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Home » How to be Remarkable: Unseen, Unexpected, and Unexpected Practices: Guy Kawasaki (Transcript)

How to be Remarkable: Unseen, Unexpected, and Unexpected Practices: Guy Kawasaki (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript and summary of Guy Kawasaki’s talk titled “How to be Remarkable: Unseen, Unexpected, and Unexpected Practices” at TEDxHarkerSchool conference.

In this TEDx talk Guy Kawasaki discusses what makes people remarkable and the importance of pursuing interests and showing up regularly to become remarkable. He shares examples from his own life and emphasizes that becoming remarkable takes hard work and dedication. 

Listen to the audio version here:


Thank you very much. So it appears that I make an appearance at TEDxHarker every 10 years or so. So I hope I can make one more.

A little bit about my background. I, as you heard, I worked for Apple. I was Apple’s chief evangelist. I’m currently Canva’s chief evangelist. Hopefully some of you may use Canva.

And I’m also the host of this Remarkable People podcast. And I have interviewed about 160 people. And you develop some pattern recognition of what makes people remarkable. And it’s not obvious from the outside looking in when you see someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Jane Goodall, you know, what made them remarkable.

So this presentation is my analysis of what made people like that remarkable. And I hope that this will help you become remarkable too. So this is about how to be remarkable. And these are unseen, unexpected, maybe even hidden and counterintuitive things that I learn about why people become remarkable.

And you know, from the outside looking in, you think, well, you know, being remarkable is all fun and games and it’s like cool and you get to hang out with Barack Obama and Bill Nye and take selfies if you’re Neil deGrasse Tyson. Or if you’re John M. Chu, you make Crazy Rich Asians and this is a great film and, you know, that’s cool and everybody knows you and you’re famous.

Or if you’re Brandi Chastain and you win the World Cup and Olympic gold medals. From the outside looking in, it looks like all spectacular and easy and like instant success. And if you’re really lucky, you get Jane Goodall to look for lice in your hair.

And I just want to show you that underneath all of this and before all of this, a lot of things happened. And so this concept of sort of being instantly remarkable, I have found to be completely false. It takes a long time to do this.

And so these are my ten observations about how you can be remarkable or more remarkable too, okay?


So the first thing, I think that the world has done many young people a disservice when many people tell you to find your passion, pursue your passion. And it’s almost as if, you know, at the age of 18, 19 or 20, you should have already found your passion.

And for those of you who have not found your passion, you’re thinking, well, am I an underachiever? Am I a failure? Why have I not yet found my passion? And I think this is much too high a bar, and it’s an unfair bar to most people, that my observation is that instead of trying to find your passion, you should pursue interests.

And at any given moment in your life, your interests will be very different. It could be soccer, reading, art, music, ukulele, baking, cooking, surfing. It could be a lot of different things. So my first thought for you is, don’t get hung up on trying to find your passion.

And listen, I’m 68 years old. Three years ago, I discovered podcasting. Podcasting is currently my passion. But through the decades of my life, I’ve had multiple passions, and they all started with more of an itch, more of an interest, than head over heels, fall in love, dedicate my life to something.

So for those of you who have not yet found this thing in your life, which you would define as your passion, don’t sweat it. As you go through life and you find things that are interesting, scratch the itch, and one day you will discover a passion.


Second thing, this is Kristi Yamaguchi. A little-known fact about Kristi Yamaguchi is that in her first ice skating contest, she placed 12th, 12th. She asked her mom, why are the other girls getting ribbons and I’m not? And her mom told her, because Kristi, you finished 12th, not first, second, or third.

And then Kristi Yamaguchi went on a decades-long pattern of showing up, of practicing four to six hours every day. And that’s what it takes. You have to keep showing up. It doesn’t happen like that.


The third thing, the third thing, this is Steve Wozniak. And the lesson I learned from Steve Wozniak is that rather than being, quote, market-driven, being data-driven, the richest vein for finding these interests and these passions and ultimately to perhaps building a company is that you build what you want to use.

That rather than finding this theoretical market, this theoretical segment, if something interests you, build it, create it, and then hope you’re not the only person in the world who wants it. When Steve Wozniak built the Apple I, there was no proven market for personal computers. Indeed, the founder of IBM predicted a world market of five computers. Five computers in the world.

Steve Wozniak built an Apple I. It was the computer that he wanted to use. Luckily, it wasn’t just Steve Wozniak who wanted to use the computer. So my advice here, if you want to be remarkable, is build stuff that you want to use.


The fourth thing, this is a picture of Jane Goodall. So Jane Goodall started her career in Africa working for the Leakey Organization. You would think that working for the Leakeys, Jane Goodall, who she is today, truly a remarkable person, she must have had a PhD in biology or zoology from Oxford or Cambridge or Stanford or Harvard, something like that. So she had these amazing qualifications.

She got hired by the Leakey Organization. She started interacting with chimpanzees and the rest is history. Well let me correct the story for you. Jane Goodall came from a very, well not a very, she came from a poor family. And coming from a poor family, she went to school and she learned secretarial skills. Because that was the closest path to employment.

When she went to Africa, it just happened that the secretary for the Leakey Organization quit. So there was an opening for a secretary in the Leakey Organization. So Jane Goodall got her job in Africa for the Leakey Organization because she had secretarial skills. Not because she had AP Bio, AP Calculus, AP Physics, she didn’t have a 4.2 GPA.

And years later, the Leakeys told her that she needed a PhD. So she’s one of the few people who ever went, without an undergraduate degree, straight to the PhD program at Oxford.

The lesson that I learned is get in any way you can. It would be great if you got the perfect job because of your perfect curriculum, because of your perfect background, your perfect work experience. God bless you if you can pull that off.

But you know what? Remember Jane Goodall. She got in because she had secretarial skills, not because she had a PhD in biology. Don’t be proud. Get in. Listen, I got my job at Apple as a software evangelist. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology. That was the easiest major I could find at Stanford.

And I really — after I graduated from Stanford, I went to UC Davis Law School. I lasted two weeks. I quit law school after two weeks. And then I went back and I worked in Hawaii. Then I came back to the mainland and I entered UCLA for an MBA.

So the bottom line is I had no technical degree, no technical work experience. The way I got my job at Apple was pure 100% nepotism. My Stanford roommate hired me because we were friends. On paper, I was totally unqualified for that position.

When I was being interviewed at the Macintosh division, the guy who hired me is named Mike Boich. So Mike Boich met with Steve Jobs after I had interviewed around the division. And Mike Boich said to Steve Jobs, so what do you think of Guy? And Steve Jobs’ ringing endorsement of me was, he’s okay, but if he doesn’t work out, I’m going to fire you too. That’s how I got into Apple.

Whether your secretary or your best friend hires you, don’t be proud. Just get in. It doesn’t matter how you get in. It matters what you do once you’re in. And that also works the other way too. Let’s suppose that you are a trust fund baby, that your father or mother is an amazing tech CEO or something, you know, and gets you in. The next day, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Mark Zuckerberg kid. It doesn’t, it really does not matter. So it can work both ways. Get in any way you can.


Number five. Number five is, when you are asked if you can do something, I have to be very careful here. I’m telling you, just say yes. When they ask, now, there are some limits to this. Somebody says to you, you know, can you perform a cochlear implant? I don’t suggest you just say yes, alright?

But if somebody says, you know, can you make a TikTok posting? Can you figure out how to use Slack? Do you know how to use Trello? Do you know how to use, just say yes. I am telling you, fake it until you make it. You would be amazed. Most people are faking it until they make it.

There are very few really qualified people. So don’t be afraid. Just say yes and then, and then, you have to figure out how to do what you just said you can do. But that’s why life is interesting. Just say yes and figure it out later.


Number six. Number six is, stubbornly refuse to be framed. If you’re good at engineering, refuse to be cornered into, you’re just a nerd. If you’re good at marketing, refuse to be cornered into, you’re just a good shock and jive sales guy or gal. You need to refuse to be framed.

Listen, I’m completely non-technical, but I can hold my own in most technical conversations. And you need to be able to develop that. So don’t get pigeonholed if you want to be remarkable. You need to fight and resist that market force to pigeonhole you. You want to remain as broad and as flexible as possible. Don’t let the world frame you.

And I will tell you, maybe even more important, don’t frame yourself. Don’t get it in your head that I’m a math nerd, I’m a data wonk, that’s all I can handle. Or I’m a artist, so I cannot handle numbers. Self-framing is probably more dangerous than being framed externally. Don’t let yourself be framed even by yourself.


Number seven. Number seven is, I think many people, many macho people are always telling you, you fight fire with fire. When you meet resistance, you resist back. When you find hate, you hate back. You know, when you find violence, you are violent back. I think that is a very poor piece of advice.

That when you encounter fire in your life, use water to fight back. Put out the fire. Don’t create another fire if you want to be remarkable.


Number eight is, and this occurred over and over in my interviews, which is, so many people told me, Guy, I have to get over the imposter syndrome. When I was named to this board of directors, I went to the first board meeting and I looked around and everybody was more qualified than me. And I was asking myself, why should I be on this board of directors of Verizon? A woman who is on the board of Verizon told me that.

And so, this is going to occur in your life where you get into these situations and you’re wondering, did I really deserve that promotion? Did I really deserve that raise? Did I really deserve that additional responsibility?

And listen, I’m not saying to flip over to the other side and start feeling like you deserve everything and the world owes it to you. I’m not saying that at all. But I’m saying that you need to not spend a lot of time wondering if you deserve something.

If you got it, take it and run with it and do the best that you can. Do not waste any of your cycles wondering if you deserve it. Go for it.


Number nine, there’s this great story about putting the stones in first. So the way this story works is, there’s sort of two approaches to life. If you have a jar, some people, they put in the sand, they put in the pebbles, they put in the water. And at that point, there’s no more space to put in the stones. The way you should run your life, in my humble opinion, is you put the stones in first.

The stones are the big things, the things that you have interest in, the things that you feel passionate about, your family, your loved ones, your friends. You put the big things in first. And then you put the pebbles, if there’s space. And then you put the sand, if there’s space. And then you put the water, if there’s space.

But you will find that if you put in the sand and the water and the pebbles first, we will not have room for the stones. Put the stones in first.


And number ten, number ten is we’re going to test the morals of Harker and TEDx. I looked, I did research on this, and to my knowledge, TEDx does not, well, I won’t say they condone it, but they do not say that you cannot use profanity.

And frankly, there is no better way to say this. This is the acid test of remarkability. You will know that you have found something you truly love, your passion, if you will. That it has gone from an itch and an interest to something that is a life calling. The Japanese have a word, ikigai, that is your mission in life.

And a very good test for you, when you encounter things that may be your ikigai, may be your passion, your interest, your love, ask yourself, do you enjoy the shit sandwich that is required to do this? Let me illustrate with my own case.

So, podcasting is my ikigai, it is my calling in life at 68. It involves 3 or 4 hours of prep for each interview, 3 or 4 hours of the interview itself, and then 3 or 4 more hours for editing. So it is probably 5 to 10 hours of my personal time per hour of interview, okay? And that is a shit sandwich that I love.

I love the editing, I love the prep. If you are a writer, people have this impression of writing that you sit on this windswept beach, and your house is clean, everything is going great, you are weighing multiple acceptances from Dartmouth, USC, Stanford, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, and you are trying to figure out what to do.

And you are sitting there, and you have this tablet of parchment paper, and you have this gold nibbed fountain pen, and you write, and the words flow onto the page. That is not how writing works. Writing is more like you open a vein, and you pour your blood out onto the page, and then you have to edit, and edit, and edit, and edit for months at a time.

That is a shit sandwich. Writing is a shit sandwich. Programming is a shit sandwich. Trying to debug programming is a shit sandwich. So I am telling you, I am leaving you with this final message, which is, you will discover what you are going to be remarkable at, when what it takes is loving the shit sandwich. When you love the shit sandwich, you are on the way to becoming remarkable. And that is how to be remarkable.

Thank you very much.


Guy Kawasaki, in his TEDxHarker talk titled “How to be Remarkable: Unseen, Unexpected, and Unexpected Practices,” shares his insights on what makes people remarkable, drawing from his experiences and interviews with over 160 individuals. Here are the key takeaways from his presentation:

  1. Pursue Your Interests: Kawasaki advises against the pressure of finding one’s passion early in life. Instead, he suggests pursuing various interests, which can evolve into passions over time.
  2. Keep Showing Up: He emphasizes the importance of persistence, using the example of Kristi Yamaguchi, who started at the bottom but reached the top through consistent effort and practice.
  3. Build Stuff That You Want to Use: Kawasaki highlights the significance of creating products or services that you personally desire, as exemplified by Steve Wozniak’s creation of the Apple I.
  4. Get in Any Way You Can: He stresses that your entry point into a field or job doesn’t have to be perfect. Kawasaki uses Jane Goodall’s start as a secretary and his own experience at Apple to illustrate this point.
  5. Just Say Yes: Kawasaki encourages saying yes to opportunities, even if you’re not fully prepared, and then figuring out how to deliver on your commitments.
  6. Stubbornly Refuse to be Framed: He advises against letting others pigeonhole you based on your skills or background and emphasizes the importance of versatility and resisting self-imposed limitations.
  7. Don’t Create Another Fire: In conflict situations, Kawasaki recommends using calm and constructive approaches rather than responding with similar negativity or aggression.
  8. If You Got It, Take It and Run With It: He urges people not to dwell on whether they deserve their success but to embrace their opportunities and do their best.
  9. Put the Stones in First: Kawasaki suggests focusing on the big, important things in life first (like family, passions, and major interests) before addressing the smaller details.
  10. Loving the Shit Sandwich: Finally, he proposes that true passion and potential for remarkability are found when you love the hard, often unglamorous work (the “shit sandwich”) that comes with your chosen path.

Kawasaki’s talk is a blend of practical advice, personal anecdotes, and real-life examples, aimed at guiding individuals towards finding and nurturing their path to becoming remarkable.


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