Robert Glazer: “Surround yourself with people who help you get better”

…be intentional about managing your energy. This includes basic stuff, like committing to getting at least eight hours of sleep a night — even setting a bedtime for yourself, if that helps. But it also means building breaks into your day so that you aren’t working for several uninterrupted hours without resting your brain. Set aside 10–15 […]

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…be intentional about managing your energy. This includes basic stuff, like committing to getting at least eight hours of sleep a night — even setting a bedtime for yourself, if that helps. But it also means building breaks into your day so that you aren’t working for several uninterrupted hours without resting your brain. Set aside 10–15 minutes every couple hours to stand up and stretch, do some jumping jacks, take a walk outside, or listen to something that relaxes and focuses you. You’ll notice you feel less tired at the end of each day.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Glazer.

Robert is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, author the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller, Elevate, and of the international bestselling book, Performance Partnerships. He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast. His new book, Friday Forward, publishes September 1, 2020.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I’m founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners and an entrepreneur, author, podcast host and speaker. But, like a lot of entrepreneurs it took me a while to get to where I am today. I didn’t start my first business until after I turned 30, and before that I was a bit of a job-hopper. I worked at a few different organizations where the leadership was demotivational and uninspiring, and at a point I even had a friend joke that I was becoming close to “unemployable.”

But in 2007 I tapped into my entrepreneurial passion and started two businesses, one of which became Acceleration Partners. We’re a premier global partner marketing agency, focused on helping leading brands build and refine their marketing partnerships. We’re a 100 percent remote team of over 170 people in eight countries.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

In 2015 I started sending an email to my team at Acceleration Partners. At that point there were about 40 of us. I was motivated by the fact that I was just starting a morning routine with daily meditation, reading and writing, but I couldn’t find things to read that were inspirational, but also thought-provoking and challenging. Some of the books we were given were a bit too, “rainbows and unicorns” for me. So I started writing the about the stories I would want to read — real-world examples that were uplifting, but that pushed readers to improve themselves.

I sent these emails every Friday, and I figured employees were skimming them, or even ignoring them completely. But, to my surprise, team members started telling me they looked forward to the notes each week, and were sending them to friends and family. After sharing the email with a few CEOs I knew, and getting similar feedback from them, I decided to call the email Friday Forward and open it to the public.

Today, Friday Forward is read by over 200,000 people in more than 60 countries worldwide. Every week I get replies from readers, most of whom I’ve never met, sharing how that Friday’s post impacted them. That feedback is what I find most rewarding — the idea that each of us can make an impact on people beyond our own companies or social circles by spreading positivity and pushing each other to improve. Writing Friday Forward has also helped me immensely — I’ve become a better writer and a deeper thinker, simply because I’ve had to be in order to deliver a new post each week. I think each of us can do more to impact others in a positive way, and I’m glad Friday Forward has given me a chance to do that.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One of my favorite stories about our company comes from our annual in-person company retreat, which we call AP Summit. We have employees all over the world at this point, and once per year we bring everybody to one place for three days of learning, sharing and teambuilding. Because it’s only three days a year, we really work to foster deep connections between employees — from in-depth sharing, to unique teambuilding experiences, to some really emotional, vulnerable keynote speakers.

We took it to another level with our most recent AP Summit last November. We brought in a brilliant coach, Philip McKernan, who runs an amazing program called One Last Talk. In One Last Talk, which Philip has done around the world, people come together to hear speakers give the speech they would give it were their last day on Earth. And these speeches, not surprisingly, focus on the speakers’ deepest truths, deeper than even standard vulnerability-focused keynotes. We decided to try this at AP Summit, and we had Philip coach four volunteers to give their One Last Talk to the entire company.

At our summit, four of our team members gave deeply personal, courageous speeches to our entire company. What they shared gave a lot of clarity about who the speakers were at their core, and how they showed up for work each day. And even though it was an emotionally intense experience — there were a lot of tears — our team members embraced the speakers fully, even lining up to congratulate them after the talks were over.

But more importantly, those talks inspired our team to be deeper and more open in their sharing, both at the summit and beyond it. Even people who had worked together for years, without having a deep discussion, were suddenly connecting vulnerably with each other. It says a lot about the psychologically safe, accepting, supportive culture our team has creating that the One Last Talk program not only succeeded at our summit, but pushed the whole team to give more of themselves at work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I was lucky to have a great mentor in my first job out of college, Arun Gupta. Arun supported me and pushed me to grow simultaneously. He also taught me a vital lesson about expectation setting. One day he sat me down and told me that I was always setting aggressive deadlines for myself and then missing them. He advised me: instead of promising I would have something done by Monday, then having it ready Tuesday, I should promise to complete something by Wednesday, and have it ready Tuesday. It was an important lesson I have carried through my career.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think resilience is basically built on two things — building the physical and mental strength to withstand adversity, and consciously managing our emotional reactions to challenging situations. Physical resilience relates to our physical fitness, of course, but it also includes how we manage our energy and respond to adversity.

Many of us respond to stress with a fight-or-flight response, which is a survival instinct that we used to need to protect us from real danger. It’s not healthy for somebody to have a fight-or-flight response that is evolutionarily designed to save our lives get triggered when we have 50 emails first thing in the morning. We need to learn to manage our energy, build breaks into our day, prioritize sleep, and start our day on offense with a productive morning routine.

Emotionally, resilience requires training ourselves to productively respond to challenging situations. For example, if two people get into an argument in the morning, an emotionally resilient person is able to process that challenging situation and move on with their day, while a less resilient person would let that negative experience wreck the rest of their day — they’re snippy with people, they have trouble focusing, and the whole day is lost. In addition to building physical resilience by improving diet, exercising and managing our stress, we need to train ourselves to manage emotional hardship without getting derailed.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I have a lot of examples from my personal life, but I want to share one that’s more broadly known that is especially useful. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about a concept called the Stockdale Paradox, named after James Stockdale, a naval officer who endured seven years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Stockdale, reflecting on his experience in an interview with Collins, essentially said that he was able to persevere because of a carefully calibrated mindset: he was honest about the brutal reality of his situations, that he would likely be imprisoned for years, but we never abandoned hope that he would eventually be freed.

This is perhaps my favorite example of resilience, and it’s really instructive to people leading teams through adversity. Resilience is about accepting the challenge in front of us, acknowledging the difficulties we face — both to ourselves and the people we lead — while also maintaining the belief that we will succeed eventually.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

A lot of the things we do at Acceleration Partners were considered impossible, or at least unadvisable, when we first started. When we launched, affiliate marketing was considered more of a niche channel, and we were told there was no chance of building a global, large-scale affiliate agency. Over a decade later, we’re the largest agency in our industry and operate in eight countries.

We were also told that it wouldn’t be possible to run a completely remote workplace, especially with talent spread all over the country, or the world. There were still a lot of misconceptions about working from home — that employees would be less productive or motivated at a home office. Today, a lot of companies, including ones as big as Twitter, know that remote work can actually improve an organization’s performance, not hamper.

These two things were they core of our aspirations when building Acceleration Partners, and we’ve helped change the perception on both affiliate marketing and remote work. We weren’t out to prove other people wrong, we wanted to prove ourselves right.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

In 2009, I totally maxed myself out and reached a clear breaking point. I had placed myself under an excessive amount of stress and hadn’t yet started the capacity building journey I discuss in my book, Elevate. My wife and I were briefly living with my parents while building a new house, we had just had our third child, and I was running two businesses during a historic recession. I was barely sleeping and compensating for that by drinking a ton of coffee every morning. It was unsustainable.

Things came to a head one morning when I noticed my heart was racing and my arm was tingling. After a while, I began struggling to stand and called my wife to come home from work, convinced I was having a heart attack. Once the paramedics arrived to take me to the hospital I started feeling better, and despite fearing the worst, after two days of testing in the hospital I discovered that I’d had a massive panic attack, triggered by a magnesium deficiency that led to an elevated heartrate. Otherwise, I was totally healthy.

This was an inflection point in my personal journey — I think of it as a warning shot that compelled me to prioritize my health while I still had the chance. I started committing to regular yoga, began running for the first time in my life and watching my diet. I think that experience, while harrowing in the moment, was crucial to getting me where I am today.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was 10 years old, I was on an Amtrak train with my mom and siblings coming home from visiting my grandparents. The train stopped to change engines in Stamford, Connecticut, and I went to watch them change the engine. When I tried to return to my family, I realized the train had split and I was on a separate train from them, going in a different direction. I ended up spending a few hours in the station with the Amtrak operations team and then taking the next train by myself to Boston.

Despite being in a scary and difficult situation at a young age, I learned how to solve problems for myself, to depend on my own abilities to overcome adversity, and to not panic even in a situation where it would have been very understandable. I have always been independent, and that experience gave me the confidence to continue to choose that path.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • First, be proactive about your health, because diet and exercise have an enormous impact on how you respond to adversity. A person who eats healthy, goes for a jog before work every morning and avoids junk will probably be better under pressure than somebody who has low stamina and is constantly overtired and stressed.
  • Second, be intentional about managing your energy. This includes basic stuff, like committing to getting at least eight hours of sleep a night — even setting a bedtime for yourself, if that helps. But it also means building breaks into your day so that you aren’t working for several uninterrupted hours without resting your brain. Set aside 10–15 minutes every couple hours to stand up and stretch, do some jumping jacks, take a walk outside, or listen to something that relaxes and focuses you. You’ll notice you feel less tired at the end of each day.
  • Third, don’t be afraid to put yourself first. The analogy I love for this is, on an airplane, the flight crew always tells passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others, for everybody’s safety. We should do this in life as well. It’s important to help others, and to even go above and beyond for the most important people in life — but you can’t do that at the expense of your own health. The people in your life deserve the best version of you, so it’s ok to take care of your self first by saying no to some commitments that you can’t take on, giving yourself breaks from time to time, and asking for space when you need it.
  • Fourth, become comfortable with discomfort. Essentially, we need to accept that difficult situations are a part of life — we will constantly find ourselves in situations that are a bit scary or uncertain, and it’s important to be able to confront them calmly, rather than panicking. To do this, I would recommend embracing challenging situations when you can — sign up for a fitness challenge that seems difficult, go to a networking event you’d normally be too shy to attend, or take a trip to a country that speaks a different language from yours. By immersing yourself in challenging situations on your own terms, you’ll be better able to confront that type of uncertainty when it crops up in life.
  • Five, surround yourself with people who help you get better. If you spend most of your time with people who have a victim mentality, blame others for their problems and pity themselves whenever adversity strikes, that will rub off on you in some way, no matter what your own mindset is. Instead, surround yourself with people who encourage you to stand tall against adversity, constantly improve, and help others do the same. You’ll notice a difference.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 think the success of Friday Forward proves that each of us has an opportunity to put something into the world that lifts people up and motivates them to get better, and it’s needed now more than ever. A big part of my motivation to turn Friday Forward into a book is I want to call others to action on this specific point: think about one thing you can do to inspire the people around you. That can be reaching out to somebody and offer to brainstorm goals with them, be somebody’s accountability partner if they’re chasing an achievement, or even do what I did with Friday Forward and share positive stories with the people around you. Every one of us as a network — our team at work, our family or our social circle — and if we all commit to helping each other grow and lead others, we can create a lasting impact. My goal with Friday Forward is to positively impact one million people worldwide.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss. I think he’s an archetype and thought-leader in many of the areas I love to learn and write about, especially because he’s constantly pushing himself to learn, grow and challenge the odds. Perhaps most importantly, he never gets complacent, despite having achieved a lot at a young age; he surrounds himself with a challenge network of people who push him to get better, and he’s committed to pushing his audience to improve in the same way.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

First, sign up for Friday Forward to get a weekly dose of inspiration in your inbox each Friday. You can also subscribe to my LinkedIn Series, which is the largest newsletter on the platform with over 250,000 subscribers. I’m also on:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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