Anyone, even the Average Joe, can be a tech genius. In Shawn Livermore’s book, Average Joe: Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius, you’ll discover that you can create any digital product using two key frameworks: Slow Create Formula and the Sustainable Mystique. The Slow Create Formula focuses on teaching you how to build and design your product. On the other hand, the Sustainable Mystique focuses on giving you a methodology of pitching your product so you can sell with confidence. Join in the conversation as Paul Higgins and Shawn discuss the neuroscience behind the frameworks and how you can apply them to your business.
Become A Tech Genius With Shawn Livermore
Build Live Give. Mentoring with Paul Higgins
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Our guest was a tech engineer. He used to build software and then went into their own tech startups. He pitched to over 123 venture capital investors and we’re lucky to get funding six times. They had an amazing journey. What they’ve done is combined that experience with a researcher to work out how an average Joe can become an IT and a tech genius. What they’ve got now is an Amazon best-selling nonfiction book. There are two key frameworks that the guest goes through. One is the Slow Create Formula and the Sustainable Mystique. They’re both amazing. It’s a brand new product because that’s what they do around software. That’s been his background. It’s a great framework to help you think outside the square. Let’s go over to Shawn Livermore from ProductPerfect.com.
Welcome, Shawn Livermore, to the show.
Thanks for having me.
You run a company called Product Perfect. We’re going to go through lots of amazing information but why don’t we kick off when someone says, “Shawn, what do you do?” How do you best describe that?
I run a software company here in Southern California, Product Perfect. We focus on enterprise applications and modernizing systems for Fortune 500 companies in the United States.
I know you’ve had an amazing startup. You started as a product engineer then into startups, but what got you into the latest pursuit?
I wrote a book and it hit the Amazon bestsellers list for a little while. It has exciting contents. I met a neuroscientist at UCLA, Dr. Jesse Rissman, PhD. I spent months with him during COVID. We were looking for a way to take anyone, with anyone, I mean your grandmother or least qualified employee, anyone in your network, and take them from an average Joe to tech genius. It’s this idea of the spectrum of intelligence, creativity, product creation and life cycles. I was digging and digging. I simply hired a research team and we all got together. We could not find any predictable, reliable and replicable framework for product creation that involved neuroscience that anyone could pick up and run with. We decided to work with Dr. Rissman and created one. We call it The Slow Create Framework. The book backs into that as a tool that anyone can use to create beautiful products.
When you say products, are they physical products? Can they be intangible? What do you mean by products?
It’s specifically for the tech industry. We’re talking about digital products, software and apps. We all see these unicorns companies coming out of nowhere. We have Snapchat, Uber and many of the behemoths now, but there are also all these other unicorns. It was like 100, 150, 200 of them now that are worth $1 billion or more. They are founded by these “tech geniuses.” They create these magnificent swipeable, clickable morsels of goodies that you love on your phone. Apple has benefited from the creativity and the slick nature of these apps, but how do they go viral? How do they grow? How do these growth hackers work? I sat down with the Father of Growth Hacking, Sean Ellis, in Newport Beach and we had a burger. It was great to hear firsthand how Dropbox became a household name. He told the story and the story back into what I was already researching with the neuroscientists. It all came together in the book. It reinforced the model of a science and a framework rather than magic dust or being that lucky founder with a magic touch.
I must admit, I was one of the first people to get a mobile phone. I thought, “This is it. It can’t get any better than this.” Back in our day, when I was a salesperson, you had to physically show up to make sales. I can do it from anywhere. Now we look at our mobile phones and the apps we’ve got. A lot of people collect things, watches or coins. I collect apps. I’m constantly looking for a new app. I’m excited to get the genius behind it. I love the fact that you talk about the average Joe can do this and making it for all of us in a way, not just a few unicorns. I’ve got some great methodologies in the book. Have you got anything that you’d love to share with us now that we can get a real sense of what this is about?
It’s 100,000 words in 18 months and there’s quite a bit of research. It’s difficult to put it into that nutshell but I will do my best to try to give you the best that I can out of that spectrum of work. The body of it is that there is no such thing as tech genius. In a satisfying twist, the book relinquishes that statement and concedes that there is, and you can also become it yourself. It’s this, “No, but yes.” In the murky water of that, there’s a lot that’s happening. There’s a little bit of chili that we have to stir. We have to get you contextually aware of what is and what is not qualified as high intelligence, high skill, polish, intuition and product savvy.
There are certainly some hard skills that people have to learn. There are layers of being a software developer myself. I understand the many layers of what it takes to build a product, deploy a product, support a product, envision a smooth and seamless experience. To solve all the latency issues from a technical perspective, hardware, software, firmware or user engagement, there are so many design aesthetic issues you have to think through. On top of all those layers, there are a million developers running around who are good at what they do. There are 20 to 30 million software developers in the United States in some way, shape or form, and it’s growing around the world. It’s such a global economy, but that thin atmospheric layer of high lead, qualified founders that could solicit venture investment are still striving and seeking to get onto that plateau of building a product that can scale.
The book explains The Slow Create Framework. It came out of that. The ability to create a product from nothing, systematically and organically. What we’re learning is that even my clients for software, we build enterprise software but many times, we’re sitting and we inevitably come across a product. We stub our toe as we walked through the hallways on products all over the place. We have this mainframe system over here that we’re going to rebuild, refactor, re-engineer and rethink. We have this legacy web app over here. It continues to come back to products.
Internally, the common thread is we don’t have a lot of designers in-house. We don’t have a lot of aesthetic people or user experience people, “Can you guys help us with that?” In essence, the whole agency model exists out there. A lot of your audience probably runs an agency or is involved with an agency of some sort. It’s premised on quite a few notions about design. Coming back to the point, anyone can create beautiful products. Anyone can truly get a manifestation of their inclinations, hunches, wishes or desires. Frame it out on a canvas, build it out into a pipeline, and stack all your canvasses into that pipeline, then through systematic neuroscience, we push them through what we call The Mindless Work Ladder.Anyone can create beautiful products. Click To Tweet
Out on the other side comes the juicy morsels. Those are the inflections. Venture capitalist Mike Maples calls it inflections. There are several types of those. We talk about that in the book. Those inflections in your learning can then be carefully mapped and pushed through what we call the Sustainable Mystique Triad. It’s a way to communicate. It’s a methodology of pitching to friends, family, spouses, loved ones, employers or venture capitalists. It doesn’t matter.
You’re always pitching and you’re always selling. This methodology helps left-brainers who have a hard time speaking. You learn how to pitch and present your information. One of the hardest parts is speaking or communicating. If we could just get this “people thing” figured out. All the code is so easy, but people are so difficult. The book helps those who are finding their way in communication as well. People have come back to me and said, “It is a communication book.” I realized, “Yes, it’s a communication book.”
One of the best ways to communicate is visually. I know that you’ve already got some of those models that you’ve talked through. It makes perfect sense if you can share some of these models so that we can all know them. If you are reading this, Shawn will do his best way to work it through. I do highly recommend that you go to my website, PaulHigginsMentoring.com. You can also go to YouTube at Paul Higgins Mentoring to get a side of these models. Let’s go over to you, Shawn.
The Slow Create canvas is like the business model canvas. This allows you to plot out your manifested problem domain. If you’re trying to invent a product that takes Instagram, we want to be able to apply lenses and filters to pictures and make them seamless. You’d list out the problem or area your brain is continually working through here. You’d list out any factors like blockers, constraints or other forces, any actors, any bodies, people who were involved in the process, any inspirations from competitors or other products on the market, any of the next section is what we call PDS cycles, the Patterns, Details, and Secrets. This is what’s always churning in the back of your brain like a server farm. It’s never stopping. You’re always working through these PDS cycles.
In neuroscience, they say that 60% to 80% of the energy that your brain consumes is consumed in the background threads. What is it working on? What’s churning through the patterns, details and secrets? You’re listing those out in your problem domain, which looks a little different. We talk a lot about secrets. They’re like truffles, but pigs hunt in and sniff out truffles. If you know the old man who withers down by the river who has ten pigs, you borrow one of those and you go find the truffles. There’s a way to get to those business secrets, and then you come down to the unsolved. You can list the area that’s still unsolved and allow your mind to rehash that and remember it when you’re solving your problems.
The mindless work LADDER stands for Loosen to ease your grip, become an Antenna, you Daydream and Drift, and then you Emerge from that stupor and Recharacterize the problem domain. Eventually, you come up with what we call Nibbles of Synthesis. I’m working with neuroscientists Dr. Jesse Rissman out of UCLA. This is a neuroscience-backed mindless work ladder process that he and I over many months put together. There’s been a lot of studies around this. When people are daydreaming off, they asked these participants, “What are you thinking about?” The number one thing was household issues, paying the bills, picking kids up from soccer practice. They’re solving their day-to-day, amygdala brain, responsive problems that are immediately important to them.
When you get over that hump, you go to the longer-term or the threads of operation that are not about survival. They’re more about strategy and engagement. By baiting the hook, you’re telling your brain, “Focus on exactly this. Please, brain, work for me here. Listen to what I’m saying.” You bait the hook. A quick explanation of that as you go fishing emblematic here, you release control. Up here, you have full control. You’re on the whiteboard. You’re trying so hard. As Dr. Jesse Rissman described it, “Sculpt it with consciousness.”
You’re trying to carve out the product. You’re taking an active role. When you release control, you’re taking a passive role, and you’re doing what’s called mindless work or Resting-state Functional Connectivity or RFC, which activates something called the Default Mode Network in the brain. That’s where 68% of all your energy is going. Down there, you have zero control like the fish nibbling on the line. You’re letting go, daydreaming, folding laundry. You’re doing something that requires very little thought, maybe driving to work, taking a quiet walk, sorting numbers, cleaning up your sock drawer, and you losing yourself. In those moments, you come back from it and you’re like, “I got it. I know what to do.”
People often talk about taking a walk or getting out of their environment. Some may say go fishing like your analogy here. Do those moments happen anywhere? Is there any patterning of research where you can draw on a particular habit that may induce those more than others?
It’s different for everyone. The list that Dr Rissman and I worked through was more aligned with what I described earlier of your day-to-day quiet walks, doing the dishes, laundry, etc. because this is what you do. It’s how your body works. Your brain is calibrated to take over. The default mode network knows how to kick in. It fires up under the MRI. It’s like colors of pink and blue all over the place of all the activity that’s happening when people are daydreaming. Scientists used to think it all goes dark, but it doesn’t. It does the reverse. It lights up. Why are we doing things the hard way? We have to learn how to let go and let our minds carry us forward.
People come to me and say, “I thought it was a book about the tech industry. I thought you were talking specifically to a tech audience.” I am. This is very techie. Neuroscience, AI, machine learning and all the things that people are raving about these days. They have a lot to do with the creative models. You don’t just magically walk into work and create a killer app. It takes time, effort and a lot of leverage from the industry. Coming back to the canvas, once you fill out this canvas, you get the nibbles and they eventually lead to inflections. Venture capitalist Mike Maples has a great talk he does on inflections. We talk about that in the book.
Once you have a whole bunch of canvases, one for each problem domain, you can stack them in a pipeline. The pipeline allows you to put the most important areas out horizontally so that you can fold it up, put it in your pocket, take a picture on your iPhone, walk around with it, and look at it when you need to. You could literally solve 10, 20 or 100 problem areas all at once. Your brain is calibrating, recalibrating and sharpening continuously and perpetually to take on the unsolved for each and every one of these and walk down this ladder, find those nibbles and draw out inflections. This is critical. I have mine behind my monitor. Every day, I calibrate my brain. It sounds nerdy and that’s fine. You can say whatever you want. When I’m ringing the bell and the NASDAQ, you can come back and read this show and realize that maybe I was onto something.
Cros fingers, but I seek to invent based on scientific rhythms and I think a lot of people already do this. They just don’t realize they’re doing it. This is a map for those who have a hard time putting it together. Once you come out the other side of the pipeline, there’s a funnel to explain the process going from top to bottom, but you can put your inflections through this Sustainable Mystique Triad. This triad is a form of communication that allows you to memorize, learn, get better and improve how your words become moments of fascination. Moments of fascination here at the top is the goal.
When you’re sitting down and you’re talking to your wife or anybody about anything, wouldn’t it be great if they were fascinated? It’s hard to dispute that. When you read a book, don’t you want to be fascinated with the content? When you watch a documentary, you want to sit back and feel those euphoric moments, and can’t wait to tell, text or share that moment. In our quick, bite-sized nugget moments with people at dinner parties or at an online event because of COVID, you want to take advantage of those minute acute time periods to invoke the right words to stimulate fascination. How do you do that?
It’s three parts. You have to be working on interesting problems. That is a topic of its own, but some people out there are solving the wrong problem. They devote years of their lives to solving the wrong problem. They started there and they don’t know how to stop. Stopping on one track and getting on a different track, a problem that the world finds interesting, there’s a large market for it and it is fundable. Investors are interested in solving that problem, and then having a narrow focus. Making sure that you’re adopting first principles. You have a founding myth and a fulcrum friendly model, and your calibration and lens are tightened acutely on a very specific niche of the problem, and then using articulate speech with an API method, Analogy, Portrayal and Inversion. We talk about this in the book and some of the videos on the website. All those three things allow you to take your PDS cycles from the Slow Create Framework and bubble those up to the top.
Eventually, as you speak and as you conjure those moments, it will lead to fascination. I’ve done this myself. I’ve seen it in the eyeballs of my audience. I pitched 130 times to investors and raised six rounds of funding. I see in their eyeballs when I’ve got them. Am I manufacturing falsehood? No, it’s all true. Everything that I’m working on is the truth. There’s no hype, no hustle. I could whisper the pitch and I could achieve some fascination. I’m not saying it’s always going to be a glorious moment where sparks are flying. It could often be a very subtle moment where they are validating in their mind. They’re checking boxes. It’s like we look at how baseball scouts look at baseball players. What are they looking at? They’re looking at the wrist, hips, legs and feet. Sportspeople out there know what I’m talking about.Your goal is to turn your words into moments of fascination. Click To Tweet
In the book, we talk about some fun quotes. They were looking at Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most famous home run hitters of my generation when I was growing up. They were saying, “He’s a little eager on the long ball, but his dad used to do it this way.” They had these comments about this baseball player. They sit back and chew on their sunflower seeds in the stands, and they make their comments in their notepads and they go their way. Investors are sitting back listening to pitches all day long. They’re making their own notes and chewing their own sunflower seeds. They’re saying, “This founder seems sharp. I think I have a winner here. He seems to make contact quite naturally. I think he comes from good stock,” or whatever they’re thinking.
Fascination can be manufactured. You can beat them at their own game by conjuring the best that your human body can put forth through a serial, systematic assembly line of words. This is a big deal. It’s very hard to do, but there’s a lot of hype and hustle out there. A lot of calories being burned, a lot of sugar highs and caffeine, and you hear founders go into town with all their glorious words. It is important to put it through system, brevity and manufactured glory. That is what we call The Sustainable Mystique Triad.
I know a lot in our audience are saying, “I don’t want to launch a product necessarily. I want to be a consumer, but not launch one.” When I was at Coca-Cola, we used to always look for insights outside of our industry. Now that you’re a service-based business, this is a great model to take. A lot of the frameworks in Shawn’s book can be applied to you and your business because it’s not just for unicorns. As Shawn said, it can be for your grandmother or for anyone to understand a methodology that is no different from some of the other methodologies which you’ve got. You can find out more about Shawn and you can get those at SlowCreate.com. I highly recommend you get the book. It’s fantastic.
Before we go to the Live section, I like for everyone to think about if they’ve got their sales machine in place to get 1, 2, 3 high-quality clients a month. If you are unsure of that answer, I want to help you. I’ve got fourteen questions that you can answer in three minutes and it will give you precisely the gaps that you may be missing to get those 1 to 3 ideal clients. Imagine we all work hard, but if you did have a repeatable sales machine, how much that would assist you and your life goal. Go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/Pulse. You can answer the following questions in three minutes. The next section is the Live section. You’ve done an amazing job in outlining the book, which is great. What are some of the daily habits that help you create an Amazon bestselling book, pitch to 130 investors, and get venture capital funding six times in your career?
I try to stay away from the wake-up at 4:00 AM stuff. I don’t think it’s sustainable. It leads people down the wrong path because it’s not about velocity. It’s about aim and calibration. A lot of founders are ready, fire, aim, but I love my product. That’s the biggest problem. Giving it a name is a bad idea too. I wrote a long blog post after I shut down my last startup. I tried to tell people, “Don’t give it a name because once you give it a name, you want to pet it and feed it. It’s like a little pet. Call it Experiment Number 47. Give it a code name like Excalibur, but don’t give it a real name. Don’t give it a domain name until you have a provable strategy.”
It’s about rhythms and health. Mental health is number one. COVID has drawn that to the surface, and everyone would agree. People are struggling with mental health. Having a good balance in your rhythms of daily life with health, food, exercise, family, and finding your place spiritually in this world. I’m a man of faith. I believe in God and his saving grace. I find that to be the most important part of my life. I’m sharing that unashamedly. I would also say that being around the right people and staying in the right zone. It is easy to be distracted and pulled into the wrong rooms. You have to carve out, “I need to work on these projects over here, and I need to let go of these things over there.” It’s very difficult with your relationships and so forth.
I love Russell Brunson’s philosophy around Dream 100. It applies to customers and partners, but it also applies to the people who want to have those conversations and those networks. You talk about, “Where do ideas come from?” Some of my best ideas came from when I was listening to people talking or being at a conference or something like that. I’m like an idea machine. They’d pop in my head, but it’s the quality of the conversation that helps spark those. That’s important. We’re going to move into the Give section. What’s a community or charity that you’re passionate about and why?
We were involved in our church. We give to our church here in Anaheim, California and in this orphanage in Mexico. Some wonderful young people got to go down, visit them, meet some of the kids, and help build a little house for one of their workers there. For my birthday, I told people, “Don’t give me a gift but buy shoes.” There is a certain type of shoes they loved. We got $2,600 worth of Vans. We had 80 something pairs of shoes that we put together and handed it off to the people at the church. They drove a truck down and quietly distributed those to all the kids. It was a wonderful moment. It’s a worthy cause if anyone out there wants to give to them.
This leaves us to the last section, which is the Rapid-fire questions. I’ll ask you some answers and get some Rapid-fire responses. The first one is, what a piece of technology that you couldn’t run your business or multiple businesses without?
I love the Atlassian Stack with Jira, Confluence, product management. That would have to be my number one.
The next one is, what’s your best sales tip or tips to help everyone get more happy clients in the door?
You have to continue to build relationships. Your friendships. Your network is your net worth. I’ve learned that in the hard way of being an introvert by default. I tend to go into project mode. You have to stay in-person mode, people mode and continue to shake hands even virtually and continue to connect. I’d say that’s the most important thing, those voluminous numbers of human beings that you’re interacting with.
What’s the best source of new ideas for you? I know you’ve alluded to a brain way of doing that in the book. We might’ve already covered this question. Have you got any other aspects you’d like to share?
The development is a great framework. It helps people who are solving problems or envisioning solutions systematically do so more effectively, efficiently, more powerfully, and be able to get from, “I forgot about that idea I had ten years ago” to “I have 147 ideas I’m working on right now. At any moment in time, one might burst. You might want to invest in me.” Becoming the most valuable player on a startup, product team or a founder yourself. That’s what it leads you to. It’s a powerful tool for anyone out there who’s building a product or cycling through and iterating through their thoughts on a daily basis, which is all of us. I would say your grandmother should use this tool. It is a powerful tool.
Getting new ideas or going fishing, as many producers and movie film writers would call it, does involve a combination of multiple seasonings like your isolation factors. If you’re an extrovert, you might want to discipline yourself to take a step back and not be engaged with many people all the time. You need to carve out time for your brain to do what it was intrinsically able to do without you flapping your jobs or involving with people. If you’re an introvert, equally great, but learn how to become more efficient at thinking through and processing through your ideas and documenting them, becoming more of a transcriptionist of what your brain is already doing. Thirdly is your time. What are you doing with all your time? If you’re spending all your time driving the car but not washing the car, your car is going to get dirty over time. No one wants to ride in it.
We run our brains hard. You go to meeting after meeting. There’s back to back. In Corporate America or Australia, they love to have people efficient and blocked out. You try to book a meeting with a director or a VP, and you look at their calendar, and there’s nothing open. You’ve got to chat them on Slack or on Teams, “When can we meet?” It’s foolish now. It’s crazy. Every three hours of work, you need fifteen minutes of thoughtful walking. I take 3 or 4 walks a day for thoughtful introspection and processing through the activities that I performed, and then preparing for activities yet to be. It’s very powerful. I would recommend that for anyone to slow down and provide that stare off into space on your calendar moments.
What impact do you want to leave on the world?
Raising two daughters, it’s that my daughters are okay, safe, healthy, happy, serving God and doing good things in the world. My wife knows that I’m 100% all-in faithful. Other than that, I like to help people get work. I don’t know why. It’s been something that people have come across my desk and have needed jobs. I’ve been able to help them get into work. I taught a welder how to code and he was able to learn how to get into the tech industry. That’s where the book Average Joe came out of me too. It’s this desire to leave a mark of improvement on the lives of those in or around the tech industry or those on the outside trying to get to the center, helping them and welcoming them to the center where the water is warm. Tech can be very exclusive. We should make it more inclusive in all things.Stay with the right people and be in the right zone because it is easy to be distracted and pulled into the wrong rooms. Click To Tweet
It’s been a treat having you on. It’s a topic that is not my standard interview, which is what I love. I do think all of us need to take that time out. I must admit, I’m guilty of listening to many podcasts. If I go for a walk, I’ll listen to podcasts that stimulate my ideas, but I don’t walk alone with my thoughts. This has been a great show to bring that to the people but also it gives some brilliant framework. Once again, you can get those frameworks at SlowCreate.com. You can get the book, Average Joe: Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius. You can get that at AverageJoeTechGenius.com. It’s fantastic having you on, Shawn. I appreciate you sharing.
Thank you, Paul. Mutually.
I enjoyed that interview with Shawn, he shared his screen. He showed you the frameworks. You can go and get all of these frameworks at SlowCreate.com. If you go to YouTube, you can see the full interview and what he’s done. It was very much product-based etc., but you can apply these things in your business. I’ll certainly be taking his framework and apply it to get some more of my dreams and ideas to traction. I want you to do the same. You can go and get his book. It’s an Amazon best-selling book at AverageJoeTechGenius.com. I talked about getting a sales machine to get 1 to 3 high ticket sales for your business. Go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/Pulse. Please take action to build, live and give.
- Slow Create Formula
- Sustainable Mystique
- Paul Higgins Mentoring – YouTube
About Shawn Livermore
Shawn Livermore is the author of the Amazon best-selling business non-fiction book, Average Joe: Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius. The book teaches anyone how to think, speak, and create like some of the brightest tech founders in the world. It dispels the myth of the tech genius, then, in an unexpected and very satisfying twist, it reveals how to become the myth yourself.
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