Explore courses

Career Skills with Alex Brogan, Entrepreneur, Creator & Founder at Faster Than Normal - pt.2

career skills & transitions


How have you built your own professional toolkit over time?


Alex Brogan: Yes, it has evolved certainly over time. I think what's interesting is when you leave, or when, at least for me, when I left university, the sort of way that I thought about building a toolkit was probably very theoretical and not practical in many senses.


And over time, I think leaning in more to a really like observation mindset, particularly for. how people operate in particular environments I've found to be very useful. And I think that actually starts with a sort of self analysis and self awareness component of saying clearly where you might be.


deficient or where I was deficient and being able to identify people in my work environment that can actually help me get better at those things. And I think being, being really willing to lean into that was massive initially leaning, learning by osmosis. I think over time more and more, I just see the value of combining.


theoretical learning with practical learning as well. And the importance of that in actually learning how to do a skill genuinely. So that's been the biggest change in my, in my approach there.




Is there a particular skill you might be able to talk about and what that journey was like?


Alex Brogan: Yeah, I guess one that I ended up spending quite a bit of time learning in my role at Zipline was essentially code. Cold Outreach, which some people would call a skill, some wouldn't. I think it's, it's technically a skill. But, yeah, totally. And it, it, it's sort of one of those meta skills that you can use not only in, in the specific role that you're doing, but, Irrespective of what you're doing as a, as a sort of business owner or entrepreneur.


So yeah, I found, you know, any, any number of, you know, articles are available or for cold outreach and learning how to do cold outrage. But there's also this very large component of. Knowing what your style is, knowing what resonates for you in doing sort of authentic outreach as well to a component and really only learn that by having lots and lots and lots of repetition.


And also I think someone to help provide feedback. So yeah, for me, it was initially starting with all the theoretical knowledge and Understanding, you know, the frameworks for what to put into a cold email, of which there are many making it, making it relevant, making it personal, having a very specific sort of clear ask that you're asking of someone at the end as well, and then really just iteration and trialing lots of, lots of different ways to do that.


And luckily with cold emails, the feedback loop is, is pretty fast. So you tend to, you tend to find out quite quickly.


Lucy Wark: Yeah, there's definitely some revealed preferences that will show up in who actually bothers to reply to you at all. I actually was going to say as well, this is something that I I really agree is like a quite an essential thing to learn early in your career, particularly if you're going to do any kind of career that is not just like going a ladder and climb the ladder for the rest of your life.


Like anything where you are going to need to do some degree of like exploration or meeting strangers in any format, like learning cold outreach is actually really, really vital. I remember, Just personally I did the like Start Mate Women's Fellowship, which is a program to bring more women from often corporate careers, like consulting and accounting and law and finance into the world of Australian startups.


And like, did, I think when I was doing it, I probably did quite well at the cold outreach partly cause I massively over prepared. So it's like, send people like a two page document on like everything that I thought they could do better on their business strategy and ask if they wanted to chat.


And that may be like slightly extreme, but what's happened interestingly in the last few years is that because I've probably become one of the more visible, like success stories of that program. Every time there's a new cohort of women, like every time a hundred women get thrown at the ecosystem, I get a whole bunch of them doing cold outreach to me.


So I see the patterns in like good and bad cold outreach. And I've taken to just being like, I'm going to give you this feedback because someone gave me this feedback really early in my career. And it was incredibly helpful, even though it was painful at the time, here's everything you just did wrong.


And like, here's a guide to how to go fix it.


Alex Brogan: That's so interesting. I think Fuzzy needs a a cohort based course on, on cold outreach. I don't think there's many higher leverage skills.


Lucy Wark: Definitely. And I think you could go from, you know, high level principles and be like, all right, here's specific application in sales or his specific application in like career.


Focus, you know, you're looking for data on data points on different careers or whatever, like you could adapt it, but or like pitching yourself as a candidate or whatever the thing is that you're, you're looking for, but that could actually be a really good one. Maybe we should talk about this. You


Alex Brogan: And just to riff on that slightly more, Lucy, I think a lot of, a lot of people talk about this concept of finding mentors. How do I, how do I find a mentor and how do I sort of foster those types of relationships and it turns out that. Mentorships start from, in my mind, asking a few specific questions of someone and then acting on that information and continuing the relationship with that person.


And very often, that opportunity to ask them those questions can actually come from a cold email. And so, finding mentors, in large part, Can be completely accelerated and amplified by learning the skill called outreach and also getting past the it's really an exercise in rejection, ultimately, and I think just.


knowing that you're going to be rejected a lot of the time where a rejection is really just not getting a response or maybe someone's saying they're too busy, but that's ultimately the downside when the upside can, it's just, yeah, it's an asymmetric sort of that you can be doing. So I completely agree.


Lucy Wark: And it's, it's, I agree. It's asymmetric. Like the, if you've written a like respectful intelligent. message to someone, there's no way that that does you any harm. In fact, it'll probably do you good. Even if they say, Hey, I'm sorry, I don't have capacity right now to help. Or like, this isn't relevant for me at this time.


But yeah, the upside is, is nearly infinite. And I think also like, sadly, if you don't learn how to do it. Then you're going to, again, this is kind of what we were talking about last time, but it's almost like you're going to be stuck in a world of like borrowed career capital where you are like working within a particular system and working by the rules of that system, as opposed to being able to kind of explore beyond that for yourself as well.


Like this feels like one of those skills that helps you break out of that a bit.


Alex Brogan: Massively. Yeah, can't agree more. I look forward to the, I look forward to the fuzzy course.




How do you approach learning new skills?

Well, I think in some ways you've just spoken to it, but if there's anything you want to add.


Alex Brogan: Yeah, totally. So I think succinctly. Coming, like, in school and university, I felt like the learning was very theoretical. Over time, I've went far more to practical.


And I think this is actually an interesting question to just answer by inversion as well, which is to say, like, what would you do if you didn't want to learn something extremely well? Well, you wouldn't understand the theory. You wouldn't practice it in reality. There's the thumbs up. You wouldn't, you wouldn't get feedback from an expert or someone who knows how to do the skill or what you're trying to learn to do like really well.


And it turns out like if you just solve for all of those things, there's also an accountability aspect in, in a lot of senses of having someone to actually keep you on track. And yeah, that can very often be, you know, Sold like with the expert pace as well. So now, whereas in the past, I'd probably sit at my desktop trying to Google answers to questions.


I. Try and go as quickly as possible to someone who has spent far more time than me on that skill and ask them how they would approach learning something as quickly as possible and ultimately what what the 80 20 is and really what, what to focus the time on to get the highest of the output per unit time.


Lucy Wark: Yeah. I love that. The learning curves thing also resonates a lot. Like that's kind of the language I think about as a founder where I'm like, they're 10, 15 learning curves that I'll probably exist on. And because you have to be across most of the functions of a business or like you have to be across strategy and finance and operations and marketing and customer research and like just everything.


But. There's no version of, it's not efficient or helpful for you to be like the master of every one of those things, but thinking about like, okay, self diagnostics on where on the learning curves are you, and then how can you get as quickly as possible to the right level, which might be like, I can delegate effectively, or I can like hold others accountable effectively, or I can brief effectively, or I can set metrics effectively, like there's all these different stages of it, but Certainly like that can be really useful.


Yeah, so I, I love the learning new skill things. The other thing, sorry, you're just like passionate about this. But the other thing I find really interesting is like almost when learning new skills having a good sense of like what kind of skill it is. So for example, like we teach negotiation and I think most people can go read getting to yes, or go, you know Like, you know, if you have any, any sizable interest, and I think the problem is that you are like you are teaching yourself the correct rational strategy to adopt in a negotiation and not doing anything to compensate for all of the irrational factors that usually prevent people from executing them well and so like, For example, trying to learn public speaking from a book is useful to an extent, but the, like the bulk of your growth will come from learning and race conditions.


So a lot of what we end up doing is basically being like, get into race conditions as quickly as possible and putting, putting your nervous system under stress because whatever you do instinctively is like probably where you're going to make mistakes and then learning to control the instincts is really helpful.


So. Like, I think knowing the difference between that versus a skill that's like, I can do this coldly and rationally and I don't have to worry about my nervous system can also be really helpful.


Alex Brogan: Yeah, that's fascinating, making that distinction. And I think the transfer of learning concept there is very prevalent in the sense that you can learn But if it's too far from the environment in which you practice that skill, that's not really going to be that useful at all.


And which is why you sort of say a lot of language learners go and live in a country where they're completely in that environment and actually need to do that and not to go down the education route, but. I guess a lot of the sentiment towards traditional education is around the concept that the transfer of learning is actually Not quite there as far as preparing people for the real world.


So yeah, I completely align with you there.




What is the best career advice that you have received?

Which is huge, because I imagine you've read a lot of career advice as well.


Alex Brogan: Yeah, so, adult, adult, adults are not real. Let me, let, let me unpack that.


All through school and university, there's this perception towards adults, and towards people in different positions in society, whether it be CEOs or doctors or lawyers, So on and so forth, they've got it all figured out. They know something I don't know. I can't do what they're doing. I don't have the experience or the skill or so on and so forth.


And I think one of the biggest shifts for me, and I think in part, this comes through probably maturity and just age in general and some experience in the workforce, but also just meeting people who have put on a pedestal before and realizing that those people are. So human with all manner of insecurities as well.


And that this concept of adults doesn't actually really exist. And all grownups who are from, from CEOs of billion dollar companies to presidents, et cetera, they're, they're actually working things out as they go along as well. And I think a big reason for imposter syndrome in early career is this sort of notion that you can't.


Add value immediately. You can't have agency immediately in the environment that you go into, but it's simply not not the case. And I think the practical way or practical. It's one thing to know that intellectually, it's another thing to live by that viscerally in your day to day. And I think the bridge for me was actually some practical tools.


And one of those was this notion of the evidence sort of framework, which is to say that Confidence is not something that you can pluck from a cloud in the air. Confidence is something that is built through evidence and specifically that is reflecting on all the things that you have done that you once thought you could not do and using that as power for what you can do in the future.


And I think far too often when you enter a new environment, it's all about it. And what creates imposter syndrome is looking at people ahead of you and what they've done and focusing on that, focusing on the gap between where you are and, and them, what people should focus on is where they've been and where they are now, because that is like the greatest source of power that you can take with you in the future.


And so. That would be the most powerful. It's almost a red pill, blue pill, sort of seeing the world in a very different way. I think he, yeah, you just have such a different sort of view of the world. So yeah, I think that that would be the most impactful one for me.


Lucy Wark: The adults are not real.


Alex Brogan: Adults are not real.


Lucy Wark: One's an adult. Yeah. I think so many of us might well have had the. Like, in, in a micro way, experienced growing up thinking your parents are gods, and then at some point realizing that they are humans and that that is probably true, true across most of the world, most of society, most, most adults who seem to have their shit together that they're just a little further along.


One, one ridiculous, I was talking a little bit before when we were chatting about my spreadsheets, but one really ridiculous but helpful spreadsheet that I built was looking at the careers of people who I admired in quite a lot of detail and like having different categories and that I would kind of like, I would pull out, like, I'd read every article I could ever find about them and like pull out all the quotes.


I would like talk about like, why did I find this career appealing and then look at all of the themes across it broadly, figure out what the commonalities were. A bunch of different things when I was like really stuck on what to do. But one of the things that actually turned out to be such a useful exercise was trying to write down.


What age they were when they did a bunch of different things in their life. So like at 18, you know, this person was like pretty lost and at 22, they were still pretty lost and they were working like doing comedy training on the side for this long and like, they're. first big break was this thing, but actually the thing that really made them famous is here or like, that's, you know, I'm thinking they're almost like Stephen Colbert, I was like, I really love him as an example of someone who's brought together two sectors and two disciplines, but even just like dispelling the overnight success myth as well, I think for yourself and having a very clear sense of like actually sometimes like building what you want takes time was also really helpful in addition to the adults don't know what they're doing.


Alex Brogan: Oh, I love that. I think it's so powerful. And in our world, particularly for millennials and Gen Z, I think the, Existential anxiety is amplified by so much visible success around us of people that are far younger than we are now, and it's very easy to feel like so many people are ahead of you in whatever this race is that we're all playing, and I think being cognizant that never before has there been a time where that is so visible and actually the people that you admire at a similar age in most cases, we're still very much figuring things out and there's, there's a whole career behind them.


And so I think it's, yeah, it's, it's also a by product of having ambition. You feel impatient and you want success immediately. But what's so important to realizing to lean into is that the uncertainty of the journey is actually what makes it rewarding in a lot of ways. Because if you had what you wanted immediately, it wouldn't be anywhere near as satisfying or rewarding.


And so realizing that that long journey is really what, what makes it interesting. It is so important. I think allows you to be a lot more present or at least it has, it has for me. So I think that's so important.


Lucy Wark: Yeah. And some of the, like the trappings of success are. Not very interesting or fun or like that.

Yeah. More trouble than they're worth.


Alex Brogan: A hundred, a hundred percent.


Lucy Wark: Yeah. I was, I mean, this is a, this is a level of career achievement that most of us are probably not shooting for. But like I remember this conversation that was like Seinfeld and Obama, the comedians in cars getting coffee series.


And Obama was just like, God, I'd love to be anonymous. Like, and that, like, he will never not be recognized again in his life. And the loss of anonymity It would be such a profound and like very unusual human experience and probably not a good one for most people.


Alex Brogan: Yeah, totally agree. I think there's, what's interesting is that it's dehumanizing, you know, in a way people don't see you as human and that can make it even more isolating.


And that's not to say that people who are very successful are doing it tough because like, obviously it's a very real thing. Real, real battle to it as well. So it's, it's so important to, to be aware of that and yeah, ultimately to, to know, know the price of, of, of what you're getting into and. Be sort of prepared.





What is one resource that's helped you in your journey?


Alex Brogan: Yeah, so I think this is kind of an interesting way to, to end the discussion, but the resource is actually. Something that I've read recently, which has been really powerful for me. And that is a piece of content by an executive high performance coach called capital Gupta has worked with folks in Silicon Valley, CEOs, people like Naval sort of rather can't.


And the main message of that piece of content is actually to say, don't listen to anything that I've just said about like, Doing X, doing Y, there's a prescription. Go do this if you want to achieve that. It's called no prescriptions and the simple notion is that ultimately


when you approach life from the perspective of simply following your curiosity and not feeling as though you have to abide by a prescription, it's a very prescriptions can be heuristics and expedient to things that you are trying to achieve and working on, but centering your life around prescriptions and the need to abide by them is inherently constraining and limiting. And when you take that weight off your shoulders, I think it's a really good thing.


Liberating sort of zone to enter. And that was an unlock or has been an unlock for me recently. And so I think it's important just in general. The prescription is to just know what game you're playing and ultimately to, to be very much leaning into that and, and aware of what prescriptions you're abiding by and whether or not they're actually a good fit for you at the end of the day.


Lucy Wark: Yeah, that's a great way to end anti prescription. I like it. Also, well, thank you so much for your time, Alex. I really appreciate it. I'm sure everyone who watches and reads this will also really appreciate it. Some absolute gems of wisdom in there. So thank you very much.



This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.



LookingĀ to level-up?

Explore Fuzzy's programsĀ for live and self-pacedĀ courses to develop career-accelerating skills.

Learn more