Meet Matthew Ferrara. Philosopher. Speaker. Writer. Photographer.
Matthew travels the world seeking unique personal experience and perspective and then in turn sharing those insights in a fascinating way through stories that connect history, industry, technology and people. When asked, Matthew views his mission as inspiring others in a noble way. He does so through a combination of speaking, photography and writing, all of which can be found on his website at: MatthewFerrara.com.
At Matthew’s core philosophy, he believes that focusing on strengthening individual relationships and creating unique, positive customer experience for every single customer will lead to a much more successful venture as well as more meaningful living. He finds significant correlation through historical examples and great minds of past centuries that is still highly applicable to today’s challenges in any individual circumstance, organization or industry.
WHAT DO YOU DO? [04:01]
In my case it’s a little difficult. Its not every day that you hand out a card to someone that says “Philosopher” on it and they say “Oh, I get that.” In fact, what they mostly say is; “I thought you all were dead.” The fun part is, is that once you start talking to people they kind of get what you do. In a nutshell I’m an ideas guy. I’m a guy who helps people explore ideas and apply them to whatever their project is.
If their project is a multi-national corporation selling real estate around the world or if their project is “I’m an individual trainer” trying to have some fun and make a great living or “I’m a sales person or a manager”, what I do is collect ideas. I develop ideas. I’m able to, through my career, encounter people who are doing so many great things, sort of collect like a bumble bee, these great ideas and cross-pollinate them where they could do the most amount of good work.
MATTHEW SHARES THE IMPORTANCE FOCUSING ON INDIVIDUAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. [11:05]
I think we often compete on the wrong things. We are infatuated in many industries and specifically in sales industries with the latest shiniest, coolest gadget. I love those things like everyone else but at the end of the day if they don’t add up to a better overall experience whether it’s a sales experience, a service experience, a consultative experience, a learning experience then you’re really not competing.
What you’re doing is maybe of only temporary advantage but an experienced-based advantage is really powerful these days. It is something that is hard to commoditize and hard for competitors to copy. So yes, I think that the more you focus on “what is the the experience each individual customer has with me or my organization or both as opposed to how many customers can I have or what margin can I get on the customers;” I think you will be far more successful.
WHEN DID YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS A PHILOSOPHER? [15:52]
Matthew shares his unique story of going through a rebranding moment. He has a degree in Philosophy and a degree in Political Economics and after having had a successful career in sales, training and consulting he shares where he had a moment in his life where he recognized that he had a lot more to contribute than he was able to do in his then-current role.
He recognized that he had a unique ability to shape conversation and wanted to begin inspiring others from a much broader perspective. As he started to identify himself as a Philosopher, he as well as many others, finally felt that Matthew had found his calling.
WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATION FROM? [20:50]
My inspiration really comes from two places: my personal experiences because those are just stories that I can tell, no one else can tell them because they’re mine so that kind of nice. That’s unique. Secondly, someone with a degree in Philosophy reads a lot of stuff. I’m a big fan of the past, of history. So, I try to connect a number of dots. … I’ll have an experience today that will make me think of something from twenty-five years ago.
Something maybe written by someone much smarter than me like a Peter Drucker or an Alfred Sloan or something that I read… or fifty years ago or a hundred years ago because of my passion for history or something. So I try to connect these dots to show people that there still is relevance to them and then beyond that I do one extra thing that works really well for me I think which is: it really is my photography as a story telling tool. Almost exclusively on my blog I only use my own photos and I use those photos as a story-telling starting point.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR SPEAKING CAREER? [27:38]
In my case it was I had built some content and I had a chance to deliver it and was seen by someone who said, “wow, that was some really good content and I have an opportunity for you.” So, then that opened doors for me.
Matthew continues and encourages that the way to build your brand is to focus on building relationships. He states that building solid relationships is the secret to being successful as an entrepreneur. He illustrates this point by sharing a story involving a McDonald’s supplier in China revolving around the social concept of Guanxi (pronounced Gwan-chi) which is a societal norm that dictates personal relationships and personal connection must prevail.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MATTHEW: [38:16]
On Matthew’s website he shares some interesting personal facts about himself in which he speaks three different languages, has survived cancer twice and writes mystery stories for fun. He expounds upon all three in which he is fluent in Italian, French and English and can read and write in Spanish and Latin; He survived Lung Cancer in 1999 and Kidney Cancer in 2004. These experiences alone greatly helped Matthew to shift his focus to build lasting relationships and experiences and to seek to do “noble” work by inspiring others. For fun and as a creative outlet, Matthew enjoys writing short mystery stories based on some of his favorite historical characters such as Sherlock Holmes, etc.
WHAT IS SOME OF THE SELF-TALK THAT OCCURS WHEN SOMETHING DOESN’T WORK OUT? [47:44]
Self-talk is a great word for it because there is always a voice in our head that is always critical of what we’re doing. It’s a good thing too, it what keeps us honest and keeps us giving our best for our clients, our friends and our family. For me the self-talk is two-fold: first I will go through a process in my own mind of sort of saying: What did I do?” “How did I do it” What might I have done differently?
Sometimes you have to walk yourself back a little bit because you are so critical of your own work and to think: Did I notice it? Did everybody notice it? Was it a real mistake or was it an internally perceived mistake? So I do some of that self-talk, but to be really honest I also have people to talk to. It could be someone I know who is in the audience who can see it from a different perspective. It could be one of my business partners. It could be a client who also is a speaker or a trainer in their own right and so I do try to take advantage of others and say; “hey, give me your honest feedback.” In fact, some of the best things I’ve ever done have been through those conversations…
Matthew continues to explain that making mistakes are great sources of improvement and that the most important part of self-talk is to know when to end it and rise above it. He quotes: “Never judge a bad day until four months later.”
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS? [51:52]
I think the lesson I’ve learned the most in twenty-five years is: it’s important to have a plan, but it’s important to be flexible with that.
In comparing the entrepreneurial journey to a ship on a sea, Matthew councils to “lead with a light hand.” As a captain of your ship, you will be at the helm to control the rudder, but no matter what you do, the wind will always be stronger than you.
Don’t count out the classics! Because I know that they’re not exciting and they may not have the latest story telling, but some of the things written in the 50’s and 60’s in terms of business and customers and growth and the future… my personal business favorites are from Peter Drucker.
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker
Po: Beyond Yes and No by Edward de Bono
Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
Matthew also recommends to turn to the arts. Find great photographers (he mentioned Richard Avedon), musicians, artists, dancers, etc. that are great masters at their craft and learn from them.