The Learning Leader Show With Ryan Hawk

Text LEARNERS to 44222

Full notes at

358: Jim McKelvey – How To Build An Unbeatable Business (One Crazy Idea At A Time)

Jim McKelvey is the co-founder of Square, was chairman of its board until 2010, and still serves on the Board of Directors. In 2011, his iconic card reader design was inducted into the Museum of Modern Art. Jim also founded Invisibly, a project to rewire the economics of online content; LaunchCode, a non-profit that trains people to work in technology; and Third Degree Glass Factory, a publicly accessible glass art studio & education center in St. Louis. In 2017, he was appointed as an Independent Director of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

  • Sustaining excellence = The people you lead will eventually kick you out… This signifies your ability to hire, train, and develop excellent leaders.
    • “I’m not a good leader. I don’t run the business. I build the company and then get out of the way.”
    • “I have a weird skill set… I’m comfortable doing things that have never been done before.”
  • What it’s like working with Jack Dorsey (Jim started Square with Jack): “He has the ability to administer and incrementally improve… That’s something I value in a person. Jack is incredibly competent, very quiet, and very capable. He knows the difference between good and excellent.”
  • Jim sees himself as a normal guy without any gifts… “Don’t disqualify yourself because you think other people are special (or gifted) and you’re not.”
  • What if the activity had never been done before? The Wright Brothers were no more qualified to build the first ever flying machine than someone else. They made the choice to do it, and put in the work to make it happen.
  • “To be excellent, you need to reach out to others who are.”
  • Interview process:
    • “People who lie are not consistent. Ask similar questions in different ways multiple times.”
    • Tell people very honestly all the reasons they shouldn’t work at your company. Be very honest. Then say, “I can’t tell if you’re lying to me, I won’t be able to catch you now, however I will find out eventually and I will fire you.”
  • Jim describes what it’s like to be a billionaire…
  • Think of the companies that have done something that had never been done before:
    • Bank of America
    • Ikea
    • Southwest Airlines
    • Square
  • “Commitment can be a great substitute for being qualified.”
  • “Admitting you don’t know something frees your mind from constraints. To actually do something new requires the humility to admit that your solution may not work, followed by the audacity to try anyway.”
  • How to get people to perform at higher levels?
    • “Go hang out with smarter people and raise their level of performance… Ask questions.”
      • Never interrupt
      • Leave pauses in a sentence, give them a chance to keep going…
  • An Innovation Stack = Series of inventions that create a new product. Doing something new.
  • What it was like to prepare for a demo with Steve Jobs: “He can be nasty if he doesn’t like you. You had to make it beautiful.”
  • Advice: “Consistently do something that makes you slightly uncomfortable.” Jim flies planes and gives speeches (both make him uncomfortable) –> This will slowly expand the things that you like. It will create more friends, and you’ll develop more respect for people who have differing views.
    • “You’ll learn it’s possible to function even when you’re uncomfortable.” Continually do little things to strengthen yourself… It helps you continue to go when others quit.
  • “Customers who trust you are more valuable than customers who love you. There’s only one shot at trust, and Square was trustworthy because of its values and mission, and built its Innovation Stack around them.”
  • Here is WHY joining a Learning Leader Circle is a good idea…

Leave A Comment