Broadcaster Ken Coleman guides us in discovering what we’re created to do… and how to see that dream become a reality.
- The litmus test for your passion
- The “nuclear option” for dealing with a difficult teammate or boss
- What to do when you’re burnt out at work but can’t leave just yet
Ken Coleman is host of The Ken Coleman Show and EntreLeadership Podcast, and author of One Question: Life-Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices. Ken is an acclaimed interviewer and broadcaster who equips, encourages and entertains listeners through thought-provoking interviews, helping them grow their businesses, pursue their passions, and move toward a fulfilled purpose. You can follow him on Twitter at @KenColeman, on Instagram at @KenWColeman, and online at kencolemanshow.com or facebook.com/KenColemanHost.
Items Mentioned in this Show:
Ken, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
Thrilled to be on. Thanks for having me, Pete.
Oh, yeah. Well, I’m looking forward to it. It’s so funny, I’ve seen your name many, many times in the iTunes Careers podcast charts, and now you’ve got two of them sort of surrounding me in the Top 10, which is not that rankings matter. It’s quite a mystery how they arrive there. But it’s fun to be talking to you like live, like you’re a real person and here we are chatting.
Yeah. Well, you know what, I am live and I’m a real person so that’s very exciting.
Two for two. So, I’d love it if you could dispel something I’ve been wondering about for quite a while when I see the EntreLeadership podcast logo. What does the word EntreLeadership mean, because I’ve got my own conceptions but I’d like to hear it from you? is it a state of mind, or a precise definition, or a brand? What should I think about this word?
Yeah. Well, Dave Ramsey is the founder of Ramsey Solutions, the Dave Ramsey Show, and the author of that New York Times bestselling book EntreLeadership, and the word comes from Dave’s desire to train internal leaders many, many years ago just as his company was beginning to grow in the 20, 30, 40 team member range, just training his own internal leaders.
And he began to think through, “Now, what does a healthy leader look like in an organization? We certainly want them to have all of the traits of an entrepreneur, but we also want them to be solid leaders as well and not all entrepreneurs are great leaders.” That’s a real combination, if you think, your audience, they can define what an entrepreneur is and then what a leader is.
And so, he smashed two words together, he goes, “I want leaders who are solid and can lead, but also have an entrepreneurial spirit, an entrepreneurial focus,” and so the word EntreLeadership, together, came into a teaching curriculum; internal. Then people started coming in from outside the walls of Ramsey Solutions and, over time, eventually it became a division and a bestselling book. So, that’s what EntreLeadership means. It just means an entrepreneurial leader.
Okay. Understood. I’m with you there. And so, now, you’ve got a newer show here The Ken Coleman Show which is cool. So, it’s all about – as I read from the description and listened to a little bit – folks who sort of feel often stuck in their jobs. Could you give us the broader picture for what that show is all about and a fuller picture for the problem of folks who are stuck in their jobs?
Sure. The Ken Coleman Show is completely focused on helping people discover what it is that they were created to do. And then once they discover that, well, then, “How do you make a plan to see that dream become a reality?” That is, in fact, what’s is about. So, you got people across the spectrum, we have people who call in on the show and they’re not sure what it is that they want to do with their life or what it is that they were created to do. No clues. They just need some sounding board to begin to look internally, and I’ll get to that in a second.
Then we have people who are confused, so they have a good sense of what they may be passionate about but they’re not sure how their talent intersects there. Then you have a large group of people that are stuck, and these are people who are actually good at their job, they have great talent, but they’re doing something that has zero passion.
And so, these all comes from a very simple analogy that a mentor gave to me many, many years ago when I was in my 20s, and the idea that is we all have a sweet spot. And our sweet spot is at the intersection of our greatest talent and greatest passion. So, in other words, we are living and working in our sweet spot when we’re using our top skills, top talents, the things we do best to do the work that we’re passionate about, the work that we love.
Then when you throw values on the backend of that, so I use my great talent to perform my great passion to see the results that I care most about; that’s talent, passion, values. When those three can intersect in that type of a purpose sentence and we live that out, we’re in our sweet spot. And everybody gets that analogy from sports.
If you’ve played any type of sports, whether it be baseball bat or a tennis racket or golf club, when you hit the ball perfectly in the sweet spot of that instrument it’s almost as if you cannot feel the contact of the ball, it’s such a clean crisp hit. And this isn’t just a homespun metaphor. There’s a guy by the name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you cannot spell it, you have to look it up.
But he’s a Romanian psychologist, that’s right, and he’s done 30 years of work on this idea of flow. And what he describes is essentially the same process of striking a ball with a club or racket or a bat, and that sweet spot it just feels as though it’s effortless. It’s almost as if time begins to stand still and disappear. So, there’s great science behind this.
And so, Pete, we’ve thrown this out there, we put it out there three months ago, and the response has been fantastic because people need a sounding board or need help walking through what their top talents are and what their top passions are and how those intersect, so that’s what we do everyday, one caller at a time.
Okay. Very cool. So, there’s so much to dig into there, and so I’d love to get your take on, so I guess, a role that matches your talent, your passion, and your values. And I guess, in a way, this isn’t quite binary in terms of, “This matches my talent. This does not match my talent. This matches my passion. This does not match my passion,” but it’s sort of like a spectrum, or zero to 100% range associated with a given role and how well it’s fitting into that sweet spot.
So, I’d love it if maybe you could orient us a little bit to what does something that’s kind of in your talent or your passion or your values sweet spot look, sound, feel like in practice versus something that is awesomely on track in your talent, your passion, your values? So, I imagine you’ve had many listeners and many callers and many clients and such that you’ve explored and assessed that.
But I think it’d be great if you could paint that picture for listeners so that it’s a little bit of a, “Oh, I thought I was doing okay, but, wow, there’s a whole lot more out there for me.”
Sure. Well, I think the easiest way to describe what you’re asking me to describe is, “What does it actually look like and feel like when I am doing work that I was created to do?” And, again, it comes down to the simple scale of, “Does the work that I’m doing right now, does it fire up my soul?” Because if it doesn’t, now we know, well, there’s reasons why.
But it’s the idea that when you are engaged in work that you truly love, that you’re passionate about, it’s because you’re actually good at it. Very few among us, I’m sure there’s some freaks out there who like to do things they’re terrible at. The only thing I do like that is golf. Like I play golf but I’m terrible but I enjoy the camaraderie.
And so, the reality is most of us don’t want to do anything that we’re not good at. And so, you can test your passion level. So, do you feel yourself alive and excited? Do you get a bit of a rush? Do you feel the juice? You’re just like, “Man, this is so much fun. I enjoy this. I get so much out of this work. I don’t want to stop. I find time just” as I said earlier, “beginning to slip away before I realize it.”
Passion is the great indicator as it relates to work that I love and work that matters to me, that’s values. So, if you don’t feel that and sense that, I can just tell you, it’s the greatest indicator and it’s the simplest indicator, then something is off. And most likely, what we find is, is that you may be good at doing what it is that you’re doing but there’s no intrinsic connection for you, there’s no heart connection, there’s no soul connection.
And so, that’s what you’re always looking for. Now you can flip that and you can see where people get confused and spend decades feeling like they’ve not caught an opportunity. So, this is the flipside of the question you asked me, “What does it look like when you’re not in the sweet spot?” What we see a lot of times is people pursuing something that they are very passionate about.
So, a lot of the emotion and devotion towards some work, but sadly they’re not aware that they don’t have the talent to pull it off. Something is missing and it’s in the talent/skill section. Maybe sometimes it’s just something you need to learn, but you’ll spend so much time pursuing something you’re passionate about but you don’t have the talent to pull off.
I run into this on the show a lot, Pete, with people who have tried so many different entrepreneurial opportunities and it just never click for them. And then when you begin to break it down, you realize they didn’t have the skill to pull of what they were trying to pull off. They loved it.
And so, a personal example, to pick on myself. I love the game of basketball. I absolutely love it. I love to consume it, I like to play it, but I’m 43 years old and I’m 5’9” so if I tried to make a living playing basketball or coaching basketball it’s just simply never going to work. And so, you have to be able to understand, “Wait a second. Do I have the necessary talent and skill to perform this function that I’m passionate about?”
And if not, it’s just about dialing it back and getting into a space of self-awareness to go, “Okay. This might be something that I do as a hobby or engaging hobby, but I can’t pull it off at least in this function.” So, I would work with somebody on the phone and say, “Okay. What do you love most about this type of work?”
And then you get to understand what it is they love the most. You go, “Okay. Now, what are your top talents? Can you pull it off? Because maybe it’s just a redirection and it’s a different perspective, a different avenue of performing work that you care about.”
So, again, it’s back to, “Am I having a hard time getting to work on Monday morning?” If that’s an issue of burnout. And if you’re passionate about something, you never burnout. You might get really, really tired and you need a break, but you don’t burnout.
Okay. That’s a helpful picture. Thank you. And so, now I’m thinking a little bit about some of the tricky issue. I think that it’s quite possible that you could be in a role where you got the talent, the passion and the values, and yet it’s not profitable. You talked about entrepreneurial things, I thought, “Well, they might just not have a product-market fit in terms of like the actual good or service that they’re bringing to the market, and no one really kind of wants it badly enough to buy it,” which I’ve seen and lived numerous times in my entrepreneurial failures.
And then, also, I think outside of entrepreneurial land, if you’re enmeshed in an organization with people and politics and teams and all that, I’m curious to zoom in there because I think there are many folks – and I’m thinking of a few right now, those close me – who, they got the talent. They really great at doing the thing. They got the passion, they really believe in what it’s all about and think it’s really cool to advance it, and they’ve got the values in terms of that’s really meaningful stuff that they’re working.
Let’s talk about the healthcare industry, for example. And yet there can be some challenges with regard to difficult co-workers, employees, bosses, politics, meetings. It’s sort of like the external kind of surrounding stuff that kind of diminishes the beautiful fit that we found here and brings it down so the experience of work is not delightful and awesome. What are some of your perspectives for dealing with those just difficult things that get in the way there?
Well, you gave me two scenarios so I’ll try to address both of them. Let’s go to the last scenario which is that lines up, the work lines up with their passion, their talent, and their values but it’s not fun anymore because they got a difficult leader or they’ve got difficult team members or the culture itself is really unhealthy, and we have that all the time on the show.
But, again, you’re in your sweet spot but this idea that life is a yellow brick road where little people are singing to you – like in the movie The Wizard of Oz, as you move along the journey – that’s just not the reality. So, I would say to that person, “You’re doing the right thing but you’re in the wrong place.” So, there’s no confusion, you’re doing the right thing but you’re not in the right place, because if you can’t fix the culture and you got difficult people then you need to get out.
Again, Pete, I have that call pretty regular. I’d say I probably get that call five or six times a week, and it confuses us and rightfully so, because you’re going, “Wait a second. I’m dreading going into work. I must not be in the right industry. What am I supposed to be doing?” And when I ask a follow-up question, you find out, “No, you’re just in the wrong place, in an unhealthy environment. Get out.”
Well, yeah, that’s really what I want to zero in on, so get out. Like, how do you navigate a little bit of that tricky zone in terms of you could sort of get out right away, you could try to change, to adjust, to influence things, to provide some feedback? How do you think about that world? If folks are right there, right now, it’s like, “Hmm, I am doing the right stuff but I am in the wrong spot,” what would you say are kind of like the immediate next step actions?
Well, the first thing is, can you do anything to make it better? What can you do? Before you pull the eject string there or hit the eject button, what can you do to make things better? Is there anything you can do? So, for instance, if you got some difficult teammates then I think there are some real healthy confrontation, you need to go to leadership and you need to go directly to them and you work on them.
I certainly believe in redemptive power. I believe in redemption, that people can learn so I’d start there. You just don’t throw your hands in the air the first time you deal with a difficult person. So, after that, if there’s no resolution after you’ve handled yourself well on a peer-to-peer basis and then you’ve taken the problem to leadership, and if the problem doesn’t get better then you’re immediately going, “Okay. What’s my plan? What’s my plan to get out?”
And when you think about a plan, you’re always going, “All right. Where is it that I want to jump to? How long is that going to take to get in a position where I can jump? Is there some additional qualifications, education, things of that nature that I’m going to have to do, some networking, relationshiping?”
And you don’t just jump. I never recommend unless you are in physical or mental danger. If it’s that serious then you leave that day. I don’t want to minimize that because that happens. However, most of us can put up with difficult people. Most of us can put up with a difficult leader. And so, I want you to be strategic about it, and you’re thinking through, “Okay. Where is it that I want to land? How am I going to get there? How much time do I think is that going to take?”
And it’s just like creating a plan for anything else. If you’re planning a vacation, you’re planning a workout routine, same kind of mindset so that you can move forward, but move forward in control as much as you can and you’re not putting yourself in financial danger or putting yourself out there with nothing to jump to.
Now, the only caveat to that is if you’ve got a substantial emergency fund, you got a lot of savings out there, or you have zero debt, and you’re well below your means then, hey, I would say eject because there’s no stress or pressure on you and you can get out right now. But outside of that I’d want you to come up with a plan.
Okay. Cool. And I love the phrase that you dropped there, redemptive learning, which is – speaking to my Christian roots over here – I dig it.
So, I want to talk about that because I think that it’s easy to assume that someone, “That’s just the way they are. They don’t care. They’re checked out. They don’t like me. They’re not into coaching and growth and learning and development. They don’t value the same thing.” When I think it’s easy to say, “That’s just the way they are,” and sort of almost like writing them off.
And I think part of that comes from maybe folks have tried a couple times and haven’t seen much traction in terms of bring an issue up, or maybe it just comes from sort of a voice of fear justified, like, “Oh, that sounds like a really tough conversation. Well, it probably isn’t worth it. It wasn’t going to do anything anyway.”
So, I’d like to get your pro tips on, in practice, how do you engage in some of those difficult conversations and embark upon bringing about some redemptive learning?
Yeah. Well, before I give you some tips, we need to acknowledge something that most of us are terrified of confrontation.
And that’s a natural thing. It’s not fun, and especially in a work environment to sit down with somebody and go, “Hey, you’re a jerk,” but you’re not going to say it that way, but that’s essentially how you feel you’re going to come across. And the idea that is just insane, “I don’t want to put up with this. This isn’t even worth the stress of thinking about a difficult conversation,” otherwise known as confrontation. So, a lot of us are really terrified.
Now, there are certain people, I happen to be wired this way – if you’re familiar with enneagram – I’m fine with confrontation. Confrontation, to me, is kind of like it’s a sport, it comes along with life and I’m cool with it. It doesn’t mean you have to enjoy being mean. It just means you don’t mind a difficult conversation.
So, if you’re going to get in a situation like that and you’re at a point where you go, “This has got to be fixed. It’s got to change or I’m out,” then this is all about how you posture yourself. You sit down, and I would never do a one-on-one, I would have a leader involved just because I feel like, in this day and age, you just seem to have a witness there that, “Hey, this is how this went down. It was handled professionally.”
But I would have that sit-down with that difficult person and go, “Hey, this is how I’m feeling,” and that’s not accusatory. You’re putting it all on you, you’re saying, “Hey, this how I’m feeling. I’m perceiving you this way. And I want to ask you, is that reality from your point of view? Do you see it that way? Do you understand why I feel that way?”
And what’s happening there are two little tips that you asked for. Number one is you focused on the way you are perceiving it. You didn’t present it as a fact so, therefore, they have less chance to be defensive. The second thing you did, which also disarms in this, you ask them if they see it that way. So, now, you’re asking, and that interrogatory little tool there of a question, again, keeps them from feeling under attack.
Now, again, full disclosure, if a person is insecure and naturally defensive, no matter how you say it they just don’t like being called out on anything no matter how sweet and kind you are. But I would lead with that, and then I would say, in the course of the question, “Hey, I’ve sat down together today, and I ask you these questions and I put this out because I want us to not have this tension and I’m sensing it.”
And if they agree there’s tension, then, “Hey, what can we do? Because I’m here for this reason, and this is what I want to be, and I want to have a great relationship with you, and this is causing,” whatever, whatever, whatever. Very honest and extremely clear. Don’t beat around the bush. The more ambiguous you are the more defensive and insecure the person that you are confronting is going to be. And clarity may not be fun. It may be a little awkward but it is, as human beings, we crave clarity.
Is there anything worse than being unclear in confrontation? If the person that you’re confronting is going, and what they’re doing is they’re going, “Why don’t you just shoot me straight? What’s really going on?”
And you’re creating more tension. So, clear, clear, clear but very kind.
And actually it really amplifies the uncomfortableness.
Discomfort. That’s the word – discomfort. When you’re there, in terms of like, “What exactly are we talking about here? I think that something heavy is on your mind but I don’t perfectly know what it is yet. And I’m kind of spooked and just sort of waiting for the shoe to drop.” So, I love that tip about being super clear, and I love that sentence associated with, “I want us to not have this tension. I want to have a great relationship with you.”
And I think, boy, even the most, I don’t know, hardcore, purely task-result oriented, Grinch, heart of stone human being, I think if you hear that, I think just everyone will say, “Well, yeah, I’d like that too. It may be hard because of all these things you do that drive me nuts, or I might not think it’s in the cards because you are so wrong so profoundly in these ways that disrupt me.” But I think that that is something that just about everyone can agree to, which is cool.
Now, I want to zero in, I’m a little fixated though on you brought up getting a witness. And I think that, in a way, that makes awesome sense in terms of you don’t want things misconstrued, “I didn’t say that at all,” right? And it totally can happen. But, at the same time, having an observer present changes kind of the vibe, the dynamic. It’s almost like, “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble. This is serious hardcore stuff.”
And so, yeah, it sounds tricky. So, let me know more of your philosophy there.
No, it’s not. It’s not. There’s no trickiness about it. In fact, having a third person in there that is objective and in leadership or on the same level as both of you.
Oh, sure. Sure.
So, they’re investors. So, this is not somebody that would be below them. Ideally, it’s a leadership position. And I probably did not stipulate that, so let me be very, very clear. That’s what I’m suggesting. If this is a serious confrontation, this isn’t some just little, “Hey, listen, you said this the other day in a meeting.”
No, this is like, you gave me this scenario, Pete, of like you’re not happy, you want to get out, so this is the last resort. So, that’s when you get the third, that’s what I’m talking about. And it’s not tricky at all. Because it actually does what you said it does, which is it takes a whole another level of seriousness, like, “Okay. What’s going on here?” Especially when you’re letting them know what the meeting is about, and then they realize that person is in there, that leadership is in there and it just got real. And that’s what needs to happen. This is serious business.
Number two, it’s not just about having a witness so that things cannot be misconstrued and that you’ve got all that kind of stuff for HR and for the record, but it’s also so that you’re in check as well. You’re not going to come at somebody with a machine gun of charges and blare them out in front of a leader either unless you’re completely tone deaf, so it also keeps you in check and helps your posture stay in a place of gracious confrontation, “Hey, this isn’t about being angry. This is about let’s get some resolution here.” And so, it becomes less personal when we have another person, especially in leadership, that is observing.
The third thing is that person is objective. So, when it’s all said and done, it’s good to have that leader speak into the situation, even one-on-one with each of you afterwards, or right then and there, or later. But I absolutely think if you’re about serious redemptive confrontation you need to have a third-party person. I mean, that’s exactly what the Bible prescribes. And I think that if you’re going to confront somebody, you go right to them, but I think in this type of work setting where it’s really ugly, I would have a third party involved.
Okay. Got you. So, I think that’s helpful that we’re aligning in context right here.
Again, I think healthy confrontation, you get a leader involved and you get on the same page, in that way they realize, “Hey, we’re not coming after you. I’m not taking a shot at you. We need to fix this. This is not acceptable behavior.”
I just don’t see any problem with bringing in a leader especially if you’ve talked to the leader ahead of time. Now, if the leaders says, “I’m not comfortable. Handle it one-on-one,” then go for it. But I’m giving you what I think is the best way to handle confrontation in the workplace, I mean, serious confrontation where it needs to stop, behavior needs to change. If this was a misunderstanding, Pete, then I’m fine with just one-on-one go to lunch. But I think if a behavior needs to stop then it’s got to have a third party involved.
Here’s my resistance point, it seems like bringing the leader in, like it definitely brings with it a set of awesome advantages that you’ve laid out. I think the disadvantage, that I used the term tricky not to mean like politically sneaky in the sense of the word tricky, but tricky as in, “Ugh, the person on the receiving end of this may get seriously enraged that I “tattled” or told or brought the hammer of authority upon them in a way that it’s sort of like diminishes their reputation, good name, whatever you want to call it.” And so, I’m thinking that you could get a little bit of a backlash or a negative response just from the fact that that has happened.
Yeah, again, you’re not bringing authority down on them. You just have somebody that is either an equal peer on the same level who is just somebody who cares about both of you and wants to help with the resolution, or a leader is involved because, again, the behavior needs to stop, so I’m really not worried about them getting enraged.
And you’re not doing it publicly; you’re doing it in a private setting with leadership. I just think that’s a healthy, healthy environment when you can do that. So, we may have to agree to disagree. This is not my particular line of expertise. I’m not an HR consultant, but that’s my answer to that question.
Ken, what I’m loving here is that you have introduced something wholly new to my brain in terms of like, “Oh, that’s a fine thought,” and I am playing it every which way in terms of the pros and cons and implications and repercussions. And, of course, listeners will make their own judgments. And so, I’m digging it, and I’m thinking that this tool absolutely has its place in the toolkit so it’s been expanded in my brain which I like. It’s almost like a video game power up noise.
Sure. And understand that that’s how I think confrontation should be handled when something needs to stop. We’re not going to be sweet and soft about it. We’re going to be kind and respectful, but extremely honest. And, to me, there’s no sense in having four or five processes and setup. So, yeah, I get that. I may be uncomfortable over some but I can tell you this, if you try it, it’s the beginning of the end of that behavior one way or the other.
Cool. Okay. Well, so we covered that in great detail. So, moving on to new topics. I’d like to get your view for if folks are right here right now feeling some burnout but not yet ready to make the leap because of financial or other sorts of considerations, are there any pro tips for what can make the experience of work life suck less right here and right now where you are?
Sure. Yeah, I think it’s about progress. So, you’re in a position where you know you want to leave where you’re at but you can’t, and so it’s about mindset. And what we know about the human condition, there’s all kinds of science out there on this, is that when we are making progress towards our goals, even if it is incremental, so it can be the slightest amount of progress, it does motivate us further and it keeps us engaged.
So, engagement is many times about making some progress, so that could be a multitude of things. If somebody calls me on the show and says, “Okay, Ken, this is going to take me three years to get out of debt, and so it’s going to take me at least that plus then I’ve got to go to school to get where I want to go.” I had a caller the other day, he said, “It’s going to be about five, six years. What do you suggest I do in that time?”
And so, we broke down where he wanted to go, what he wanted to do. And so, he eventually wanted to be a physical therapist. He’s only got so much he can do, so what would he focus on? Well, the fact that he’s knocking off his financial goals, that’s going to fire him up because every time he pays off a debt he’s getting that much closer to freedom. Freedom to pursue what it is that he wants to do.
So, there’s some financial goals that if you begin to change the perspective that it’s not just paying off some stupid decisions that you made years ago, it’s, “Wait a second. Every time I pay something off on a monthly basis I’m getting closer and closer to my goal.” That’s a mindset switch and it really will help you.
But then, specifically, I told him, I said, “Hey, what are some things you can do because, at the end of the day, you really love the idea of helping people and through therapy and things of that nature. So, what about massage therapy or could you go work for a physical therapist 5, 10, 15 hours a week so that you’re at least in the space of the work that you want to be doing?” He lit up like a Christmas tree. He’d never even thought of that.
So, there’s a guy that if he goes and he just starts working part-time for a therapist, or he starts working for a spa or something like that, and he’s engaged in the work that he wants to do long term, he’s getting a little taste of it. And so, what that’s doing is I liken passion to an appetite. If you want to get a healthy appetite, a nutritionist is going to tell you you’ve got to put the right stuff in your body at the right times, and so that’s three, four, five, six meals a day, whatever.
So, you can do the same thing while you’re in the waiting. What little things can you do? What can you read? What classes can you take and in the space that you want to be in? What you’re doing there is you’re feeding your appetite and you’re keeping your passion not only alive but you’re actually growing your passion, and you’re keeping everything kind of going and it allows you to get through what you need to get through the whole idea of doing what you have to do so you could do what you want to do.
And, many times, what you’ll find is that you’ll get there faster because your passion is motivating you. So, it’s all about getting as much as you can while you can. You’re not going to get it all but get a little bit, get as much as you can, and you’ll find that time flies and you get where you want to be before you know it.
Oh, that’s good. Well, we’re entering the sort of final phase of these questions. I’d love to hear, you’ve asked many questions in your podcast and your book One Question: Life-Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices. What are some of the most exceptionally useful tidbits, if you could just give us a bullet or two or three, that you’ve gathered from these folks that are particularly applicable to working professionals?
Yeah, that’s hard to choose from, but I think two that popped to the top of my mind, one was from Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, arguably, the greatest researcher in business sort of relates to great companies, what makes them, what breaks them. And I asked him, actually, in my book One Question I was coming at him on this idea of we all love greatness. Think about it, we love to go to a great restaurant or to a great concert or cheer for a great team, but, sadly, when we look at the numbers, most of us are okay with an average life. We don’t pursue greatness in our personal lives.
And I was asking him, “Why is that?” And he said something that I’d never thought about before but it’s so brilliant, he said, “It’s not that we’re risk-averse; it’s that we’re ambiguity-averse.” And I’m going to say that again because it’s so heavy. He says people don’t pursue greatness because they’re worried about the risk. They don’t pursue greatness because they’re worried about the unknown.
So, for instance, Pete, if I say to you, “Hey, we’re going to do some action sport,” and I say, “There’s a couple of risks. You might break an arm at the very worst but you’re going to get beat up a little bit. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” I’ve told you what the risks are, and you go, “Okay. Great.” But if I say, “We’re going to go do something, and we have no idea how it’s going to turn out,” that can literally paralyze a person. And it’s true; science shows all kinds of data there.
The number one thing that humans are afraid of is the unknown. So, that speaks, by the way, into the stat that many people have heard, that people are more afraid of public speaking than death, because with death we kind of go, “All right, I’m dead.” While public speaking, “I don’t know if they’re going to like me or go throw tomatoes at me, they’re going to laugh at me,” whatever it is. This ambiguity is what paralyzes us. So, that was really, really strong.
And then the other piece is I interviewed Coach K, the Hall of Fame Duke Basketball coach. It was the first interview I ever did. It’s crazy story. Unbelievable how I got to do that interview. But he said something to me at the time, and I had little ones, they were all, I think, under three. And he said something about some of these point guards that he’s had in the past, and he singled out two specifically: Bobby Hurley and Tommy Amaker.
And he said, “Both of those guys were very, very different, and I coached them different.” And he said that, “I had to learn how to let them be who they are in the framework of the system.” And then he went into another story, he said, “I’m the same way with my program in general. I don’t give much leniency at all with freshmen. For instance, if a freshman misses the bus by five minutes we’d leave him there even if he’s an All-American. But if a junior or a senior is five minutes late, we’re going to hold the bus.” He goes, “I call it fair but not equal.”
And it was a great piece of parenting advice and leadership advice that has stuck with me. It’s really, really true. As leaders, as parents, we’re going to have to really understand this idea of fair but not equal. You can’t treat everybody equally. And we live in a day and age, Pete, you know this in 2017, almost 2018, where it’s all about fairness, fairness, fairness but what it’s really about is equality. And there is certain equality that has to be in place.
We just talk about rights, but I’m talking about in a workplace. You’re going to have to treat certain people differently, and you can be fair but you can’t treat everybody equally as it relates to in the business and what they’re doing, the function they’re doing. They have differently personality so you’ve got reward them differently, you recognize them differently, you reprimand them differently. Same thing with parenting. It’s a really brilliant thought and it’s something that I think about on a daily basis as a dad.
Those are nice clear distinctions. I dig it. And, then, to sort of swap it a little bit, you’re often asking many people many questions. I’d love it if you could share a couple transformational questions that you’ve been posed or asked of and that have been particularly transformational for you.
Well, that’s a very interesting question. I don’t recall that I’ve had any guests that I’ve been in an interview format who’d turned the tables on me and asked me a transformational question just by nature of what we’re doing. But I certainly think of some transformational questions that I’ve had mentors ask me.
I had a mentor who was mentoring me in the area of marriage when I was in my 20s, and he said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “The next time that you’re going to express disappointment or anger or whatever with Stacy, I want you to ask yourself this question first, ‘Is it going to matter 25 years from now?’”
And I remember going, you know, I’ve probably been married like three or four years at the time, and it was so revolutionary to me, and not just in my marriage but in general. And I think that that’s something I’d pass along. That’s probably one of the most powerful questions that I’d ever been asked by somebody, was that right there.
Because, I think, many times we react in the moment, and then it’s the type of thing that if we put that kind of filter on it, think of the lack of confrontation, think of the dumb tweets that we wouldn’t tweet, or think of whatever it would be. But to put that lens on, it is really important, so I guess that’s probably the most transformational question I’ve ever been asked by anybody.
Awesome. Cool. Well, Ken, tell me, anything you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and rapid fire and hear about some of your favorite things?
Oh, no, man, this is your show so I’m just here to answer your questions. I’m enjoying this.
All right. Cool. Well, then, let’s do it. Can you start us off by sharing a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
Yeah. Well, I share this one on The Ken Coleman Show all the time. I probably share it once a week, and it’s by W.H. Murray, and this is a Scottish mountaineer who was also a writer. And you got to think of this, as I’m sharing this, as a guy who made his living on these daring expeditions. But he once wrote, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative, there’s one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and, magic in it.”
And here’s my favorite three words, “Begin it now.”
Awesome. Thank you. And how about a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?
Favorite experiment, a bit of research. I think some research by the University of Michigan. I reveal this in my book One Question and it’s in the last chapter, talking about how to re-attain this habit of inquiry that we all are born with. As little kids we ask hundreds of questions a day. And the University of Michigan did some research on that premise, and so they found that toddlers sometimes can ask as many as a thousand questions a day, hundreds and hundreds of questions a day, up to a thousand questions a day.
But, by the time the average American reaches the eighth grade, we’re asking three questions a day. And that research fueled me to write that last chapter, and I just was so really, I think, despondent at the time. It’s such a strong word but when I read I was like, “What is going on?” In life and our Western education system is beating the curiosity out of us.
Think about this, Pete, we’re becoming trained to be test-takers instead of pathfinders. So, it’s all about, “Hey, get ready for the test. Get ready for the test. Standardized test.” It’s all about taking tests and having the answer as opposed to knowing how to ask questions. And I think that curiosity is the great key for life. It’s going to unlock so many doors for you. So, that research, for me, I got lost in that. It was pretty interesting stuff.
Oh, cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?
Favorite book. I think right now that could change within the hour, if you ask me that again. I would say The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. It’s about Thomas Jefferson. He’s one of the great thinkers the world has ever known. I’m a big Jeffersonian, fascinated by the guy. But it’s a book largely written from the letters that he wrote, so I would say that’s probably my favorite book.
And how about a favorite tool that helps you be awesome at your job?
That would be feedback.
Right on. And how about a favorite habit?
Quiet time in the morning. I’m up before everybody else. It’s dark. It’s quiet. And I’ve got a little routine with music, and reading, and meditating, and thinking, and breathing. I would say that with a great cup of coffee is my favorite habit.
Awesome. And is there a particular nugget you share that seems to really resonate with folks and they repeat it back to you often?
I think the thing we hear from the audience the most they quote is the proximity principle, and that says that in order to do what I want to do I have to be around people that are doing it and in places that it is happening. And this is a game-changer when you realize that and you just get where you need to be. You’re observing, you’re learning, you’re watching. So, we’re hearing a lot of that. I think that’s kind of the thing right now; the axiom.
And, Ken, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
Yeah, KenColemanShow.com, and love for them to check out the show. If they don’t have Sirius XM they can get it. It’s a daily podcast on iTunes or Google Play. We’ve got a great free resource. In fact, that Jim Collins answer that I mentioned to you, that’s actually available on my website KenColemanShow.com, it’s absolutely free on the homepage. I forgot to mention that. But that’s such great, I love that so much. You can get that audio chapter for free from the audio book. But then check us out, subscribe, and share on iTunes. And, again, Sirius XM Channel 132.
Oh, cool. And, Ken, do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d leave folks who are seeking to be awesome at their job with?
Yeah, I think that the thing you need to remember on a daily basis, and you need to find a way to remind yourself and make this come alive, but if I could record a little audio bite that everybody would listen to every day it would be to say you matter and you’ve got what it takes. You really do matter. There is something that you were created to do, a very unique role.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to big dollars. It doesn’t have to necessarily be tied to fame or power, but it is tied to significance, and you do matter. And that’s the first thing, and then you do have what it takes. You have within you what it takes to do what it is you were created to do. So, now, it’s just about doing it, you believe that. And if you truly believe it, then you’ll become it.
Awesome. Well, Ken, thank you so much for sharing this time and perspectives. This has been a real treat. I wish you tons of luck with your shows and books and speaking and all you’re up to.
Thanks, Pete. I really appreciate you, man. Thanks for having me on.