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Feb. 9, 2022

Brian Morgan - A Return to First Principle Thinking

Brian Morgan - A Return to First Principle Thinking

My guest today is Brian Morgan, President of Think Deeply, Write Clearly - a communications coaching company that teaches entrepreneurs how to create trust and credibility by writing powerful content. Brian is a former actor, author, copywriter, marketing expert, and deep thinker.  Brian’s approach to writing developed from a seed of going back to first principles and wondering “What if I questioned whether everything that I was taught was true?”

Please enjoy my conversation with Brian Morgan.

For full show notes, transcript, and links to content discussed in this episode refer to the episode page here:

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Show Notes

[0:02:25] - Growing up in Canada, Brian’s journey involved moving to and then reinventing himself in NYC started at 18 years old

[00:12:02] - Mistakes while trying to promote his first book about Jeanne Hebuterne (Amedeo Modigliani)

[0:16:15 ] - Effective writers are comfortable exposing their unique thought processes

[00:17:06 ] - Helping thoughtful people contribute valuable insights to their fields 

[0:18:14] - Exposing a flaw in The Minto Pyramid Principle 

[0:29:44] - Principles for developing meaningful business connections on Linkedin

[0:35:53] - Identifying how to make observations that are well received

[0:37:51] - Reflecting on observations by Philosophers David Hume, Emanuel Kant, and René Descartes

[0:40:14 ] - Understanding our access point to living a good life

Transcript
Narrator:

Welcome to Compound Ideas, hosted by Ken Majumdar of Ridgewood

Investments. This podcast will feature exceptional individuals to uncover deep insights into business entrepreneurship, personal growth investing and multidisciplinary thinking so that you can learn how to improve your finances, find better investments and pursue authentic, lifelong growth, wisdom and happiness. Learn more and stay up to date at compound ideas, show dot com.

Ken Majmudar:

Our guest today is Brian Morgan, founder of Think Deeply, Write, Clearly a written communications coaching and consulting expert like no other that I have met. I was introduced to Bryan at the beginning of 2020 and was immediately impressed with the originality of his ideas around effectively communicating through the written word. As we have gotten to know each other and collaborate. I've shared insights on investing and achieving financial freedom and success, and he shared his approach to reaching and influencing others through the power of thinking deeply and writing clearly. One of his core insights is that we, as writers, should be taking our readers on a journey through our internal thought processes and not just the conclusions we came to. In our broad ranging conversation today, we discuss the surprising path he took from actor to entrepreneur and now to writing coach that led him to uncover the first principles, thinking and insights that drive his approach today. His was a transition from his first love musical theater and acting to becoming an accomplished writer who has helped many notable clients, including corporate clients working on billion dollar real estate and economic development projects, and also many entrepreneurs, including professional football player Desmond Clark, who used his ideas to become a noted speaker and in-demand personality. Please enjoy my conversation with Brian.

Ken Majmudar:

Brian, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here.

Brian Morgan:

Thanks, Ken, for the invitation. Really appreciate you taking the time.

Ken Majmudar:

Absolutely. I've known you now for not quite a year, but I've been impressed by a lot of the things I've been able to learn from you. So hopefully we'll be able to get some of that genius and magic that you put out share and others can benefit from it like I have. Let's start at the beginning. I don't think we've ever talked about this. Tell me about your upbringing, where you grew up, what your family was like, where you hail from. Those sorts of things are always interesting as a point of reference.

Brian Morgan:

Sure, I'll start with I don't know if anybody else goes through this or needs to hear this, but I'll say I loved that this happened. I grew up in a place that when I was 18, I moved to New York and wanted to reinvent myself completely and was largely able to do that. The answer to your question is I grew up in a place called London, Ontario, Canada, and I was born in Montreal and my father was the president of a university and a philosopher. My mother at that time was religious, but she was also in public health. She was a nurse, but for most of our lives, she was at home. The dynamic there was really difficult. My mother needed a lot of attention and my father was very distant. On top of being predisposed to big ideas and philosophical thinking and lots of reading and all those sorts of things. He was also gay. He didn't tell anybody that until he was 60, and so there was a lot of conscious and subconscious anger in that house. My brother and I lived in that and grew in the tension of that for a long time. When I got to New York, I was looking for mentors. I knew that I didn't have the right model in life. I got to New York at 18 and I was looking for people to teach, coach, learn from grow from that's a process that's still going for me. The great blessing of growing up in a difficult, distant where you know that it's not great is that you also learn to look for different things. And I think that that in the end was a tremendous blessing because knowing early that I needed to look for different things allowed me to start to see different things and start to find different things. I do some coaching through our business where you and I know each other, and that I find is one of the hardest things. The largest question that none of us ever ask is how do we know that the things we know are true are true? Much of that is subconscious and learned subconsciously, largely from where we come from, that it's a fairly healthy thing to say. What if I questioned everything that I was taught was true and start from there? And I would say that's a process that I started very seriously before 18, but very seriously at 18 in New York, and it was a very useful thing to go through.

Ken Majmudar:

That's so fascinating. We could take this in a bunch of different directions. I haven't heard a story quite like that. I have heard and even myself experienced different degrees of childhood trauma around growing up a certain way. One parent or both parents or whatever, it sounds like in your case, it was really a tough environment, probably. How did you process that back then and what happened at 18? How did you go from Canada to immigrating here?

Brian Morgan:

I hadn't anticipated telling this story, but let's do this. Here's the real answer to your question. My father at one point wanted to be a seminarian when he was younger and he was in the seminary and to use his words, they didn't quite kick him out. They suggested to him that he could serve God in other ways.

Ken Majmudar:

And that was his trauma that he was trying to process.

Brian Morgan:

My father was a closet philosopher and the church wasn't offering all of the answer to the philosophical questions that he wanted, but we were very Catholic growing up and that was a big part of our upbringing. And I went to Catholic schools and I remember I was 15 years old and I went down to the church bathroom and I was just overcome with this sense of things aren't right. Sat on the toilet and I thought, I don't know anyone who's happy that full sentence crossed my mind.

Ken Majmudar:

What were you thinking about your immediate family or even extended everyone?

Brian Morgan:

My extended family wasn't happy. I went to school with the kids in that church. They weren't happy. Their parents weren't happy. It was an all encompassing statement. I don't know anyone who is happy, and I sat there and I thought, What can I look at differently? I was 15 and I didn't realize, but this is really my business. In retrospect, it started right here. I got up and I said, I am not going to make any decision anymore unless I understand and believe that the reasons behind that decision are true. So I'm not going to take anybody's word for it anymore.

Ken Majmudar:

Going back to first principles and questioning everything,

Brian Morgan:

Everything. I'm not going to believe Catholic doctrine just because it's Catholic, doctrine, I'm not going to believe what the business people say is good business. I'm not going to believe what the teachers say is the way life is. I'm not going to believe anything unless I can understand the reasons why I think it is true.

Ken Majmudar:

What's the connection between that? And nobody's happy.

Brian Morgan:

I reckon I have better language right now than I would have then. But somewhere in me, I recognized that we all sought comfort in someone else's view of the world, collaborating and creating rules and ideas around someone else's view of the world. But someone else's view of the world, including our parents who we love, including our teachers who we love, are also born of ignorance. When we create so much, I need this to be true in life. There's almost nothing that is that true that we can rely on it to a degree without questioning it. So if we don't understand why that thing is true and simply that a teacher or that a parent, or that a business person said it was true, and I'm going to rely on that. We live in a space of deep insecurity. That insecurity, I think, makes people incredibly unhappy. Now, I couldn't have said that at 15, but that was kind of what was happening.

Ken Majmudar:

This reminds me of a couple of things just to throw it into the mix. There's a book that I've read called the Code of the Extraordinary Mind by this guy Vishen Lakhiani. I don't know if you've heard of it or not. He coined the term called brules, which is bullshit rules on his own through his experiences, which he describes in the book. When he was young, probably a similar age as you. He realized, Hey, there's all these bullshit rules everywhere, and everybody's telling me this is the way it is, and this is what I have to believe. Through his own way to what you were saying was you made the connection, which I think was actually very insightful, especially for a 15 year old that you're saying nobody's happy. Maybe the main reason they're not happy is because they're buying into all this bullshit. That doesn't happen to be true. And so the way you're going to get out of this cycle is by questioning things and going back to first principles and not just taking anybody's word for it. Is that a fair distillation?

Brian Morgan:

Very fair.

Ken Majmudar:

That's pretty incredible that that was your journey at age 15. I think people today at 50 still haven't quite gotten there, you know, 60 or sometimes sadly never even their entire life, right? So what happened between 15 and 18 and how did you end up coming to the United States? Maybe college. Was that the path?

Brian Morgan:

Ish, I actually came here to be an actor.

Ken Majmudar:

People are listening to this, so they can't see. But you are a good looking guy. You look like you could be an actor.

Brian Morgan:

You know, you're very kind.

Ken Majmudar:

Actually, they can see the little podcast thing and see your mug there. So if anybody wants to comment on whether I'm right or wrong about, feel free.

Brian Morgan:

Yeah, I came here to be an actor. That was my narcissistic response.

Ken Majmudar:

Were you a thespian doing school plays and taking lead roles in the musicals and so forth?

Brian Morgan:

More importantly, I was writing them. That was really my avenue at that time. I came to New York. I wanted to be in musicals. I shouldn't have been because I was not a naturally good singer. I had to spend a lot of money learning how to sing well, and I did. I probably just would have been better not trying to do that. The turn that we're looking for probably is I was in my mid-20s in a play with a guy who was the most published playwright in America at that time, a guy named Fred Carmichael. He wasn't the best playwright, but he was the most published.

Ken Majmudar:

Really like had written the most plays? Fred Carmichael.

Brian Morgan:

Fred, Carmichael, and it was because he ran a place called the Dorset Theater something or other for a bunch of years, so they would produce a lot of his plays and then Samuel French would publish them all. And so he was the most famous playwright there. And some of them did well and toured and things, and a lot of them didn't. I was on with Fred, and Fred was in his 70s and I was 25. We were doing a show. And it was the closing night of the show and was teasing him because he was looking over the script, and I said you old man you still don't know your lines. Teasing him. And he essentially said, do you want to be a brat or do you want to learn something? And so he said, I always looked it over every night before I go on the stage. And this is why when we first learned the play, we're always worried about the blocking. We're always worried about what I do. What's my motivation? It's all basic stuff. But by this time, I love it because by this time I'm looking at it and I'm seeing things I've never seen before. For instance, I'm now wondering why he left a comma here. Not a period. I've been playing this as if it's a period. And the minute you drop that period and you put it into a comma, it changes the speed of the sentence. And if it changes the speed of the sentence, it changes the motivation for the sentence. And I missed it the first half dozen times. We've done it. I was like, I'm going to investigate that deeply, scripts and almost instantly, I didn't want to be an actor anymore. I wanted to be a writer because I realized that what Fred was saying to me without saying it was get your own damn ego out of the way. See what's actually here. Deliver what's here so that the play works better. And the minute I got that, my reviews went through the roof and my desire to do it because all I really wanted to do was be noticed. My desire to do it went down. I was like, I am going to be a writer. That was the transition.

Ken Majmudar:

What year would that have been?

Brian Morgan:

I was maybe twenty five, twenty six late nineties.

Ken Majmudar:

And your idea was, you would write, probably plays, I would assume,

Brian Morgan:

Actually books.

Ken Majmudar:

Fiction.

Brian Morgan:

Yeah. And I wrote, I know that no one else can see this, but I'll show you behind my desk is a Amedeo Modigliani print. I spent 20 years researching and writing a historical fiction novel about the woman who killed herself the day after he died. She was eight months pregnant with his child. Everything that was written in English I read studied to the point of I would be able to say, where were they in May 1919? And I would know immediately and the types of things they were doing. And so I knew that backwards and forwards. I tried to publish that book a few years back, had very good agents and it didn't happen.

Ken Majmudar:

What was the name of the book?

Brian Morgan:

It was called Modigliani Read, and I started writing another book, a conglomerate of things. And this is probably what your business oriented people would be looking for. A conglomeration of things were happening at the same time. Number one, I had enormous skill in writing, but had written a book that put it this way. We had very good agents. They went to the highest levels of publishing, and if they couldn't publish at that highest level, they weren't particularly interested because they just take the next person in line and go to the highest level. So they weren't particularly interested in publishing it at a smaller book place or whatever. We went big and we didn't win, and there were a series of mistakes and there all of them mine, meaning I over edited the book to the point where I didn't like it anymore, and that was a mistake. It was a version of the book that was better than the one we tried to sell. We went through that situation and then came up against, do you want to write another book? Well, at the same time, I was paying my bills by being the managing editor at New York's premier planning and environmental firm. And we did World Trade. We did One Penn Station, we did every major project in New York, and they had a massive inconsistency with their writing and it was costing them a lot of money. They started to tap me. Can you teach? At the same time, I was starting to teach in the universities and at the same time I was starting to write another book. An agent took me out to dinner at one point and said, I'd like to take another crack at the book. I think it could still happen. And I said, Can I be really honest with you? I could write another book in five years, but I still think that's 50 50. And I think it would be a very good book, I think would be a well written book, but I still think I'm going to be white. I'm going to be male. I'm going to be a lot of things publishing isn't looking for in five years. It's going to be 50 50, even if it's a great book. The other thing I can do here is start a business, and I think that this business is solving a big need and is quite possibly a one two five $10 million a year business.

Ken Majmudar:

That business exists now, and it's called

Brian Morgan:

Think Deeply, Write Clearly.

Ken Majmudar:

Think Deeply, Write Clearly. Let's talk about that business and what you do in that business. But I want to go back then to what you learned about being a good writer.

Brian Morgan:

Sure.

Ken Majmudar:

Tell us about your work that you're doing right now

Brian Morgan:

Because of those conglomerations of things. I realized that all of the best writing, training and insights about writing were locked in the most useless space in the country. They were all locked in academics. All the best insights about writing were locked in academics, and they were locked in the book publishing world and in the artistic world. And those are the last people that you want to actually have those insights because they don't have any cultural or emotional power. They pretend to be the smartest people on the planet, but they're not. And one of the proofs of that is that they pretend to be the smartest people on the planet. One of the things that you realize is that all of the skill they have developed is being used for things that don't make a difference. It is the most valuable skill in the world to be able to understand how information moves and why a sentence is credible and heard as credible as somebody else, it's the most powerful thing in the world. If you apply it in the right way and it's enormously powerful for you because you will create wealth for people and where you invest will produce things in the world that will come back and improve the world and all sorts of wonderful things happen. So if you have that skill, then wonderful things happen for a lot of people, including the world, it gets locked in spaces where people really try to get published in The New Yorker and get likes and shares on Facebook, but it doesn't actually always produce a result.

Ken Majmudar:

Let me peel that back to generalize it. My business is I do investments for people and advise them financially, which is sort of what you were alluding to. But really, it's generalizable and you have many clients in different industries and every person has their thing that they contribute, how they add value to the people that they work with. So go back to your point that you were making one insight you had was that I want to understand it. First of all, is it that the skill and the best writing insights there with these academics and publishing houses, is that what you're saying?

Brian Morgan:

The way over generalize? Probably slightly unfair version of what I'm saying is the people we consistently give pens to are not the people who have the most to say.

Ken Majmudar:

I see what you're saying, but it's not that they specifically have some massive insight that everybody else is missing out on. It's just that they have the big microphone,

Brian Morgan:

They have the microphones number one, and they're comfortable exposing their thoughts, which is really what is underneath a lot of reticence to write for other people. The vast amount of my clients have much deeper insights than the vast amount of things that get published in The New Yorker. But the people in The New Yorker are comfortable publishing their thoughts. What's the structure of getting comfortable structuring your thoughts? That's really what we've taken on here and to tremendous response, because when we made that bet, we were right that there were a tremendous amount of thoughtful, meaningful people who want to add value to their fields and provide insight to their field who are not comfortable doing it.

Ken Majmudar:

What I'm hearing you saying, this is something that I've learned from knowing you. The power in writing comes from having the courage or experience to actually expose your thought process to put it out there. I think that's not normally what people think of writing as. I think this is like a big insight. How did you come to this epiphany or realization as it was for me when I heard about it?

Brian Morgan:

Well, I don't know, but what I had to learn was that what we often did was state into the world, the things that we believe to be true. The problem with stating into the world, the things that we believe to be true is that the human being has a zero point zero zero batting average on actually getting anything right. What I realized was that we had a world and this is what we are taught academically and it's what we're taught in business and it's really what they call the Minto Pyramid, the McKinsey Pyramid way of teaching writing, which is state the thing that is true and then state all of your reasons for it. And it's fine. Aside from, it's structured around how the writer understands information. It's not structured around how the reader hears it. A credible sentence is not going to be credible if I state something to be true and then all the reasons why I believe to be true, unless you also believe that I have accessed the right information to make it true. What was my thought process for selecting that piece of information? What was my methodology for that? And if you can get that process down into somebody else's attention span, you start to realize that all the credibility of the statement is not what I think is true or the reasons I think it's true. It's the connective tissue I'm making around the things that I think are true to make that true. So how am I connecting data to make this conclusion

Ken Majmudar:

To make it even more concrete? Can you give us an actual example?

Brian Morgan:

Sure. A lot of our clients are leadership development, life coach type people.That tends to be a lot of what people write about and their thought leadership. So they'll say something like leadership is uncomfortable or fear is the killer of success or something. That's a nice, pithy statement. That's a conclusion of information that is being inferred but not seen. And so the question becomes, what is that statement relying on? Where is that information coming from? And they say, Well, I have a client who this and that and the other thing. Then they start to say, Well, my data for that is my experience.But just because you saw somebody have this issue and then they overcame fear, that's your interpretation of what they did. Is somebody else going to say, OK, that sounds like they overcame fear or somebody else is going to say, I look at that differently. All of the credibility of statements is going to come from what am I noticing? And how am I piecing it together, not what am I noticing, and therefore it is inferred and your business, we see this all the time. We see somebody say there's a inflation print. That means that inflation is going to skyrocket in twenty twenty two. Well, no. The credibility of the statement is actually the difference between the inflation print and the conclusion is going to skyrocket in twenty twenty two. What are you looking at to conclude that this is the story behind the inflation print which is going to make that true? And until recently, people started to say this is temporary. Now they're starting to say, maybe it's not so temporary. So the credibility of the statement was all built on how you were connecting the dots, not the dots themselves.

Ken Majmudar:

What this reminds me of, and I forget who said this, it's one of my favorite quotes. The universe is made up of stories, not atoms. You have to tell stories to connect the chain of thought. That's one of the things that you help your clients do. So when the business started, was it called Think Deeply Write Clearly right away?

Brian Morgan:

Mm hmm.

Ken Majmudar:

Was the model now the same model that you started with, or did it evolve over time?

Brian Morgan:

It evolved and continues to evolve. When we first started doing it, I thought I would go in and teach writing to corporations, and we do do that. We have some fairly significant corporate clients and we help them with their reporting and everything else. And it's all the same stuff everybody struggles with. When you draw a conclusion and a report, I have to know why that is credible and they don't know that's what they're struggling with, but that's what they're struggling with.What we're seeing is we don't have a writing issue.We have a thinking issue which is showing up in the writing. So we have to fix the thinking issue first. So I thought that's what I'd be doing and we did start doing that. The thing is, we started doing it fairly well and we weren't spending any money on advertising. We were just writing well about writing on LinkedIn, and specific people started to call. Then other entrepreneurs started to say, Can you teach me how to do that? I don't want you to come in and teach my staff, I want you to teach me how to write like that so that I get clients from LinkedIn. That became a second income stream, helping entrepreneurs do that and sometimes writing content for them, moving now into a model where we have more group trainings and larger discussions and the side effect of this, this is something that you are likely to really appreciate when a conversation starts with how do we know the things we know are true are true? It is a human baseline Of this is going to be a good conversation. And my favorite thing about this entrepreneurial part of the business is that four or five times a day and then when we have our group sessions once a week, we get really deep conversations. I am in an exceptionally deep conversation four or five times a day and twice per week in a group conversation that as much as people want to learn how to write and think better, which I think they do learn from us, many of them stay and keep a monthly subscription with us because they want the conversation, even after they completely understand the principles and how to apply it and LinkedIn and even monetize. And some of them do very, very well in life. They still want just the conversation because that I think is missing in a society, the space where you say, if we all walk in and say we're completely ignorant, how do we reconstruct the world to make credible statements? And that there's a beauty of creativity and courage inside of ignorance there? That space in the world is very useful.

Ken Majmudar:

Now your practice, your business, Think Deeply, Write Clearly, you have the corporate training. That's a part of it. And then you have the work with entrepreneurs and help them do it more on a one on one. Or they can learn how to do it in a group setting.

Brian Morgan:

Correct. What's slightly confusing is we write content for some people and that is becoming less and less of our model. As we go forward, we'll maintain everybody that we're currently working.

Ken Majmudar:

So it's more of a training through groups and these are live sessions where you guys are talking to people.

Brian Morgan:

These are live sessions. And then there's a digital background. There's our principles of writing, there's our LinkedIn training, there's everything we used in order to be effective on LinkedIn, available to people.

Ken Majmudar:

So if somebody is listening to this and they're saying, Oh, this is fascinating, I love this idea of exposing your thought process and starting with thinking deeply first, and they want to learn more and find out about your service.

Ken Majmudar:

What's the best way to do that?

Brian Morgan:

The easiest way to do that on our website, which is Think Deeply Write Clearly, there's a link in the footer for an introductory phone call. That's the easiest way to start a conversation, and I would love to do that with anybody who'd be interested in a conversation with us

Ken Majmudar:

Since we're talking about it. Give us an example of one or two entrepreneurs who maybe have gone through this process of what happened or what they got out of it.

Brian Morgan:

There are a couple of different client avatars. The first one is if you run a corporation and you are a manager on a team and you're probably spending your weekend. Frustrated because you're editing things and you wish you were at your kid's birthday party, that person, we can help and that team, we can help. That's on, say, the corporate training side. On the entrepreneurial side, it tends to be somebody who says, I've been through two or three copywriting classes. I've been posting on social media for two years and I've gotten four phone calls and they were all people that I didn't want to work with. Can you walk me through your process to actually be talking to the people that I want to be talking to and turning those people into really aligned awesome relationships and clients? So it tends to be somebody who's been through the wringer a couple of times and then they say what I learned about language and how language moves was not actually how smart people listen or hear language. And the minute you make that connection, you realize we don't as a culture, understand how people hear language or hear credible pieces of information. And once you control that, you control the world. You get a lot of power in the world once you have that.

Ken Majmudar:

Is there an example like the guy that you talked about, tried all this stuff, got four calls to where they switched to this way and what happened?

Brian Morgan:

I'll give you an easy one that a lot of people would know. One of our clients is Desmond Clark.He's very upfront about that. So I don't mind saying that he was statistically the second best tight end in the Chicago Bears history, and he's a speaker. He has been through all of these things. How do you get speaking, client? What's my funnel strategy? What's my intent, etc. The minute we started working with him now, it helps. If you have a massive following to start, I'll say, but it doesn't matter. Information only moves one way. Whether you're developing that with us or whether you already have, it doesn't matter. But as a matter of comparison, the greatest views he had ever seen on LinkedIn before he started working with us was ten thousand. The third thing we did together had over 5000 responses and something like two hundred thousand views. The following day, he received three speaking opportunities and it was like, This now, does it help? He's well known and he has ten thousand followers, of course, but essentially nothing was working. And then we got in there and said, How do we make this true for people so that they can see how credibly you think through this information so that they will hire you to speak? The minute we had that conversation, he got it. He implemented it.

Ken Majmudar:

You haven't published a book about your whole thing yet. I don't know if you're working on one or not, but say somebody is a startup not quite ready to sign up and hire somebody to do it for them or whatever. Are there any ideas or resources that somebody listening who says, you know, this is a great idea. I want to get a little better at this or understand it better? How could they start to apply it in their own way?

Brian Morgan:

A couple of different things. There is a free course that we have every one of our clients. We ended up saying a couple of different things to them, so we in essence just made a course that said those things. So we have a free course. If you send me an email, I'll get that link to you. You can find that on our website. I'll get that link to you for this free course. And when you get the free course, you'll also get a writing tip and writing insight every two weeks from us. You don't need any relationship with us, we just want to do that.

Ken Majmudar:

Can you give your email?

Brian Morgan:

The best one to write for that would be admin at Think Deeply, Write Clearly.

Ken Majmudar:

How long ago did you start doing this, whether it's for big companies, for entrepreneurs? How long has it been?

Brian Morgan:

It was just over two years. I left my former job on October 1st twenty nineteen

Ken Majmudar:

Just pre-pandemic.

Brian Morgan:

Yeah

Ken Majmudar:

It's grown and you've gotten a bunch of clients and continue to grow.

Brian Morgan:

I've been extraordinarily lucky. And for people to see the power of this understanding of things, when I left that job, I thought, like most people, I would scrounge for the first year, get my systems in place, and then I would make probably half of what I was formally making. Two weeks later, I was like, I might make the whole thing. Two weeks after that, I thought I might double it.In our first year. We ended up tripling it.

Ken Majmudar:

Essentially, your biggest thing besides referrals is you're using the same ideas and you're doing your own writing for yourself, primarily on Linkedin.

Brian Morgan:

Yes

Ken Majmudar:

Interesting. You're sort of eating your own cooking, right? So to speak.

Brian Morgan:

We are totally eating our own cooking. And for anyone who is struggling with lead generation or anything like that, I love this strategy. So what we've been able to do, what you and I are talking about a lot is create relationships on LinkedIn. Have those turn into clients. Have that become a fairly steady cash flow. Then if you have more cash than you have expenses, what happens to the cash? Turn it into advertising. Our first couple of years, we were generating cash on Linkedin. We're now able to or very close to being able to generate clients on digital marketing, which is going to expand fairly heavily. But information only moves one way, and I would just caution everybody because we all seem to be going through the same thing. The world has changed and that there was a moment and it wasn't that long ago, it was less than 10 years ago. Where if you simply had a presence, you would get work, but that's no longer true. I know who the Kardashians are, but I wouldn't hire them to do anything. I don't trust them. The trick is how are we using the space that we have to create trust and to create credibility that I think is not being taught? But those are the people who are teaching digital marketing funnels because it's what they did 10 years ago, and it worked 10 years ago, but it no longer works.

Ken Majmudar:

What works now? What do you do in Linkedin? Why LinkedIn? And then what works on Linkedin? Given your experience of what's changed and how writing impacts that

Brian Morgan:

Linkedin, number one has a massive advantage over all the other platforms, which is that you know who the person is on all the other platforms. You have to go out and they have to identify themselves, so they need to respond to you in some way. And then you try to cultivate them. But on Linkedin, you know who they are first, which is going to change the relationship, which means I can go and say, Ken, before I've met you, I just read something you wrote on LinkedIn. I think it's exceptionally useful. You seem like a really smart guy. I can know that before I engage in relationship with you, I would love to know you better. We all of a sudden have rapport from the get go. That rapport is almost impossible to get quickly on any other platform, so LinkedIn is fast in that way. The second thing that I would say and this is true on all platforms, there is a standard market understanding of whatever your market is right now. So in your field, it's something like if you invest your money over time, it compounds and you'll get six to eight percent per year. Whatever compliance allows people to say, everybody is saying that the trick is, well, what are you saying that's going to look different and engender more trust than that? Where I love, where you write about a lot is you can trust that capital will create capital and that a free market will find the businesses that will help it succeed in a civilization. Everybody else is going to be saying you're at six percent, eight percent, just stay invested, etc., etc. All of a sudden, the really intelligent, wise people who make good connections between details separate themselves even inside that market. If we identify for every one of our clients or anyone who listening wants to identify for themselves, where is it that you say, why is that thing true? And let me start to language the why? Then you get all of Linkedin. Everybody then goes to you and says, I came across your stuff. You seem like the most thoughtful person in this space. I would love to have a conversation. It's because you're operating at a deeper level.

Ken Majmudar:

Let's say that you're using those principles, and now it's think deeply. Two years ago. Walk us through how you implemented that through LinkedIn and why it was so quick. What was it that you were sharing and how were you sharing it on LinkedIn that got so much attention from the right people?

Brian Morgan:

Two different things. One is outreach. You can control your outreach on Linkedin so that you can ensure that you're coming in contact with the people that you want to work with. You control who is seeing it, so that's a huge part of it. And then secondly, know where the market is. I knew how every writing training organization was talking about writing, and none of them were saying the thing that everybody knew to be true, but they hadn't heard the language for it yet, which was that we don't have a writing problem. We have a thinking problem that's showing up in the writing. And the minute you say that in front of the people who run departments at massive organizations, they say, that's true. I have to have a conversation.

Ken Majmudar:

You've had some time now to develop in a lot of different areas when you were an actor, singer, writer, fiction writer and now you're a coach and a business person and an entrepreneur. What would you say is your superpower today?

Brian Morgan:

I don't mean this to be flippant. I really mean it quite seriously. I'm superhuman at finding ignorance, including and especially my own, because all credible information is going to start at. Not what I know, but where's the gap in my understanding? And what are the assumptions that I am making about that gap? At that point, we start to realize that how a sentence moves in theater or how a sentence moves in a book or in a fiction book, or a political speech or a LinkedIn post or a report is all the same thing, which is how are people overcoming their own gap in knowledge with assessment? That's true across all writing. We don't talk about that enough if we even knew it to be true. We don't talk about that enough.

Ken Majmudar:

That's really interesting. I didn't expect that answer, so I'd like to probe that a little bit. How does one become really good at or superhuman at identifying ignorance or picking up on it and using it as a jumping off point.

Brian Morgan:

I think it's using it as a jumping off point. There is a lot of power and just recognizing that power doesn't come from what we know, it comes from being able to admit the things that we don't know. So if you walk into a room and you are suddenly asked to speak, the most powerful person in the room is the person who's been observing everything. And then when they get the opportunity to speak, say as I look and hear. What I'm hearing today, I am assessing it this way. We seem to be solving it this way and I see a gap there, but I might not completely understand the situation.One of two things are going to happen. You're going to get the gap that the people in that room have that you don't have. Or you just saved that room full of people. A lot of trouble because they were about to go down a path that didn't make sense. The real trick is how do we phrase things and get things past people where they hear it in a way that they say, Wow, that's a good observation or that's a good connection of observation. Not you really pissed me off with what you just said, which is what we tend to do because the same person might say, You guys are looking at this all wrong. Now we have a problem. To me, the answer is we have to acknowledge we are fully ignorant, they are fully ignorant, and we have to stare at all the information we have available and make the best assessments of them. Once we recognize that that's the collective problem, then my role in it is to say I think I'm ignorant in a lot of different places, but this is what I'm noticing. What are you seeing? And a lot of power comes from that.

Ken Majmudar:

That's really interesting answer. So now I'm going to ask you the corollary because we asked you about your super powers. What's your kryptonite?

Brian Morgan:

Time management. I don't feel badly about this, but I recognize it as something that I need to manage. What I have found I love stewing on ideas because I completely trust that if I stew on an idea for an hour or a day or a week or a month or a year, I'm going to find really interesting things about that idea and really interesting things that get underneath that idea after a phone call with someone as wise and intelligent as you, I will think about that phone call and think, Oh, we can do this and we can do that, and it will be days before I want to start writing or thinking or the next part of that because there's this stew and I love that stew. And I think in so many ways, that's what people hire us for. It's also terrible in a business because so much of that stew is taking time from other clients, et cetera. I need to structure staffing and a few other things around, helping us be more efficient while still giving us the time to stew and be high quality thinkers.

Ken Majmudar:

What are some of the best books that you're reading now that you've read that have the most impact on you? Are there any people you really pay attention to or podcast you really love as well?

Brian Morgan:

I would recommend any business owner read David Eagleman Books. David Eagleman wrote a book that I think every business owner should read called Incognito, and it's just about the human brain and how we process information. To put this in perspective, I used to read David Hume, the philosopher David Hume, quite a lot, and I went back to David Hume after I read David Eagleman books and realized that Eagleman, in a very scientific way, has proven or disproven everything Hume was wondering about a couple hundred years ago.

Ken Majmudar:

I have read David Hume a long time ago. It was at Columbia in our core curriculum, and I'm a little rusty. So tell us in a nutshell, what was David Hume all about? That relates to what Eagleman is writing about.

Brian Morgan:

David Hume.He swore that we were wrong on rationality. I think brain science has come to show that he was right. He says we're wrong on rationality. I know the Sun came up yesterday. I know that Sun came up the day before, but I cannot guarantee that it comes up tomorrow because I'm ignorant. I have a good probability I would bet on it, but I can't guarantee it. There's enough things in the world that I don't know that I can't say it's true. Emmanuel Kante, who came after him, I think was so bothered by this that he tried to make it clear that we had enough power to make rational decisions and he couldn't. Then he did a very useful thing, I think, for people, which was to write a book of ethics, given that we're ignorance. How do we behave ethically?

Ken Majmudar:

What's the philosophical basis for ethical behavior? I guess,

Brian Morgan:

Correct? That's the Descartes to Hume to Kant triangle there. I always loved Hume's writing because it was such a thumb in the eye of the thinking of the day. They were insights that we would later learn in brain science. He was identifying something that he didn't have the science for, but it's there, and Eagleman is literally talking about how do we make connections in the brain? How do connections get formed and where do our assumptions get formed? And that's a fascinating process if you understand that you can make much better business decisions in terms of everything, in terms of staffing, in terms of where your business might go in terms of the things that the world needs at a very core level, how do human beings operate. That's what Eagleman is taking on.

Ken Majmudar:

What are things you're currently wondering about or thinking about or looking at in the world that others might not have quite focused on that are really interesting or will be really impactful in the future?

Brian Morgan:

Well, I don't know about impactful in the future, but I'll say this is the idea that I'm stuck on recently and I find it to be more and more true. The world really only operates on a certain few principles. We all have access points to those principles, but eventually we all have to deal with the same thing. So my access point to how to live. A good life is through language and yours is through finance, but at the end of the day, we all have to operate around a few core things. And I'm finding this fascinating because when you don't understand this bad things happen. The core things are how do we deal with human ignorance? How do we deal with a lack of knowledge? What are the things we are doing to compensate positively or negatively for human ignorance and knowledge and lack of knowledge in every relationship I've ever been in, every client relationship I've ever been in the business world, in client development, and when clients don't work out, all of that stuff is at the core of it. I'm fascinated that all of us deal with several core things from a bunch of different access points we're teachers we're academics. We're writers, we're right in the New Yorker, we are politicians, we run wealth management organizations, but it's all dealing with the same kind of core stuff.

Ken Majmudar:

I think we've almost come full circle because you started off, you talked about at age 15 this jarring realization that nobody's happy and it's because they're not questioning things. So essentially, they're taking ignorance for truth. And now we're ending on the note of the central issue for everybody is how do we deal with human ignorance and our own lack of knowledge? That's an amazing insight. I want to thank you for sharing so much and being so open. I thought it was an amazing discussion, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with people.

Brian Morgan:

Thank you, Ken. You remain one of the most thoughtful people in the world that I ever get to speak to, and I'm grateful for that. Thank you.

Ken Majmudar:

I really enjoyed speaking to Brian Morgan today, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did from his starting point that no one around him was happy. Brian has come a long way indeed to become an expert, writer, marketer and deep thinker, among other things. I was struck by his observation at age 15 that an inability to reflect on the origin of our internal processes can lead to depression. I was just as much impressed by his insights that credible communications is built on making our internal thought processes transparent to our audiences. We also discussed Barbara Pinto's pyramid principle framework for writing and presenting ideas that influence Brian, as well as Brian's insight that impactful writing should start by understanding why the reader perceives information to be credible. I was also impressed to learn that Brian's young business not only survived the pandemic, but tripled its expected earnings in its first year. Great businesses are born from good ideas and survive with the right leadership in place. I'd also encourage you to read any of the books we mentioned on this show, including the Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani and Incognito The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman.

Narrator:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Compound Ideas, hosted by Ken Majumdar of Ridgewood Investments. Connect with Ken. Learn more about the show and never miss an episode at Compound Ideas show dot.com. Ken Majmudar is the founder of Ridgewood Investments and several other affiliated companies. All opinions expressed by Ken and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of Ridgewood Investments or any of its affiliates. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. Clients of Ridgewood Investments and its affiliates may maintain positions in the securities discussed in this podcast.