Getting to Yes, And

Dan Lyons: STFU


Dan Lyons

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Kelly connects with Dan Lyons, journalist and former staff writer for the famed television series "Silicon Valley" to discuss his new book,  “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World.”

In reading the book, I was thinking improv exercises could help you with your listening to understand – an exercise like ‘Last Word,’ where your first word needs to be the last work the other person said.

“It's very hard for me to do this. I have a tendency to be like all of us - like you're talking and I'm just sitting there waiting for you to finish, so I can say what I want to say. Doing the exercise, I think, I imagine you sit there and you cannot have any preconceived notion or line. You really just have to listen to whatever that person says and take it in. I would really benefit from doing that exercise.”

You wrote for ‘Silicon Valley,’ a show that was notorious for it’s use of improv.

"I was on the writing team, and I would leave after writing season. I didn't stay for shooting, but I'd leave, and I'd know what the episodes were. But you'd watch the show and none of it was right. They would shoot the script and then they would say, let's do a couple more takes, and you guys just go crazy, you know. And, of course, everything they did was better than what we wrote. So, structurally, maybe it held together, even though they might have broken up the structure a bit. But I think a lot of the best stuff in that show was pure improv.”

I think it’s interesting how you match up your work in Silicon Valley start-up world with the idea of better human listening.

“Just ask them what they like. Full stop. If you think there's something to their idea, it probably won't be what you originally thought it was. It might be something radically different. But then go build that right? So, start with the problem. Start with the customer. Work backwards, and then, do it in small increments, you know, minimum viable product. You show that to the customers again and you get more feedback. I mean, that's the conventional wisdom now in Silicon Valley. Not that everybody does it, but I think it applies to other things, too: like in communications, which I do a lot of thinking and working around. It's like you can start from the inside out. What's the message we want to convey versus what's the message they want to hear.”

Photo Credit: Gretchen Ertl

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