Guy Kawasaki | From Hawaii to Apple, to Canva and Beyond

Guy Kawasaki  2:43  

You know, the timing was right to do this book because it took me 60 some odd years to accumulate this wisdom. And I figure I have to hit the window where I’ve accumulated the wisdom, but I have not yet forgotten the wisdom. So that’s

narrow bandwidth. Yeah. Now’s the time there ever was right. Right. He said, he tells some great stories. So let’s start with Hawaii, one of my favorite places on earth. You grew up in paradise. But you quickly made your way over to Silicon Valley. But what was your you know, you had rather poor humble upbringing in Hawaii? Yes. Well, I don’t paint an overly dramatic picture like I, you know, it was an immigrant family at the borders, you know, and all that kind of stuff. It was like that I was in a lower middle class family. I didn’t know I was poor, quite frankly, I had a great youth. Yes.

Yeah. Don’t Don’t give me more credit than I deserved. Okay. Fair enough. But yeah, yeah. I mean, you didn’t have a lot of advantages, but those advantages came from different opportunities, like educational opportunities in great teachers. So tell us a little bit about some of those. Yeah, well, yeah. Well, it’s maybe

was an Asian thing but

my fat my parents really believed in the power of education. So I was pushed at from first because an elementary school teacher told my parents to get me out of the public school system and put me into something more challenging because I had potential. So you know, thank you to her, Trudy, a cow for making that happen. Thank you to my parents were listening to her and sacrificing and making that all possible.

Because I went from a public school system to a private school, the private school to Stanford, Stanford is where I met the person who gave me a job at Apple and the rest is history. So had I stayed in the public school system, I probably would not have gone to Stanford, I would be in Hawaii today. And it would be a completely different arc of my life. Right, right. And so you make it to Stanford and tell us about the Stanford years.

John Corcoran  5:00  

The opportunities that came from being at that university, and you just you got to California, and you said you were kind of blown away?

Guy Kawasaki  5:07  

Yeah, I got to California. And I mean, I was born to be in California. I love just the size of it. You know, don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with Hawaii, but you can drive around the whole island in a day. No, really no seasons there. And also in Hawaii, the primary industries were agricultural tourists, the retail, there was no tech. And I can’t say I’m interested in agricultural retail or tourism. Right. So I came to California and you know, the Hewlett Packard’s, were there National Semiconductor and software business was starting. I mean, how lilium and I, this was it.

John Corcoran  5:51  

Right? Right. And you said that you did you also didn’t realize growing up in Hawaii, that you were part of a minority? Explain that. Oh, yeah.

Guy Kawasaki  5:59  

Well, in Hawaii, at least when I was there, the the power structure was Japanese American. And so you know, if anything, it was more difficult to be white than Japanese American. And so I was never on the receiving end of prejudice and limitations and all that. So I get to the mainland, and my colleagues who are Japanese American from the mainland, had a completely different perspective on life that I just never dawned on me. And even in even if you compare World War Two, the Japanese Americans were interred in on the mainland. But that really didn’t happen. Except for a tiny amount in Hawaii interest. So that emotional burden either,

John Corcoran  6:54  

huh, that’s really interesting. And your your father of live it was was a legend later.

Guy Kawasaki  7:00  

Yes, he was a state senator for 20 years or something like that.

John Corcoran  7:04  

What was that? Like? How did that influence you?

Guy Kawasaki  7:07  

Uh, you know, Well, for one thing, I swore off politics forever.

He was a public, sir. I mean, he really, you know, was trying to help the common man. And he taught me the concept of Noblesse the lesion was very formative. But like I said, I mean, I looked at what politics involved that I said, Never ever would I do that.

Unknown Speaker  7:32  


John Corcoran  7:34  

You talk a lot about the influence of books on your life in this book, including one if you want to write. Talk about that book. 

Guy Kawasaki  7:43  

Yes. So if you want to write was written by Brenda, Ulan and a writing instructor at the University of Minnesota. And obviously from the title, it’s for writers and basically, the book says if you want to write, write, don’t, you know, don’t think you have to take a course.

You have to study writing, you have to get permission you have to be approved, you know, etc, etc. If you want to write right and one of the biggest barriers to writers is not external doubt but internal doubt that is, I’m not a writer I can’t write. And so that book which my wife told me to read, sort of changed my life. And the very interesting thing is that if you substitute the word program, make movies entrepreneur, you know market whatever whatever verb you’re into play music.

The book works so if you want to you know, make movies read the book, if you want to write just substitute make movies for Right.

John Corcoran  8:43  

Right, interesting. Now, you you saw is interesting, because you in the book, you talk a lot about determination and follow through and sticking through. When times are rough. And there are a few examples in the book of ways at times of which that didn’t work out. One was law school. So you go from Stanford to Davis. Yeah. And you get there. And like, the same for me, so tell us about that.

Guy Kawasaki  9:15  

Yeah, so basically, I went to law school for

it was no longer than two weeks, maybe less. I just hated it. And, you know, my fragile ego at the time, couldn’t handle this kind of law school pressure case method, you know? Was that movie where paradise? Yeah, favorite shoes. I could not handle that pressure.

John Corcoran  9:38  

The funny thing about that is that was written the author of that it was a contracts professor who was my contracts professor in law school at USF. But he did the exact opposite. Because that whole book is about like the Socratic method and just drilling down and embarrassing people in class. He did the exact opposite.

Guy Kawasaki  9:58  

Haha, yeah. Small world. Well, anyway, so, uh, maybe I shouldn’t have seen the movie.

John Corcoran  10:04  

Yeah, well, I mean, the movies really intimidating. You see that movie? And you’re like, I never school.

Guy Kawasaki  10:09  

Wow. Yeah. So I can’t remember what came first if I saw the movie, and then I went to law school or went to law school then sent the saw the movie, but

but the outcome was the same. I left law school. Yeah.

John Corcoran  10:24  

Yeah. But you, you you look back at it philosophically. And you realize it was the right decision to make?

Guy Kawasaki  10:31  

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. I have to say it’s one of the few things I’ve ever quit in my life. Now, one of the wisdoms that I derived from that experience is it know if you never quit in your life? Partially, it’s because or maybe the majority is because you have this paranoid fear that you know, the first time you quit, it’s a slippery slope and, and then you’ll be getting everything and you’ll be a loser. That’s not my experience when I quit law school. And it’s not like I, you know, imploded. So Right, right. So there you go.

John Corcoran  11:08  

Right, right. Now, let’s talk about your, your introduction to Apple and into the Macintosh team. And of course, it came because of a relationship. That’s what I focus on with this podcast is asking people about relationships that led to the successes in their life. So talk about how that opportunity came along.

Guy Kawasaki  11:29  

Well, that opportunity came along purely because of nepotism. So my, my college roommate, hired me into the Macintosh division. And quite frankly, I had zero qualifications for that. You know, I had an undergraduate degree in psychology because that was the easiest major I could find. I was in extensively the jewelry business, the jewelry manufacturing business, not a tech business. So you know, besides the lack of an educational bag, brown and a work experience background, I was the perfect candidate.

John Corcoran  12:04  

Right. We’ll talk a little bit about the jewelry experience, because you say that you learned a lot from that experience, even though you know, it obviously, is very different from Tech

Guy Kawasaki  12:15  

OMG, I thank God for the jewelry business, because in the jewelry business, I had to learn how to sell, right. So we were a jewelry manufacturer that sold to retailers. So you called on the buyers and owners of retail jewelry stores, and you had to sell and it was hand to hand combat. And that’s a very valuable lesson. I think, you know, when it all boils down in life, you’re either making something or you’re selling something. And those are, you know, it’d be great if you could do both. But if you have to do at least one.

John Corcoran  12:49  

Right, right. Yeah, sales is so what what why do you think you’re, you know, what are some of the secrets behind selling that that have made you good at it over the years?

Guy Kawasaki  13:02  

First of all, you have to learn how to shut up and listen. I mean, that’s

another lesson is, you know, once someone has agreed, don’t keep selling, you know, no, never go past the clothes. A third thing is that, and this is a definition of evangelism that, you know, what an evangelist does is, he or she has the other person’s best interests at heart too. So when I sold a Macintosh or when I sell Canvas today, I truly do believe Macintosh will make you more creative and productive. And Canvas will make you a much better communicator. And so don’t get me wrong. It was good for me for Mac and it was good for my career. If you bought a Macintosh, it is still good for my career if you use Canvas, but I truly do believe in both cases that it’s good for you to it’s not simply me making quota.

John Corcoran  13:59  

Yeah, well, Canvas an amazing product, we can get to that in a little bit. I’ve used it extensively. It’s it’s a delight to use, unlike products that came before. And a non graphic designer, like myself can use it very easily. You have a section in the book called The Gospel, according to Steve. So you work directly for Steve Jobs? Not directly. Well, sorry, not directly, like direct report, but you know, you experienced him in that in the 80s. Tell us a little bit tell some stories about working with Steve.

Guy Kawasaki  14:30  

Oh, every story you’ve read seen heard about is basically true. He was a tough guy very difficult to work for. But I will tell you that he was absolutely formative for me. And I would not be where I am. We’re not for Steve Jobs. I owe him a great deal of indebtedness. I think the world is a lot less interesting without Steve Jobs. Having said that, I promise you he’s telling God what to do right now. And in he’s probably designing universe two point O at God. And I can tell you that universe two point O if Steve is involved, first of all, is going to be expensive, going to be late and none of the cables from this universe will work that the universe,

John Corcoran  15:15  

we’re gonna have to buy all new cables, great,

Guy Kawasaki  15:16  

all new cables for the next week or so hopefully have a

John Corcoran  15:19  

little dongle that will connect the old cables.

Guy Kawasaki  15:23  

If Apple ever made a car, you know, it will be like a $2,000 dongle to make it work with the standard charging station. Exactly, exactly. So my favorite story is I’m working one day Steve pops into my cubicle with somebody I never met. He asked me what I think of a company. I tell him the truth, the company’s crap, the product is crap. And then he turns and he says, Well, this is the CEO of the company.

He told me set you up in that store. Absolutely. set me up. But you know what? I passed the Steve Jobs test.

John Corcoran  15:54  

He wanted honesty.

Guy Kawasaki  15:55  

Yes. Well, he wanted honesty. And he probably thought that the product was crap, too. Right. So if I had said it was great, yeah, I might have been fired on the spot rain that’s

John Corcoran  16:05  

really embarrassed them if you had,

Guy Kawasaki  16:07  

well, if I had been fired, or if I had,

John Corcoran  16:10  

well, if you’d given the answer, he didn’t want to hear

Guy Kawasaki  16:13  

Oh, yeah, I definitely ducked the bullet, they probably

John Corcoran  16:16  

had an idea that what your answer was going to be that it was crap.

Guy Kawasaki  16:21  

Well, knowing Steve, probably something like this happen. So CEOs meeting with the detail CEO tell Steve Oh, we’re doing great selling, you know, 10s of thousands of copies per month, blah, blah, blah, blah. And Steve says, No, you know, your product is crap. And the guy says, No, it’s great. We’re selling 10s of thousands of copies. For one. He goes, No, it’s crap. Let’s go see guy. He’s my software evangelist. Let’s see what he thinks. Right. Thank God, I passed the test.

John Corcoran  16:49  

Right, right. Right. What was it like selling Macintosh in those days?

Guy Kawasaki  16:53  

Ah, it was the greatest. I mean, you know, people’s jaws were on the ground when they saw it. I mean, it’s hard to relate to now, because everything is, you know, graphical user interface now, but back then, it was a character based, you know, with cursor keys, moving a cursor around the screen. And then to see something where you use a mouse and you, you know, you draw stuff and all this kind of stuff. And it was earth shattering. So it was, I think, an easy sale, except for Fortune 500 companies, which just did not want to change, right?

John Corcoran  17:29  

Yeah. Were you evangelizing to them? Or is it more to consumer market? It

Guy Kawasaki  17:33  

was a different department thing.

John Corcoran  17:35  

That fortunate for you. Yeah. And you like Steve left and came back. Tell us a little bit about the second stint stint at Apple?

Guy Kawasaki  17:44  

Well, I left to start a company. I returned because Apple was supposed to die. At that point. It was 1995. And I came back to maintain the Macintosh cult. I stayed there another couple years, and then left where every time I leave Apple does really well. Well, I started to notice the so I left Apple twice. And Steve offered me another position. I turned him down. So you know, you are interviewing someone stupid enough to leave the most valuable company ever.

John Corcoran  18:19  

And you had an incident at a meeting with him. Tell us about that story?

Guy Kawasaki  18:24  

Yeah, so it was a meeting of all the marketing people within our outside agency, the outside agency was showing us the thing, different campaign for the first time. And at the end of the meeting, the the agency person says, Well, I have two copies of the videos here. I’ll give one the guy want to use the SD says don’t give one to God. And this is in front of like, 25 people. So Steve, Don’t you trust me? And he says, No, guy, I don’t trust you. And I said, Steve, I don’t trust you either.

That’s another $200 million mistake.

John Corcoran  18:56  

Geez. Yeah. And it was it was just out of the blue. And you have any inclination why he said that?

Guy Kawasaki  19:05  

Because he’s, that’s his operating system. He just, you know, tells you whatever he thinks at the moment. So I had the either the stupidity or the cogency to come right back at him. Yes. Most people would not have, you know, come right back, Adam.

But I did.

John Corcoran  19:25  

In retrospect, do you wish that you hadn’t said that?

Guy Kawasaki  19:30  

Not really, because, you know, after that he offered me another position. So I don’t know. I mean,

John Corcoran  19:38  

yeah. So it wasn’t a complete falling out, then I guess.

Guy Kawasaki  19:41  

No, no. Yeah. Yeah. Probably respected me for saying that.

John Corcoran  19:45  

Yeah. Well, so Apple today is still obviously successful, even though in spite of the fact that guys no longer there, Steve’s no longer there.

Guy Kawasaki  19:56  

Guys no longer.

John Corcoran  19:57  

Right. What do you attribute that to? Is there something in Apple’s DNA today? and Johnny I’ve just left recently? And is there something that you see that the reason why it continues to thrive? Or is it continuing to thrive?

Guy Kawasaki  20:11  

Well, I mean, financially, yes. I think what’s in Apple’s DNA is making great products. And so when it makes great products, it does well, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t. And

I, you know, I have to say that

gave me Can you think of a really great product recently?

What one that you would stand in line for?

John Corcoran  20:35  

Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of been iterating. In the last, I would say, in the last few years has been kind of iterations on the previous ones, there’s, there hasn’t really been something that just knocks your socks off. Like, I didn’t think of that at all,

Guy Kawasaki  20:46  

you know, basically, they stick faster and faster chips into the same thing, right.

And I also think, you know, they take away stuff.

They take away the little LED that shows that your computer’s charging, and they they take away ports, and you know, they make you buy dongles, and I you know, I, I just don’t get that and, and then, you know, that’s probably john I’ve Right. I mean, he wants such a minimalist computer. Maybe he has a cozy urge that keeps his laptop charged. I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting when he works outside of Apple, you know, he’s in some Hotel in Europe. Probably the kind of hotel he stays in Europe has a concierge to keep your laptop charged. But anyway, that’s not the case. You know, any he takes his room key out of the thing by the door European hotel, and that shuts off the power he comes back and his his MacBook Air is in charge, man, I’m gonna laugh when that happens.

John Corcoran  21:51  

Why do you think that Steve, who famously kind of didn’t get along with a lot of people did get along well with Johnny I.

Guy Kawasaki  22:00  

I have no idea. I mean, I’ve never met john i, i i from the outside looking in, you know, two people with similarly great taste. You would hope it would get along.

I i? I don’t know. I mean, yeah,

John Corcoran  22:17  

right. Right.

Guy Kawasaki  22:18  

Right. I’m not inside that tent.

John Corcoran  22:21  

Yeah. What do you see? So what drew you to Canada? We mentioned it earlier. I love Canada. And I can see the similarities, you know, for you in terms of why you’re attracted, why you’re attracted to Macintosh in the 80s. Why you’re attracted to Canada today. But what attracted you?

Guy Kawasaki  22:38  

Well, well, it was more Campbell was attracted to me than I was attracted to Canada at the very start. So I have an assistant named peg Fitzpatrick, and she was doing social media, including Twitter, making graphics with Canvas. So Canada, notice that I was using Canada reached out to me with the tweet, I happen to see the tweet, I asked pig. Is this the company that you use? She said, Yes. I said, Do you like it? She said, Yes. I said, you know, should I help them? She said yes. And the rest is history. So we’re not for pictures. Patrick. I would not be involved with Gambit today.

John Corcoran  23:14  

But what about the product Did you like so

Guy Kawasaki  23:16  

all the product is so simple, right? It’s so you know,

if anyone out there listening has tried Photoshop, just try camera for five minutes and you will see why millions of people use camera. It is it is it’s like the difference between canvas and Photoshop is there to Macintosh and Unix.

John Corcoran  23:43  

So huge difference. Yeah, it’s really revolutionary what they created that I still don’t understand how they made it. so elegant, so simple to use.

Guy Kawasaki  23:55  

I have never worked with people who more relentlessly pursue perfection than cash. Well, I you know, I’m not. I’m not heaping praise upon myself. I’m telling you. Right. Those other employees are like that. My God. Right, right.

John Corcoran  24:10  

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. What are you most excited about today in this is entering in the second half of 2019. In terms of technology, what are you most excited about?

Guy Kawasaki  24:23  

Oh, god.

I’m getting to be training is you know,

John Corcoran  24:28  

trailing edge.

Guy Kawasaki  24:30  

Yeah. I first of all, everyday a funny story. So I am using a 2015. Mac Book Pro.

Unknown Speaker  24:39  

The horrors?

Guy Kawasaki  24:40  

Yeah. And listen, I have 2018 MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. I gave them both to my kids. It’s because one day I is a funny story. I posted a picture of an old Mac Book. With all the ports. You know how it had like multiple USB, it had the magic like, yes, card reader. Yeah, thunderbolts are just like everything, right? So I post this picture and I say, you know, don’t remember these days how good they were. And lots of people said, well, that’s what I use. I use the 2015 1413 12. And I said, How can this be? How can people be using a five year old Macintosh? And there they say they’re doing video editing and everything like that. So I was curious. And I contacted my friends at Mac sales. And I said, you know, is this possible? He said, Oh yeah, lots of people do that. And so I asked him to build me the most souped up MacBook Pro that still had an SD card reader and, and USB three ports. And so I have a 16 gigabyte 2015 mac book pro two terabytes of SSD and Mojave install just fine and you know, I cannot tell you that I can see any perform difference between 2018 MacBook Air MacBook Pro and this but I can tell you one thing. I don’t have to have a dongle. I know that I can just take a HDMI cable and stick it in the side of my computer and I don’t have to worry about what what is it the dongle? Is that the cable? Is that the TV? Is it the computer? I mean, life is good.

You asked me what I’m excited about. I’m excited about 2015 MacBook Pro isn’t sad.

John Corcoran  26:30  

That was not what I was expecting. Definitely knows exactly. And Canvas you’re excited to do.

Before we wrap up, I want to want you to tell the story of Richard Branson shining your shoes.

Guy Kawasaki  26:43  

Okay, so one day I’m in Moscow to speak for Russian conference and you know, incomes steeper as the brass and Richard Branson and he asked me what airline I fly. I say well, United I’m Global Services. And he gets down on his knees and starts polishing my shoes. And that’s the day I started flying Virgin America. So yeah.

John Corcoran  27:13  

Amazing. But he amazing entrepreneurs and he.

Guy Kawasaki  27:17  

Yes, God. Yeah, sure. Yes. Yeah.

John Corcoran  27:20  

Well, we’re running short on time zone wrap things up. Guy. Thank you so much. So this isn’t this is a version let’s pretend we’re at at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars, the Emmys. And you are receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for everything you’ve done up until this point. Tell me who are the people that you think you mentioned Trudy, a cow, Steve Jobs, I imagine where the people who are the mentors or the friends or the colleagues or the peers who you would acknowledge,

Guy Kawasaki  27:45  

first of all, am I getting an invitation to the White House after this or not? Sure. Absolutely. I’m not good.

Unknown Speaker  27:52  

Not in this administration.

Guy Kawasaki  27:54  

Yeah. So a

English teacher named Harold Peebles. Certainly my mother and father, my wife and four kids. You know, I mean, basically, my family, my wife and four kids are the center of my life at this point, not a career, not writing not anything they are. So yeah, that’s how I would say,

John Corcoran  28:19  

that’s great. Well, I’m behind you when Susan Rhea reintroduced us, she mentioned that now I’m up to four kids. I think I maybe had one when I interviewed you at the beginning of this podcast about five years ago. So I look forward to that day. So guy wise guy lessons from a life is the name of the book to truly enjoyable read. And where else can people learn more about you guy?

Guy Kawasaki  28:42  

A Guy Kawasaki calm. But that’s primarily brochure where I must admit, you want to see what I’m really into personally, Guy Kawasaki on Instagram. And if you want to see what I’m curating, as opposed to creating, follow my LinkedIn calm, which is Guy Kawasaki.

John Corcoran  29:02  

Excellent. Alright, thanks so much Guy.

Guy Kawasaki  29:03  

Okay, thank you. 

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