William Sarni – The Power of Unreasonable People

William Sarni
William Sarni discusses why we should "Do good things" That we need to "Learn to say No or Hell Yeah" and explains the power of unreasonable people. Hosted by Siebe Van Der Zee

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About Will Sarni

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry a water strategy consultancy. He is also the CEO of the The Future of Water Fund, a water technology venture fund focused on addressing water scarcity, quality and equitable access to water. He has been a sustainability and water strategy advisor to multinationals, water technology companies, investors, and non-governmental organizations for his entire career.

Prior to Water Foundry, he was a managing director at Deloitte Consulting where he established and led the water strategy practice. He was the founder and CEO of DOMANI, a sustainability strategy firm, prior to Deloitte.

Will is an internationally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation. He was ranked as; A Key Player Pressuring Businesses to Care About Water and one of the Top 15 Interviews In Smart Water Magazine 2019. Sarni is the author numerous publications on water strategy and innovation including the following books.

 

He also has a children’s book on water, “Water, I Wonder?”

Sarni is a co-founder of WetDATA and a host of the podcast, The Stream with Will and Tom. He is a board member of Silver Bullet, Project WET and the Rocky Mountain Rowing Club. He was the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for the WAITRO Global Water Innovation Summit 2020 and was on the Scientific Program Committee for Stockholm World Water Week from 2013 through 2019. His advisory work includes working with the 2020 X-PRIZE (Infinity Water Prize), as a Bold Visioneer for the 2016 X-PRIZE Safe Drinking Water Team and a Technical Advisor for the Climate Bonds Initiative: Nature- Based Solutions for Climate and Water Resilience. He is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Water Security.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: Generosity and kindness 08:27
Lesson 2: Work hard – a depression era work ethic 10:28
Lesson 3: Do good things 13:49
Lesson 4: You will always have a career in water as it is a public health issue 15:44
Lesson 5: Hire someone you would work for 18:44
Lesson 6: The power of unreasonable people 22:07
Lesson 7: Learn to say no or hell yeah 23:56
Lesson 8: Be a realistic optimist – to leave the world a better place 25:36
Lesson 9: Relationships and quality of work matters 29:35
Lesson 10: Quotes to live by 33:17
a. Work hard, stay foolish (Richard Brand, Author)
b. The future is here, just not evenly distributed (William Gibson, Author)
c. Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today (James Dean, Actor)

William Sarni – The Power of Unreasonable People

[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello and welcome to our program, 10 Lessons Learned, where we talk to businesspeople, journalists, professors, ambassadors, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands, happily residing in the beautiful Grand Canyon state of Arizona in the United States.

[00:00:30] I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert. Our guest Sarni is Will Sarni. Will is an internationally recognized thought leader and water strategy and innovation expert based in Denver, Colorado. Will is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry, a water strategy consulting firm. He’s also the CEO of the Colorado River Basin Fund, also known as the Future of Water Fund, a Water Technology Venture Fund.

[00:01:01] Focused on addressing water scarcity, quality and equitable access to water. Before that, Will Sarni served as the managing director at Deloitte Consulting, where he managed the water strategy practice. He is also the author of numerous publications on water Strategy and Innovation, and most recently he wrote a children’s book on water titled Water

[00:01:25] I Wonder? With a question mark. In other words, during his entire career, Will Sarni has been an advisor on sustainability and water strategy issues to multinationals water technology companies, investors, and non-governmental organizations. Very impressive. You can learn more about Will Sarni on our website 10 lessons learned.com.

[00:01:50] Hello, Will thank you for joining us.

[00:01:53] William Sarni: Well, thank you for the invitation. Excited to be here. it’s sort of perfect on a Friday to have a soul-searching conversation.

[00:01:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: Here we are. Absolutely. Now, before we get to your 10 lessons, I’m curious because your background, has been focused on water issues.

[00:02:10] I would say your whole career, perhaps your whole life. What inspired you? What, what was the driving element there?

[00:02:17] William Sarni: Well, great question. how did I get hooked on water? I grew up in New York and when I was in high school, when college, I started surfing on Long Island. still a little bit of that New York accent with Long Island as you notice.

[00:02:31] so I became, you know, attracted to water the ocean. Thought I wanted to go into oceanography. My master’s thesis was actually on oceanography. But when I was in graduate school, I got a job with a company called Geraghty & Miller. And it was a boutique groundwater consulting firm founded by several US Geological Survey, practitioners professionals, and really got hooked on.

[00:02:57] This, mission, if you will and all the technical things associated with it to deliver, to find and deliver safe drinking water and water for other purposes. So, in a way, I started with salt water and wound up with fresh water. And now it’s probably some sort of a combination, that was the journey.

[00:03:16] So graduate school, working for Geraghty & Miller was, was really the hook for me, to learn more and do more.

[00:03:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: It brought you into that topic. we think about and talk about water issues, there are obviously around the globe lots of challenges and. Simple question. Almost the conclusion perhaps of a conversation.

[00:03:38] How worried are you or are you optimistic that we can deal with these water challenges?

[00:03:46] William Sarni: Well, I’m going to sound like a consultant here and say both. So yeah, I am, I’m worried enough to have it sort of propel me to do more. and, you know, get up and have at it every day. but I’m a, you know, a realistic optimist.

[00:04:02] You know, that’s, that was one of my comments to you that, Yeah, I’m optimistic. I believe we can solve these challenges, you know, water and social issues and, and climate but we have to be realistic about it. It, it’s not, you know, hope it’s okay if we. Actually, commit to it and do what we can individually and collectively, then yeah, we, we can, we can solve these

[00:04:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: If I think of politics, if I think of regulators, think of perhaps solar energy in the past in particular, It seems like there are solutions, but is the cooperation there, get it done?

[00:04:45] William Sarni: Yeah, that, that’s a great question. So, one thing I learned from a good friend Tom Higley is something about wicked problems and wicked problems have a definition.

[00:04:55] And what I really love about the definition is that wicked problems cannot be solved, solved by anyone’s stakeholder. So, it really requires every stakeholder group to leverage their skills, their reach, You know, capabilities and, and so on. And the way to think about it is, well, you mentioned the public sector.

[00:05:19] Public sector has scale, but no speed. So, they’re very slow to innovate, very slow to change. It’s incredibly frustrating where entrepreneurs and investors and, and even multinationals have greater speed. The ability to pivot and so on. So, imagine bringing together, you know, those two, those few stakeholder groups and everybody in between to solve wicked problem and, and that’s really what we need to see.

[00:05:48] Yeah, it is, you know, it’s not holding hands. It is honoring what these individual stakeholder groups and you know, individuals can bring to the table. And then, you know, of course civil society. the role of the individual. So yeah, we, we have an opportunity to do things together and you know, solve these problems.

[00:06:10] But we sometimes don’t do a great job.

[00:06:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: You say it very politely, but I, I understand and, and, and you’re an optimist. Will and I, I appreciate that. We’re going to be talking about your 10 lessons learned right in your life, in your career, and that addresses more than just water issues, of course.

[00:06:29] But is there a lesson perhaps, that you have learned in your life that you would like to teach yourself. If you were 30 years old today, you may be a few years older, but,

[00:06:45] William Sarni: I’m a few years older. Yes, definitely. And I’ve got the great beard to prove So that’s a, another great question. And I, did think about it carefully.

[00:06:54] would say I wish I was. I wish I was more entrepreneurial a desire to build things early on in my career. maybe it’s not unusual, but you know, if I look at the front end of my career, it was really about learning and it was working with others and learning from others, opposed to, well, maybe I should go build a company, go start something, be more of an entrepreneur.

[00:07:18] So, had to scroll back, I would say, you know, take more risk. You know, be less fearful if you will go build something or be part of a team that’s building something, they have an appetite for that now. It would’ve been nice to have that appetite a few decades ago. that that’s, you know, one lesson.

[00:07:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. And., I kicked that around from times to time myself because, be helpful to have sort of a, a steady course to learn things mm-hmm. that you may need later. started out in banking well, I’m very happy I did. I learned a lot, even. For the last, whatever, 20 years. I’m not involved in banking, but it was a good basis.

[00:08:01] At the same time, when you look back and say, Wow. I could have skipped some of that with my current knowledge, because Right. entrepreneurial spirit, very healthy, I think for anybody, right. To, to think about what you can do as an individual, how you can contribute, how you can participate, et cetera.

[00:08:20] So I, can align with that thought. Yeah.

[00:08:23] William Sarni: It’s good to look

[00:08:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: back. It always is. It always is.

[00:08:27] Lesson 1:     Generosity and kindness

[00:08:27] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now looking back, let’s talk about your 10 lessons and lesson number one. generosity and kindness. Well, I’m all for it, but what are your thoughts on that?

[00:08:39] William Sarni: I need to sort of give you a little bit of context.

[00:08:42] I, I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens grew up in an apartment. my grandparents were immigrants. My parents were children of the, you know, they were depression children. And you know, in, in hindsight I thought we were wealthy, but I don’t know that we really were. But what little we had we were generous to, you know, family, friends, neighbors, and a good thing.

[00:09:08] It was, you know, be kind, be generous. didn’t always play out well. but, you know, those were exceptions. Those were not, not the rules. So, I would say that is one of the earliest things that I learned from my grandparents who truly had nothing when they showed up. And my parents and, and my family,

[00:09:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: family, parents.

[00:09:30] how about teachers or people in the neighborhood? they have the same mindset?

[00:09:36] William Sarni: Yeah, it, it, they really did. I mean, it was you know, an incredibly diverse community, which was a gift growing up. everyone was really mostly in the same boat. You know, they did not have a lot, but what they had they were generous with.

[00:09:53] And looking back, it, it really was a gift that, we sort of cherish some very basic things, you know, food and, you know, laughter. Not that everything was always amusing, but it was very close and very sharing and, and I would say very kind. And there, there’s actually a family that, grew up with that I’m still very close with.

[00:10:13] Yeah. And you know, that’s a, that’s a g real gift

[00:10:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: values given by your family, caretakers, environment. And it, it, it’s still with you. Right?

[00:10:24] William Sarni: I hope so. I do my best to hold onto that.

[00:10:28] Lesson 2:     Work hard – a depression era work ethic

[00:10:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. let’s move to lesson number two. Work hard and as you indicate, a depression era work ethic, right.

[00:10:35] William Sarni: Yes. So, very much a, a work hard, view of the world. You know, I got my first job when I 15. And you know, maybe that’s not unusual for the time, but you know, I always had that, you know, work hard.

[00:10:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: Just that is early 15 is early to start.

[00:10:52] William Sarni: It, yes, it, it felt that way in hindsight. yeah, that, you know, that view of, you know, work hard, And, it was funny, when I was working at Geraghty & Miller. The head accountant in the firm, made a comment one day about, Yeah, we have flex time.

[00:11:06] You can come in any time before nine and leave any time after five. And I, I thought that was just a very funny way of putting it, that, yeah, show up and work hard. You know, it, it pays off.

[00:11:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. taking a break, how do you, how do you deal with that?

[00:11:25] William Sarni: Oh, I don’t know that I do a great job of that candidly.

[00:11:28] I, I have learned that through the years, know, recently, I would say during the pandemic I learned a lot, One of which was, you know, caring for oneself and having time to. Just sort of slow down and, and, you know, do the things that bring you joy you know, work. I mean, I hate the word work, but you know, what I do professionally gives me joy.

[00:11:51] So it doesn’t feel like this is an abrupt change. But yeah, making time for itself and doing things that you know, are not, professionally related is important.

[00:12:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: You just mentioned the work that you do. You like it, it’s like a hobby perhaps, right? Isn’t that the challenge as well to manage that and say, Hey, I need to do something different?

[00:12:15] William Sarni: Yes. absolutely because you could, you know, you could just sort of continue down this path and spend all of your time doing, you know, what you love. But it’s, it’s pretty one dimensional and it’s, it’s not, not really that healthy. And I’ll, I’ll give you an example, and this is maybe going to be a longer answer than, time for it.

[00:12:36] But before the pandemic, I took up rowing sculling. And, hooked on it. Hooked on Sculling and, sculling and, and rowing in a sweet boat. And I found that it was great for me physically and mentally, and it also provided an intersection with my professional life in that I had the ability to bring in, other practitioners in the world of water stewardship and conservation in particular wwf, work with my rowing club.

[00:13:07] Yeah. And work with the community sounding the reservoir. So, it was something different, but also got me to think differently about. What I do professionally and how that intersects with something that really brings me joy, you know, rowing and, and you know, the entire rowing community. So, I continue to work on It’s a growth opportunity in terms of finding spare time and or making spare time.

[00:13:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: No, I can see that combination and, and how important that is. I think that’s, that’s, well, it is for me, but I think for many people the same, to do certain things that are different than your daily work. It’s a good distraction and it creates that balance.

[00:13:48] William Sarni: I agree with you.

[00:13:49] Lesson 3:     Do good things

[00:13:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: All right. Well, let’s take a look at lesson number three. Do good things. Nobody can deny that.

[00:13:57] William Sarni: Well, Oh, come on. You know, that’s not true.

[00:14:00] Siebe Van Der Zee: I knew I got you going.

[00:14:03] William Sarni: Yeah. I think that that was a total setup. sounds so obvious. you know, in a lot of ways it ties to item one, you know, generosity and kindness. went to Davos or Davo in January of 2020, and it was my first time going and it was, you know, amazing experience. And I, I, you know, I met a few people that were doing good things.

[00:14:29] I mean, just good things in terms of philanthropic initiatives and so on, and we really just came up with this. It’s like, yeah. We should promote doing good things. And it, and it, it’s such a simple thought and it should be the rudder in your day, basically just go do good things.

[00:14:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: It is a good lesson.

[00:14:51] It is a good lesson, yeah. Right. And it should be in a way, an automatic, but that you cannot expect.

[00:14:57] William Sarni: Right. Right.

[00:14:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s also fair to say that when you do good things for others, it makes you feel good. There is a selfish element perhaps in there.

[00:15:09] William Sarni: Well completely agree with you. It is. You know what I’ve done Good.

[00:15:14] I, I gave you a shot. I, I, I got up and hopefully had a positive impact on you. Whomever.

[00:15:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I, when you think about that, doing good for others, and yes, you feel good inside, not just, Well, I’m spending my time on helping others. No, you’re helping yourself in a, in a certain way as well.

[00:15:37] William Sarni: I agree.

[00:15:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: May not be the first motivator, but it, it’s part of it.

[00:15:41] William Sarni: I think it’s definitely part of it. It should be a factor.

[00:15:44] Lesson 4:     You will always have a career in water as it is a public health issue

[00:15:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. Well, lesson number four, you will always have a career in water as it is a public health issue. Explain that one.

[00:15:54] William Sarni: Where did that come from? Right. You know, I’m going to go back to Geraghty & Miller my first, professional, job David Miller said that I was having a conversation with him I think soon after I came on board to the company. And you know, he was saying that if you want to have a career in water, you always will have one because it’s a public health issue. And you know, here I was a kid in my twenties, and you know, this very accomplished professional.

[00:16:23] He gave me some sage advice and it’s; it’s really proven to be the case. I mean, I, you know, have a long career working in the world of water doing different things and public health issues related to water have never been more important. You know, we see that in Flint, we see it in Jackson, We see it in communities that we know nothing about that are out there, that don’t have access to safe drinking water.

[00:16:48] You know, globally in the US and so on. So, you know, David’s maybe casual comment at, at the time in the hall was it really stuck and it’s, it’s really been the case. And I, I think about that often.

[00:17:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now you have been in the. Water business, let’s say, your whole career for, for quite a few years.

[00:17:09] It seems like in the last few years worldwide, these water issues have come. It sounds kind of funny. It’s not meant that way. To the surface. People are aware around the world whether there are wildfires that are not directly related to water, but indirectly there is a link, rivers that are drying up ocean water that perhaps is rising shortage of water in many areas around the world, but definitely in the United Always have a career in water. Is that not even more, part of today’s thinking than perhaps 10, 20 years ago?

[00:17:49] William Sarni: No, absolutely agree with you. you Things have changed rather dramatically in terms of, you know, increased awareness you know, by the public civil society. Increased attention to the need to change public policy and, and regulations.

[00:18:04] Increased interest in innovative technologies and business models. It’s really for better, for worse. It’s, it has changed. It’s suddenly in the news all the time. If you were in particular, you know, where we live, you know? Yeah. On the, You’re in Arizona. Yeah. It’s, you know, it’s top of mind now and we’re actually seeing things change.

[00:18:27] So yeah, the, the time has come. You know, it was always there as an issue just in terms of you know, how we think about water, how we value water, has really shifted in the past several years.

[00:18:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, no, definitely an important lesson for, for all of us all over the world.

[00:18:44] Lesson 5:     Hire someone you would work for

[00:18:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Moving on lesson number five, Hire someone you would work for.

[00:18:49] I like it a lot. I’m a recruiter, as you know. yeah, there are some people that I’m not sure if I want to work for, but as a, as a goal to say. That individual, his or her personality, and of course their skill set, that has to be a good match for you as, as the hiring person.

[00:19:09] William Sarni: Yes. So, I’ll, tell you where that came from.

[00:19:12] I, I, I love it because it actually came to pass. I, I, I’ve been in the world of water. For almost my entire career, but I had a few years where I was working for an oil and gas company at, of Houston, Atlantic Ridgefield. and it was Arco Exploration and I got to do campus recruiting at UT Austin, and I absolutely loved it.

[00:19:33] I mean, really loved campus recruiting in terms of meeting some really smart, motivated. Young folks, and the person that ran the recruiting department at Arco at the time said that to me. He said, You know, when you go out, think about whether you would work for that person. you know, you are not hiring somebody just to fill a seat.

[00:19:58] You’re, you’re making, you know, a very important recommendation I thought about that a lot through my career and then actually had an opportunity, a good fortune to work for someone that, that I worked with initially in Denver, and then hired when I was back east working for another consulting firm.

[00:20:19] And, working for him was an extraordinary experience that, you know, I learned a lot from him and, and got to see him differently. So, it was a real gift.

[00:20:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s unlikely that you would ever hire someone where you say, Mm, I’m not sure if I get along with this person. And at the same time, if you have a, let’s say a checklist of skill sets or experiences that you’re looking for, and that person perhaps doesn’t meet all of them, the personality may drive you to say, Wow, I really would like to work with him or with her.

[00:20:55] William Sarni: Right, you know that that’s important. Yeah. It’s just really being very, very thoughtful of, do I really want to work with this person? Do I really want one of my colleagues to work for this person? Would I want to work directly, you know, report to that person? you know, working for Doug Swanson. A shout out to my good buddy.

[00:21:16] That was an extraordinary experience. You know, he did very different than me. And, and, you know, we complimented each other. At least I like to think so.

[00:21:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: Makes sense. appreciate that lesson. We’re talking today with Will Sarni, a globally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation, sharing his 10 lessons learned.

[00:21:35] Affiliate Break

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[00:22:07] Lesson 6:     The power of unreasonable people

[00:22:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number six Will Sarni the Power of unreasonable People. You got some good lessons here.

[00:22:14] William Sarni: Where did that come from? That’s actually the title of a book and, I believe that, you know, change happens typically with people that reject the status quo.

[00:22:26] And you know, you know, I have a podcast The Stream with Will and Tom, and we talk about unreasonable people and it’s amazing what Unreasonable people can accomplish. You know, you’re, you’re one of them. I mean, the fact that,

[00:22:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: and I’m smiling.

[00:22:43] William Sarni: Well, right, I know. It resonates. It’s people that believe we can do better.

[00:22:51] and challenge the status quo. Not for the sake of just challenging it, but believe that we could do better. And, you know, they invest their time, their energy, you know, whatever it may be. So, I believe very strongly in power, that ability. And it, it goes back to I an optimist or, or what?

[00:23:11] Well, yes, because I, you know, this all sort of nets together to me.

[00:23:15] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s a great lesson. and I appreciate your explanation because I could take it in, in different directions unreasonable people. And I’m saying, are we talking about politicians? No, no, no, no.

[00:23:29] William Sarni: well, no, I want to go back to do good things.

[00:23:31] So, yeah. Unreasonable people that do-good things as opposed to unreasonable people that don’t do good things.

[00:23:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: But indeed, question the status quo, right? That’s a term that was used years ago. But it makes sense in my mind indeed, to re-examine where we are, what we have achieved, and we know that over time things are changing.

[00:23:56] Lesson 7:     Learn to say no or hell yeah

[00:23:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: on, lesson number seven, Learn to say No or Hell yeah.

[00:24:03] William Sarni: Yeah. That’s also the title of a book. And a good friend of mine gave that to me and. As you might imagine, I, I say yes to almost everything and you know, I, I think generally it’s a good trait. that saying is a good lens.

[00:24:20] It, it’s a good way to really focus on things that bring you joy. That have an impact. You know, some commercial value has to be a subset of that. But really the ability to, you know, to say no, you know, very politely, professionally that I, you know, my dance card is full or. You know, I’m doing other things, but the hell yeah part, I mean, that sort of goes back to some of the things we’ve been talking about, that, you know, what brings you joy, what you know, what gets you up out of bed and propels you forward. So, it’s a good tagline. You know, I, I do my best to remember that.

[00:24:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: I, I think it’s helpful. To tell yourself indeed that you have to say no, and then perhaps your passion takes over and say, Well, yeah, but I’m still going to do this and I’m still, but next time I shouldn’t.

[00:25:11] But if you in a way develop the discipline to say no, that can be helpful in order to be productive in other areas, right? You cannot overload yourself. Nobody will benefit from that.

[00:25:22] William Sarni: Right? And I also believe that you. You tend to find other things that show up that will bring you joy. So, you know, it’s not a zero-sum game.

[00:25:35] Yeah.

[00:25:36] Lesson 8:     Be a realistic optimist – to leave the world a better place

[00:25:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. No, well said, well said. Lesson number eight. Be a realistic optimist to leave the world a better place.

[00:25:45] William Sarni: Sure. So that’s sort of a convoluted lesson learned. But I am an optimist. I am, I at least I think I’m realistic in terms of how to get things done. that sort of informs the, just leave the world a better place.

[00:26:01] It’s, you know, why are we here? What are we doing? How do we spend our time? Yeah. Do good things have an impact that is, is very core to what I do and how I spend my time and who I spend my time with and so on. It’s very important to me.

[00:26:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: In addition to your, your efforts when it comes to water issues, and I put it in very broad terms, are there any other.

[00:26:27] Issues, topics, you are involved with directly or, or from time to time?

[00:26:34] William Sarni: So yes, I mean, you know, education, awareness of, you know, environmental and social issues. That’s important to me. You know, certainly the intersection of water issues and climate, Not that every water issues climate issue, but where they intersect, it’s particularly acute.

[00:26:52] I, would say food, you know, agriculture, climate change, water, and I, I would say increasingly the social impacts. that we’re seeing from climate change and a lack of water or, you know, lack of access to safe drink of water.

[00:27:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: And, and what do you mean with social impact in, in that regard?

[00:27:14] William Sarni: Yeah. knows, in the American West, we, we talk about scarcity a lot. You know, we’re in a, you know, permanent drought and new normal you know, purification. That is just one piece of the puzzle. There is a whole set of issues in the world of water around a lack of access. So, in Arizona, for example, the Navajo Nation doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. You know, that’s a social issue. Central Valley, California doesn’t have. Oh, significant portion of the population doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. You know, we see it in Flint, we see it in Jackson, Mississippi.

[00:27:53] So, you know, that’s the social side of it that is, certainly related to, you know, what we’re seeing with the impacts of climate change on the American West, for example, but also a lack of investment in infrastructure, aging infrastructure and public policy that’s not kept up with reality. So that’s how I frame, you know, the social dimension of, of water.

[00:28:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: It feels sometimes that people let’s say in our generation, whatever it is, we, it’ll, it’ll be fine in our lifetime, you know, yes there’s a water shortage, but eh, for the next 30, 50 years, we can probably have enough water.

[00:28:36] But if you think about the next generation and indeed grandchildren, Their children and their grandchildren. That is of course, a very important element as well that we need to manage today for generations that are coming up over the next 100, maybe 200 years.

[00:28:56] William Sarni: Right. Completely agree with you. You know, it, it, again, I keep doubling back on some of the earlier things, but Yeah.

[00:29:02] Let’s do good things. Think about how do you make the world a better place while you’re around?

[00:29:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah.

[00:29:07] William Sarni: You know, what sort of impact you I can go off on a tangent here, but this is why I, I really push back on using the word drought because if the layperson hears the word drought, it’s, well, okay, if it rains, then everything’s okay.

[00:29:18] Well, not really, you know, we’re not, we’re not dealing with a historical drought. We’re really dealing, dealing with sort of a fundamental shift in the climate and everything that that impacts. Yeah. Long term thinking is a good thing.

[00:29:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah,

[00:29:35] Lesson 9:     Relationships and quality of work matters

[00:29:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: Good point. Lesson number nine, Relationships and quality of work matters.

[00:29:41] William Sarni: that actually came from a couple of people. I believe I always knew that relationships mattered. It, it, you know, ties back to growing up in Jackson Heights and, and you know, we were talking about you know, our, our mutual friend John and

[00:29:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: John Hoholick.

[00:29:59] William Sarni: John Hoholick. You know, relationships matter.

[00:30:02] Well, I will tell you, I’ve learned a lot from John on that topic. It’s, it’s a, you know, a very constant. And a grateful, reminder that yeah, relationships matter. It, it’s, it’s about those relationships. So, it’s something I, I believe I’ve always had, but, you know, having John as a friend and a, and a colleague in the world of water has punched it up again for me.

[00:30:30] quality of work. That I learned in my first job at Geraghty & Miller Quality mattered. And I learned how to write, not in college, but I learned when I got a job at Geraghty & Miller and I, I talked to my former Geraghty & Miller colleagues once a month. And we always, you know, recall back the fact that the company had an editor on staff and if we were writing a report, Burt Weinstein would mark up your draft with a red pen and throw it on your desk and it would be one more time.

[00:31:08] And it was usually not one more time. It was multiple times, but you know. Learning that quality mattered, you know, how you pick your words and paying attention to the technical details and, and really coming up with finding and conclusions that honored the data was important. So fortunate was very early on,

[00:31:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: it’s, it’s perhaps a little academic to ask it this way, but is it indeed in combination relationships and quality of work?

[00:31:35] Or is it relationships? And on one hand that’s important and quality of work. Someone may do a great job, but perhaps it’s not a great relationship.

[00:31:45] William Sarni: They are related. I, I, I believe that’s a, that’s a really good point. it, it’s the, you know, if you’re thoughtful and do the best you can. With a person or group of people, It, it creates a quality relationship you know, hopefully a lasting relationship, value to, to all parties.

[00:32:07] So yeah, there’s definitely, It’s a Venn diagram. Definitely.

[00:32:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Isn’t it interesting? I assume you have the same, know, we have, let’s say friendships between people that have lasted. Over decades. Yes. And even if that person is no longer your neighbor or you know, no longer in the same school, whatever, that relationship is still there.

[00:32:28] I can think of people that I met 40 years ago, and I still consider them dear friends. I don’t talk to them frequently or on a regular basis. But once we do, we’re back to where we were.

[00:32:41] William Sarni: And that’s so true. Yeah. For better or for worse, we feel 15 again, you know. But you’re Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

[00:32:49] It, you, you hold onto those relationships in a, in a very different way.

[00:32:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. And of course, negative experiences can stick with you as well. When you get mistreated by someone, and I say it nicely that may be something you don’t forget either.

[00:33:08] William Sarni: Oh, well, that’s definitely true. That’s an off-camera conversation.

[00:33:13] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yes, our next recording. Yes. Sounds good.

[00:33:17] Lesson 10:    Quotes to live by…

[00:33:17] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. lesson number 10. Well, here we are, lesson number 10, and you’ve given several quotes and I, I think they’re all interesting and I’ll read them out and I’ll let you

[00:33:27] William Sarni: Sure

[00:33:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: give the analysis. The first quote is Work hard. Stay foolish. The second quote, the future is here, just not evenly distributed.

[00:33:39] The third one, dream as if you live forever. Live as if you’ll die today. Wow. Your thoughts?

[00:33:49] William Sarni: So, I, yeah, I, I don’t know if you’d notice in my email title blocks, but I use two of and. I really do love quotes as a way to, you know, sort of sharpen the mind and, and get people’s attention.

[00:34:03] start with the futures here, just not evenly distributed. That’s William Gibson, who’s a science fiction author. He created the cyber punk genre of science fiction. And I love that and I, I use it almost in every presentation because it describes innovation in the water sector in that it’s lumpy.

[00:34:24] There are some technologies that are really advanced being adopted by utilities in the private sector or government agencies that are 21st century, but they’re not widely adopted. So, the future’s here. Let’s not sort of wait for something to happen. Let’s go find it and then let’s scale it. And then dream is if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

[00:34:51] James Dean, the actor that’s in my personal email, and I like that it’s, you know, we talked about being an optimist and, and you know, Doing what we do to have a positive impact. That’s really important that, that moves you forward. But also, you know, have a focus that, you know, every day’s a gift. And being mindful of that with that tension of the, the long view is important.

[00:35:18] And then Richard Brandt, who wrote the Whole Earth Catalog, and I’m reading his biography right now. Work hard, stay foolish. good. It, it ties back to that, you know, depression, era work ethic. Just work hard, but also be foolish, you know, take chances, Which also tied into, you know, if I had to go back to a younger version of me, it would be, yeah, be more foolish, take more chances, be more entrepreneurial, take some risks.

[00:35:45] So I, I, I love those three quote.

[00:35:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, I think they’re all, they’re all good. And I’m glad you shared all three of them Right. For lesson number 10, but that’s, that’s very powerful. It’s, it’s truly amazing. When I think about your background, Will, and, I have been doing obviously a bit of research, what you’re doing and consistently is so relevant.

[00:36:09] To the whole world. And I want to mention that because it’s not just for your neighborhood or your state. This is something and you do, of course, worldwide work related to water issues. Extremely, extremely important. And the lessons that you have learned in your life and in your career and, and having said that, I have to add another question.

[00:36:33] Of course. Is there a lesson Will that you have unlearned in your life and in your career?

[00:36:42] William Sarni: So, the short answer is yes, going in reverse. Well, I know that there’s at least one. I’ll mention the one that came to mind and, and you actually touched on that a little bit. that it’s that work hard, that depression era work ethic.

[00:36:54] you know, how do you ensure that you, you have time for yourself, the time to do things that are not maybe directly related to, you work how you spent in your professional time. So that’s something that I have gotten in recent years in terms of, yes, work hard, but work smarter. And working smarter means having time to, you recharge your batteries, to be creative, to do things that are far afield.

[00:37:26] We, you know, we talked about rowing. You know, that was transformative for me, because you can’t think of anything else when you’re out on a little boat, right? Or else you flip the boat. So, that’s a healthy exercise. So, it’s. having a more sophisticated and thoughtful view of just work hard.

[00:37:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. Very, very thoughtful. Very, very helpful. I think for many because we are a little bit sometimes in a race and, look, we both understand for many people, many families, it’s hard work and we’re dealing with inflation and we’re dealing with all kinds of pressure taking care of our families.

[00:38:06] So it’s, it’s important to be able to take a break and put things in perspective and at the same time, I almost want to say it’s easier said than done for many people. Oh, right? I mean,

[00:38:18] William Sarni: yeah. Yes.

[00:38:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: That, that’s the reality as well. But to repeat that lesson, because that’s part of the lessons that you have learned, and I must admit, I have learned very, very important, and I, I really want to thank you for, for sharing your wisdoms with us.

[00:38:34] thank you for being part. Our podcast, 10 Lessons Learned. will make a few closing comments and, and Will, before I do, is there anything else you want to share? You don’t have to, but I don’t want to cut you off.

[00:38:49] William Sarni: Well, I, I want to thank you for the opportunity because, you were a catalyst to help me think.

[00:38:54] About what’s important, you know, how did I wind up here and what do I believe? So, thank you for yeah, it was very helpful.

[00:39:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: I feel humbled when you say that because if, if I make Will Sarni think

[00:39:12] William Sarni: well, it, you know, it might be the first time in my entire life that I, I, I’ve been thinking, but You got me really doing some soul searching and, and that’s really important.

[00:39:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, I, I thank you for that. And, and that’s of course what we’re going to share with our global audience. closing, you have been listening to the International Program, 10 Lessons Learned. This program is produced by Robert Hossary, and as always, we are supported by the Professional Development Forum.

[00:39:41] Our guests today Will Sarni a globally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation. Sharing his 10 lessons learned and to our audience, Don’t forget to leave us a review or a comment. You can also email us at podcast@10lessonslearned.com. That is podcast number ten one zero lessons learned.com.

[00:40:04] I hope you will subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser, lesson by lesson. Thank you and stay safe.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 
William Sarni

William Sarni – The Power of Unreasonable People

William Sarni discusses why we should "Do good things" That we need to "Learn to say No or Hell Yeah" and explains the power of unreasonable people. Hosted by Siebe Van Der Zee

About Will Sarni

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry a water strategy consultancy. He is also the CEO of the The Future of Water Fund, a water technology venture fund focused on addressing water scarcity, quality and equitable access to water. He has been a sustainability and water strategy advisor to multinationals, water technology companies, investors, and non-governmental organizations for his entire career.

Prior to Water Foundry, he was a managing director at Deloitte Consulting where he established and led the water strategy practice. He was the founder and CEO of DOMANI, a sustainability strategy firm, prior to Deloitte.

Will is an internationally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation. He was ranked as; A Key Player Pressuring Businesses to Care About Water and one of the Top 15 Interviews In Smart Water Magazine 2019. Sarni is the author numerous publications on water strategy and innovation including the following books.

 

He also has a children’s book on water, “Water, I Wonder?”

Sarni is a co-founder of WetDATA and a host of the podcast, The Stream with Will and Tom. He is a board member of Silver Bullet, Project WET and the Rocky Mountain Rowing Club. He was the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for the WAITRO Global Water Innovation Summit 2020 and was on the Scientific Program Committee for Stockholm World Water Week from 2013 through 2019. His advisory work includes working with the 2020 X-PRIZE (Infinity Water Prize), as a Bold Visioneer for the 2016 X-PRIZE Safe Drinking Water Team and a Technical Advisor for the Climate Bonds Initiative: Nature- Based Solutions for Climate and Water Resilience. He is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Water Security.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: Generosity and kindness 08:27
Lesson 2: Work hard – a depression era work ethic 10:28
Lesson 3: Do good things 13:49
Lesson 4: You will always have a career in water as it is a public health issue 15:44
Lesson 5: Hire someone you would work for 18:44
Lesson 6: The power of unreasonable people 22:07
Lesson 7: Learn to say no or hell yeah 23:56
Lesson 8: Be a realistic optimist – to leave the world a better place 25:36
Lesson 9: Relationships and quality of work matters 29:35
Lesson 10: Quotes to live by 33:17
a. Work hard, stay foolish (Richard Brand, Author)
b. The future is here, just not evenly distributed (William Gibson, Author)
c. Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today (James Dean, Actor)

William Sarni – The Power of Unreasonable People

[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello and welcome to our program, 10 Lessons Learned, where we talk to businesspeople, journalists, professors, ambassadors, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands, happily residing in the beautiful Grand Canyon state of Arizona in the United States.

[00:00:30] I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert. Our guest Sarni is Will Sarni. Will is an internationally recognized thought leader and water strategy and innovation expert based in Denver, Colorado. Will is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry, a water strategy consulting firm. He’s also the CEO of the Colorado River Basin Fund, also known as the Future of Water Fund, a Water Technology Venture Fund.

[00:01:01] Focused on addressing water scarcity, quality and equitable access to water. Before that, Will Sarni served as the managing director at Deloitte Consulting, where he managed the water strategy practice. He is also the author of numerous publications on water Strategy and Innovation, and most recently he wrote a children’s book on water titled Water

[00:01:25] I Wonder? With a question mark. In other words, during his entire career, Will Sarni has been an advisor on sustainability and water strategy issues to multinationals water technology companies, investors, and non-governmental organizations. Very impressive. You can learn more about Will Sarni on our website 10 lessons learned.com.

[00:01:50] Hello, Will thank you for joining us.

[00:01:53] William Sarni: Well, thank you for the invitation. Excited to be here. it’s sort of perfect on a Friday to have a soul-searching conversation.

[00:01:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: Here we are. Absolutely. Now, before we get to your 10 lessons, I’m curious because your background, has been focused on water issues.

[00:02:10] I would say your whole career, perhaps your whole life. What inspired you? What, what was the driving element there?

[00:02:17] William Sarni: Well, great question. how did I get hooked on water? I grew up in New York and when I was in high school, when college, I started surfing on Long Island. still a little bit of that New York accent with Long Island as you notice.

[00:02:31] so I became, you know, attracted to water the ocean. Thought I wanted to go into oceanography. My master’s thesis was actually on oceanography. But when I was in graduate school, I got a job with a company called Geraghty & Miller. And it was a boutique groundwater consulting firm founded by several US Geological Survey, practitioners professionals, and really got hooked on.

[00:02:57] This, mission, if you will and all the technical things associated with it to deliver, to find and deliver safe drinking water and water for other purposes. So, in a way, I started with salt water and wound up with fresh water. And now it’s probably some sort of a combination, that was the journey.

[00:03:16] So graduate school, working for Geraghty & Miller was, was really the hook for me, to learn more and do more.

[00:03:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: It brought you into that topic. we think about and talk about water issues, there are obviously around the globe lots of challenges and. Simple question. Almost the conclusion perhaps of a conversation.

[00:03:38] How worried are you or are you optimistic that we can deal with these water challenges?

[00:03:46] William Sarni: Well, I’m going to sound like a consultant here and say both. So yeah, I am, I’m worried enough to have it sort of propel me to do more. and, you know, get up and have at it every day. but I’m a, you know, a realistic optimist.

[00:04:02] You know, that’s, that was one of my comments to you that, Yeah, I’m optimistic. I believe we can solve these challenges, you know, water and social issues and, and climate but we have to be realistic about it. It, it’s not, you know, hope it’s okay if we. Actually, commit to it and do what we can individually and collectively, then yeah, we, we can, we can solve these

[00:04:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: If I think of politics, if I think of regulators, think of perhaps solar energy in the past in particular, It seems like there are solutions, but is the cooperation there, get it done?

[00:04:45] William Sarni: Yeah, that, that’s a great question. So, one thing I learned from a good friend Tom Higley is something about wicked problems and wicked problems have a definition.

[00:04:55] And what I really love about the definition is that wicked problems cannot be solved, solved by anyone’s stakeholder. So, it really requires every stakeholder group to leverage their skills, their reach, You know, capabilities and, and so on. And the way to think about it is, well, you mentioned the public sector.

[00:05:19] Public sector has scale, but no speed. So, they’re very slow to innovate, very slow to change. It’s incredibly frustrating where entrepreneurs and investors and, and even multinationals have greater speed. The ability to pivot and so on. So, imagine bringing together, you know, those two, those few stakeholder groups and everybody in between to solve wicked problem and, and that’s really what we need to see.

[00:05:48] Yeah, it is, you know, it’s not holding hands. It is honoring what these individual stakeholder groups and you know, individuals can bring to the table. And then, you know, of course civil society. the role of the individual. So yeah, we, we have an opportunity to do things together and you know, solve these problems.

[00:06:10] But we sometimes don’t do a great job.

[00:06:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: You say it very politely, but I, I understand and, and, and you’re an optimist. Will and I, I appreciate that. We’re going to be talking about your 10 lessons learned right in your life, in your career, and that addresses more than just water issues, of course.

[00:06:29] But is there a lesson perhaps, that you have learned in your life that you would like to teach yourself. If you were 30 years old today, you may be a few years older, but,

[00:06:45] William Sarni: I’m a few years older. Yes, definitely. And I’ve got the great beard to prove So that’s a, another great question. And I, did think about it carefully.

[00:06:54] would say I wish I was. I wish I was more entrepreneurial a desire to build things early on in my career. maybe it’s not unusual, but you know, if I look at the front end of my career, it was really about learning and it was working with others and learning from others, opposed to, well, maybe I should go build a company, go start something, be more of an entrepreneur.

[00:07:18] So, had to scroll back, I would say, you know, take more risk. You know, be less fearful if you will go build something or be part of a team that’s building something, they have an appetite for that now. It would’ve been nice to have that appetite a few decades ago. that that’s, you know, one lesson.

[00:07:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. And., I kicked that around from times to time myself because, be helpful to have sort of a, a steady course to learn things mm-hmm. that you may need later. started out in banking well, I’m very happy I did. I learned a lot, even. For the last, whatever, 20 years. I’m not involved in banking, but it was a good basis.

[00:08:01] At the same time, when you look back and say, Wow. I could have skipped some of that with my current knowledge, because Right. entrepreneurial spirit, very healthy, I think for anybody, right. To, to think about what you can do as an individual, how you can contribute, how you can participate, et cetera.

[00:08:20] So I, can align with that thought. Yeah.

[00:08:23] William Sarni: It’s good to look

[00:08:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: back. It always is. It always is.

[00:08:27] Lesson 1:     Generosity and kindness

[00:08:27] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now looking back, let’s talk about your 10 lessons and lesson number one. generosity and kindness. Well, I’m all for it, but what are your thoughts on that?

[00:08:39] William Sarni: I need to sort of give you a little bit of context.

[00:08:42] I, I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens grew up in an apartment. my grandparents were immigrants. My parents were children of the, you know, they were depression children. And you know, in, in hindsight I thought we were wealthy, but I don’t know that we really were. But what little we had we were generous to, you know, family, friends, neighbors, and a good thing.

[00:09:08] It was, you know, be kind, be generous. didn’t always play out well. but, you know, those were exceptions. Those were not, not the rules. So, I would say that is one of the earliest things that I learned from my grandparents who truly had nothing when they showed up. And my parents and, and my family,

[00:09:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: family, parents.

[00:09:30] how about teachers or people in the neighborhood? they have the same mindset?

[00:09:36] William Sarni: Yeah, it, it, they really did. I mean, it was you know, an incredibly diverse community, which was a gift growing up. everyone was really mostly in the same boat. You know, they did not have a lot, but what they had they were generous with.

[00:09:53] And looking back, it, it really was a gift that, we sort of cherish some very basic things, you know, food and, you know, laughter. Not that everything was always amusing, but it was very close and very sharing and, and I would say very kind. And there, there’s actually a family that, grew up with that I’m still very close with.

[00:10:13] Yeah. And you know, that’s a, that’s a g real gift

[00:10:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: values given by your family, caretakers, environment. And it, it, it’s still with you. Right?

[00:10:24] William Sarni: I hope so. I do my best to hold onto that.

[00:10:28] Lesson 2:     Work hard – a depression era work ethic

[00:10:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. let’s move to lesson number two. Work hard and as you indicate, a depression era work ethic, right.

[00:10:35] William Sarni: Yes. So, very much a, a work hard, view of the world. You know, I got my first job when I 15. And you know, maybe that’s not unusual for the time, but you know, I always had that, you know, work hard.

[00:10:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: Just that is early 15 is early to start.

[00:10:52] William Sarni: It, yes, it, it felt that way in hindsight. yeah, that, you know, that view of, you know, work hard, And, it was funny, when I was working at Geraghty & Miller. The head accountant in the firm, made a comment one day about, Yeah, we have flex time.

[00:11:06] You can come in any time before nine and leave any time after five. And I, I thought that was just a very funny way of putting it, that, yeah, show up and work hard. You know, it, it pays off.

[00:11:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. taking a break, how do you, how do you deal with that?

[00:11:25] William Sarni: Oh, I don’t know that I do a great job of that candidly.

[00:11:28] I, I have learned that through the years, know, recently, I would say during the pandemic I learned a lot, One of which was, you know, caring for oneself and having time to. Just sort of slow down and, and, you know, do the things that bring you joy you know, work. I mean, I hate the word work, but you know, what I do professionally gives me joy.

[00:11:51] So it doesn’t feel like this is an abrupt change. But yeah, making time for itself and doing things that you know, are not, professionally related is important.

[00:12:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: You just mentioned the work that you do. You like it, it’s like a hobby perhaps, right? Isn’t that the challenge as well to manage that and say, Hey, I need to do something different?

[00:12:15] William Sarni: Yes. absolutely because you could, you know, you could just sort of continue down this path and spend all of your time doing, you know, what you love. But it’s, it’s pretty one dimensional and it’s, it’s not, not really that healthy. And I’ll, I’ll give you an example, and this is maybe going to be a longer answer than, time for it.

[00:12:36] But before the pandemic, I took up rowing sculling. And, hooked on it. Hooked on Sculling and, sculling and, and rowing in a sweet boat. And I found that it was great for me physically and mentally, and it also provided an intersection with my professional life in that I had the ability to bring in, other practitioners in the world of water stewardship and conservation in particular wwf, work with my rowing club.

[00:13:07] Yeah. And work with the community sounding the reservoir. So, it was something different, but also got me to think differently about. What I do professionally and how that intersects with something that really brings me joy, you know, rowing and, and you know, the entire rowing community. So, I continue to work on It’s a growth opportunity in terms of finding spare time and or making spare time.

[00:13:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: No, I can see that combination and, and how important that is. I think that’s, that’s, well, it is for me, but I think for many people the same, to do certain things that are different than your daily work. It’s a good distraction and it creates that balance.

[00:13:48] William Sarni: I agree with you.

[00:13:49] Lesson 3:     Do good things

[00:13:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: All right. Well, let’s take a look at lesson number three. Do good things. Nobody can deny that.

[00:13:57] William Sarni: Well, Oh, come on. You know, that’s not true.

[00:14:00] Siebe Van Der Zee: I knew I got you going.

[00:14:03] William Sarni: Yeah. I think that that was a total setup. sounds so obvious. you know, in a lot of ways it ties to item one, you know, generosity and kindness. went to Davos or Davo in January of 2020, and it was my first time going and it was, you know, amazing experience. And I, I, you know, I met a few people that were doing good things.

[00:14:29] I mean, just good things in terms of philanthropic initiatives and so on, and we really just came up with this. It’s like, yeah. We should promote doing good things. And it, and it, it’s such a simple thought and it should be the rudder in your day, basically just go do good things.

[00:14:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: It is a good lesson.

[00:14:51] It is a good lesson, yeah. Right. And it should be in a way, an automatic, but that you cannot expect.

[00:14:57] William Sarni: Right. Right.

[00:14:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s also fair to say that when you do good things for others, it makes you feel good. There is a selfish element perhaps in there.

[00:15:09] William Sarni: Well completely agree with you. It is. You know what I’ve done Good.

[00:15:14] I, I gave you a shot. I, I, I got up and hopefully had a positive impact on you. Whomever.

[00:15:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I, when you think about that, doing good for others, and yes, you feel good inside, not just, Well, I’m spending my time on helping others. No, you’re helping yourself in a, in a certain way as well.

[00:15:37] William Sarni: I agree.

[00:15:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: May not be the first motivator, but it, it’s part of it.

[00:15:41] William Sarni: I think it’s definitely part of it. It should be a factor.

[00:15:44] Lesson 4:     You will always have a career in water as it is a public health issue

[00:15:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. Well, lesson number four, you will always have a career in water as it is a public health issue. Explain that one.

[00:15:54] William Sarni: Where did that come from? Right. You know, I’m going to go back to Geraghty & Miller my first, professional, job David Miller said that I was having a conversation with him I think soon after I came on board to the company. And you know, he was saying that if you want to have a career in water, you always will have one because it’s a public health issue. And you know, here I was a kid in my twenties, and you know, this very accomplished professional.

[00:16:23] He gave me some sage advice and it’s; it’s really proven to be the case. I mean, I, you know, have a long career working in the world of water doing different things and public health issues related to water have never been more important. You know, we see that in Flint, we see it in Jackson, We see it in communities that we know nothing about that are out there, that don’t have access to safe drinking water.

[00:16:48] You know, globally in the US and so on. So, you know, David’s maybe casual comment at, at the time in the hall was it really stuck and it’s, it’s really been the case. And I, I think about that often.

[00:17:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now you have been in the. Water business, let’s say, your whole career for, for quite a few years.

[00:17:09] It seems like in the last few years worldwide, these water issues have come. It sounds kind of funny. It’s not meant that way. To the surface. People are aware around the world whether there are wildfires that are not directly related to water, but indirectly there is a link, rivers that are drying up ocean water that perhaps is rising shortage of water in many areas around the world, but definitely in the United Always have a career in water. Is that not even more, part of today’s thinking than perhaps 10, 20 years ago?

[00:17:49] William Sarni: No, absolutely agree with you. you Things have changed rather dramatically in terms of, you know, increased awareness you know, by the public civil society. Increased attention to the need to change public policy and, and regulations.

[00:18:04] Increased interest in innovative technologies and business models. It’s really for better, for worse. It’s, it has changed. It’s suddenly in the news all the time. If you were in particular, you know, where we live, you know? Yeah. On the, You’re in Arizona. Yeah. It’s, you know, it’s top of mind now and we’re actually seeing things change.

[00:18:27] So yeah, the, the time has come. You know, it was always there as an issue just in terms of you know, how we think about water, how we value water, has really shifted in the past several years.

[00:18:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, no, definitely an important lesson for, for all of us all over the world.

[00:18:44] Lesson 5:     Hire someone you would work for

[00:18:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Moving on lesson number five, Hire someone you would work for.

[00:18:49] I like it a lot. I’m a recruiter, as you know. yeah, there are some people that I’m not sure if I want to work for, but as a, as a goal to say. That individual, his or her personality, and of course their skill set, that has to be a good match for you as, as the hiring person.

[00:19:09] William Sarni: Yes. So, I’ll, tell you where that came from.

[00:19:12] I, I, I love it because it actually came to pass. I, I, I’ve been in the world of water. For almost my entire career, but I had a few years where I was working for an oil and gas company at, of Houston, Atlantic Ridgefield. and it was Arco Exploration and I got to do campus recruiting at UT Austin, and I absolutely loved it.

[00:19:33] I mean, really loved campus recruiting in terms of meeting some really smart, motivated. Young folks, and the person that ran the recruiting department at Arco at the time said that to me. He said, You know, when you go out, think about whether you would work for that person. you know, you are not hiring somebody just to fill a seat.

[00:19:58] You’re, you’re making, you know, a very important recommendation I thought about that a lot through my career and then actually had an opportunity, a good fortune to work for someone that, that I worked with initially in Denver, and then hired when I was back east working for another consulting firm.

[00:20:19] And, working for him was an extraordinary experience that, you know, I learned a lot from him and, and got to see him differently. So, it was a real gift.

[00:20:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s unlikely that you would ever hire someone where you say, Mm, I’m not sure if I get along with this person. And at the same time, if you have a, let’s say a checklist of skill sets or experiences that you’re looking for, and that person perhaps doesn’t meet all of them, the personality may drive you to say, Wow, I really would like to work with him or with her.

[00:20:55] William Sarni: Right, you know that that’s important. Yeah. It’s just really being very, very thoughtful of, do I really want to work with this person? Do I really want one of my colleagues to work for this person? Would I want to work directly, you know, report to that person? you know, working for Doug Swanson. A shout out to my good buddy.

[00:21:16] That was an extraordinary experience. You know, he did very different than me. And, and, you know, we complimented each other. At least I like to think so.

[00:21:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: Makes sense. appreciate that lesson. We’re talking today with Will Sarni, a globally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation, sharing his 10 lessons learned.

[00:21:35] Affiliate Break

[00:21:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: I want to thank our affiliate partner Audible. Audible is an amazing way to experience our program. 10 Lessons Learned, but also books and other podcast allowing you to build a library of knowledge all in one place. You can start your free 30-day trial by going to audibletrial.com/10lessonslearned. Again, that is audible trial.com/one zero lessons learned all over case to get your free 30-day trial. Back to the lessons.

[00:22:07] Lesson 6:     The power of unreasonable people

[00:22:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number six Will Sarni the Power of unreasonable People. You got some good lessons here.

[00:22:14] William Sarni: Where did that come from? That’s actually the title of a book and, I believe that, you know, change happens typically with people that reject the status quo.

[00:22:26] And you know, you know, I have a podcast The Stream with Will and Tom, and we talk about unreasonable people and it’s amazing what Unreasonable people can accomplish. You know, you’re, you’re one of them. I mean, the fact that,

[00:22:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: and I’m smiling.

[00:22:43] William Sarni: Well, right, I know. It resonates. It’s people that believe we can do better.

[00:22:51] and challenge the status quo. Not for the sake of just challenging it, but believe that we could do better. And, you know, they invest their time, their energy, you know, whatever it may be. So, I believe very strongly in power, that ability. And it, it goes back to I an optimist or, or what?

[00:23:11] Well, yes, because I, you know, this all sort of nets together to me.

[00:23:15] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s a great lesson. and I appreciate your explanation because I could take it in, in different directions unreasonable people. And I’m saying, are we talking about politicians? No, no, no, no.

[00:23:29] William Sarni: well, no, I want to go back to do good things.

[00:23:31] So, yeah. Unreasonable people that do-good things as opposed to unreasonable people that don’t do good things.

[00:23:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: But indeed, question the status quo, right? That’s a term that was used years ago. But it makes sense in my mind indeed, to re-examine where we are, what we have achieved, and we know that over time things are changing.

[00:23:56] Lesson 7:     Learn to say no or hell yeah

[00:23:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: on, lesson number seven, Learn to say No or Hell yeah.

[00:24:03] William Sarni: Yeah. That’s also the title of a book. And a good friend of mine gave that to me and. As you might imagine, I, I say yes to almost everything and you know, I, I think generally it’s a good trait. that saying is a good lens.

[00:24:20] It, it’s a good way to really focus on things that bring you joy. That have an impact. You know, some commercial value has to be a subset of that. But really the ability to, you know, to say no, you know, very politely, professionally that I, you know, my dance card is full or. You know, I’m doing other things, but the hell yeah part, I mean, that sort of goes back to some of the things we’ve been talking about, that, you know, what brings you joy, what you know, what gets you up out of bed and propels you forward. So, it’s a good tagline. You know, I, I do my best to remember that.

[00:24:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: I, I think it’s helpful. To tell yourself indeed that you have to say no, and then perhaps your passion takes over and say, Well, yeah, but I’m still going to do this and I’m still, but next time I shouldn’t.

[00:25:11] But if you in a way develop the discipline to say no, that can be helpful in order to be productive in other areas, right? You cannot overload yourself. Nobody will benefit from that.

[00:25:22] William Sarni: Right? And I also believe that you. You tend to find other things that show up that will bring you joy. So, you know, it’s not a zero-sum game.

[00:25:35] Yeah.

[00:25:36] Lesson 8:     Be a realistic optimist – to leave the world a better place

[00:25:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. No, well said, well said. Lesson number eight. Be a realistic optimist to leave the world a better place.

[00:25:45] William Sarni: Sure. So that’s sort of a convoluted lesson learned. But I am an optimist. I am, I at least I think I’m realistic in terms of how to get things done. that sort of informs the, just leave the world a better place.

[00:26:01] It’s, you know, why are we here? What are we doing? How do we spend our time? Yeah. Do good things have an impact that is, is very core to what I do and how I spend my time and who I spend my time with and so on. It’s very important to me.

[00:26:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: In addition to your, your efforts when it comes to water issues, and I put it in very broad terms, are there any other.

[00:26:27] Issues, topics, you are involved with directly or, or from time to time?

[00:26:34] William Sarni: So yes, I mean, you know, education, awareness of, you know, environmental and social issues. That’s important to me. You know, certainly the intersection of water issues and climate, Not that every water issues climate issue, but where they intersect, it’s particularly acute.

[00:26:52] I, would say food, you know, agriculture, climate change, water, and I, I would say increasingly the social impacts. that we’re seeing from climate change and a lack of water or, you know, lack of access to safe drink of water.

[00:27:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: And, and what do you mean with social impact in, in that regard?

[00:27:14] William Sarni: Yeah. knows, in the American West, we, we talk about scarcity a lot. You know, we’re in a, you know, permanent drought and new normal you know, purification. That is just one piece of the puzzle. There is a whole set of issues in the world of water around a lack of access. So, in Arizona, for example, the Navajo Nation doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. You know, that’s a social issue. Central Valley, California doesn’t have. Oh, significant portion of the population doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. You know, we see it in Flint, we see it in Jackson, Mississippi.

[00:27:53] So, you know, that’s the social side of it that is, certainly related to, you know, what we’re seeing with the impacts of climate change on the American West, for example, but also a lack of investment in infrastructure, aging infrastructure and public policy that’s not kept up with reality. So that’s how I frame, you know, the social dimension of, of water.

[00:28:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: It feels sometimes that people let’s say in our generation, whatever it is, we, it’ll, it’ll be fine in our lifetime, you know, yes there’s a water shortage, but eh, for the next 30, 50 years, we can probably have enough water.

[00:28:36] But if you think about the next generation and indeed grandchildren, Their children and their grandchildren. That is of course, a very important element as well that we need to manage today for generations that are coming up over the next 100, maybe 200 years.

[00:28:56] William Sarni: Right. Completely agree with you. You know, it, it, again, I keep doubling back on some of the earlier things, but Yeah.

[00:29:02] Let’s do good things. Think about how do you make the world a better place while you’re around?

[00:29:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah.

[00:29:07] William Sarni: You know, what sort of impact you I can go off on a tangent here, but this is why I, I really push back on using the word drought because if the layperson hears the word drought, it’s, well, okay, if it rains, then everything’s okay.

[00:29:18] Well, not really, you know, we’re not, we’re not dealing with a historical drought. We’re really dealing, dealing with sort of a fundamental shift in the climate and everything that that impacts. Yeah. Long term thinking is a good thing.

[00:29:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah,

[00:29:35] Lesson 9:     Relationships and quality of work matters

[00:29:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: Good point. Lesson number nine, Relationships and quality of work matters.

[00:29:41] William Sarni: that actually came from a couple of people. I believe I always knew that relationships mattered. It, it, you know, ties back to growing up in Jackson Heights and, and you know, we were talking about you know, our, our mutual friend John and

[00:29:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: John Hoholick.

[00:29:59] William Sarni: John Hoholick. You know, relationships matter.

[00:30:02] Well, I will tell you, I’ve learned a lot from John on that topic. It’s, it’s a, you know, a very constant. And a grateful, reminder that yeah, relationships matter. It, it’s, it’s about those relationships. So, it’s something I, I believe I’ve always had, but, you know, having John as a friend and a, and a colleague in the world of water has punched it up again for me.

[00:30:30] quality of work. That I learned in my first job at Geraghty & Miller Quality mattered. And I learned how to write, not in college, but I learned when I got a job at Geraghty & Miller and I, I talked to my former Geraghty & Miller colleagues once a month. And we always, you know, recall back the fact that the company had an editor on staff and if we were writing a report, Burt Weinstein would mark up your draft with a red pen and throw it on your desk and it would be one more time.

[00:31:08] And it was usually not one more time. It was multiple times, but you know. Learning that quality mattered, you know, how you pick your words and paying attention to the technical details and, and really coming up with finding and conclusions that honored the data was important. So fortunate was very early on,

[00:31:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: it’s, it’s perhaps a little academic to ask it this way, but is it indeed in combination relationships and quality of work?

[00:31:35] Or is it relationships? And on one hand that’s important and quality of work. Someone may do a great job, but perhaps it’s not a great relationship.

[00:31:45] William Sarni: They are related. I, I, I believe that’s a, that’s a really good point. it, it’s the, you know, if you’re thoughtful and do the best you can. With a person or group of people, It, it creates a quality relationship you know, hopefully a lasting relationship, value to, to all parties.

[00:32:07] So yeah, there’s definitely, It’s a Venn diagram. Definitely.

[00:32:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Isn’t it interesting? I assume you have the same, know, we have, let’s say friendships between people that have lasted. Over decades. Yes. And even if that person is no longer your neighbor or you know, no longer in the same school, whatever, that relationship is still there.

[00:32:28] I can think of people that I met 40 years ago, and I still consider them dear friends. I don’t talk to them frequently or on a regular basis. But once we do, we’re back to where we were.

[00:32:41] William Sarni: And that’s so true. Yeah. For better or for worse, we feel 15 again, you know. But you’re Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

[00:32:49] It, you, you hold onto those relationships in a, in a very different way.

[00:32:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. And of course, negative experiences can stick with you as well. When you get mistreated by someone, and I say it nicely that may be something you don’t forget either.

[00:33:08] William Sarni: Oh, well, that’s definitely true. That’s an off-camera conversation.

[00:33:13] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yes, our next recording. Yes. Sounds good.

[00:33:17] Lesson 10:    Quotes to live by…

[00:33:17] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. lesson number 10. Well, here we are, lesson number 10, and you’ve given several quotes and I, I think they’re all interesting and I’ll read them out and I’ll let you

[00:33:27] William Sarni: Sure

[00:33:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: give the analysis. The first quote is Work hard. Stay foolish. The second quote, the future is here, just not evenly distributed.

[00:33:39] The third one, dream as if you live forever. Live as if you’ll die today. Wow. Your thoughts?

[00:33:49] William Sarni: So, I, yeah, I, I don’t know if you’d notice in my email title blocks, but I use two of and. I really do love quotes as a way to, you know, sort of sharpen the mind and, and get people’s attention.

[00:34:03] start with the futures here, just not evenly distributed. That’s William Gibson, who’s a science fiction author. He created the cyber punk genre of science fiction. And I love that and I, I use it almost in every presentation because it describes innovation in the water sector in that it’s lumpy.

[00:34:24] There are some technologies that are really advanced being adopted by utilities in the private sector or government agencies that are 21st century, but they’re not widely adopted. So, the future’s here. Let’s not sort of wait for something to happen. Let’s go find it and then let’s scale it. And then dream is if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

[00:34:51] James Dean, the actor that’s in my personal email, and I like that it’s, you know, we talked about being an optimist and, and you know, Doing what we do to have a positive impact. That’s really important that, that moves you forward. But also, you know, have a focus that, you know, every day’s a gift. And being mindful of that with that tension of the, the long view is important.

[00:35:18] And then Richard Brandt, who wrote the Whole Earth Catalog, and I’m reading his biography right now. Work hard, stay foolish. good. It, it ties back to that, you know, depression, era work ethic. Just work hard, but also be foolish, you know, take chances, Which also tied into, you know, if I had to go back to a younger version of me, it would be, yeah, be more foolish, take more chances, be more entrepreneurial, take some risks.

[00:35:45] So I, I, I love those three quote.

[00:35:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, I think they’re all, they’re all good. And I’m glad you shared all three of them Right. For lesson number 10, but that’s, that’s very powerful. It’s, it’s truly amazing. When I think about your background, Will, and, I have been doing obviously a bit of research, what you’re doing and consistently is so relevant.

[00:36:09] To the whole world. And I want to mention that because it’s not just for your neighborhood or your state. This is something and you do, of course, worldwide work related to water issues. Extremely, extremely important. And the lessons that you have learned in your life and in your career and, and having said that, I have to add another question.

[00:36:33] Of course. Is there a lesson Will that you have unlearned in your life and in your career?

[00:36:42] William Sarni: So, the short answer is yes, going in reverse. Well, I know that there’s at least one. I’ll mention the one that came to mind and, and you actually touched on that a little bit. that it’s that work hard, that depression era work ethic.

[00:36:54] you know, how do you ensure that you, you have time for yourself, the time to do things that are not maybe directly related to, you work how you spent in your professional time. So that’s something that I have gotten in recent years in terms of, yes, work hard, but work smarter. And working smarter means having time to, you recharge your batteries, to be creative, to do things that are far afield.

[00:37:26] We, you know, we talked about rowing. You know, that was transformative for me, because you can’t think of anything else when you’re out on a little boat, right? Or else you flip the boat. So, that’s a healthy exercise. So, it’s. having a more sophisticated and thoughtful view of just work hard.

[00:37:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. Very, very thoughtful. Very, very helpful. I think for many because we are a little bit sometimes in a race and, look, we both understand for many people, many families, it’s hard work and we’re dealing with inflation and we’re dealing with all kinds of pressure taking care of our families.

[00:38:06] So it’s, it’s important to be able to take a break and put things in perspective and at the same time, I almost want to say it’s easier said than done for many people. Oh, right? I mean,

[00:38:18] William Sarni: yeah. Yes.

[00:38:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: That, that’s the reality as well. But to repeat that lesson, because that’s part of the lessons that you have learned, and I must admit, I have learned very, very important, and I, I really want to thank you for, for sharing your wisdoms with us.

[00:38:34] thank you for being part. Our podcast, 10 Lessons Learned. will make a few closing comments and, and Will, before I do, is there anything else you want to share? You don’t have to, but I don’t want to cut you off.

[00:38:49] William Sarni: Well, I, I want to thank you for the opportunity because, you were a catalyst to help me think.

[00:38:54] About what’s important, you know, how did I wind up here and what do I believe? So, thank you for yeah, it was very helpful.

[00:39:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: I feel humbled when you say that because if, if I make Will Sarni think

[00:39:12] William Sarni: well, it, you know, it might be the first time in my entire life that I, I, I’ve been thinking, but You got me really doing some soul searching and, and that’s really important.

[00:39:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, I, I thank you for that. And, and that’s of course what we’re going to share with our global audience. closing, you have been listening to the International Program, 10 Lessons Learned. This program is produced by Robert Hossary, and as always, we are supported by the Professional Development Forum.

[00:39:41] Our guests today Will Sarni a globally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation. Sharing his 10 lessons learned and to our audience, Don’t forget to leave us a review or a comment. You can also email us at podcast@10lessonslearned.com. That is podcast number ten one zero lessons learned.com.

[00:40:04] I hope you will subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser, lesson by lesson. Thank you and stay safe.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 

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