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370: Increasing Your Perceived Competence with Jack Nasher

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Professor and mentalist Jack Nasher shares compelling research revealing how conveying additional confidence perceived competence.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The two things that enhance your perceived competence and how you can show them
  2. How to optimally manage expectations
  3. How likability and attractiveness play into perceived competence

About Jack

Jack Nasher is on the faculty of Stanford University and the widest read business psychologist in continental Europe. An Oxford graduate, he has worked with the UN, the European Court of Justices, and Skadden. He is the founder of the NASHER Negotiation Institute and is a leading expert on reading and influencing people. A member of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology and a principle practitioner with the Association of Business Psychologists, he has spoken at TEDx and he also performs as a mentalist at the world-renowned Magic Castle in Hollywood.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jack Nasher Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jack, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Jack Nasher
Thank you. Thank you for your interest.

Pete Mockaitis
I think we’re going to have so much good stuff to discuss. But I think we should start with your work as a mentalist at the Magic Castle and elsewhere. What’s the story here?

Jack Nasher
Yeah, it’s funny you started with it. Nobody starts with that. You’re the first one who starts with it. Usually it’s like a footnote at the end.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh really?

Jack Nasher
Yeah. It’s quite unusual. But yeah, my performances at the Magic Castle are basically the other side of psychology. Somebody said it’s like using your five known senses to create the illusion of a sixth sense. It’s using psychological tools to create the illusion of mind reading to create the illusion of mind control and all these things. Well, sometimes actually it is mind control.

I do it for fun sometimes. I perform about 20 shows a year at the Magic Castle and other venues. It’s basically psychology, but for entertainment purposes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Is there any chance it’s possible to do a demonstration via audio only right now?

Jack Nasher
I wish I could, but no.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I had to ask.

Jack Nasher
You have to look into my piercing blue eyes.

Pete Mockaitis
I will turn on the video.

Jack Nasher
That’s the … basically. That’s all there is to it. But it doesn’t work without looking into the piercing blue eyes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular – I don’t want to call it a trick or an illusion or a piece or a – what’s the word we use for a unit of performance in a mentalist show? What would I call that?

Jack Nasher
They call it an experiment. That’s the technical term.

Pete Mockaitis
Experiment. Okay, there we go.

Jack Nasher
you know why? Because sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s why.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you-

Jack Nasher
We call it an experiment, nobody … the way you say it’s an experiment. Experiments work or they don’t work.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you paint a picture for us in terms of which experiment is most mind-blowing crowd-pleasing favorite?

Jack Nasher
Yeah, actually good example. I just came back from a cruise. I performed experiment and I blew it. It just didn’t work. I have to be honest with you. Because I tried to hypnotize the whole audience and the spectator on stage and it just didn’t work. That’s the problem. Sometimes really this stuff doesn’t work because it’s real. It’s just not a trick. That’s what makes it really difficult.

Every time I perform a mentalist show, I’m really nervous. I’m in Oxford right now because I’m teaching here. I’m thinking about going to open mic nights in London tomorrow, just to some pubs where everyone is drunk, and they just abuse you, and they insult you, and they throw stuff at you. It’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Sounds fun.

Jack Nasher
It sounds very fun, but that’s where you learn to get your act together. I’m thinking about trying to hypnotize the worst drunkards. And I think if I can do it there, I can do it anywhere, on a cruise, in the Magic Castle.

But this stuff is tough because really I’m trying to influence people. I’m trying to hypnotize a lot of people at the same time. boy, I just need a lot of practice for that. I’m thinking about doing that tomorrow. If you’re in London anytime, you’re going to see me in some pub. The more drunk people there are, the higher the chances that I’m going to be there.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, thank you. Well, be on the lookout for our London listeners there.

Jack Nasher
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Your day job is a professor for leadership and organizational behavior.

Jack Nasher
Yeah, it’s a bit different than that.

Pete Mockaitis
I love that combo. You had Bob Cialdini endorse your book and it kind of reminded me of that. It’s like okay, a research professor who’s also watching stuff unfold in the real world and immersing yourself in crazy situations. What’s your main area of focus research study as a professor?

Jack Nasher
Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned Cialdini. I’m a great fan of his work. Influence, one of the best books I read. He wrote a great blurb for my book. He actually said, “We need this book,” I was very proud of that.

Obviously applying psychological techniques and applying –that’s my main expertise. I’m looking at techniques from science and I apply them to the real world. I’m interested in theory but also in the application.

I think that combination is very rare because you have scientists who are, very much into their science and answering very small, small questions and then doing research and so on. Then you have salespeople or negotiators who don’t care about science because they say, “Ah, it’s all theory, academics. It’s crap. I’m not interested in that.”

You have very few who actually take the knowledge from academia, from thousands of studies, research and so on and apply it to the real world. That’s what Cialdini did and he’s a great idol of mine, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m looking at science and applying it to practice.

That is my day job and it’s, of course, very different from the Magic Castle and performing hypnotism and all that. But in essence, it’s the same. It’s about how to influence and read people, so it really goes hand in hand.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Now you’ve packaged some of this wisdom in your book, Convinced. What would you say is sort of the main thesis or idea within it?

Jack Nasher
Everything starts with the idea that actual and perceived competence almost have nothing to do with each other.

Pete Mockaitis
… cases.

Jack Nasher
Yeah. You know lots of politicians or people say – Jimmy Carter, US president, some people like him; some say he didn’t do anything. But, as a matter of fact, do you really know what he did? Do you really know the decisions he made? Probably not. Yet, you have a perception of his competence, of his expertise, of how he was as a president.

The same is true with ever profession, whether you’re a lawyer or whether you’re in real estate, it doesn’t matter, whether you sell insurance. People say “Wow, he’s great,” “She’s fantastic. She’s the best I ever worked with,” or “She’s terrible.”

The question is if people don’t know anything about your expertise, how can they judge it? Well, the truth of the matter is they can’t. And yet, they do. What I try to answer is what do they base their judgments on. That’s actually what I wrote my master thesis at Oxford on many years ago, looking at the things people look at when they judge other peopleI found some intriguing, really intriguing points.

It’s unbelievable what these judgments are based on. This of course leads to the fact that you can influence the perception of yourself. You can look like the greatest, the best, the most fantastic expert in whatever field you want to excel in or you want to look like you excel in without actually being an expert. That’s quite amazing. Probably kind of sad to some people, but that’s just the way it is. actual and perceived competence almost – there’s no relation.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s wild in terms of no relation in terms of you looked at data points across the board and you just didn’t find anything of a worthwhile correlation there, huh?

Jack Nasher
Almost none. It’s very different points than actual competence that matter. One of the – I’m sure – that would be the question you’d probably ask, well, what is one of the points. That’s the obvious question. And one of the main points is confidence.

Pete Mockaitis
Just like you saying it like you know it and you – what you’re talking about and you’re certain of it.

Jack Nasher
Exactly. The point is this. I assume that in your job you are pretty confident about certain things and yet probably you’ve heard, “Oh, under promise it, over deliver it. That makes a good impression.” Or probably you’ve heard, “Well, let’s not raise expectations. Let’s be modest about it, humble about it.”

Truth of the matter is, it’s very bad for your perceived competence because people trust people who display competence through confidence, who display high levels of confidence.

Let me just give you an example. If you see two people arguing about who won the 400 meter hurdle world championship in 1954. You have no idea. I have no idea. Let’s say one of them put out a hundred dollar bill and bets on one of the candidates. Who would you trust? One who’s so certain, because certainty really, confidence.

I heard this sentence once “Showing certainty in the midst of uncertainty, that is one of the key tasks of a leader.” ‘The absorption of uncertainty’ somebody called it, ‘absorption of uncertainty,’ because especially when we trust in the competence of somebody, of an expert, we need somebody to take us by the hand and say “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it,” because that person then is – if you do that, you’re a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing and appealing, but I guess it’s worth digging into a little bit. Is that ethical? Is that a form of dishonesty or deception or lying for you to project confidence when you are actually pretty unsure if this thing is going to work out?

Jack Nasher
First of all I’m not telling you you should do that when you have no idea about what you’re doing. But then you probably should change your job. If you really don’t know anything about the work you’re doing, probably you should just work in a different field.

I’m talking about the everyday situations where people come to you with a task and, usually somehow you’ll take care of it, probably a little better, probably a little worse, but you can manage. Right? That’s the everyday situation.

Now, is it ethical to be optimistic about it? Well, let me ask you this. Is it ethical that people who are much worse than you, that they get all the credit? Is it people that – who are much worse than you, and who just show confidence, who can’t do anything that they get the promotions, that they get the clients? I doubt it.

So basically, I’m giving you the tools to PR on your behalf. So instead of having other people take all the credit, why not use the methods yourself? But basically even in my book, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just showing you what’s possible and how the human brain works. It’s up to you to make the decision. I’m not telling anyone what to do. I would never to do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I guess I’m thinking for those who want to be awesome at their job and to pick up, more opportunities and promotion and whatnot, this is something that’s appealing certainly to be perceived as competent. That’s great.

Jack Nasher
Let me ask you Pete. Look, makeup, what’s makeup all about? Well, you paint your face. Well, you don’t look like that, but you still paint it. What about lipstick? Well, you paint your lips – well, you don’t, but a lot of people paint their lips. And why? So they look greater than they actually are. They wear high heel. Well, why? To look different and taller than they actually are.

Guys – Pete, you probably comb your hair. Why? It doesn’t actually look like that. You kind of fake a hairstyle you don’t actually have. You shave. Why? Why do you remove your facial hair? It’s all fake because actually you do have facial hair. So that’s what we do all the time because we only have one life and we want to live the optimal life. What’s wrong with that? There’s nothing wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you there. Yeah, so it’s sort of like in the realm that you painted out there, it’s kind of like okay, someone requested that you do something and you are generally capable of pulling that off, but instead of saying something like, “Oh yeah, I should be able to handle this,” you’d say something like, “You’ve got it Jack. Consider it done, Jack.”

Jack Nasher
Pretty much. Pretty much. You can even point out the difficulties. You can say, “Wow, this is difficulty one. This is difficulty two. But you came to the right guy because I’m the one who takes care of it.”

Interestingly, Donald Trump is a good example. If you like him or not, I don’t even want to bash him or praise him whatever. I’m sick of this. But one of the-

Pete Mockaitis
You’re not even in the US.

Jack Nasher
Yeah. Even in Germany, it’s unbelievable. The exposure … is incredible. But anyway, what’s really interesting is when I saw his campaign I thought wow, he really used this technique. All he does basically is saying, “I’ll take care of it. I’m the best. I’m the greatest.” No track record. No examples. Nothing. I thought, okay, probably he’s – this is just too much. It’s not going to work.

I was amazed to see well, I was wrong. It did work without anything. That was really the epitome of this technique, just giving people confidence without anything, without any track record, nothing. I thought that was really fascinating how far you can actually take this.

By really saying, “I’m the greatest, I’m the best. Don’t worry,” this actually works. Yet, I don’t suggest it. But what I’m suggesting is just changing your mindset and giving people a good feeling. Say, “You came to the right person. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”

It cannot be overestimated how important that is to your client, to your superior because everybody is scared. The moment they give you a task, they’re scared that they made a mistake. People remember. There was this famous quote, “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” That’s right. That’s true.

Research suggests even if you fail, even if you fail and if you fail miserably, and if you arose high expectations at first, you will still be perceived as more competent than if you had predicted the terrible result accurately.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. Can you highlight a particular experiment or bit of research that … out.

Jack Nasher
Yeah, experiment by Schlenker and Leary, two American psychologists who did that. You know when people said I’m going to perform fantastic at a certain task and they just performed miserably, yet they were perceived as being twice as competent as those who would have predicted the terrible result accurately.

Pete Mockaitis
So after the results came in, they saw what happened.

Jack Nasher
… the result. That’s one of the main experiments I describe in my book in the second chapter, it’s all about that experiment.

Pete Mockaitis
Well tell us – I’m curious, what was the promise and what was the result? That’s just so intriguing. How did the people justify … go for it?

Jack Nasher
They didn’t. it was really, really simple. there was one group, they had to perform a task. The other ones just had to judge their expertise in that task. They were random tasks they were allocated.

The one group predicted their outcome. Then they performed the task, so the result was apparent. You could see how they performed very clearly. Yet, it turned out that their prediction really influenced the assessment greatly of how competent they were perceived. That I thought was amazing because the result was there. Everybody saw the result.

It was very clear that if they said, I’m going to perform fantastic. Great. They were perceived as being much more competent than if they under promised and over delivered, much more competent. Even, that to me was the most interesting part, even if they failed, even if they totally failed – if they were optimistic, they were perceived as being much more competent.

And by the way, you are even perceived as being more likeable because people say, “Is that ethical to be so confident?” Well, let me ask you this. Is it ethical to be modest when you should be doing your job?

Let’s say you’re a surgeon. I broke my leg. You come to my bed and say, “You know what? I’m not a very good surgeon. I’m sorry. I went to university, but I wasn’t the best. I kind of had to do it. My parents wanted me to study medicine.” Do I think, “Wow, what a nice humble guy.” No, I get the hell out of there and I never come back. That’s not nice.

Why are people humble? Why are people modest? Because they fear that they’re going to fail. That’s just one way to say, “Well, I told you I couldn’t do it.” Is that good ethically? Is that good to be modest when it’s about a job you should be able to perform? I doubt it. I don’t think so.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re raising so many fascinating questions there. I guess in a way it’s also like if you kind of commit to a result that is kind of beyond you and a stretch of you, well, often you rise to the occasion anyway. So—

Jack Nasher
Yeah. …

Pete Mockaitis
Over the long term, you’re developing actual competence because you continue to put yourself into stretch positions that you had no choice but to deliver because you don’t want to look like a fool.

Jack Nasher
No, absolutely. That’s the Bannister Effect. Roger Bannister ran the one mile in under four minutes in 1954 here at Oxford. He was an Oxford student and then became an Oxford professor. Just passed away a few years ago.

Roger Bannister, what was interesting is he was the first human being in recorded history to run the mile in under one minute. People thought before they thought it’s impossible. It’s physically impossible. But what was really interesting was that a few weeks after he achieved that, somebody else ran the one mile in under four minutes as well. I think in Finland or somewhere. Then somebody did it in the UK a few weeks after that.

It’s known as the Bannister Effect now that if you raise expectations, you perform better. If you raise your goal, you will actually perform better. Once the goal was raised to below four minutes, people performed better.

That’s really interesting. It’s very interesting for negotiations, called anchoring effects and it’s very interesting for yourself. If you have very high goals, if you’re very confident, you will actually perform better. Also, known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Pete Mockaitis
Back to that experiment. The assessors who saw the poor results from the confident people, I wonder kind of what rationalization is going on in their head in terms of, “You know what? He must have had an off day. She must have been tired or stressed,” or “This probably isn’t representative. Everyone gets unlucky sometimes.”

Jack Nasher
Yeah, no, it’s exactly right that people when they were very optimistic and failed, it was attributed to external factors and not to internal factors. Exactly what you said.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, I’m going to be chewing on this for years to come I think. Thank you.

Jack Nasher
Yeah, I was thinking about this for years. I was depressed at first. I thought the world was so unfair. Everyone is stupid. I came along a quote from JFK, presumed he said, it’s not confirmed, but presumed he said, “The world is unfair, but not necessarily to your disadvantage.” That opened my eyes. I thought why do I always complain about the world being so unfair. Why don’t I just take advantage of it?

Pete Mockaitis
That is a good turn of a phrase. Cool. All right, let’s say-

Jack Nasher
It’s kind of evil, right?

Pete Mockaitis
What’s that?

Jack Nasher
It’s kind of evil I have to ….

Pete Mockaitis
Right, right.

Jack Nasher
A little bit evil.

Pete Mockaitis
But it’s true. It’s like I’ve had lucky breaks. I’ve had unlucky breaks.

Jack Nasher
Yeah, if you found ten bucks on the street, are you going to say, “Oh, the world is unfair?” No, you’re going to take it, you’re happy and you walk away, even though it is unfair. We tend to forget that sometimes we actually benefit from things being unfair.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk about – let’s say, all right, so one thing is when you accept an assignment. You accept it with gusto, with confidence. You say “You’ve come to the right person. Bring it on. Consider it done. I got this. I’m going to crush it,” etcetera. What are some of the other practices associated with radiating competencies or competence? What are kind of some of the top do’s and don’ts when it comes to making that happen?

Jack Nasher
Well, I mean there’s so many points. I have eight keys in my book. Let me think which one should I give you that really – oh yeah, one is really interesting, the Doctor Fox experiment. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. I thought also it was an interesting experiment.

That the researchers took an actor and brought him to a convention, was like, I don’t know, about education, whatever. The actor gave a speech on a very specific topic. Now the speech was nonsense, total nonsense. It didn’t have any content really, but it sounded pretty good. Now you could think, wow, experts would find out because they’re experts.

Now, interestingly when the actor, who didn’t know anything about the topic, when he gave the speech and he did it in a very enthusiastic way, so he was pacing the floor and he seemed to really care about the subject, really love the subject. He got extremely high marks on his presentation.

I thought that was really interesting, especially compared to the control group, where the guy – the same actor gave the same presentation just to a different group, also of experts, but he barely moved. He was just standing there, still. Now, only this made all the difference.

If you talk about your topic in a very enthusiastic way and people will say, “Wow, he or she loves the topic,” you will be rated so much higher than if you just stand there and talk. Even if you say – I just came from an Oxford debate at the Oxford Union, the debating club here. The last speaker, nobody really knew what she was saying because she was saying it in such a boring way. She just read it out that you just couldn’t follow.

There was one Dutch guy who was just pacing the floor. Even though he was repeating his same point over and over, he kind of got us because I caught myself thinking, “Wow, this guy really cares about what he’s saying. This guy must really know what he’s talking about.”

It’s this enthusiasm. So, non-verbal communication, pacing the floor, looking people in the eye and being really, really eager about getting your point across, this makes such a difference. So again, just remember, confidence in whatever your task is and enthusiasm. If you show these two things, this is already a great, great way to show your competence.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. When it comes to enthusiasm, I have a picture of what that means in terms of your voice, it shows emotion on different things like, this is very sad, or very exciting or very enraging. You have some variety in the voice. I think that there’s some swiftness to the words, at times that you’re speaking a little bit faster because you’re into it. And so—

Jack Nasher
Faster also is very good, by the way. Speaking faster, you’re being perceived as being more intelligent. People who speak faster are being perceived as more intelligent because people think “Ah, if he speaks fast, he must think fast too.” Thinking fast, intelligence is linked to competence. Speaking fast is always a good idea.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, cool. Well are there any other kind of subcomponents or individual pieces that get picked up on when someone says, “Whoa, that guy’s into it.”

Jack Nasher
Yeah, also another interesting point is eye contact. We think eye contact is really important. Well, it is but not in the way you would think.

For instance, if you give a speech, if you give a presentation, if you’re in a meeting, it’s actually good when you talk, you should hold eye contact with the people you’re talking to. Very important. Don’t forget that. But, if people talk to you, you should not hold eye contact. It’s actually beneficial for you to look away. Now, you have to be careful not to be rude, of course, but it’s interesting.

You know why? It’s a question of status. Because who looks at who? Well, usually it’s the servant looking at the master, taking orders. By looking people in the eye when they’re talking to you, unconsciously you show them that you have low status and that’s bad for your perceived competence.

So if somebody is talking to you, look away. Again, you have to be very careful not to be rude because obviously that’s very negative. But there’s no problem in looking right and left, kind of pondering about what he or she is saying, but you do not have to hold eye contact.

It’s really interesting that for your perceived competence, it’s better to look away when they’re talking to you. Who would have thought, right? Because some things are common sense and others are just the opposite.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so let’s talk a little bit about managing expectations optimally. I think we talked about it’s best to commit and say yes with gusto. Do you have any other pro tips for how you do that …?

Jack Nasher
Yeah. By the way, the whole book is just filled with this stuff that I found. Sometimes I was really surprised. It’s like any kind of system. It’s eight chapters now. Some of the things are really surprising.

Now, about expectations, what’s also very important, when you raise expectations, when you show confidence, one thing you have to keep in mind, that’s whether you want to sell something, whether it’s yourself, your competence, your services or a product, it doesn’t matter, one thing you have to know is that people don’t choose what they like best. People choose what they fear least.

We have a loss aversion. It’s one of the main motivations of human behavior that we go away from risk, obviously. There are good reasons for that, you know?

You have to know every time you sit down with a client, you sit down with your employer, you sit down with your superior, with your colleague, you have to remember that the main thing is you have to take away their fear. Don’t try to be a good choice. Don’t try to be the best. Just think about everything that makes you a bad choice and eliminate that.

I’ll give you an example. When I applied here at Oxford as a student many years ago, I was a philosopher. I studied philosophy and psychology. I had nothing to do with business and yet I applied to the business school. I thought I don’t look like a business guy. What did I do? Well, I dressed up like a business guy. I bought some pinstriped pants. I went to the interview like that.

I remember my professor, first thing she said was “Wow, I thought there’s going to be some philosopher now, but I think you’d fit right in.” It’s as simple as that sometimes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool.

Jack Nasher
It’s just you have to remember – just think about why – what could it be? Why would they say no to you? What speaks against you and that’s exactly what you face.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you give us some more examples of how you would take away fears? I guess I’m wondering about if I’m influencing someone to support my proposal or initiative or plan of action, what are some key ways I might take away their risk and fear.

Jack Nasher
Well the very first thing is that you find out what out their fear is. You basically ask them. If you think of most salespeople, most sales situations, people don’t ask you. They just talk. They just come with their pitch no matter what you say. Obviously, that’s one of the worst things that can happen, people just talking to you, blah, blah, blah, without you taking and telling them what you want.

The very first thing you have to do is you have to find out what their fear is. Once you know what their fear is, what they’re scared of, you can tackle it. Usually it’s quite easy.

For instance, I want a haircut. Because I travel a lot for my job, I give negotiation trainings here and there and sometimes I’m stuck in some rural area for a week and I need a haircut. I go to the hairdresser and I’m scared because I don’t know how he or she is. Of course, I can look on Google or how many stars, but they can be fake, they can be bought, whatever.

I’m longing to this day, I’m longing for a hairdresser who comes out of his store and says, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about it. I know you’re scared. You’ve never been here. But sit down, relax, I’m really good at what I do.”

Now, this sounds very simple, but when has this ever happened to you, that somebody takes you by your hand and says, “Just don’t worry. I’m very, very good at what I do,” because we tend to believe what other people tell us. If somebody tells you, “You know what? I’m really good at what I do,” we tend to believe them.

Interestingly also we tend to confirm our beliefs. Everything he or she does afterwards, we see as a conformation of his or her quality.

Many years ago I bought shoes – British shoemaker. I asked him, “Well, why should I buy the shoes?” Customers ask stupid questions because they want you to take away their fear. The guy said, “Because they’re the best shoes in the world.” I laughed, I chuckled, and yet I bought them. Well, I was back a few weeks later because the heel fell off again … after six weeks. But I wasn’t upset. I felt bad that I ruined his masterpiece.

To this day, I still have these shoes. I’m sure they’re not the best shoes in the world and yet I cannot throw them away after 15 years because I still think, well, they must be very, very special. The guy, he did nothing but just say, “Don’t worry about it. These are the best in the world. If you buy them, they’re just the best.” ying, “Hey, don’t worry about it. Sit down. Have a tea. I’ll take care of it. It’s not an easy situation. It will take some time.” You have to say that because if you don’t say that, they’ll just give you more and more work. Say, “It’s difficult because of this, this, and this, but if anyone can do it, it’s me. You came to the right place. Sit down. Relax. Have a cookie. I’ll take care of it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Now you also lay out a few particular approaches to elevate our status through praise and peacemaking. What’s the story behind these?

Jack Nasher
Status is one of the eight points. Interestingly that you raise your level of competence, your perceived competence by raising your level of status. If your status is perceived as higher – I mean, Give you a simple example.

If your family doctor talks about some political questions about Congress, chances are you will take him or her seriously. Why? He’s a doctor. He doesn’t know anything about politics, no more than me or you. But he’s a doctor. He has a high status. Because of this, you tend to put more weight in whatever he or she says. That is called status generalization. If somebody has a high or a low status, everything he or she does will be linked to this status.

There are ways to have higher status. It’s not just wearing a Rolex or wearing nice pants or all that. No. There’s some subtle ways to elevate your status. One is the one you just mentioned is by being a peacemaker.

It’s usually it’s a royal, regal task to get – at a meeting, people are fighting and you are the one who makes peace. At the office, you have two people quarreling for a while, well you should be the one who says, “Set up a date. Come on, let’s talk about it.” You will be remembered as the one who brought peace to it. That is a royal task, a royal thing to have done. This will elevate your status tremendously.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. Okay. You can make peace either by formally establishing, “Hey, let’s set a time,” or maybe you can even just sort of chime in and say, “Hey, let’s make sure that we’re respecting all view points,” or something along those lines. Okay, cool. What are some of the other approaches to elevating status?

Jack Nasher
Well, one of the other – very interesting because people came to me and said, “Well, what about Mark Zuckerberg or some people just wear sneakers and they come to all these great conventions?”

Pete Mockaitis
Steve Jobs.

Jack Nasher
Steve Jobs, yeah.  Anyway, so these two are very famous for taking the stage with a turtleneck, sneakers, a t-shirt, whatever, so how is that possible? Well, the answer – it’s very interesting that there’s something called non-conformity. If you do not conform – obviously, do not conform – everyone is wearing a tie, but you are wearing a t-shirt, so what the hell is going on here? Well, this can actually increase your status.

Even Hitler knew that, by the way, interestingly, because he always wore a very plain uniform of the lowest rank. He had other people surround him with the biggest uniform with thousands of medals, whatever, … with crazy medals. He wrote that in one of his texts. He said, “This makes me look like a saint because I’m the one on the stage and even though everybody presumably of a higher status, I must be almost holy to be on that stage.”

It’s an interesting thought. I’m not saying that Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs read Hitler to be like that, but basically it’s the same idea of non-conformity. It’s the idea that if you do not conform, you are actually – your status will increase, but this only works when you already have a pretty high position, when you already have – when you already are respected.

When you’re an intern and do that, it’s just ridiculous. They’ll just boot you out of the place. But if you’re the CEO of Apple and you do that, people will go, “Wow, amazing.” This non-conformity thing only works when you really have a certain status within your company, within your organization. Then this can really work wonders. But just remember, it only works when you have a real high status.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, now you’ve also got some perspective on how you can boost your overall likeability and attractiveness. How is that done?

Jack Nasher
Yeah, now, competence is a very particular trait. You don’t have to be likeable in order to be perceived as competent. Yet, being liked makes it easier because of a halo effect. If people like you, chances are you will be perceived as more competent.

Also if you’re more attractive, that to me, again, was shocking, how important attractiveness is in overall – in our day-to-day interactions. Incredibly attractive – incredibly important, really surprisingly important even in friendships of same sex, heterosexual friends. Children play more with other children who are attractive. Parents love their children more if they’re more attractive. Shocking result. Really, it was incredible.

The thing is that if you’re perceived as being more attractive, that you will be perceived as more competent. There are just some ways to look more attractive.

Pete Mockaitis
Do tell, do tell. Do I have to get plastic surgery, Jack, or what has to happen?

Jack Nasher
It’s interesting that even when I talk to cosmetic surgeons, they didn’t know about this research. Unbelievable.

Pete Mockaitis
This is a value proposition, guy.

Jack Nasher
I know, I know. Yeah, I wish I could tell you. It’s all in the book. I forgot. I’ll just tell you two things because some people say, “Well, I’m attractive, I’m not attractive, what can I change?” Well, funny thing is there are many things you can change quite easily. Also, there are many things you don’t have to change because they don’t matter. Like the nose has almost no significance for attractiveness.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Jack Nasher
Yeah, unless it’s like tremendously big or tremendously ugly or whatever. Tremendously beautiful doesn’t even help because it’s always more difficult – to stand out is as particularly beautiful is very difficult for a nose. To stand out as particularly ugly, much easier. It’s kind of unfair again, but that’s the way we perceive things. That’s how we act.

Interestingly, though a tan, for instance, is one of the most important factors, just a tan and pure clean skin. Probably not very easy, but I think it’s quite easy. You don’t need any surgery. You need nothing almost. Eyelashes, dark eyelashes, one of the things that makes such a tremendous difference.

Also, there are just some points that one researcher found. He looked at all the points that lead to attractiveness. This is unpublished research. It’s a researcher in Germany who spent years doing nothing but this and he never published it. I don’t know why. I talked to him. I said, “Come on, this is unbelievable. This is revolutionary.” He said, “Eh, I don’t know. I just like the research.”

Well, I give you all the points and what really makes people attractive because why? Because first of all I think it’s tremendously interesting. We spend billions every year to look more attractive and most of it is wasted on stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Pete Mockaitis
I think about the teeth. If they’re white and straight, it would be an asset rather.

Jack Nasher
Yeah, that’s also good example. If teeth are white, you won’t say, “Wow, his teeth are so white.” But if they’re yellow, you’ll say, “Ah, it’s disgusting.” It’s not very symmetrical. Bad things stand out in a much stronger way than good things.

Pete Mockaitis
How about clothing?

Jack Nasher
Clothing is all about status. Somebody said you shouldn’t dress for the job you have, you should dress for the job you want to have. But here again, you should keep in mind that a tie and a jacket isn’t always the right choice, if you work in a startup or something, but there are also status symbols. You just have to know what they are. They probably stand in line for some Nike sneakers for a day or something.

But anywhere you go there are status symbols, but they differ. They don’t have to be Ferragamo ties. They’re just sneakers or whatever. But that’s – if you ask me about clothing, that’s the most important thing about clothing.

Pete Mockaitis
Is that is it’s conveying a status to the appropriate audience?

Jack Nasher
Yup, that’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
I was thinking about the fit being pretty important in terms of you can have a t-shirt that is kind of sloppy and too big or too small or a t-shirt that’s just hugging you just right. It’s just like, “That’s an attractive person,” because maybe you can see my broad shoulders or whatever perfectly.

Jack Nasher
But that, again, would be part of status, that clothes are actually made to measure or bespoke or at least fit. If you see somebody with an XL t-shirt and he’s obviously thin, it just looks stupid.

But these are details I didn’t really go into. It’s more like all the research that tells you ah, okay, these are interesting points, non-conformity, okay. Smiling, for instance, how important is smile – the chapter about non-verbal communication. You find interesting things about smiling. Well, smiling isn’t always good. There are some times when you shouldn’t smile at all because smiling actually hurts your perceived competence. You look like a dork when you smile.

Pete Mockaitis
When should I not smile?

Jack Nasher
Well, you just shouldn’t smile when there’s no reason to smile. If you just smile all the time, you look stupid. People do that. They think it’s polite or nice or there’s so many quotes on mugs about smiling, but, well, for your perceived competence, they don’t necessarily help. If you go to a lawyer and it’s a serious subject because your child is in jail and he keeps smiling, and you think “What the hell? Why is he smiling all the time?”

There’s some misconceptions and you should just smile when something is funny or when say hi, but it actually can be bad for your perceived competence. Why? Because, again, your status will look low because who smiles all the time? Salesmen or somebody who wants something from you right? Low status.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. I suppose you could smile when you’re greeting someone because that’s sort of normal. It’s like, “Oh hey, they’re kind of happy to see me.” But if you’re keeping the smiling going in the midst of a boring topic, it’s sort of like, “What is up with this person?”

Jack Nasher
Exactly. Also, even when you greet, it’s not necessary. When it’s about a real important topic and somebody greets you with a firm handshake without actually smiling, you think “Wow, okay, he or she is really into the topic now. Let’s cut to the chase.” Even then it could be beneficial not to smile. The smile fetish that’s just something you shouldn’t do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, this has been so fascinating. Now, tell me Jack, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Jack Nasher
I already mentioned too much. You should buy the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, noted.

Jack Nasher
… give everything away. Come on. Don’t ask me any more questions because there’s nothing – well, there’s some stuff left. yeah, I gave away a lot. Damn.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, yeah.

Jack Nasher
… Pete. How do you do that?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, shucks. Well, so this is not book specific, so maybe the pressure is off a little bit. Can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jack Nasher
Oh you know, I read so much. It’s one of the things I do all the time. I just love reading. I love new input. I’m always fascinated by new ideas. I think just being open, having an open mind and always learning. I think that for me is the best. It’s not just one thing or one book because every week I’m reading a different book on a different topic.

Right now I’m reading the Bitter Angels of Our Nature about how the world evolved in a positive way. I think that’s really fascinating. It’s a great book. It’s very long, but it’s really fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Jack Nasher
A favorite habit is I try to touch or look at things only once. That’s it. I just try to look at one thing once, decide, and just get rid of it. Look at an email once, not save it or something, just do it quickly because I just found that if I keep stuff on my desk, it just keeps piling up. But I just have to allocate certain time slots for things, but then I just look at it once and I just do it.

One of my favorite quotes “It’s better to do it well now than perfect tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or never.” That’s one of my favorite quotes. I don’t even know it’s a quote, but it’s an idea to rather get stuff done now than to do it better in a week or never.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jack Nasher
I’d point them to my website, JackNasher.com. It’s packed with great stuff, free stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jack Nasher
No, I think, and that was one of the points of my book, is that you spend so much time being good at your job, you spend so much time going to college, executive education, reading books, but you don’t spend any time thinking about how you should sell your capabilities, how you should sell your competencies. And that’s what this is about, you know?

I’m not telling you to fake anything. I’m just showing you how to display whatever it is you know, whatever it is you can do and to really excel in your job by displaying whatever competence you have. I think you should take some time off and even if it’s only by reading one book and I’m not telling you which book, but I’m just suggesting one book, I think it’s well worth your time because it’s just not enough to be good. You have to show that you are.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Jack, this has been a real treat. Thanks so much for taking the time. I wish you tons of luck with your book, Convinced, and all your adventures.

Jack Nasher
Well, thank you very much for your interest in my book. Thanks a lot for these great questions. I enjoyed it very much.

369: Avoiding The Perils of Workplace Technology with Dan Schawbel

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New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel discusses appropriate uses of technology and how to find fulfillment in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to set career expectations
  2. Three tips for increasing productivity and improving work relationships
  3. How (and when!) to use technology to improve relationships

About Dan

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author, Partner and Research Director at Future Workplace, and the Founder of both Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com. Through his companies, he’s conducted dozens of research studies and worked with major brands including American Express, GE, Microsoft, Virgin, IBM, Coca Cola and Oracle. Dan has interviewed over 2,000 of the world’s most successful people, including Warren Buffett, Anthony Bourdain, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and me! He is the host of “5 Questions with Dan Schawbel”, a podcast where he interviews a variety of world-class humans by asking them 5 questions in less than 15 minutes. In addition, he has written countless articles for Forbes, Fortune, TIME, The Economist, The Harvard Business Review, and others that have combined generated over 15 million views. Schawbel has been profiled or quoted in over 2,000 media outlets. He has been recognized on several lists including Inc. & Forbes Magazines “30 Under 30.”

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dan Schawbel Interview Transcript

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

Dan Schawbel
I’m very excited to be here, my friend.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to hear the story you recently conquered your fear of heights in Costa Rica. What’s the back story there?

Dan Schawbel
I was really anxious going to Costa Rica. I was watching all of these videos on YouTube of people canyoning and zip lining and I had so much fear. I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life.

My friends that I went with, they’ve done some crazy things in their life. My friend, Pete, he has zip lined in … places in the world. My other friend, we call him the crazy Russian, Slava, he’s bungee jumped, he’s jumped out of a helicopter, he’s done some crazy stuff.

And so, just going with them and knowing that I would be really pushed out of my comfort zone, gave me a lot of anxiety. And I have a lot of anxiety as is, so it just … up a notch.

I finally just gained the courage. I’m like, “Let’s do this. When am I going to go to Costa Rica again?” So we land, the next morning we go canyoning first. It was really intense because when you go in this canyon, you have to propel down these massive waterfalls. The first waterfall is like eight feet, but the second one is almost directly after that and that’s 150 feet. And I’ve never done this before.

And what I did was I went first because I knew the more I would wait, the higher my anxiety would be, more … I would be. I would always go first and that’s how I got around that fear is, “Hey, I’m just going to get this over with.” In many ways that’s how I’ve handled a lot of situations in life. I just replicated it in terms of to beat the fear.

A few days later we went zip lining and that was … the biggest and tallest zip lines in all of Costa Rica. I think one of the zip lines was a mile long. They would tell us that if you get stuck on the zip line, because you’re not going fast enough, then you have to crawl yourself back. maybe it happens a few times a year, but to me that builds up so much fear because what if I’m the person. What if I’m stuck and I’m looking down and you see the rainforest and the jungle and you’re like, “Oh my God, let me live through this.”

What really helped with the anxiety was going before my friends, but because it was a 75-year-old woman and five little kids who were zip lining with us. I was like, “Oh, if they can do it, I can do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, that’s encouraging when the elderly pull it off. Great to hear. You did it. How do you feel?

Dan Schawbel
I feel good, but I’m also not ready to sign up for it again either.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it also sounds like you’ve got your hands kind of full. You’ve got multiple roles going on, founder of Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com and partner and research director at Future Workplace. Can you orient us a little bit, what is your job, your thing, what do you do?

Dan Schawbel
For the past month, I’ve really come to the conclusion that I’m just a curious person who asks a lot of questions. I’d start there, because since 2012 I’ve conducted over 40 research studies, including this new one for Back to Human, the new book with Virgin Pulse.

I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve surveyed over 90,000 people in over 20 countries, and I do all the questionnaires, so I’ve had to think of many, many, many, many questions through that.

Then I’ve also interviewed over 2,000 people one-on-one. These are anywhere from professors to authors, to astronauts, to Warren Buffett, Donald Trump, a wide variety of people and each of those interviews is five questions …. It’s really about learning as much as I can from people and through data and create and … those stories through the media, through books, and through everything else I do.

So that’s the core of what I do is ask questions. I’m also you could say an entrepreneur. I’m partner … Future Workplace. I do all the research through them, but we also put on four events every year, two on the east coast of America, two on the west coast. These events are for heads of HR companies that we serve. We also have an AI course and we do workshops as well.

Aside from that, I’m … Millennial Branding, so that’s where I do a lot of speaking, and books, and spokesperson, deals with working with companies to get their message across to people my age. I’ve done a lot of media. I’ve written over 2,000 articles.

I’m somebody who has worked since I was 13. My first business was sophomore year of college. I had eight internships between high school and when I graduated college.

I worked for three and a half years at a company called EMC Corporation, which is now EMC Dell. Dell purchased them. I created the first ever social media position there that’s because outside of work I was really early into blogging. I started my own …, everything around personal branding.

Fast Company profiled me and through that EMC hired me internally for the social media position. If you go Twitter.com/EMC and Facebook.com and all those, I did all the original social media accounts back in 2007, so it was really early on in all of this. I’ve watched the whole thing play out.

Then over time, I’ve continued to write. My really true love is I like to focus on organizational behavior, how robots and humans collide in the workplace. I’m very interested in work culture and the labor market at a high level.

I like to see from a macro level what’s … in the economy, what’s happening in the world, are more people being hired, are people losing jobs because of technology, what do retentions rates look like, what – who’s hiring what?

I love all of that because from a high level I know what the market is, so I can give better advice from an individual level … invest their time, what they should major in, what skills they need to develop. But also more corporate standpoint, I understand what skills people have and what they’re looking for in their employers.

For instance, people my age, 34, or younger, they’re looking for flexibility in the workplace. Through the research, through conversations I have I’m able to make those recommendations.

The goal really, my mission is to help my generation through their whole career path from student to CEO. The first book, Me 2.0, helped them get from college to first job. The second book, Promote Yourself, is first job to management.

Then Back to Human is a leadership book for the generation because over … percent of people my age have a management title and above and about 5% have a director title and above, so to me this is the best time to help engage the next generation of …. And you know, for me, myself, I consider myself a leader in this space. I’ve been supporting this generation since the early days, the early 20s.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right, that’s plenty. What’s your book, Back to Human, all about here?

Dan Schawbel
The thesis is that technology has created the illusion of connection when in reality, … using or misusing it, we are isolating ourselves to a more lonely, less engaged, and less committed to our teams and organizations.

People can all relate to this. The average person checks their phone every 15 minutes. We tap our devices over 2,600 times a day. We’re constantly using the technology. We’re not even thinking about using it. You see this everywhere we go.

Now, even though the book hits technology really bad, it does it to make bigger points about how we’re using it and when we’re using it.

For instance, you could use technology in order to discover people who might live in your neighborhood or your city so you can connect with them, but when you connect with them try and do it in a meaningful way on the phone or in person so you get to really know someone and form a stronger bond.

This happens in the workplace too. If we’re constantly using and abusing technology and thinking it’s going to solve all of our problems, it’s really not. It’s going to actually isolate us and bring us further apart.

You cannot solve an argument between two employers by texting. That’s just not going to cut it. It creates misunderstanding. One, face-to-face interaction is more successful … 34 emails back and forth. Instead of emailing someone constantly, hoping they understand you and know what to do next, all you have to do is walk four feet and actually talk to that person.

Because of the overuse and misuse of technology in our society and in the workplace, people are using it as a crutch and avoiding face-to-face conversations that are necessary in order to establish relationships that are required for long-term success and happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you point to I guess a little bit of the mechanism or the line of causality or the evidence that says, that hey, this technology is in fact causing isolation and disengagement?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, it’s actually in the study I did with Virgin Pulse of over 2000 managers and employees in 10 countries. We found that almost 50% of an employee’s day is spent using technology to communicate over in person. What’s happening with those employees is that they feel lonely … very often as a result of overusing that technology.

This is a big issue, especially in a world where … is much more dispersed. You have more people working from home than ever before. A third of the workforce works from home, but two-thirds of those people are disengaged because if you’re always working from home the whole time – and I work from home, it’s been almost eight years working from home you can become isolated and lonely because you’re not … human contact.

What’s really fascinating is we focused on all the benefits of working from home and … tons of research around the benefits that you get, the freedom of flexibility, you save commuting cost, but not enough people are talking about the drawbacks. The big drawback is that you feel isolated, lonely, and potentially disengaged.

We have bigger conversations around the full picture of this because sometimes people lie to themselves. They’re not consciously thinking about how working from home isolates them and impacts their health and wellbeing, which impacts productivity.

It’s like everyone talks about the glory of loving what you do and being passionate about what you do for work, but if you’re really passionate about what you do, it could become an addiction and actually isolate you from others because all you’re doing is work.

There’s the good and bad for everything. Part of what I want to do with this book is to reveal and make people more conscious of how and where they’re using technology and to try and make better decisions about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I guess what I’m wondering is the extent to which the working remotely thing is causality versus correlation in so far as some people who want to work from home are already, aren’t super attached to their coworkers. They won’t miss like, “Oh, I’m so sad that I will not see these people on a regular basis,” as opposed to it’s causing it like, “Oh man, I’m out of the loop.”

Are you talking about people who are working entirely remotely or sort of the once or twice a week work from home crowd?

Dan Schawbel
I’m talking about entirely working remote.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Dan Schawbel
If you work remote, you’re much less likely to want to long-term career at your company because you don’t have emotional attachment to the people you work with. You’re never there. You’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, which actually limits your career prospects.

It’s like Jack Welch used to always say when he was the CEO of GE, “Face time matters.” If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. You’re less likely to get a promotion.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you, so these are fully remote workers.

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, so I’m talking about a fully remote worker. A third of the population works remote always or very often. It’s happening. Look at a company like Aetna. Over half the workforce works remote full time.

Other companies fall into this as well. That’s why you see this big backlash too. You have Yahoo, BestBuy, Reddit and various other companies like Honeywell that have forced employees to come back into the office. Now, they’ve forced employees to come back to the office full time, whereas Aetna says, “Hey, you can work remote fulltime.”

What I’m saying is more or less what you’re … to get to is let’s … extremes here. Let’s kind of meet in the middle and let’s customize work based on your individual needs.

It’s crazy. I interviewed 100 young leaders for my book, at least … of them are having kids this year. There’s a million new Millennial moms per year. If you’re having kids, you need some degree of flexibility. As if someone’s single or someone’s older, the benefits they need and the work they want is going to be a little bit different.

You’re going to care much more about retirement benefits if you’re 60 than 23. You’re going to care about flexibility in some regard regardless of age, but if you’re younger maybe you want flexible hours or telecommunicating, where as if you’re older, you want some other degree of flexibility. Like if you have kids, you want parental/maternal leave. That’s becoming a really hot benefit for many. Netflix gives unlimited.

I think it depends where you are in your career lifecycle, what you’re looking for at that time, and what your needs are, and then having a company and a manger step up and really lead by exhibiting empathy and understanding your situation, trying to create a good situation for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then digging into some of the content of the book, you sort of suggest starting off by focusing in on fulfillment. What does that mean and look like in practice and what are some of the alternatives that people focus on instead?

Dan Schawbel
Great question. Life is too short and … work too many hours not to be fulfilled at work. The average work week is 47 hours for a fulltime salaried employee and 43 for an hourly worker. We’re spending so much time at work.

Anytime I stand in front of an audience of 50 to 6,000 recently, I always say, “How many of you respond to work emails on vacation?” It’s like 99% say they do. We’re always kind of working now. There’s an expectation, especially in the United States, that we’re working 24/7, which can be unhealthy and lead to burnout.

But the reality is if you do not like your work or you have a toxic work environment, where you don’t get along with your colleagues and manager, it’s going to affect your personal life.

This is why I put such an emphasis on improving the workplace, making people have healthier work environments because if you don’t have a good employee experience, it’s bad for the company, and it could be bad for your relationship with the people you’re closest with because you’re going to be complaining about work outside of work all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah.

Dan Schawbel
I put a huge emphasis on this. What I said in the book is you really have to focus on your fulfillment first. It’s like if you’re on a plane, they always say take care of yourself before you – if there’s going to be a crash, take care of yourself before your fellow passengers.

Same thing with fulfillment, you’ve got to get your stuff right because then you’ll be optimistic, you’ll be happy, you’ll be able to inspire and support people at a higher level. You’ve got to get your stuff right first before you help others.

The best way to start doing this is defining what makes you fulfilled. Think about what you’ve enjoyed in the past, what you think you’re good at, your values, what your previous accomplishments and experiments tell you. Really zone in on what you’re supposed to be ….

By the way, this doesn’t happen in one day. It’s not like you wake up and magically you know what makes you fulfilled. It’s being thoughtful. Taking notes. A lot of people keep journals now. I think that’s really smart, to write down how you feel when you do certain activities. Really narrowing that down is so important.

Then I think what happens in our society is people get distracted by technology. They get derailed from their own fulfillment. They try and live up to the expectations of others when we really have to take a step back and focus on ourselves and then our team second.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, a couple things I want to dig into there. One, I’m a sucker for data. That 47-hour figure, so this is in the United States, those who are full-time salaried position.

Dan Schawbel
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
So that does not include the commute. That is just straight up work time.

Dan Schawbel
Straight up work time.

Pete Mockaitis
… further.

Dan Schawbel
That’s by Gallup. That’s a Gallup study from 2014.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. I’m wondering if it’s the mean or the median, but I’ll look it up on my own. Either way, it’s striking. 47 is a lot more than 40.

Dan Schawbel
Oh here’s another one for you. A third of people work on weekends.

I’m a data nerd, by the way. I’ve reviewed – I’m getting closer to over 8,000 research reports since I was a recent college graduate, so I’m really invested in this.

I have catalogued all the research over the years because I’ll tell you why I like research so much because when I was younger, there was so much ageism because I had a career blog. People were like, “What do you know about having a great career? You’re 22!” I stated early. I learned how to – internships, get a job, sell myself, build my personal brand. I knew that all early on.

It’s still a lot of ageism. I used data in order to combat ageism. “Hey, you don’t believe me? I’m going to point to data that you trust, so you now … be more seriously.” I always use data as a way to deflect ageism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Dan Schawbel
And then … 2012 I had a great opportunity to analyze four million Millennial Facebook profiles. That campaign went well. Then I’ve just been addicted to data ever since because it’s … almost like you’re an archeologist and you’re digging up the next dinosaur bone. For me it’s I want to find something new, discover it, and bring it into the world, and distribute it to others so it benefits them.

From a corporate standpoint, from an individual standpoint, I think data is extremely valuable in today’s society when everyone’s thinking about the ROI of everything and also just to really identify what’s really happening in the pulse of the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. I’m right with you there. I don’t remember who said it. I think it was when I was learning to become a consultant at Bain. They said, “The only thing you can really rely on to be heard and credible and persuasive when you look so young and don’t know diddly yet about the industry is a fact.”

It was like, “Yup,” sure enough, a fact is a fact. They go, “Huh, okay. Well then that’s something that we’re going to work with a little bit.” As opposed to your opinion and you’re pontificating on how things should be when you’re not yet trusted for your pontifications. So I’m right with you there on the data.

Tell me when it comes to focusing on fulfillment, could you maybe set a little bit of an expectation on the grand scheme of fulfillment, I think it’s fair to say that no job will fulfill your every wish, want, desire, and need for that to bring about fulfillment and happiness in your life.

At the same time, I think there’s plenty of room to keep the bar higher than, “Well, you know, it’s a job. It’s a job and they pay me.” What do you think is sort of acceptable and to expect from a career versus asking for too much or too little?

Dan Schawbel
What I would say is it’s trial and error. What’s really interesting that I’ve been thinking about over the past year is no one has this all figured out. We’re all tweaking our careers. We’re pivoting. We’re learning more about ourselves as we experience new jobs and new projects.

For me, it took me a while to figure out what my mission was. I started young, of course, that helped, but I didn’t really put all the pieces together in my head until maybe three years ago when I came up with my mission statement that I put on my website. I now say I love research more than anything else. That’s why I’m like the chief question officer in a way because that’s a really key part of research in many ways.

I think you identify what makes you fulfilled based on self-reflection, based on feedback from others, and just being around people who give candid feedback, not ones who are yes men or yes women, people who are going to be real honest with you.

When I interact with pretty successful people in my network, a lot of them don’t get the best advice and get the best feedback because they’re getting complimented all the time because they have leverage in their careers. I stand out because I’m willing to give them criticism in the most genuine way possible and because of my track record, they take it seriously. Then they’ll take some of that advice to heart ….

I think you just need the right people around you who are going to be honest and if they see you doing something wrong or they see you unhappy, to just have them be honest and be like, “Oh, I see that you’re unhappy. This is not exactly what you should be doing or how you’re doing it.” Sometimes you might be in the right position, but doing the work in the wrong way, which will turn you off from doing the work and make you feel unfulfilled.

A lot of people give up quick, especially in today’s society. Everyone wants instant gratification. They build up all of it in their head that this job is going to be perfect and they’re going to be so happy. They’re unwilling to work to ensure that they have maximized their day … fulfills their personal and professional needs and are fulfilled overall.

I think that you can’t just rely on the company to … fulfilled. You need to be responsible for doing that and working within your company to make that happen. That could mean doing projects outside of what you’re hired to do. It could mean that you change the nature of your work and working in a lounge versus a cubicle because maybe that gives you more inspiration.

It could be you changing how you get work done or who you work with. Maybe your group is not the right team for you at work as a leader. Maybe you need to manage a different team.

And things change too. What if your employee quits? Then you’ve got to hire someone else. Or what if you get laid off? Then you’re looking for another job and you’ve got to maybe reinvent yourself because people aren’t hiring those with your skillset that was valuable three years ago, but it’s not now.

It’s a constant work in progress. I think people should do their best. I think people should reflect often and surround themselves with people who will be candid with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, lovely. Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about some of your perspectives on how you’re doing the work. Let’s talk about the work/life balance. You say it’s a myth and we should look at work/life integration instead. What’s the full story here?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, just based on how work is being done these days. It’s happening in the office. It’s happening remote. It’s happening in co-working spaces, at coffee shops. It’s all over the place. It’s very decentralized. It’s hard to know when to cut off work and when to do personal things. It’s becoming ever more blurred. But our personal and professional lives are very blurred because of technology.

Again, what I was saying before. It’s like you’re kind of always working even if you’re not at a physical office. Because of that we have to – we need a new solution because … is no longer effective like it was for our parents and our grandparents.

What we need to think of is work/life integration. Jeff Bezos calls this work/life harmony. The now former CEO of … when I interviewed her, she called this work/life integration as well and so has several other people in my network that I talked to because it’s all about taking the responsibility and accountability to say, “Okay, these are the five personal and professional things I need to do this day.”

Then carve out your schedule so you’re able to do those two, three, four, five things. It’s on you to figure out how to integrate the things that you need to do … fulfill you personally and professionally, not anyone else because only you know this. I think that’s really important.

Like for me, I’ll be doing this podcast and then in two hours I’m going to an event. I’m meeting friends there. Even though I’m going there for professional reasons, it’s also to be with my friends. Almost like as an excuse to see them. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to parley my personal and professional life together.

Like I’m going to LA and when I’m there I going to be doing some media for the book, but at the same time, I’ve already contacted some of my close friends who live there … dinners and lunches and get-togethers. So, it’s constantly figuring out how to make it work on a regular basis and blocking off times so that you’re fulfilled in both areas.

Pete Mockaitis
Any pro tips on any sort of powerful requests to make bosses or boundaries to set that for many people can make a world of difference?

Dan Schawbel
This needs to almost happen when you’re being interviewed. Just asking questions about from the employer’s standpoint, what are they looking for in work/life balance.

Then from the individual standpoint, just talking about the type of environment you work best in. If you really work well remote and then the hiring manager is like, “Well, we don’t let anyone work remote even for an hour here,” it’s probably not the company you want to work for.

It’s really having the conversations before you can start work so that once you know what you’re able to do and you accept that job, the expectations will hopefully be met. Rather than hoping it all works out when you already have a job, try and do it as early as possible in the hiring conversation.

If you already have a job and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got to have this conversation,” it’s really about blocking off time with your manager and just seeing what the possibilities are and what the comfort level is. Because at Aetna for instance, they let employees work remote full-time, but they have to be at the office for the first six months to prove themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Dan Schawbel
You’ve got to earn the right to work remote full-time by showing that you can take the responsibility and do the work and deliver results.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. I also want to get some of your takes on productivity, shared learning, optimal collaboration. Can you give us some of your favorite tips and do’s and don’ts in this world?

Dan Schawbel
Oh boy, this is a big one. The shared learning chapter is become very popular because I think there’s so much learning that needs to happen now. You look at the way skills are now, the average relevancy of a skill is only five years. In order to keep up with the fast-paced business world we live in, we have to rely and support each other by sharing what we know openly.

Being a hog of information is going to lead to a shorter-term career that’s not going to be as fulfilling. If you’re more open to share, and you’re more open to accept the knowledge that other people have and train them, but also ask for help, you’re more likely to succeed because everything is in real time right now.

Information is moving fast. Things are changing. Companies are being acquired, merged. There’s layoffs. There’s new skills that are entering the arena, like artificial intelligence skills. If you’re able to work as a team collectively and lead a team where people are just helping each other, that team is going to hold strong. They’ll have stronger relationships, which will lead to higher performance.

The other thing I’ll say is for optimizing your productivity, again, technology can be good or bad, but when it comes to optimization, you can do a lot of things that save time, like use conference room booking systems or even your own calendar to block off time on people’s schedules so that you have time to meet people, be prepared for meetings so that you can facilitate or catch up with your colleagues. I think that’s really important.

Like I was saying before with work/life integration, use your calendar to block off time for meals, time for breaks. For every 45 minutes or so of work, you should take a 10- to 15-minute break. That’s what the research shows. I think that you need to do what’s right for you, but there are certain best practices that can help you, like having … environment that’s optimized so that you avoid distractions and you can concentrate on the work at hand.

But then also getting out. A lot of people have lunch at their desk and they should be having lunch with their colleagues so they can form stronger relationships.

Again, this really has to do with the pressure that employees are being put on right now because people are working harder than ever before for no additional money, so there’s this constant anxiety that people have that they have to always be working. But that leads to burnout and lower productivity. So I would avoid that.

Instead, I would really think about how you can at least one or two times a week have lunch with your colleagues, just so they’re seeing you, they’re hearing you. You can bounce ideas off them. The best ideas that I always get are when I’m talking with other people. I literally get my best ideas in conversations.

If you’re staring at your computer all day, you’re probably not going to be as creative. But if you are in new surroundings with new, diverse people, it’s going to inspire you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Dan Schawbel
I would say training people is really important. Sharing articles among your teammates. Anytime I see an article that would benefit my team with the artificial intelligence, I see it and I share it. I don’t even think twice because I know what my … want and I just keep delivering because then they’re going to be more prepared for their meetings.

Every morning I’ve had the same habit, which I think is extremely effective in what some of your listeners could take advantage of is I review all the latest research and trends in my own space every day. Then when I have meetings during the day or I’m speaking or I’m doing something, I’m or I’m … at things that I learned about four hours before.

I become extremely relevant because I’m always looking at these trends regularly. Things are changing so fast, so I almost can’t avoid doing that now. But by learning a lot, by sharing that knowledge and keeping up to the pace with things that are changing, you’re able to offer more, be more relevant, and smarter in your field.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Well, Dan, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah. I think what I’m trying to really do is make people more conscious of how they’re using technology, not disregard human interactions.

The biggest thing that gets in the way of person-to-person human interactions is email. We’re sending way too many emails. Many times it just doesn’t make sense. You see a lot of my friends, they have hundreds of emails they haven’t even answered, which many could have been avoided by just one phone call to be honest.

We’ve dropped phone calls. We’ve dropped voice mails all for texting. We’re sending so many texts every day and it’s not getting us anywhere. Not all progress is true progress in my opinion.

That’s not to say technology can’t be good. Early in my career, I used technology to forge an incredibly big, vast great network, but it wasn’t until I started to meet those individuals in person where the real relationships prospered and became something more noteworthy.

For this book, when I was interviewing … leaders, it started off as me interviewing them, then us having a Facebook group to just share updates, but then what I did was I used the Facebook group to meet them in person all across the country. They came on a book tour with me.

I think that is a good case of going back to human, where the technology was used in the right way. It’s used for initial contact and used in order to get everyone on the same page with … and same vision, and then using in-person conversations and phone calls to really get to know people … and go with them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Got you. Thank you. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dan Schawbel
I think the best quote in the book is “When you replace emotional connections with digital ones, you lose the sensation of being present and the feeling of being alive.” Other quotes that I really love that I said over the years are, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and build your own future,” and “Invest in yourself before expecting others to invest in you.”

In terms of books, I’d recommend books that my friends … Dream Teams by Shane Snow, The Creative Curve by Alan Gannett, Superconnector by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh. These are all people I know personally, so it’s easy to recommend books because you trust them and what they’ve written.

I would say for the biggest challenge is the next time you’re in a meeting, have you and your teammates all put their phone in the middle of the table for the entire session and see what happens when you do that. You’re going to see what conversations take place, see what ideas are brought to the – brought up. Take notes. Then compare that to a meeting where phones were accessible and people were using them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, great. Thank you. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, you could go take the self-assessment that’s in the book. It’s called WorkConnectivityIndex.com. It measures the strength of your team relationships. You can also listen to my podcast, Five Questions with Dan Schawbel, where I interview all sorts of people from Condoleezza Rice to Ann Jones, Richard Branson and five questions in under ten minutes, so quick, but you learn a lot by listening.

For everything else you can buy Back to Human on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore. Go to DanScawbel.com to follow all my research and articles.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, Dan, thanks so much for taking this time and good luck with Back to Human and all that you’re up to here.

Dan Schawbel
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.