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Airbnb’s Musa Tariq on Finding Your Personal North Star

Musa Tariq. What can I say about him that most of you don’t already know? He’s wicked smart, super creative and incredibly thoughtful in his role and as a mentor to many. Oh, yes - and he wears awesome shoes as evidenced by the countless tweets and posts on his fire kicks from the Brandweek mainstage. I must say, I was entirely jealous as the moderator wearing my evidently unremarkable heels. But thankfully, he wasn’t there to talk about shoes. He was there to share some candid and personal career advice with the audience.

As many of you heard in his last episode of CMO Moves in June 2018, Musa was on a mission to find his personal North Star, leaving Ford as the youngest Chief Brand Officer ever. At that moment, we talked about his search process and what he was looking for in his next role. Six months after leaving Ford, he announced his new role as Head of Marketing, Airbnb Experiences – and he was home.

In this episode, we dive into his inspiring career journey, what he learned from his prior roles (at Burberry, Nike, Apple and Ford) that refined his thinking and the advice he has to marketers everywhere about finding their own personal North Star. It was my honor and privilege to have this conversation with him at Brandweek, as much as it is to be able to share that mind-moving experience with you now on CMO Moves.

Heard on This Episode: Musa's Personal Playbook

Find Your Story

"The number one question that people ask in an interview is the number one question you prepare least for, which is 'tell me about yourself.' … We'll Google that company, the person interviewing us – we'll learn everything about them – but we'll never take a minute to take a piece of paper and talk about the story I want to tell. Every single one of us can tell a story, but are you hitting on the points that matter to you? For me, I started thinking about every single moment in my life as a chapter. It sounds incredibly strategic, it genuinely is, and I encourage you to do the same thing."

Do Something You Love

"A bit of advice I was given when I was about 20 years old that I've stayed very true to was: do something you love in life and you'll do well in it. And that to me was really important because I think given how often we go to work, given how many hours we spend there, fundamentally, if you enjoy what you're doing, it doesn't seem like work and you actually do better. It's something that I look for in every single person on my team. If they're really enjoying themselves, they do the best work."

Know What You're Working Towards

"I think that so many of us find ourselves in situations where we know we’re at amazing companies, people keep telling us we've got amazing jobs – but we feel frustrated. The way I now look at this is that every single day I go into work, I think: does being here another day get me closer to my North Star? And as long as that is the case, I will be there. And that makes so much other stuff disappear, the politics, the bureaucracy… these things will come and go. But in the end, you have a North Star and you try and get to it."

Write Out Your Plan

"How many of you have put down on a blank piece of paper the plan for your life? The advice I have for everyone is to take that time. … sit down with a piece of paper and write down a plan for your life. And I tell you something, it is so hard. You will put it off for as long as you can because it's easy to put it off. But start putting that plan into place, just like you would a plan for work. And people will use different methods – mine's just literally a list of things that are important to me. It has my North Star written on it, things that I value and that’s it – those things really help guide me."

Know That It’s OK to be OK

"We're either good or bad – we never feel like it's okay to be okay. The biggest issue that people on my team or people I've mentored before talk to me about is their review at the end of the year. I ask ‘how was it?’ And they're like, ‘oh, it wasn't great.’ They talk me through it and I say okay, it wasn't necessarily that you blew away everyone, got five-star ratings and exceeded all expectations – but guess what? You did okay. You can't push yourself to be exceeding expectations every year. It is okay to have an okay year and it's okay to feel that life is hard and it's okay for us to celebrate other people feeling that life is hard as well."

Keep Creating

"There are many issues with social media, but the best thing that it's done is allowed people to have a sense of and the opportunity to be creative. If you look at the creative talent on TikTok for example, it is phenomenal. I hope that people feel like they can continue to create because that's the biggest challenge in the education system – you stop creating… you go into one route and that's it… But I really hope people continue to be creative and I think that we need that creativity to come through into our industry."

Continue to Shape Our Industry

"Our industry excites me because I think it’s in complete flux right now. If you ask anyone in marketing – anyone in brand or on the agency side – how they're structured, what their role is, what the role of marketing is, what the role of advertising is – every single person will give you a different answer, and that's okay. But it's really hard… Marketing, communications, and the agency and creative worlds have become so complex. We are all figuring it out, but I think that everyone has a say in that and everyone has a chance to shape what that looks like."

Stop Saying You’re Busy

"Two years ago, I stopped using the word busy. People always ask, ‘hey, how are you?’ And I used to say busy and I realized it was such a shitty answer because it was just a way of just ending a conversation quickly. Who isn't busy in the world? And to think I used to say busy before I had a child is crazy. Now, I really understand what busy means… But everyone can say that and I realized it was closing conversations."

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