Elan Divon is a Harvard-trained author, speaker and founder of Divon Academy, an organization that prepares students and professionals for success and greater self-mastery. He delivers programs that focus on the three biggest predictors of long-term success, and building capacity in areas that employers and companies find most valuable. Divon Academy helps professionals cultivate a winning mindset, manage stress, and develop habits that boost productivity, creativity, and well-being.
Over the years Elan has presented before CEOs and business leaders from Tiger 21 to companies such as Skyservice (Canada’s largest aviation company) as well non-profits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, speaking on issues ranging from innovation and entrepreneurship to enhancing work culture and employee performance. Elan also conducts personal development workshops for young professionals around the world and has been heralded by Deepak Chopra as “an emerging leader for the next generation.”
Describe how you help young professionals?
Elan Divon: We help young professionals build their capacity in three of the most important areas contributing to long term success: mindset, social skills and stress management. When it comes to mindset, for example, it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming external factors and influences on your life by saying: “if only I had the right tools, or the right connections, or the right training, then I’d get the results.” But the trick is to realize that it’s not your resources, but your resourcefulness that matters. That you can choose to focus on problems or solutions; be a victim of circumstance or a victor over circumstance. All of this is mindset, and thankfully it can be taught.
We also help professionals understand the importance of their environment and peer group. I believe people become the average of the five people they spend most of their time with. We therefore ask: who’s in your starting five, and do your peers raise your standards, keep you locked in neutral, or lower the bar?
What do you notice are the biggest mistakes young entrepreneurs make?
Elan Divon: They want to succeed and climb the career ladder quickly, because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to expect. It’s what our culture celebrates: the story of entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, making mega exits and vast fortunes in their twenties and thirties… it’s not healthy or realistic. Life takes time, real change and growth happens incrementally, and true success is not something you get, or even build, but rather someone you become.
The biggest mistake young professionals often make, however, is having the wrong motivation. Everyone wants to be ‘significant’ – which means earn the big bucks, have status, recognition, impact, and so forth. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the only way to become significant is to serve. This is because the more you serve other people, the more significant you become in their lives. The more value you add to other people, the more valuable you become – it’s that simple.
What about your background/past work has helped you develop what you are doing today?
Elan Divon: I’ve worked with a lot of great companies, business leaders and CEOs over the last 10 years as a non-profit executive. For example, while serving as an executive with Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, I co-founded a project that identified and empowered the next generation of brilliant and creative minds on the planet. The project was featured on NASDAQ and received a lot of philanthropic support from the corporate sector. So I was always engaged and learning from business leaders.
And these relationships helped me appreciate the challenges businesses face today, most of which are human challenges. We’re talking about employee motivation and productivity, retention issues, stress, and unhealthy work culture. In the US companies are losing $300 billion a year on stress related issues and $160 billion on retention. That’s huge.
What makes your system/strategies unique?
Elan Divon: Our workshops focus on the three biggest predictors of long-term success; which have little to do with IQ, intelligence, and technical skills; but everything to do with mindset, social skills, and your ability to handle stress. So we focus on what actually matters to people.
We emphasize action. After participants acquire the knowledge, we work with them to translate that knowledge into action, that produces results and ultimately changes habits, attitudes, and work culture.
What epitomizes great leadership, in your opinion?
Elan Divon: Great leadership is the ability to mobilize people and resources towards the common good. I learned this from a professor at Harvard named Ronald Heifetz. I also think that great leadership is about having the courage to face reality, particularly when it’s difficult and painful, and communicate that reality in way that motivates people, and gets them to realize that the solution to the problem lies within them.
Who are your business influences; who inspires you and why?
Elan Divon: Ronnen Harary, for example, is a friend and the co-founder of Spinmaster, one of the largest children’s entertainment companies in the world, is an inspiration. The guy not only runs a multi-billion dollar company, and has grown it from scratch, but finds the time to give back to the community, in major but often quiet ways. Ronnen is constantly learning, teaching, giving, and growing – never resting on his laurels, and this is something I admire.