This week I have a wonderful conversation with Ryan Hawk, host of The Learning Leader Show, Huffington Post contributor and executive at LexisNexis. Ryan truly has a passion for learning, and he shares that passion in this interview.
Ryan was a decorated college football quarterback at Miami University and Ohio University. After college, he wanted to learn more about leadership. He launched The Learning Leader Show in an attempt to build the ultimate PhD curriculum on leadership. Ryan also writes on the topics of leading and empowering others for The Huffington Post.
Ryan believes you learn a lot about someone by the questions they ask. One question that he likes to ask others, particularly deep thinkers, is, “What initial questions do you ask others to truly understand how they think?”
Ryan has done thousands of interviews with professionals over the course of his career. “What really differentiates some of the great ones from some of the good ones [are] the questions that they ask. How curious are they? How thoughtful? How good of a listener are they?”
Ryan suggests making a list of the people that you admire and believe are interesting – people you know or don’t know and people that are famous or not famous – and then ask if you can speak with them. It helps if you have a podcast or write for Forbes, but many people will be willing (and happy) to speak with you.
You can also employ this exercise to seek mentorship and education within your business, community or organization. At the end of this process, the people you admire (and who may be in leadership positions) will like you even more, and you will learn a ton. It’s a simple and repeatable process:
- Make a list of the people who really impress you within the company, and then call them or send them a thoughtful e-mail asking if you can talk to them for an hour. By doing this, you are showing that you’re a curious and thoughtful person who likes to learn, and they will be flattered.
- Listen, ask good follow-up questions and take really detailed notes.
- When you are done with the meeting, send them a recap e-mail of everything you learned in that one-hour conversation.
A key aspect of this exercise is to do it because you want to learn and improve. Most people are trying to find a short cut to a promotion. You want to develop relationships. “Relationships are what this world is made of. People who are not willing or are not willing to build relationships probably don’t do well, and the ones that can usually do quite well.”
Ryan’s impact moment began during a dinner with Todd Wagner, one of Mark Cuban’s business partners. Later, after earning his MBA, Ryan was looking at PhD programs focusing on leadership. However, he did not see any curriculum that he enjoyed. “So I thought, why don’t I just create my own Leadership PhD?”
By creating his own Leadership PhD, Ryan is able to seek out the people that he looks up to and admires, and ask to speak with them. “In addition to just learning for myself, I could release those conversations for potentially all of the world to be positively impacted at the same time. I thought that was a beautiful way to share what I was learning with others.” This project grew into The Learning Leader Show.
There are a few things that happen when you give a speech, or record a podcast episode. “You can change the way people think, you can change the way people feel, and you can change the way people act. I want to do all three of those things for my listeners, and for anybody who comes to one of my talks in person.”
Ryan’s original plan was professional football. He received a scholarship to the University of Miami to play as a quarterback, as was Ben Roethlisberger. Other schools tried to pull him away from Miami, so that he would not have to compete with the best. Ryan did the opposite. He moved to campus the day after graduating high school. “My goal was to show the guys that I was willing to outwork everybody. My goal also was to learn every single teammate’s name.”
After two seasons at Miami, Ryan realized that it still wasn’t enough. “It was a great moment, for me, because it taught me that sometimes you can do everything within your power, everything, and you’re still going to lose.” It’s a powerful (and difficult) lesson to learn that helps Ryan overcome things that other people are unable to overcome.
It was a delight speaking with Ryan today. He is one of the most effective and passionate learners in the entrepreneurial space, and I highly recommend checking out some of his interviews with the best leaders in the world.
SOME QUESTIONS I ASK:
- How have mentors impacted you directly?
- What are things that Ryan did to let go of one dream in order to move into a potentially greater opportunity?
- What does Ryan desire for his audience?
- What’s the most memorable experience that Ryan has had executing his process of requesting interviews from the people he admires?
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:
- A process for seeking out knowledge and mentorship from the people that inspire you
- How pursuing knowledge from the people you admire can improve your life
- What the questions you ask (or don’t ask) may reveal about yourself
- How Ryan embraces being a lifelong learner in every aspect of his life
- How Ryan learned a huge life lesson after working to be a better quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger
DON’T BE A PODCAST JUNKIE…