Season 4
30 Minutes

E118 | Jay Samit | When A Celebrated Disruptor Makes Pop Art

Jay Samit is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on disruption and innovation. Jay raises hundreds of millions of dollars for startups, sells companies to Fortune 500 firms and transforms entire industries. He is a former NASDAQ company CEO and Independent Vice Chairman of Deloitte. Jay helped grow pre-IPO companies such as LinkedIn, held senior management roles at EMI, Sony and Universal Studios. Everyone from the Pope to the President calls on Jay to orchestrate positive change in this era of endless innovation.

Jay is also the international bestselling author of Disrupt You, published in ten languages, and Future Proofing You. During the pandemic, Jay began to create celebrated pop-art cartoons that brim with sly social commentary.

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Jay Samit  00:00

companies only bring me in when they’ve exhausted every other choice. I’ve never been somebody’s phone call. We’ve had our best year. Jay, come on over and help. I actually got a call from Google during the pandemic, they had a problem. And I go, Wait a second, guys. I may have, you know, a normal ego. But I know that there’s nothing that I know that Google doesn’t know. I want to know something I Google it. Yeah, you have more PhD scientists geniuses. What in God’s earth do I know how to do that you don’t?

Achim Nowak  00:32

Welcome to the mindful act podcast. I’m your host of Innova. And I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected lives. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on any major podcast platform, so you won’t miss a single one of my inspiring guests. And please consider posting an appreciative review. Let’s get started. I am delighted to welcome Jay Samet to the my fourth act podcast. Jay is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on disruption and innovation. Jay raises hundreds of millions of dollars for startups sells companies to Fortune 500 firms and transforms entire industries. He is a former NASDAQ company CEO and independent vice chairman of Deloitte. Jay helped grow pre IPO companies such as LinkedIn held senior management roles at EMI, Sony and at Universal Studios. Everyone from the Pope to the president calls on Jay to orchestrate positive change in this era of endless innovation. Jay is also the International Best Selling Author of disrupt you published in 10 languages and future proofing you in his spare time. And I say this with a bit of a chuckle because I’m curious about what spare time looks like for Jay Jay creates delicious pop art influenced artworks. That brim was sly social commentary. In 2020, J had his first solo show titled America disrupted at the Richard tight injured Gallery in New York. Hello, Jay.

Jay Samit  02:20

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Achim Nowak  02:23

Oh, my pleasure. I’m always curious when you were a young boy or teenager growing up and people asked you What do you want to do with your life? What were you thinking about Jay?

Jay Samit  02:35

I was the generation that went to the movie theaters and saw this amazing movie called Star Wars. And I’m like, oh my god, what would be more fun than to make Hollywood special effects. So when I got out of college, I’m like, This is what I want to do a couple problems. I knew nothing about special effects. I knew no one in Hollywood. But I figured out that there must be a path. Most people look at applying for jobs. And you realize that there’s somebody that’s already done that job and has years of experience and will be better. I put a blind ad in Daily Variety, the trade magazine describing an entry level job that I would like to have as if it was a company offering, right. And that gave me two pieces of data that showed me a bunch of resumes came in what my resume would need to look like to get one of those jobs. And number two, all those people had one foot out the door. So I now knew a bunch of companies that were going to have somebody. That approach got me going, I started my first special effects company. It’s called Jasmine productions, Jay Allen Samet, and it’s mine, and I didn’t make myself CEO. I just made myself head of sales, because who would hire a special effects company with a 20 year old head, and I hustled with that business card, I invested $1 got work. And then I figured out how to hire the people that knew what they were doing. Fast forward rating first auction became eBay or LinkedIn or any of these giant things, it’s always the same premise. You can either work for somebody else to make their dreams come true, or work for yourself, and find those people that would rather have the security of a job. That’s basically my career in a nutshell.

Achim Nowak  04:18

I will listen to you and I’m right, immediately thinking it takes a certain hutzpah to do what you did. So bravo. Not everybody has that. But as I’m listening to you, because I mentioned Deloitte, how in house were you there versus doing your own thing? I’m curious. My

Jay Samit  04:37

whole career was a series of being an entrepreneur until the size companies you were creating and selling got acquired by the giant guys. Then you became what was called an intrapreneur. Large corporations like when the iPod came out, Sony was in trouble. So you bring in somebody like me at the top and can you steer the ship a different direction, and the same thing was with Deloitte magnificent firm think they’re almost 200 years old at this point to over 40 billion a year. But if you stop and think about it, AI is going to replace 90% of middle management, consulting accounting. They don’t have a future unless they radically change. Companies only bring me in when they’ve exhausted every other choice. I’ve never been somebody’s phone call. We’ve had our best year. Jay, come on over and help. I actually got a call from Google during the pandemic, they number three, Google, they had a problem. And I go, Wait a second, guys. I may have, you know, a normal ego. But I know that there’s nothing that I know that Google doesn’t know if I want to know something I Google it. Yeah, you have more PhD scientists, geniuses? What in God’s earth do I know how to do that you don’t. And the short version of the story is bring a product to market, because they make so much money off of their ad model, that there’s no incentive for anybody to ever release anything timely. And it’s a culture not designed to, you know, make millions, you don’t have the billion dollar thing that moves the needle. You don’t feel you know, this impetus to do stuff. It’s interesting. Yeah, I’ve gotten to work with governments that are revamping all kinds of different organizations that realize that the world is radically changing. When I wrote disrupt you, I wrote it nine years ago came out nine years ago, I said that by 2030, half of all jobs will disappear. And people thought that was hyperbole and hype. I was speaking in Davos two weeks ago, the head of the International Monetary Fund, kicked off Davos saying, in the next two years, 40% of jobs will be disrupted by AI. So that’s not lunatic J That’s it’s happening. And unless you can teach people how to adapt, how to recreate themselves, how to find satisfaction from that process. It’s a very daunting world to live in. I’ve taught at the college level, I taught for 10 years, how to build high tech startups, my best students did $100 million in a semester. Pretty good. And future proofing you was I took a homeless immigrant and mentored him one day a week gave him no capital, no introductions to business, anyone from homeless to self made millionaire. It can be taught, anyone can achieve this doesn’t take brains. Since

Achim Nowak  07:24

you mentioned the homeless student, and I know he’s featured in one of your books. What are one or two things that you go these things were really important in how I mentored him, and they might be important to anybody who listens to this podcast.

Jay Samit  07:37

The key thing is to teach somebody to have a growth mindset. Many books on the topic, most people have a defeatist attitude. We all have worked with that person that comes into work on Monday with that cloud over their head, the best thing and the opportunity was right in front of them, they wouldn’t see it. They’re already defeated. And most of us are raised to be defeated. Because our parents or teachers or other well wishers don’t want us to feel pain or fail. They steer us and shelter us when in fact, you can only learn by failing. And when you fail, you either learn or you earn but either way you’re propelled forward. So I just switched this young man who grew up in hard conditions, into a growth mindset, instantly if I was going to get them to change and make all this happen in a year. I lied to them. Not proud of that. But there’s a psychological principle called the Pygmalion effect. If you tell someone they’re special, they’ll become special. A professor went to school tested all the elementary school students told the teachers that these six students would be super learner super achievers, super growers this year, the end of the year, those six kids excelled beyond everybody else in the school, the professor lied. He tested everybody never looked at the test, pick six names out of a hat. But because the teachers were told they were special and treated them special, they felt special. And he I told them, the young man that I had interviewed over 200 candidates, and he was the only one that had all the attributes self made millionaire. He didn’t believe me, but he figured if this old successful dude thinks it, I’ll go along with it. And if you read the book, he actually wrote a note to himself the first night basically saying, I’m full of it, but I got nothing else going on. So I’ll play along. And by the end of the first month, when I forget what the number was 50 60,000 that he made, he could have flown to Europe without a plane. He was unstoppable. Because once you show people what they’re able to do, there’s no stopping.

Achim Nowak  09:34

That’s a beautiful lie, Jay. That’s great. Your enthusiasm for what you do and your passion is just so strong as you’re talking to me. How do you decide what to say yes to and no to because I have a hunch you get asked to do all sorts of stuff where you go. I’ve done this before. Do I want to do it again is too much like this, like how do you figure out where to put your energies Once

Jay Samit  10:00

you get past, taking care of your needs and your family’s needs and money has no relevance. It’s really what impact can I make on the planet? The planet has tons of problems, societies, tons of problems. All that entrepreneurs do is they don’t make money they solve problems. You solve a problem for five people. Yeah, brands supper million become rich suffer billion you change history. So the only things I’ve said yesterday in the past decade, are things where me helping us particular entrepreneur could solve a major problem. I’ll give you a great example. An engineer who had worked for me years ago, who grew up on a Kansas farm and his father was a farmer’s grandfather, and who knows how many generations stat dies of cancer, and I dawns on him, there’s got to be a better way to grow food than to slather our food in poison, and then eat it. I mean, when you say it that way, it sounds insane how we do agriculture Long story short, it’s make short little robots the size of an ice chest that go up and down row crops think of corn Milo soil and cut off the weeds. Now one little change, here’s what it does. No more herbicides and pesticides regenerative agriculture, one farmer makes more money per acre because he’s selling organic to you don’t have to till the soil. The reason they tilled the soil is breakup weeds. single largest source of carbon on the planet is from tilling soil. Number three, all those carcinogens, don’t go into the soil run down the Mississippi and kill everything in the Gulf of Mexico. This one little simple, obvious invention really benefits everybody globally. Greenfield robotics is on its way the robots are now real. And it feels good volved in an AI company that I’m chairman of because AI can solve problems that humans can’t. Great examples of that going on. And I won’t go into the technical but the way most companies are focused on these large learning models is not scalable, doesn’t work. And there’s a better approach and versus as one of the best scientists and five, six years into it and, and proven that he can really solve logistics problem solve all kinds of issues that we couldn’t do on our own. As

Achim Nowak  12:19

you’re telling the story by mind thinks this is really cool. And at the same time, Jay is finding some time to do this, to me gorgeous art. I love what you create. I told you that and it’s I love pop art. But thank you, there are layers of social commentary sometimes surface funny, but sometimes, like really wicked deep.

Jay Samit  12:42

I tried to make them attractive and fun. So you It’s such shoo in to look at it. And then hopefully punch in the gut every once in a while. It was interesting. I had a solo show not too long ago, and was opening night and there’s 200 people outside and I realized people know my art and collect my art. But most of them don’t know what I look like. So the first hour, I didn’t tell anybody who I was. So I could literally be in a gallery there were 40 of my pieces and hear people laugh pull people over to see get an honest response to the art as opposed to oh, you’re the artists Yes, we like it or whatever. And it was really just so satisfying to see the people really enjoyed it. But it’s not diametrically opposed to everything else in my life. It’s actually an extension. So the backstory is, I’ve done art since I was a little kid, even have a picture of me painting at six years old and the first edition of my art that came out The Art of Jay Samet when the pandemic hit, right and the pandemic, I lived on an airplane basically traveling around the world, different editions of the book, speaking to companies doing whatever, and suddenly, I’m gonna be locked in the house. And I believe there’s a silver lining in every obstacle. And if you didn’t die or get sick, the silver lining was the gift of time. So I decided to open the kimono and show people that there’s another side to J and never show in my professional world. That every day I would put up a new painting about something dealing with a pandemic, something we’re all sharing and experiencing individually. I thought the pandemic would last 60 days. Little did I know people liked the art. I heard from art agents and galleries and suddenly I have a career as an artist. I couldn’t be happier. Yeah. As mentioned, I was just at Davos, I got to meet a collector of my art in Zurich. I mean, this blows my mind. When galleries sell your art. They tell you the name of the person that bought it. And more often than not, name you’ve heard of because there’s not a lot of people to buy over. But where my art comes from is during that pandemic. I had a lot of time I have bad lungs. So I literally didn’t leave the house. My wife is a saint. She did the riskier life to get shopping and food and stuff and kept me safe until we could get vaccinated and stuff. And during that time, I reflected did I make the world better with the technologies that I’ve introduced and created that are used by billions of people today. Prior to the pandemic, I thought I did, I thought I was making the world but there’s a dark side to our using technology, there’s things that we’ve lost and missed along the way. We’ve radically changed society with unintended consequences. And I wrestle through these things. Through my art. I’m painting one this morning, I only paint for me, if I crack myself up list, I have a list of 100 things that I thought were funny, but on the day, every day that I sit down to paint, and this one is Medusa, all her her snakey hair and everything, just with a pissed off expression on her face, and Percy standing in front of her staring at his iPhone. And it’s like, I’m powerless against this generation, they don’t make eye contact. And that’s the message. Well,

Achim Nowak  15:53

part of what draws me to your artists is, I see a wickedly smart brain, but also, if I’m trying to interpret how experienced your art is to cry for humanity and subscribe for connection, it’s a cry to not lose all of that. Am I receiving that correctly?

Jay Samit  16:13

That’s very nice. Yeah, I mean, when Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein everything did pop art, which was 60 years ago, it was a reflection of the mass culture, mass consumers in the grew up after the war, okay, the world had changed into this thing. What I realized is today, we all experienced the same frustrations and interactions with technology. But we’ve all experienced them alone. There is no mass culture. So I did a painting of a woman screaming her head off into the phone representative. I mean, we’ve all been there when we don’t want to talk to the Chatbot anymore, or I’ve another one in three panels of a woman whose face is getting greater and greater despair. And it says, Alexa, turn my feelings off. I think we have a common humanity, I think we’ve in some ways, were able to connect like you and I are doing zoom in a way that would have been unimaginable generation ago. But too many people aren’t making those connections and the algorithms that drive our social interaction, and our commerce put us into a smaller and smaller thought bubble, where we’re not exposed to different viewpoints, many of the things that I tackle in the art, racism and sexism and different things in society, everybody is so entrenched in their camp, there’s no way to have that dialogue. But if I can trick them into a piece of art, let them have that conversation in their own mind. And then I feel that I’ve achieved something because what I realize is, and what you’ve said, proves it. I only paint half the painting the other half so in your mind, what images, what memories, what things it calls into question, during the pandemic, you know, black lives matter was dominant. And I was very aware and had very passionate feelings. But I also know that being white, I don’t necessarily know the African American experience. I can’t paint that experience. But I can paint my experience of it in a way that I think made sense. And one of my favorite panels that time period was there was a lot of debate about taking down all these Confederate statues. And there’s a statue of General Lee that I painted, covered in pigeon crap, such as would be, but sitting on top, beautifully purse was a white dove. Right? There is always hope there is always peace, there are always possibilities to change. I also did one I hope people would look up, which is beautiful, nothing that would seem political, Woolworth’s counter from the 1960s with the chrome and the stools and just everything looking beautiful in the name of the paintings, Greensboro. So if you’re not from my generation, you would look up Greensboro. And you’d see that’s where the citizens took place. I try to wrestle through these things. And some go to very dark places, which our mind has to go to. As

Achim Nowak  19:14

you talk, I had a former career as a professional theatre director and one of the seminal books there is a book by Peter Brook called the empty space. And the whole idea is that in the best kind of theater, you don’t have big fancy sets, whatever, you just have the empty space and the actors and the audience fills in the rest. What I heard you say is the giving permission to give us half of it and the meet you there somewhere with our brains and our thoughts and our emotions as people you see your art in my opinion. Yeah. And people that

Jay Samit  19:45

have bought my paintings I always ask him, the why I’m grateful and everything. And they’ll tell me a story from their life brings up that I would have no knowledge of that wasn’t what I was necessarily thinking of. I love hearing those stories because it’s like It connected with that person in a way that they weren’t ready to experience. And it just crystallized that memory for them. And, and suddenly, they wanted to hold on to that memory through the art

Achim Nowak  20:11

in your public identity. You know, as you describe yourself, you make a point of saying that your father and I, that touched me that you did that. And I hear as you speak, your passion for mentoring people, and helping people move forward. So what’s important for you about being a father, that’s

Jay Samit  20:30

the only reason I bothered to grow up, I so wanted to be a dad, when you said I could spend my career I had my two sons very young. That’s about all the motivation I needed, I wanted them to have a better life I wanted to. So anytime you want to give up or quit, you just look at these unconditionally loving happy creatures, and you don’t want to disappoint. I spent as much time as possible with my kids, pull them out of school, if you’re going to do something exciting, expose them to everything, subconsciously, they pick up on the things that you tend to like, it’s not like I was forcing anything down on them. They’re both exceptional young men. And now I’m a grandfather and have the joy of another generation to interact with what you asked, you know, what do you want to be when you grow up? I hate the people ask kids that question. Because it limits them into that life has to be one thing. You’re just going to be this thing, when in fact, at any age, you can ask a kid, what problem would you like to solve when you grow up? Because every stage of life they see problems in their life and in the world. And if they can start realizing problems are temporal, and that they can solve them. One of my best friends had her teeth knocked out when she was in the third grade by his swing. dental surgeon literally and figuratively brought back her smile. At that moment, the heavens opened up and she knew the rest of her life, she wanted to be a dental surgeon. Most of us don’t have that epiphany. Nobody knocked my teeth out. I didn’t have that clear view. I didn’t know that I wanted to make the world better. Because one of the things that I write about one thing that studies show I didn’t invent any of this stuff. I just basically tried to explain it in a way that nobody explained it to me to shorten people’s journey and get them to happiness, is the quickest way to happiness is to solve for others. When you make others happy, intrinsically, it’s in our humanity makes us feel better. I had one of my sons, my eldest, he just loved to make others happy. It was just his nature, B through a camera in the air anytime in his childhood, and it clicked a picture. He was smiling. A new kid moves into this school, they sit next to Benji, what’s Benji now do as a grownup? He’s a comedy writer in Hollywood, very, very successful writing movies and TV. He loves making the world happy. What better use of your time, I can’t think of it. And it was the arts, not my art, but movies and television and music that got us through something like the pandemic. So important.

Achim Nowak  23:02

That you’re in your early 60s Now you’re 63 Just trying your ridiculously accomplish you’re financially taken care of. and a massive question, I actually have an assumption, I realized that my assumption could be wrong. Do you think about other stuff that you want to do that you have always wanted to do that you’ve never done? Or do you go home at a time? Or how do you move forward?

Jay Samit  23:26

When you get the gray hair when your parents get elderly or die? You realize the finiteness of life. You only get so many days, so many years. Most of my years are behind me. You also see the years go by at a ridiculously fast speed. I try to make the most of every day when I turned 50 I literally made a bucket list of 100 things. I want to achieve why I’m on the planet? I think I’d like to left on the list that I haven’t done. So yeah. I mean, what I like to not sit on boards what I like not to be involved in certain things. I feel a moral obligation noblesse oblige, when somebody comes to me, whether it’s for an investment or to join a border thing, that very question, very first question that I always ask is why me? There’s somebody that’s better somebody that’s can do more for them than it shouldn’t be me. But if I have that unique background context experience that could do the most for them, then I feel an obligation because

Achim Nowak  24:33

you’re associated with a word disruption. You wrote a big disruption book i It’s right behind you. I see it on the screen as we see each other, more ways in which you intentionally or not intentionally keep disrupting yourself. Maybe you don’t. I’m

Jay Samit  24:51

always fascinated by what’s new and next and possible. So I’m always curious about The next thing I always wish I could accelerate whatever it is been obsessed with augmented reality, if we have heads up displays on our glasses, which we will haven’t been involved in many of those advances, what problems does that solve and like one of the easiest ones, and you’ll see this coming up next Christmas from a number of companies is regular glasses that give you subtitles in 40 languages. So you’re traveling the world, you walk into that bar, and there’s the love of your life sitting there, you’re smart enough to travel with two pair of glasses, give them one. And now you indicate with anyone, if that doesn’t make the world better, smaller, safer. The biggest thing that I’ve realized from literally traveling the four corners of the earth, is we’re all the same. We all want the same things. We all want to raise our family, we all want to live in peace and harmony, for whatever political reasons were kept apart. Maybe these glasses can make the world smaller. Take away my fear of being wandering around some place and the third world word, I beg to find somebody who speaks English, I never mastered other language, it took too much effort is the honest reason. There’s no way to skip steps to learn another language.

Achim Nowak  26:18

I mentioned you two books disrupt you being the one that’s really the first one that’s associated with your public identity and the work you’ve done. If people are listening to us, and they’re going, Gosh, I want to learn more about his work. Where do I find this artwork? Where do I learn more about and where do you want to send them J

Jay Samit  26:36

my name on Instagram, J A y s MIT is probably the easiest. There’s J That has some of it. But I literally try to post you know, every couple days a new painting. My books are on Amazon. I did a book of my art as a way to say thank you to those that followed me on social media, but it was either gotta sign number addition. And then that were no more it wasn’t about making money. It was about letting people that really liked my art get in their hands. Maybe it’s some data to another one. But that was really fun to see that people wanted

Achim Nowak  27:10

the collection. If you do another one put me on the list please. Okay. Thank you for the gift of this conversation. I thank you for being so passionate about life. That’s what I really get from you and your your artists that just an extension of that, where you just get to live

Jay Samit  27:25

once one Don’t you want to do the most with the time you have. I mean, I envy those that believe in reincarnation, you got a lot more shots to get it right. The world is an amazing place. I mean, I’ve seen things that I can’t believe are real glow worms in New Zealand, just all kinds of crazy stuff than those experiences are what make life rich and the people that you meet along the way if I leave you with one thought was the unintended consequence unexpected. I wrote the bio disrupt you as a way to pay it forward as a way to scale I could only teach so many people at a university and and what I didn’t anticipate was it going in different languages and going all over the world and whatever. I get emails almost every day I call them love letters from people all over the world. Giving me the credit when I don’t deserve it for their life change. The life got better. The book opened their eyes, getting that love back from the universe hearing from people in Pakistan and Nigeria. I mean, laces that like how the heck did they find the book, but when the students ready, the teacher appears. So if you have a book and you whatever the topic, what’s amazing in this connected world, as you will hear from readers. And it’s not like you’re just writing into the void. And I don’t know if anybody ever read

Achim Nowak  28:41

it. So listeners, if you have a book and you go write it, you will be rewarded. Yeah. Jay, thank you for being you. I appreciate this.

Jay Samit  28:51

Thanks for the time. Have a good one.

Achim Nowak  28:53

Bye for now. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the mindful of X podcast. If you liked what you have heard, please like us and leave a review on your preferred podcast platforms. And if you would like to engage more deeply in fourth act conversations, check out the mastermind page at Achim It’s what fourth actors like you engage in riveting conversation with other fourth actors? See you there. And bye for now.


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