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972: Amy Edmondson on How to Fail Well

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Amy Edmondson shares how to minimize unproductive failures and maximize intelligent ones.

You’ll Learn

  1. What separates good failure from bad failure 
  2. The surprisingly simple tool that prevents many failures 
  3. How to stay motivated in the face of failure 

About Amy

Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School. Her work explores teaming – the dynamic forms of collaboration needed in environments characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity. She has also studied the role of psychological safety in teamwork and innovation. Before her academic career, she was Director of Research at Pecos River Learning Centers, where she worked with founder and CEO Larry Wilson to design change programs in large companies. In the early 1980s, she worked as Chief Engineer for architect/inventor Buckminster Fuller, and innovation in the built environment remains an area of enduring interest and passion.

Resources Mentioned

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Amy Edmondson Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Amy, welcome back.

Amy Edmondson
Great to be back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am super excited to hear your wisdom and talk about failing well. And I’d like it if you could kick us off with one of your favorite failures, personally or professionally?

Amy Edmondson
My favorite failure has to be the time, as a second year PhD student, I had a hypothesis that better teams would have lower medication error rates. I finally got the data after six months of data collection, put it all together, ran the numbers, and, alas, I had failed. My hypothesis was not only not supported, it was 180 degrees wrong.

In other words, the data suggested that better teams measured by a validated team survey instrument had higher error rates, not lower. So, that was just, you know, my dreams of publishing a paper evaporated in a moment as I looked at the screen, and I felt quite despondent about it. So, that was a failure, right? There was no question about it. But of course, it’s a favorite because, ultimately, it pointed me in the direction of a success.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell us about how that unfolded.

Amy Edmondson
Well as I tried to figure out what this might mean, “What does it mean when a valid team survey assessment data suggests that these are really better teams, they’re better led, they’re more engaged, they have higher quality relationships? What does it mean when those kinds of teams appear to have higher error rates than their counterparts?”

And it suddenly occurred to me, and what I later thought of as a blinding flash of the obvious, that maybe the better teams aren’t making more mistakes. Maybe they’re more willing to report them, maybe they’re less likely to cover them up, to keep them secret, to shove them under the rug. And the more I thought about that, the more possible, even likely, that became. And, of course, it’s hard to talk about mistakes at work. It’s hard to admit you’ve done something wrong. It’s hard to ask for help when you don’t know quite what to do.

And because of that, what I increasingly started talking about, interpersonally risky nature of those behaviors, it would, in fact, be, at least, it could explain the unexpected findings. It could be an alternative explanation, that the dependent variable, the error rates, was actually a faulty measure. It was a measure that was subject to reporting bias. And just having that insight, of course, wasn’t enough to prove it or to do anything else with it, but it led me down a path of trying to understand whether teams, in fact, have different interpersonal climates, especially around something fraught like error.

And if so, would that affect their learning behaviors? And if so, would that affect their performance? And so, that led me down a road of doing a very different kind of research, which was to sort of explore those possibilities. Later, I called that interpersonal climate, with the input of a peer reviewer on a paper, psychological safety. And so, that was sort of the birthplace of a, then, thriving research program on team psychological safety, which turns out to be a very powerful predictor of team performance in a variety of industry contexts.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. Psychological safety is huge, and you are the queen of it, and thank you for sharing those insights with us in our last conversation. So, yeah, now let’s dig into some of the goodies you shared in your latest book, Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well. Any particularly striking, surprising, counterintuitive discoveries that you made along the way and put forward in this book?

Amy Edmondson
Yes, you know, the failure I just described was what I do call in the book an intelligent failure, and it’s intelligent because, and in research there’s many intelligent failures if you’re doing it right, which is that you are pursuing a goal of developing new knowledge. It’s in new territory. We don’t yet know what will happen. You’ve got a hypothesis, like you’ve done your homework to find out what we know, what we don’t know, and you have a good idea about what might work, and the failure is no bigger than it has to be.

You don’t spend your whole research budget on one experiment. You sort of do it thoughtfully so that you can learn in a reasonably efficient way. And so, science is full of intelligent failures, of course. But I think the surprising thing that I learned through all of this research is that, as human beings, we respond similarly to intelligent failures as to what I’ll call basic and complex failures, the preventable kind, meaning our emotional reactions are similarly negative and unhelpful.

As I started telling my story of my research failure as a second-year graduate student, the emotions I felt were downright catastrophic. I was starting to envision I’ll have to drop out of graduate school, I’m no good at this, I failed, you know, crazy stuff, which is just factually wrong-headed, but that’s where your brain goes. A failure is always disappointing, and when you have one, you can easily, or at least I can, spiral into unhelpful, unhealthy thinking.

And so, I think an opening surprise or insight is that, even though some failures logically are wonderfully helpful in making progress in new territory, we are vulnerable to having an emotional reaction to them that, then, precludes us from learning what we need to learn from them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is huge, and I want to dig into that in some real detail. But first, could you maybe make the grand case associated with failure being okay, or the main thesis, or the takeaway from Right Kind of Wrong?

Amy Edmondson
Yeah, so it’s not actually as simple as “Failure is okay.” It is as simple as intelligent failure is not only okay, it’s praiseworthy. If you are willing to take risks, and we all must be in order to make progress in our lives and in our jobs, if you’re willing to take risks in new territory, you will face some failures along the way, otherwise, they weren’t risks. If everything you try just goes perfectly, you’re probably not stretching very much, and that’s not a way to be awesome at your job.

So, those are the kinds, you know, the intelligent failures in new territory are indeed the kinds we’ve got to sort of develop the muscles to welcome them, and be not only not despondent about them but actually genuinely delighted by the opportunity to learn and sometimes pivot. But it is equally a book about pulling together what we know about the best practices for preventing preventable failures. One kind of failure I identify is a basic failure, which has a single cause, usually human error, or deviation from the process or protocol or recipe, and those are theoretically and practically preventable.

And so, for instance, in a new job, if you are looking around and you’re not quite sure what to do, and you don’t feel comfortable asking someone, and then you do it wrong and it leads to a failure, that’s a basic failure, and those we aren’t so excited about. It’s a book about failure but it’s really a book about success because the idea is, “Let’s do everything we can to execute well in known territory and to explore well in new territory.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Well said. Well, let’s continue this typology or categorization here. We’ve got basic failure, a deviation from the recipe. My wife and I, we joke about this all the time. She’s like, whenever I cook something, and she said, “Wow, that was great. What’d you do?” And I said, “I did exactly what the recipe told me to do, because I have learned from many, many basic failures, that whenever I think I know better, or this is no big deal, how about I do this little twist, it almost always ends poorly,” unless sure enough, I’ve done the recipe many times, and I thought “Okay, I know how this works. I’m going to put a little extra of this in there because I know that I like this.” And it usually works out okay in those circumstances, so I like the word recipe in there.

Amy Edmondson
ecome an expert in it, and then you’re in a good position to experiment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we’ve got our basic failures. And then what else?

Amy Edmondson
Complex failures. So, complex failures are quite simply the perfect storms that bother us and show up in our lives and our organizations. They are the failures that are caused by a handful of factors coming together in just the wrong way, any one of which on its own would not lead to a failure, but the fact of their coming together. Let’s say you accidentally set your alarm clock for p.m. rather than a.m. I’ve done that.

So, maybe you wake up a little late but you still can get to that important meeting on time, but not if you also hadn’t realized your gas tank was hovering on empty and there was a tractor-trailer accident on the highway, five little things happen, none of which on their own would have led you to be late for this important meeting, but they all came together to lead to this complex failure.

Our lives are complex, our world is complex, so complex failures are kind of on the rise, which is depressing. But I think the silver lining of complex failures is that all you really have to do is catch and correct one of the things. Now, some of them are external. There was nothing you could have done about the tractor-trailer, except if it was a really important meeting, you leave a lot of buffers in there. So, then you would have taken extra care to have set the alarm accurately.

But the beauty of them, I mean, the bad news about them is that they’re sort of everywhere and they can just happen when we’re not really at our very best. The good news is, when we’re vigilant, we can catch and correct, and if you sort of catch and correct any one of the factors, you usually can dodge the failure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And talking about the emotional piece, those are the situations, when you can feel it progressively melting down, that just drive you bonkers.

Amy Edmondson
Yeah, likewise, you sort of see it in slow motion heading your way, and maybe it’s too late to change it, but maybe there’s still time, or at least you can put in a plan B. You can make that phone call and explain and maybe reschedule.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And we have additional categories?

Amy Edmondson
Nope, just the three: intelligent, basic, and complex. And there’s a bright red line drawn between intelligent and the other two because the intelligent ones are the ones that we need to have more of, we need to welcome, we need to just force ourselves to like them. And the other two, we need to kind of sit up straight, pay attention, and try to prevent as many as possible.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I was going to ask, sit up straight, pay attention, that doesn’t sound hard.

Amy Edmondson
No. That doesn’t sound…yeah, that’s not complete, is it?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Are there some basic protocols, or checklists, or things you recommend to help us prevent those?

Amy Edmondson
Yeah, absolutely. And as I start talking about these things, the worry I always feel is they sound so basic, they sound so simple, and they are. And, unfortunately, they need to be used with intent. So, a checklist, for example, it’s a brilliant tool. It helps us remember to do some of the right things, when maybe it’s just a little complicated, and it would be easy to miss something, turning the anti-icing on, for example, taking off on a wintry storm day, and so we have these structures and tools to help us do the right thing.

But if you have those tools and structures in your life, or in your organization, but you’re using them, roughly speaking, in your sleep, just not really paying attention, not using them with intent, then they don’t help at all, right? If you’re sort of going through the motions of using a checklist but you’re really not paying attention, and you have just a habit of check, check, check, check, check, without your brain in the game, they won’t work. So, no tool is good enough on its own to overcome kind of the vagaries of human nature and lack of discipline.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you talk about good enough, I’m thinking about some people think that they are too good for the checklist.

Amy Edmondson
But that’s another point, isn’t it?

Pete Mockaitis
A Checklist Manifesto, or something, talk about surgeons or whatever, who were reluctant to lower themselves to simply be in checklists.

Amy Edmondson
Right, and that’s because they had the wrong mental model. So, even the wonderful Atul Gawande, who wrote the book, The Checklist Manifesto, I remember hearing him interviewed on NPR, and it was so brilliant because he was asked by the interviewer, “You’re a Harvard surgeon, and so on, a beautiful writer, do you use a checklist yourself in the operating room?”

And he said, “Well, in writing this book, I knew I’d be asked that question, so, of course I had to force myself to use them, even though,” he claimed honestly, “I didn’t think I needed it, right? That’s sort of for mere mortals, but not for me.” I mean, he didn’t say it that way, but it’s exactly, as your question, put it. And so, he said, “And I discovered something.”

He says, “Never does a week go by that that checklist, that I forced myself to use because people like you would be asking me this question, never does a week go by where that thing doesn’t save my process in some way. So, in other words, it turns out I am mortal. I am vulnerable to making mistakes and this very simple, simple tool, this checklist, has saved me on numerous occasions.”

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, as we think about professionals and basic failures, what are some basic failures you see over and over and over again that might be well-suited to a checklist or some sort of a tool along those lines?

Amy Edmondson
If we all think about our experiences as customers, or as patients, just on ordinary annual checkups or something, trying to get the schedule, or trying to, you know, there’s so many organizations that don’t work as well as they should, that you can look around and say, “This could be better with just a tiny bit of scaffolding to allow the recurring, repeating activities to be a bit more programmatic, a bit more supported.” And I know that’s very abstract, right?

Pete Mockaitis
But no, I think that’s a huge tool right there in terms of, you know, it’s funny when we instituted this, when I’m making courses, I have someone, his name is Ian – shoutout to Ian – and we’ve given him the title of Neutral Ambassador of Learning. And the idea is that Ian had nothing to do with producing any of the materials anywhere around the chain, but his role is to step into what we’ve created, and be that first observer, that first voice, and tell us, “All right Ian, what’s wrong? What chapter title was off, wrong? Which bits of the content seemed incomplete or confusing?”

And it’s fantastic! He surfaces all sorts of things, like, “Oh, we were so close that we didn’t even notice.” But with every customer experience kind of a situation, you’d think it’s like, “You know, if you actually tried to fill out this form yourself once, that you’re making us fill out thousands of times, you’d realize that I need more than an inch and a half to write an address. You’d know it on your form.”

Or, that, “Maybe there might be a means by which you can take my name and birth date from one medical form and auto-populate that into the nine other medical forms I have to go through, to have this doctor’s appointment.”

Amy Edmondson
Because if you can do that, you are reducing the likelihood of error, of just simple human error… You probably won’t screw up your birth date. Although sometimes, on my birthday, I screw up my birthday every year because I just automatically write, once I’ve started with my birthday, the year follows naturally.

And so, there I am writing a year from many, many decades ago in the form, when it’s like, “Oh.” It’s just a simple brain malfunction. Right, you write the actual birth date, but yes. So, now I’m thinking, “What are the failures that could’ve been avoided with a simple checklist or making the thing a bit more programmatic?” For instance, in the world of podcasts, I have been on at least one where there was a failure to press record. It’s not catastrophic, nobody dies, but, boy, it can feel almost catastrophic.

Pete Mockaitis
That happened to me once. I felt so embarrassed.

Amy Edmondson
So bad, where you’ve spent all this wonderful time and energy, and then, “Oops. Oops.” It was great for us but the rest of the world would not hear this one, and doing it a second time is just not…but that is one of those errors, by the way, that you learn from and rarely do it a second time. But it is certainly possible to never do it the first time also.

Pete Mockaitis
And I love it, in the software now, we’re on Riverside, and I believe it does this too, it’ll now tell you. If we’re chit-chatting for too long without record, a notification will come up, “Notice, you’re not actually recording now.” So, that’s cool though.

Amy Edmondson
Which is good! Which is good, right? It’s sort of a little check. It’s a check that’s built into the system.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Okay. So, then let’s talk about these intelligent failures. You say there are a few criteria that we need to check in order to say that something is an intelligent failure before we could just give ourselves credit, and say, “Oh, that was an intelligent failure. It’s okay.”

Amy Edmondson
Yes. So, first and foremost, it’s in pursuit of a goal. I’m not against just messing about, playing with resources, but that’s another category of activity. That’s play. But if something is an intelligent failure, it is the case that you are pursuing a goal, whether that is a better recipe, or a life partner, or an innovation in your job at work, but it’s something that you’re hoping to accomplish and improve, and it’s arguably in new territory.

It’s not possible to just get the answer for what will happen off the internet. There’s no way to get the new knowledge you are trying to get to make this progress without trying it, without the experiment, and you have a hypothesis where you’ve done enough thinking and homework to have a good sense that this might work, “I know it’s not a slam dunk, but it might work.”

And then, finally, fourth criterion is the failure, if it happens, is no bigger than necessary. It’s just as big as it has to be to give us the new knowledge that we need. And I always say there’s sort of a bonus fifth criterion, which is you take the time to learn from it. And so, those four criteria – pursuit of a goal, new territory, done your homework, no bigger than necessary – can apply to all sorts of realms. They can apply to a blind date. They can apply to improving that cookie recipe. They can apply to an assignment in your job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, now, Amy, I’d love it if you could give us some fun examples of taking this mindset and approach, and doing it with gusto. What came to mind for me was I’m thinking about Tony Hsieh’s Zappos story, is that one of the first things he had to test was, “Are folks even willing to buy shoes online?” This was back in the day. He didn’t know yet. So, he partnered with a shoe store and said, “Hey, here’s the deal. I’d put a photograph of the shoes in the store, and every time I sell one online, I’ll come here and buy it from you, and then ship it to them.” And so, that’s wildly inefficient from, like, a profit perspective.

Amy Edmondson
Right, but it’s brilliant. It’s brilliant.

Pete Mockaitis
But from learning, yes. It nails it.

Amy Edmondson
Because imagine, I mean, compare that little experiment, expensive experiment, but compare that to setting up a whole warehouse and filling it with shoes of all sizes, and then sort of waiting and hoping. I mean, since we don’t know if customers will buy them online in the first place, what if they don’t? Well, we have just spent tens of thousands of dollars filling up our little warehouse here with shoes, and it failed. That’s not so good. Whereas with him, if it had failed, then all he would’ve lost was a little bit of his time, and maybe he would’ve disappointed this nice shoe store, but no harm done, really, right? So, it’s a beautiful example.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well, so please, give us some more. As we’re thinking about professionals who want to have more intelligent failures more often, any cool tales that illustrate how this could be done well in practice?

Amy Edmondson
One of the intelligent failures, and it’s not professional, it’s personal, that I love, intelligent failure stories, is my high school friend, Laura, who in her 40s, decided she wanted to learn how to play ice hockey, which is kind of crazy if you think about it, but, anyway.

Well, she lived in New Hampshire, so she thought it was really one of the things that people around her did all the time, and so it seemed like a good social activity and so on. And I think, it almost goes without saying, that her first forays onto the ice were failures, and it was intelligent because, again, she had a goal to join this league, to have some fun. She had done as much as you can do. She’d skated as a child, but in figure skates, not hockey skates. She knew enough to know that she sort of liked sliding around on the ice, and she didn’t try to join the Bruins or anything. She joins this sort of local women’s league.

And certainly, those first few weeks would not have made her a very valuable team member but she got better and really fell in love with the sport, and it remained an important part of her life now. So, that’s where someone is willing to take the risk of doing something new that might not go well. It’s not new territory for the world, but it was certainly new territory for her in her life.

I suppose in business, you bring up Tony and Zappos, but earlier than that, Amazon, obviously buying books online is not as challenging as selling shoes online, but really, “Would enough people go? Could you make it? Could you make a company work out of that?” And, of course, we later understand that Jeff Bezos had much bigger dreams in mind, but he didn’t start with, “Okay, I’m going to become the retailer of everything,” and assume that’s going to work.

He started with, “Well, let’s see if we can sort of create a little bookstore online, and drum up some enthusiastic customers, and then let’s see if we can extend some of those customers into buying other things. And then let’s see if other customers, who maybe don’t buy books that often, will come and buy other things because our operations are now so good.” So, that would be another story of one risk at a time.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And then let’s talk about this emotional piece. When we hit a failure, we can think, “I’m no good at this,” and we’d have an emotional reaction that prevents us from doing the learning, doing the persisting, doing the optimal response that keeps us moving forward. Boy, in the heat of battle, Amy, how do we address this stuff?

Amy Edmondson
So, this is why I spend some time in the book talking about becoming more self-aware and really more self-reflective and able to pause our unhelpful, unhealthy thinking and redirect it. So, I described my unhealthy, unhelpful thinking in response to my research failure years ago, and I had to learn, and we all have to learn, to kind of talk ourselves away from the wildly emotional and really inaccurate response to the disappointment of failure and rethink it, and sort of reframe it.

Reframe it from “Oh, this is awful. I’m going to have to drop out of my PhD program,” to, “Oh, this is disappointing. I wonder what it might mean?” Now, that’s a shift, or it’s a major cognitive shift, but it’s not unheard of. It doesn’t seem impossible to our listeners, I imagine, that you can practice and then learn to catch yourself, and correct your exaggerated thinking, and turn it into more scientific thinking that brings cooler, more logical thoughts, that also cool the hot emotions.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Could you give us an example of that in practice?

Amy Edmondson
Well, I guess an example in practice is I’m going to go back to this really important meeting, maybe it’s a job interview, and I experienced that little complex failure and I’m really unprofessionally late. I show up late. In fact, I show up so late that they’ve moved on to the next candidate. And my sort of human being’s response might be, “This is awful. I’m not going to get the job. This is the end of my life. No one’s going to hire me, and I’m going to starve to death.” Well, no, right?

So, that’s what the psychiatrist, who I talk about in the book, Maxie Maultsby, would call awfulizing or catastrophizing something that is, indeed, not great, not a great performance, but not the end of the world. And so, once you recognize that, that little emotion taking hold, that kind of your amygdala gets hooked and, says, “This is just terrible,” you pause, and you say, “No.” You force yourself to say, “This is inconvenient.”

That’s my favorite word, right? It’s inconvenient. Because, yep, it’s inconvenient, and it’s not the end of the world. And either it’s, “I’ll make amends, I’ll make an apology, maybe get a second chance,” or, “I will definitely not do this again for my next interview.” You figure out. It’s a shift from a backwards-facing, highly emotional, “This is terrible,” to a forward-facing, “Okay, that wasn’t ideal. What will I do differently next time?”

And this is how we continuously cool our emotions down, but we also force ourselves to keep learning, keep getting more thoughtful, keep getting more disciplined and wiser, and, ultimately, more creative as well, because we’re more willing to take risks because we know that the downside of the risks won’t be catastrophic.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. And if we’re having trouble even beginning to think clearly and rationally and calmly about the matter, any other pro tips? Is it sleep? Is it walking? Is it cold water? Is it any of that?

Amy Edmondson
Oh, yeah, all of the above, depending on what you like. So, I would say you start with the proverbial and the real deep breath. That deep breath will interrupt the automaticity of the thinking. But, for me, certainly one of the things that I habitually have relied upon is go for a run. If I’m really stuck on something, and I just change the scenery, literally by put some running clothes on and go for a run, it completely changes how I’m thinking. It seems to put things more in perspective, and so exercise, that’s one, but anything that interrupts.

You could have a checklist of questions to ask yourself. It could be along the lines of, “Okay, what truly are the consequences of this? And what did I learn? And why is this now something that I’m able to put to use going forward?”

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

Amy Edmondson
So we’ve just been talking about sort of self-awareness, self-reflection, self-discipline. Another key domain is context awareness. Be more mindful and thoughtful when you’re in a dangerous context. I know that’s obvious, but it’s truly violated all the time. People don’t put their safety equipment on when they should have, or they text and drive.

So, develop a habit of thinking quickly and clearly about the context, “What are the stakes here? What are the risks? Financial? Reputational? Safety? And what’s the uncertainty?” And act accordingly. Have lots of fun experimenting when the stakes are low. Be very, very thoughtful and vigilant when the stakes are high.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Amy Edmondson
One of my very favorite quotes is Viktor Frankl, which is, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies our opportunity to choose. And in that choice lies our freedom.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite study, or experiment, a bit of research?

Amy Edmondson
I think my favorite bit of research is in the research on the fundamental attribution error by Lee Ross at Stanford, where they show in some sort of laboratory experiments that we are relentlessly willing to attribute others’ shortcomings to their own personality defects or character defects. But our own, we will very quickly and naturally see the situational forces at work. So, once we know that we’re likely to do that, once we truly internalize the idea that we will spontaneously do that, then we can step onto the road of becoming a better person, and giving others the same benefit of the doubt we often give ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Amy Edmondson
I have many long-standing favorite books, but I’m in the middle of one that right now is becoming a favorite book, which is The Road to Character by David Brooks.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they retweet it, they Kindle book highlight it, an Amy Edmondson bit of wisdom?

Amy Edmondson
Choose learning over knowing, and it’s an active choice. We have to choose it because our habitual cognitive response is to feel like we know, feel like we see reality. We have to get curious. We have to choose learning over knowing.

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

Amy Edmondson
I guess AmyCEdmondson.com.

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

Amy Edmondson
Yes, take more risks.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Amy, thank you. This has been lots of fun once again. And I wish you many delightful failures.

Amy Edmondson
Thank you. And you, too.

971: Mastering The Three Keys to Getting Noticed with Jay Baer

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Jay Baer discusses how professionals can use the principles of excellent customer experience to stand out above the rest.

You’ll Learn

  1. Why it pays to reply super fast
  2. The best way to recover from a mistake
  3. Why competency won’t get you noticed—and what does 

About Jay

Jay Baer is a 7th-generation entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author of seven books, and founder of six multi-million dollar companies. In 2023, he was named a Top 30 Global Guru in both Customer Experience and in Marketing. Jay has advised more than 700 brands in his career, including Nike, Oracle, Hilton, The United Nations and 40 of the FORTUNE 500.

He is an inductee into the professional speaking and word of mouth marketing halls of fame. Jay has authored or co-authored among the best-selling business books of all-time in the categories of digital marketing, customer service, customer experience, and business growth. He has been named to more than 50 top global business influencer lists. Jay’s books are known for deep, first-party research combined with unique, compelling case studies, and a heavy sprinkling of humor. 

Resources Mentioned

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Jay Baer Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Jay, welcome.

Jay Baer

Pete, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. Looking forward to it.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I’ve been looking forward to it, too. You are so fun, and you have so much good stuff. I have to pick and choose within the ocean of your wisdom where to dive in.

Jay Baer

Well, I don’t know about that.

Pete Mockaitis

And I’m going to go with two books, actually, Talk Triggers and Hug Your Haters. I kind of see them as two sides of a similar coin. You might conceptualize them differently. But just to orient us, for starters, what’s the big idea behind these two books?

Jay Baer

So, the big idea for Hug Your Haters is that people who are unhappy about you or your business are not your problem, ignoring them is, and that you can win the day by being disproportionately kind even to, and perhaps especially to, those who are unhappy. So that book is really about retaining your relationships, retaining customers.

Talk Triggers is almost the opposite. Talk Triggers is a book about differentiation and word-of-mouth. The concept is that word-of-mouth is and will always be the greatest way to grow any business, to accomplish anything. It’s also the most cost-effective, but individuals and organizations are often loath to do anything that stands out because they think it’s risky, or they just don’t have a framework for how to do it. So that book provides the framework. A talk trigger is defined as an operational choice that you make so that conversations are created.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s so cool. Yeah. And so, in terms of we’ve got great wisdom to be gleaned from haters, as well as for raving fans.

Jay Baer

Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis

Or, soon to be raving fans, with a little tweak. And I’d love to hear your take, if we’re talking to professionals who, and some are maybe not customer-facing, client-facing, marketing-driven, how do you think some of these principles apply to these sorts of folks?

Jay Baer

I think universally, because it doesn’t matter whether your job is customer-facing, you are still customer-adjacent. This happens all the time. I was talking to a CEO the other day of a Fortune 100 company, you know, it’s many tens of billions of dollars a company, and she was saying that one of the things they struggle with is their actual customer service department, if you will, is fine. Like, they’re good and they’ve got good policies, and they got good software, it’s all good. But she was like, all the time, customers are contacting people who are not “customer-facing.”

They’re a manager, they’re an executive. All you gotta do is look on LinkedIn and be like, “Hey, check it out. Here’s where Pete works. Let’s just send that person a message.” So, you don’t get to decide whether customers can think of you as customer-facing or not. And the reality is if you carry the business card and you’re associated with a logo, you are customer-facing.

Now, whether you’re talking to 100 customers a day might be a different story, but I think the right way to think about it is everybody is customer-facing at some point. Consequently, wouldn’t you want to be really good at that? Like, wouldn’t you want to be really great at working with customers when they’re unhappy, and also be great at explaining to customers why you are the only solution for them?

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely. And I also think about “internal customers” in terms of another person inside our organization relies on me, or our team for these reports, or this information, or this key enabling stuff, and so, yeah, you’re going to have some folks who are doing some talking about you and your team and maybe some hating about you and your team.

Jay Baer

Absolutely. And I’ll tell you, I ran a correlation study a long time ago on the relationship between sort of employee culture and customer experience. So, we looked at companies that were awarded Best Places to Work designations versus Net Promoter Score, which is a measure of customer satisfaction, and the correlation is almost the same.

So, what that means is that it is essentially impossible to be great at outwardly-facing customer experience unless you are first great at inwardly-facing employee experience. So, you’re exactly right, Pete, like you’re going to have workplace conflict, and how you handle that can really separate you from other professionals in your organization.

And also, some of the people who go on to the greatest successes inside organizations are those where there is a consistent story told about them. And so, there’s like sort of an earned wisdom about, “You know, when you work with Pete, what’s great about working with Pete is X, right?” And that same kind of value statement gets attached to you throughout your entire career, and that can be a huge, huge advantage as you’re looking to advance in that organization or even move along to a different. organization.

Pete Mockaitis

Boy, that’s so powerful, that notion that the customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are almost the same with regard to correlation. And, in some ways, this kind of makes sense, like, to the extent to which you are a jerk who doesn’t care about people, customers, your colleagues, or a sweetie who cares a lot is, like, I could see like that’s one dimension there, but there’s also some particular practices associated with things that make for excellence on both these dimensions.

So can you lay it on us, you say that there are three things that customers or clients really, really, truly care about. What are those things and how do we deliver them well?

Jay Baer

Well, I know three things are the same that your colleagues care about, too. So, we can set the customers aside for now because these three elements of sort of your behavior and your interactions are important to everybody, disproportionate to everybody. So, what you’ve got to focus on in your career is being quick, clear, and kind.

If you can be quick, clear, and kind, and really be demonstrably better at those three things than other people, you are going to be on a rocket ship ride to success in your career, because, yes, there’s a lot of dimensions of success, there’s a lot of dimensions about being a good teammate, and a good colleague, and a good company, and a good friend, and all those, but if you can consistently overdeliver on responsiveness, on clarity, and on empathy, the world is your oyster.

Pete Mockaitis

Now, Jay, there are so many directions I could go with this, but first, let’s hear. I know you are a marketing genius, if I may, I’m just going to bestow that upon you.

Jay Baer

Thanks.

Pete Mockaitis

I’ve admired your work for a while, and you do a lot of research. Could you share with us, when it comes to quick, like there are eye-popping numbers associated with, say, if you have an inbound lead land in your lap, if you respond to them within minutes or hours, it’s like a crazy huge difference? Can you share some of those figures with us?

Jay Baer

Yeah, and we did a lot of research for my most recent book, which is called The Time to Win, and most people, and certainly most organizations, feel like they are fast enough. Like, “I’m getting to it as fast as I can, man.” But what they fail to realize is that people’s expectations for what constitutes fast has changed dramatically in a three-year period. So, yes, you used to be fast enough, sufficiently fast, but you’re no longer sufficiently fast.

Two-thirds of customers say that speed is as important as price. And to your point, Pete, about something landing in your inbox, check this out. Fifty-one percent, more than half, of all customers will hire whomever contacts them first regardless of price. So, if you’re shopping for a car, a sofa, a hamburger, a mate, a job, I did a podcast last week for the manufacturing sector, and one of the things we talked about was they struggled to hire and retain talent.

I’m like, well, one of the reasons that’s so is they put out a job description, and they get some resumes, and then they don’t get back to anybody until they have a sufficient stack of resumes and begin to analyze them. Meanwhile, that person hasn’t heard from me for three weeks and took another job.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that happens. It’s true.

Jay Baer

It’s just about response time and cycles. They’re not nefarious. It’s not like they don’t care about those candidates. It’s just that they haven’t tuned their processes to understand that even though we’ve been saying the words “Time is money” for probably 100 years, it was never true. But it is true now. The relationship between responsiveness and revenue is inescapable now. And you either are good at that, or you are literally losing money, friends, colleagues, every day.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s powerful, and it’s true. I’m thinking, I recently acquired a company, my first one, which is pretty exciting.

Jay Baer

Congrats.

Pete Mockaitis

Ooh, I feel like a deal-maker, a titan of industry.

Jay Baer

Doing some of that M&A, baby.

Pete Mockaitis

And so, I was like, “Oh, man, I’ve never done this before. I should probably have a lawyer and accountant who really know what they’re doing. That’s probably important,” So, I thought, “All right. So, it’s very important for me to select an excellent accountant and lawyer.” And what did I do? I totally went with the first person who got back to me, and said, “Yeah, I can do that.”

Jay Baer

Yeah, and it’s because we interpret speed as caring. We interpret responsiveness as respect. It doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s just how we internalize it. So, if you hear back from a potential attorney in four hours, you feel one way about that individual or that organization. If you hear back from them in two days, you feel a different way entirely, and that matters. It has nothing to do with their competency as attorneys.

But you’re like, “Well, this is going to be a better relationship because they got back to me right away, therefore, they must want my business. They want to work with Pete. They want to be part of this project.” Now, does that mean it’s actually going to be better? No, but we can’t help it. It’s psychology. It’s our need to belong. And when you get back to somebody faster, what you’re actually saying is, “We belong together.”

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. Well, so now let’s zoom into the interior of an organization. Folks like to have their emails and their Slack messages responded to quickly. And you know, hey, we had Cal Newport and other folks on the show, talking about deep work and the importance of focus, and so in many ways the advice, current, more so often in many of these interviews is, “Hey, you know, don’t non-stop be responding to your emails and Slacks, but rather really take some time to have that focus, deep work, high-value, strategic initiatives. Do that, good professional, as a differentiator for your value.” And so, yeah. But at the same time, people love quickness, Jay. How do we navigate this tension?

Jay Baer

Yeah, I don’t believe in deep work during the day. I feel like what you’re doing is telling everybody else that your time is more important than theirs, and I feel like, eventually, that’s going to be a detriment to you and your career. I do deep work outside office hours. I do deep work at night and I do deep work on weekends. Does that hurt my work-life balance? Damn right, but I answer everything instantaneously and have for 30 years, and it has certainly served me well.

And I’ll do deep work later, and I will be as responsive as possible from 8:00 to 5:00, and that’s just the way I’ve always done it. And I think, largely, the research on human behavior bears that out as a very successful system, but I do understand how it can be a problem for people who are like, “Look, I’m not going to do two hours’ time on task from 5:00 to 7:00 o’clock at night.” I get it. I understand. That’s a choice you’re making.

Pete Mockaitis

Understood. So, at the same time, though, there are occasions where, hey, you’re doing a podcast interview here and now. I mean, you’re not emailing or Slacking in this moment but I’m imagining…

Jay Baer

You think that I’m not, but I’ve actually checked email twice since we started talking.

Pete Mockaitis

Is that really true? I had no idea.

Jay Baer

That’s 100% true.

Pete Mockaitis

You’re very slick. You’re very slick. Although, you didn’t respond though, right?

Jay Baer

I turned off my microphone and I typed an email a minute ago when you looked away.

Pete Mockaitis

I can’t tell if you’re joking or you’re not.

Jay Baer

I’m not joking. Why would I lie about it?

Pete Mockaitis

That’s impressive.

Jay Baer

I’m not joking.

Pete Mockaitis

That is impressive. Okay. Well, no, it’s fun to get multiple perspectives and varieties of counterpoints here. Because, yes, you have achieved towering success in your fields, which are pretty darn competitive, if I may add, you know, speaking and marketing and book writing, and you’re crushing it.

Jay Baer

Well, I mean, look at it this way. If somebody sends me an email, and says, “Hey, I’d like to maybe think about having you come do a keynote speech for our organization,” to me, the best way to do that is to build a life and a team and a system where we can respond to that within two minutes because I don’t want them to ever send anybody else a second email.

You never want them to say, “Well, we didn’t hear back, therefore…” and you don’t know how long their fuse is. When do they say, “I haven’t heard back from Jay”? Is it an hour? Is it four hours? Is it a day? Is it two days? I don’t know. I do know a little bit because I’ve done the research on it. But our SLA in our organization is we respond to everybody within 59 minutes, unless there’s like some weird extenuating circumstances, like that’s the deal, right? And, usually, it’s more like two minutes.

And, obviously, we’ve got to sort of build our work style around that, and I am better than most at being able to record a podcast and type an email with one hand, but you train yourself to be able to do that over time.

Pete Mockaitis

And it sounds like you also have teams and systems and processes enabling that.

Jay Baer

Yeah, of course.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s not all Jay email all the time.

Jay Baer

No, and I’d have to tell you, all of this is going to get so much easier because, in the near future, i.e. today, you’re going to be able to just say to Microsoft Copilot, Google Genesis, Meta, whatever AI suite you’re going to use, you just say, “Hey, send a three-paragraph email to Pete asking about what time the podcast taping is going to be and what he prefers in terms of promotional graphics.” That’s it. The email will be created and sent.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So, quickness, it sounds like the takeaway is do it. Any other nuances to that?

Jay Baer

Hey, I’m not saying it’s good. I just want to point this out. I don’t love it either, man. I don’t love having to write proposals from 7:00 o’clock to 9:00 o’clock at night or whatever the circumstances are. I don’t love it. I’m not saying this is a net positive, either for me or for society. I am saying it will make you a better professional, and it will help your career, and it is the trend that we’re all going on.

I don’t think anybody, Cal Newport, nobody else is going to say, “Hey, you know, I’ve been looking at the trends and it sounds like we’re going to start doing things more slowly.” Like, I don’t think that’s going to happen. So, you either lean into the skid or you end up in the ditch.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So, quickness, takeaway, do it. Let’s talk about being clear.

Jay Baer

Yeah. Well, look, people hate to wait. We just talked about that. The thing they hate the second most is to be under-informed. This is also something that has been changed over the last few years because, until then, we were under-informed all the time and we were okay with it. We didn’t have any choice. So, the other night, my wife and I were watching TV, and Cher comes on, and so I say to my wife, “Hey, how old is Cher?” She’s like, “I don’t know.” So, we’re like, “Siri, how old is Cher?” Cher is 78 years old, as it turns out, which is kind of impressive. A-plus plastic surgeon for Cher, for sure. A-plus, like incredible.

But then I thought, “Okay, what would it have taken, pre-internet, to figure out how old Cher was?” And I was like, “Okay, you’d have to get in a car, drive to a library, meet with a reference librarian who would maybe have a book on actors and their birthdays or something, and then you’d look it up, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, Cher was born in whatever.’” And so, it would take, I don’t know, a couple hours to decide how old Cher was. And, of course, nobody would do that, no employed person would do that.

So, we used to say, Pete, you might remember this, back in the day, we used to say, “I don’t know,” and people were totally okay with that. That was literally an acceptable answer to almost any query. You could just say, “I don’t know,” and that was fine. We just went about our business. But now you can’t say that because you can know, you can figure it out. So, we’re now in this era where when people are under-informed, where there’s an information asymmetry, where you know more than they do, it creates a ton of anxiety.

So, one of the best things you can do is to literally over-inform your colleagues about what’s going on, what’s going to happen next. Like, be the person who always knows exactly what the next step is, and is always telling other people what’s going on. Because this sort of black box, like, “We gave a thing to Pete. And I guess he’s working on it, but we haven’t heard a status report.” Like, all of that creates a lot of anxiety and really hurts you as a professional.

Pete Mockaitis

It really does, and I’ve been on the receiving end and probably delivering end – sorry, everybody – of that. And so, can you maybe give us an example of what is a disappointment, yet all-too-common demonstration of clear, like, “Not clear enough but you see it all the time,” versus what is exemplary clarity that we’d love to receive?

Jay Baer

I’ll give you an example of exemplary clarity because it really surprised me, and it sort of turned a negative into a positive for me. So, as you may know, my side job is I’m the number two tequila influencer in the world, and I was combining jobs, and I was drinking tequila while shopping online recently, and I don’t recommend that for this reason.

I bought a pair of leather sneakers, and they were super cool, very happy with them. And then I immediately got the confirmation email that said, “Okay, we’re going to make your sneakers. Expect them in eight weeks.” That was a surprise because I thought that the sneakers were ready to be shipped that day. I didn’t know it was a “make a sneaker” thing. I thought it was like, “We have these and we’ll send them to you.” And I was like, “Oh.”

So, then I thought about canceling the order, but I was like, “No, I really do like these shoes. Like, I can wait a couple months. I’ll survive.” But then, every single Wednesday, Pete, for eight weeks in a row, I got an email from my account manager at the sneaker company, saying, “Hey, this week, your shoes are going to the tannery. And this is Manuel. He’s our tannery guy, and he’s been doing this for 20 years. And here’s a video of Manuel doing his job. And then, next week, it’s going to go to the stitching people, and that’s going to be Sheila. Here’s Sheila’s workspace. Here’s what she’s all about.”

So, literally, it was like a week-by-week documentary film of how these sneakers were going to be made. So, the entire time, there was never any question as to, “What are they doing for two months?” Like, I knew exactly what was happening every week, and I could kind of follow along. It was an amazing, amazing experience. And I think we can take that same idea into our own workspace. And every time we’re working on a project, every time we’re collaborating with colleagues, just make sure that, wherever possible, you are over-communicating.

And I’ve done a lot of research on this, Pete. Here’s the way I like to frame it up. If it feels to you like you’re over-communicating, you’re probably communicating just the right amount. Because the truth is, it doesn’t matter whether they’re email, Slack, voicemails, puppet shows, Haiku, it doesn’t matter, whatever you’re creating for your colleagues, they’re not reading all of it. And if they are, they’re not letting it all sink in. Like, they’re skimming it like the rest of us do. So sometimes the best way to separate yourself apart is to just be the one that communicates more.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s really cool. And it sounds like the nature of communications is specifically in the domain of the status of stuff and what’s going on right now. Because sometimes people can feel a little bit of an information overload in terms of, like, you’re doing a report, or, “Hey, our recommended course of action is this. And it’s because if you look at the database, dah, dah, dah.” It’s like people often don’t want all that.

Jay Baer

Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis

But they do want to hear, “Hey, what is going on? What’s the deal with this thing?” And that reminds me of a story. One time, I made a boo-boo and I had a client…

Jay Baer

Hopefully, it wasn’t the buying the company part.

Pete Mockaitis

No, no, that’s been working out great. And I made a boo-boo and so I had a client who was rather upset. I put him in a pickle. And so, I told him, “Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to reach out to everybody, and I’m going to have a helper also record the status of what’s unfolding with each of those people in this live Google Sheet, so you can see at any moment where do things sit with all of these people, and then I’ll be reachable via…” I was on a camping trip. “I’ll be reachable via satellite phone for dah, dah, dah.”

And they said, “Okay.” And then it was all said and done, they said, “You know, actually, everyone was really pleased with how you handled that.” I was like, “Oh, cool.” So, I was effectively able to get myself out of a tight spot because I was doing that. It’s like, “You could not have more information than this. The status of all of these people and the minute it changes at your fingertips, anytime you like.”

And I also love it when I’m coordinating a big project. I got a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous, to say, “Oh, okay, this is exactly where that is,” so that I could see, “Oh, shoot, we’re getting hung up here. I better get some more help there, pronto.”

Jay Baer

Absolutely. I’ll give you another little life tip for this notion of clarity. This really helps. I’ve been doing this about two and a half years now in my personal life, and not only has it made me a better business professional, but it’s improved relationships with my wife, and my kids, and my friends, and my mailman. Like, I really want everybody to do this because I’m telling you it’s going to work. It’s called reply without answers. So, here’s how it works.

Today, if somebody has a question for you, a work colleague, you don’t know the answer, what do you do? You go look it up. You ask Julie in accounting, you check with the boss, you check with the customer, you Google it, you look in the intranet, like whatever, you do the stuff. And then once you have manifested the answer, you tell the person what they need to know. Yep. Stop doing that. Don’t do that anymore. Because the entire time that you are figuring it out, that person is slowly freaking out.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Jay Baer

So, if I send you an email today, so this actually applies to both clarity and speed, if I send you an email today and I don’t hear back for like, I don’t know, two days from Pete, I’m like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t hear back from Pete. Did that go to spam? Did I attach something that would have sent it to spam?”

Pete Mockaitis

“Did I offend him? Is he mad at me?”

Jay Baer

“Did I offend him?” Yeah, “Is he mad at me? Should I now send a call, or a text, or a ping, or does that make me seem sad and desperate?” We play all these mental games, and our own anxiety goes up and up and up. So, what you want to do instead is, if somebody needs something from you, you’re like, “Good question. Such a good question. I have to go figure it out. I’m going to do that, and then I’ll let you know.”

So, the first response is instantaneous, and all you’re saying is, “I got it,” and then you give them what they need. Two huge things occur. First, their perception of how fast you are goes up dramatically, but, second, their anxiety goes way down. Because we studied this exclusively in the research I did for the most recent book, time to response is more important than time to resolution.

This is why, Pete, if you call the phone company, the cable company, whatever, they will say two things. First, they say, “Calls will be answered in the order that they were received,” which always makes me laugh because I think, “What was the second option?” “Calls will be answered by height.” Like, “What did they discard as the backup option?” I’d be like, “Why do you have to tell us that?” I love that.

And then the second thing is, okay, “Estimated hold time like 11 minutes.” So estimated hold time 11 minutes is the automated version of respond without answers. As soon as you say “I got it,” it takes it off of their mental to-do list and puts it on your mental to-do list, and that changes their relationship dramatically, and creates so much clarity around what’s going to happen next.

And here’s the secret tip, Pete. It actually buys you more time to respond. Because once they’re like, “Oh, Pete’s working on it,” then they’re not losing their mind. They know you’re on it. So, does this mean you’ve got to reply to everybody twice? It does. But the first one, you’re just like, “I got it,” right? And then you go figure it out, and then you respond. Do this. Implement it in your life. I’m telling you it’s going to change your relationships.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Now, let’s hear about being kind.

Jay Baer

Look, I wouldn’t have even talked about this a few years ago, this idea of empathy and kindness, because there is no point to it. So, I’m a seventh-generation entrepreneur. My son’s an eighth-generation entrepreneur. My family’s been self-employed since like the 1850s, and the number of conversations I had with my dad or my grandfather about treating people with kindness, respect, dignity, and empathy, literally, never in my whole life beat, not once ever, because it was just the default setting.

Like, that’s just, you know, like it wasn’t that long ago. It’s hard to remember now because we’re in an era of empathy deficit, but it wasn’t that long ago that we treated everybody with respect and dignity and kindness and humanity all the time. It was the golden rule era, like it wasn’t that long ago. But somewhere along the way we kind of lost our way, and now you know everybody’s always kind of angry and at loggerheads, and the sort of level of discourse has dropped dramatically, and it kind of makes me sad, actually, as a person.

But I’m telling you, as a professional, if you can be the hyper-polite, hyper-courteous, hyper-understanding, hyper-kind one, man, it stands out now like it didn’t used to because it is such the exception in the workforce. Be that person. And I want to make sure we define what empathy means here, Pete. It doesn’t mean that you do whatever. It doesn’t mean that the other person’s right and you’re wrong.

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. What it means is that you’re the person inside your organization who can walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and behave accordingly. You understand how this colleague is feeling and you change your own behavior accordingly. In an era that’s going to be defined by robots, the most empathetic professional is going to have a massive advantage over everybody else in the organization.

Pete Mockaitis

Jay, I’d love it if you could give us again a demonstration, illustration of what is typical insufficient empathy and the counter example of “And this is what would really be optimal”?

Jay Baer

Well, I think sometimes, when people believe they’re being empathetic, they’re actually being obsequious. They’re being fawning, or just, everybody’s been in that situation where somebody is so supportive that it feels saccharine and artificial, and that’s not what I mean. An empathetic leader is somebody who treats everybody on their team differently, not the same.

And there’s this business wisdom that says, “Treat everybody the same. Be a very consistent manager.” That’s terrible advice because everybody on your team has different needs, different circumstances, different scenarios. They’re motivated by different things. If you’ve got 10 people working for you, you should have 10 different management styles, and you should be adopting your management style to what that person needs at that time. That’s what empathy means.

People think that being an empathetic leader means having good work-life balance and taking people to the happy hour, whatever. No, no, no, no, no. It’s about looking at every situation and every circumstance and using your own innate humanity to make the best possible decisions for that person at that time.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So those are the principles we’re working with. And so, I’d love it if there’s an example that comes to mind for you in terms of, “Wow, that was super empathetic and I loved it,” versus, “But, usually, I get something much lamer.”

Jay Baer

Well, my favorite example, and it has, fortunately, not happened to me personally, but I think people, some folks will know the tale, is Chewy.com. Do you know this story, the Chewy.com pet supply company?

Pete Mockaitis

The pet food website.

Jay Baer

Yeah. So very successful business, growing like crazy, and, look, it’s a good company. They’ve got good products at a good price, but they don’t have a different mousetrap. They’re selling pet supplies. But they are rooted in empathy. Rooted in empathy. It’s like a core value of the organization. So much so that if you, unfortunately, lose a pet, the pet passes away, in some cases, you might send a live chat or an email to Chewy, and say, “Hey, I’ve got an unopened bag of dog food. I’ve got this rawhide bone I never got a chance to give the dog. Can I return it to you?” And they always respond and say, “No, no. Please just donate it to a local pet shelter.”

But then they will find a picture of your pet in social media, they have a staff of 1,011 freelance oil painters working for the company. They will paint an oil painting of your deceased pet. They will FedEx it to you for delivery the next morning with a handwritten condolences note, and you open this box, “Where did this come from? Chewy.” And it’s from the day before, an oil painting of the pet you just lost with a handwritten note, “So sorry for your loss. Thank you for your business. Chewy.”

And there’s a video on TikTok or Instagram, etc., there’s just video after video after video of people bawling their eyes out because the simple kindness and the empathy and humanity that that brings with it. And the question I always have is, “In a situation like that, if you choose to get another pet someday, what are the chances you spend even a penny with any other provider of pet supplies ever in your life?”

Like, minus 50%, I think, is the actual answer. So, it is such a smart business decision and it’s proven to be true in their results. You can use empathy as a unique competitive advantage, both at the company level and certainly at the individual level.

Pete Mockaitis

That is powerful. And it’s intriguing because, okay, pet owners love their pets, and when pets die, it’s very sad. And that’s sort of like emotionally just true and simple and clear. I’m thinking about, and of other businesses that feel far less personal, like podcast production. It’s “How might that be utilized?”

Jay Baer

And some of this is even just something simple. Like, you don’t need to get an oil painting of the podcast host, although, hey, you know, we will take one. A lot of times, what triggers empathy, or lack thereof, is just the language that we use. In many cases, I talk about this a lot in the Hug Your Haters book, especially when somebody needs something from you, or, even more especially, if somehow you have been deficient, you’ve been slow, you’ve been inaccurate, something has gone less than ideal.

What happens in many cases, and it’s not nefarious, it’s just a natural human reaction, we will try to information ourselves out of the jam. So, we’ll start to say, “Well, here’s exactly what happened,” and you start to prosecute the case, and a lot of times we fall back on very specific details and jargon, and it becomes a very stiff, formal response. And I’ve certainly done that, and people have done it to me, especially in a colleague setting where you’re, like, you feel attacked, and so the way you prevent that attack is to put up a shield.

And that shield is very stiff, formal language that uses a lot of sorts of terse and mellifluous phrasing, and so you’re trying to information yourself out of it. The better way to go is to just lean into the empathy first, and just say, “I’m sorry that sucks.” Like, “We’ll make it better.” And so, it really is, sometimes in a colleague setting, it comes down, Pete, to just the words and the language you use when things are going less than ideal.

And the more empathetic professionals, actually, there’s almost a reverse correlation, so the stickier the situation, the more casual and personal their language. Whereas, what most people do is the stickier the situation, the more stilted and formal their language.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. That’s really good. In terms of the psychology emotions at work, it’s like you feel attacked and so you’re naturally like, “Well, let me explain why. In fact, I’m not bad. There’s a reason that this thing occurred that you don’t like.” And so, to really just be able to take a breath and shift out of yourself for that moment to do this.

Jay Baer

Yeah, I used to do this exercise in workshops, like the 13 words you should never use in that situation. And it’s things like division, department, per, “Per my last email.” If you’re dropping the “per,” then you know you’re falling into that sort of formal defensive language trap. Like, “heretofore,” that’s a good one. Like, all of these kinds of words that you never use unless you’re in, like, sort of this passive-aggressive kind of conflict thing.

And you see it all the time in tools like Slack. It does tend to drive very short, choppy interactions, which sometimes don’t have as much nuance as might be ideal in that kind of situation.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s powerful. Well, before we hear about some of your favorite things, can you give us any other quick do’s and don’ts for having folks rave about us word-of-mouth style?

Jay Baer

The biggest opportunity for word of mouth is to understand that competency doesn’t create conversations. Being good, even very good, at whatever doesn’t cause people to tell others about it because that’s what the expectation. They expect you to be good or very good. So, we talk about different and we ignore same.

So, if you want people to talk about you and tell your story, either in the workplace or outside the workplace, you need to do something different, and you need to do it different consistently. This is why, and this is a poor example, but it’s one that people will be able to recognize, this is why some professionals are like, “Look, Jillian always has the purple hair.” Now you may or may not like the purple hair on Jillian, but as a word-of-mouth device, it’s actually a sound strategy.

It doesn’t have to be your appearance, it doesn’t have to be your clothes, but even in your own set of colleagues. If there’s somebody who always wears whatever it is. I, not in this particular venue, but when I’m on stage, I always have a very bright plaid suit. It is my thing. Like, everybody knows it’s my thing. I’ve got 20 plaid suits. Meeting planners can pick out which color suit I wear on stage, I’ve got a whole, like, mobile app that they can do it with. Like, it’s my thing.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s distinction.

Jay Baer

Right. So, you just have to figure out what is your thing that you are going to do every day always that’s going to be just the device, the hook that people use to remember you, and it can be almost anything. And this starts to kind of meld over into the category of personal branding. So, what I always tell people is, “Look, your job is not interesting. It doesn’t matter.

Unless you’re like an astronaut or something, what you do for a living, nobody’s going to remember that. It’s your passions and your hobbies that people remember,” which is one of the reasons why in my bio, in my onstage introduction it says “Jay dah, dah, dah seven bestselling books, and also the world’s number two tequila influencer,” because everybody in the audience remembers that more so than, ‘Yeah, the guy wrote a book. Every speaker wrote a book.” But they remember tequila influencer.

And so, it’s understanding that everybody has something unique and memorable about them. It’s just giving yourself permission to put that out in front.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jay Baer

“Remember, some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Jay Baer

I think that in the most recent book, “The Time to Win,” one of the things that really surprised me was that the most patient generation of all, like willing to give each other and businesses more grace in terms of response time, Gen Z, the youngest consumers.

And I think it’s because they don’t have as many leases on their time, might not have kids of their own, job might not be as pressure-filled, etc. They’re just like,  “Yeah, it’s okay. You can get back to me.” Conversely, the least patient generation, Boomers. Is this because Boomers have less time left on the planet? Maybe. That seems a little maudlin, but the numbers add up. They’re like, “Hey, I’m retired. I have nothing else to do other than wonder how come this email is taking so long,” and they start freaking out about it. So, I thought that’s kind of funny.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite book?

Jay Baer

My favorite author, and there’s many, many books, is Bill Bryson, the travelogue writer. Probably my favorite one is his treatise on kind of small-town America. It’s called In a Sunburned Country. I love that one.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Jay Baer

Right now, I’m really enjoying a tool called ManyChat, which I use in my tequila business to gather email addresses from fans on Instagram, sort of de-anonymize that audience. We do monthly contests with tequila brands, where you can win a custom Yeti cooler or some such.

And we use this tool, ManyChat, so that people just comment “cooler,” etc., on an Instagram post, and then it automatically harvests their email address, which we then use as a contest entry. It’s just a really slick piece of technology that bolts on top of Instagram and solves a pretty sticky kind of data problem for me. It’s great.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome. And a favorite habit?

Jay Baer

This probably won’t be a surprise based on our previous conversation, I try to be at inbox zero every day.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you and retweet it often?

Jay Baer

I’ll go back to my second book Youtility. The thesis is this: helping beats selling. And that if you really focus on being as helpful and useful as possible, you don’t have to sell because people will sell you. And that’s certainly true at the company level, but especially for purposes of this show, Pete, I think that’s great advice for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jay Baer

JayBaer.com. J-A-Y-B-A-E-R.com is the main website. You can find me for all things tequila at TequilaJayBaer.com. And the books and the podcasts and newsletter and all that’s pretty easy to find.

Pete Mockaitis

And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jay Baer

When you’re interacting with a colleague or a customer or anybody in the workplace, I think it’s helpful to take a second in every exchange, and just ask yourself, “What do they really need?” Because often we just take the initial interaction, the initial question as that’s the depth, but there’s usually a lot more going on beneath the surface.

And if we just take a moment, just take a moment to say, “What are they really saying here? What do they really need? Not what they’ve asked for, but what do they really need?” If you can give yourself permission to just take that extra beat and think about that, and then respond and interact accordingly, it will serve you well.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Jay, this has been so much fun. I wish you many more delightful exchanges where folks are saying your name, and everywhere.

Jay Baer

We should do this with tequila next time.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, it sounds fun.

970: The Top 12 Presentation Mistakes to Avoid with Terri Sjodin

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Terri Sjodin discusses how to avoid the common pitfalls that diminish your persuasiveness.

You’ll Learn

  1. What your audience really wants to know 
  2. Three reasons why your presentation is boring—and how to fix it 
  3. The key mistake people won’t tell you you’re making

About Terri

Terri L. Sjodin is an international leading expert on persuasive presentations. With more than 25 years of experience, she has built an impressive client list that includes Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, national sales teams, industry associations, and even members of Congress. Terri has appeared as an expert on sales presentations on the Today Show, Bloomberg News, CNN, CNBC, and Fox Business, as well as many industry podcasts.

Resources Mentioned

Thank You, Sponsors!

Terri Sjodin Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Terri, welcome.

Terri Sjodin

Thank you, Pete. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m excited to be talking about being presentation ready, and you’ve been researching and teaching on persuasiveness and communications and presentations for decades. Tell us, any particularly surprising, fascinating, striking discoveries you’ve made about us humans and communication, and how we’re persuaded that really stick with you?

Terri Sjodin

Yeah, so as you know, my background is in speech and debate. I was highly competitive in high school and in college on the speech and debate teams, and so I’ve always had this awareness of the power and the impact of public speaking and persuasive presentation skills. And so, so fast-forward 20 years plus later, when we launched into this research study that did a deeper dive on the topic of persuasive messaging, we asked people, “Look, do you think that making a presentation mistake matters? Does it impact you getting a win or a deal or an opportunity?”

And 94% of our participants in the research study said yes, and that’s statistically a very high number, which I think is quite surprising. Secondarily, over 55% of the participants in the survey said that they had little to no presentation skills training over the course of their career, which means over half of the professionals in the market today are really doing the best they can with what they know through trial and error.

So, the goal behind the book and the research study was to help people build and deliver more effective presentations, whether they’re one-on-one, small group, or large group, whether they’re in-person, virtual, or hybrid, and then, what we know is that on some level, most people want to improve their presentations, but they just don’t know where to start, and that can be costly. So, in the book, and in the research, we identified the 12 most common mistakes, and help people course-correct faster so that they can get where they want to go.

Pete Mockaitis

Now, what’s really cool is your book is in the context of sales presentations, but the wisdom is applicable to all sorts of persuasive communications presentations. But what I love about sales is we’ve got numbers, we’ve got results, money dollars associated with them.

Terri Sjodin

Me, too.

Pete Mockaitis

So, can you share with us maybe a story of just what kind of a transformation is possible? If you maybe walk us through a situation where someone was doing some things wrong, they corrected it, how they did it, and then what they saw on the other end of it.

Terri Sjodin

Yeah, so I think one of my favorite stories is a confession of my own. I personally have made all 12 of the mistakes that we’ve identified in the book, and I try to take the reader or the listeners back to the beginning. As I mentioned, I kind of cut my teeth in this subject area when I was on the debate team. And what you learn early on when you go to a tournament is that it’s a pretty level playing field.

There are no matching uniforms if you compete in speech and debate. Everybody’s just given a number. And then six or seven competitors will go into a room, they deliver their presentation, and at the end of three preliminary rounds, the individual with the best overall scores prevails. They move on to semifinals and finals.

It’s pretty cut and dry, for better or for worse, you know if your talk was decent. But here’s the rub. I would stay, even if I didn’t win, and I didn’t always win, I wanted to, but I would stick around. I would go to the semifinals, I would go to the finals, and I would watch to see what was landing, what was working for that specific presenter, what made the judges or the audience lean in, and then I would go home and I would kind of tweak it and fix it and make my best guess at what I needed to do to make it better.

And the takeaway here is really very simple. You just don’t go back to the next tournament with the speech that didn’t win, but business people do it all the time. They go back out into the field over and over and over again. And I love that you made the reference to the fact that everybody sells something because I believe that to be true.

Even though we don’t always love the S-word, sales, whether you’re selling a product, a service, a philosophy, an idea, when you’re selling yourself even in a job interview or for a promotion, everybody sells something. And so, I hope that by helping people to understand what the most common mistakes are, then they can avoid them and again accomplish whatever their outcome is that they’re shooting for.

Pete Mockaitis

Terri, I love this so much. You’re bringing back fond memories for me of high school speech team. But what was interesting was I love that lesson right there in terms of learning, observing, turning everything into a source of wisdom there, because those who did not break, they did not get to the finals, they usually chose to go to the room where they were doing the original comedy finals.

They always rent the largest spaces for the original comedy, or OC, as they said in the biz, because that’s just funny, that’s entertaining. Like, “Let’s watch the funny guys since we’re stuck here until the bus leaves after the award ceremony.” And you’re saying, “No, I’m going to go see what are winners doing, and see what I can learn from them.”

Terri Sjodin

And isn’t that the takeaway for all of us? When we learn from the people who beat us out at whatever it is that we’re trying to achieve, then we can course-correct. But most people are moving so fast, Pete. They’re just, “I’m super busy. I don’t have time.” But what is it costing you if you don’t take the time to reflect and make those changes?

Pete Mockaitis

I hear you. Well, so you’ve got 12 mistakes. We’re not going to cruise through all 12, but maybe give us the overview of the three categories here.

Terri Sjodin

So, there are three main categories. The category of case development, “Did you build a persuasive and compelling case?” And then the second category is creativity, “Did you create a thought-provoking message, something that makes people lean in and go, ‘Oh, you know, I’ve heard this before, but the way you’re saying it, it’s landing in my mind in a different way’?” And then the third category is delivery. That includes your eye contact, your body language, but also everything from verbal missteps to the way that you deliver using visual aids. And in each of those three categories, there are four mistakes that live underneath each one of those main categories.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’d like to jump into the ones I found most intriguing.

Terri Sjodin

Okay.

Pete Mockaitis

And one of them, in terms of case development is, you say, being overly informative versus persuasive. Aren’t facts good, Terri? How is that a mistake to be overly informative? What’s the scoop here?

Terri Sjodin

So, in the overall study, there were over 5,000 participants, and this was based on individuals whose livelihood is dependent on their ability to build and deliver a persuasive message. And so, we said, “Looking back over the last six to 12 months, is there anything that you think cost you that win?” And data dumping or being overly informative really came up over and over and over again. It was in the top three. So let me kind of give you the top three and then we’ll kind of circle back to being overly informative versus persuasive.

So, the top three biggest mistakes that most people self-identified included being overly informative versus persuasive, winging it, and failing to close the sale. And you might think, “Well, do those kind of overlap?” And in a way that they do. However, being overly informative sounds like this, “We do this, and we do this, and we have this, and we’re number one, and we really care,” and it sounds like this very long laundry list, if you will, of attributes. But it doesn’t pass the “so what” test. It doesn’t feel compelling to me.

And so, you might feel very well-intended, like, “It’s my responsibility to go out and give a presentation that is incredibly informative, and then the individual will be able to make a decision.” But in today’s compelling market, what would help you and serve you better is if you can craft a clear, concise, and compelling message that answers the questions, “Why do I need this? How are you going to save me time? How are you going to save me money? How are you going to save me mental sanity?” The list goes on and on.

And so, when I’m helping someone, it’s because I’m helping them to understand, “Do you hear how you’re giving me more of a list of attributes versus compelling arguments that want to make me move towards action?” And when they have that aha moment, again, they can tweak their presentations and really focus in the brief amount of time they’re given into a place where they can go, “Oh, shoot, I can be more compelling.”

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. As we’re talking a little bit in the context of sales presentations and demos, I’ve been on the receiving end of many, because it’s very easy for people to get email addresses of podcasters. So, it’s right in the RSS feed, and so I get a lot of them. And then a fair number of them are cool software startup-y things in the podcast world. And that is, I would say, something I do see again and again and again. It’s, like, we hear about, like, “Oh, this is the history and the founder’s story.”

Terri Sjodin

“When you really care, and we have a lot of choices.”

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, the background of something like the technical architecture, yadda, yadda. And so, what I really want to hear is, “This thing is awesome at delivering this benefit to you,” in terms of like, “Hey, these nine podcasters quadrupled their audience size once they started rocking and rolling with our platform for a few months.” Like, “Oh, yeah. That’ll do it.” As opposed to, “Look at these cool graphics.” Like, “Okay, those graphics are cool, but I’m not seeing how this helps me accomplish the things I want to accomplish.”

Terri Sjodin

And brevity is your friend. So, again, that kind of moves us into the creativity section, but we have such a finite amount of time, and so you have to ask yourself, “How can I creatively share my most compelling talking points so that I’m creating a rock-solid case?” and pairing that with an interesting story or anecdote that makes people go, “Oh, that was good, good nugget.”

And then when you pair those with speaking in your own authentic voice and delivery, that’s when people go, “Oh, that was good. I enjoyed that. You seem authentic. I feel like you did your homework. Your arguments make sense to me.” And in that course, people feel better about making a yes decision or a moving-forward decision or, “Yes, let’s make our next appointment time decision.”

And so, in the context of your entire presentation, I mean, the intention of this podcast is to help people to get where they want to go faster. And, allegedly, if we understand and respect the fact that people buy people, then how else do we communicate our people skills, if not through our verbal communication skills?

Pete Mockaitis

That’s well said. And I liked how you conveyed, when we’ve got a compelling case delivered creatively with a strong, authentic delivery, it just feels delightful, so we’re more likely to offer a yes. And even if you don’t, I’ve had this happen before. I’m on the receiving end, and I get something that hits all those boxes, like, “You know, my takeaway is, like, this is really cool, and I like you, but it’s not for me. But I am really pretty stoked to be able to start providing referrals in terms of, like, because I feel like I’m going to look good.”

It’s like, “You got to check out this. I think you’re going to love it.” It’s like, “It doesn’t work for me, but I think it’ll work for you, and Terri’s just the best.” And so, I think it’s beautiful that, even if you don’t get the immediate yes you were seeking, when you check those boxes to deliver a delightful experience, you’re developing goodwill and an asset of a stream of good things coming to you.

Terri Sjodin

I liked your use of delightful experiences. Let’s pivot on that for a moment. I thought you might find it interesting that when we were working with our survey respondents, and we asked them, of course, “What are the most common self-confessions?” but on the opposite side, we said, “Who better to judge business and sales professionals and other business and sales professionals? So, when somebody comes in to present to you and you’re the listener, is there anything you’ve observed that cost them the winner the deal or the opportunity?”

And the number one answer was none of the three that I just mentioned that were self-identified. The number one answer that people noticed in others is that their talks were boring, boring, boring. So, don’t you think it’s interesting that most people self-identify as overly-informative, but other people are boring? And so, we call that the third person effect because, even when we’re presenting, we don’t always see ourselves in the same lens that we see others.

And so, having that dual perspective of, “How do I see myself as a presenter? But also, what do I expect when I’m in the role of the listener?” That gives us a different way of constructing our message because we’ve looked at it from both perspectives, and that can be a winning combination.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great, and I did want to talk about boring, boring, boring. Terri, tell us, what makes something boring? And how can we be not boring?

Terri Sjodin

So, all three elements can be tied up in a boring presentation. You can have a really flat boring case where you’re like, “Oh, I’ve heard this all before. There is nothing new here. I’m bored, bored, bored, bored.” It can also come from your creativity like, “Wow, you know, you made some really great arguments, but your stories, your illustrations, your evidence, boring, boring, boring. Old, flat, too much text on the screen. It just doesn’t work in the creativity standpoint.”

And then in delivery, it could be a flat, boring, monotone voice. It could be word redundancy. It could be the fact that you just don’t seem very enthusiastic about your own content. And then, even worse, one of the new things that’s come up is, if you’re in a hybrid environment, meaning you might have two or three people that are in front of you on a presentation, but maybe you have six or seven people that are offsite and they’re participating via Zoom or Teams, and so it’s hybrid.

And oftentimes, the presenter will forget the people that are online or offsite. They forget that they’re even there. So, they’re only presenting to the people that are in person in front of them, and so it’s super boring for the people that are offsite. So boring can be impacting all three elements of building your message.

Pete Mockaitis

I hear you. There’s a lot going on there. It could be a number of culprits to get after. Is it possible, Terri, that we can zoom in on a major offender in terms of, “This is a frequent and pervasive and intense cause of boredom that needs to be rectified”?

Terri Sjodin

The easy go-tos are when somebody uses way too many PowerPoint slides in their presentation and they’re text-driven, and they’re ultimately reading you their slides. That’s just horrifying, and it happens all the time. And when we ask people, “Why do you do that?” And they’ll say, “Well, Terri, I have to get through the material.” And my question is, “What’s the point of getting through the material if nobody’s really listening to what the heck it is that you’re saying anyway?”

Or, they’ll say, “It’s not my fault. I have to read these slides because legal requires us to be compliant.” There are all kinds of lovely excuses for it, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t serve the listener. And our job, our responsibility as presenters is to always put ourselves in the seat of the listener, “Do I want to hear this? Do I think it was interesting?” all of those things.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s true, yeah. It’s funny, I recently had to read a legal disclaimer as part of a podcast ad, which doesn’t happen that often, but it was a financial service-y thing, it’s like, “Okay, this is required, so I get it.” And I think, I got a kick out of it, it even said, and you’ve probably heard this before, maybe on the radio or somewhere, in the talking points, it said, “Double speed recommended if possible.” I was like, “All right, at least you know, at least you know people don’t want to hear it.”

And I even flagged it, like, “Oh, we got a little legal disclaimer here.” And so, you’re right, I think those excuses are maybe technically true, but there is often a creative way around it, it’s like, “Oh, and we’ve got a legal disclosure. You’ll note that investment results can vary, and this is risky, and those sorts of things. Feel free to read it afterwards as well.” And there you go. You handled it in five seconds and onward to the fun stuff.

Terri Sjodin

And to your point, I know it really does come down to the individual presenter. It’s our responsibility And no one illustrates that better than the Southwest Airlines flight attendants that give you the safety announcements in their own authentic voice, or in some sort of clever and fun way, because they know that most people aren’t paying attention. But if they put a little creative spin on it, then, all of a sudden, people are like, “Oh, I wonder where they’re going to go with this.” And they can take even the most boring and mundane and make it lively and entertaining.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. Well, now in the zone of delivery, can you tell us what are some of the top verbal missteps people make? And how should we fix them?

Terri Sjodin

So, the surprising thing about verbal missteps was that it was an area that most people did not self-identify, but it was highly recognized in others. And the other frightening thing about that particular issue is that it is rarely something that another individual will communicate to you. So, for example, if you’re saying “um” or “like” or “you know” every other word, it will be highly irritating to the listener, but nobody will tell you.

Another issue that comes up is when somebody mispronounces a word, we just let them go. But in the back of their mind, they’re thinking, “That person has no idea how to correctly use that word,” and it undermines your credibility.

Or, if they use just too simple or basic of wording, again, that’s not something that people will tell you. If you swear in a presentation, you might think, “Oh, well, I’m just being, you know, familiar. Like, it’s cool if I swear. It’s not a big deal. They could see that I’m really down to earth.” But we found in the research that people find it off-putting, and they’re just not going to tell you.

So, all of these little things, or if you’re a close talker, and you’re just talking, it reminds, brings memories back of a Seinfeld episode where people are speaking, and you’re like, “You’re impacting my spatial relationships.” All of these things, kind of fall under that category of verbal missteps. If you’re speaking too quickly, you’re speaking too slowly, the list kind of goes on and on.

But, again, if you think about it, when was the last time somebody really spent an hour thinking about the way that they speak, the way that they articulate a word, to focus on vocabulary variance, to think about pausing instead of using a filler word, all of those graceful, beautiful elements to take your presentation to another level? You can still be in your own authentic voice. We’re just dialing it in so that your own authentic voice lands with the greatest amount of efficiency and effectiveness.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, Terri, that’s so much fun. So, it’s perfect because, you’re right, you’re not going to learn about those without asking. And even if you ask, you still might not get it. Like, you’ll need to videotape it and have like a trusted person really review that with you in order to get it, and you won’t know. And it’s so funny the assumptions that we just make, which is, “Of course, people like the swearing.”

And maybe some people do but, I mean, it sounds like, generally, we’re better off not doing that. Maybe that didn’t need to be said but we’re, generally, better off not doing that. And maybe, I don’t know if you know, if our counterpart is swearing, are we well suited to match them, or are we still better off not swearing?

Terri Sjodin

Yeah, it’s better to not. It’s, when in doubt, leave it out. The other issue is… kind of bleeds into strange body language and gesturing where you might have your hands in your pockets, or you’re fiddling with a pen. There are all kinds of little weird, strange, and incredible things. So, the takeaway here is people say, “What can I do?” You have a couple of choices.

So, one is just do a scrimmage. If you have a big meeting coming up, you have a presentation opportunity, sit with a friend, a colleague, a spouse, somebody in your industry, and say, “Look, will you just kind of do a run-through with me, and take out your cell phone, and just hit the video button, and leave it on a stand.” And then later on, kind of talk it through, and then watch the playback so that you can see and hear yourself as the listener will. And that will give you some of the insights that you need to be able to course-correct.

Now, try not to be too hard on yourself. We all flip out when we hear our own voice. We don’t sound the same to ourselves as we do in a recorded scenario. Just to give you an example, did you feel comfortable the first time you heard your playback on your outgoing voicemail message or recording? You probably are fine because you have such a beautiful voice, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m honored, but I’m not. Well, part of it is microphones. Don’t get me started because I won’t stop. But part of it is microphone quality and voicemails are horrific, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve Googled this before, Terri. But then even beyond that, it’s just sort of surprising. It’s like, “Oh, is that what I sound like?”

Terri Sjodin

Right. Or, “Oh, I didn’t like the way that I sounded.” And most people re-record their outgoing voicemail message over and over and over again until they feel like they get it right. And what does that tell us? It tells us, once we become aware of the way that we speak and present, what do we want to do? We want to perfect it. We want to improve upon it. We want to make it better, and we don’t want someone to have a negative impression of who we are, even based on our outgoing voicemail message, so much so that many people don’t even have an outgoing message on their voicemail.

But we know that when people hear your voice, when they hear you speak, that they connect with you, and so avoidance is not helping. What will help is to embrace it, lean into it, let’s fix it, let’s have fun with it, figure out how to make your own style and personality and authenticity really come to life. And remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect to work.

I’m not perfect. I’ve made all mistakes. I make mistakes all the time, but I’m consistently trying. That’s all. I’m trying to level up. I’m trying to make it better. And in the course of that, look, we’re all going to have wins and losses, and it doesn’t have to be perfect to work, but you do have to try. That’s really the takeaway.

Pete Mockaitis

Understood. I want to get your take on visual aids. You say one mistake is just way too much text and reading it, bad news. Any other top do’s and don’ts there?

Terri Sjodin

I’ll give you some do’s. One of the things that really works beautifully is if we just step away from your PowerPoint deck. So, think of all of the other beautiful ways that you can augment a presentation that don’t require a PowerPoint. Maybe you just use the actual physical item and hold it up, or maybe you use other sensory modalities: sound, sight, smell, that feeling, a texture of something. Things where you’re asking yourself, “Well, how can I allow the listener to engage in my presentation with other sensory modalities that don’t require a PowerPoint slide?”

And that, in and of itself, will set you head and shoulders above your competition. They’ll say, “Well, that was clever,” and you’re like, “Really? Because I moved away from a PowerPoint slide, and I used the real thing?” But it’s just those nuances make a difference and show people you care enough to make a unique kind of presentation rather than doing the same old, same old.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s super. And when it comes to really forming a connection with listeners, any top tips there?

Terri Sjodin

I think it starts with really genuinely caring about the outcome of that conversation. Even when you and I were having our pre-call before we jumped on the interview, I just like to take a couple of minutes and say, “Hey, what would make this a great experience for you? What would make it great for your listeners?” And you said, “Well, that’s a great question. Most people don’t ask me that.”

I think it’s just showing people that you show up caring, and that really helps to build connection from the get-go. Now, different people will lean into different aspects of your talk. Some people will lean into the evidence. They want to know that you can provide ROI, and they want to see the numbers. Other people are looking at your pathos, your heart, your storytelling. Others will want to know that you have the credibility, the street cred, the experience, that you’ve got your degree, or that you’ve got 30 years of experience.

So, there are a lot of nuances that speak to credibility or driving connection, and it really will depend on who you’re speaking to. But I think, from a nice general perspective, opening with a real clear intention to make a connection, not just for the sake of doing it to get the job done, but because you want to have a good personal experience with those people, that will come through, I think. And I don’t know that you have to try so hard. It doesn’t have to be that hard. I think we probably overcomplicate that part of the process.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, Terri, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Terri Sjodin

I appreciate the time today. And I say this to people all the time, people ask me, “Gosh, Terri, what’s the hardest product or service to sell?” And the answer is, “The one you don’t believe in.” So, I can give you the greatest tips in the world for crafting a persuasive and compelling message but the first requirement is that you sell and represent something that you believe in at your core. And then after that, try to have fun with it.

I think, on some level, everybody wants to improve their presentations, and so I hope that this book, Presentation Ready, will help you to do that just a little easier. And if you’d like, maybe books aren’t your thing, that’s okay, you can watch the course. I have a course on LinkedIn Learning, so it’s free if you’re a LinkedIn Premium member, and that also covers the 12 mistakes. But my intention is to just get people to think about the gift of using your voice to make things happen.

There’s a beautiful quote that we often think that it’s comfort and luxury that are the chief requirements for happiness in life, when all we truly need to be happy is something to be enthusiastic about. And I’m hoping that I help people get just a little bit more enthusiastic about their next presentation opportunity, because the more fun you have delivering it, the more fun the listeners have receiving it, and that’s how you create a win-win, presentation-ready opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely. Well, now could you share with us a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Terri Sjodin

Well, of course, the State of Sales Presentations Research Study I did in cooperation with my alma mater, San Diego State University, and if you would like, your listeners can access all three of the reports, the pre-pandemic, mid-virtual, and then the post-pandemic study, if they go to my site at TerriSjodin.com, they can download the studies for free. There’s no cost. They can get the research study reports.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely. And a favorite book?

Terri Sjodin

My go-to would be Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and so I really believe in the gift of entrepreneurial freedom and being able to contribute. I think we all have our own unique ways that we want to contribute on the planet. And so, I honor everyone’s right to use their voice, create, and to monetize that.

Pete Mockaitis

Alrighty. And a favorite habit?

Terri Sjodin

So I have this weird thing that I do. My friends tease me about it all the time. But when I have a dinner party or a lunch gathering, and everyone sits down, I say, “Okay, everyone, let’s do two-minute updates.” And I go around the table, and I ask everyone to give a two-minute update of what they’re doing personally and professionally so that everyone only has to share that nugget once with all of the people that are at the table, and then it stimulates really lovely dialogue. It gets people talking about things that are near and dear to our hearts, which is what’s going on with my friends and family.

Pete Mockaitis

And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks that they quote back to you often?

Terri Sjodin

There are so many little isms, I suppose, that I say, but I say, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to work but you still have to try.”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And if folks want a little more to get in touch, where would you point them?

Terri Sjodin

If people would like to learn more about my speaking opportunities or about Presentation Ready, please visit our website at SjodinCommunications.com, or the easiest way is to just go to T-E-R-R-I, Sjodin, and that’s spelled S-J-O-D-I-N.com, and you can access all kinds of information, including the research study, information about Presentation Ready, and much, much more.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Terri Sjodin

There’s a beautiful adaptation to a Shakespearean quotation, which reads, “All the world is a stage, and business and sales professionals play to the most discriminating audiences of all, their clients and prospects.” So, I encourage you to just take a little extra time to craft an engaging and persuasive message, and go make your dreams happen. That’s, really, it’s all up to you. I don’t know anybody who has a magic wand, so we have to kind of put our boots to the street, craft our messages, and go make it happen.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Thank you, Terri. This is fun. I wish you all the best.

Terri Sjodin

Thank you, Pete, for having me. I appreciate your time.

969: How to Make Better Decisions by Wisely Evaluating Claims with Alex Edmans

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Alex Edmans shows you how to think smarter, sharper, and more critically so you can make better decisions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How our biases are holding us back 
  2. The ladder of misinference that mucks up our thinking 
  3. Why we end up mistaking statements for facts 

About Alex

Alex Edmans is Professor of Finance at London Business School. Alex has a PhD from MIT as a Fulbright Scholar, and was previously a tenured professor at Wharton and an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. Alex has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, testified in the UK Parliament, and given TED/TEDx talks with a combined 2.8 million views. He was named Professor of the Year by Poets & Quants in 2021.

Resources Mentioned

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Alex Edmans Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Alex, welcome.

Alex Edmans

Thanks, Pete, for having me on.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so excited to dig into your book, fantastic title, May Contain Lies. Could you please open us up, perhaps, with a wild tale about a story, a study, or a statistic that exploited our biases and the mayhem that erupted from that?

Alex Edmans

Certainly. So, one example is the link between breastfeeding and child development. So, everybody tells you that breast is best. They even give the impression that you are not a good mother if you’re not breastfeeding your kids, if you’re taking the easy option of using the bottle. And so, this is based on some evidence which is cast iron, pretty clear that breastfed kids do better than bottle-fed kids across a range of outcomes. This might be physical development, it might be child IQ, it might even be a maternal-kid bonding.

However, the concern here is that whether you breastfeed or not is not random. It’s driven by other factors. So maybe mothers with a more supportive home environment, they are able to breastfeed because breastfeeding is tough, and it could be their supportive home environment is what’s causing the improvement in child IQ or child health.

So, when you control for that, when you strip out the effect on IQ, of parental background, you actually find no effect of breastfeeding on child development. And so, this is striking. Why? Because everybody tells you that breastfeeding is pretty much the only way to go, but once you have a more careful look at the data, you rule out alternative explanations, you find that the evidence there is much weaker.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, Alex, so right from the get-go, busting myths. Okay. I was fed with a bottle, and I turned out pretty well, I think, and so I’m intrigued. Some studies, it seems, take the care to carefully explore potentially confounding variables and rule them out, and zero in on what’s really driving the variation, or the impact, and others don’t. And most of us are not, in fact, digging into the details of every scientific study that’s referenced in a news article. So, I guess if we don’t get into that level of depth, we may very well find ourselves with some misinformed views of the world.

Alex Edmans

That’s correct. And sometimes we don’t want to get into that level of depth. Why? Because if we see a study whose conclusions we like, then we accept it uncritically and don’t even bother to ask whether there’s alternative explanations. So, it’s a bit like if you are a police officer and you think that a person is guilty, then you might interpret every piece of evidence as being consistent with his or her guilt, even if it’s also consistent with some other suspects going on.

So, this is something known as confirmation bias. We have a view of the world and we will latch on to anything that supports that view of the world, even if the evidence is actually pretty weak. And so, what might this be in the breastfeeding study? We believe that something natural is better than something artificial, that’s why natural flavorings are better than artificial flavorings, and that’s why the idea that breastfeeding is better than bottle-feeding, it just sounds good. It seems to accord with our view of the world, and so we don’t think, “Is this a correlation but no causation?”

Pete Mockaitis

Like, “Processed food is bad. It’s, oh, so beautiful to see a picture of a mother and baby in that intimate moment.” So, there are a number of things that point us in one direction, so we’ve got the confirmation bias in action. We’re going to dig into some real detail about cognitive biases. I’d love it if, first, you could share anything that really surprised you as you were putting this together. Like, you’re pretty well-versed in this stuff, did you make any new discoveries that made you go, “Whoa”?

Alex Edmans

Well, I think that one thing that surprised me is how much I fell for this myself, because my day job is as a finance professor to think carefully about data and evidence. And then when I went to parenting courses myself, before my son was born, I believed all of this. It wasn’t until I looked into the data much more carefully that I found it was something quite different, but despite me being somebody who should do this for a living, I fell for that.

There are also other cases where I described in the book of things that I taught to my students without, again, looking deeply at the data. So, one thing is Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule, which people argue claims that you can be an expert in anything if you just put in the hours. And that’s something professors like to give that message because we like to say, “Yes, you might not like finance but if you just, yeah, put a lot of effort in, you can really change the direction of your life,” and again without looking at the evidence really closely, which is what I did for this book. I was duped into this myself.

And in my defense, it’s not just me. What the evidence tends to suggest is that more intelligent people, or more sophisticated people, will fall for misinformation more. Well, that’s surprising. You might think, “Well, isn’t it the case that the smarter you are, the more you’re likely to defend against misinformation?” But the answer is no, because the smarter you are, you deploy your intelligence selectively.

So, if there’s a study you don’t like the findings of, you’re able to come up with reasons to dismiss it, to knock it down, but then when there’s a study whose findings you like, you selectively choose not to use your discernment and to accept it. So, given you use your intelligence selectively and in a one-sided manner, this might actually lead to you becoming more misinformed rather than less.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s intriguing, and it makes sense when you put it in that context there. So, I’m curious, what’s the big idea then behind this book? And how is it helpful and relevant for professionals looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Alex Edmans

Well, the big idea is that the solution to misinformation is to look within you. So, we often think misinformation is somebody else’s problem, that the government should prosecute people for producing misinformation. But that’s a problem for a couple of reasons. So, number one is that misinformation is produced far faster than the government can regulate, and, number two is that many forms of misinformation are subtle.

So, they are not the case of somebody flagrantly lying or coming up with a deepfake. So, the statement that breastfed kids have higher IQ than bottle-fed kids, that is a correct statement. You can’t be prosecuted for making that statement, but the implication that this means that breastfeeding caused the high IQ, that’s where the problem is. And so, given that often statements aren’t incorrect, they can’t be prosecuted, the costs of misinformation might be ourselves making incorrect inferences from correct facts.

So, what I’m doing in the book is to highlight our own biases that lead us to make incorrect interpretations, and then come up with a simple set of questions we can ask ourselves to make sure that we’re not being misinformed.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely. Do you have any cool stories about a professional up-leveling their game in this domain and making superior decisions with superior outcomes as a result?

Alex Edmans

Well, unfortunately, you don’t hear the cases in which situations were avoided. You hear about situations where bad decisions are made because those are the things that make the news. So, if somebody did something which avoided a disaster, that’s not going to make the news because if there’s no disaster, there’s nothing newsworthy. But you do know of cases in which people did not heed this and there were disasters.

So, one big disaster was Deepwater Horizon. So, that was a case in which the oil rig; they ran some tests to see whether it was safe to remove the rig. All these tests failed, but because the people were so smart, they came up with an excuse. They were able to fabricate a reason for why the tests failed. They called this the bladder effect. And because of this bladder effect, they gave themselves an excuse to run a quite different test. That different test passed, and so they thought the well was safe, and this led to the disaster.

Now, in the inquiry afterwards, the government found that this bladder effect was completely made up, that it was a fiction, but it was because the engineers were so desperate to finish this job, and because they had a strong bias, because Deepwater Horizon was the best performing rig, then they went ahead and made up this reason, and then they thought the well was safe.

So, there’s certainly cases in which we have these disasters which are a result of these biases. The cases in which acknowledging the biases led you to not make mistakes, they’re much harder to come by. Why? Because if a mistake was not made, then this is not something as newsworthy.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, fair enough. That’s so meta, really, Alex, in terms of even there’s a selection bias at work in terms of the cases we hear about on bias.

Alex Edmans

Unfortunately, yes, because what makes the news, what do we hear about? We hear about when things go wrong. So, if, indeed, correct application, correct inference leads to things going right, we would not be hearing about that because of the selection.

Pete Mockaitis

Sure thing. Well, I mean, there’s a huge career benefit in an extra dose of disaster avoidance, both for the poor creatures of the ocean and our own careers and colleagues and customers and products, etc. So, break it down for us, you mentioned we got two big old biases that are largely to blame for us getting snookered, fooled by misinformation. Can you unpack these for us?

Alex Edmans

Certainly. So, one that I’ve alluded to is confirmation bias. So that applies when we have a pre-existing view of the world, and then we interpret evidence as always supporting that view. And notice here that this pre-existing view need not be deeply ideological. So, one might think, “Okay, maybe confirmation bias applies to things like gun control or abortion or immigration,” but it applied to something more subtle like breastfeeding.

And even though I don’t have a particular ideology about breastfeeding, something as subtle as me thinking that something natural is better than something man-made that led me to fall for that trap. So, that’s confirmation bias and that kicks in when we have a pre-existing view of the world, even a subtle one.

But what happens when we don’t have a pre-existing view of the world, if we think we’re open-minded? So that’s when a second bias comes in, and this bias is called black-and-white thinking. So, what is that bias? So even if we have no preconceived view, if we view the world in black and white terms, we think something could be either always good or always bad, then we will be swayed by misinformation which is extreme.

So, let’s give a practical example. So, the Atkins Diet was about carbs. Now, that’s something where people don’t really have strong views. So, protein, people think protein is good. You learn that protein repairs muscles, that’s why you’ve got all these protein supplements that you can want to buy. Fat, we think it’s bad, it’s called fat because it makes you fat. But carbs, they’re not so clear-cut, so many people might not have had strong opinions on carbs until the Atkins Diet, which demonized carbs. It said try to have as few carbs as possible.

That played into black-and-white thinking. There were no shades of gray there, and that made the diet really easy to follow. Well, you didn’t need to count your calories and figure out are carbs within 30 to 40 percent. You just looked at the carbs label on nutritional information and if it was high, you avoided it. But notice, if Atkins had had the opposite diet, saying try to eat as many carbs as possible, he might have also gone viral because that suggests, also plays into black-and-white thinking, it’s easy to implement.

So, what this means is that to be famous, to have an impact, you don’t necessarily need to be right. You need to be extreme, and, indeed what we typically see here are lots of extreme statements, “No bottle feeding at all. Exclusive breastfeeding,” “Don’t eat any carbs. Maybe eat as many superfoods as possible.” These things leave no potential for nuance but they become successful because of this black-and-white idea.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Alex, that is well said. You don’t need to be right. You need to be extreme, and that’ll do it.

Alex Edmans

Yeah, and if you could put it in 280 characters then that’s something which will be really easily shared, and people want to share things which sound simple. And why people share misinformation is they’re not bad people. They want to share useful practical tips. And so, if the tip is, “Just avoid X or eat as much as Y,” that’s something that people share because they think it’s useful information that people can implement. It’s much easier than saying, “Make sure that X is between 30 and 35 percent of your daily calories.”

Pete Mockaitis

While we’re talking about biases, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to overconfidence. It seems like that can just sort of make everything a little bit worse. People are fooled, and then they seem quite certain about their point of view being correct, or true, or “This is the way. This is the only way.” Any thoughts on overconfidence?

Alex Edmans

Absolutely. I think it’s tied to my early comment about how more sophisticated people, or more intelligent people, suffer more from misinformation. Why? Because their biases are stronger, and potentially overconfidence plays into this. How can it play into this? Is that overconfidence can make the confirmation bias stronger? How?

So, one of my fields is sustainable finance. That’s the idea of companies that do good for the world, perform better in the long term. And I might think, “Well, why did I go into this field? I could have looked at many, many areas of finance.” The reason that I’ve chosen to go into sustainable finance is the evidence on this must be really rock solid. There must be rock solid proof that sustainability improves performance.

And so, if, indeed, there’s a new study which comes out, saying, “Well, actually, the evidence for sustainable investing or ESG is less strong than people believe,” I might be even more stringent in rejecting that. Why? Because I know that my field is sustainable investing, and the fact that I’ve chosen to be in this field means that I know more than anybody else, and it must mean that I chose to be in this field because the evidence is strong, and so that’s why I might choose to ignore people on the other side.

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, understood. Okay. Well, you’ve got a really cool tool, your ladder of mis-inference, and a few steps along that ladder. Could you walk us through these and give us some examples?

Alex Edmans

Absolutely. So, why did I come up with this ladder of mis-inference to begin with? It’s to provide a practical solution to the reader to try to figure out how to be awesome at their job by spotting misinformation. Now, you might think spotting misinformation is hard because, “There’s like thousands and thousands of types of misinformation out there, how can I remember all of them and put them into practice?”

So, I wanted to categorize them into just four. And so, I illustrate this into what I call the ladder of mis-inference. Why do I use the ladder as the graphic? It’s that when we start from some facts and then we draw some conclusions, it’s like we’re climbing up the ladder. And why I call it the ladder of mis-inference is that we actually make missteps up the ladder. We are drawing conclusions that are not valid.

So, the first misstep is a statement is not fact, it may not be accurate. So let me unpack that, and, again, with an example as you suggested. So, one big piece of evidence which supported the over-prescription of opioids in the US, which led to the opioid epidemic, was an article in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics.” That has been cited over 1,650 times.

Now, that is a statement and there’s no misinformation there. The article was truly called “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics.” It was truly in the New England Journal of Medicine. But if you click on the article, you find it’s just a letter to the editor. So, there was no study behind it, there was no science, just somebody wrote in to the editor, and so people just cited this article without reading it, without seeing the context, which was this was a letter to the editor rather than a scientific study. And this was seen to be one of the reasons why opioids were so readily prescribed, obviously with then fatal consequences.

And even if you think the letter was completely accurate, and it wasn’t made up, the letter considered patients in hospital. And maybe if you’re in hospital, you won’t get addicted because you’re given narcotics on a prescribed basis. That’s quite different from giving it to an outpatient who might take it whenever he or she wants to. So, again, a statement could be not flawed, it could be not made up, but it’s still inaccurate if you don’t see the context. This was a letter, not a study, it only looked at hospitalized patients.

So, you might think, “Well, the solution is just to check the facts. Let’s go to the original source, read the full context, and that’s enough.” But that’s not enough because of the second step up the ladder. This is the idea that a fact is not data, it may not be representative. So, again, let me give an example. So, one of the most famous TED Talks of all time led to a book called Start with Why by Simon Sinek. This argues that if you have a why, a passion, a purpose, you’ll be successful. Again, those are things that we want to be true. We believe in the power of passion.

And he gives the examples of Apple, clearly successful, that’s a fact. Wikipedia, clearly successful, this is the world’s founding for knowledge. The Wright Brothers, clearly successful, they got the record for the first test-powered flight. But those are just cherry-picked examples. There could be hundreds of other companies that started with a “why” and then they failed, but Simon Sinek will never tell you about them because they don’t support his theory.

So, even if the facts are correct, they might only be a small part of the picture. They’re not giving you the full picture and, therefore, they’re misleading. They’re not data.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

Alex Edmans

So, you might think the solution is to get the full picture. It’s not data, it may not be representative.

Pete Mockaitis

So, when you say a fact is not data, I mean, I suppose, not to mince words here, a fact could technically be data, but it’s incomplete, non-representative data. So, I guess an isolated fact is not the whole relevant universe dataset. That’s not as pithy though, Alex.

Alex Edmans

Correct, yeah. No, but you’re absolutely right. You could say it, technically, counts as data, but it’s selected data, so what you want is a full representative sample, a representative data sample, rather than just something cherry-picked and selected.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Alex, is starting with “why” not a good move? Is that not a research-backed approach to success?

Alex Edmans

It doesn’t seem to be research-backed. So, there were a couple of companies which have been successful, but actually Apple never even started with “why.” So, if you look at Simon Sinek’s book, it says Apple had this “why” which was “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo” but Apple never said that. And, again, this is something that I wanted to look at in the research for my book, as I thought that was a fact but it was never said, it was never in any of Apple’s documentation.

And also, Simon Sinek says, ‘Well, people don’t buy what Apple does. They buy why they do it. They buy the iPhone because they believe in Apple’s wanting to change the status quo.” Really? Don’t we buy Apple because of its functionality, its apps, its usability, the fact that it’s got great after-sales service? Do people really think about the higher purpose of Apple when they buy the products? No. What they will go for is how useful it is. But the idea that a “why” is what leads to success, that’s empowering. Why? Because anybody can come up with a “why.” If you have enough brainstorming sessions or market bends or flip charts, that is a nicer message to give than you need to produce an awesome product.

Not everybody can produce an awesome product or be really innovative, and so that’s why that book and that message has been so successful is it’s empowering. It tells us that the secret to success is in our own hands, and it’s something easy to do rather than something much more difficult, hard work in designing a really good product with great functionality.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s intriguing. And then as we’re thinking critically about these assertions, it seems like a lot of times the conclusions are more nuanced. Like, “Having a clear ‘why’ can result in increased motivation that boosts results. However, having a great ‘why’ is by no means a proven success principle that we can hang our hat on, as this will undoubtedly massively increase our odds of victory.”

Alex Edmans

You’re absolutely right, Pete. So, what causes success? There’s lots and lots of factors which contribute to the success of a person, a company, and there’s also luck which comes into it. But a book is never going to lay out all the different things that a company or a person needs to do to become successful. Books, typically, have one idea. And I know this through having tried to publish books, is that whenever you have a pitch, they say, “What is the big idea? Not the 10 ideas, what is the one idea in the book?”

And so, this is why a lot of books try to highlight this one thing which is the secret to success. So, this could be starting with “why” or it could be grit, to take Angela Duckworth’s book, or it could be ten thousand hours to take Malcolm Gladwell, so they focus on one particular thing, and say that’s the one thing that drives success, when it might not drive success. There might be lots of other factors which are driving success. And even if your one factor works, it might not work in every circumstance. It might work when combined with a lot of other stuff.

So, maybe a “why” does matter, and indeed some of my work is on the benefit of purpose, but it also needs to be combined with flawless execution, also discipline, and knowing what “why projects” to turn down, no matter how purposeful they are, maybe they’re pie in the sky, but those messages are much more nuanced. Instead, the simple black-and-white message, which plays into black-and-white thinking, that why will always lead to success in every situation, that’s something which sells, and this is why a lot of books with that message have been very successful.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So, we got a statement is not a fact, a fact is not data or the whole dataset. And next, we got data is not evidence.

Alex Edmans

Correct. And so, when you get the whole dataset, so you might think, “Ah, this is the solution. Let’s get the whole dataset. Companies that started with ‘why’ and failed, and companies that succeeded even though they didn’t start with ‘why,’ and we have the whole dataset, can we not then just claim a conclusion from that?” And, the answer is not, but why? Because of the third misstep, because data is not evidence, it may not be conclusive.

So, what do I mean by evidence? Because people use the terms data and evidence interchangeably, but the word evidence, let’s think about a criminal trial, that’s where we often hear that word. And evidence is only evidence if it points to one particular suspect. So, if the evidence suggests that Tom or Dick or Harry could have killed Emma, that is not evidence because it’s with multiple suspects. And the problem with lots of datasets is, even though they look at the full picture, they could point to multiple conclusions.

So, if I go back full circle to the breastfeeding example at the start, “Breastfed kids have better outcomes than bottle-fed kids,” is it breastfeeding causes the higher IQ, or is it parental background leads to some parents to breastfeed, and that parental background also leads to the higher IQ, so that could be a correlation without causation? And, yeah, everybody knows, in the cold light of day, that correlation is not causation, but often we forget this if we like the story being paraded. Due to our confirmation bias, we switch off our discernment and just don’t ask that question if we like the conclusion.

Pete Mockaitis

Intriguing. So, data is not evidence. In the incidence of a crime, we might have data in terms of “The window was shattered.” It’s like, “Okay.” “The window was shattered with a hammer.” “Okay, so that’s some information that we know, yep, that window was shattered with a hammer.” But it’s not evidence because any number of people could have done that window-shattering with a hammer. So, these are just kind of facts that we’ve collected as opposed to things that are really strongly pointing in a particular direction.

Alex Edmans

That’s entirely correct. But if you’re a police officer and you already have a particular suspect in mind, you might interpret all of these facts as consistent with your suspect, even if there were alternative suspects going on. So, then what’s the practical tip to the listener or the reader? Is, “How do we know that we have the correct interpretation of data and are not being blind to alternative explanations?” It’s to consider and assume the data has the opposite result.

So, let’s assume that the data have the result that we don’t like. So, let’s say the data found that breastfed kids perform worse. Now, that goes against our biases because we think that something natural should have a good outcome. So, then we would try to appeal to alternative explanations, or alternative suspects. We might say, “Well, maybe the women who can afford formula are wealthier. They can afford to buy it, and maybe it’s their wealth which leads to the better outcomes of bottle-fed kids.”

So, now that we’ve pointed to the fact that there’s an alternative suspect, which is parental wealth, we have to ask ourselves, “Does that alternative suspect still apply even though the result is in our direction?” And the answer is, yes, it could well be that the parents who are wealthier are able to afford to breastfeed because it’s so exhausting, they might be able to afford home help as well, and maybe it is that income which is also behind the high IQ and other outcomes.

And so, what is the idea of imagine the opposite so powerful? It’s because it unlocks the discernment which is already naturally within us. So, when we hear about misinformation, we might think, “Oh, this is so difficult for me to tackle. I’m a time-pressed, busy person. I don’t have time to dig into the weeds of a study, and I don’t have a PhD in statistics.” But what I’m trying to highlight is we already have discernment.

Whenever I see a study posted on LinkedIn that people don’t like the findings of, there’s no shortage of reasons as to why this is correlation but not causation, why the dataset is not the full complete dataset. So, what the idea of imagine the opposite is, is to try to trigger and activate the same discernment when you find a study you do like and are just tempted to lap up.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. Okay. And then the fourth and final step, evidence is not proof. Lay it on us.

Alex Edmans

Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s say you found a perfect study which has perfect causation, that is evidence, but it’s not proof. So, what’s the difference? A proof is universal. So, when Archimedes proved that the area of a circle is pi times the square of the radius, that was not only true in the 3rd century BC in ancient Greece, it’s true in 2024 around the world. But evidence is only evidence in the setting in which it was gathered. So, if the evidence pointed to Tom killing Emma, and Tom was the husband, this doesn’t mean that in every case when a woman dies, it’s always the husband that did it. So, evidence has a particular setting.

So, I go to the 10,000 hours rule. Malcolm Gladwell claims that in any setting, from chess playing to neurosurgery, you need to put in 10,000 hours to be successful. But the evidence he cited was just on violin playing, and what leads to success in violin playing might be quite different to what leads to success in neurosurgery. Violin playing, this is a very predictable environment. You play the sheet music. You can practice that same sheet music 10,000 times.

Whereas, with neurosurgery, one surgery might be very different from another, there’s lots of other factors going on. So, what works in one setting might not work in others. But if you want to sell a bestselling book, you want to say that you’ve identified the secret to success in every situation. Had Malcolm Gladwell claimed the 10,000 hours rule for success in violin playing, he would have not had the same impact that he did.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s right, much smaller audience, the violin. Yes, those who are ambitious violin virtuosos in training is a much smaller market size than the broader sales group of customers for that book.

Alex Edmans

Absolutely. So, we want to claim a theory of everything, a secret to success in all situations, and so the broader we make the claim, the more impact we’ll have, but often these claims are over-extrapolating from evidence gathered in one specific targeted setting.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, so then, to recap, we got a statement is not a fact, a fact is not data, or the whole dataset, data is not evidence, and evidence is not proof. Well, Alex, it would seem to follow then we have not a lot of proof, not a lot of things are proven then, based on all the ways that this could fall apart. Is that fair to say?

Alex Edmans

That’s absolutely fair to say. And what this means is that while we think, well, this is really shocking because we don’t know anything, it actually means that we can live our lives in a more relaxed way, because often things are said to us as if they’re definitive proof, “You are a bad mother if you ever breastfeed your kid,” “If you want to lose weight, you should never eat any carbs,” “If you want to train for a marathon, you should never drink any alcohol.” Often the reality is much less black and white than these prescriptive statements say.

So, by be discerning with evidence, rather than this being exhausting, because we need to question everything, actually it’s less exhausting because if we question stuff, we realize that some of these dictums and rules we’re given are not as well-founded as people claim, and this allows us to live a freer and more relaxed life.

Pete Mockaitis

Now, Alex, I’m loving the way your mind is working and processing, and sometimes I go here in terms of, you know, being curious and skeptical and exploring, “Well, hey, could it be this or could it be that, and maybe it’s not fair to interpret this or that way?” Alex, do you find that when you do this in practice with teammates, colleagues, collaborators, they just get annoyed with you? Like, “Oh, my gosh, Alex, you’re slowing us down. You’re making this much harder and longer than it needs to be.” How do we deal with some of these interpersonal dynamics when we’re vigorously pursuing truth?

Alex Edmans

Yeah, thanks for the question, Pete. And I think people can sometimes get annoyed if you’re doing it in the wrong way. So, what do I mean by the wrong way? So, sometimes if you oppose an idea based on the evidence, they think you have different goal from them when, in fact, your approach might be different. So, let’s give an example.

So, some of my work is in diversity, equity and inclusion, and I would love the evidence to be overwhelming, that diversity pays off. I’m an ethnic minority myself but I point out that actually some of the research on this claiming that DEI improves financial performance is much flimsier than often claimed. So, people can get annoyed and say, “Oh, you must be racist or sexist if you’re anti-DEI.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow, that’s hardcore.

Alex Edmans

But what I’m claiming, well, that is pretty hardcore, and these are the reasons why sometimes, on these issues, where there’s strong confirmation bias, it is hard to speak out. But what I’m saying here is I absolutely am pro-DEI, but my concern is the evidence, and the evidence here on DEI might not be as strong. Why? Because all they look at is gender and ethnicity. So, they whittle down the complexity, the totality of a person, to just their gender and ethnicity.

That gives the impression that if you’re a white male, you can never add to diversity even if you’re the first in your family ever to go to university, even if your background is humanities rather than sciences, which is what everybody else is doing in your company. So, what I’m saying is that the problem with these diversity studies does not mean that diversity is not a bad thing, but if we are to put in a DEI policy, it needs to go beyond gender and ethnicity, and look at socio-economic diversity. It needs to look at diversity of thinking, also not just diversity but also equity and inclusion.

So, by trying to say, “Hey, I’m not going to try to debunk the whole DEI movement,” but to say that if we want to implement DEI, it has to be broader than these rather reductive measures analyzed by these studies, then that’s the way hopefully the message is more positive message rather than being seen to nitpick and to get in the way of people.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s helpful, Alex. You’re sort of sharing where you’re coming from, the context, your goals, and what’s going on there. And, well, while we’re here, a brief detour. Alex, my understanding of the DEI research is that in jobs that require creativity and kind of novel thinking and approaches, that the DEI research is pretty robust in terms of having diversity in these contexts, sure enough, does result in more better ideas and good outcomes. Since you know, and I don’t, is that an accurate snapshot of the state of the support of DEI research?

Alex Edmans

That is the claim, but even that claim is not particularly backed up by data. So, let’s take one famous datapoint or one famous study. This is the TED Talk which initially was called “Want to be more innovative? Hire more women.” So, what this argued is that in an innovative setting, the more women we have, the better the performance is.

But why was the evidence incorrect? Well, number one, the measure of diversity looked at six different measures of diversity, not just gender diversity, but age diversity, lots of other forms of diversity. So, even if the results were correct, it could have been any of those diversity metrics, but they just honed in on the gender diversity because that’s the one which gets a lot of popular support.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s a good title, Alex.

Alex Edmans

Well, it was, and it was actually a good title but a misleading title. So, there were so many complaints to TED about that title that they were forced to change the title. So, the title of that talk is now “How diversity makes teams more innovative.” Now, but even that title isn’t accurate because how did they measure innovation? What they looked at was the percentage of revenues which were generated by products which were invented in the last three years. And so, that’s not necessarily a measure of innovation. That could be just a measure of obsolescence of your prior products, so maybe you’re just doing a bad job of maintaining your prior products.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, your old products sucked.

Alex Edmans

It might be, yeah, they all just suck. You’re just not able to maintain them, and it could be that the new products that you’re developing in the last three years, they’re just incremental changes over what you had previously. There’s nothing there which captures the magnitude of innovation. And, also, number three, it could be correlation but not causation. It could be that a great CEO, both hire as more diverse workers, and that same great CEO is also more innovative, so it’s not necessary that diversity causes innovation, something else causes both.

So, those are really basic errors. You measure diversity incorrectly, you measure innovation incorrectly, and also there could be no clear link between the two, but because that’s a nice message that people want to hear, this is something which has been well paraded. So, again, if I go back to, “How do I then approach this?”

Well, my goal is shared as the same as everybody else, I want high functioning organizations, and I’m a supporter of diversity. So, the reason why I’m raising objections is not I’m anti-DEI, but my approach to this is to look beyond just gender and ethnicity, and look at these other forms of diversity. And when you look at more careful research, then you’re right, Pete, in innovative settings, then these broader measures of diversity, such as socio-economic and cognitive diversity, they do lead to better outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Alex, what you’re showing here is proof, and even evidence, is hard to come by. But, lay it on us, some of your favorite tactics and strategies for smarter thinking. I love that notion of that suspect. Let’s pretend the data came out the opposite way. What would we conclude? Or where would we be pointed to in terms of suspects? Well, now, how does that inform how it did come out? So that’s a lovely approach. Can you lay on us a few more tools like that?

Alex Edmans

Absolutely. And what I’m going to do to do this is to go beyond just analyzing specific studies because how we want to be smarter-thinking is you want to get just different information more generally not just from studies. So, in an organization, where will these different viewpoints come from? From our colleagues. But often, we have an environment in which people might be just unwilling to speak out. So, what can we do to actively encourage dissenting viewpoints?

So, there was a time when Alfred Sloan was running GM, and he concluded a meeting by saying, “Does everybody agree with this course of action?” And everybody nodded, and then Sloan said, “Well, then we’re going to postpone the decision until the next meeting to give you the opportunity to disagree with me.” So, he recognized that no decision, no course of action that he came up with was going to be 100% perfect. So, if there were no objections, it was not because his proposal was flawless, but simply because people didn’t have time to come up with objections.

And, more generally, what can we do within an organization to encourage dissent, to encourage people to speak up. Again, going back to diversity, people think a lot about just demographic diversity, but it’s not sufficient to bring in a mix of people. We need to make sure that they feel safe to speak up. And one example could be in a meeting where you propose a strategy, and most people agree, and then one person, let’s call him David, comes up, and says “Hey, I actually have some concerns with this strategy ABC.”

Now, despite David raising the concerns, you still go ahead. Then if the chair of the meeting at the end goes to David privately, and says “You know, I really appreciate you speaking up. Even though we ended up going with the strategy, we will take all of your concerns into account.” So why is that useful? Because in the absence of that, then David might have felt, just like the question you asked me earlier, Pete, “It’s costly for me to raise a dissenting opinion. People might have seen me as being annoying, and maybe the next time I have some concerns, I’m not going to speak up and say anything because it made no difference anyway, and I just annoyed a lot of people.”

But here, if the chair just takes five minutes to say, “No, we really value in this organization people who come up with dissenting opinions,” then maybe next time, the equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been avoided, because then somebody like David would have said, “Hey, we have failed this negative pressure test three times. We need to take seriously the possibility that this rig is unsafe to be removed.”

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Any other top strategies?

Alex Edmans

Yeah, so, in addition to this, one thing that you can do is try to assign a devil’s advocate in particular situations, which is somebody to critique a particular course of action. So, this happens in academia, my field. So, whenever a paper is presented at a conference, after the presentation, a discussant comes and comments on this. And the discussant is somebody who’s assigned to read the paper in advance and to come up with critiques, particular blind spots that the author might have.

And so, the analogy of this in a situation might be if there’s an investment management firm where some team is proposing a particular deal, is there’s somebody who might be assigned to poke holes and to scrutinize the deal and highlight all the things that can go wrong. Now, ideally, you might have a devil’s advocate emerging anyway, the culture might be such that people are willing to share their concerns, but if you’re not at that stage, if the culture is still developing, maybe just assigning somebody to find some flaws in this, this is a way of getting different viewpoints.

So, this is something that John F. Kennedy came up with when faced with the Cuban missile crisis. The immediate response to seeing these missiles being installed in Cuba was to bomb the missile sites and have a full-scale invasion, but he created this executive committee of the National Security Council, where he had two teams, one proposing the invasion, another proposing the blockade, and each team was critiquing each other’s proposed course of action so that he was able to see both sides of this difficult situation.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely. Well, tell me, Alex, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Alex Edmans

It’s just to highlight that this misinformation is really important. So, you might think, “Why do I need to listen to an academic who goes through life reading and scrutinizing academic papers?” In my job, I never read a single academic paper. But what I’m trying to highlight is that whenever we make decisions, they are based ultimately on research. So, if we choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed our child, we are doing this on the basis of research.

When we’re trying to invest in a sustainable way or implement particular DEI policies, those are ultimately based on research, and so it really matters whether we use the best research, and to discern whether the research is best, we don’t need to be a scientist. We don’t need to scrutinize every footnote in a paper. We just need to ask simple, common-sense questions.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, now could you see our favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Alex Edmans

Yeah, so it’s from a Columbia finance professor, called Laurie Hodrick, where she was asked in the Financial Times, “What is your greatest lesson learned?” And she said, “You can do everything you want to and be everything you want to be, but not all at once.” So why do I like this? It’s that way because there’s loads of things that we want to do in our life, and lots of people just like to be spread really thinly and just do so many things that they just get burnt out. Instead, we have like different chapters to our career.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And could you share with us a favorite book?

Alex Edmans

Yeah, so The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey was something that I was given as a teenager. I didn’t read it because, as a teenager, I was busy doing other stuff. But then I read it about ten years later, and I wished that I had read it back then. There are some new books which are trying to play theme and variations on this. Books like Atomic Habits or Deep Work, and they’re not bad books, but I think the original authority on questions such as time management and discipline and focus were in the Stephen Covey book.

Pete Mockaitis

And do you have a favorite habit? Perhaps one of the seven or something homegrown?

Alex Edmans

Yeah, so it’s to try to just immerse myself without any distraction, to engage in deep work. So, there will be certain days where I will have zero meetings the whole day. So, that was yesterday, I had no meetings yesterday, no meetings all tomorrow, so that I can get really immersed in something. I’ll try to work without my phone near me. I’ll try to have my internet blocker on, which is not distracting me with email, so that when I am doing some writing, which I’m going to do tomorrow, I can do this and be in full flow.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Alex Edmans

I think it might be from my first book, which was on purposeful business, and actually the TEDx talk that that book was linked to, it’s to reach the land of profit, follow the road of purpose. And so, why is that sometimes a quoted phrase? It’s that often when people think about purpose, people claim it’s about being woke and saving the dolphins and saving the coral reefs, but a serious business person should not care about this.

I’m going to highlight that a purposeful business is not just one that is good for wider society, it’s good for the ultimate long-term success of the company as well. And so, this idea that there’s a business case for purpose, a commercial and financial case, not just a moral and ethical case, is something that resonates with people, particularly those who would otherwise be skeptical of purpose.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Alex Edmans

So, my website, AlexEdmans.com, where Edmans is E-D-M-A-N-S. I’m on social media, LinkedIn and X as @aemans. And my new book May Contain Lies, there is a website attached to that book, MayContainLies.com, where, if there were instances of misinformation that I learned about after I finished the book, I do simple blog posts on that.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Alex Edmans

I’ll say, just question stuff. So, if you want something to be true, just to apply this idea of imagine the opposite and think about how you would shoot this down, I think it’s just really important to try to be discerning and try to overcome our biases, these are so strong, these are things that I myself suffered from, and I think if we can overcome these biases, we will significantly improve our performance at our job.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Alex, thank you. This has been a lot of fun and I wish you much truth in your future.

Alex Edmans

Thanks so much, Pete. Really enjoyed the interview. Thank you so much for having me on.

968: How to Experience More Purpose and Passion Each Day with John R. Miles

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John R. Miles shares powerful insight into what it takes to live an intentional and purposeful life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to feel impervious in the face of adversity and failure
  2. How anxiety makes you 400% more effective 
  3. How to visualize effectively 

About John

John R. Miles is a worldwide expert on intentional behavior change, leadership, and personal mastery. He is a keynote speaker, top-rated show host, and is the founder and CEO of Passion Struck®. Miles is devoted to promoting personal mastery, fostering an intentional mindset, enhancing health and wellness, and building meaningful relationships. His globally renowned podcast, Passion Struck with John R. Miles, has garnered tens of millions of downloads and consistently tops the charts as the number one alternative health podcast on iTunes. Miles is committed to inspiring people worldwide to believe in their ability to push beyond limits and achieve their aspirations. He is a graduate of the Naval Academy, where he excelled as a varsity athlete. Learn more by visiting johnrmiles.com or passionstruck.com.

Resources Mentioned

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John R. Miles Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis 

John, welcome. 

John Miles 

Pete, it is so fantastic to be here. Thank you for the honor of having me on. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Well, yeah, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom, and I’d love it if you could kick us off with any particularly striking, or surprising, or extra fascinating discoveries you’ve made while doing your interviews and putting together your book, Passion Struck. 

John Miles 

A person I love to quote, because I love her work, is Sharon Salzberg, and she has a quote that I just love, that “There’s no commodity that we can take with us. There’s only our lives. And whether we live them wisely or whether we live them in ignorance, and this is everything.” 

Pete Mockaitis 

Okay. And tell me more about how that really grabs you. 

John Miles 

It grabs me because I think so many of us live in the subconscious. We’re not really active and being intentional in creating and crafting the life that we want, and so we end up living it in a way that isn’t as authentic as it could be to what we could accomplish if we were aligning our actions with our ambitions and our long-term aspirations. And I think that’s really what she’s getting at is the well-lived life versus a life of just going throughout our days as if we’re a pinball, actively engaging with everything around us but doing it in an unintentional way.  

Pete Mockaitis 

That’s a cool visual, or should I say a haunting, shocking visual, thinking about a pinball just bouncing around and actively engaging with everything, when some things are better to not be engaged with at times. Could you make this all the more real for us with a cool story of someone who found themselves kind of in pinball mode and then made some changes and unlocks some really cool stuff?  

John Miles 

Yes. So, a great person to highlight would be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who I highlight in the book. 

And I think his story is a great one to illustrate this point, because if you look back upon it, we see the person today who’s the megastar, one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, but at the beginning of his career he actually spent a pretty considerable amount of time without any money, basically living almost homeless before he found his way to going into the WWE, but at that time he was going by his real name, and it wasn’t until sometime after that that he took on The Rock, which was actually his father’s name, and started to build his career. 

But what really differentiates Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is that he is a constant reinventor. There are so many times in his life that he could have plateaued and stood where he was, but he continuously strove to take those steps that would take him to the next place. And so that led him next into acting and then, even when he was an actor, he envisioned himself becoming even a greater actor in the pinnacle of male actors of his time. And it was through this constant manifesting that he took himself from this point where his life was completely at a point of desperation to what we see today. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Yeah, that is powerful. I understand, in his story, that he pretty much just declared, “I’m going to be a superstar,” and he took inventory of what’s up, he’s like, “Well, I’m pretty good at building muscles so that’s going to be part of the differentiator, and I’m going to hit the gym like mad in order to really become jacked, huge, shredded, etc.” so as to facilitate his journey to superstardom. 

John Miles 

No, I think that’s absolutely the case, and I think you bring up something that’s really important is, he had already started having this long-term aspiration that he wanted to manifest. And then I think what he did, and so many failed to do, is he started to take those daily actions that were getting him closer, and he aligned those actions with the short-term ambitions that he had along the path to reaching the long-term aspirations that he wanted. And that’s really the core of a lot about what I talk about through the lens of Passion Struck and creating a passion-struck life is aligning those three very things.  

Pete Mockaitis 

Well, it sounds like is that how you would articulate the big idea or core message of Passion Struck to make the shift from just existing and reacting and bouncing around like a pinball to getting in the proactive driver’s seat and making it happen? Or how would you articulate the key thesis? 

John Miles 

Yeah, well, the core thesis is it is a state of alignment, like I talked about, where actions, intentions, ambitions, and aspirations are in perfect harmony, but it’s more than that. It really represents a transformative mindset and behavior shift that’s essential for what I think is rewiring the patterns of default that so many of us end up dictating our entire lives to attaining. 

And it really emphasizes the importance of synchronizing what we do, why we do it, what do we hope to achieve, ensuring that every step that we take is infused with purpose and passion. And so that’s what Passion Struck really is, is it’s this never-ending pursuit of becoming your ideal self the best that you could possibly be. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Oh, that’s great. Well, you’ve got six mindset shifts and six behavior changes, and I’m going to rattle off the quick one-sentence version or teaser of what those are in a moment, but first I want to give you first crack at it. I love that turn-of-phrase you had, “rewiring our default setting.” So, answer me this, John, if there were a single setting within us, a toggle switch where we could shift the default from A to B, what do you think is the most leveraged impactful shift we could make? What’s our default setting? What’s the optimal setting? And how do we make that transition? 

John Miles 

I think for me, what’s top of mind today is motivation and what motivates us. So, I think in default, we tend to be motivated by the extrinsic things in life, the things that we’re led to believe will bring us happiness and success, which comes down to the money we make, the way we present ourselves to the world, the houses that we own, the neighborhoods we live in, the cars we drive, the titles we hold. 

And I think the shift that we really need to make is a shift towards intrinsic motivation acting as the cohesive glue that links our mindset, our behavior, and our deliberate action. That doesn’t mean that you can live without extrinsic motivation. It just means that the default should be more leaning in on the internal drive that fuels our journey towards a life of passion and purpose.  

Pete Mockaitis 

That does seem like a superior setting to be rolling with. John, tell us, how do we go about flipping that switch? 

John Miles 

So, I think right now, there is a profound sense of what I call un-mattering in the world. And before I started this journey of creating Passion Struck, I was given this vision over a decade ago that I was being called to serve, at the time, the words that were coming to me were the lonely, hopeless, broken, beaten, bored, battered of the world. And I had no idea what to do with it because my back story at that time was, I was a successful business executive. I was a C-suite exec in a Fortune 50 company. 

And so, when I started hearing these things, I had no idea what it was calling me to do, why or what even I was supposed to be doing to serve these people. But I started to examine my own life and what was going on in it, and I find that we are often best positioned to serve the people that we once were. And that’s absolutely what I talk about because I was living a life where I was consumed with the extrinsic motivations, and on the outside it looked perfect. 

But inside I felt completely numb and detached from the authentic self that I wanted to be. And I felt this profound sense of feeling that I didn’t matter, that I didn’t feel like what I was doing was fulfilling. 

And so, what I really then went on with this was this journey of me-search, of really doing core introspection into what was driving that state and how do I pivot to really having a different set of goals that were guiding me, and reformulating how I was thinking, how I was perceiving what I wanted in life, but more importantly, how I could teach others to really understand that they did matter, and that this feeling of being significant and valued is really anchored in our intrinsic motivation, energizing our pursuit of goals with relentless determination, and the inner spark that not only influences how we persevere through challenges that we face, but also guides and defines our actions towards the objectives that we want in life. So that’s the path that I ended up taking. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Oh, awesome. Well, I’d love to take just a couple minutes to dig into that journey a bit. When you said given this vision and hearing these things, what is the source, the message, the messenger? How did that land in you? 

John Miles 

So, it started to hit me at a point where my life was really consumed with the constant grind, and I have always been religious. And I decided to take courses that are offered in the Methodist religion called Discipleship, where for 36 weeks I went through an intense two-times a week class where we went through the entire Bible. 

And while I was going through that, it also awakened in me, and I think that this is something, whether you’re religious or not, I think sometimes we go about taking on a new challenge, and by doing that challenge, it opens us up to introspection, and that’s absolutely what it did for me, and I started to question the whys behind how I was living my life.  

Pete Mockaitis 

And that is a theme we’ve heard before. It’s like when folks engage, whether it’s a faith, or wisdom tradition, or intense introspective situation, yes, insights pop up and it can be a sort of an epiphany, a transformation, a life changer, a redirector of great consequence. So, we’ve heard that kind of a story before, so we’ll call it a theme, John. We’ll call it a theme. 

So, let’s dig in a little bit. We’ve got six mindset shifts, six behavior changes. And inside your mindset shifts, we’ve got the mission angler, muster the power to do something great; the brand reinventor, never being afraid to reinvent yourself; the mosquito auditor, avoid the most dangerous animal on the planet; the fear confronter, realizing that you are your greatest competitor; the perspective harnesser, zoom out and tap into its power; and the action creator, permit yourself to dream the dream. 

I’m most intrigued by talking about harnessing perspective, zooming out and tapping into the power. Lately, I’ve just been seeing that as a theme in terms of, like, I’m going about my life and I see my iPad, my iPad shows me an image, like Apple Photos does of, “Oh, here’s what was going on three years ago!” You’re like, “Whoa!” Or just looking at photos in general is like, “Wow, that’s a totally different time and place and an experience and perspective, and wow!” because it feels like, for me, at times, what you’re up in in this moment is, all there ever was, all there ever will be. 

And Daniel Kahneman has got a great quote, “Nothing is as important as you think it is while you’re thinking about it.” And I think that is so on the money. So, help us out here, if we want to harness some perspectives, how do we in fact zoom out and tap into some good power of broader, wiser perspective?

John Miles 

Yeah, so I think the first thing for the audience to understand is, in the Western mindset, that most of us who are listening to this likely have been brought up in, it’s deeply rooted in Greek philosophy which excels in linear learning. So, this whole concept of both/and thinking, which is really an Eastern concept doesn’t get really bestowed on us, so we really enter the world by thinking and viewing it as either/or instead of through the paradoxes that amplify the way we think. 

So, to think about this, and this both/and paradigm, it’s really thinking that our life has the possibilities where we can do things such as balance hard work with rest, merge self-discipline with self-compassion, finding harmony between solitude while also having community, integrating mind and body and so on and so forth. But the way I try to break it down in this chapter is I go into the behavior science behind it by looking at the works of Marianne Lewis and Wendy Smith who wrote a great book called Both/And Thinking, and then I use the example of a good friend of mine, astronaut Chris Cassidy. 

And I think Chris’s journey really highlights this difference in perspective and how it reshaped how he viewed challenges, how he viewed the world around him, and I’ll just give a couple examples of that. So, one of the core stories that I remember Chris talking to me about was his time going through basic underwater demolition school training to become a SEAL. 

And as he was going through Hell Week, everyone who’s there is miserable. But I remember him telling me that, in this point of misery, as he was colder than he’s ever been in his entire life, he looked down the line of people who were next to him, and he saw a Thai exchange student who was very thin, used to a completely different climate, and was so uncomfortable that he was actually buckling two and fours, he was looking at Chris, and Chris was looking back at him. And he realized that no matter how bad he had it, someone else had it worse. 

And it kind of gave him this courage to view life differently. Instead of looking at this as a never-ending trial, he looked at it as an opportunity, one, to see how far he could push his body and to view it as if it was a rubber band where he could expand or detract these trying moments in life. And he found through that, he could reshape his perspective to seeing that this was going to have a finite end. 

And all he needed to do was to concentrate on taking the conscious actions to let go of the things that were impacting him from achieving that goal. And that ended up leading him then throughout the remaining training and time in the SEALs as viewing these things that he would find himself encountering as finite periods of stress or trauma or action, and then training his mind to get through them. So, I think that’s just one powerful example of how you can implement it. 

Pete Mockaitis 

That is cool. And, boy, that feels like we need to have a movie scene of this eureka epiphany moment of enlightenment there. And I think that’s often the thing about perspective, is these things are objectively true, “Yes, this is temporary. The training will conclude.” And, yes, it is true, someone else has it tougher than you. 

And it seems like where I run into trouble, and I think many do, is those perspectives, while true, don’t get the focus, the attention. Like, your mind is consumed, like, “Oh, my gosh, this hurts a lot. I don’t know if I can handle much more of this.” And that is the dominant perspective and narrative that is running the show in your brain. Any pro tips, John, on when you’re in the midst of a small perspective dominating the scene, how to return to the broader perspective? 

 John Miles 

Yeah, to me, this is something that I refer to as the growth paradox, and I think real growth is like farming. It’s not instant gratification. It requires consistent effort and practice. And what that ends up doing is it leads to exponential returns over time. So, a core thing for the audience to think about is lulls and plateaus in our life shouldn’t be viewed as times of failure or not making progress, but as stages for future growth, and that’s something that this growth paradox teaches us about. 

Another one would be the failure paradox, which is looking at failure as a valuable teacher, which I’m sure many people have explored on this show, but each failure provides insights and learning opportunities just as James Dyson’s many inventions failed as he was creating prototypes before he successfully created the vacuum cleaner and then many of the other inventions that have come from Dyson’s products since then. So those would be two examples. 

 Pete Mockaitis 

Okay. Well, now, when it comes to, you listed six intentional behavior changes, and I’m going to give a little quick overview here. We got the anxiety optimizer, how to be on edge without going off the edge; originality embracer, realize that originality necessitates adaptability; the boundary magnifier, understand that sometimes being right means being alone; the outward inspirer, speak or act with your feet; the gardener leader, practice eyes-on, hands-off leadership; and the conscious engager, keep the main thing the main thing. 

I want to dig into the anxiety optimizer. We’ve had Morra Aarons-Mele, who’s great, talking about making anxiety your friend when you are trying to achieve stuff and to not let it consume you. So, let us know, what are your best practices you’ve discovered in terms of how do we make the most of the power, the fuel that anxiety can give us without just freaking out and losing it? 

John Miles 

So, I think it’s important, before we even go into that, to define why this is so important for us to master. McKinsey did some groundbreaking research on this zone of optimal anxiety, and what they found was that leaders who were able to perform in this state, outperformed their peer group by over 400%. Another way to think about that is they were able to accomplish, in two hours, what their peer group was doing, in eight to ten hours. 

So, in Passion Struck, why this is so important is I talk about, later in the book, the psychology of progress, and a core theme of that is that time is malleable. Well, in order to find more time, to take more action to move your life forward, you have to be better at utilizing it. And that’s, where getting into this optimal state of anxiety, is extremely important because in those two hours, if you learn how to do this, you can do what others are doing in eight to ten, which also opens up your life to have more balance in it and to develop and cultivate more relationships. 

So, at the core of this, it’s really thinking about your life as if you’re walking a tightrope. And on one side of the tightrope is overwhelming fear, and on the other is an indifference, and the state in between is what we talk about with finding the state of optimal anxiety. Anxiety is like a boon and a bane. A certain level gets you fired up, ready to take on challenges, but too much, it’s like you’re crashing a party like an unwelcome guest who doesn’t know when to leave. 

So, this is really science-backed strategy that’s crucial for achieving anything that you want in life. So, I talk about two different ways of doing it, there are more than these, but I really focus this chapter on another SEAL named Mark Devine, who many people have probably heard of, and also a race car driver named Jesse Iwuji. 

And Mark, when he was going through BUD/S himself, similar to Chris, was the first SEAL leader where his entire boat crew actually graduated from BUD/S. And the reason that that whole crew was able to do it was because he taught them four critical things that allowed them to exist in the state of optimal anxiety. The first was breath control. 

He, at first, started teaching them the simple practice of box breathing, which, if someone wants to experiment with this, just think of yourself doing a box, and breathe in for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, etc. But this breath control is a dynamic way for you to control the energy that’s flowing through you and to really target it in a different way by quieting down your emotions. 

The second thing he really taught these folks was to have a positive internal dialogue, in that, similar to the way Chris, as I talked about, shifted his perspective, they too could shift that positive internal dialogue and how they were approaching their days and the activities that they were going through. The next thing he taught them was the power of imagery and how, having that imagery of them graduating BUD/S, of them becoming a SEAL, and seeing that optimism and success would change the way that they were viewing the longevity of the task that was ahead of them. 

And, lastly, and I think one of the most important things he taught them was the importance of targeted focus, of being present in the moment and getting through the activities that we were doing. So those four things – breath control, positive internal dialogue, imagery and targeted focus – are the things that I highlight in the book. But a way that a person could think about this is we often end up spiraling. And one of the initial things that we can do, is if you practice that breath work, it allows you to have awareness. 

And, to me, awareness is half the battle won, because if we have awareness, we catch ourselves before we even start spiraling because we notice when unease starts creeping in, and that perhaps prickly feeling or that thing where your hair is rising, and that’s your cue to understanding that you need to start taking some deep breaths and slowing everything down to allow yourself to get clarity. So that would be one starting point that I would talk about. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Yeah, that’s really cool, and you’re making me think I really need to finish that book by Mark Devine, the Unbeatable Mind, I think it’s called. I’ve started it, and too many books crowded it out, but there’s a lot of goodness there. So, I’m intrigued by this notion of optimizing anxiety. It seems like there are some interconnected ideas here, whether it’s Stephen Covey talking about the growth zone is in the middle of the panic zone and I think the complacent zone, or Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says your flow state is when the task is not so easy that it’s boring, and not so hard that you’re overwhelmed, freaking out. 

So, it seems like all three of these conceptualizations have some overlap, but I like the way that you’ve zoomed it in on anxiety as an emotion, a signal, a trigger for you to tune in to these dynamics that are going on. Is optimizing your anxiety level just the same as Covey style being in the growth zone, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi style being in the flow state? Or are there some nuances, distinctions that you would highlight within this framework? 

John Miles 

No, you’re right, it is similar to both of those things, and that flow state is a critical and core component of it. To me, I think the phrase that really captures this the best is to learn to be on the edge without going over the edge. And the best vision that I heard to capture this was talking to NASCAR driver, Jesse Iwuji, who told me, when he’s driving the car, when he was too cautious, it would cause him to wreck because the other drivers were expecting him to do things that were more aggressive in his driving style. But when he tried to take it too far to the edge, he also would wreck out because he was trying to push things too much. 

So, it was really finding that balance in between those two where he learned how to position himself to be on the edge without going over the edge. And to me, that’s what makes this a little bit different. It’s like riding the wave without wiping out because we’ve all heard of athletes who are in the zones, artists losing themselves in creation, coders crunching lines of code until time blurs. But what I’m talking about here is the underlying, really, emotion that lies underneath it, and how do you calm that as your entry point into going into this state. 

Pete Mockaitis 

And to flip it, what if we don’t have enough anxiety, like we’re too we’re too passive, chill about a matter, and we would do better to crank it up? I guess what’s resonating for me is I’m thinking about there’s a time where I was hosting leadership conferences. I remember the first time I did it, I was kind of anxious, like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve never done this before. This is a big role, a big deal. Got to really make sure everything is done well,” and things went rather well. 

And then the second time, I was like, “I got this. I know how this is done. Been there, done that,” and it went not as well. I was too passive and it would have behooved me and the attendees had I been more anxious the second time around. Any pro tips when what’s necessary is to crank it up a bit? 

John Miles 

Yeah, I think I have a tendency probably, as people are hearing me talk, to be more like what you were describing. And so, for me, if I’m giving a talk in that example, I really do my best to amp myself up, because if you’re too subdued, like you were talking about in that situation, people aren’t going to feel the energy reverberating from you that you want them to feel. 

So, I think it’s really having that self-awareness, which I talked about earlier, of understanding where your emotional state is, and the task that you’re trying to complete and readjusting it based on the situation that you’re faced with. So, in that same situation, if I’m behind stage, getting ready to go out there and give my best, I’m really pumping myself up. 

And something that I actually do is I visualize myself being someone other than myself at times. I often, going back to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, picture myself as him coming on the stage, and how would he present himself to the audience, what emotion would he give. And when I do that, and I think about portraying him and the emotions on the stage, it completely changes how I myself am showing up and transforming it into a more profound version of myself. 

So, I would encourage the audience, if they’re facing the same situation, that’s something that I like to do, I was taught that by a speaking coach, is imagine someone else that you want to emulate and picture yourself being them as you’re going throughout that activity.  

Pete Mockaitis 

Oh, totally. We had a guest who used the term psychological Halloween-ism. It’s like you’re donning the costume of the superhero or whomever that you want to be, and, sure enough, somehow that just kind of influences your thoughts and attitudes and behaviors and results. Go figure. Really cool. Now, to that point about Mark Devine with those four things, with the visualization imagery, any pro tips or do’s and don’ts on visualizing well? 

I think sometimes, for example, in a tough spot, if you’re visualizing, “Oh, just a few more minutes till we get a meal,” or a donut, or a smoke, or whatever you’re craving and feel deprived of, that sometimes that could be a counterproductive strategy in terms of getting the best from yourself over the long term. What are your perspectives on best and worst practices for visualizing and using imagery well? 

John Miles 

Yeah, to me, what I think is most important about it is being consistent in your application of it. And for me, there are three different ways that I like to do visualizations. The first is I like to do activations. So, in the morning, I get up really early, 5:00 a.m., I go on this walk with my dog, and I use activations, which is a little bit different than a meditation. I’m activating the way I want my life to unfold. I’m activating how I want my day to go. 

And so, I picture for myself what I want the day to look like when it’s complete, and I kind of walk through what I want my morning to look like, what I want to get accomplished, what I need to do in the middle of the day, what I need to do in the late afternoon, but then also visualize how I want to show up for my loved ones. So that’s one way that I think you can do it is through those activations. 

Another way that I like to do it is through journaling, and really just going into a free flow of thought about, “How am I showing up today? What am I feeling?” and getting those raw emotions out on paper. And then, really then, if there’s a gap between the ideal state that I want to live that day in, then really visualizing, “What actions do I need to take in my energy, in my focus, in how I want to change the very aspects of how I’m going to lead my life for the next few hours of the day?” 

And so, those are two things that I found helpful for me where I use activations or journaling to help me get into that state of internal dialogue, and really that imagery that I want to see for myself and how it’s shaping the immediacy of, for me, the day and the transition points between it. 

Pete Mockaitis 

And so, when you’re visualizing that optimal day outcome, are you sort of imagining yourself in the process of, “Okay, and I’m going to write some stuff. I see myself – third person, first person – at the keyboard, clacking away, or I am admiring the written words with a beaming grin of pride”? Like, what are some of the details of a visualized scene that you construct? 

John Miles 

So, for me, I’m more visualizing the outcomes. Like, this time that I have, what are the outcomes that I want to achieve and in what time frames do I want to achieve them? So, it could be envisioning myself preparing for an interview that I’m doing on a podcast. It could be, as you were saying, visualizing myself writing chapters of a book or a blog that I’m working on. It could be me visualizing a phone call that I’m going to have and how I want that phone call to go to produce the outcome that I want. 

So, I’m really outcome focused and how I’m trying to use this imagery to think through the day and the positive outcome that I want to achieve through the actions that I’m doing. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Awesome. Well, John, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things? 

John Miles 

No, I’ve really enjoyed this. Thank you. 

Pete Mockaitis 

All right. Well, now could you give us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?  

John Miles 

This one is from Henry David Thoreau, and he says that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And I also love the quote by Mark Twain, that 20 years from now, you can look back upon your life, and you can either choose to live it by stepping out into the unknown, or you can choose to live it, as Sharon Salzberg said, in constant anticipation of what if or could be.  

Pete Mockaitis 

All right. And could you now share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research? 

John Miles 

So, some research that I really like is that of Dr. Benjamin Hardy and some of the work that he’s done with Dan Sullivan. Top of mind to me is some of the work that he’s done on future self where he’s looked at the difference between the gap versus the gain, where so many of us live in this comparison trap where we’re constantly living our lives in the gap because we’re trying to compare who we are to some ideal that is just almost impossible for us to achieve. 

It would be like me trying to compare myself as a speaker to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or to Ed Mylett, or someone who’s been doing this to an extremely professional level. Whereas, I could be looking at my life in the gains that I’m making where I’m comparing my current self to my past self, and looking at the incremental progress that I’ve made. And I think that’s really important when we think about the life that we want to craft, is, “How do we develop the mindset shift from going from the comparison trap of living in the gap to living our lives more in the gains?” 

 Pete Mockaitis 

And a favorite book? 

John Miles 

I think one of the most profound books I’ve ever read that’s influenced me personally was Quiet by Susan Cain.  

Pete Mockaitis 

All right. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job? 

John Miles 

At first, I was fearing what AI would do, and so I was trying to not use it, but I’ve really figured that it’s not going away. So, if AI is going to be around for a long time, I better become an expert at using it. So, I have really been going further and further down the rabbit hole of what are different ways that you can use AI to make not only your career better, but your life better. 

Pete Mockaitis 

All right. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often? 

John Miles 

True success really comes down to winning the battle with yourself. Those, I believe, who persist in the pursuit of their dreams, no matter what the hurdles, are the winners in life because they’ve won over their weaknesses. And to me, that is really a profound thing that I want people to take away, is that we all have our different definitions of success. 

But to me, the biggest battle that any of us have is with the inner critic that presents itself to us at each and every day, and learning how to win over that critic, and to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that hold so many of us back, to me is the key to what Sharon Salzberg was talking about in how we choose to live our life, whether we choose to live it in excellence or with ignorance. 

Pete Mockaitis 

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

John Miles 

So, the two best places would be my two websites. If you want to learn more about me personally, you can go to JohnRMiles.com. If you want to learn more about the Passion Struck Movement, my podcast, things like that, you can go to PassionStruck.com. And a really great thing that people can do, if they want to try it out, is I created a quiz when I launched the book that will help people understand where they sit on the Passion Struck continuum. It’s about 20 questions, it takes about 10 minutes, and they can find that on PassionStruck.com. 

Pete Mockaitis 

All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs? 

John Miles 

Yes. Often our choice of career is dictated more by the allure of stability and safety than by passion and fulfillment. And I ended up being about 20 years into my career when I came to the profound realization that I had become an absolute expert at making money for others and making others dreams come true, but I wasn’t making my own dreams come true. 

So, really, it’s confronting this fear of uncertainty that pushes many of us towards professions that we feel less connection to, resulting in what I think is so many people feeling unfulfilled or disengaged in the workplace. So, what I would encourage people to do is to take that other path, the path to start making your own dreams come true, and finding something that you feel is fulfilling at your heart, and that you wake up just with this unending desire and passion and ignition within that it’s propelling you to just want to do that with your life. And that really gets down to exploiting your uniqueness, your unique gifts, to find a problem that’s worth solving in the service of others. 

 Pete Mockaitis 

Beautiful. Well, John, thank you. I wish you many more adventures and days of passion. 

John Miles 

Well, thank you so much, Pete, for having me on your show. That was an absolute phenomenal interview, and I can see why your show is so popular. 

Pete Mockaitis 

Well, thank you. Appreciate that.