Hack Life like a Pro. Learn shortcuts to Agility from bestselling author of The Cheat Code Brian Wong
Brand success can be as simple as a haircut! Develop your brand to create the most valuable tool for lasting revenue. Learn how to do this and more in this episode featuring Brian Wong. CEO of the mobile app advertising company Kiip, Brian co-founded his business at age 19 and now, 8 years later, has been named as one of the top young entrepreneurs in the world by multiple sources. Listen and you’ll discover how to increase your marketability through your weaknesses. And as the author of The Cheat Code, Brian shares why you don’t have to transform your life to create success. It just takes a few simple 'codes' to fast track your way to massive revenue.
“You maintain that brand consistently and you will always see continued inbound of people who are looking for that type of thing.”
0:58 - Why you need to follow Brian RIGHT NOW to become a young, agile, successful entrepreneur
2:47 - You don’t have to uproot your whole life to make millions! Brian can show you the path out of your own obstacles and into the freedom of agile entrepreneurship
5:03 - Create a business with momentum by discovering the superpower that society and school are hiding from you
10:10 - 2 Cheat Codes to upgrade your brand without breaking the bank
13:58 - Want the phone number of the biggest CEO in your area? It’s simple! Brian shares how.
16:45 - Make your weaknesses your biggest strengths to double your marketability and therefore your profit
18:20 - Are you struggling to make a business or personal decision? Brian warns what is equally as bad for your business as making a wrong decision
Connect with Brian:
- Kiip: In App Mobile Advertising and Audiences
- The Cheat Code: Going Off Script to Get More, Go Faster, and Shortcut Your Way to Success by Brian Wong
INTRO: Welcome to agile living. The entrepreneur's journey to show dedicated to discovering how entrepreneurs and digital leaders are doing more with less. I'm Jon Voigt, your host and CEO of agility and we're on a journey across the country to learn from top digital entrepreneurs on how to live a more agile, adaptable and fulfilling life. Thank you for joining me today. And let's dive in.
Jon Voigt: Hello everyone. Welcome back to the Agile living Show. I'm excited to jump on a book today that a friend of mine published back in 2016, Brian Wong and I met earlier this year and hit it off right away. When I heard about his book, the topic definitely sparked my interest and after some review, I felt like it was a perfect fit to discuss on here. The book is called the Cheat Code. It's all about going off script to get more, go faster, and shortcut your way to success. Sounds agile to me. Brian thanks so much for being on the show!
Brian Wong: Thanks for having me, Jon.
Jon Voigt: Perhaps you can give the audience a little summary of what you're up to these days. And then, you know, we can jump into the plot and ideas in the book.
Brian Wong: Absolutely. So yeah, I'm still CEO and co-founder of Kiip. Kiip is a rewards platform that exists in mobile apps. So essentially we're a plug and play system wherever you want to enable some type of reward or loyalty in your app, you can use our technology. We've been around now almost eight and a half years, we've raised, you know, 32 million in venture capital, we've been expanding, you know, more so in the last few years than in the early days, we were very early I think as an idea. But, you know, we're still around and we're all over the country and we do work globally and we're really excited to be doing what we're doing.
Jon Voigt: Nice, and so how does this relate to the book? You know, it sounds like they could be related, but at the same time the book sounds like it could be a whole different profession for you.
Brian Wong: A lot of people do ask that question I would say because I did start early. You know, the back story is I skipped a few grades in elementary school and high school, and I graduated college at 18. And then I started the company at 19. And now I'm 27. A lot of younger entrepreneurs naturally are curious and want to reach out and spend time and understand how I do what I did. And so I got all these questions. And I was like, why don't I just write a book to kind of memorialize the answers to these questions? And so it came out a couple years ago, and I would say 95% of the content is still relevant today. I'd say a few percent is outdated, but that's kind of how the book came about.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, well, you know, my whole concept with being agile as the world changes so fast. So no matter what you talk about today, something's going to be obsolete in a few years and you didn't know is gonna. So maybe talk about, you know, what's the format of the book. Is it just tips and tricks? Is it a flow of sports success, you know, how does that kind of go through? What are you cheating? Is scamming or is it solid codes?
Brian Wong: Yeah, so we wanted to kind of align to the millennial attention span. So the chapters are less than, you know, three pages each. There's 71 key codes. There's a lot that is applicable today. It's something that we want people to be able to act on now. I mean, a lot of self-help books out there kind of require you to like, you know, upheave your entire life and just change everything. And, you know, our whole thing is like, no, like you don't have you can just do a couple small changes now, and you'll be able to start seeing results immediately. So that was the main goal of the format. Yeah, and, you know, the reason why we chose the word cheat was obviously it was supposed to get attention, but honestly, it was a reference to the cheat codes and gains because, you know, the younger folks are more familiar with the idea of using a cheat code. Actually, even older folks who've played video games a lot know that you can put in a code and get ahead faster. That's the whole idea.
Jon Voigt: Like contra back in the day--up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right. B A B A, left, start.
Brian Wong: Exactly. Everyone knows. Exactly.
Jon Voigt: Yeah. Awesome. So is there a format for these are just a whole bunch of tips and tricks that you kind of learned over the years? And what do they really focus on?
Brian Wong: So we kind of divided it in a few key categories, like being bold, be ballsy, be you. That type of thing. And so part of it is making sure that you can represent yourself in the best way. So a lot of it is around empowerment and making sure that people feel like they can do it themselves. And really kind of reminding people that most of the obstacles that are in their way are self-imposed and are mental, and so those are the reminders that we kind of used as part of the book. And the format is a combination of like anecdotes and stories through my long and storied life of 20, at least at that time when I wrote it, of 24 years. But you know, there's a lot of fun things in there that hopefully people get a kick out of and I think they'll really enjoy reading it.
Jon Voigt: Right. Awesome. Well, you know, if you could pick a couple of the top highlighted ones that, you know, could you give a couple of them just to get people kind of a sneak peek on your kind of methodology of how you would explain some of these things?
Brian Wong: Absolutely. So, you know, kind of the favorite cheat code in the book that a lot of folks gravitate towards is ‘know your superpower’. And a lot of it is around identifying your strengths and focusing your energy on that, rather than trying to fix the things that you know you're not good at. And I think, unfortunately, our school system and society is kind of like, 'Oh, you got a, you know, a B or C, or an F or whatever. You got to Work on that, you got to put all your energy on it.' But I mean, my number one sort of comforting statements are to those who are not doing so well in certain classes in the schools. Like, listen, you're not going to be doing calculus for the rest of your life. That's not your strength. There's gonna be other things you're really good at. You should put all your energy into that. Even when you're in your adulthood and you're working, it's just like, yeah, have you seem to e really good at selling or really good at designing and being visual or really good at numbers. Like just focus on those things. And then those who invest the time, like, you know, the 10,000-hour rule... Like if you can put 10,000 hours into something you will do really, really well. And if it doesn't feel like that much time and it feels like it's just part of you, then it's even better, right? And that's kind of how you should be allocating your time as you get older.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, well, I guess society does not help with that. I can even think about, you know, our last strategy meeting and we get together and we're like, we zoom through all the wins for the previous week. But then when we get to the, you know, 'what did we do bad on or what do we need to improve on?'. you spend so much more time on those things just because you naturally want to solve problems you naturally want to like fix things that aren't good but you know, maybe your as you said, you just focus on the better thing and you can really knock that out of the park.
Brian Wong: That's the best part! And now you're hearing the clock tower in South Carolina. Maybe it's charming? Well, so the other thing I would say about the people who are curious to fix these issues is you should be finding people around you that have superpowers that are complementary to you. So the number one thing I observed with, you know, sort of dysfunctional teams is what everyone has the same superpower because everyone's stepping over each other's toes. And they're trying to, you know, do something because they know they're really good at it. And then this is actually where you get co-founding teams where you have, like, I mean, I'm talking, this is like, the first year of their operation. And all of a sudden, they have a chief innovation officer or Chief Strategy Officer, because everyone's you know, the same thing. And they all want to be the CEO, but they can't. And this is what I see too often is a lot of teams with overlapping superpowers, that becomes very dysfunctional,
Jon Voigt: But they, but they get along as friends because they have the same superpower. So they want to work together.
Brian Wong: They do. But then inevitably, and I will tell you 100% of the time--and people can disagree with me in this--it inevitably ends in you needing to choose between friendship or the business. And unfortunately this breaks friends groups, it breaks a lot of things, but people are mature enough to go through it and go, 'Okay, you know what? My ego aside, you're the right person to run this,' and then go from there. Those are the best kind of transitions and teams and okay.
Jon Voigt: And so how deep Do you go in the book in terms of these codes? Do you explain how to find your strength? Or is it more about you know, 'this is what you have to go do', now go find some other book or some other way to dive right deep into that.
Brian Wong: It's full script, like, what do you how do you get to that superpower is just look at your history. You know, look at what you used to be super excited to do. Like, what was the activity as a child, you would jump right into it. And your mom and dad were like, 'well, you would just keep doing it. And you would never feel like you know, you were spending too much time on it.' And everyone has this and it's not related to your passion necessarily. This is what I think is the big misnomer. A lot of people are like ‘follow your passion’. I'm like that as actually the worst advice. I think it's actually more to do with your obsession. So what are you obsessed with? What do you spend time nonstop, right? If you're obsessed with like... and this is like a perfect example. My brother--who I mentioned in the book--he ended up studying geography as his undergrad at UBC. And it was just like, you know, he liked it. But then he, I remember, he spent so much time online in these fashion blogs, like the hype beasts of the world. And he was on top of every new sneaker and shoe release ever. And I'm just like, first of all, I'm not a sneaker guy. So I was like, this is crazy that you're looking at this stuff and spending so much time.
Jon Voigt: To you, it's a waste of time. To him to him. It's like amazing.
Brian Wong: Yeah, it's amazing. Yeah, it's like their soul and then but guess where he's working now. It works for Frank and Oak and he's in fashion. And he had a long career at Herschel before that and I think people don't realize it but you if you reward yourself that time, you will gravitate towards the thing that doesn't feel like work. And unfortunately, not a lot of people get that luxury. But if you happen to be in a live situation where you are able to do that, go do it.
Jon Voigt: Right. Awesome. What about some other? You know, obviously, once you kind of figure out that strength, you know, that thing you should focus on, where do people go from there?
Brian Wong: I think once you know that strength, you need to be you know, obviously bold enough to pursue it or at least orient your job or the things you're doing to be leveraging that so what we try to say is okay, your day to day if you're not leveraging that strength every day, you're wasting your time right? So for me, mine is I'm really good at getting people super excited about stuff. It's just what I do. Like I could take anything, sit in front of someone for like a few seconds and tell them about it with energy and with my facial expressions and my hand movements, and then all of a sudden they'll get just as excited if not more excited. And that's like what I do. So I'm like, well, I gotta make sure my job has that every day. So I'm more of an external facing CEO, spend time with clients and spend time with potential employees and spend time with potential investors and existing investors. And that's what I do. Now, if you're like, Brian, you have to sit in this dark room and analyze spreadsheets all day, I could still do it. It's not like I couldn't. But if I were to do that, it'd be wasting my strength. So that's the type of thing, you know, less than what we're trying to convey here.
Jon Voigt: So this is a very high-level kind of code, you know, it's like very high-level big picture. How deep and detailed do you go with these codes that they... is it like small little specific things?
Brian Wong: Oh, it gets really detailed. Like there's even one where I actually recommend people to get a trademark haircut. And I know that sounds a little funny, but the whole point of it is self-branding. I'm like, you know, there's a lot of people that that... okay, obviously, like, I make this hilarious sort of funny comparison that most of the most memorable, historical, typically evil figures in the world have very memorable haircuts.
Jon Voigt: For sure, like Dr. Evil.
Brian Wong: Yeah, sure. Like Dr. Evil. Exactly. Or Dr. Strangelove. Or whatever! Anyone who's like just, you know, let's say for now fictional. Point is there's a lot of people who you know and remember through their brand and I also try to remind people, it's not about your hair. It's about your personal brand. And I actually bring back branding 101: What is a brand like a Nike or McDonald's or Starbucks? It's not as simple It's not a logo. It's a promise. It's a promise of a service that you'll receive or a product or a style of service or just an overall experience.
Jon Voigt: Expectation, right?
Brian Wong: Yeah, correct. And that promise of that expectation that you're about to receive is what the brand has spent all this time building. And as a person, you also have a personal brand. You have a promise. Like if I go to you, what am I going to expect. If they go to me, what am I going to say? These are things that you do. So if you maintain your brand, consistently, you will always see continued inbound of people who are looking for that type of thing. And that's the type of thing I try to make actionable. The book also even goes into things like cold emailing and reaching out to people. And one of the biggest complaints I get from people are, 'I don't know this person.' And I'm like, but who cares? We have the internet and everyone has an email. And you can email anyone and you can guess it. And if you don't guess it, keep trying. And if you can't find their email, email someone who knows them and get an intro. And just you can get ahold of anyone in the world.
Jon Voigt: People are so scared to do that though right?
Brian Wong: Yeah, but what do you got to lose? So I tell people, another Cheat Code that's related to it is just ask. Because if you ask for something and you get a 'no', it's not like your life is going to be any different before you asked that question. So you only stand to gain by asking those questions. Because if it's a yes, you have just won! Yeah. And that's a huge deal. Right?
Jon Voigt: Awesome. Any other big tips that, you know, end off the book? You know, how does it start at the beginning? Does it start with that bigger, you know, find your big strength and then go to the smaller things or does it wrap up with one really big final kind of cheat code?
Brian Wong: So it's kind of a let down in that...
Jon Voigt: Sorry, if it does have a big one you don't have to say it.
Brian Wong: No there's no big ending. In fact, it's divided into four. You can read it from back to front, middle to back, any direction you want. It was just meant to be a casual pick up book where if you need some advice in certain categories, you can kind of look it up. But like I would say there's a few more that are around you know, it goes even to things like getting reporters and free press to convincing someone to believe in you and how to do it. Even funny tactical one was how to get people's phone numbers who are powerful. So like, how do you get a CEO... because you always laugh at the fact that I was being like, 'Oh yeah like there's the CEO at this event.' Like, I'll just be like, 'let me just text them.' They'll be like, 'How do you have their phone number?' And I think people always used to be like, 'this sounds so elusive that you have this person's phone number.' But it's super easy. You just go to an event where there's a lot of people, and chances are, they'll be there if it's an important one. And typically, for me, it would have been things like CES, South by Southwest and CAN. and you would go to them, and they would be like, 'oh, like, well, how do I get ahold of you?' You would say, 'how would I get ahold of you later,' and they'll be like, 'Yeah, just text me.' And they'll give you their your number. So as long as you're not a super creeper weirdo, they'll give you their number, and then you have their number. And then now I've got reporters phone numbers, CEOs phone numbers, heads of state, you know, and you just get into that and then you can start being more... building a closer relationship with them. And I think that's the other thing too that I remind people is, you know, we do get intimidated a lot by someone's gravitas or their you know, sort of demeanor or image. And you just have to remember that at the end of the day. Those people are still humans, they want to connect. They want to feel like they belong. They want to feel like they, you know, are still living a somewhat normal life. So, you know, the CMOs that I interact with where the first line I'll give them sometimes is I'll say, 'Oh, you must feel like a walking ATM sometimes.' And then just with that line, everyone's like, 'Oh, you have no idea. Like, every time I talked to some of these want money from me, they want us to buy ads.' And I'm just like, 'yeah!' You know, even though I want them to buy ads with us. And I know it sounds really facetious. But at the end of the day, I even if they don't spend any money with me, I just built a relationship. And my priority is THAT first and foremost. Always the relationship first, and then everything else follows. And that I think is the most important thing that people need to remember.
Jon Voigt: So it sounds like a lot of this is kind of the foundation of, you know, what are you really good at? But then also how do you apply that through relationships?
Brian Wong: Absolutely. And the soft part of business. And there's no right formula or step by step process. It's just using what you have which is another Cheat Code by the way, literally, beyond just knowing your superpower. Using what you have would be, for example, I'm a minority and I'm from another country. At least I'm an American now as you know. And I look Chinese. So I use these things to my advantage. So, rather than being, you know, down on myself and 'oh, you know, I'm Chinese' and English may not be perceived to be my first language and you know, people might discriminate, I use that to my advantage all the time. Yes, people think Asians are smart and know math really well. I'm going to use that! I mean like using what you have is such a huge important thing that people don't realize. Sometimes people shun what they have. They get really down on themselves. Like, if you're an immigrant, you know the best thing is you actually understand two cultures now. You're immersed into the culture you're in today and you also are from another country where you understand everything about that place and the people who are from there. And that makes you double as worldly than the next person you're talking to, so it just becomes a big strength. And you can't handicap yourself. If you go into a situation thinking that your differences are what make you weak versus your differences that make you strong, you've already lost.
Jon Voigt: So it sounds like a lot of this stuff is attitude: Going in with the right attitude, going in with the right confidence.
Brian Wong: Hundred percent.
Jon Voigt: Do you feel the book gives you that? Or is that something you need to go into the book with?
Brian Wong: No, absolutely not. You can finish reading it and people just get really energized. You know, the story behind even how the publisher found me was they saw me speak in an event and they were like, 'man, like after we finished listening to you, we just wanted to get up and just do something. We just got this energy.' And I was just like, 'Okay, I'm really glad to hear it.' And they're like, 'Well, how can we bottle that up into a book?' And that was like the big challenge and then we ended up--I think--accomplishing that and that was what was so cool about it.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, well, I love that just getting up and doing something because as I talked about, you know, being more agile as a leader all the time. You know, half the time we're not agile because we see something coming but we don't do anything. We sit there were like, 'it'll pass or this whatever.' But things don't pass or they pass so fast that you got to move quickly. So just getting up and going and moving faster is what's going to keep us on top of stuff going forward. So that's awesome.
Brian Wong: Absolutely. I think lacking... Me being in stasis is just as bad as making the wrong decision to be honest.
Jon Voigt: So you're pretty much going backward.
Brian Wong: Yeah, absolutely. I tell all the founders that have invested in or the people that I work closely with, and I say, 'Listen, if you're not even sure it's the right decision, not deciding is going to screw you harder than actually doing something about it.' Because at least you move the piece down the chessboard and you start to see how people react. And then you can start to make decisions based on more information. But if you have none of that, you're not going to be able to know anything. You're just sitting there like... you're just a sitting duck waiting to get attacked. And that's a bad move.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, it's kind of like in sales. You know, the best answer is 'yes.' But the next best answer is 'no.' Because maybe you just waste your time. You know, you're sitting around waiting for things, you're questioning things, you're burning cycles, but with a 'no', you can move on to the next 'Yes'. And you can move on to the next thing. So that that stasis, that middle status is a danger space.
Brian Wong: Or then ask 'why no?' And then learn something from that and then move forward and be better. And that's the thing that I push for is like, 'yeah, I'm not an adult. I have thick skin. If you don't want to buy our product, tell me, 'Now, why? And then I'm going to tell that feedback back to the team. And we're gonna make sure we get better. It's that simple. It's not rocket science.
Jon Voigt: Yeah. Love it. And I love the format of the book where it's no specific order, but you got all sorts of different codes and ways to kind of improve different areas of your life. So it's really great. If people wanted to get the book or chat with you about your speaking stuff or learn more about the book, how would they reach out to you?
Brian Wong: Honestly, the best these days is LinkedIn. It's still my favorite social network. So just find me on there under Brian Wong and shoot me a note. And I'm happy to respond to people. But my email is super easy to guess. I'll just kind of put it out there: Companies URL is Kiip.com and my first name is Brian. So you can kind of do your own thing and decide how to reach me. Fun game, huh. People get it all the time.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, you have to get the book and read that one chapter on how to put his email together.
Brian Wong: Yeah, there you go there. Or if you need to do that. Maybe you shouldn't be reading the book at all. I'm kidding. I'm kidding
Jon Voigt: Right. Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Brian. It was great having you on the show. And I've read two parts of the book. Haven't finished the whole thing but I'm excited to get through the whole thing and apply some of these tips because some of the ones I've already read over are pretty awesome.
Brian Wong: Perfect. Thanks, Jon.
Jon Voigt: Okay. Thanks a lot. Take care.
Brian Wong: All right. Take care.
Outro: Thanks a lot everyone for spending time with us today. You've just taken the first step towards a more fulfilling life. To continue the journey, I'd love if you subscribe to my podcast. That way, you won't miss out on the smallest little detail that can make the biggest difference in your life. You can also join our community on Facebook. We've just started the community there of digital leaders that want to do more with less. And all you have to do is go to Facebook and type in the search bar, 'the Agile Community' and join the group there. If you want to hear more about this topic or have a topic of your own, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I love talking about this stuff and am happy to talk about it offline as well. So now let's get out there and make a difference by doing more with less. Until next week, this is Jon saying Stay Agile.