Srinivas Rao's Unmistakable is one of four books recommended to finish your year strong. Also check out the TED Talk from Adam Grant's Originals, an honest talk with Unleash Your Inner Company author John Chisholm and an exclusive excerpt from my own book, The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur.
Srinivas Rao is an entrepreneur who, like many of us, didn't set out to be one. It makes it all the more remarkable that his new book, Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best, captures the experience so well. It's one of my four favorite books for you to finish 2016 strong.
Rao was a self-proclaimed lost soul until he discovered surfing. The tough sport gave him the discipline necessary to launch his popular podcast, The Unmistakable Creative. I was on the show early on to discuss my TED Book, Our Virtual Shadow, but it has grown considerably to highlight luminaries like Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau.
What did your parents think after they read the book?
They are in the process of reading it right now. I wondered about it myself, especially the Impact Zone chapter. I don'k now if they knew the extent I was fighting my demons. For my parents, they've seen years of uncertainty, so this was an affirmation that I wasn't just chasing dreams.
You start doing something that doesn't have a definitive path and you question it and wonder if it will be a favorable result. There's a difference between what's good for you and what's best for you. Best often means going through some pain to get the optimal outcome.
It sounds like not everyone can be a great surfer. Can everyone become a great entrepreneur?
Great can be having a popular blog or it could be becoming Elon Musk. It is really about someone's standards. Often what we do is associate with some grand terms, like iconic figures who change the world, but changing the world doesn't have to be this grand gesture that everyone notices. It really depends on how we define great. Does everyone need to be Steve Jobs? No. But can everyone change the world in some small way?
How do you define success?
How people define success is totally individual. My entire drive was to surf more. For me, I would love to have a life where I can surf as much as possible, spend time with people I love and do something I enjoy. In my mind, it is the spiritual, social and physical needs. You can have all the money in the world, but if you have no friends, what's the point?
You talk about depression when your podcast show growth stagnated for a period of time. In fact, that whole chapter was intense. What made you, an interviewer by trade, decide to get personal?
It was an incredibly informative experience. I don't think the book would have been an accurate portrayal of the [entrepreneurial] experience without it. With what we do, as storytellers, we can edit what the world sees. The media glamorizes accomplishments. If you look at my Facebook during that rough period, you wouldn't know I was suicidal and depressed.
We really have a mental health issue within entrepreneurship. Inc. did a great piece on it. Now we need to have a bigger conversation: How many founder suicides must happen until we really discuss it? Jerry Colonna and Reboot have done a good job, but we need to do more as a whole.
If one person is saved and gets help from my book, then the honesty is worth it.
You've interviewed hundreds of people, but now everything is referenced together in one book. What is the biggest theme you found after writing the book?
What I noticed is that people who are exceptional at what they do - thriving VCs and so - that the path of how they get there is almost never straight and narrow. I can't think of one person I talked to who said "I'm going to be this when I grow up."
What do you want to write about that you haven't written about yet?
I've jokingly said I want to do a memoir retracing my steps, starting at the northern tip of Brazil. I'd love to see if the guy who rented me my first surfboard is still there.
What is the single most inspiring book you've read that made you a better entrepreneur?
Being an author, like yourself, makes me a voracious reader. It's tough. If I had to choose one, it would be Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. My copy is tattered, beat to hell and dog eared. I always take it with me when I travel. I can start the morning with it and it helps me have a good writing session.