Be prepared. Whatever you style is to prepare, follow it. At a certain time in your career you will be tempted to not prepare as much. Do not fall for that impulse. Take the time to properly prepare for the situation and you will always, always succeed. I have seen a lot of skilled, experienced people fail because they did not prepare properly or did not go through the effort of fully preparing for a situation.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Katzoff.
Paul Katzoff is the CEO and driving force behind WhiteCanyon Software. Paul’s mission is to decrease e-waste globally and provide an alternative to physical destruction in the circular economy. It is estimated that over 150 million computer drives are shredded each year due to security concerns of the data on those drives. His company provides the WipeDrive solution for a software-based erasure of laptop, server, desktop, workstation, and mobile devices as an alternative to physical destruction (shredding). His concern for the environment and eliminating impractical waste is his driving passion to work with public and private corporations in updating their drive destruction process. Paul started out at WhiteCanyon Software in Technical Support before moving to Support Manager and, later, into the Sales Team and eventually as Sales Director. He left the company for Enterprise Sales positions at HipLink and SaltStack before returning to WhiteCanyon as CEO. His 10+ years in the e-waste industry enabled Paul to internalize strong user preferences for all-things-mobile, recycling, circular economy, simplicity, instant access, and engagement.
Paul holds a Masters of Business Administration from Utah State University, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up with my father in the Air Force and lived in Germany, Japan, England, Hawaii, and Australia. I ended up in Utah for high school and have bounced between Utah, California, and Hawaii in the following years.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
The exploration and unknown is what inspire me to be a business leader. I love technology and early on I saw that everything was headed towards computers. I purchased a website domain and taught myself web coding (HTML and PHP back then). As I got more and more into computers the exploration of potential solutions to problems and the analysis of each of those ideas really captivated me. We have just barely seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology-based solutions. There is much more to come, and every day is a new chance to explore, create and build new software-based solutions.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I think we all hope we do not make too many mistakes in our careers. One that pops out to me is I sent a very large client (and a personal friend) an email and I put the wrong name on it. I am not sure why I blanked like I did but we had a good laugh about it. It was a good (and lucky) reminder to be careful on each email and to stay sharp.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Focus on your day-to-day activities. Make each email and phone call perfect. Leaders are experts in their field because they have learned the best method for most tasks. As you learn these methods and incorporate them daily, you will rise above your peers and naturally be promoted. Always pursue perfection and be open and honest with your managers on your mistakes and shortcomings. Also, do not be in a rush for success to happen. I like to say, “Be the Grease”. It may seem inconsequential, but the largest machines will not work without grease. Keep your head down, do the dirty work and get things done, day in and day out.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” By Robert Frost. If you follow the crowd, you will get a portion of what the crowd gets. If you forge your own trail and explore what you are interested in. You will find lucrative personal success and create a unique view of the world. Groupthink, band wagoning are all attempts to not experience the world and have an opinion. Always strive to learn things for yourself and grow from it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Data privacy and data security are the two most compelling items right now. Our WipeDrive product is world-class and securely erases IT assets. This can eliminate the 150M+ drives that are destroyed each year. Can you imagine if we were not shredding that many drives per year? We would have extra drives for charities, schools, students, small companies and who knows what kind of free cloud environments we could create. I can see that the largest pain point is data security and as we improve the trust on WipeDrive and software-based erasure solutions, we will see media storage drop in cost.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
- Be prepared. Whatever you style is to prepare, follow it. At a certain time in your career you will be tempted to not prepare as much. Do not fall for that impulse. Take the time to properly prepare for the situation and you will always, always succeed. I have seen a lot of skilled, experienced people fail because they did not prepare properly or did not go through the effort of fully preparing for a situation.
- Always remind yourself of the big picture. Some things are easier to deal with if they are seen in their true light as being inconsequential. You can then see through the problem to a winning solution.
- Exercise. Mental control of your body is one of our biggest strengths (and under-utilized opportunities). The exercise will strengthen you to deal with tough situations and to remain calm and balanced.
On a personal note, I used to surf large waves. I was relaxed and comfortable on ten foot waves and I surfed some fourteen footers as well. Having survived such dangerous circumstances, it made business meetings, partnership discussions and acquisition talks minor or trivial in my viewpoint. This allowed me to stay balanced and perform at my best in the face of what could be seen as very high-pressure situations.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
- Review the situation — imagine yourself at that location (restaurant/board meeting/conference room) and what the atmosphere will be.
- Review the possible outcomes — mentally picture the situations you will be placed in and how you will respond. Even review terribly negative or poor outcomes. This will allow you to deal with any curveballs during the situation.
- Run through these iterations in your imagination and prepare how you will act and react.
- When in the situation, stay calm and balanced. Your actions and responses will be more cohesive and authentic.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
There are many different breathing techniques and meditations. I prefer visualizations and going through the worst-case scenarios to best-case scenarios. This allows me to build from what the largest failure could be to being confident in small failures and getting the results I need.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
Everyone is different. For myself, I need a quiet office with a view of something happening. I need a partial distraction. This allows me to focus on the work at hand and when needed I can take a break and observe what is going on. Early in my career, headphones with loud music was the best way for me to focus but that has changed over the years. Also, do not open email. If I am working on a special project I stay away from my inbox.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Habits can make or break your career. One of the earliest habits I focused on was punctuality. I was at work at 8:00am sharp, I took the alloted 15-minute break at 10am. I went to lunch at noon and I was back promptly at 1pm. And I left promptly at 5pm unless I had to work late. Most managers are looking for someone they can rely on and punctuality is the best way to demonstrate reliability. Managers can then spend time and resources to improve the employee’s skills, knowing it is worth the effort.
The other habit which is tied directly to success is integrity. I decided early on in my career that I would rather be a bottom rung employee with integrity than an executive with no integrity. I focused on giving accurate and factual answers and letting management know when I did not know the answer. It was difficult and there is pressure to give a white lie to save face. Ignore that impulse. It is better to be 100% precise. You will always get caught in the white lies and the big lies.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
I have found that you must want the reward. If you do not see a reward for a behavior, it is difficult to incorporate it. Education, mentors, family, and friends can help you see the reward from instilling positive habits and if that reward is great enough, you will strive for it.
Ignore distractions and bad friends. People who pull you down or activities that take you away from what you want to achieve and your positive habits. It always sounds fun and harmless but, in the end, it will delay you in reaching your goals.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
In my experience the state of Flow comes from knowing yourself. You should know your weaknesses, your strengths, your likes, dislikes, natural tendencies, and your own personal heuristics. Once you know these conditions you can then seek work that is a fit to you. You will be more successful, more balanced, and much more confident if you are able to find a state of Flow daily in the work you are required to do. Not every job will work for anyone. Find the job that works perfectly for you.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would inspire a global movement by every country and citizen of the world to get rid of micro-plastics and slow-decomposing waste. We have so much plastic in our lives and this plastic is permeating our environment, animals, and, possibly, ourselves. The invention of plastic changed lives, food, and cost but we need to create plastic that decays completely in ten years.
We are very blessed that 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 just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
This is a tough question. There are so many people I look up to and I recognize the effort and work it is taken for them to reach their current success. Of all the possibilities, I would love to have lunch, breakfast or even a donut with Sir Richard Branson. I feel he is the epitome of a business owner, entrepreneur, and lives his life to the fullest. The chance to speak with him and understand how he see ideas, execution and teamwork would be invaluable.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.