Interview With Invisible Mentor Steve Kayser, Head of PR, Cincom Systems, Part Two

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Interviewee Name: Steve Kayser

Company Name: Cincom Systems


Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Steve Kayser:  A non-PR, non marketing, non-writer type running a national PR department for Cincom Systems, a global software company.

Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.

Steve Kayser: Just one? I have had big breaks all my life. Every day. Every month. Every year.

Tom Nies gave me my latest big break. He asked me to run PR for Cincom Systems North America. When I told him I didn’t know anything about PR he said, “Read this book – you’ll be fine.” The book he gave me was The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al Ries. I read it. Then called Al Ries. Explained my situation and asked his advice and also asked him to contribute to a fledgling online E-Zine I was developing called Expert Access. He did become a contributor and we went from 5,000 subscribers to 25,000 in about 1 month because of it. Al Ries (and his daughter Laura Ries) have done several interviews and articles with me … And,  Al Ries was also one of the first guests we had on Expert Access Radio —

One of the lessons I took from that — People at the top value great thinking. They pass it on. If you take advantage of their thinking (in this instance Al Ries’ book) it can change everything for you. But you have to teach yourself – learn yourself. No handholding allowed.

It’s the biggest thing I would look for in new employees or partners now. Are they autodidacts? Can they teach themselves new things – continuously?

Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?

Steve Kayser:  Having a baby in my 50’s. It was tough. Greatest thing that ever happened to me. Joy – Grace – Love. Beauty. All rolled up into one.  (I have 5 kids. Oldest son is a lawyer getting ready for the FBI. Youngest son is in Japan teaching English. My oldest daughter is a freshman at Ohio State. Then I have an 11 year old and a 1 autodidacts old.

Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?

Steve Kayser:

hahaha —

  1. Being born. Seriously. What magic. Why me? Why you? Why here? Why now?
  2. Being an MP in the Military  overseas- ( discipline/focus/)
  3. That business failure mentioned above.

Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?

Steve Kayser:  Haven’t done them yet. I am immensely proud of my kids’ success in life so far.

Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?

Steve Kayser:  Wow – where to start. See above. Some of those guys were. But I also read 3 to 5 books a week and find great mentoring there.

Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?

Steve Kayser: CANEL – Continual and Never Ending Learning. Teach yourself. It’s the only way to reinvent yourself and stay relevant over time.

Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from afar, in the capacity of an Invisible Mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?

Steve Kayser:  Advice I stole from John Wooden. The two sets of 3.

Don’t Lie.  Don’t cheat. Don’t  Steal.

Don’t complain. Don’t Make excuses. Don’t Whine.

Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and professional life?

Steve Kayser: Now there’s a tough one. How do you do it? It’s hard. Everyone has their own means of doing that.  I try to disconnect. But it’s hard. However, having a new baby makes it much easier. Nothing like a stinky diaper to keep you in the here and now. 

Avil Beckford: When you have some down time, how do you spend it? 

Steve Kayser: Playing piano. I play the piano bumpers for our radio shows. It’s a great stress reliever.

This one is called Enchantment –  there’s a  story behind it – comes from an interview I was doing with Guy Kawasaki…

The music is at the bottom – 36 seconds.

Avil Beckford: What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?

Steve Kayser:

  1. Don’t Lie.
  2. Don’t cheat.
  3. Don’t  Steal.
  4. Don’t complain.
  5. Don’t Make excuses.
  6. Don’t Whine.

That’s 6. Sorta like a baker’s 1/2 dozen.

[Note from Avil] For those who English is a second language, a baker’s dozen is 13.

Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?

Steve Kayser: I find Vodka to be a great creative idea generator. But those ideas never seem to pan out so well.

Avil Beckford: What’s your favourite quotation and why?

Steve Kayser: It’s a tie.

  • “This is so simple a child of 5 could figure it out. QUICK! Someone fetch a child of 5.”  Groucho Marx
  • “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”  Pudd’n Head Wilson (AKA Mark Twain)

They fit so many situations. How could they not be your favorites too?

Avil Beckford: How do you define success? And in your opinion what’s the formula for success?

Steve Kayser: Wow – this is getting to be an in-depth psychological profile – am I’m flunking?

Success: Loving, being loved, enjoying life — and breathing. Breathing has a lot to recommend itself. You never really appreciate breathing and oxygen till you don’t have it. I know.

Avil Beckford: What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?

Steve Kayser:

Stumbled. Staggered. Fell.  Those are kinda the steps.

No failures = no success

To succeed you have to fail at some time. No way around that I think.

Since I’ve literally reinvented myself 5 times during my life and am in the process of doing it again – I can only say what steps seem to be common in all of those endeavors:

A Joie de vivre  – a joy for living & loving life, learning, re-learning. I need to throw a quote in here.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”Alvin Toffler


Avil Beckford: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?

Steve Kayser: See above quote. And never quit. Unless you die. And that might be just another opportunity to re-invent yourself.

Avil Beckford: If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?

Steve Kayser:

  1. Abraham Lincoln: “And the War Came” – ask him about those four words in his second inauguration. The four most powerful words ever written.
  2. Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens): Ask him about his daughter’s elegy – his most poignant words ever written.
  3. Oscar Wilde: Really? What did he think he was doing dying so early?
  4. Nikola Tesla: Ask him where the diagrams/plans were for his wireless free energy. I know where most of them are. But I want it from him. And then I’d tell him “Nik — you should have married – and why weren’t you nicer to JP Morgan’s daughter?
  5. Paul McCartney: How about us doing a ragtime gig together?

Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?

Steve Kayser:

  • Man’s Search for Meaning. Read it. Viktor Frankl.  It was originally to be published anonymously but his friends told him he should put his name on it. 60 million copies and years later … It still will shock the senses.
  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – By Steven Pressfield. A friend.  A mentor. Anther person I would have never met if I wouldn’t have failed miserably.  And this book is a contribution to all writers/artists/entrepreneurs.  It’s your roadmap to getting things done. Read it. You.

Here’s a synopsis I did with him:

Avil Beckford: You are one of the 10 finalists on the reality show, So, How Would You Spend Your Time? Each finalist is placed on separate deserted islands for two years. You have a basic hut on the island and all the tools for survival; you just have to be imaginative and inventive when using them. How would you spend the two years? The prize is worth your while and at this stage in the game there really aren’t any losers among the 10 finalists, since each are guaranteed at least $2 million?

Steve Kayser: Working out. Getting the abs tightened up. Practice my ballroom and break-dancing.  Try to beat myself at checkers. Wait a minute. I’ve already done that.  Does anyone get to come with me? See — that’d change my answer probably.

Avil Beckford: What excites you about life?

Steve Kayser: Breathing. Adventure. Being alive at this time – in this place – with the people in my life -is an amazing opportunity. One to be excited about. You too?

Avil Beckford: How do you nurture your soul?

Steve Kayser: Been on a diet there. I’m malnourished- maybe spiritual anorexic right now. But … I try to pray every morning. In case the “Ultimate Greatness” isn’t paying attention I try to be quiet and listen sometime too. That’s called mediation I believe. But the chattering monkey minds are hard to quell – no? How do you do it? If I can find a special way to express kindness in a quiet, non-visible way to someone, I try to do it.

Avil Beckford: If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for?

Steve Kayser: An explosion of creative ideas that would make a dent in the universe. And … that she look like J-lo. Wait a minute. She better look like my wife – or I’d get in trouble.

Avil Beckford: Complete the following, I am happy when…..

Steve Kayser: I complete 31 questions on any form – especially the IRS form – but this one as well.

This reminds me of a psychological personality profile the head of our Global HR made me take one day because he realized I had avoided it for 10 years – and suspected I was hiding from it (I was).  The test took 3 hours.  When it came back he went over the results with me.

In his best (which isn’t very good) deadpan attempt at humor he said,

“According to these scores you flunked.  You technically don’t have a personality”

I said “GREAT, That qualifies me for your job. I needed a break from all this hard work. When can I start?”

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  • Protected: Marketing Lesson from the Grateful Dead – How to Steal a Great Name? (
  • “Say Yes to Life,” A Review of Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
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