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Dave Asprey, Author: Changing the Game in Leadership and Life

The man who brought you bulletproof coffee’s new book, Game Changers, compiles wisdom and practices from hundreds of game changers.

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BY Joshua Spodek - 05 Dec 2018

dave asprey changing the game in leadership and life

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I saw Dave Asprey speak at a downtown Manhattan coworking space. You may think of Dave as the Bulletproof Coffee or bio-hacking man, but I was there for a different reason.

I'd read his new book Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life. It's a different turn for him.

The book compiles leadership and life lessons from hundreds he learned from. I teach leadership, and I wanted to see if he practiced what he shared. Was he the real deal?

I've been to events at this space. This was the first I'd seen standing-room only. Nobody left while he spoke for hours. When I first learned of him, I thought he must have been an internet marketing guy, but this in-person crowd was engaged.

A large fraction stayed after the signing to keep asking questions, also for hours. I don't know coffee, supplements, or bio-hacking, but I know when someone is leading.

I thought: Some so-called leaders don't lead. Think most politicians, who follow donors and votes.

Some leaders lead, but have modest followings at best.

Dave Asprey leads people to ingest substances that haven't been government tested. That looks like leadership on another level. It tells me there's something to learn from him. I set up an interview to learn what worked for him that we could learn from.

Mind you, I don't drink coffee, bulletproof or otherwise, so I can't speak to his company or products, just how he leads and what we can learn from him. I focused on leadership and the book.

He shared what worked. He was vulnerable.

Did he intend to become a leader?

I wondered if he intended to become a leader and asked.

He said

If you want people to really follow you and engage, it's not about metrics or having a bot or something like that.
It's about getting on a plane, flying to New York and standing in front of a group of people and showing up authentically, having something new and of value to the audience to say and then doing it again and again and again.

He continued,

I travel 150 days a year. I have since the founding of the company.
There's no substitute for face time. If you want to connect with a community, if you want to create a new community around bio-hacking the way that I did, you have to be very conscious of the way you show up.
Last year I think I hugged every single one of the 2,500 or so attendees. . . You saw me at Assemblage [the co-working space where I saw him]. You've got to be there. You've got to be real and you have to have the energy to do that.

Simple to say. Hard to do. But it works.

What motivates him?

To want to do something doesn't mean you can pull it off. Traveling almost half the year takes motivation. Where does he get his?

You have to have a mission. You have to have a reason for doing it.
Because if the reason to do it is to make money or for the ego of having power or fame or something like that, you will just get exhausted and you will hate your life. That's not why I do what I do.
I have no need or desire to be famous. I just don't want people to go through all the crap that I went through.

What is his mission and goals?

Saying you have a mission is one thing. What was his?

No one said all of this stuff [how to improve your life] when I was 20 in a way that I could find it or in a way that I could see and I thought maybe if I do that, maybe I could help a few people. It's helped more than a few people, and that's what motivates me.
It's the authenticity and the integrity and always speaking the truth.
Not dumping on other people.

Did he have advantages?

I ask everyone this question because as an educator, I want to make leadership available to all. With one of his products being called Unfair Advantage, I wanted to know if he had any.

He said

I used to have Aspergers. I used to have OCD. I couldn't do this [speak in public to large crowds]. I didn't have leadership skills.

He shared his coming of age in Silicon Valley, where he said he recognized that he was anxious and angry so studied how business interactions worked, how deals were done and he got mentors. As he put it, he watched how people worked as an anthropologist would until he could understand and do it.

He said that to learn he taught. In particular, he began teaching at the University of California--for 5 years, 4 nights a week, 3 hours a night, teaching engineers.

Teaching sounds like his 10,000 hours. He said he "became very good at leading a classroom full of people," which led to keynotes, focused effort, and developing the skills in increasingly challenging situations.

Where does the energy come from?

I wanted to know what kept him going. Motivation alone doesn't give you energy.

That comes from love.

Love of what?

Love for people, love for the world we live in. Love for humanity.

My Read

My read, from speaking with him: behind his business, in his heart, he's doing what he can do best to create a world where the conditions for loving each other are met. That's what he's doing in his heart when he travels 150 days a year, hugging thousands of people per day.

I've read reviews calling him a charlatan. I've also never met a leader people agreed with on everything. People call my avoiding flying "unsustainable." It's not going to stop me from doing it.

Whatever your values, a leader's challenge is to stay true to them, knowing you'll face resistance.

Hearing him, his answers seemed genuine and authentic. With my podcast called Leadership and the Environment and my degrees in business and physics--far from supplements and his business--I doubt he could have prepared much except to bring himself.

I think aspiring leaders can learn from Dave Asprey, the man.

I closed by asking about his book.

Game Changers: the Book

I saw the book as both detailed and comprehensive. I asked if his point was to enable a reader to jump start his or her life, to build for the long term, something between, or something else.

He said,

I want to be better at everything I do, that's why I asked 500 experts.
Instead of trying to do what 500 do, which would make your head explode, I analyzed the data and created an order of operations.
You may read Game Changers and say, "These two laws resonate with me. I'm going to do those first." Or you may say, "I'm going to read it now and read it again later."
But if you do something from each of the big three categories--stronger, faster, happier--it is going to provide you with a meaningful improvement in how you perform.

He described how most people have lofty dreams, but don't get results and feel like failures. He shared how he did many times.

He's also succeeded in leading others so they thank him for taking them places they wouldn't have otherwise. He does what he leads others to do.

Again, his products and services are outside my expertise, but as a leader sharing what brought him there, he sounded happy, dedicated, authentic, and genuinely dedicated to enabling others to do the same.

Sounds like someone to learn from.

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