99u Pop-Up School :: Day 1 Notes

The first day of 99u Pop-Up School in New York was fantastic. In fact, that’s a total understatement. If you missed it, I’m terribly sorry!

The day was fully focused on career development. I had the pleasure of hearing keynote presentations from Scott Belsky of Behance, Heidi Grant Halvorson of Columbia University, and Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why.

There are way too many nuggets of wisdom gained from this day that I’d be beyond selfish to not share them with you. I’m writing this at the conclusion of the second day, which was focused solely on Entrepreneurship, which was even better. I’ll be sharing key takeaways from today in tomorrow’s post, so come back and check them out.

Scott Belsky, Co-Founder of Behance, VP, Adobe Community

Scott kicked off the day. He’s been one of my favorite thought leaders for the last few years, ever since I read his book Making Ideas Happen. Here are the notes from his amazing presentation, Honing Your Competitive Advantage:

“True learning is funcomfortable.”

Change will lead to insight far more often than insight will lead to change.” 

Tune into something extremely unique rather than striving to meet competition.”

When you focus in everything, you’re not focused on anything.”

Three Things to Honing Your Competitive Advantage:

  1. Finding
  2. Tapping
  3. Shifting

He highlighted Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Stefan Sagmeister and compared them to the industries they were trying to disrupt by focusing on a few things differently. He did this through graphs, which I’m not able to replicate here. The key takeaway for me though was to define what those things are and not shy away from them, but lean into them. For Apple, it was design. For Southwest, it was price and service. Scott sure didn’t disappoint.


Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, Columbia University Motivation Science Center

Heidi did a phenomenal job of presenting about the “get better/growth mindset” versus the “be good mindset”. It was fascinating to see the research she’s done and how drastically the two mindsets perform in the workplace. 

The crux of her talk was comparing the two mindsets and proving the get better/growth mindset is the one we should all pursue, for various reasons. The big idea I took away from her talk is to quit comparing ourselves to others, but to ourselves a year ago. That’s the “get better” mindset we should all have. It would change the way productivity and success is viewed. She had research data to prove that out.

Two Mindsets:

1. Be Good Mindset

This the wrong mindset. A person with this mindset, their goal is to just “be good”. Most people are this way. They would focus on:

  • Proving (other people and yourself)
  • Demonstrating skills
  • Performing better than others or always comparing ourselves to other people.

People with this mindset are constantly stressing out and having an added element of personal disappointment. This makes them vulnerable the moment things get tough along with being more anxious and depressed. We think this way without really realizing it.

2. Get Better/Growth Mindset

People with this mindset focus on:

  • Improving – reframing goals. Getting smarter, better, etc.
  • Developing Skills
  • Performing better than I did in the past. Taking the time to learn.

This leads to very different patterns. People with get better mindset perform better when interrupted and thrown things at them. The research Heidi showed here was remarkable.

Get Better Benefits:

  • Interest and Enjoyment
  • Deeper thinking
  • Creativity
  • Persistence
  • Superior performance

We all need the “get better” mindset, no matter where you might find yourselves in your career.

Here are key “get better” mindset triggering words:

  • Improve
  • Progress
  • Develop
  • Become

It’s important to reframe your goals. Here’s an example of how you could reframe your goals from the “be good” mindset into the “get better” mindset:

  • Be Good: “I want to manage my time productively. ”
  • Get Better: “I want to improve my time management.”

Feedback plays a vital role in this mindset. Criticism and praise should always focus on the process, not the person. Focus on effort, persistence, strategy, and attitude.

Other Key Quotes from Heidi: 

“Compare yourself to yourself, not others. That’s the key to a get better mindset!!”

“Speed of productivity and performance increases when you compare to yourself, not others. That’s the question that really matters.”

“Focus on progress, not perfection.”

“Success isn’t about being the best, it’s about becoming better.”


Simon Sinek, Bestselling Author of Start With Why



Simon absolutely knocked it out of the park! He did a Q&A with the audience afterwards and it was pure gold. I first heard Simon speak last year at Catalyst in Atlanta. His presentation here was completely different. He focused on the four chemicals that our human body create to help us learn how great leaders are made, not born. I highly recommend checking out his wildly popular Ted Talk called How Great Leaders Inspire ActionThe guy is a quote machine. Here are some key quotes that really struck me:

“Leaders aren’t born, they’re MADE!”

“Great leaders extend the safety of their peers and employees to the ends of the organization.”

“If we trust each other, we’ll take risks and innovate.” 

“As human beings, we put premium on time. Admired leaders are the ones that give us their time and energy.”

“You can’t say, ‘We thrive on efficiency and innovation.’ One of those is always going to lose.”

“Leadership is a choice/decision, not a rank or position. If you’re looking after the people to the right or the left of you, you’re a leader!”

“Leaders always work for us. Be the leader you wish you had.”

“Show up to give, not to get something in return.”

“Innovation requires experimentation, and with that, comes failure.”

“Our best leaders are the ones that are willing to help others.”

“The problem with bosses that always do things for us; we stop caring. People need their own sense of accomplishment.”

“Put yourself in danger to take care of others; this is the definition of leadership.”


As you can tell, there was a wealth of wisdom shared today. I don’t think I could have taken much more.

What struck you as you read this post? I’d love to interact in the comments below.


  • Jon Christensen

    Great stuff Chad. Some of Simons quotes stuck out to me. Specially how a handful of his all point back to the power of Servant Leaders. What a difference is makes when we just love and serve others to help them be better even if it doesn’t benefit us.

  • This is gold from Simon Sinek.
    Great stuff and thank you for sharing this with us all.

  • Fawn Weaver

    Sounds like this was a great conference!