Cal Fussman – How I Learned to Ask the Big Questions [Part 1] (414)

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Picture this: a young boy, curious and full of wonder, pens a letter to President Lyndon Johnson. That young boy was none other than Mike’s esteemed guest, Cal Fussman, who has grown to become a renowned writer, interviewer, podcaster, and a New York Times bestselling author. In a heart-to-heart conversation, we’ll trace Cal’s journey, exploring how that innate curiosity shaped his insightful approach to life and interviewing.

As we navigate through the labyrinth of life, we often find our curiosity tamed, our authentic selves hidden behind digital screens. Cal and Mike discuss this paradox of our times – being more connected than ever before, but at a superficial level. They dig deeper into the concept of authenticity, particularly in the workplace, reflecting on how defining moments like JFK’s assassination and the 9/11 attacks have affected our perspectives on authentic connections. 

In a world where remote work settings are becoming the norm, forging genuine relationships can be a difficult task. But fear not, as Cal and Mike also explore effective ways to break down these digital barriers. This conversation goes beyond the conventional, highlighting the importance of creating an authentic connection during job interviews and valuing the timeless power of handwritten notes. So, get ready to engage your curiosity and join in on a fascinating exploration with Cal Fussman.

Key highlights:

  • Exploring the Roots of Success
  • Authenticity and the Future of Work
  • Remote Work Setting Benefits
  • Reframing Interviews for Authentic Connections
  • Handwritten Notes and Personal Connection

Connect with Cal Fussman:

Check out the video version of this episode below:

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Episode transcript below:

0:00:00 – Mike Malatesta

Hi everyone. Mike Malatesta here and welcome back to the how it Happened podcast. On this podcast, I dig in deep with every guest to explore the roots of their success, to discover not just how it happened but why it matters. My mission is to find and share stories that inspire, activate and maximize the greatness in you. 


0:00:19 – Mike Malatesta

On today’s episode I’m talking with one of the most famous and influential writers, the interviewers, podcaster you name it in the world. Today we start off talking about a letter he wrote to President Lyndon Johnson as a second grader, and we move into how curiosity gets buried as we get older, how the best questions make the other person curious about themselves, and the right way to shovel for gold. 


0:00:46 – Cal Fussman

Authenticity is going to become prized now. Authenticity leads to connection. We tend to think we’re more connected than ever before, and yet, in many ways, people are feeling less and less connected. When you hear talk about mental health, mental health, mental health, what really is at the bottom of it is I don’t feel connected, I don’t feel connected. I don’t feel connected, and so it seems to me that there’s a pressing need for authenticity and for more connection. 


0:01:25 – Mike Malatesta

You’re going to love my conversation with the one and only Cal Fussman. Hey, cal, welcome to the how to Happen. 


0:01:41 – Cal Fussman

I am so delighted to be here looking at that beer collection right behind you. 


0:01:48 – Mike Malatesta

I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend, dave Will, host of the EO360 podcast, who connected Cal and I Thank you, dave, for doing that and I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, because I’ve been following Cal for a long time and I feel like and I don’t know Cal we talked once before this, so we’re going to get to know each other today, but I feel like he is a soul that I’ve known for a long time and I know that sounds a bit presumptuous and I hope it doesn’t end up being presumptuous because I think we’re going to get there today. But anyway, cal, where are you joining us from today? 


0:02:23 – Cal Fussman

Charlotte, North Carolina. 


0:02:25 – Mike Malatesta

Charlotte, north Carolina, nice. My daughter lives in High Point, North Carolina, for whatever that’s worth. She went to High Point University with Nido Gubain, who we talked about briefly when we had our call. So I told you a little bit about Cal in the intro, and now I’m going to tell you a little bit more, so you can get as excited as I am for this next hour. 


For over four decades, cal Fussman has interviewed hundreds of the world’s most influential individuals, including people you may have heard of, like Muhammad Ali, jack Welch, macau Gorbachev, serena Williams, jeff Bezos, jimmy Carter, kobe Bryant, richard Branson and there’s hundreds more. Now, as a New York Times bestselling author, a super in-demand keynote speaker, a world-renowned interviewer and host of the Big Questions podcast, cal travels the world teaching the world’s largest companies, universities and associations about leadership, storytelling, innovation, teamwork and more. When Cal speaks, you’re listening to everyone he’s ever interviewed. That is a really interesting sentence Cal Stories and stories from hundreds of world icons all coming through one man in a fedora and he has a very pale blue fedora on today. It’s very sporty. You can find out more about Cal at his website, calcalfussmancom. He’s at Cal Fussman on X, formerly known as Twitter, and is there, anywhere else that you want people to look and find you? Cal? 


0:03:54 – Cal Fussman

Always best to go to calcalfussmancom, and you’ll find everything you need to know there. 


0:04:01 – Mike Malatesta

Everything is there and I can tell you that from having spent a lot of time on calcalfussmancom, so Cal. I start every podcast with the same simple question, that is, how did it happen for you? 


0:04:11 – Cal Fussman

That leads to a story, as many questions do, and the story goes back to a day in November 1963, friday afternoon. Want you to imagine me in my second grade class? I had just turned seven years old a week before, and I am the smallest guy in the room. And Ms Jaffe, the teacher, gets called out of the room and when she returns she’sa different person. Her skin is blanched and it’s almost chalky. And she starts speaking in a voice so careful and precise that it made you a little nervous. And she tells us that President John F Kennedy has just been shot. 


Well, I was in New York at the time and it was in the afternoon, and pretty soon we were all released from school. We ran home, turned on the TV and found out that, yep, president John F Kennedy has been assassinated, and soon thereafter that the vice president, lyndon B Johnson, had assumed the oath of office and become president. So that night my parents are thinking. You know, cal has never really dealt with death before. We don’t know how he’s going to take this. So they call me over to the kitchen table and they said what happened today is a terrible tragedy, but we want you to know our country has come through this before there’s a plan for it. And that’s why, as you know, lyndon B Johnson is the new president. So when you go to sleep tonight, you can relax. Tomorrow morning, when you wake up, you’re going to have breakfast, just like you did last Saturday. You’re going to go out and play, like you did last Saturday. So just know that you can get a good night’s sleep, because things will return to normal. 


And they go off to talk to my brother and I’m left at the kitchen table with all these questions buzzing around my head. And the reason stems from how naive I was, because at that point I thought if you had a middle initial, that meant you got to be president. So the only people I ever heard of with middle initials were Dwight D Eisenhower, harry S Truman, john F Kennedy, franklin D Roosevelt. So I’m thinking this guy, lyndon B Johnson. He knew he was going to be the president. Is he happy to be the president? But the only reason he’s president is because of the assassination. So is he said to be the president? And then I thought, oh man, maybe he’s scared to be the president because they’ll try and kill him too. And I’m left with all these questions floating in my mind. So I did what you advise your listeners to do on a recent podcast write a handwritten note. I pulled out a piece of paper pencil. Dear President Johnson, are you happy to be president? Are you sad? Are you scared? I threw out a few other options. I wish them well, and the timing was perfect. 


We had just learned how to address an envelope in school, and so I knew where the envelope stamps were. Wrote across the middle of the envelope President Lyndon B Johnson. The White House put my return address in the top left-hand corner, just like I was taught. I licked the stamp. That’s how we used to do it Put it in the top right-hand corner and just put it in my pocket. I didn’t tell anybody about this. 


The next day, I went out to play after breakfast and I just dropped it in the mailbox and time started passing and I forgot about it. Things did somewhat return to normal in the household, although I don’t know if the world ever returned to normal, because the 60s was born and it was only till about five or six months later that my mom came running up the steps to our apartment with her arm up in the air and an envelope in her fingertips and it was an envelope from the White House, from the President, addressed to me, and we opened this thing up and the beauty of this was it was not written to a second grader, it was written with like dignity and we knew that because when I got to the second sentence it started something like in answer to your query, and I had no idea what the word query meant, but I didn’t realize that the apartment had filled with all the other residents of the apartment all wanting to hold this letter. 


The principal of the elementary school heard about it and he called, asked me to bring it to school and all of a sudden the shortest guy in his class was a big man, and it taught me that the power of a question could get you to the most powerful person on the planet and that set every link in the chain going forward. 


0:10:19 – Mike Malatesta

So I got to ask you when you wrote your name in the upper left on the envelope, did you include your middle initial? 


0:10:26 – Cal Fussman



0:10:30 – Mike Malatesta

I thought well, why not? You know you would be next president down the road. 


0:10:35 – Cal Fussman

You know what? It never occurred to me to want to be president, but ever since that moment, it always occurred to me to want to ask questions to everybody who was in a position where they could do amazing things. 


0:10:57 – Mike Malatesta

Right. Was it, cal? Was it normal or did it become normal for your parents? I mean, the Kennedy assassination is an abnormal situation, but the way you explained your parents sitting you down, was it a normal thing in your family for your parents to, when there was something consequential to talk about or explore with you, to sit you down at the kitchen table and have conversations like that with you and maybe you and your brother? 


0:11:23 – Cal Fussman

We had conversations over the dinner table, but that day and that evening stood out because it was a transformative event for everybody, touched the entire country and I talked with people who were much older than me on that day later on and they remember talking about nothing else for a week or two weeks because you had to go through all the stages the day after the person who was accused of shooting the president was killed on national TV Lee Harvey Oswald, shot by Jack Ruby, and so that only inflamed the conversation. And then you had the funeral and the iconic image of President Sun saluting as the casket went by. It just never seemed to stop in that moment. And in fact I talked to a guy who produced the first comedy show afterward and he was explaining. 


I think this is maybe two weeks afterward. There was just no comedy during that period and it was a Jonathan Winter special and he was telling me about the response because it was the first time it allowed people to laugh. The moment was that huge for the country and I don’t really recall a time where my parents called me to the table for a national event like that. Again, it might have been something personal, something that happened to a relative to just give me some news. But that was a once in a lifetime moment. 


0:13:23 – Mike Malatesta

I missed that by a couple of years. But earlier this year I was in Texas, in Austin, and I went to the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library, which is that. Have you been there? 


0:13:35 – Cal Fussman

Yes, I’ve been there. 


0:13:37 – Mike Malatesta

And I thought what you said was you were thinking are you scared? Because that’s a normal question to ask, right? I mean, your boss has just been killed because they have the job that you now have. That can’t be something that comes without some fright fear, right? As a second grader, to maybe ask a natural second grade question to a man with a middle initial, that even I feel like took some courage, right, because you really never asked your parents if they were afraid, right? At least I never did. I always assumed my parents just had everything figured out, for example. But the thing that struck me about the library is that he was a very tall and intimidating man. Is what is the way that you know? 


0:14:20 – Cal Fussman

I don’t know if you remember, they’ve a statue where he’s sort of hovering over the little guy and you can actually take pictures. There’s a big picture where you can get in the place of the little guy and have him hovering above you, sort of like I don’t want to say wagging a finger, but the whole image is of him wagging his finger at and telling you how you’re supposed to behave. 


0:14:48 – Mike Malatesta

Right, so, and it is, it’s almost literal wagging you. So, yeah, it’s like you don’t necessarily have to agree with me, but you’re going to have to agree with me. Yeah, people were afraid of him. Anyway, thank you for mentioning the handwritten letter, handwritten note podcast, making that sort of subtle reference. I appreciate it. I was going to ask you about how you feel about handwritten notes. I mean, you’ve told the story of second. You know this second grade letter you wrote to the president, but we were talking before we went on about our thing. Are the way things like the beer can collection behind me or whatever things from our past, is that going to be something that millennials or whomever continue to cherish, or is everything sort of more fleeting? And when you talk about well, you mentioned the handwritten notes. You know how I feel if you listen to that. I’m curious how you feel about that particular thing as a lost art. 


0:15:39 – Cal Fussman

I think you were so spot on Number one. You were absolutely right. In the age of artificial intelligence, when people aren’t even writing their own thank you notes, they’re assigning it to chat GPT to do it. It has lost its authenticity, and so what you were doing underneath everything, in my opinion, listening to the podcast was basically telling everybody to cherish their authenticity and to use it, because it will be appreciated and it will produce emotions, feelings, consequences, because people will be reacting to your authenticity in the world of artificial intelligence Right. 


0:16:35 – Mike Malatesta

Yeah, there’s a lot of people that I pay attention to in the AI world now who are sort of on that bandwagon. 


They’re like anything that I can do that shortcuts the amount of time I have to spend on something is a benefit to me, and I hear that argument and I think I, intellectually I think I understand it, but I’ve been the recipient of the Christmas card, for example. That appears to be something that someone took a lot of time to actually write, but the reality I’ve come to know now is that that’s the exact same Christmas card. Everyone got just a different name on it, and all of the things that make it look like it was authentic for me end up kind of taking away from the whole experience when I realized that’s not what it was at all. I would rather get something that just says Merry Christmas, Cal, that you wrote by yourself, Because at least I know that you did. You put some thought and effort into that. And I feel like, when it comes to relationships, if I want to have a good relationship with somebody I don’t want to. I don’t feel like I can outsource that and pretend that I didn’t. 


0:17:53 – Cal Fussman

I’m so glad that you’re, that you’ve gone to this place, because it’s where I’m looking into the future. Actually, I don’t see this as the past. I see this as something that needs to be passed on to the past, on to the future. And anyone could say, wow, cal. 


I think that assassination of John F Kennedy happened a long time ago. But you know something when I speak at colleges and I tell that story, you can tell by the way the students look up that something inside is resonating with them and it actually happens across different age groups, because they weren’t alive when President Kennedy was shot, but Maybe they were around on 911 and they remember what happened when they first saw the images of the planes coming into the towers. Or I could, it could have been somebody who was seven years old when the Challenger went up with all of, with the teacher Kristen McCullough and, and exploded before everybody’s eyes, so that, yeah, almost every school kid in America Saw that. So they know what it was like to be young and have their innocence Basically explode before them, before their own eyes. And we all have these moments and everybody Un-understands. There’s something universal about this and something that’s time tested about this, and my point is Authenticity is going to become prized now because we are moving into a world of artificial intelligence and, like everything, I’m thinking about moving forward is Trying to explain how what has worked in the past, for all the greats, will work in the future if you give it a chance, if you give authenticity a chance, because, basically and exactly to your point, authenticity leads to connection and we tend to think we’re more connected than ever before, and yet, in many ways, people are feeling less and less connected, and the young people, in my view, when you hear talk about mental health, mental health, mental health what there, what really is at the bottom of it, is I don’t feel connected, I don’t feel connected, I don’t feel connected, and so it seems to me that there’s a pressing need for authenticity and for more connection, and People are trying to do this and, in a lot of diverse ways, they’re reaching out there and struggling for it, because underneath it all lies a sense of security and happiness and a way of Finding mentors who can help lead us forward. 


And so, really, what you were getting at in my, in my view, when you did that podcast about why handwritten notes matter, was why you need to Reinforce your authenticity. 


0:21:53 – Mike Malatesta

Hmm, let me follow that up with it. So authenticity is a word that’s Used a lot. Now we’ve used it a bunch, and I’m always, I always feel like I need to ask you, in this case, what does that mean to you? What does authenticity mean? 


0:22:13 – Cal Fussman

it means the ability to be who you are, and you know I was. I was thinking about this because, look, when you think of how did it happen? Yeah, how, how did I get to sit here and Recently, like, look around at the world and say, man, look at what’s happening, look at what’s happening here between 2019 and 2023, we’ve had like job interviews for Hundreds of years forever, yeah, forever. And you know, for the most part, people were looking for somebody to do a job and they wanted to be Sure that they authentically found somebody. Now everything in Such a short period of time, changed when the pandemic hit and you had I mean, just think about this you had the great resignation and then, after the great, great resignation, actually more people resigned in the following year more than 50 million and now you’ve got surveys that say 70% of People are thinking of seeking a new job or disengaged yeah you also have companies that Built I was, I was at one I won’t mention the name, but it was an amazing site. 


They they’re very successful and they built what amounts to like a small college campus for people to come into and bounce off each other like molecules, to like get ideas and Make things that nobody is thought of before. And I was given a tour of the place, like three years later, and there was nobody there. Everybody was at home. And yet when I Speak at college, at colleges, and then I talked to people who were interns and they went into an office where there was nobody there because they were seeking mentorship, I don’t think we realize what people are being deprived of. And and certainly a lot of Efficiency and good things can happen when you’re working at home. I’m not disputing that at all. What I’m saying is we just had this tremendous shift in the way we work and I’m thinking that it has to completely Make people rethink like a job interview right and and again. 


Going back to that day when I was seven years old and questions came to mind, I started to think like what? What will happen to a job interview in a time when somebody can Say, wow, I want to go into waste management. You know what? There’s this great weight waste management company. I’m gonna. I’m gonna Go to chat GPT and ask what questions this company is gonna ask me when I apply for a job. And then I’m gonna take those questions and feed it back into the chat GPT and say here’s some background about me. What are just the right answers, the most persuasive answers? 


0:26:03 – Mike Malatesta



0:26:05 – Cal Fussman

Give to the people at the waste management company in order to hire me, and and so Where’s the authenticity there? People, I was starting to think, may become avatars of themselves in order to get the job, which may not be meaningful to them, because they weren’t asking the right questions in the interview, and then, eight months later, they leave. 


0:26:35 – Mike Malatesta

Yeah, and they never saw the person for real. Exactly. 


0:26:40 – Cal Fussman

Yeah, on both sides. 


0:26:42 – Mike Malatesta

Yeah, yeah, right, right, on both sides. So there’s a couple of things going on there as I listen to you. As I understood it First is we took what was a necessity, I guess driven by the pandemic, to sort of separate people At least that’s what we were told. You got to separate people and so there was a necessity to do that, and we were extremely lucky as an economy that we had this connectivity that allowed a good portion of people to be able to stay separate and still stay productive at work. 


Since then, we’ve, or at least a lot of organizations have, continued to work that way, disrupting, I think, decades and decades and maybe longer of belief systems. 


From a leadership perspective, that the best way that you can build the culture you want in a company and the collaboration you want in a company and the efficiency you want in a company and everything else that you want in a company is to have people working together, because that’s how humans really get the best out of one another is and that’s how your messaging actually can continue to be reinforced, because it has to be, because messages that aren’t continually reinforced go away right, and I was fortunate in my companies we always had to be there because we did service work and you couldn’t do it all from the internet. 


But all those decades of intentional campus building and everything else that companies have done with a belief system that that’s what you do to build culture and have a great company, is now being reframed by a lot of companies that have chosen to do completely remote or 50%. I mean, I have had people on my podcast you probably have too or like we’re completely remote, we have no office. They’re very, very proud of it. But it does make you wonder if it’s Kool-Aid that you were forced to drink and now you don’t know how to stop drinking it and so you have to at least pretend to be embracing it and pretend might be too strong over word Cal. But what do you think about that? 


0:28:58 – Cal Fussman

Well, what’s happened? I’ve been invited to do workshops at some of these companies. That are all remote and they become amazing experiences because you see people who know each other over the internet but, for like the first time, actually meeting somebody and finding out about them in real life. 


0:29:27 – Mike Malatesta

Yeah, I thought you’d be taller. 


0:29:32 – Cal Fussman

Well, you know, here’s what was pointed out to me, because I was asking people like what are the difficulties of just knowing somebody over the internet? And it was pointed out to me that when you don’t know the person and you’re in a meeting and there may be eight people, 10 people, on the Zoom screen and somebody says something that you don’t agree with or maybe it would seem like it’s throwing an obstacle in front of something that you want to do, what happens is you stop trusting that person and you can help it. The reason. The difference is if the person is working on the same floor next to you and you go out to lunch with them, you find out about their kids, their families and they say something that maybe you don’t agree with or you don’t like. You know them, you know where it’s coming from, you know that it’s not aimed at you and it may not have been aimed at you, but you feel that way and you react to it, and so now you’re basically pushing people away from each other instead of connecting everybody over the internet. 


And we had some amazing experiences at workshops, where you see somebody who couldn’t or had a hard time no, she couldn’t get up in front of people and speak. It was just too scary for her. At the end of this workshop she managed to get up in front of everybody and speak and got a standing ovation and I can guarantee you it will not be forgotten by anybody in that room. And the whole atmosphere over the room was different. The whole connectivity was just in a completely different place than it was before anybody came to the workshop. And I’m not here advocating that everybody should be back in the office from nine to five on Monday to Friday. What I am saying is we don’t want to lose sight of the benefits of connecting, and connecting at the right time. I don’t know. If I asked you, when did the best ideas in your life come? What would you say? What were the moments? 


0:32:37 – Mike Malatesta

Well, a lot of times I feel like they come out of the blue, when I’m doing something that’s not focused on thinking about something. But when I reflect on it, I don’t think that’s when it actually comes. That’s when it just coalesces. What it comes from is having been around people and sort of been throwing out back and forth thoughts about this that might have been very disparate, for example, but without which I would never have come to this convergence that I call now my idea, if that makes sense. 


0:33:23 – Cal Fussman

It makes perfect sense, and so many other people that I’ve interviewed over the years all the greats that you were mentioning they’ll tell you how their idea came to them in a shower, when they were relaxed. And there’s a difference between asking somebody to say, come up with ideas, while they’re looking at somebody on a video screen and trying to what’s the idea, what can we come up with, as opposed to just being natural and letting a flow come over you. And then the writer, sam and Rushdie, that was tragically shot recently, but he’s recovering right, doing better. Yeah, he was telling me that he would get up from sleep and often go straight to the keyboard or the typewriter before that, because he had all these creative thoughts built up and they were just ready to go. Sometimes he would even go before he went to the bathroom. He would go to that keyboard to get this out. 


And I think that there is something to be said for just natural moments, for ideas that just come to you when two people are relaxed and talking you’re on your way to lunch as opposed to staring across from somebody at a meeting and saying, okay, what are we going to do here? And it’s very hard to measure that in a world where everybody is looking at like, how do we save time, how do we cut out that lunch? We don’t realize what’s being lost. 


0:35:25 – Mike Malatesta

So, as you’re talking, I was thinking to myself how many times in the Zoom world, remote working world, and you tell me, cal, but how many times in your experience have you had something come into your mind and you’re like I need to talk to Amy and Gary and Peter about this right now, because this is something we should really act on? And then you go no, it’s kind of a pain in the neck to set up, I don’t know what their schedule is going to be. And then you kind of let it go, whereas when you were working together it would be like, hey, I’m going to just go pop in and we’re going to talk about this because, even though it’s only going to take a few minutes, it’s really going to help me with the rest of my day thinking this through, or them whatever, where now I’ve just kind of left it lay and maybe didn’t act on it or build it out or whatever. As a result, I don’t know. Do you feel that way sometimes? 


0:36:25 – Cal Fussman

But I think there’s a reason that so many companies are trying to bring the workers back into a setting where they can collaborate, and especially in companies that do creative things. When you think of it, why would they insist on this if it wasn’t a good idea? If you knew if you were renting space and you knew that once the lease was up that money could be saved, why wouldn’t you be happy? It’s so apparent to me that people, along with that or selling in�� admittance ways, do better when they’re connected. All the great interviews I had with people like Mikhail Gorbachev or Muhammad Ali or actors it was just watching Mission Impossible the other day and I realized, when I was interviewing Tom Cruise, everything that he told me about his childhood was like playing out on this movie, where this kid, who grew up with a dad who didn’t show up and a mom who had to work three jobs and she’d come home and he’d be massaging her feet wondering how are we gonna get through this? What can we do? And then, when he did have a chance at freedom, he would climb on the roof during snowstorms and jump off and do flips and see how many he can do before he landed in the snow banks and for that kid to basically, at 60, wind up being in control of his own movies and doing the stunts that he wants to do. Every other actor in Hollywood at 60 is completely dependent on the scripts that come in and they’re less and less. 


And that interview that I was able to do with him came because we got to a very relaxed place. We actually forgot that he was being interviewed and I forgot it too. It was just pure curiosity. And I noticed that when I think about just about any of the interviews that I did, that same quality came through and it’s what brought out the most authentic person. It was when we both forgot it was an yeah. And this is kind of where I’m going, where I’m trying to show both the people applying for jobs and the people who are doing the hiring that if you can get the interview to that place where the interview is thrown aside I’m not saying for the whole time, but for 30 minutes or an hour of that interview, where you could forget it’s being it’s an interview and the real person comes out and the real nature of the job comes out. 


0:39:56 – Mike Malatesta



0:39:57 – Cal Fussman

Both sides can say, yeah, this is for me. Or you know what? This is not going to bring me any meeting. What’s the sense of just doing this and leaving in a few months? Or why would I bring in somebody who I can tell it’s not going to mean much to? Why don’t I make sure that the person that’s hired is going to feel a sense of meaning? 


0:40:24 – Mike Malatesta



0:40:25 – Cal Fussman

And I think that one of the best ways to do that is to make the interview for part of it, escape from the interview and just get down to pure curiosity. And so this is where I’m thinking of going in, and it’s crazy because I mentioned the entrance of artificial intelligence into the process. But when you dig deeper, you hear people say look, when recruiters locate candidates, they rewrite their resumes, they give them mock interviews to prepare them for the quest. This has been going on for a long time. And then when you start talking to CEOs and ask them, what’s your batting average on really successful hires, you hear people say if one out of two works the way we want it, we’re happy. 


0:41:35 – Mike Malatesta

Right. Well, I admitted that to you. I mean, I’ve hired hundreds of people and if you ask me, are you a good interviewer? I’d say or a good judge of people, let’s say that better than an interviewer. I’d say, yeah, you know what, I’m pretty good. And then if you challenged me on it, you say well, how good are you really? Like how many? What’s your batting average? 


For example, I had to admit that I’m meeting these. This was when I was meeting everybody face to face. Usually I’m brought in after some vetting has gone on. So I go in and it’s like OK, this is a good candidate and I have the unique experience of being right with someone able to ask them or be curious about anything. And probably 50% geez, maybe more, I hope not, but probably 50% of the time Turns out in a month. I’m like who is this person? What happened here? What did I miss? How could I? How could I have missed this? And so, yeah, trying to do it that in a form like this, for example, and improve my batting average, doing it this way, I just don’t understand how that could be, how I would have a chance at that being possible. 


0:42:41 – Cal Fussman

I believe there are ways to get the conversation to a place, a deeper place, where you can find things out that are going to give you clues as to whether this person is going to find meaning in this job, which I don’t even know. That that went through anybody’s mind 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, like will this candidate find meaning in this position? People didn’t think that way. 


0:43:17 – Mike Malatesta

No, will they show up? Will they do what you need them to do? Those were kind of the things, right. 


0:43:24 – Cal Fussman

And so we’re dealing with a completely different mindset and I think we got to. Questions have to be changed Part of the interview obviously you’re going to need to know does this person have the skills to do the job? If they don’t have the skills, can they be trained to do the job? But there’s a book out by a well-respected best-selling author, Bruce Filer. It’s called the Search, and he was interviewing many people about their jobs and they’re all saying the same thing and he talked to thousands that they go into these interviews not thinking that they’re going to climb the ladder, which people did many years ago. They’re actually thinking like archaeologists, digging deep into themselves to see what’s going to give them meaning in this job in order to pursue it. And if they feel like once they start, there’s no meaning in it for them, they have that same feeling that you have as the employer who’s looking at that employee that didn’t work out after the month and are thinking what was I thinking? They’re thinking what was I thinking. This is not what I wanted. 


So it seems to me that we’re just in a very different place and I’m talking to CEOs and people who hire to get an understanding of all this, but I’m actually feeling a sense of confidence that the answer is to reframe a part of the interview in order to get this authentic connection. Because if you can do that, you will know it’s not for our company, it’s just not going to work. Yeah, do they have the skills? Yeah, do they have the intelligence to be trained? Yeah, do they have a good personality? Yeah, but if they’re not going to find meaning, what’s the sense? And I just don’t know that people have thought like that before and it really is just a matter of taking the interview to a different place to get both sides to reveal this is what the job is authentically like and this is who I am authentically. Is this a great match up and is there room to grow here? 


So it may just be a evolution of the interview that this is what I’m sort of concentrating on now. I was thinking about now it’s this attached to this sense of authenticity and connection to bring everybody together to get the best work done. And it really all goes back to that handwritten note, because, however many people that note had to pass through until it got to Juanita D Roberts, the special assistant to the president, it did. It was just pure curiosity, human curiosity and it works. It’s worked over time, it’s worked for Da Vinci, it’s worked for Socrates. I believe that these time-tested ways of connecting and improving ourselves are just as valuable, if not more valuable, now than ever, Because it’s sort of like the value of a great question. 


0:47:31 – Mike Malatesta



0:47:33 – Cal Fussman

So we didn’t have answers. Now you can go on Google or chat to GPT and get the answer to almost anything, but do you have the right question? 


0:47:45 – Mike Malatesta

Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this show and before you go, I just have three requests for you. One if you like what I’m doing, please consider subscribing or following the podcast on whatever podcast platform you prefer. If you’re really into it, leave me a review, write something nice about me, give me five stars or whatever you feel is most appropriate. Number two I’ve got a book. It’s called Ownershift how Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck. It’s an Amazon bestseller and I’d love for you to read it or listen to it on Audible or wherever else Barnes, noble, amazon you can get it everywhere If you’re looking for inspiration that will help you unlock your greatness and potential order or download it today so that you can have your very own copy and, if you get it, please let me know what you think. 


Number three my newsletter. I do a newsletter every Thursday and I talk about things that are interesting to me and or I give more information about the podcast and the podcast guests that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve had with them. You can sign up for the podcast today at my website, which is my name, You do that right now. Put in your email address and you’ll get the very next issue. The newsletter is short, thoughtful and designed to inspire, activate and maximize the greatness in you. 

Alexi Cortopassi

Alexi Cortopassi

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I help entrepreneurs get unstuck, take back their power, achieve their life objectives, and create the futures they want.

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