Hugh Forrest


March Magic Memories: Guy Kawasaki

The Forrest Four-Cast: December 20, 2017

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. He is a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz and an executive fellow of the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley). Kawasaki previously served as the chief evangelist of Apple and a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation. He is also the author of “The Art of the Start 2.0,” “The Art of Social Media,” “Enchantment,” and nine other books. Kawasaki holds a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA, as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College. At SXSW 2018, catch his conversation with Symone Sanders about how technology and media are changing politics and culture.

In 20 words or less, what is the main focus of your current job?
The main focus of my current job is spreading the good news of how Canva is democratizing design. But I’m a busy guy who also speaks fifty times a year, represents Mercedes-Benz, and I’m writing another book.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Younger is a relative term. Do you mean in college? Then the answer is being a high-tech entrepreneur. More recently, I want to be remembered as a great father and someone who empowered people through writing, speaking, advising, and investing.

What are you most passionate about at present?
I’m most passionate about surfing. I fell in love with the sport about nine months ago. Unfortunately, starting surfing at sixty-two is a little late, but this provides a window into my soul that when I decide to do something, I’m all in.

Actors, athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, whoever — you can any three living people from anywhere in the world to dinner. Which three people do you invite?
I have four: Julieanne Kost, the Adobe Lightroom evangelist, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Angela Merkel. Dinner with Hillary, Michelle, and Angela are obvious. Julieanne is the person who does the Lightroom videos on YouTube, and I really need Lightroom help. Does this mean that there are few men I want to have dinner with? Yes, actually.

What’s the last great book you read and what made it so enjoyable?
The qualifier of “great” is a high bar. By that test, the last great book I read is “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I read it in 1987. It changed my life because it empowered me to become a writer. Everyone, no matter what your calling, should read this book.

What podcast are you are listening to most these days? Why do you like it so much?
I love Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, Freakanomics, and Revisionist History. Humor and science change my pulse.

If someone asks you whether or not they should invest in crypto currency, what is your answer?
Crypto currency is beyond my limited mental ability. I’m old school: make stuff that improves people’s lives and get paid for it.

What makes virtual reality circa 2017 more likely to succeed with the mainstream public than virtual reality circa 1997?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about how dramatically AI will impact all of our systems in the near future?
“All our systems” is a little challenging, but I’m optimistic that AI will completely change driving. I can’t wait for the fully autonomous, electrified, you-don’t-own-a car world.

I’ve heard you describe yourself as an introvert. What kind of strategies do you use to overcome this shyness?
I am an introvert, but I am paid to “perform.” That’s what I do. I don’t have “strategies” to overcome this shyness — I just make it happen because that’s what I’m paid to do.

Do you remember the first year you attended SXSW? What inspired you to make that first trip to Austin for March Magic?
I don’t remember the year, but from the first visit, I thought SXSW was magical. It had the same vibe as the original Macworld Expos — which I truly loved. What I consider great about SXSW is that there are very few billionaires and venture capitalists walking around. Thus, the bullshit factor is a lot lower than any other tech conference. I have a rule that I don’t get on an airplane for free. SXSW and Social Media Marketing World are the only two exceptions to this rule.

Over the various years that you have attended SXSW, who has been the most memorable speaker and why?
I don’t attend many sessions because of the crowds, and I don’t like crowds. Barack Obama was the most memorable of the speakers that I have seen. The best interview I’ve done was Mark Cuban.

Over the various years that you have attended SXSW, what has been the most memorable networking event and why?
I never go to networking events. My hearing in my right ear is impaired, and I have tinnitus in that ear. This makes any loud, crowded event very difficult to enjoy. I just don’t enjoy crowds being the semi-deaf introvert that I am.

At SXSW 2014, you interviewed Mark Cuban before a packed house on the big stage. In your mind, what was the most interesting part of that interview?
I loved that interview because Mark just doesn’t have to give a shit about making everyone happy. I’d vote for him for president. Wit is a sign of intelligence, and he’s a very witty guy. I can’t say this about most politicians.

For SXSW 2018, you will be in conversation with Symone Sanders, the former press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. What kinds of topics will you discuss in this session?
First, we have to establish if she’s related to Bernie or Sarah. Then the topics will include what it’s really like to be inside a campaign, how Trump came to be elected, what can people do to change the system, who she thinks is the best qualified person to be POTUS, and how to tell if a politician is lying besides his lips are moving. So glad you asked this question, now my preparation for that session is done.

What is your best tip for newbie SXSW attendees?
Be sure to eat some BBQ. SXSW is not complete without a least one meal built around BBQ.

You were part of the first-ever Me Convention this past September in Frankfurt, Germany. What did you enjoy most about that event?
I enjoyed seeing Angela Merkel up close. That was special. Hyper-intelligent leaders who believe in science and empathy are in short supply these days.

Other installments of the March Magic series include interviews with Robyn Metcalfe, Stephanie Agresta, Andrew Hyde, Brad King, Gary Shapiro, Chris Messina, Yuval Yarden, Jenny 8. Lee, Aziz Gilani and whurley.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

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