Chip Conley: On the Power of Transformation


For The Curious:

Only after my conversation with Chip Conley did I realize what a good position I’m in. You may have the same feeling about yourself after listening to a recording of that conversation on this week’s episode of Big Questions.

Chip is the author of a book that comes out today, titled: Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.


The book is about what we can harvest from having what the Zen Buddists call Shoshin or The Beginner’s Mind.

Chip’s own life is a great example of how it works. At 26, he bought a No-Tell Motel that rented rooms by the hour in the seedy Tenderloin district of San Francisco, and turned it into a boutique hotel called the Phoenix that became the hot spot for all the touring bands.

The rise of The Phoenix led to many more hotels in Chip’s chain -- Joie de Vivre. There were 52 of them by the time Chip reached age 47.

Chip was at the top of his game when he wrote a book and went out to speak about it.

While at a signing in St. Louis, he went unconscious and his heart flatlined. He was fortunate to survive the experience and he realized some changes were in order. He sold his company. But the changes he sensed he needed came in a most unexpected way.

The young founders of Airbnb reached out to him as they tried to expand. They were seeking his “knowhow” and “knowwho”. Chip was twice the age as everyone in the company. But he stepped into it. The results of his wisdom grow every day. Airbnb is now a dominant force in the hospitality industry with listings in more than 81,000 cities and 190 countries around the world.

Not only did Airbnb get Chip’s wisdom. But Chip got a window into technology and a youthful way of seeing the world. The lesson is important to all of us. The world is spinning so fast that we all need to be able to see it from different angles to consistently reinvent ourselves. Doesn’t matter if we’re 65 or 25. We can all learn from one another, and we all have gifts that we can give.

The conversation I had with Chip made me so grateful to have breakfast every morning with Larry King – talk about an awesome mentor! -- and then go off to work with millennials on my management team who are in their 20s.  

This episode and Chip’s book show us how much we have to give. And also, how many great ideas there are around us in unexpected places. All we have to do is connect.



Kevin HekmatComment