, who’s made some money by working hard. The other thing is, we say things like, “Well, they’re stuck. Politicians are stuck.” Maybe we want them to be stuck. Maybe that’s a good thing, is to have stuck politicians because a less active politician may be the right kind of politician that we want. None of those conversations – we never get to those conversations. We never get to what do we want in a politician because we’re simply trapped into talking about outcomes, rather than talking about the process or the background story.
Teri: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You’ve just touched a theme that’s big for me this year. I have been uber-sensitive to the fact that we are so outcome-focused. This is just on my radar lately, and I would love to dig into that a little bit, if you don’t mind, just because – why is that, do you think? I have my ideas, but–
Matthew: Why do you think, because I’m curious? This is obviously – when you think about measuring everything by outcomes, it doesn’t come out of a vacuum.
Teri: I think you’ve touched on another point, which is we measure everything. We are very metrics-focused, which I know – so look, I did Weight Watchers. You track your calories. You can’t know how well you’re doing unless you measure, so I understand the need for metrics. Having said that, I think it was Bobby Kennedy – and I wrote a post about this a year or so ago. Bobby Kennedy did a speech at one of the universities, and it laid out the GDP and its value, but how it doesn’t actually track the character of a man, or the value of the family, or all these non-tangible things that clearly we value. Nobody’s measuring those, and I think you and I had this conversation before, and I think you even wrote another post about measuring the ROI of your mom.
Matthew: Yeah, look, there are some things that need to be measured by a different standard.
Teri: Right, but that’s not being measured, not, at least, in these conversations.
Matthew: Think of it like this. I think it’s important to evaluate. I think I just use that as an anti-measurement term, if you will. Evaluate or assess or being critical or judging is important because you’d never know what’s good or bad, right or wrong, if you didn’t do that. Some things are measured incorrectly in our life. I remember an article I once wrote called “What’s Your Mother’s Clout Score?”
Teri: I think that’s the one, yeah.
Matthew: You would never say, “My mom has as much clout as Justin Bieber,” or something. My mom could say one thing and would radically alter my day, and she could have growing up, and she will in the future. When we think about influence or judging something, would we rank a Monet on a scale of 1 to 10? It doesn’t make any sense. We measure it on different things, on how it makes us feel, what it makes us think of, etc. I think this is true in so many areas; art, esthetics, even spiritual matters, if you will. I think when it comes to business, for example, everybody thinks of quantification, and I think that’s unfortunate to some degree. I think that there are a lot of things that are measured by a thank you note. They’re measured by a customer giving you a hug. Here’s a very simple example. I just recently went to a hotel in Virginia. I got to the hotel, and there was a lady, literally, in the foyer, she had her arms out, and she’s like, “Welcome to our hotel. We’re so happy to see you,” and her arms are open. What do you do when you see her with her arms open? You hug them, right?
Matthew: I, literally, gave her a hug, and she gave me hug. Then I went on to the desk, and she gave the next guy a hug. I’m like, wait a minute. How do I yelp that? Is that four stars? Is that seven stars? It’s meaningless. What’s meaningful is that someone absolutely made the end of my day and created a powerful moment that I will never forget. That I will talk about. That’s an outcome in terms of, where will I ever stay again if I go there? Where will I recommend people to stay? It has business outcomes if you want.
I think we have to be, at least, a little more forgiving with the concept of being outcome measured focused, as opposed to just outcome focused. What would we want to have happen, and what are the ways we could make that happen that aren’t just driven through a spreadsheet, if you will?
Teri: I completely agree, and I think they can be connected. I think you can say – obviously, if you continue to send business in that direction, there is an outcome that can be measured on a sheet, but they won’t be able to track that back to that hug.
Matthew: Right, right. I do think that’s a challenge, in a sense, but if the outcome you’re getting is a result of some things you can observe – if you observe that business picks up in the 12 months after the Hug Campaign began – or let’s just call it the Greeting Campaign, just greeting you. How many hotels have you been to where they don’t greet you? They just like, last name, please; credit card, please. Do you want the – what newspaper do you want? It’s very mechanical, and you’re processed as if you were a trashcan, right? If you could measure some uptick in something as a result of the door Greeting Campaign, then that’s as much of a spreadsheet as anything else. Maybe time is the measurement in that case, as opposed to repeat dollars or repeat stays. Maybe it’s a different thing that we can measure, which is the time spent doing this activity versus the time we weren’t spending or stopped doing that activity.
Teri: I love that, and I think I’m sure there’s a million ways we can suggest how people could use that, especially in real estate. By the way, Conversations that Matter isn’t just for real estate people. Real estate people are people to, so I like to give them some love as well.
Matthew: You what’s so funny though? When you think about it, it really – that lady in the hotel has the same problem that every businessperson has, right? She has the same problem people have when they visit a real estate agent’s office, or you visit your dentist’s office. I just moved across the country, and the experience of getting – I had to get a new doctor, a new barber. I know it doesn’t look like it. I had to get all these new things, and each one was an opportunity to re-experience a greeting because I’ve had the same doctor for 19 years. I’ve had the same barber for seven years, so it was very interesting to have a chance to do that fresh again. There are the same problems everywhere you go. It doesn’t matter what industry.
Teri: You moved from Boston to Vegas.
Matthew: Las Vegas.
Teri: What was the driving factor in that?
Matthew: What better place to practice philosophy than this place?
Teri: I agree.
Matthew: No. There’s a number of fun factors. One is, this is clearly the convention capital of the universe, and I would say most of my day is spent either writing or speaking, so there was a business element here. There was an element of adventure. Something really different than Boston, that’s for sure; also, being able to listen to signals. There were signals back in our life in Boston. I use to have a very, very large company, 50 plus employees. Thousands of square feet of office space, etc. Then, over the last few years, we took steps to sell some of that, close some of that, make different changes, so life was lining things up for something to happen.
Then there were other pushes and signals. One of which was just a different pace of life. Las Vegas, we don’t live on the strip, right? We live in a normal neighborhood, but Las Vegas is a very different pace of life. People drive fast, but they’re – when you’re in a coffee shop, they hold the door open for you. People will spend hours at the dinner table, in a restaurant, or something. It’s very, very chill, if you will, here in some ways. I think we needed that. To be really frank, it’s sunny here every day. It’s just sunny. It’s a different experience living in a place where it’s always sunny.
Teri: How has that affected your overall state of happiness?
Matthew: No question about it. Two things it’s done for sure. One is I don’t look out the window in the morning and say, what’s the weather? That could change your whole day. Oh, it’s raining. We’re not going bicycle riding, or picnic, or whatever. That’s a bummer. It’s always sunny, no matter what. It does get hot, so you plan for that.
The second thing is this. Las Vegas is actually – the desert is actually awake 24 hours a day because during the day, things are awake, but at night, all the animals come out because it’s too hot in the daytime for them to come out. The nighttime is very alive. If you go for a walk at night, everything’s out. All the birds are out and it’s chirping. It’s a very different space. I know this sounds really weird, but in a way, it’s a little bit more alive than the day/night cycle that I was living in before. Yeah. It’s a fascinating experience in some ways. It really is.
Teri: That’s so cool. That’s so cool. I know. I like your patio. I could come work there every day.
Matthew: Yeah. It’s a good place to work isn’t it?
Teri: There was another subject that crossed my radar with you awhile back, and I’m hoping you can remember more about it because you touched on the need for a renaissance. I believe you were calling for a renaissance, and the word just woke me up, and I’m like, this is awesome. I want to dig into that a little bit. Where were you coming from on that?
Matthew: The phrase is actually coined from a really important mentor of mine. I lived in Italy for a little while, 20 something years ago. I lived with a family that was a bit of a renaissance family. The father was an architect, the brother was a musician, the other brother was a chemist, and the mother was a student of Yung, actually taught yoga and psycho-synthesis It’s a renaissance family in a lot of ways. I was their renaissance American son for a year or so, a year and a half.
What was interesting to me was this constant – you live in Italy, which is a product of many Eras, but the most vibrant Era was the Renaissance and yet, Italy is not a renaissance country these days. There’s a lot about it that’s not as much. This term came up from the mother who coined it as, I was a renaissance man, a little of everything. The guy who writes, who speaks, who…
Teri: Takes photography.
Matthew: Knows a little photography, knows a little chemistry. A renaissance guy, a Franklin, but even Franklin was not in the Renaissance.
For me, the concept is a little bit analogist to what I think we need in the world today, and that is a revolution, a rebirth, of a certain way of thinking. A way of thinking that is thought through. That is thought out. A way that goes back and says, well, we’re not going to forget about history. History is the basis of any progress that we will make, any mistakes that we’ll avoid, and things we’ll do more of. The Renaissance was also a time when all bets were off. People did things in the Renaissance they were not allowed to do in the Dark Ages. They started doing autopsies on bodies, which they could not do, and they could learn about anatomy, which led to modern health. Sciences were freed up so that we could experiment and lead to airplanes, and combustion engines, and modern transportation, etc.
I think that that concept of a rebirth, if you will, of some ways of thinking. Not what to think. I’m not saying, oh, we have to go back to 14th Century thought or something, but how they thought things through. They were all inquisitive. They were willing to make mistakes. Take risks. There’s a lot of that going on in the world today. There really is, which exciting, but there’s also a lot that’s very heavy. Right now I would say we’re at this point, historically, not this year, but over a period of years, where it’s like, well, we could tip back into a Dark Ages, if you will, or we could tip forward into a new Renaissance of even greater growth in the sciences, and humanities, and commerce, and art, etc.
Teri: The question is. How did you come to that determination? What do you think – what do you see that you call so heavy?
Matthew: What’s so interesting to me is – I’m a child of the ‘80s, so in 1989 these amazing things happened. The Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell, the space shuttle was going up every week, we were making progress on serious illnesses, and people around the world were addressing clean water. It was a lot of different things going on that seemed really positive in the ‘80s, and then the ‘90s, and then the 2000s. That’s almost like, well, it’s just ten years in time, or 20 years in time, but to be honest with you, from my perspective, a lot of the mistakes that we’re making, you could change the date, the time, and the names, and we made these mistakes in 1935, or we made these mistakes in 1855, or we made these mistakes in etc. In a lot of ways I feel like the bad history is repeating itself, and we’re getting a lot of really bad outcomes.
Again, I’m naturally optimistic about the universe. I’m always optimistic that things will work out in a way that I will never anticipate that the universe is unfolding the way it should, whether I know it or not. I’m a naturally optimistic guy, but I also see that we make a lot of our own problems, and we make them a lot worse, and that is to me the dark possibility, if you will. If we don’t talk about it, we can’t avoid it.
Teri: I love that, and I think maybe we can streamline corrections a lot sooner if we’re cognizant of the mistakes that’ve been made for sure. Don’t you also think that there’s this cyclical wave – I mean, if we go up high enough and look back over the time-line of history, you can start to see the pattern of it going, and that at some point, there’s recovery. Every time there’s a dip, there’s a recovery. It’s just the same in the market today. In real estate market, it’s the same.
Matthew: Yes and no. Again, having the ability to look back over long periods of time, if you really think about it, how someone lived in 200 A.D. and how someone lived 1,000 A.D, not significantly different over 800 years, right? In fact, if we fast forward all the way up to say 1770 or 1800, we’re starting to see some significant changes, but still not a lot different. Someone like Isaac Newton, for example, never went further than approximately 20 miles from where he was born.
Teri: Wow, yeah, crazy.
Matthew: Next week I’ll fly to China. Do you know what I mean?
Teri: You can’t sit still.
Matthew: No, right. Clearly there’s been a lot of changes, if you will, but for a long time there wasn’t. Then we had this really powerful period, from the Renaissance, through the Industrial Revolution, to today. It’s true that there are a lot of crises, and we always seem to eventually bounce back, and that’s true. However, we have more crises more frequently, and we live in an era where it may be harder to bounce back from. If it’s one thing to bounce back – if it’s 1600, and all the crops failed, the only way to bounce back is if the crops don’t fail next year, right?
It’s a little different in the modern world today. Things could bounce in such a way – the global financial system could bounce in such a way, atomic weapons are maybe more on the loose than ever before. There’s a lot of things from which we may not exactly bounce back, if you will.
Think about it like this. In the United States, we eradicated polio 25 years ago, and yet, suddenly we’re fighting polio again, right? We virtually drove tuberculosis out of existence in the United States. Now we’re fighting tuberculosis again, right? I grew up in a generation that was the last generation to worry about measles and mumps. Now we’re worried about measles and mumps again. Again, I’m pulling random ideas that – those are health issues, right? Those are health issues, but there are other issues out there. Overall, other issues are out there, whether it’s in commerce, or in just the way that we communicate with each other, or in the way that we express ourselves.
These crises do come a little quicker, a little more severe, and they are a little bit harder to dig out of every single time. As a result, I just think it’s not just going to be a historical pattern. I don’t believe in the end of history. I don’t believe in that concept, but I do believe that it’s possible to repeat serious, serious mistakes in history. As they used to say, the Dark Ages were dark on purpose. There’s a lot of thought going into creating the dark ages when we had them. We could be experiencing that thought. Again, that would be a cycle we would not want to repeat.
Teri: It’s interesting. I mean, we could go on, and on, and on, and on, and I kind of want to cut it a little bit short here, but the one thing that I wanted to tag onto that is this – in this connected world, you would think the opportunity would be to eradicate that, to eliminate any possibility that we would be so connected and the communication would be so open, and that we would be so collaborative in our efforts.
Matthew: You’ll have to forgive me; I don’t remember who said the quote, and I’m sure everyone who watches this will Google it right away, but I think the quote goes something along the lines of we wanted flying cars, but we got 140 characters instead The future was flying cars. We were going to have flying cars, and we got Twitter. One in six minutes is spent on Facebook, millions of billions of tweets a month, a year, etc.
Here’s a great example of Renaissance thinking. If we’ve mobilized, let’s just say roughly, one and a half billion people in the world – say we’ve mobilized them. No one has asked the question what for? If we’ve mobilized them for more click advertising, I think there’s something wrong with that, right?
Teri: It is ringing a little hollow. There’s no question that there’s so much push for content. It’s getting so noisy. Everyone’s trying to sell and step on each other’s heads to get the attention, and I am asking myself what are we doing? Why are we doing it?
Matthew: Right, but imagine if billions of people – imagine if just a hundred million people who are online right now were having a conversation, not about something on a cutesy video or an Instragram photo, if they were in a conversation about what’s a better way to organize transportation, or what’s an easier way to ensure people have access to water, or what’s a better way to solve the unemployment problems in the West today? That’s the kind of thing I think – to me, I’m sort of like what for? You mobilized all these people, but if it’s just to buy more washing powder and soap and string, it doesn’t make any sense to me in some ways.
Teri: That one is a big one. We will have to have a whole other conversation on that one.
Teri: I actually think that really is a conversation that matters. Not enough people are having those deeper, more meaningful conversations that actually might lead to positive change. I do think that needs to be facilitated.
Matthew: Cool things are happening. I love Kickstarter.
Teri: Yes, me too.
Matthew: It’s a good space where they do a lot of things.
Teri: All the social good companies that are creating social movements, I do think there’s a lot of positive. We should definitely mention that. Quickly, I think I will be seeing you at Worth Shop in December.
Matthew: In Hawaii, yes.
Teri: The reason I bring that up is because you had been asked to speak or actually to tie the whole – first of all, Worth Shop, why don’t you give a quick description of what that is.
Matthew: It’s a really amazing event. This is Worth Shop 4 this year, and each of the Worth Shops has been hosted by Hawaii Life in Hawaii. They’re really a fabulous organization. Ostensibly, yes, they sell real estate, but they also – they do a lot more. They really are kind of a social good company in some ways. Last year, their Worth Shop was focused on simplicity. That’s what I love about these conferences; they always have a simple theme, if you will.
I was invited, actually, to do something really quite unique last year. I was invited to show up and to close, to give the closing. I, of course, asked what are the topic, who’s speaking, and what would you like me to speak on?
Teri: Because I like to [0:49:24].
Matthew: Well, a little preparation goes a long way. I was challenged by my friend Mark who said, “I’m not going to tell you any of that. I’m not going to ask you to prepare anything. I just want you to come, and listen, and do what you do, which is listen to people talking and synthesize them, and just close.” I said, “How long should I speak?” He said, “Start when you start and end when you end. If you can fascinate us for 4 minutes, or 40 minutes, or 4 hours, we’ll sit there.” It was a really big carte blanche, if you will. I’ve been asked to do that again this year because it really was a powerful learning experience for me, as well. Show up, no computer, no preparation, no outline, listen for two days, not just to the presentations but to the conversations being had, pull a few strings together, put them through the cotton gin of my head and weave them in with other stuff, and see if you can come up with a tapestry that makes sense.
I haven’t been that nervous in 25 years, and I haven’t been that thrilled with what I was able to get done in just, say, 20 minutes with them on stage. I’ll be closing again this year, and it really is powerful. People should check it out because it’s a very special place this year in Hawaii. There will be a limited number of seats that I think are almost selling out, but it’s a fabulous experience, and it’s Hawaii. As a result, you just get a chance to completely disconnect from the universe. It’s really wonderful there.
Teri: I will be there. Based on everything you told me about last year, I can’t miss it.
Matthew: That was a great experience. It really was.
Teri: I will for sure be there. I’m very excited now. That’s the picture behind you that you took, the photograph, that I believe is the centerpiece of that blog post where you describe that.
Matthew: That’s yellow pants and pirates.
Teri: Oh, it’s the pirates one.
Matthew: Yeah, that’s the yellow pants and pirates story. I think the article that came from Worth Shop was called, “Short sleeves and Rubber Shoes.”
Teri: Correct because you wore a Hawaiian shirt.
Matthew: I had to wear a Hawaiian shirt. This is sort of Vegas wear, but make this paisley or something, those weird rubber shoes or sandals or something. Obviously if people are watching this, they need perspective. Just go to my website. It’s three-piece suits and Italian shoes. It’s just not my normal gig, but it was an opportunity to break all the rules and actually teach myself something, which is once you really figure out what you’re good at, if you put yourself in positions to do what you’re good at in your comfort zone – again, this is something just different from what I’ve learned. Everybody wants to kick everyone out of their comfort zone. I’m actually not quite ready to do that. I’m actually ready to get people to draw out their comfort zone, tell me what you’re awesome at, and let’s figure out how to position you at being awesome in that space every day for a while. It doesn’t mean you won’t venture off a little bit and and try some new things, but hell, I don’t want to be outside of my comfort zone. I want to be successful in it.
That experience taught that to me, and I actually have been having a lot more fun in my presentations showing up a little less over-scripted and over-prepared and a little more like let me throw some photos on the screen, tell you a couple of stories that relate to the issues we’re talking about today, and then let’s just talk. It’s really been a very powerfully, fun evolution for me, as well.
Teri: I love it. As you know, because I’m a conversation gal, so I just think when it’s you talking to me and we’re just sharing stories and there’s room for things to magic – the magic happens in that space, I think.
Matthew: Yes, and I think the element for the audience is wonderful because they’re part of it. They either recognize themselves in something that I’m telling them of themselves. Maybe I’m recounting something that happened earlier that day. Almost always, I can start a program these days with something that I’ve experienced in the last half-hour in the lobby or whatever. So the audience gets excited because they’re a part of that but also because I do think audiences today are pretty much up to speed on all of the ordinary answers and he ordinary suggestions. They are pretty excited by someone who gets on stage and says, “I’m not a hundred percent sure where this is going to go.”
Matthew: “If you trust me, we’re going to go to a good place,” and boy, do they really love that, I think. It gives them permission. People come up to me aftewards sometimes and say, “You know, I used to think I had to have a 30-page business plan.” I’m like, “You know what? Let’s just start with one page and go with that. I did this entire speech on one photo. Let’s do that.” They feel like they can be creative and successful, and they don’t have to jump off the high-board They could just swim in the pool they’re comfortable in for a while.
Teri: I love that. Speaking of getting away from sort of outcome-focused directives. Love it. Matthew, thank you so, so much.
Matthew: My pleasure.
Teri: This hour just flew by.
Matthew: It’s crazy, yeah.
Teri: When we do it again, we can really go. I’ll want to do this again, of course.
Teri: I want to thank you for taking your time to join us and share your amazing, brilliant mind with us. I think you’re so creative. I think you truly are a Renaissance Man. If people want to reach out and connect with you if they don’t already know you, where can they find you?
Matthew: Well, they could Google me very easily, Matthew Ferrara, but MatthewFerrara.com is the best way. It’s actually a little of everything; writing, schedule, photos. It’s a little of everything on there.
Teri: Awesome. Now before I let you go, there was one more thing that we have to touch because at the end of every Conversation that Matters, I always go – or I want to go. You are literally conversation number two, so you’re setting the bar, but where I want to take things is talking a little bit about Legacy and since you are a survivor, I thought you might want to discuss briefly what that experience, and story, and challenge, and lesson has been for you and what that might mean in terms of meaning in your life.
Matthew: Sure, it’s – so I’m a two-time cancer survivor. I had lung cancer in 1999 and kidney cancer in 2006. The lessons from it are pretty simple, in a lot of ways. People, I think, they think that cancer patients have these huge epiphanies. We actually don’t. We mostly are constantly worried that little bumps, and aches, and pains are bigger than they are. That actually is one of the lessons, which is for me is just that the universe is okay and just an ache or a pain is just an ache or a pain, and not everything is the end of the universe. The other thing, I think a big lesson for me was one in which I really focused more on meaningful work. When you think you have a limited amount of time left – and in fact, we all may have a limited amount of time left, whether it’s limited to 60 years or 60 seconds. It does make you ask questions like, “What are you doing?”
The first time I had cancer, the question was will I be here tomorrow and will I be able to get my career back on track? I had been in business for ten years. The second time, I knew I could get my career on track, so I really got to the question of what do I want to do with it? Actually for me, it’s when a lot of changes happened. I stopped some lines of work, started other lines of work, started working differently. I often just share an hour of work with clients around the world as opposed to eight hours or something like that. I’ve decided to have quality conversations, quality contributions, and also to make those contributions in other ways. There’s always another day at the office Getting involved with photography, with writing, those kinds of things, I always had those elements in me, but having those moments that say, “Look, there might be a really limited amount of time left to do those things,” gives you a little push to do it.
When I talk about that with audiences, what I basically wish them is the positive outcome of the experience without having the experience. Don’t put off a lot of things simply because you want to squeeze another appointment in. There’s always time for an appointment. I could always get on another plane. There may not be another time to take a good picture of this sunset or to play with your kids or whatever those things are. I think that that’s important. I think that’s a lesson that I try to bring in to audiences that I see who are asking me how to work more. I actually try to spend a little time with them and invite them on how to live a little more, not just work but to live a little more. Those are kind of my experiences.
Teri: That’s fabulous. I love it. I just think we’re so lucky to have you, and I’m truly, truly grateful for your friendship, and your mentorship, and I love your philosophies Anybody who’s watching is very fortunate to hear you.
Matthew: I’m glad that you invited me. These kinds of conversations are what I do, so I’m glad they now have a venue that maybe helps them matter.
Teri: It might be you and me watching, just so you know.
Matthew: That’s alright. That’s okay.
Teri: It was still a good conversation.
Matthew: You know what, Teri? Sometimes I’m on a stage with 5,000 and it’s the one person that comes after me later that says, “Wow, that really hit home,” and I feel like I was there that day for that one person. That’s okay. Sometimes just one line in a book or one video is for one person, and that’s alright, too.
Teri: Keep rocking. I will be looking forward to seeing you next hopefully maybe LA; I’m not sure, but for sure in Maui.
Matthew: LA, yep, we’ll be there.
Teri: Thank you so much.
Matthew: See ya. Bye, Teri.