What have you spent your time chasing in your career? Fancy titles? The role of CEO? The opportunity to say you manage a huge team of X people? Have you ever stopped to think about why those things matter to you so much? What drives you to focus on that goal?
In this 1-year anniversary episode of Career Relaunch, Bruce Daisley, Vice President of Twitter, EMEA shares his insights on drivers of happiness in the workplace and the motivations behind his own career shifts from Google & YouTube to Twitter. In the Mental Fuel® segment, I’ll explain how focusing on the wrong driver of happiness initially led me astray in my own career and the realization I had that got me back on track.
Key Career Insights
- Job titles and material possessions may create short term bursts of happiness, but they don’t lead to true, long term happiness.
- What creates happiness at work is not what people give you, but rather, what you accomplish.
- Happiness is a direct output of what you pay attention to. So pay attention to those things that are truly important.
Tweetables to Share
- Bruce’s LinkedIn article entitled Can We be Happier at Work gives a snapshot of the conversations on his podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat.
- Richard Reeves, author of Happy Mondays, talks about importance of having good friends in the workplace, a topic Bruce covered in the Friends & Flow Episode 1 of his Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast. Also, this article in Harvard Business Review on Forming Stronger Bonds with People at Work is a very useful read if you’re looking for ways to build stronger work relationships.
- Bruce alluded to:
- Emma Seppala at Stanford University, who writes for the Harvard Business Review and describes how more people are feeling lonely in the workplace.
- Lucy Kellaway, former management columnist for the Financial Times has now become a math teacher.
- Alex “Sandy” Pentland of MIT found most creative environments are those that have high levels of short bursts of chat.
- British economist Baron Richard Layard and Crowdwish founder Bill Griffin focused on micro-happiness when talking about The Smoothie Delusion.
- Daniel Kahneman said beware the attention illusion. Nothing is as important as it seems when you’re paying attention to it. So pay attention to more important things.
- Tony Schwartz– The energy project. His campaign is called “Take Back Your Lunch.”
- Paul Dolan said happiness is the direct result of what you pay attention to.
- Martin Morales left his life in the music industry to open the restaurant he always dreamed of.
- Lisa Unwin set up She’s Back to empower women’s return to work after having children.
- Benjamin Disraeli quote: “Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions.”
During this episode’s Mental Fuel® segment, I talked about identifying one of your career goals and writing down WHY it’s so important to you. Is that STILL important to you? If not, consider focusing on something else that’s more important to you.
About Bruce Daisley, Vice President EMEA, Twitter
Bruce Daisley is the EMEA Vice President of Twitter. He joined the company in 2012 having previously ran Google’s display business. At Google Bruce had responsibility for YouTube and display advertising. He has also worked at Emap/Bauer and Capital Radio.
Previously, New Media Age recognised Bruce as having made the Greatest Individual Contribution to new media in the UK. In 2015, he was voted Individual of the Year in The Drum’s Social Media rankings. He is a digital advisor to Comic Relief, and is a judge in the Design Effectiveness Awards. Bruce regularly speaks on the evolution of work culture and runs a podcast “Eat Sleep Work Repeat” on the subject. The podcast has featured in the iTunes top business podcasts since its launch at the start of 2017. Follow Bruce on Twitter.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): Pay attention to more important things rather than less important things. Is it important whether I’ve got a hundred people reporting to me? Is it important if I’ve got this title that looks great on my business card? Or is it important that I go to work and I feel stimulated and I laugh?
Joseph: Bruce, thanks so much for having me here at Twitter in London. I’m very excited to be here, and it’s exciting to have you on the show.
Bruce: I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled to be invited.
Joseph: I’d love to start by just talking about your role here at Twitter, Bruce. Can you just walk us through exactly what your role is and what you’re focused on right now in your career, in your life?
Bruce: The August’s title for it is that I’m the Vice President for EMEA, which is the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. We’re trying to grow Twitter as a tool for people to use to discover what’s happening in the world. We see Twitter as maybe more than having fought it as a news app. How can we get people to use Twitter in Germany, in France, in Spain, in the Middle East? How can we do that? That’s one way of growing.
The second one is growing our business, and that means trying to grow or add revenue and deliver some good performance there. My role is trying to spot people who are doing well but need help, people who are not doing well and need help, or areas where we could do a partnership to go faster. It’s just about trying to add little bursts of energy to the work that’s already going on.
Joseph: From your vantage point, Bruce, what do you think is the most exciting thing that’s happening right now for you at Twitter?
Bruce: When you’re forced to make a decision, when you can’t do both things, it forces you to be reflective. One of the things that we’ve really done in the last year or so is say, ‘What is Twitter?’ We’re not a place that you go and share holiday photographs. We’re not the place that, if you’re getting married, you post images of that. We’re not the place that you share back-to-school photos. What is Twitter?
I think we forced our self to say, ‘Okay, Twitter is a place for news, a place for what’s happening.’ I think what we found through that is that our audience has really responded well to that. The audience had been growing incredibly strongly for the last 18 months. By us getting clearer with our thinking, the people who use Twitter have been more responsive to that. It’s a good reminder actually. The clearer you are with what you’re trying to achieve, the more likely you are to achieve it.
Joseph: I know you haven’t always been a VP here at Twitter. Before we talk about this topic of workplace culture, which I love to get your insights on, I was wondering if we could go back to your previous roles. We don’t think all the way back but to talk about your time as a Director of YouTube and Google. Can you explain how you landed there and then what happened next for you? We can work forward from there.
Bruce: I previously worked in a radio and magazine company. I had, at one stage, a hundred people reporting in to me. I had a fantastic title. Definitely, it would’ve looked impressive if I’d turn up somewhere, because I turned up and flashed my business card, if it was that to a person, then it would’ve been impressive. I was maybe redundant from there. They got taken over and they removed a layer of management.
I found myself out of work and deciding what I wanted. I very nearly went and took a job at Myspace. Younger listeners won’t necessarily know immediately what Myspace was.
Joseph: I remember it.
Bruce: Myspace was the future social media at one stage, but it was long past that era when I was going to join there. My friend said to me, ‘They’re brilliant, aren’t they?’ It made me think. I sat there and I thought, ‘Okay. Write a handful of companies you’d love to work at, and then what are the things that would characterize why you wanted to work there?’ I ended up taking a job at YouTube that paid less. It wasn’t YouTube. It was at Google. It paid less. There were three people reporting in to me, and the title was massively reduced from the heights I’d been to.
Joseph: How much did that matter to you?
Bruce: Not remotely actually. Not remotely. Once I’ve decided I was going to be happier at least, it didn’t occur to me. I guess the things that go through your head is you think, ‘How do I explain this to other people?’ and, ‘Is there any shame in it?’ I wasn’t ashamed in doing it, and I was quite excited.
The thing that was going through my head was, if I join Google, maybe I could work my way to working on YouTube, and YouTube, I think is one of the seven wonders of the web. It’s like one of the most incredible creations of human invention. I thought, ‘Wow, if I could work on that, that would be something, even if it’s only a project.’ I had a clear goal in mind.
I’m not a big status person. I’m not really a person who—if I get in a cab even now or if I’m on holiday and someone’s asked where I work, I always say, ‘The internet.’ I never tell people where I work.
Joseph: That’s interesting. I would’ve thought that someone who has that privilege to work at a place like Google or Twitter, they would love namedropping that.
Bruce: I tend to see things like that as things that separate us rather than connect us.
Bruce: It’s a bit like a group in a school. I think I was probably eight and a group in a school in the City of Birmingham. We used to have a map at the start of term, and it would be who’s been on vacation, who’s been on holiday, and everyone would have to say that. Three quarters of the class hadn’t been on holiday. Three quarters of the class had left the pin in Birmingham, and then there was someone who’d been to the South Coast. There’s someone who’d been to France. This was extraordinary. That person got loads of attention. They’d been abroad. People had been to Wales. People had been to different places. Even though I had been on holiday, I left the pin in Birmingham. I didn’t want to appear like I was at advantage to them.
I think those sort of things are formative. I feel like if I tell people I’ve got a job that I adore, that I love, that I feel honored to have, it sort of casts their job in a worse light. So I just never talk about those things.
As it come to that, because I’ve never felt like anything I’ve accomplished is a badge of honor, consequently, I don’t see if I’d failed as a badge of shame.
Joseph: Before we talk about this topic of culture, I am really interested, how did you get past that concept of this sort of superficial, I want to call them societal validators of ‘I work at a fancy company. I got a fancy title’? What sort of mindset do you feel that you have or what do you think people need to have in order to get past some of those?
Bruce: If you read a lot about happiness, what you tend to find is that specifically material possession create short-term bursts of happiness, but they don’t lead to purposeful happiness. I think job descriptions, titles, and things like that are exactly the same. That moment you land the job, you feel that burst of adrenalizing energy. Of course it dissipates, right? Short-term successes. So I’m not necessarily preoccupied with cars, houses, watches. I don’t have any of those things.
Joseph: Okay. Let’s shift gears and let’s talk a little bit about some of the other work that you do because I know we first crossed paths at the Future of Work Conference in London. Aside from your day job at Twitter, you’re also focused on the evolution of work culture and what drives happiness in the workplace. One of the things we talk about on the show is the importance of doing work that aligns with your values, and you wrote a really interesting article on LinkedIn earlier this year about whether the culture of our workplaces can make us happier.
I’d love to just touch on a couple of themes which you cover on your own podcast called Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat, which we’re definitely going to talk about at the end and come back to, about work culture. The first one is about friends and flow. You talked with Richard Reeves, the Author of Happy Mondays, and this concept of having a close personal friend being really important in the workplace. What’s important about that?
Bruce: In this season of Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat, I chatted to a woman called Emma Seppala. She’s from Stanford University. She’s currently at Yale, and she writes a lot for the Harvard Business Review. One of the things that she’s observed in one of her most recent articles is that half of all people feel exhausted by work, and it’s gone up by 30% in the last 20 years. In addition, people feel incredibly lonely at work. Loneliness is a strong correlate with just this sense of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at work.
To think we can recognize all those things, we tend to talk less at work. There was a brilliant thing by a ‘Financial Times’ columnist called Lucy Kellaway, and she’s turned a lot of her columns into podcasts. One of them is she observed, she’s just left being a full-time columnist to become a school math teacher. In her reflective mode, she said during her 30 years in the Financial Times, she’s observed the volume of chat in the office has reduced substantially.
The interesting for her was the chat has gone down, and that seems emotionally instinctively to be a bad thing. But then if you overlay it with any science, this guy called Alex Pentland from the MIT, he has observed that the most creative environments are the ones where there’s high levels of short-bursts of chat. So we’re losing the thing that powers creativity. In addition, people are feeling lonely. All of these things are broken.
What happens is we assess life from a micro level. We assess life from sitting in front of our laptops. We survey the job to be done, and the job to be done is we’ve got 100 emails. Going over and chatting to Dara, going over and chatting to Helen feels like an unnecessary diversion from the job we’ve got to do. The end result is we’re feeling overwhelmed, lonely, unhappy… Science suggests we’re less creative as a result.
Joseph: The other thing you talked about was the smoothie delusion by these guys, Baron Richard Layard and Bill Griffin. I was first of all wondering about whether you can tell me who these guys are and what you uncovered about benefits and their relationship or lack thereof to workplace satisfaction.
Bruce: Bill Griffin’s one of the most entertaining people that you’ll ever have the good fortune to meet. I guess his take on life is micro happiness. His take is, how can I improve happiness one active kindness at a time? Baron Layard is probably the most eminent British economist. He’s worked with a succession of Prime Ministers for the last three decades, and his job is macro happiness, how can we make the entirety of all of us happier?
The thing that came out of that episode is the system that we’ve got, which is we try and make people happier at work by giving them things: ‘Hey, guys. We’ve brought beers around at 5:00 on Thursday.’ ‘Hey, guys. We’ve bought everyone a smoothie.’ ‘Good news, everyone. There’s cake sitting in the kitchen.’ All of these things, we think make people happy. Inevitably, yeah, they do. They make people happier in the short term, but they are palliative. They don’t make people happier in any significant sense in the long term. I think the critical thing for all of us is how can we get past the idea that happiness is smoothies?
If you search the best companies in the world to work at, what you’ll find is one or two companies that are very good at capturing brilliant photography of their slide, of their smoothies, of their cycle to work days. They capture things like that. None of those things correlate with people being happier at work. Having worked in one or two of those places, I know that what creates happiness isn’t necessarily what people give to you. It’s what you do at work. We’re happier when we’ve done something, not when we’ve been given something.
Joseph: The other thing you talked about, Bruce, was this concept of the production process for happiness with Paul Dolan. What exactly is that and what did you uncover about the production process for happiness?
Bruce: Paul Dolan said that his revelation was that the production process for happiness was happiness is a direct output of what you pay attention to. It’s interesting. I saw someone tweet the other day about Daniel Kahneman. Daniel Kahneman, people might be aware, is sort of the father of behavioral economics. Daniel Kahneman is an incredibly intelligent guy and was one of the greatest thinkers of our lifetime. He was asked, ‘Of all his learning, what was the thing that he regarded as the greatest single lesson?’ He said, ‘Beware the attention illusion.’ He said, ‘Nothing is as important as it seems while you’re paying attention to it.’ What does that mean?
You’ve had an argument with someone or you worried that how you look in certain clothes isn’t good, and nothing is as important as it seems when you’re paying attention to it. Both of them, they might seem directly opposed, but I think they are directly linked to each other. Attention can be illusionary. It can make us think things are more important, but actually, let’s pay attention to more important things rather than less important things.
That’s quite an interesting thing, because then, you start thinking about what we talked about at the start of this discussion. Is it important whether I’ve got a hundred people reporting to me? Is it important if I’ve got this title that looks great on my business card? Or is it important that I go to work and I feel stimulated and I laugh? If I laugh 10 times in a day, I’m really thrilled about that. Actually, I’d been much more inclined to choose a job based on that, even though it probably would appear rationally to be a misguided way to make the decision.
Joseph: The other thing I want to talk about before we shift gears and talk about your podcast, Bruce, is one of the episodes that I just listened to on the way over here about rebooting your career. I know you talked with some really interesting people. You talked with Martin Morales about how he left the music industry to open a restaurant that he’d always dreamed of, Lisa Unwin about how women can return to the workplace after having children. What are one or two lessons that you learned about what it takes to successfully relaunch your career from talking with those people?
Bruce: It’s very easy for Steve Jobs or one of the Spice Girls or a famous actor to say, ‘I just did what I was passionate about.’ For each one of those people, there are 10,000 people who did what they were passionate about and got nowhere. I think there’s a danger that we can follow the winners, and we could end up with advice that’s of no value. I’m sort of cautious about things like that.
I saw a quote by Benjamin Disraeli today. I scribbled it down because I saw it somewhere, which slightly conflicts with what I said. The quote is ‘We’re only truly great when we act from our passion.’ I think there’s a balance to be struck. I don’t think you necessarily succeed just because you’re following your passion, but if you’ve got a degree of passion and excitement to what you end up doing, it probably motivates you and propels you a little bit further.
Joseph: Were there sort of any characteristics that you noticed about these people that allowed them to feel as if they could switch gears?
Bruce: Their tenacity, sort of the grit, the determination to keep going when things probably aren’t going well is probably the abiding power I suspect.
Joseph: What about you? What do you think has allowed you to be able to make the pivots in your career? Because you have had some changes and shifts along the way. You mentioned the layoff earlier being made redundant. What’s allowed you to just keep going and not really get too bothered by any of those sort of sudden shifts?
Bruce: The only quality I’ve got is probably a degree of tenacity/optimism. In a room of 20 people, I’m probably the middle in terms of talent. Certainly, I’ve got no things that I standout at. I’ve probably got a short attention span, and that has a strong advantage. If I’m looking at a presentation, my view is people are bored. Entertain them, stimulate them, move on.
When I first came here, we ran a lot of events. The team would ask me, the first even I ran myself. Start to finish, I ran everything. We finished that day, and I said, ‘Yeah, that was a 4 out of 10.’ Everyone was like, ‘What? Four out of 10? That was better than 4 out of 10.’ I said, ‘When we do an 8 out of 10, you’ll come back to me, and you’ll say, “That was 4 out of 10.”’
That disadvantage where I’ve got short attention span, I’m sometimes ungenerous with regards to my own work or other people’s work as well. But that means that you can hopefully see it through other people’s eyes.
Joseph: Last question for you before you talk about your podcast, Bruce. When you think about your own career and you look at what you know now, is there something that you wish you had known a few years ago?
Bruce: If you’ve got the desire to try and capture people’s attention in an entertaining way, that gets you three quarters of the way there. I got my first job at Capital Radio. I finished university. I was unemployed for about a year in Birmingham. After a year of being unemployed, I started drawing these cartoon CV. I drew this four-page resume of my life in sort of very bad cartoon. Changed the first square so it looked like I’ve done it for each job. I sent it to 50 companies, and the response it got was extraordinary. That taught me a lesson.
A girl, when I was YouTube, sent us a video CV. It wasn’t the best video CV I’ve ever seen, but man, you have a look at that now, it’s online if you’d search YouTube CV. I think it’s got like 100,000 views. Getting people’s attention is the hardest thing. Once you’ve got people’s attention and you’ve put a smile on their face, it’s amazing how people will fight your corner.
Joseph: Let’s talk about your podcast. I know we’ve been touching on it, but can you just tell us a little bit more, Bruce, about Eat Sleep Work Repeat, your podcast, which is focused on happiness and work culture, some of the topics when you look ahead, that you plan to cover? I know you’ve touched on a few already.
Bruce: This season, I’m really keen to do two things. I’m keen to keep exploring what is the root cause of happiness and stimulation and motivation at work, and then I want to try and unpick the things that are destroying that. I hate nostalgia. I don’t think the world before was any better than today. I think my phone is like this magical creation. I totally adore it. I’ve got an immensely fond emotional connection with my phone. I don’t think there’s anything bad about technological advancements.
However, I’m fascinated with how we can improve work so it just doesn’t feel overwhelming. Half of all people who check their email outside of work, exhibit high levels of stress. I think the solution has to lie within us. It has to lie in and lie in the businesses, thinking about how they can make the people at work be better.
I’m in awe of people like Tony Schwartz. Tony Schwartz is a world bestselling writer. He’s had a book that’s right at the top of the US bestsellers for a year, but then he’s gone on and he’s created something called The Energy Project. One of his things, again, is a simple hack, and his campaign is ‘Take back your lunch,’ because how many of us now sit at our desks, chewing through a prepped emoji sandwich, thinking, pecking away at emails one-handed while we eat, thinking that somehow, we’re reducing the amount of work.
All of the evidence says, if you go away from your desk—I met a woman called Laura Archer that had turned this into sort of a book, a manifesto—if you go away from your desk for an hour, you’ll achieve way more in the last three or four hours of the day than you would if you had worked through it.
I’d do emails in the evening. Sometimes, I find myself sitting there in the evening, tapping away at emails, and I think, ‘I’ve done three emails in the last hour,’ because I’m in such a state of exhaustion that I’m rereading them, then I’m going to make drink, then I’m coming back, I’m sitting there and I’m changing the music. None of that is productivity. You’re far better having an evening where you just go and do exercise or sleep or watch some TV or a movie and come back fresh tomorrow. That’s the thing I’m fascinated with really.
Joseph: Very cool, Bruce. If people want to learn more about these topics and they want to hear more from you, where can they go if they want to tune into Eat Sleep Work Repeat?
Bruce: It’s on iTunes. There’s a website which is EatSleepWorkRepeat.fm. I just think that there are so many people who love their jobs, and we know that. People who have jobs live longer. They’re healthier. They do better. But simultaneously, work is frying our brains, and we need to find a way to capture the best parts of work and push back on the worst parts.
Joseph: Definitely. We’ll also include links to your podcast here, Bruce. I’ve definitely checked it out myself. It’s a very interesting listen. Thanks so much for telling us about how you manage your own career and drivers of workplace happiness and also a few simple hacks to drive up your own workplace satisfaction. Best of luck with Eat Sleep Work Repeat and your work here at Twitter.
Bruce: Thanks so much, Joseph.