Getting people to read your book is about the same amount of work as actually writing the manuscript. For example, we had to build a detailed launch plan, set up a dedicated website, hire a public relations firm, and do a lot of interviews to spread the word. It’s all doable, but it’s a lot of effort and I needed a small team to get it all done.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kip Boyle, the founder, and CEO of Cyber Risk Opportunities, whose mission is to help executives thrive as cyber risk managers. He’s the author of the book “Fire Doesn’t Innovate: The Executive’s Practical Guide to Thriving in the Face of Evolving Cyber Risks”. In addition to his cybersecurity work, he’s on the board of directors for the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, an anti-domestic violence agency.
Thank you so much for joining us Kip! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve been working in cybersecurity since 1992. I started as an air force officer, leading information technology teams. My assignments had us handling very sensitive information related to air-to-air weapons testing, so we were expected to practice what I now call “good cyber hygiene”. My most challenging job during this time was director of wide area network security for the F-22 “Raptor”. At the time, we were getting ready for the first production jets to come down the assembly line. It was very exciting!
After the USAF, as a project leader at Stanford Research (SRI), I helped many Fortune 100 firms grapple with cybersecurity at a large scale. The problems they were dealing with were often 5 years or more ahead of the mainstream. So, there were no “off-the-shelf” solutions and many of our customers didn’t even know where to start. With no one else to turn to, they would come to us.
Fast forward a few years and I was selected to be Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of an insurance company. They owned a few subsidiaries, so I was also providing cybersecurity leadership to senior decision makers of a community bank, credit union, debit/credit card transaction processor, and an IT managed service provider. I learned a lot about the business value of cybersecurity during those years.
Then, in June of 2015, I launched my own company, Cyber Risk Opportunities. These days, cyber attacks are seriously hurting businesses, even bankrupting them. We help executives manage cyber as the business risk it has become. So they’ll be ready no matter what happens. Setting priorities is a big goal in our work.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I was halfway through this 14-hour flight (longest I had ever been on). I was sitting in my seat touching up some photos on my laptop. All of sudden, from behind, something cold and wet hit the top of my head and ran down my body. And then, my brand new, high-end computer died.
After I yelled out a bad word (but not the worst one I know), all I could do was stare at the dead computer in my lap and think about how useless it would be during the next 3 weeks of long-distance, international air travel. All while cold, sticky cola oozed down my back and into my seat.
Turns out the drink had been accidentally dropped on me by a frazzled flight attendant.
After he apologized, and I cooled off, my main concern was repairing my computer as quickly as possible. And, getting the airline to reimburse me.
Knowing something about insurance companies (I worked for one) and aviation (I used to pilot jets), I asked our pilot to radio a message ahead to have an airline representative meet me when we landed. I also asked for a copy of the cockpit transcript to be given to me once I got there.
When I walked down the jetway, there was an airline employee waiting for me. He had a damage claim form and a print-out of the air-to-ground communication in his hands. Next day, a local computer repair store was able to get my computer going again. And, a few weeks later, with no hassle, I got a full reimbursement check in the mail from the airline.
What a crazy start to an otherwise fantastic trip!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We have a lot of customers. What’s cool to me is that, right now, we’re helping both a professional basketball team and a biotech company optimize their cyber risk management programs. It’s great to be able to use the same approach to help organizations that are so different in just about every obvious way. But what’s also exciting is as different as they are, just under the surface, they are both very similar in terms of the cyber risk practices they need to follow.
And, because so many organizations in the US need better cyber risk management at the executive level, we’ve launched a partnership program so other professionals in positions of trust, such as lawyers and technology service providers, can use our tools and methods help their existing customers thrive as cyber risk managers. We’re getting a lot of interest.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I’m fascinated by people who overcame personal limitations or injustice. From ancient times, I’m inspired by Demosthenes, who overcame physical weakness and abusive guardians to become a prominent Greek statesman. In the modern world, I’m inspired by the way Gandhi rose above the limitations placed on him by others and then changed the world through nonviolent civil disobedience. Just amazing.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I’m inspired most by two ancient bodies of work:
Stoicism. In particular, the ideals of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. Fear is a major obstacle to pursuing any dream. The stoic writings do a great job helping us conquer fear.
Bible. Among other things, it’s full of wisdom about how to have healthy human relationships. That’s an extremely important capability for anyone who wants to make a useful change in organizations and communities. For example, treating people with contempt, even a little, is toxic to your relationship and your cause.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I tend to write about practical things. I like to focus on problem-solving with the goal of helping make people’s daily lives better. I wrote my book to help executives who want to make their organizations, and our economy, more resilient by managing cyber as the business risk it has become.
In particular, part 2 of my book contains a step-by-step method for finding and mitigating your top cyber risks. I felt so strongly about making it accessible to my audience that we released a free companion workbook online that automates a good deal of the work.
I hope the book helps a lot of decision makers. Time will tell how impactful it will be.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
There are some great books about writing. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird was helpful, for example. But, you need to spend a good amount of time working on your book and not just writing it.
Before you start writing, answer three questions:
- Who is in your target audience?
- What do you want them to know and feel after they read your book?
- What do you want to get from writing this book?
The answers will serve as your north star and will greatly influence how long it will take to write your book, who needs to help you, and what it will be like when it’s done.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve been involved in anti-domestic violence (DV) efforts for years in part because I grew up in a violent family. DV is very harmful to children.
But, my real concern lately is the terrible effect that online pornography is having on teenagers. I don’t care what your personal opinion is on porn itself, because the data and the experiences of many families tell us it’s very harmful to kids. It’s a silent epidemic.
Pornography messes with teenagers because it triggers floods of dopamine in their brain which feels really good. But their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex means teens have greatly reduced self-control as compared to an adult. They have trouble setting limits for themselves, which can lead to addiction.
Prolonged exposure to sexually pornographic materials for teenagers is correlated with all kinds of life-long problems, like poor concentration, depression, and social anxiety. It can also warp their expectations about intimate relationships, which undermines long-term commitments. And, it impairs their ability to establish and maintain healthy personal boundaries.
Parents are the only ones who can really make a difference. They need to know what their kids are doing online. Their goal should be to make it difficult for their kids to use the Internet in secret.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Sure! Thanks for asking.
- Get a mentor who’s been published before. There are so many things about writing, publishing, and promoting a book that I knew nothing about. Without mentors, I would have made many more mistakes that would have delayed my book or even derailed it completely. The worst outcome isn’t not publishing; it’s releasing the book and getting no reaction at all. Then you wonder: Is the content bad? Is it the cover that’s keeping people away? The unattractive title? The rough interior layout? You may never know. But, how deeply disappointing for all your effort and dreams.
- Getting people to read your book is about the same amount of work as actually writing the manuscript. For example, we had to build a detailed launch plan, set up a dedicated website, hire a public relations firm, and do a lot of interviews to spread the word. It’s all doable, but it’s a lot of effort and I needed a small team to get it all done.
- Digital self-publishing still has a long lead time. I knew from talking with other authors that working with a traditional publisher would take between nine and 12 months for the book to be available to purchase. We could have gone faster than the nine months it took us, but the end result would not have been professional enough for me. Things like a powerful title, great looking cover, and interior design, all take time. Not to mention a few rounds of professional editing the manuscript.
- Before you publish, you already need to have an active audience. Preferably an email list. Seems backward, right? I always thought you write a book and then you attract an audience. Whether you are writing for fun or profit, it’s difficult to make an impact without creating some excitement when you publish. And, unless you have a very big promotional budget, you won’t be able to create excitement without some fans to help spread the word right from the start. In fact, some traditional publishers won’t offer to work with authors who don’t already have audiences. Publishers don’t have the money to promote books by unknown authors like they used to.
- The best way to build an audience is through social media. That’s why it’s important to know who your audience is in advance. Write down what you know about them, then figure out where they hang out online. Then show up with meaningful contributions long before you ask them to spread the word about your book. For me, that’s LinkedIn. For you, it might be Facebook or Instagram.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I’d enjoy meeting Dave Ramsey. Ever since I went through his Financial Peace course about ten years ago, I’ve considered him a role model for the entrepreneurial journey I wanted to take. Now I have my own business and I refer to what I read in his EntreLeader book quite a bit.