181: How to Hone Your Strengths at a Job You Love with Scott Barlow

By July 19, 2017Podcasts

 

 

Fellow careers podcaster Scott Barlow shares how to zero in on the essential things we need at work and bring our strengths to bear there.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 6 critical things people need from their work
  2. Why strengths differ from skills–and why that matters.
  3. How identifying your “anti-strengths” can skyrocket your self-awareness

About Scott

Scott Anthony Barlow is the Founder of Happen to Your Career, a company that helps you stop doing work that doesn’t fit, figuring out what does and then teaching you to make it happen! He has been helping people develop their careers and businesses for over 10 years as a Human Resources Leader, Business Development Expert, and Career Coach. With over 2000 interviews worth of experience from his HR career, Scott interviews others telling their story of finding work they love on the Happen to Your Career Podcast.  Scott and his wife Alyssa have 3 children and live in Moses Lake, Washington.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Scott Barlow Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Scott, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Scott Barlow
Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis
You know I got a real kick out of reading about you and your interest in Parkour which makes me think of The Office. Tell me your story with Parkour.

Scott Barlow
First of all I’m wondering like is that a thing? Why does everybody, including myself, when you hear Parkour, need to be like Parkour?!

Pete Mockaitis
It’s the way they said it in The Office episode.

Scott Barlow
That might be it because like all over America, when I tell people these days, I say, “I do Parkour,” and they’re like, “Parkour!” I think it’s an obligation and I don’t quite understand it but it’s kind of awesome as it turns out, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it feels good like if you said, “I enjoy sailing.” No one goes, “Sailing!”

Scott Barlow
Yeah, sailing! Yeah, tacos! Or whatever, yeah. Exactly. So Parkour and me, it’s kind of been a manifestation. Like I used to be, when I was growing up, I used to be like a skateboarder and in-line skater, like people you see on half-pipes and stuff, so, yeah, it was a ton of fun. But then I got older and stopped doing all of that and really stopped working out for a period of time.

And then as I ended up staring to run and lost 50 pounds and everything like that, and after I could move around again and like chase my kids around and everything, it’s like, “Oh, well, I’d love to do something else that feels awesome like, you know, rolling up and down a half-pipe.” And Parkour was one of those things that I found that was kind of easy and fun and natural and I was sort of good at it already from having some of the motions, and I’ve just had a ton of fun with it over the last couple of years. And it never feels like a workout even though it’s incredibly hard.

Pete Mockaitis
Now where do you go about Parkouring? What’s sorts of things are you jumping off of?

Scott Barlow
Anything I can find that isn’t like three stories tall or anything. We’re in Moses Lake, Washington, my wife and I live in Moses Lake, Washington. We’ve got three little kids here, and it just turns out there happens to be a gym that is owned by somebody over in Seattle, which is much more, I don’t know, larger place, much more sensible place to run something that does Parkour.

Anyhow, they have a smaller gym over here and they have a training facility inside that gym, so it just happened to be there at the same time as I was having some interests, and I was like, “Oh, my goodness, I have to do this.”

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. It’s so good, and so you happen to be there. And speaking of things happening.

Scott Barlow
Yes, speaking of things happening.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got a fun brand happened to your career. Can you tell us the story behind the name and what it’s all about?

Scott Barlow
Yeah, Happen To Your Career, you know, really, for me, it came from things happening to me for a period of time. When I was going to college, Eastern Washington University, state school in Washington State, I was going through, and I was going into the business. First of all, I flipped around. I must’ve changed majors like eight, nine times and whatever else, and it was terrible. I didn’t have a clue what it was that I wanted to do or be or anything else.

But then, eventually, I found a business program and I started looking at, well, I have to have an internship in the business program. So what am I going to do about that? Because I don’t want just any internship. If I’m going to do something like I don’t want to go get coffee and donuts for somebody or whatever else. And just be careful what you wish for because I ended up coming home with a small business.

And I ran a painting business and it was actually a franchise. I purchased a franchise of a painting company and they ended up teaching me a whole bunch about how to not just accept your situation. So that initial thought of, “Hey, I just don’t want to do what everybody else is doing,” and it’s probably controllable. I don’t have to just go accept any internship.

Later on, when I went to my first “professional job” and had a terrible time and found myself driving to work in a multi-hour commute and having stomach pains and all the things that go along with it. I think I gained like, yeah, between 50 and 60 pounds, something along those lines. And it was a terrible, terrible fit.

They eventually fired me, after I told my boss that maybe this isn’t such a good fit, and apparently he thought the same thing. So three weeks after that he canned me and it was the best possible thing that ever happened to me because it forced me to really take matters into my own hands and go and get something that I was actually excited about and learn the process of how to go through and do that.

So I ended up taking all of the skillsets that I’ve learned running a business and marketing a small business and then applying that into job search. And then I’ve had this continual fascination, after I got fired and hated that job, and really swore never to be in the same situation again. I didn’t want to waste my time doing something that I didn’t love to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. There you go. So you happened into it. And so now, happen to your career, you help folks who are thinking about career transitions and what they really want to be doing and that kind of thing.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. When we came around and wanted to start a company again, my wife and I then, we realized that we’re already helping people that are in that type of position. I was already going to coffee with people and meeting with them and helping them make these really big job changes, from what they were doing right now and weren’t that excited about and weren’t loving, into other careers that really actually fit their strengths and what out of their lives, and it’s like, “Oh, my goodness, why aren’t we doing this as a business?” And that’s where we started and that’s who we are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. So, now, I love that we’re able to just skim the crème off from the top in terms of all the work you’ve done with so many people. I’d love it if you could begin sharing some of the, I guess, most frequently occurring and strongest insights that you see that prevents folks from loving their work.

Scott Barlow
Oh, my goodness. I think that really it comes down to a few things. First of all, there’s a number of things that people don’t realize that they have to have in their work in order to have some level of happiness. And, really, we’ve kind of broken it down into six different areas. Some of those are a little bit obvious like if you don’t receive pay that you feel is fair, if you don’t feel like your compensated fairly, then that acts as a barrier between you and any measure of happiness. And it doesn’t necessarily so much the number, it matters more on, “Do you feel it’s fair and do you agree with that?” Etcetera, etcetera.

However, there’s other things that people don’t realize like, for example, how much say in how the work gets done that you get. Like how much decision-making power do you get in how the work actually gets done? That is actually, believe it or not, linked to tons and tons of different studies on negative health effects and even cancer in a variety of different ways. It’s just absolutely absurd. And yet we still do that. We still don’t give people that latitude in most organizations today, right?

No, you look around and what happens is much, much closer to micromanagement versus, on the other side of that, giving people the ultimate freedom to make decisions about how the work is getting accomplished.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. So those would be decisions like what time I do it, what sequence I do it, from other priorities where I do it, who I collaborate with, what tools or approaches I use to get it done.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. All those are incredibly important. And if you really think about it, is there anybody that you know of that is excited for micromanagement which is, again, the other end of the spectrum? I haven’t met them yet.

Pete Mockaitis
I haven’t, certainly. I think some people will appreciate the certainty and stability and clarity associated of, “This is what is expected of me so I will go forth and do that,” but at the same time if they’re upping your business it’s just never fun.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, absolutely. So the other four pieces of that, for example, a couple of other pieces of that, that everybody needs, you do need that clarity. You need the clarity in what’s expected of you. You need to be able to understand how it is that you’re doing, and have also that flexibility or your decision-making power in how the work gets done. Ultimately, when you look at those pieces, that’s what can sprout into what most people would call engaging work and even has the potential to be engaging work. And that happens to be one of those categories – those pieces that make up engaging work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Now you mentioned six things, and so I’m counting along at home. So we’ve got the money, we got the clarity, we got the autonomy. Am I counting right? What else have we got?

Scott Barlow
So, here, let’s break them down into first four categories that are really things that we all need and it’s been proven again and again and again through many different studies, or at least that’s how we came to the conclusion of how work is. So thing number one is engaging work or work that has the potential to be engaging is probably a more accurate way to look at it, and that is those things that we just mentioned, that is your ability to decide how the work gets done, that is your chance to have work that is giving you good clarity and good feedback on what is needed and expectations, etcetera, etcetera.

And then the next category happens to be moving into work that doesn’t interfere with your basic needs. Think about it this way. If you’ve got a very long commute, and you’re going two hours every single day, for nearly everybody that’s going to be bad especially if it’s in car and stuck in traffic. It feels like you’re not making any progress, etcetera, etcetera, so that’s not going to be good for you at all.

So you’ve got a number of different types of basic needs that everybody must have, and there’s lots of different things that fall into that category. Fair pay is one of those things that falls into that category. And if you take a job as is, and what’s absurd here is only 13% of the population actually negotiates when they’re coming into a role, but if you take a job as is you’re statistically more likely to be disgruntled with it over a long period of time too. So there’s that second category of, “Hey, is it fulfilling your basic need?” Not like food, water and shelter, but other basic needs that are more difficult to satisfy that we often justify when we’re taking role to.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Scott Barlow
So then the other two areas really fall into, “Do you have a supportive boss and co-workers?” And you can start to imagine how much of a big deal that is especially when you look at the other category of engaging work. Because unless you have a supportive boss and co-workers you’re probably not going to have that ability to choose how the work gets done, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Scott Barlow
So supportive boss and co-workers, and yet nobody is screaming for that. Very, very people are actually screaming for that as well. Like most of us go in and we take our one or two meetings, whatever the interview is, with a great company, it might be three hours that you’re spending with somebody or four hours that you’re spending with somebody, and then you’re making the decision where you’re going to spend years of your life at.

And, instead, you can go in and you can actually talk to other people that are not put in front of you would be one way to be able to go about that. But third category is, “Do you have a supportive boss and co-workers?”

So your last category is, “Are you helping people and do see directly how you’re helping people?” Because everybody thinks they need to help people, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Scott Barlow
Right. Sure. And as it turns out that’s actually a basic human need. And it’s not necessarily helping people like, “Am I a doctor? Am I a teacher? Am I supporting a social cause?” or something along those lines. But what’s more important is, “Do you see the direct connection?” So those are the things that everybody needs.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Oh, keep going. Keep going.

Scott Barlow
Well, the other two are a little bit more difficult. Actually a lot of bit more difficult, and that’s, “Are you doing work that utilizes your strengths?” particularly what we call signature strengths. And then, “Are you doing work that fits your values and essentially what you place value on the most?”

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. And so can you give me an example of fit for values and misfit for values?

Scott Barlow
Yeah, absolutely. So here’s a great example. We were working with a guy named Eric, and Eric is a really talented, very caring engineer. He was working for a company that was in the oil and gas industry. As it turns out, part of what makes Eric so caring is the fact that he’s just incredibly empathetic. And Eric is the type of guy who gives actually about 30% of everything that he brings in to several different charities that he is really, yeah, really, really cool, right?

He cares way more about people than the average person. He cares way more about people than, I don’t know, probably me. And because of that he was very, very interested in supporting the environment at the same time. So he works for this oil and gas company, really where he wanted to be, and really where he was looking at like the solar industry. Everything that he was doing and everything that he was supporting, even though he felt pretty good about some of the other areas of the job, it was going against everything in him. So let’s throw out the cliché term square peg-round hole, right?

And then on top of that it wasn’t particularly great environment at the same time for what he wanted. He was looking much more for a very family-driven environment because he’s this really particularly empathetic and caring individual, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Scott Barlow
So total misfit.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s very clear. Thank you. All right. So you lined it up and I love it. I know how a good categorization takes a long time to synthesize and come to so I imagine you’ve been through many formulations of that, and it makes sense. It seems to add up for sure. So that’s kind of like the recipe or essential ingredients to loving work. So, I guess, maybe the listeners are mentally scoring their current role on some of those dimensions.

And so, I guess, other than doing a zero to ten evaluation on each of these criteria, what have you observed for people that they get a little bit of key indicators like early warning system, canary in the coal mine kind of articulations or gut vibes people have that say, “Maybe it’s time for a change”? Like what are those indicators you see?

Scott Barlow
You know, you mentioned gut vibes, and I think that that is the biggest type of indicator right there where you’re continually having lots and lots of stress and you don’t even necessarily know and can’t attribute to what the stress is caused by. One of the really interesting things that we find is that when people are working in their strengths, like we mentioned strengths as one of the things that people need to be able to do.

You need to be able to work in areas that essentially utilize your potential in the things that you’re great at. And I’m not just talking about skills. I’m talking about what we call signature strengths which is the unique combination of your predispositions, the way that you’re wired, your experiences, your skills, essentially all the things that make you you, right?

And when you’re working in areas and spending your time in ways that leverage those pieces of you, you find that you have a much different tolerance level for stress. Yeah, absolutely. Totally makes sense, right? Gallup did this one study where they have like 7.8 million pieces of data and the end result of the study is that, “Hey, when you work in your strengths you’re less stressed.” And people are like, “Yeah, it didn’t really need 7.8 million pieces of data to figure that one out.”

But it’s very, very true. The part that people don’t realize is part of the reason that that is caused is you look a little bit under the surface and start to realize that many of those people that are less stressed are actually in really incredibly demanding jobs too. Jobs that are stretching them, jobs that have high levels of authority and responsibility. So you start to wonder, “What on earth is going on here? Like how do you match these on the outside what should be really very stressful jobs with people that aren’t experiencing stress?”

And what you start to realize is that when you’re working in your strengths it is expanding your capability to handle different types and expanding your tolerance level to handle different types of growth and stress. It’s almost like if I were to assign you a bucket. If you’re not working in your strengths you get a teeny tiny bucket. And when that thing fills up with stress it overflows, and it overflows into anxiety and eventually burnout, right?

And if you’re working in your strengths, particularly your signature strengths, then you get a big bucket, a big old honking bucket, and it feels up with the same amount of stress and you don’t even notice it. It’s not a big deal at all. So it not only expands your capability to be able to handle stress and tolerate different types of stress but it also expands the rate at which you can grow as a person which is the really cool component out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is cool. And I think that is such a great descriptor of that situation because I’ve had days where I had 11 one-hour coaching sessions in a day, and it’s happened a few times. And I wasn’t like, “Ahh, I’m going nuts. I’m so stressed.” But in a way it was kind of an exhilarating thrill.

It was funny. I remember on one of those days someone tried to cancel, and I was like, “Heck, no, we’re going for the record today.”

Scott Barlow
We are totally doing this.

Pete Mockaitis
“Can we backfill this slot somehow?” Whereas if I had a day, if I was doing maybe even four hours of preparing things for my accountant and taxes it feels stressful.

Scott Barlow
“Hold on, I think I fell asleep, sorry.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Aargghh.”

Scott Barlow
Yeah. And it does. And here’s the thing though, some people actually love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Scott Barlow
And I mean it can’t just be the same type of monotonous work. Nobody really absolutely loves the same type of monotonous work in everything. But there are people that love different types of problems like based on what we happen to be great at, we all enjoy solving different types of problems and what is interesting to us changes on a per person.

Like I used to work in HR, one of the things that I did was – HR, that’s like the place where policies go to die and, I don’t know, people will get fired and like that’s what people think of hiring/firing, HR, right? But one of the things that I did in HR that was really pretty much a lot of fun for me was I actually got to create different types of not just policies but compensation and ensure that people are getting paid not just fairly but in ways that they were really very excited about too, and link up compensation to what they thought was going to be good for them. And that is something that would bore somebody else silly. Like they might be asleep on that one.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s so good. Okay, cool. So we talked about strengths, and we talked StrengthsFinder here before and you’re a user of the tool. So can you maybe share, in addition to using the StrengthsFinder assessment, what are some go-to methodologies for zeroing in on, would say, signature strengths, that’s the key phrase you used?

Scott Barlow
Yeah, absolutely. So the interesting thing is, first of all, strengths are not skills. Most people, when I say strengths, they automatically go to skills, it’s like, “Well, I’m really good at Excel.” Like, Excel is not a strength. Trust me that is not a strength. However, the things that might make you great, if you dig two, three, four layers underneath the surface, the things that might make you predispose to learn Excel particularly well, or to respond to Excel really well where somebody else might have a hard time with it, those are what we’re looking for that are your strengths.

So it’s those things that are essentially underneath the surface. And the way that you find those is by looking for patterns. And we’ve got a whole team of coaches, and actually our coaches, one of the things that 100% of them are all amazing at, they’ll have unique strengths. But one of the things that we needed in coaches, because we often help identify their strengths, is being able to see patterns and connect the dots where other people cannot do that, because that’s what you’re looking for when you’re digging through four, five layers deep underneath the surface.

So one thing that I love, just a really quick easy exercise to get you started without having to go – I mean, StrengthsFinder is an awesome tool. We use that with our clients and students constantly. But let’s say that you just already have done that and don’t quite understand it, or let’s say that you don’t want to pay the 25 bucks, whatever it is, for StrengthsFinder these days. You can just pull out a piece of paper. To get you started, you can pull out a piece of paper, and we call this the past jobs exercise. And I like it because people always get something out of it and it’s really easy to do, and you can do it any place.

So if you pull out a piece of paper and what I want you to do is just, in chronological order, list all the jobs that are all the jobs that you’ve had in the past, or projects, or volunteer work, whatever it might be. And then leave a little space in between each one and then you can go through and be able to say, “Okay, what was it in this job that I liked the most?” Now some people are like, “I hated that job.” Whatever it is, the one or two even little things that you liked the very most, that you enjoyed the most, or what are those things that you found that you were better than average at.

Now, the interesting thing that happens when people go through and do this for every single one is they start to observe patterns really quickly. Now those patterns are not necessarily your strengths but often those patterns give you clues as to where to begin digging for your strengths.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so good. I’m thinking about my first career out of college was strategy consulting at Bain & Company, and it’s interesting. But the things I really did love the most is you’re speaking about this and I really do see coming through now in my work was, well, one, I loved recruiting. And so people would often whine like, “Oh, man, I got a lot of work to do on my client, and I also got to go visit this campus to recruit.” I was like, “Can I do it for you? Look, I don’t think we can trade per se but I can fill in for you.”

And so I loved recruiting in terms of meeting a whole lot of people, telling them something I thought was cool. Bain was really cool so I enjoyed telling them, and I also loved interviewing them because we did a case interview format of which I still coach people on today, in terms of we’re solving a problem together, we’re collaborating, and so that’s so fun.

And then I also remember there were times, like I Excel, but I think what I really do love the most are those sort of heart-thumping, for me, these thrilling moments where it’s almost like a movie or TV series like we’re about to get a huge reveal. Totally. So my wife and I were looking at buying a home here and so there’s one that seem pretty good, it’s like, “You know, we like this place. Okay, this can maybe work here.” And so I said, “Well, I don’t know if we’ll really know until we look at the spreadsheet.”

And so when I put all those numbers in together, that I like laughed out loud in delight, and it’s like, “Aha, there’s the reveal. Like this place is absolutely going to make some great sense on the financial side of things.” And it’s the thrill of discovery that gets me going there, and that’s totally carries over here now into podcasting. As you are revealing things that you’ve learned working with so many clients, I’m thrilled to know it, I was like, “What was it, Scott? What are the keys? What are the sequence? Lay it on me. Don’t stop.”

Scott Barlow
I love it. Once you start looking at it that way then you can totally see how it works. Now here’s another interesting thing too. Since you mentioned it and alluded to it, one of my favorite questions to ask people, and good way to think about it too, are, “What are those areas of your past or past jobs that you kept gravitating to even though they weren’t a part of your job?” Like, for you, in the case of recruiting. And maybe that’s not the thing itself but there’s a reason that you kept gravitating towards it even though you’re really probably not supposed to be doing necessarily in some cases, but what are those things?

Like, for you it was recruiting and it sounds like a few other areas too, and, for me, in the past, it’s been I found excuses to create different types of like media and content. I was an HR manager and I was doing video editing in my office. It wasn’t, yeah, something the average HR manager would be doing, right? And, lo and behold, now I run a business where we put out lots of content into the world and that turns out was an interest. But what are those other pieces where you keep finding yourself doing again and again?

I remember this one guy that used to work with me at a past job. This probably have been like eight or ten years ago, something along those lines. But I was the HR guy so everybody would come to me and they’d talk about people’s good performance, bad performance, etcetera, etcetera.

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, this guy sucks.”

Scott Barlow
“Oh, he sucks so bad.” So they were so irritated with him because they kept finding him instead of doing what they thought he was supposed to be doing. He kept going and talking and having all these really great conversations with people. And it turns out this guy was just phenomenal at building relationships but he was not in a job where he’s asked to build relationships at all. Everybody loved this guy and that’s why he’s still working there because he’s terrible at his job but he was just phenomenal at building relationships so everybody loved him and they couldn’t fire the poor guy because everybody loved him.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’m reminded of in the good old days we would have a New Year’s Eve party, and each year it got be a bash at times of like a hundred people during those couple of years. I remember my roommate, James, would always spend so much time on the playlist and we would get a little irritated, like, “Dude, there’s so much stuff that needs to be cleaned and moved and prepared, and you’re spending like yet another hour on the playlist.” I tell you it was a darn good playlist, got people moving that’s for sure. He did a heck of a job. And so that’s classic there in terms of everybody’s getting irritated at you for what you’re pursuing outside of what…

Scott Barlow
Which is another sign. That’s totally another sign. I remember this other guy, he was a client a couple of years ago, and so he grew up and he was what most people refer to as OCD. So he walked into a room and like he wouldn’t be able to do his work or wouldn’t be able to get something else accomplished until he put the lamp in the right place, right? Yeah.

So I think, after working with him, I don’t think it was so much OCD as much as it was he had this insane need and insane desire to be able to put things into order. Now, he ended up working with a consulting company and ended up leading a decent sized team in a consulting company, and he would, every single day, the team just loves him because they felt he’s so organized and had all the stuff together and whatever else. But what he would do is, every single day, he would essentially create order out of all this chaos. And he was doing that everywhere in his life.

But up until the point in time where we worked with him, he didn’t realize that that was actually a good thing because his family had joked with him, and his friends had made fun of him, and all kinds of other stuff his entire life so he’d looked at it as like, “This terrible thing about me and I can’t stop it.” But the things that you can’t stop doing it’s two sides of the same coin. We actually call those your anti-strengths. They’re the things that can be perceived as potentially bad if you don’t necessarily leverage them and don’t necessarily understand them. And for him, he had to create order everywhere that he went.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so intriguing, the phrase anti-strengths. I’m now thinking matter and anti-matter and knocking each other, Star Trek flashbacks from my youth. There’s a lot of reminiscing happening today, Scott. Thank you.

Scott Barlow
I know.

Pete Mockaitis
Similarly, that trend for me, in terms of, “I’ve got to discover. I want to get the answer and discover the high-impact thing that makes the difference.” I remember I was with this home search again, I was going to extreme lengths to assess the crime in different neighborhoods and so I had someone pull all of these data from all of these charts and so it’s really have thousands of data points to compare. I had some surprising insights that some neighborhoods are…

Scott Barlow
Really? What was the most surprising?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, okay, I put in Chicago in here. One insight was that the Albany Park neighborhood, which has an okay reputation by people historically, and maybe was a little bit not so great, it has this reputation that was like, “Oh, be careful. It’s a little bit dodgy out there.”

Scott Barlow
“I don’t know.”

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s like, well, in fact, the Albany Park neighborhood has fewer crimes per person than the Lake View or near north neighborhood area of Chicago. So it’s like it surprised everybody including my real estate agent. But, heck, I think that’s great news for homeowners there that people are going to catch on that it’s kind of under-appreciated in some ways. And that was thrilling to have that “aha” moment like, “Tat-ta-dah, and here we go.” The insight that changes everything.

Scott Barlow
Very cool. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, sorry, we’re making it all about me.

Scott Barlow
No, no, this is great.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, this is great. So you talked about identifying patterns by taking a piece of paper, writing down the previous jobs and seeing what are the things you’re gravitating to, things that you did that irritated others because you weren’t doing your main job, things that you loved. That’s a great exercise. Anything else that come to mind when it comes to zeroing in on those superpowers?

Scott Barlow
Well, here’s just a couple other things that we do all the time with our clients, with our students. One of them is actually I’ll tell you how I get this into spreadsheet notes so you can get some discoveries too. So one of the things that we actually do is, after we get all of these different pieces of data, we’ll actually rank them and we’ll even put them on a grid. We got one exercise. It’s not good for everybody but this is kind of a fun one because it helps people get some insights into themselves.

And we’ll actually put it on just a four-part grid where one side of it, one axis, is essentially, “How are you closer to really great at this or you’re closer to average for this particular thing?” Because we’ve had people at this point shake out all of the stuff and go for quantity over quality. Well, let’s say, for example, you did the past jobs exercise we just talked about, so you’ve got all of these cool little insights, right? And several of these patterns here for things that you are good at or things that you’ve enjoyed.

Now that you’ve got all these little data points, you can plot them on this grid which, as we said, one side of that is closer to average at the bottom, and at the top it is you’re really good at.

Pete Mockaitis
The best in the world.

Scott Barlow
The best in the world! And then the other side is, “How much do you enjoy it? Is that a little bit or is it a lot?” So those things that are in the upper-right corner, those things that you really, really enjoy but also happen to be rather good at, those often give you some clues as to where you maybe should focus spending your time, those less stress areas. That’s where you get the bigger bucket, that’s where you find the bigger bucket. It’s hidden in the quadrant.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Scott Barlow
So we had one person, who I absolutely love this and now I use as an example all the time, where she took those, she took every single thing and, as we were helping her evaluate different jobs and opportunities and different industries and sectors and professions and all these sorts of things later on, so she took these all, put them on a spreadsheet and essentially added weighting to every single one of the opportunities she was considering so she could see how they would shake out.

Pete Mockaitis
Respect.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, I know. I know. It was pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Scott, I have so many more questions I wanted to ask but I think maybe we’ll just have to have a repeat episode because I’m watching the clock and I want to make sure we get to hear about some of your favorite things as well.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, here, I’ll give the people one more thing really quick that’ll help pull this all together. Does that sound good?

Pete Mockaitis
Do it.

Scott Barlow
Okay. So easy way to think about this, because everybody always wonders, like, “How on earth do I figure out what it is that I love to do?” Because it’s not just your strengths. It’s also what you value, right? But an easy way to think about this, when you’re going from, “Oh, my goodness, what career should I choose? I know that I don’t want to do what I’m doing now, and I know that I don’t want to be in this situation much longer.”

But a good way to think about that is like a puzzle. My son, I’ve got three little kids, but one of them in particular was putting together a puzzle, and he was having a terrible time. He was grabbing random pieces and he was trying to mash them together and it’s no wonder they weren’t working, right?

So I went in and sat down next to him and showed him, “Hey, here’s the easy way to put together a puzzle, the efficient way and effective way to put together a puzzle.” And everybody knows this. You take all the corner pieces, because there’s not very many of them, and you identify those and then you get all the edge pieces, and once you’ve got the edge pieces you can sort of see that they go together with these colors and assemble those into a frame, right?

And then after you’ve got that frame, the funny thing is, even if you’ve, like at my house, lost all of those pictures on the box and everything else, you can still sort of see what the picture is supposed to be. And people’s careers work the same way. Most people are kind of doing it like Grayson, my son, where they’re like taking pieces from the middle some place and they’re like, “I hate this boss,” and they’re like, “Well, I really want flexibility,” and trying to mash them together, and then they’re still wondering, “Well, where does that get me for my next job, my next role and ultimately career happiness,” right?

So, instead, if you think about it much like a puzzle, and put it together in the same way, it’s so much easier to be able to see what that picture in the middle actually looks like. So you start with your strengths, those are those corner pieces. Once you figure out what are those areas that you are great at or have the potential to be great at, then you can begin layering in those next pieces, those framework around the side, the frame, those edge pieces, which are your values and what you value the most. Because you can’t have everything that you value but you absolutely can focus on what you value the most and run towards that very, very fast.

So once you have all those things, it actually helps you build out that puzzle frame, and once you’ve got that puzzle frame it’s so much easier to see what actually goes in the middle and identify what you should be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Yes. Thank you. And I like your use of metaphor. I’m thinking of an episode of Salute Your Shorts where they did also upside down with no picture. I don’t know how that fits in but maybe…

Scott Barlow
I think it fits.

Pete Mockaitis
“So many of us are doing the puzzle upside down. It’s just great.” Awesome. Well, thank you for that.

[INSERT SPONSOR HERE]

And now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Scott Barlow
Yeah, I’ve got several favorite quotes but one of them is, “I like things to happen and if they don’t happen I like to make them happen.” It’s a Winston Churchill quote.

Pete Mockaitis
Nice.

Scott Barlow
For semi-obvious reasons.
I think my favorite research overall probably would be anything cited in Cialdini’s book Influence.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. So good.

Scott Barlow
It was just every piece of research that he pulled together in that book was masterful because he had an amazing story along with it. So I would pick any one of those out of there and would easily be in my top.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. I want to count that for favorite book too. How about a favorite tool?

Scott Barlow
Favorite tool. I’m going to go with StrengthsFinder just because it enables so many other things. It really does.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice?

Scott Barlow
I’m trying to build the habit of working out four hours a day and it’s really, really hard.

Pete Mockaitis
Four hours each day.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, not like the same thing all day but like a little Parkour and then Standup Paddleboarding. This is something where, as I was building this business, I was working out maybe like 20 minutes a week or something like that. So I’m significantly up from there about an hour and a half most days, some place in there. Sometimes two hours.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. Wow. And how about a favorite nugget? Is there something that when you share it seems to really connect, resonate, get people nodding their heads, clicking the email, re-tweeting?

Scott Barlow
When you are who you are, more often, life is just a lot more fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Scott Barlow
Two places. You can certainly go to the podcast. We have a podcast called HappenToYour Career.com and certainly business of the same name. But the other place I would suggest too, if you want to figure out the puzzle, or if you want to begin identifying your strengths, or if you want a really good framework to get started on identifying what is great for you, then we actually have a free eight-day course where we’d made it free for your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. Thank you.

Scott Barlow
Oh, yeah. So we have conveniently setup HappenToYourCareer.com/Awesome. I feel like I need to say that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good URL.

Scott Barlow
Yeah, it is a good. I thought you might like that. But then you can go over there, it’s a really pretty amazing start to be able to get the answers to all of these things and really identify where you should be spending your time, because I find that’s a much better lens to look at it through. And you get the answers on the other end where we’ve got so many people that emailed us and said, “Hey, do you have a PayPal link? Can I just pay you for this?” It’s been that good. We’ve had about 15,000 people through at this point and people just absolutely love it.

So I would say that would probably be the best way to begin to understand what it is that we do, and just learn a ton about yourself at the exact same time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is perfect. Scott, thank you for bringing the thunder. So much good stuff. I wish you tons of luck with Happen To Your Career and all your adventures.

Scott Barlow
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

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