The Learning Leader Show With Ryan Hawk

302: Nick Kokonas – How To See The Genius In People

Full show notes can be found at

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • Intellectual curiosity – A desire to learn.  Not for the outcome, but for the curiosity to learn more
    • Healthy degree of paranoia – What Jim Collins would call “productive paranoia”
      • In the pursuit of excellence
    • “No one is giving it away for free.  It takes effort.”
  • Balance — “I get manic at times. I’m not always well balanced.”  The skill is in being able to turn it on and off… Which can happen over time
  • “I’ve always been curious about how things worked…”
  • Why it was helpful to go to Colgate University
    • A Liberal Arts school forced Nick to study areas outside of just his major.  Made him more well-rounded
    • He “learned how to learn” — Forced him to wrestle with existential questions
  • Rhetoric — Can you understand all sides of an issue? Where does ambiguity exist?
    • Need to learn to think critically — How you do it is more important that you do it
  • General advice:
    • “Learn to communicate well.  Concisely. Learn to write and speak well.
    • From a psychology perspective, analyze, “what are they really saying?”
  • Why he became a derivatives trader:
    • “I got into law school, but didn’t want to go.”
    • He tested well, but desired his independence
    • “Prestige as part of pay doesn’t matter to me.”
    • To be great at anything, you must be disciplined to show up everyday — “My money has always been at risk everyday. Some think that’s crazy.  But I’ve always worked to have an edge.”
    • How to figure out outcomes as soon as possible
  • The decision to leave the world of derivatives trading to open a restaurant… Why?
    • “I took some money off the table… Then my dad died… and I thought, what am I doing?  I had no idea what I was going to do next…”
  • Meeting Grant Achatz and the impact that had on Nick’s life…
    • “He reminded me a lot of myself.  He was thoughtful, driven, shy (this was the opposite), and he wasn’t afraid of hard work.”
    • “I think I have a skill to see the genius in some people.”
    • “Grant’s work is of artistic genius”
  • Doing what you love and are passionate about:
    • “For me the test is… When I wake up in the morning is it nagging at me to do it?”

Leave A Comment