Living the #Meetless Lifestyle - Scott Paul
"The calendar was in charge. I was not in charge anymore. And I was exhausted every night. That is not the case anymore. I've been reading more and working out. I've been doing so many more things because my calendar is not in charge anymore."
Scott Paul is an entrepreneur, adventurer, and futurist. His is currently the CEO of Wooly, an active angel investor, and advising several other startups and entrepreneurs. He has pioneered the idea of moving to a 100% meetless lifestyle. Over the past several months, he has been able to move virtually all of his scheduled appointments to an asynchronous format–freeing up his calendar and bringing a newfound peace to his life. Following is the (somewhat imperfect) transcript our interview conducted asynchronously on Volley.
Josh: Hey, Scott just wanted to start this interview with you on living the meetless lifestyle. You've been one of the pioneers in adopting a completely meetless lifestyle. So just have a number of questions to help all of our other users make the transition to living a meetless lifestyle. So the first question is, tell us in 30 or 60 seconds what you do and who you have conversations within a given week to do what you do.
Scott: Hello, Josh, my name's Scott Paul, and I'm the CEO of a company called Wooly. And what I really do in a given day is I split my time between talking to employees, prospective employees, and a lot of people on LinkedIn. That seems to be my social of choice and where I have the most conversations. I don't do an Instagram or Facebook, really, I'm always on LinkedIn and over the last eight years, honestly, even longer, probably 12 years, I've been pretty active and about now, I don't remember six years ago when they started having a feed where you could create content. I started creating content that brings a lot of engagement, you know, through the inbox and messaging where people say, Hey, I love the posts you did. I'd love to grab 15 minutes of time and talk to you and you encouraged me to do this or try this. And I used to take those 15 minutes and put them on a calendar and it was painful, but it was kind of the way that I like to get back to the community and just help an entrepreneur out or somebody asking questions. And now that's over. I am going to do it asynchronously, no more meeting invite. And we're looking at my schedule. Just one simple link I drop in there. Eventually, it'll probably just say, Hey, search me up. I'm Scott Paul on Volley. So that's a new way to be meetless. Yup.
Josh: And I know you're also a very active angel investor and having many conversations with dozens of companies that you've invested in as well as new entrepreneurs and hearing pitches all the time. So the question is, why did you decide to go meetless?
Scott: Hey, Josh, just doing some mountain biking showing off the value of asynchronous communications. So why I decided to go meetless is, well for reasons like this, I like to go mountain biking with my wife any time of the day. And I don't like it when I have something on the, on the schedule, on the calendar that would require perfect connection and, you know, real-time two-way connectivity in some cases, many, you know, many people on the call. And so I'm able to do what I want when I want it. And, so far, no one seems to be against. In fact, everyone's like, Oh my gosh, this will help me so much with my life. And, and you know, no looking at your calendar, trying to figure out when you both have time to meet, you, start a conversation whenever you want. And, and they can respond whenever they want. It's turn-based the best part to going meetless is time, time savings on LinkedIn and, you know, meeting entrepreneurs that wanted to send me their deck. And they're looking for an angel to invest. I used to take those calls and it would be an hour-long and that's just too much. I don't have time for an hour call with everyone that requests. It just wouldn't be a good use of anyone's time. Honestly, I now do those same discussions in less than five minutes, and maybe it'll go 10 minutes back and forth, but it happens at two X speed. Two, I'm able to consume video content, just like audiobooks at double the speed. And so that's you call it 20 minutes of content, but do it in 10 minutes. And it never goes over really often because unless I'm really interested because a meeting will always fill the time that you have put aside for it. If it's an hour, are you going an hour, sometimes over, but with Volley, you're not, you can get the conversation done when what's been said, and the action that needs to be taken is clear. You move off to whatever action that is and finish that, that conversation or keep it going in perpetuity.
Josh: Yes. I love what you said about, I don't have time for that hour. I know all of my investor friends see a thousand pitches a year, 900 of which are not useful, but they can't really upset the entrepreneur and so you sit through an hour, hour and a half sometimes. So, the ability to record video can definitely help you become more succinct and precise with your responses. So the next question would be–what did your day look like before you made the shift, and what does it look like now? Like some tangible evidence of, you know, anything you could share there.
Scott: I'm, as now another day, we're still going back and forth following essentially with his turn-based system. And my day is I'm again with my wife on a chair lift at Sundance in the middle of the day working because I don't have a calendar that's chock full of time. That's been cut out of my day. If I have things on my calendar, I do them. I show up, I get on those calls. I get into those meetings. My calendar, since going this asynchronous meetingless way has maybe two things a day. I looked at Friday, I don't have an event on the calendar for Friday. I have two things on Thursday. I actually had three today. Cause there's was a personal thing with the kids. And so I just put it on there. That looks nothing like what my life was, even, you know, four or five months ago, even the height of COVID. I was chock full of Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, lunch, lunch, lunch, Zoom. It was just overwhelming. I got anxiety. I had mental anguish because I would just, I was really easily accepting anything, anybody that wanted to meet, and I would set up that appointment and I would follow it. It controlled me. The calendar was in charge. I was not in charge anymore. And I felt that, and I was exhausted every night. That is not the case anymore. I've been reading more. I've been working out. I've been doing so many more things because my calendar is not in charge anymore. Is that what you're looking for? Because I don't need time and place. I don't need to meet and have conversations at a set time or a set place anymore. This is reality. And this is going to change for, I think this is going to be possible for a lot of people. Now we understand there are lots of [people] that have to be at a time and a place for meetings in person. I mean, it's not, it's not for everyone, but for, for the work that I do, it has changed my day. Completely
Josh: Sounds like this move to asynchronous has brought you a lot of peace, you know, peace ✌️. I'm curious, what conversations do you feel like still need to be face to face? They still need to be synchronous. Like what are those couple of appointments that you have the Thursday this week or whatnot? What are those things that you now reserve for synchronous face to face?
Scott: It's ironic, but none really, except for those, when the other party feels that synchronous needs to happen, I'm finding that almost all conversations for me would be better in a turn-based back and forth platform for the most part non business-related. The ones that I have still on either physical or zoom seem to be [because] the party is used to that. And that's most parties, let's be honest. This is a new concept for communication. So, like quick decisions, things that require a decision to make a hire by a certain time, like we are trying to make three hires right now. And they're very time-based. And Volley, (asynchronous) isn't where I would probably go for, trying to get an action against a timeline or time, like, something that needs to happen right away. I would take that to both phone calls, Slack, email, and then to get them in person or whatever. So that's, that's a hard part for any communications. These really the time capsule things have to happen right away with deadlines. But most of the conversations are really only going in person because of the other party being more comfortable with that and not having yet experienced this type of communication. I do think there are several magical things that happen in person when you have a whiteboard and you have the four or five people there, and you're kind of spitballing and you're, you're making faces and you're watching body language in the, in the moments that are not, you know, you're not in front of a camera. And so there's a lot of things that go on in the physical world towards very specific brainstorming or moments of creation that will be hard for any device to replicate. And I make sure that I save time for those, but I'm also a big fan of some of the brainstorming that can happen when it's turn-based, uh, when you can kind of collect your thoughts. And so that's a give and take on that one. I see both being helpful, but does that answer the question, Josh?
Josh: Yeah, that's it it's definitely give and take. So as you made this transition to a meetless lifestyle, did you encounter any friction from those that are around you– team members, family, maybe some of the entrepreneurs that were pitching you or, people that wanted to just pick your brain and get your time, as you offered an asynchronous option to connect, uh, was there any pushback and what was the form of that? What did that look like? And how were you able to overcome that?
Scott: Yeah, I did get friction, Josh. I have people in the company who really prefer Slack or zoom and don't want to budge and have another communication platform we're inundated with, you know, we have too many, as it is having to check email LinkedIn Slack, and we have to check other, you know, in-app communications, Instagram, your socials and text messages, WhatsApp, you know, these are all ones on my front page of my iPhone. So there is communication tool fatigue, for sure. And so I think the first thing I was met with, with people that were worried about that–another tool. Once I got them in and I showed them, they were all on board. They're like, wow, you got something out of like the way she expressed, the way we were able to get to know her. You know, she's from Texas so far away from us, no way to really do an in-person interview. I converted a handful right then. There's only two left in my 24 person organization who don't like the communication style. Other friction that one could see is around video. And a lot of people don't want to be on video. I have a partner who hates being on video. They kind of think you have to like stage it and stuff, as you can see, I'm on video, I'm driving. I'm not driving. Actually, I wouldn't do this if I was actually having to drive, but I am being driven. I should say, I'm in a car. That is another one video. So asynchronous video is kind of what we're talking about with Volley, but it doesn't have to be video. You have options to just show your profile face and do audio. You have options to do just notes, you know, like that. So there are other ways to communicate. Really. I really feel that video is what makes it unique and what that allows you to see the gestures and the non-verbal cues that someone has and get to know them in a different way. It's been really important for me to have that. So those are the friction points and objections I've seen with this style of communication.
Josh: Thanks for saying that, Scott and, and yeah, we're not in any way condoning the use of Volley while driving a vehicle. So just wondering if you feel like you've lost any fidelity or any quality in communication in the process of your move to an asynchronous lifestyle.
Scott: I think there are parts of it that I've lost fidelity. I think that's just across the board with the COVID going on. I just feel like communication, in general, has become low fidelity, some things you just can't remote, you know, but, overall, no, I think that I've gained fidelity where I had too much fatigue on doing zoom and too distracted. I wasn't my whole self ever on any zoom call. I wasn't bringing myself to the call. It's easy to fall away and be distanced. Think about it, right now, this is one to one and there is no me being distracted. I'm not going to type an email while I'm doing a volley with you. And I'm not going to look at the screen, but be thinking of something totally different. You get everything, you get all of me and I can't be lazy like I can on Slack and just kind of like an emoji or put in a quick sentence while I'm hopping between many different channels. The intentionality and focus that is required of this platform is high fidelity. And, I'm ADHD. I struggle with those other platforms tremendously. I can't do zoom. It takes me away. I'm loose interest really quickly. And I bounced to other things. If I know I'm not having to talk or, or be talked to, that's something that I might have to answer to, I'm gone. It's just, my personality. It sucks. It's hard. But with this...communication style, you get all to me. And I think that's pretty significant and says a lot, even a phone call, even a live phone call, I disappear. I can do something else. If you're talking too much, I can start looking around and get distracted. This is the only platform that I know of where I am all in 100% focused talking to you or to the team. And my mind and body and time and actions and thinking are not somewhere else
Josh: That's a great point, how asynchronous is an 'all in' communication type. I would add to that, in asynchronous conversation, we're building our responses during our partner's turn. So we're not completely invested in what they're saying, because we're also thinking about what I'm about to say next. And with asynchronous, you can completely invest yourself into listening and then completely invest yourself into speaking–all in, as you said. So next question would be, have you found any downsides to asynchronous communication? Like, what is lacking in your life? What do you have to add back in once you've made this transition to completely meetless?
Scott: All right. I think the downside of volley or asynchronous communication in general is, might be a technical one. But, when you're done with the phone call, you're done. It ends. You hang up, click over. Uh, there might be some actions that follow from there, but you know, it's over. You can archive an email. You have a conference call and it's, time-based, it's done when the time allotted for that call is over, it's over. There's something that you might have to do from there, but asynchronous communication, having a conversation is kind of like text messaging, right? It just kind of keeps going and you pop in and out of it if you need, or it's just recurring. And that's actually the best one, if it's reoccurring like a standup every week, well then, you know, you do your thing and it'll come back. That conversation will be there for next time you do it. But the one part that I've not yet figured out is when you're having a conversation with someone, you know, introducing or meeting someone for the first time and talking back and forth, and then just kind of dies. Or who goes next? Or is it over? Is it done? Did the purpose of our meeting completed? And I think that's the thing, you don't just don't really know. We'd like to compartmentalize things and checkboxes. And so I'm trying to figure out what I want there to feel is like a conversation is either not in my court anymore. The ball's in your court. Or it's over. The objective of that conversation has been achieved. That's the only downside I really see. Something that needs to be figured out.
Josh: That's so true. It does create kind of a weird feeling when you've actually accomplished your task and you need to move on. We're not used to that. I was actually writing about this today, how most meetings or conversations have some sort of time box to them. And we're so used to that time box. So, we know how to speed things up if we're running out of time or fill if we have plenty of time, and with asynchronous, the conversation takes just as much time as it needs to–no more, no less. And that's different than what we're used to. So it takes some adjusting. Okay. So last question. What tips do you have for someone who's hoping to adopt this lifestyle who wants to move all of these scheduled meetings and appointments off their calendar and live, or achieve maybe even one day a week, this meetless lifestyle? What tips would you have for them to get started?
Scott: There's so much because I'm somewhere new every time. And you see a little bit of my life. And the speed of trust, which you can get to know someone else and their environment. I'm giving my kid a bath right now, I couldn't do a conference call now very easily. So the last question, what do I suggest people do? Try this. Invite people who may be on both spectrums of closeness. So the closest people, invite them to an asynchronous platform, (hint: Volley). Then start conversations with those on the other end–the people you're not close at all– people that try to ask for your time. Maybe in a email or sales email says can I get 15 minutes of your time to show you what we're doing? Take them out of their turf and put them into an asynchronous conversation like this and see what happens. I did that with some salespeople, they were trying to sell me financial management systems, accounting systems, all this funny stuff. And they're used to getting rejected. I invited them into the system and some came in, I thought was really bold. And I got to see the guitars that the rep played the guitar for me. And I thought that was pretty cool. So start with those kinds of those two sides of conversations where it doesn't really matter if they don't want to try this conversation. And then the ones that are really important to see what they say. And begin to peck away at your calendar and the commitments you make. Look at your calendar every day and see which one of these could go asynchronous. Which one of these could maybe doesn’t need a time and place and then do that audit. And then, yeah, you'll start to maybe pick a day that everything goes that way. And then you tell people you're doing that. You gotta let them know this is a decision you're making for ease of life or the way you work best. And I've been doing a lot of training and explaining why I do that, even if they’re really important. Some of them, these are people that I don't want to risk that, but they still try it, even though it's such a different communication style and it's a meeting I would not want to mess up on. I still try it. So that's my tips,
Josh: Great ideas, especially the one about setting boundaries and just telling other people what you're doing and why you're doing it. It seems that everyone that you've been able to explain that to, from my observation, they, quickly kind of get it and are excited and potentially inspired by the idea. So thanks, Scott! I really appreciate you taking the time, to tell us how you've made this transition to a meetless lifestyle. You are a hero and an inspiration to us all.