3 ways to unlock your greatness

James Smilkstein, Brand Partnerships

Once upon a time, there were creators, and there was an audience. One group led and one group followed. Then the world changed…

I recently had the opportunity to hear from some of the world’s greatest minds. Iconic leaders and experts including Sir Richard Branson, Steve Forbes, Jack Welch, Robin Wright, Simon Sinek, Guy Kawasaki, Malcolm Gladwell and Gary Vaynerchuck took the stage at The Synergy Global Forum in New York City.

This powerful lineup of innovators discussed topics including leadership, purpose, strategy, efficiencies, growth, and marketing. Although each speaker set their own agenda, each speaker shared the same core values demonstrating gratitude, empathy and optimism.  These core competencies enabled them to thrive as leading motivators to an audience that was captivated by creativity and the thought of leaving a meaningful legacy.

I encourage readers to embrace the following takeaways as they embrace new challenges seeking a richer sense of fulfillment.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and NY Times bestselling author took the stage to talk about emotional intelligence. He defined this as “the capacity to recognize the impact our own feelings have on ourselves and to tune into the feelings of those around us, to manage our emotions and our actions, and to interact skillfully with the people around us.”

Through his studies he has understood that leaders with emotional intelligence are better equipped to inspire and mobilize others towards making a positive impact in the world. When distinguishing competencies amongst star performers, Dr. Goleman learned that jobs of all kinds comprised of 33% IQ and Technical Skills while 66% leaned in majority favor of emotional intelligence. Among jobs in leadership a slim 15% was factored in IQ and technical skills while a whopping 85% was weighted in emotional intelligence. His theme is simple – a group’s effectiveness is not measured by the sum of IQ’s but rather the level of harmony where they understand their strengths and weaknesses.


If you want to have an emotionally intelligent conversation with someone, eliminate any distractions. That includes your phone. Focus on the person in front of you. If you ask someone how their weekend was or how they feel, then listen actively. Feel what they feel. Try to understand their strengths/weaknesses. This builds up trust, and as the trust matures so do the open doors for people to take risks. It’s these risks that contribute to a greater level of harmony.

The most energetic of the bunch was Jack Welch. He lit up the stage! As the CEO of General Electric, he grew revenue from $27 billion to $130 billion from 1980 to 2001. Some of his notable quotes included,

  • “Find a better way, everyday.”
  • “Be positive, it turns people on.”
  • “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
  • And he must have said this at least 6 times, “You want your workplace to be the fun, cool kid’s basement”

What he means is are you making your working environment fun? Is your company the place that everyone wants to be? Do you create a culture that allows people to be themselves so they can thrive? Well at Shopkick, we are for sure the fun cool kid’s basement. Take a look for yourself.

team holiday photo


SKNY party shot


In addition to fostering a positive environment, Welch credits candor for his sustained success. Acting with integrity is your brand. It’s your reputation and what people say about you behind your back is the true reflection of how you make people feel. Whether it’s within the walls of work or not, the ability to be open and honest with people creates trust. A trust that opened the door for empathic interactions, all of which allowed Welch to express his vision that grew the company’s revenue by over 380% during his tenure.


Trade on your personal brand, your legacy. Doing the right thing, is always the right thing. Celebrate the small victories. Laugh more at company parties as happiness is addicting. Encourage happy hours. Make your workplace and culture the fun, cool kid’s basement.

Last on stage was one of the world’s most distinguished and illustrious entrepreneurs – Sir Richard Branson. Some will say what’s even more impressive than the 400+ ventures he owns, are his awards and accolades including Time magazine’s “Top 100 most influential People in The World”.  His perspectives of gratitude, putting people first, and curiosity has and will continue to shape the world.

When asked for his checklist for leaders who create extraordinary companies he’s quoted as “If they are great motivators of people; if they’re always looking for the best in their staff; if they’re praising, not criticizing; and if they create products that people who work for them feel really proud of. … If the leaders are people who listen and don’t always want to hear their own voice; [if] they get ideas from their employees and write them down. “It sounds simple,” Branson said, “but make sure your people are really happy…Leadership is literally being a human being.”

Branson also publicized his 6-word motto that’s been a driver in his prosperous life. “Screw it. Let’s just do it” he said. This attitude comes from his belief that every minute of your life is meant to be enjoyed. Do not spend time and energy towards dreadful feelings of “Ohhh, I’ve got to do this today.”


Always look for the best in people. When your heart is into it –  screw it, just do it. Take one risk a day.

…So the world is changing. Now more than ever groups are collaborating, innovate thinking is leading to actionable execution and the boundary between creators and everyone else is blurring, and will soon disappear altogether. We are all one people and this is our one world. #OneTeamOneDream.