Boss Level podcast S2E2: feat. Jari Sarasvuo

It’s the second episode of season two of Boss Level Podcast, and host Sami Honkonen speaks with Jari Sarasvuo, the business coach who doesn’t need an introduction in Finland. For the rest of us, Jari first became known for work in radio and TV, then transitioned to the executive training world, specifically with Trainer’s House. He’s an author and has his own digital and face-to-face training business called Stronghold, and is probably the only person on Twitter with 110k followers who calls himself a “digital idiot.” Sami and Jari discuss having a tech handicap, talking with anarchists on Twitter, and self-organizing businesses. Continue reading for three motivating ideas to take from the conversation and an overview (with timestamps.)

Don’t let yourself be handicapped

Jari talks about the digital world with a sort of ruefulness. He’s happy now to be part of it, but at the beginning, he barely wanted to touch it. This lead Jari to having a self-proclaimed technology handicap and he urges everyone listening to avoid that trap. Especially now that the world and technology are enmeshed, it makes complete sense that we should understand what’s going on behind the digital curtain. Jari encourages people in business to not let the tech-savvy people do all the work. The only way to avoid a handicap is to get right in the middle of the technology and figure out how it works.

Recognize the wonders that can be achieved online

Listening to Jari talk about Twitter with a hint of awe in his voice reminded me of the truly amazing things social media is capable of: Namely, we can make connections with people all over the world and some of those strangers can become friends and customers. At first, though, the interactions should be merely for fun – and shouldn’t have a pitch or upsell involved. Take time to be helpful and understanding and the results are overwhelmingly positive.

Give to others first

One of the most important, and probably the most abstract, point to take from this episode is to be generous. This applies to social media and business and life. Jari can’t stress enough that to make money you have to give away more for free. By no means is generosity a new principle, but yet again we have a successful businessperson talking about it and that should be noticed.

Listen to the episode below or Download the MP3 (30,3 MB):


2:14 In the 90s, Jari thought digital training would never become big because he didn’t trust the digital world. The internet was slow and unpredictable. With Jari’s early business, his partners handled the technological side of things. That left Jari with a handicap. He says, “It made me an alien in the digital world.” Jari even began to hate the idea of the internet because, in his experience, it was clunky and hampered his work.

6:05 Jari explains why he didn’t trust technology. It was partly because at first, it didn’t work, and it was really expensive. He didn’t trust the technology and didn’t exactly know how to use it. This continued as his business grew and he became, in his own words, “a digital idiot.”

6:52 Then Sami helped Jari get started on Twitter and things started to change. He connected with people online and found a deep level of communication to be possible. Jari says he’s the guy who started late and with little skill, but he acted on his instincts. And today, he does the vast majority of his trainings online.

8:55 At the heart of the digital world is communication, and Jari loves that part. Especially the fact that you can reach different people all over the world and have a meaningful connection. (Just an example of this: I’m writing this from a tiny town in the U.S., wishing I could hang out with all the cool guests on Boss Level Podcast in Finland.) Jari picked up Twitter fairly quickly and says that he likes talking with people (although if someone gets too annoying, he might mute them briefly. We’ve all done that.)

11:10 Quote from Jari: “I believe that we’re all humans. We all fear. We’re all ignorant. We’re all limited with our perspectives and understanding. And somehow we all try to cooperate. We all reach toward each other even though sometimes it’s really clumsy or even violent.”

12:10 When new to Twitter, Jari was pleasantly surprised by how well people behaved. He says that Twitter somehow filters out the people who like to rant and rave (Jari says those people are on Facebook instead.) Jari likens Facebook to the jungle and Twitter to the city. He does note that Twitter is changing and becoming blunter and less civilized.

15:30 Sami and Jari discuss how Jari’s training business has changed to include the digital world. Can you connect and engage with an audience over the computer? Jari says yes. The computer is just the apparatus to get to the person, but it’s the person Jari’s concerned with and connecting with – not the computer. Jari says he still feels connected with his audience, even when they aren’t in the same room.

19:30 Quote from Jari: “You have to abandon yourself. … Somehow we have to manage to become shameless, or without guilt, or without self-hate. You reach and connect and touch people when you forget yourself.”

20:34 Even though he’s no digital idiot anymore, Jari still operates his training business as a hybrid – part online and part in-person. He won’t (and believes you shouldn’t) let go of the in-person part because people need both. The online world doesn’t “magically make us indifferent to physical encounters.”

22:30 What’s Jari’s key to fulfilling and successful interactions? Generosity. He says that most of his work he does for free, but at the same time he makes more money than he did before. This goes for online and in-person settings, and Jari vehemently says that “the more you share, the more is shared with you.”

26:49 Jari says that the more you open yourself up to people who are critical and service them, the larger your audience becomes. This might mean dealing with insults on Twitter, Jari’s had some, but that’s OK. Let the critics know that you want to be helpful and understanding and they can become your biggest fans.

29:14 Sami asks Jari if his distrust of technology has changed, and Jari fires back, “No, no,” even as he wears an Apple Watch.

31:57 Sami and Jari’s discussion of self-organizing companies begins with Jari saying, “Four words. Top down is dumb.” Jari likens digital networks to biological systems and says that self-organizing is the only path that makes sense.

35:02 The very idea of how we work is changing. Jari says that technology enables leadership roles to be more fluid and less static. They can be based on situations and change as the situation changes. People at the top should be finding and sharing resources with everyone else.

36:41 Quote from Jari: “Leadership today is courage to ask.”

38:23 Sami and Jari discuss the best ways to work with customers and noncustomers. Jari says “selling is seeing people” and “marketing is having dialogue.” This doesn’t change even as technology changes.

40:17 Jari isn’t one to mince words, I think we’ve established that, but he has some particularly strong thoughts on motivation and monetary rewards. He says that money “erodes motivation” and punishment or promotion are also bad motivators. Good motivators are meaning in work, learning opportunities, and autonomy.

42:34 To close out the episode, Jari gives a manifesto of sorts. He believes in giving the power to the people who actually solve problems and creating environments where people learn. He highly values finding meaning in work and life because “if something is meaningless, it’s menial.” He believes in human potential and hope in the face of living in “disturbing times.”

Links for the episode:

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