The Thrive Questionnaire//

Why Active Listening Is Essential in the Workplace

Nick Molnar, co-founder and U.S. Chief Executive Officer of Afterpay, opens up about what good teamwork looks like.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Nick Molnar: The first thing I do once I get out of bed in the morning is getting my daughter out of her crib.

TG: What gives you energy?

NM: Besides loads of Australian coffee, spending time with my wife and daughter along with my amazing team gives me the energy I need to keep going.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

NM: I take everything with the glass half full. Expecting good things to happen will lead to taking actions that produce positive results both in your personal and professional life. 

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

NM: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and Shoedog, Phil Knight’s memoir, are both amazing reads about building incredibly successful businesses. Super inspiration no matter where you are in your career. 

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

NM: My phone is always on the bedside table, but, once I get into bed, I am asleep so I don’t touch it until the next morning. 

TG: How do you deal with email?

NM: I generally deal with the last email I have received first. If something isn’t actioned, it’s not yet read. Emails are my “To Do List” so if I have to do something, I’ll email it to myself, but I won’t mark an email as “read” until it’s actioned.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

NM: If I have any free time during the day, I literally just step outside to get some fresh air. I like to go get coffee from Bluestone Lane, an Australian coffee shop and one of my favorites.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

NM: When I took 14 flights in nine days across multiple countries. While being on a plane is pretty standard in my life, living out of a suitcase and doing so many flights in a short amount of time was very draining.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it? 

NM: I think the most challenging thing was when we globalized Afterpay. Being Australian, you’re not used to going global from there. Most businesses start in America, then go global from there. That was a huge learning experience for me about how we enabled the regions to make it global. I realized that I didn’t have to have all the answers, but I could hire amazing people who could help us succeed globally.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

NM: Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” 

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

NM: I think our prioritization exercise has changed as we’ve scaled so much over the past four years. What’s difficult is that what was a priority 12 months ago isn’t necessarily a priority today. What’s important is how you scale with your team first and bring the best talent into the world into the company, so you can then adequately grow the business. 

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?

NM: Don’t learn the habit of sleeping with your phone next to your bed and listen to your wife from day one on this point.

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?

NM: My parents are my main role models. My mom was the ultimate salesperson, and my dad was an entrepreneur (as was my mum!). They defined how grounded we are as a family. After my dad closed his jewelry store, he started driving for Uber because he just wanted to keep busy and socialize. I think that really speaks to who they are as people.

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?

NM: My stomach is the first to go if I’m stressed, then clarity of thought disappears. You can realize when you’re making poor judgements and that links directly to burnout. My wife, Gab, is my barometer and makes sure I’m not depleted.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

NM: It’s important for me to take a step back and go on vacation. A run on the beach, a swim in the ocean, and hanging out with friends can help me disconnect from work.

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

NM: I go for a swim in the ocean, or go for a run outside to clear my mind. 

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?

NM: I always try to remain optimistic. It’s important to be humble and appreciate the opportunity because the negative thinking is correlated to the most challenging things you’re solving, and it’s a privilege to have the chance to solve them.

TG: What brings you optimism?

NM: Knowing that I’m achieving my short-term goals with family and work. Also, the pleasure of knowing how proud my parents and my family are of my success. My dad is always speaking to his Uber customers about me because he has so much pride for what I’ve achieved.

TG: Fill in the blanks: People think I/I’m _______, but really I/I’m ______.

NM: People think I’m young, but really I’m an old soul.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

NM: Fortunately, sleeping is actually one of my greatest skills. I can sleep for 12 hours, no problem. It doesn’t matter how stressful or hectic my day is, the moment I get into bed I pass out.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

NM: It’s all about being mindful and active listening. As our business grew, and the team scaled, it was important to hear my team first before acting.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

NM: It’s difficult, but it’s about being more purposely structured with your day. When you have head-down time for yourself and when you have back-to-back meetings, you have to treat your day with strategy like you treat everything else. That ultimately allows you to focus. It’s not always easy to be present in every meeting but it’s essential.

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?

NM: The day I became a father when my daughter, Ella, was born. It is a life changing moment and a the most important role in my life. 

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?

NM: I go for coffee every morning with my family on my way to work which gives me the family-time I need before starting a busy day. 

TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

NM: I love to have a cup of tea and read books with my daughter, Ella.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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