An Award Winning CEO Keynotes “Everyone Deserves a Fairy Tale”
Listen to Episode 138:
Episode 138 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth and success. On the web at businessadvance.com. Now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. And right across from me as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s always great to join you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio, and as always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to take themselves and their companies to their next level of game-changing innovation, growth, and success.
So Pam, one of the things we know is that it takes a special kind of energy to ignite and sustain the momentum necessary to bring new ideas to life.
Pam Harper: That’s right, and that special kind of energy is passion. It’s not only important for us as individuals, it’s also important for teams to keep us going as we’re navigating the ups and the downs of uncharted territory.
Scott Harper: Yeah, you’ve got that right.
Pam Harper: Now, we know that passion is at the heart of some of the greatest ideas, actions, and creations that have ever existed. However, we all discover and live into our passion in unique ways, and that’s why we’re glad to welcome back the CEO of a successful growing company who enfolds passion into every aspect of his life.
He is our friend and previous Growth Igniters Radio guest, Simon Nynens, Chairman and CEO of Wayside Technology Group. His company provides clients with easy access to superior IT products and redefines how people interact with technology.
Here’s a bit more about Simon’s background: He started his career at Ernst & Young in Amsterdam, Holland. He joined Wayside Technology Group in 1998 and became chairman and CEO in 2006. He’s a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Simon serves on the board for the New Jersey Technology Council and was chairman of the board in 2007 through 2015. He’s also a member of the Presidents Leadership Council of Stevens Institute of Technology. He received the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the technology services category.
Pam Harper: Now, outside of Wayside, Simon is a proud father and husband, curious world traveler, keynote speaker, and chief motivator. He is a black belt in Taekwondo and a retired long-distance runner. In fact, he ran many marathons and some ultramarathons, including a 100-kilometer race. Simon, welcome back again to Growth Igniters Radio.
Simon Nynens: Pleasure to be here.
Pam Harper: What’s really interesting is that I was looking at my email one day, and I happened to see that you are going to be speaking at TEDx Asbury Park, New Jersey on May 19th. The theme this year is passion. I saw that your presentation was called “Everyone Deserves a Fairytale.” so I thought we should start out and talk about this. What do you mean when you say that?
Simon Nynens: In the poem Desiderata − it’s truly beautiful to me, and some parts are truly marvelous − It states, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here, and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” Wow.
Scott Harper: Yeah, wow, indeed.
Pam Harper: How did you come to that?
Simon Nynens: Well, whatever you do, whatever battles we fight, we have to keep peace with ourselves. That’s what that poem said, right? “Strive to be happy.” Well, that’s awesome, but how do you do that? That’s where mythology and fairytales come in.
Scott Harper: So now, what was the experience in your life that made you decide that you wanted to actively talk about this − keynote on this topic? You are a CEO of a really busy, successful, growing company.
Simon Nynens: Right, right. Students, kids, adults, we all sometimes don’t need to hear where we are right now. We know all too well. We need that goal, we need the glimpse of what the good life could be, and we need to know, to have a chance of actually getting there. I started speaking a lot about business, but what I found out is that a lot of people were actually asking me about the why — why do I do this, and why are you motivated, and why are some people motivated, why are some people are not.
Scott Harper: It really takes that motivation, that spark of something inside of us to keep us going, because quite honestly, it’s not easy all the time.
Simon Nynens: Correct, and we all need heroes, and we all need these movies, books. Some people like to watch movies instead of reading books, but we all want the exact same thing from our heroes. One, we want to identify with them. Two, we want them to look like us. And three, we want life to end well, a happy ending.
Scott Harper: Of course.
Pam Harper: So it sounds like if we can think about our life as a fairytale, it could actually help inspire us?
Simon Nynens: Yeah, but what I mean with “everyone deserves a fairytale” and why fairytales are so important − it is not about the glitter and the gold and the jewels. Fairytales help you act in a certain way according to a moral path of how you should act under stress. Like the ugly little duckling was teased, but she stayed true to herself and became the most beautiful of them all, and all the other gossiping little ducklings just became ordinary ducks. The three little pigs − it’s very easy what the underlying moral of the story is, is that to build a solid foundation in your life. If you build a house of straw, any adversity will blow your house away, so build a house of bricks. That is clear.
But what’s the mythology of Hansel and Gretel, of Snow White, of Jack and the Beanstalk? There are just so many beautiful meanings. Every sentence that they wrote in a fairytale has a meaning. We’ve just lost the ability to reread that, but we all need it.
Pam Harper: Yes. I would agree with you. I think about fairytales that I used to hear. My father and mother used to read fairytales to me when I was growing up, and if I think about them now, there really was a message. All of them really have messages about how we should be.
Scott Harper: Yeah. They’re allegories and metaphors. Simon, what I hear you saying is that we have to think about these tales going beyond the words, the surface, and delve down into what is in there that can inspire us and guide us in our path.
Simon Nynens: Right. Exaggeration helps to get a point across, right?
Scott Harper: Right.
Simon Nynens: They do that in movies, and in fairytales, the characters are very good, or they are very bad. Punishments are very bad punishments. I mean, look at Snow White, a favorite movie. The stepmother actually wants to truly kill her daughter. That would be front-page news.
We just tend to read them as like, oh, they’re just a fairytale, but there’s a gruesome truth and gruesome stuff in there, and they do that to exaggerate because you want to get a point across. But the rewards are very good rewards. There’s more to life than just facts, and that’s something that you see in business. We tend to oversteer on the facts, on the rational part of us, but we are irrational human beings. We’re born in between good and bad.
Simon Nynens: Life is unfair. Life is not logical, and life hurts sometimes, but we’re not the first generation, and sometimes we live as if we are. But there’s a lot of truth that’s being found. Our ancestors wanted to pass on that information, and they started telling stories from generation to generation. However, over time we’ve lost some of our ability to understand them, to read them, and once you understand the symbols, the hidden meaning of these stories, they truly help you.
Pam Harper: And help in terms of reaching that almost mysterious thing sometimes called passion, right?
Simon Nynens: Correct. By the way, if we would’ve found the answer to leadership, if we would’ve found the definitive answer on parenting, if we would’ve found it on living together as a society, we would’ve already found the answer. Now, a lot of people get disappointed by that and say, “Darn it, we’ll never get past chapter one of the book,” but we will always be just getting a preliminary glance, but instead of seeing that as sad, we should see that as an inspiration, as a motivation to continue to explore. Because what happens when you’ve found the definitive answer? It precludes any alternative interpretation.
Pam Harper: There you go.
Simon Nynens: The normal creativity, then it’s just a checklist and just do this, and you’ll be there. But life is much more than a checklist, and we know that. As parents, we figure it out with child number one. Child number two is completely different, and that is good. We’re all different. What works for me today doesn’t work for me in the future.
Scott Harper: Now, that’s real wisdom.
Pam Harper: That’s true. We’re going to take a quick break right now. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Simon Nynens, Chairman and CEO of Wayside Technology Group, about the power of fairytales to help us through the ups and downs of life. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at businessadvance.com. We enable successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation, growth, and success.
Pam Harper: We’d like to welcome all of our listeners, and especially our many new listeners. If you’re not already subscribed to our Growth Igniters community, you can get even more value by signing up. You’ll receive reminders of our new biweekly podcasts, along with a link to a page filled with all kinds of resources. On off weeks, you’ll receive a Growth Igniters post, about a two-minute read.
Scott Harper: So go to growthignitersradio.com today and click the red sign up now button at the top right of the page.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper, that’s me, and Scott Harper. We’re talking today with Simon Nynens, Chairman and CEO of Wayside Technology Group about his belief that everyone deserves a fairytale. Simon, how can people find out more about you and Wayside Technology Group?
Simon Nynens: They can visit the website www.simonnynens.com, or they can visit the website www.waysidetechnology.com.
Pam Harper: Also, how can people find out about TEDx Asbury Park if they happen to be in the New Jersey area on May 19th?
Simon Nynens: You can go to tedxasburypark.com, and you can see the date, and you can get tickets there.
Pam Harper: Okay. Of course, we’ll have links on the resources section for this episode by going to growthignitersradio.com and selecting episode 138. Now, when we left off, we were talking about the power of fairytales. Picking up on that, what fairytale is most meaningful to you?
Simon Nynens: For me, and I think for all of us, the best fairytale I can think of that relates to a lot of people, including me a lot, is Hansel and Gretel. See, we are all Hansel and Gretel. We have to leave our parental house sometimes. We always have to leave them. At some point, you become an adult, but what happens is that in that first part of your life, you’re lost in the woods. You walk around, but you really, you don’t know where you’re going.
Simon Nynens: That’s usually in your 20s and 30s. You’ve graduated, and you’re starting your career. You’re not really sure of where you’re going, and then spiritually and sometimes rationally, we can start to die. We need to replenish our passion. What happens is that we see that while we’re wandering around in the woods, some longer than others, we see that house of candy, we say, “There’s the answer.” We go towards that house of candy, but that house of candy always has a witch in it.
Simon Nynens: That house of candy for a lot of people, that is consumerism, that is over-focusing on money and just money. That is gluttony; that is overeating. That is alcohol, that is drugs. That is any addiction. But what happens when you do that? As the witch told Hansel, “You came here to eat. Now eat, and I will kill you for it, because I’ll fatten you up, and I’ll kill you for it.” Many of us are then stuck in that jail.
Simon Nynens: Gretel was with him. Why didn’t Gretel just walk off, break out some panes of candy and said, “Good luck, Hansel. I’m walking out of here. I am not in jail.” Why? That sentence, that whole story was in there for a reason, because how many people − how many mothers, how many fathers don’t struggle with that word, loyalty? I can walk out of these woods. I can leave a friend who is in need, but what does it do to myself? I could never live with myself afterwards. I have to stay. I might as well be in jail with my friend, and I will act as such.
Simon Nynens: But what did Hansel do when he was in that jail? Did he give up? Did he say, “I will be eaten.” He would be eaten. Imagine, that would be on the front page, somebody wants to eat you, wants to fatten you up and wants to eat you. He didn’t get nervous. He said with a lot of ingenuity and with a lot of trickery, “I will overcome this. I overcome my addiction.” And what happened? They overcame it. They didn’t get stuck. That’s what I tell employees, my kids, and myself a lot − “when you’re in jail, just like Hansel, do not stop, go on. You have to not give up.”
Simon Nynens: Then they burned the house, and they burned the witch. They threw the witch in the fire that she meant for Hansel. She dies, the house burns, and underneath the house they found jewels. Those are not real jewels; those are jewels in your mind. And the birds in the story play the role of mentors. The birds lead them to the house of candy. They also lead them once they’ve collected the jewels and they go back home again. They lead them towards the right path home.
Simon Nynens: Well, in our lives, where are our mentors? Where are your mentors? It’s great that you have a mom and dad, you have close ties with your family. Maybe, some of us aren’t that lucky. But where are the people who are five years ahead of you in your career? Where are the people who are 10 years ahead of you in career, who can guide you and say I’ve done that, too, I’ve been down this path of alcoholism, of drugs, of over-eating, of focusing too much on my work and not the surrounding parts, and I’ve done something? I’ve found that, again, back to chapter one of the book, I’ve found a glimpse. Maybe it can help you.
Scott Harper: Aha. Now, we’ve talked about the allegory. Applying this to our own lives, for instance, what was a real-life test of your ability to overcome adversity that parallels a fairytale?
Simon Nynens: One of the most personal things that happened to me in the last five years is that my dad passed away three years ago.
Simon Nynens: And it was a terrible adversity. I was very close with him. I called him on Saturday mornings, and he was really interested in my career. He got ALS, the Lou Gehrig disease, and passed away in seven months. It was terrible. I was walking around in those woods alone, depressed. Those woods, I mean, in my mind, you’re lost in the woods. I said to myself after a long time, after months, I said I’m going to walk out of these woods with some jewels. I am not going to leave this in vain and get stuck in it and say it’s hopeless.
Simon Nynens: Here’s what I learned. Here are the jewels that I learned − the adversity I overcame and what it taught me. One is, I love my wife, and I know she loves me. We’ve been married for 24 years, so guess what? Don’t fight over the little things. Love each other. Two, cherish your children. Spend real time with them, and that does not mean texting or Facebooking while they’re at basketball practice. That means spending time with them. When they want to play with you, play when them. Play board games. Run around with them, or read them a fairytale.
Simon Nynens: And three, the third lesson for me was, write my children and my wife a letter. My dad didn’t, and I don’t blame him for it. Yet, he would write diaries. He would have books full of it, but I would’ve loved to have a letter from him. And I think you can pay it forward by doing this for your kids, for your wife, for the people who mean something to you in your life. Write them a letter while you’re still alive. You never know, and when you pass away, they would have a letter. So, there you go.
Pam Harper: Yes. Appreciation of what you have is so important. How do people balance these things? We’ll hear people say, “I want to spend time with my family, but I’m leading a company. I’m trying to increase it by 40%, and I have to be over here, and I have to be over here.” They’re traveling all the time and, “I can’t be there.” You’re leading a successful company. How do you balance this? It sounds like you’ve found this way.
Simon Nynens: Moderation is the greatest good, and I still struggle with that. I do not watch TV during the week. It just builds confusion. For me, it’s just noise. So all that time that I could’ve spent watching TV, I try to spend it with my kids. I don’t always feel like playing a board game, to be honest with you, when I come home, but my wife has really shown that way, that when you want quality time with your children, and when you want quality time, by the way, with your team, you got to spend time. Then that quality time will come, but it’s build into the larger package.
Simon Nynens: You just have to focus. You have to know what’s important to you and spend time on what is important to you. I bike my children in the morning to work. I have busy days, but I try to set time apart to do that, to spend time with them, bike together to school. I come back. It’s refreshing, gets your mind going. So little things like that. It’s not always all or nothing. You can have a quick call with the children when they come out of school and say, “Hey, how was school? And by the way, what do you look forward to in the week? Can dad help you with anything?” Or send them a little text, but then follow up with more in-depth. When you come home, really take time for them. Take time for each other.
Scott Harper: That’s true, and you said a magic word − Fairytale? Magic word: focus. Focus is mindfulness, and it brings us into the moment and helps us get everything we can out of it.
Simon Nynens: Right, and there’s the other thing. For me, success is two things. One is focus. Because everybody has a top 25 priorities, but the good people always only have three and they actually complete them. The second thing is to love yourself. I know it sounds wishy-washy, but if you don’t love yourself, you’ll always come back to the first part, and you don’t focus because you start blaming yourself for failures instead of celebrating your victories, and it all goes awry. You got to have self-confidence. They say don’t hurt others. That includes, by the way, the future you. For me, that’s very, very important.
Pam Harper: I think this is, and I think that it was time worth spending to talk about. We have the idea of the fairytale and what we hope we can do, but the realities set in and make it so tough sometimes to navigate the back and forth, and people can get overwhelmed and lose their passion. You found ways to work it in, and our hats are off to you.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take another quick break right now, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Simon Nynens, Chairman and CEO of Wayside Technology Group, about immediately actionable steps we can all take right away to begin to discover the power of our personal fairytales. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game-changing results.
Pam Harper: We’ve been talking today about igniting and sustaining the passion to bring our dreams to life, and one of the ways to do this is to create one or more partnering reliance relationships. And when they go well, these relationships can bring new energy to our businesses. The challenge, of course, is for everyone involved to do what it takes to build relationships that are as powerful as they are passionate.
Pam Harper: That’s why we invite you to download our free special report on a closely-related topic, building powerful strategic alliances. We developed our findings and conclusions based on responses from senior executives in over 15 industry sectors. While strategic partnering is becoming more important than ever before, over half of the senior executives we surveyed were dissatisfied with the outcomes. Find out why and what you can do to increase your return on partnering investment.
Scott Harper: Learn more by going now to growthignitersradio.com. Select episode 138. Scroll down to the resources section and click on the link, download strategic alliances report. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re talking today with Simon Nynens, Chairman and CEO of Wayside Technology Group, about how discovering the power of our personal fairytales can enrich every aspect of our lives. Simon, remind us again how people can find out more about you and Wayside Technology Group.
Simon Nynens: Absolutely. To have more information about me and the speeches that I give and the contributions, by the way, that go to charity, go to www.simonnynens.com.
Pam Harper: That’s right. You have a whole site that’s devoted to your keynotes, right?
Simon Nynens: Yes. What I would especially like to point out is that the fees all go to charities, to the UNICEF, fund for children, and to Greenpeace, and those are goals I wholeheartedly support.
And a word about fairytale, we talk about that. We are writing our own life story. Even when we refuse to write it, we are writing it.
Pam Harper: Exactly. Now let’s talk about some immediately useful ways we can put what we’ve been talking about into action. How can we start using ideas from fairytales to positively shape leadership?
Simon Nynens: What I would say is, look at a fairytale. What happens is that they create a safe cave. There is a friend there; there are mentors there. Do you support mentors in your company? Do you support creating a safe cave? The bear is outside. We are practicing within our cave, and we feel free to say what’s needed, and we are vulnerable. Vulnerability means open to attack. Who isn’t open to attack on an emotional level? Everyone is, but that’s not the point. We want to create a safe cave to drive ourselves forward, to drive the company forward.
Simon Nynens: People say, “We love our employees, and we are your big brother.” Well, when do you need a big brother? People in my company … I’ve gone to pawn shops. I didn’t know what pawn shops were before I got to the US, but I’ve gone there and bought items back that were important to people. I’ve found apartments for employees. We shipped generators to Puerto Rico when our employees’ families were affected. Paying off high-interest loans and replace it with a low-interest loan of our own company’s money. How motivated do you think our employees are versus employees who walk by a poster every day that say customer first? [crosstalk 00:25:37] hear anything.
Scott Harper: Now, what’s an immediately useful idea that can help us get back to the idea of the fairytale, the fable, as a way to change our thinking and help us overcome adversity?
Simon Nynens: Well, do you just punish the losses in your company, or do you also celebrate the wins? Do you see the numbers tell a story, yet you got to count more with your heart? Feel the emotion of the people who work for you. Do they trust you? Would you leave them alone in that jail? Would they leave you alone in that jail? To build trust takes time. Accept it. Don’t take the shortcuts, they never work.
Pam Harper: I like what you were also saying, Simon, about the story. How often do we think about the stories of our company and how we interact with people as being part of that story?
Simon Nynens: Right. Life cannot be simply a going from task to task to task, and then we die. There’s meaning in life. What is that long-term goal? That is not an easy answer, but be the best in whatever job you are doing, because someone is always watching you, judging you, and guess what? That someone is yourself. If you look at a challenge or adversity, I’ve switched my thinking. When adversity happened, I thought this is so bad, why does it overcome me, and they should go away, but now I look at a challenge or an adversity to be the best me, to be the best part of me, not the worst one.
Scott Harper: Yeah. Going to a more contemporary fairytale, The Wizard of Oz. You have Dorothy and Oz, and it turns out at the end all she had to do was click her heels together, but if she hadn’t gone through all of the adversity, she wouldn’t have grown, she wouldn’t have come to appreciate how home is really the best place.
Pam Harper: And some of the best solutions being right in our own backyard, I guess? That was part of it? It sounds like if we go back and revisit some of the fairytales and see some of these messages for how to deal with adversity, there’s a lot there.
Simon Nynens: Yes, and the fact is that a lot of people look for guidance in the future. But I found the best part is the guidance, it’s not on TV, it’s not in the latest song, it’s not in the latest fashion, it is hidden, and it’s right in front of us. It’s hidden in books; it’s hidden in mythology, it’s hidden in religion. It’s already there; we just need to have the ability to read it again.
Simon Nynens: Like I said before, the preliminary glimpses are beautiful glimpses. It’s already there. Embrace it and focus. People say you should slow down. I’m not much for slowing down, but I am a lot for focus. Keep going, but focus on where you’re going and see what is important and spend time on that, and don’t spend time on all these tasks that really don’t matter.
Pam Harper: That’s a good point. What would be an immediately useful idea for us as leaders to become more comfortable with vulnerability, based on these fairytales that we’re talking about?
Simon Nynens: A word about that. Think back as a leader over the last five years, and think to yourself, “What were my best wins, what were my main victories, and what were my biggest failures?” I think what you’ll find is that when you open up yourself and you truly gave yourself, that’s when you really win. That’s not necessarily financial win but a win for yourself, and this is what you feel when you walk into a company. It’s all the right things could be there, that the company looks great, that the posters on the wall all look great, but you walk in, and you feel it.
Simon Nynens: Do you need a management book to help people who work for you, a value statement? No. You help. You do the right thing. That’s aligning, as Plato said, the spirited part of your soul with the logical part of your soul. That’s what I personally can tell you is, where leaders go wrong, if they think they have to be invulnerable. You cannot. You’re a human being, and you should bring that. That doesn’t mean you should bring your cynical part. You should show people why you truly care for this company, why should we work overtime, and don’t tell me it’s just to make this quota. We have a job to do here. People depend on us. That’s what people see, and that’s what they relate to, not the numbers.
Pam Harper: And that’s passion.
Simon Nynens: Correct.
Pam Harper: That’s what people pick up on, and there are all kinds of research that supports it, too, we’re finding out, so this is just excellent. Do you have any final thoughts for us about tapping into the power of our personal fairytales?
Simon Nynens: I just hope that people do remember, I reread this poem over and over again, this fairytale, that with its sham, and drudgery, and broken dreams, this is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful and strive to be happy.
Pam Harper: Thank you, Simon. We really enjoyed the conversation.
Simon Nynens: Same here. I appreciate you guys having me.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Simon, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, read Simon’s bio, or open a conversation with us, go to growthignitersradio.com and select episode 138.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: … wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to reflect on.
Scott Harper: Everyone deserves dreams in their life and a fairytale. What can I do starting today to discover mine?