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334: How to Stop Freaking Out and Keep Moving Forward with Maxie McCoy

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Maxie McCoy advises dropping the grand plan of your life in favor of simpler questions to move you forward.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two exercises for discerning your direction
  2. Why you should keep a gratitude journal
  3. Five wise questions to ask your support network

About Maxie

Maxie McCoy is a writer and speaker obsessed with giving women the tools they need to believe in themselves. She writes weekly inspiration on maxiemccoy.com, and is the host and executive producer of the live-audience show Let Her Speak. She specializes in creating meaningful offline experiences for top brands and conferences. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, Bustle, Fortune, TheSkimm, INC, Business Insider, Yahoo, Marie Claire, GlassDoor, The Huffington Post, Women’s Health and many others.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Maxie McCoy Interview Transcript

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

Maxie McCoy
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’ll get into a lot of really good stuff, and perhaps the best place to start is with your flower obsession. What’s the story here?

Maxie McCoy
You know, where all great podcasts start. So my flower obsession – I really just have this dream of myself in the future where I’m going to own a flower shop at the age of 80. But really where that came from is, I have a ritual every Saturday morning – I go to the farmers market here in San Francisco at the Ferry Building. We’ll get into rituals later, because it’s such a key piece of figuring out where we’re going. And I basically only allow myself a certain amount of cash and I spend it all on flowers. And then I come back and I fancy myself a flower designer and cover my one-bedroom apartment full of flowers. So it’s just flowers galore in here. I can’t really explain it, other than it’s a really fab ritual.

Pete Mockaitis
That is really fab, if I may. I don’t have much in the way of flowers; most days are flowerless in our home.

Maxie McCoy
Oh, no. We need to change that. It’ll bring your home alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, one thing I’ve noticed is that every time I pass eucalyptus branches, I go, “Ooh, I really like that!” And so, that seems like a nice little gateway drug, if you will, into bringing them into my home. But someone freaked me out, like, “You want to watch out for mold and for bugs.” It was like, “Uh-oh.” What should I do if I want to get eucalyptus into my life, in the home? Are there any safety tips I need to follow, or what’s the story?

Maxie McCoy
I really think that that’s amazing. First of all, I’m the girl that could kill a cactus. So if I can do it, I feel like you can do it and not have to worry about bugs. But isn’t eucalyptus the one that dries and then stays in a vase for a really long time?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s what I thought.

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, you picked a really good one. And also, eucalyptus makes the air smell amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes! It’s so fresh and alive. It’s like, I’m a little bit more energized, and I love being more energized.

Maxie McCoy
See, and we’re going to talk about that too. So I think that you just need to follow the energy, Pete, and get yourself some eucalyptus.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, already unlocking transformation.

Maxie McCoy
Right here on the flower anecdote.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so with inspirations – you’ve got a lot of them written up at your website MaxieMcCoy.com. And I was sort of cruising through them and enjoying them. What would you say are some of the biggest recurring themes that show up again and again as you’re doing your writing?

Maxie McCoy
There’s a few of them, and I think in order to understand where they come from, it’s important to understand why I started writing to begin with. I actually was spending about 90% of my time on the road, talking to women, building out offline networking communities. So I was building out curriculum and facilitating workshops, and really just focused on having these conversations with young professional women. And there were just so many universal themes that kept coming up.

I was a writer first and writing has always been my first love. I was like, “I have to capture this somewhere”, because these conversations that we’re having in anywhere from groups of 10 to groups of 300 could be brought together for other people to glean from. And what really came out of that, and it’s what you see as you’re cruising around on my site, is this incessant doubt around our future. There are just a lot of these themes of, “Am I doing the right things? Is what I’m feeling normal? How do I handle this doubt? Where the heck am I going with my life?” And really the writings there are one giant love letter to women that they’re not alone, that we’re actually all feeling these things and asking these things, and most of it comes into career as a cornerstone in our life in my writings. So those are some of the big ones.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And so, our audience is mostly women, but not all. I’d say gentlemen too experience some of these questions – the “Where am I going with my life?” obsession, you call it. And so, your book, You’re Not Lost tackles this. And how would you phrase the main idea behind You’re Not Lost?

Maxie McCoy
You’re Not Lost came because in all those conversations I was referencing, it was the one thing – and I’m sure you have this with our podcast also – it’s the one thing that I just kept hearing over and over and over again. And it brought me to the main thesis and the solution that I was trying to create from having heard this so much. It’s just simply that you don’t have to know where you’re going in order to begin; that we can find our way when we tap into a really deep sense of self-belief in order to take small step after small step after small step.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I dig this. And I see that you on your site have a reference to Tara Mohr, and we’ve had her on the show, and she’s awesome. That’s one of the top, top downloaded episodes – fun fact – the Tara Mohr episode.

Maxie McCoy
It doesn’t surprise me. Just this morning actually I was sharing on Instagram about this visualization of  my future self, which I actually found from Tara. The amount of comments already this morning on that are just… She resonates so widely with me, with my audience also, and just that concept of some of what we want to figure out in our life, we can do by going forward first.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And so, for the listener, that was the “inner mentor” exercise, where you imagine an older, wiser version of yourself in a pleasant setting, and just see what does your older, wiser self tell you. And it’s almost freaky. I was like, “Wow, that was really wise and helpful.”

Maxie McCoy
So, did you do it?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I just made that up. It’s like, “That’s all from me! Whoa!”

Maxie McCoy
“It all came from me.” Wait, I have to know – what was your inner mentor’s name? Because in the visualization exercise, for everybody listening, you have to name your future self. Do you remember what your name was?

Pete Mockaitis
We did it such a rapid pace; it was sort of real time on the show. And so I more just had a visual picture, as opposed to a name. I just thought of him as Peter.

Maxie McCoy
Yes. Kind of like Maxine.

Pete Mockaitis
And I more so resonated with his gray hairs and wrinkles, and yet sort of smiley, joyous demeanor. I was like, “Okay, what does this guy have to tell me?” [laugh]

Maxie McCoy
“Let’s talk about this guy.” Same. I had a very similar experience. It was cool, because kind of what you just said –  we have all of our answers. And a lot of the messaging that I work around is really to help people get to peeling back that onion and just figuring out our own answers. And this is one amazing exercise to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So we got the, “I’m lost. What am I doing? Where am I going with my life?” – that obsession. You say one of the very first steps is to just accept it’s okay to start before you have the whole masterplan step by step laid out. So, what are some of the other first steps that folks should take when they’re wrestling with this one?

Maxie McCoy
I think when you are just kind of obsessed with that question, there’s a lot of people out there that are going to tell you to find your passion or figure out your purpose, which honestly – and I don’t want to offend anyone – I kind of think it’s B.S., because we’re all really smart people; if we knew the answer to that, we’d be doing it already. And so, it really is more of getting us into action, to a place that we’re going to be able to really level up the answer to some of those really big questions. And at a macro view kind of figuring out, “Where is my life going?” really is about dropping the obsession with the big picture and stepping into the unknown.

I am a reformed goal junkie and then some. I used to live my life by a masterplan, but there’s a number of things that happen when you do that. We’ve all been there, where we’ve achieved the goal, then feel completely empty about it, whether we’ve done that at work or whether we’ve done that in our own lives. We’ve set this bar for ourselves and we get there and it’s like, “Well, this doesn’t really feel like anything.”

Or we don’t have the ability to even conceptualize the masterplan. The feeling of loss comes from both of those, and just at a macro view, when we can tap into our own power and be willing to step into the unknown, we’re going to create the path as we go. That is what starts to open up the, “Oh, I actually do know where this is going.” But you’re not going to think your way to that answer.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that, I dig that. And I think sometimes people will identify a passion, like, “I love the violin! Oh, but that’s really not practical. You can’t make a career on the violin. Only a dozen people per town.” Whatever, it can go to a symphony. So, I’m intrigued by that. You say if you knew it, then you’d be set.

Maxie McCoy
You’d already be doing it, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m thinking, sometimes you have some inklings, but it feels sort of impractical or not possible. So, what do you do with that one?

Maxie McCoy
You’re totally right, that there are some of these that can feel impossible. However, if something is moving you forward, actually so much possibility is there. I’d even say in my own life working in women’s leadership and talking to women for a living really… My background was sports broadcasting even though this was always my passion – really did always feel outlandish until some of the small decisions and choices that I made led me here.

And I think instrumentally these high-level, like being a pro athlete or a concert pianist – those things could absolutely be hard to achieve, and to make a life and to grow, but in the context of our own jobs, when we’re able to tap into that inkling and know it may not be about the fact that you love playing the violin and that’s where you want to make your living; it may just be that you want to be a bit more creative. You might be in a data job, but the violin is really speaking to you, and then really understanding why is that, what are the qualities about this that are pushing me forward? And I think when you start to tap into that energy and ask yourself, “Why?”… We’ve heard the exercise – I’m sure all of us – you ask yourself “Why” three times and it can really get at what that inkling might be able to tell you, even if it feels really not remotely possible. There’s some kind of nugget there.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. So with the violin piece – when you go into some “Why’s”, let’s just see how this might work. You might be, “I love the idea of being able to be immersed in something for hours at a time without interruption, and feeling like I’m being pulled in 10 different directions from all these different stakeholders who want a piece of me.”

Maxie McCoy
And I ask you, “Okay, Pete. But why?”

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. I don’t actually play the violin, so I’m trying to imagine a violin player.

Maxie McCoy
You want to know what’s funny? I do play the violin.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding! Maybe my subconscious picked that up as I was reading about you.

Maxie McCoy
It’s kind of incredible. It’s by my feet, which is amazing. That’s so good.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you tell me. So maybe the “Why” associated with that – I’m just going to guess – and then you give me another example. So, with the violin, “I like the sense of going deeply immersed into something and not be pulled in many directions, because I feel like I am getting a sense of learning and growth and mastery from getting to spend that extensive focus time.” And if I go “Why” again, it can be like… Or in some ways I almost feel like …, “Because that sensation is awesome, and I’d love it.”

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, and you’re feeling very alive or very energized. And it does come back to that sensation. I think what builds into so much of the joy that we have in our careers is like, “Where are we spending our time and the feelings that we’re getting out of that?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. So, give us maybe another “three why” example that you’ve seen with some folks you’ve worked with.

Maxie McCoy
So I think that when you’re breaking down, whether it’s energy or expression, really figuring out who we are, is a really amazing first step in progressing this question along. I am always asking myself and others, “How can you be the highest possible expression of yourself? What does that actually look like?” And then when you are able to distill down what the expression of you looks like and ask yourself, “Why that matters, why that matters, why that matters”, you can really get at all of the molds and the limits that were keeping you from being that person.

And the reason I think that this is really important in the grand scheme of figuring your path out is, there’s so much telling us to be different and there’s so much telling us that we need to change before we begin, but actually we just need to take all of the things that people have told us to do differently and to be differently, flip it on its head, and you actually have an inverse formula, specifically for being the highest possible expression of who you are, which is going to directly correlate to the things that energize you. And I think when you can ask yourself “Why” three times, and doing this often, it really gets down into, “Why does it matter that I am the most me, and who does she or he actually look like in that?”

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say “inverse formula”, can you talk a little bit more about that? What are we doing?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, so we’re basically converting all of the things people have told us to change and flipping it on its head. So if I’ve been told that I talk a lot, or that I’m loud, or that I’m taking up too much space – it’s really just flipping it and doing all of those things, and doing more of those things, of the things that come so innate into who we are, they make up who we are. And those become what an expression of us looks like, and not changing them, and not trying to fit into other people’s molds, because molds are just limits. They pull down on who we are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. And I think in some ways, you want to exercise a bit of prudence there, because on the one hand if someone says, “Pete, you’ve always got your head in the clouds. You’ve got to be more practical” – I can imagine inverting that like, “Coming up with new ideas and innovation is a real strength of mine. And so, I’m going to run with that and make it happen.” Versus if it was like, “Pete, you drink so much, you embarrass yourself and everybody else around you” – I’d rather not flip that, like, “This is who I am. Deal with it.”

Maxie McCoy
No, I think an asterisk is really important. You give a perfect example of where those things can really matter and where they cannot really be relevant to as much of a career conversation. But yeah, you’re totally spot-on. I think it’s more values and characteristics-driven as we’re trying to apply our talent into whatever it is that we’re doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Alright, so those are some great steps to get the wheels turning in some really positive directions. I’m wondering, once you’ve begun, what do you do next?

Maxie McCoy
What do you do next? I’m really glad that you asked that. I think once the wheels are turning, there’s a couple of things and exercises that are just really powerful to get you to continue moving. We talked a little bit about going forward and talking to that future self, per Tara. But I think coming back to this “What energizes me” conversation, because that’s going to point you like a compass where it is that you should be stepping.

Reflecting here is really, really powerful. I think looking back at your work – if you’re in a place where you feel stuck or your feel a little bit unhappy or you’re feeling like you have no idea where you’re going – going backwards and asking yourself, “Where are all of the places that I’ve felt the most energized?” Energized can be a little amorphous, so I think breaking that down even further and asking yourself, “Where have I felt proud? Where have I done things where I’ve completely lost track of time?” We hear that one a lot. Where have you really felt deeply connected to your power? And just listing out whatever comes up, you’ll start to see that there are probably a lot of similarities in some of the types of work that you’re doing.

And then to put action around those, because that’s what actually matters. Just what you were saying, getting that wheel turning is not so much about creating the grand plan, but just asking yourself the simple question of, “What is the absolute smallest thing I can do right now to put any of that energy into motion?”

In my own life, one of the biggest life-changing things that’s ever happened to me came from a tiny, tiny decision. And a lot of what happens in our life isn’t because we took this giant big leap; it’s because we made one really small decision that ended up setting us off on a very exciting and different course, and we kept taking those steps and we kept taking those steps, but it started somewhere. For me that was about six and a half years ago. I’d been in sports broadcasting, I wasn’t yet in women’s leadership. I was feeling more lost than I had ever felt, and I was like, “Shoot. I have got to go back to the things that make me me, the things that I really care about.”

And I took myself actually through some of this, “Where have I felt the most proud and energized in my life?”, and it all came down to writing and women’s stories. So, I decided to sign up for a writing class. And it was a tiny decision at the time. It was just a difference of like, “Can I afford this 7-week class or not?” And I was like, “I’m just going to do it, because I need to be exercising this energy that makes me feel alive.”

And that ended up leading me directly to the startup that put me into women’s leadership, why I started being on the map, traveling and talking to women – because a woman in that writing class handed me the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle business section and was like, “Hey, there are these women who are building a company based on all the things that you care about.” And I think that’s what we underestimate, is we have no idea how it’s all going to play out. Life is so not linear, there’s just no way to tell these things. But if we can get into a place where we’re really willing to do that absolute smallest thing to follow the energy, it could truly lead us anywhere, and that’s where the path starts to open up.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. I’d also like to get your take when it comes to the instincts and what they’re serving up. How do you think about doing the trusting of instincts, versus the digging deeper and exploring and evaluating what the instincts are pointing you to?

Maxie McCoy
I think it’s a fine balance of knowing, “Do I trust this? Is this just anxiety and fear coming up? Or do I need to go a little further, do I need to ask some people?” I think we can actually answer that ourselves when we come back to us. One of the things that I think we lose track of is how much time we’re spending in other people’s lives, which makes it really hard to evaluate any of those instincts, because we’re so not tapped into our own power.

These stats get referenced all the time, but the fact that a third of us feel unhappy and envious following our most recent social exchange – that just tells us that there is a direct correlation to how we’re feeling and how outside of ourselves we’re getting to even know what our instincts are saying, much less trusting them enough to do anything about it.

But I think with instincts specifically, this one’s a little off the map, but I love it so much and I’m on a crusade to bring back superstitions and lucky charms. Hold with me – it’s not as crazy as it sounds. When you are starting to get onto this path and you’re taking action and the fear shows up, and the gut instincts are showing up and you don’t know if this is right or if you should even follow it – there’s a lot that we can do to ritualize our highest potential.

So, doesn’t matter what this is. I can tell you what mine are, but there’s a reason that top athletes and people are using the sign of the cross a million times, or have their lucky underpants. There are so many examples of people doing this. And there was actually a study that found – they did this specifically with golfers – that when you hear, “I’ll cross my fingers for you”, or you’re given a lucky ball, they do better. They do better than those who didn’t hear those things or weren’t given a golf ball.

And so, we all have the power to kind of ritualize that experience. For me I have an Oprah candle that I light for myself before really big days. I also light it for other people. It’s this long candle that has Oprah’s face on it, because I’m obsessed with her.

Pete Mockaitis
Oprah gave you this candle? What is an Oprah candle?

Maxie McCoy
Oprah did not give me the candle. It just is an old devotional candle that has Oprah’s face on it. She’s my religious experience, but that’s beside the point. So, it’s become a joke now amongst me and all of my friends, like, “I’ll light the lucky Oprah candle for you.” And I light it for myself, and it’s not just superstition and lucky charms; it’s really proven to help our performance.

And so I think when you’re talking about, “I’m feeling this, I’m not trusting it” or, “I don’t trust myself”, there are some very real things we can do, like coming back to ourselves by getting out of the world of everyone else. And then, how can I use a lucky charm or a superstition to improve my performance? Which is going to feed back, loop cycle back to you feeling more confident and doing even more.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s really cool about the lucky charm or superstition or ritual piece is that whenever I go deep into scientific journal article reading, which is surprisingly often; I’m not a scientist.

Maxie McCoy
I’m not that surprised by that, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just curious and I want to know the truth. So I’ll get after it. One thing that really strikes me is how the placebo is really pretty good. It’s like when we compare something against the placebo, and they’re like, “Oh, it didn’t do any better than the placebo.” It’s like, “Yeah, but the placebo did pretty good on its own.”

Maxie McCoy
The placebo is pretty powerful, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe I should just sell placebos and look at all the results that get claimed. I don’t know, maybe FTC or somebody has cracked out on that. But I guess the placebo effect doesn’t really work unless you believe that there’s something that’s at work.

Maxie McCoy
Is being done, yeah. Do you have a lucky charm yourself?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know about…

Maxie McCoy
No Oprah candles over there?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if I’d call it a “lucky charm”, but I had a rosary that turned gold when I was in a pilgrimage location.

Maxie McCoy
No way!

Pete Mockaitis
Way, yeah. And actually it’s funny because a lot of people say this happens. So I was checking it every few hours when I was there. It’s in a tiny village in Bosnia. So that’s pretty cool, because it’s like something miraculous and supernatural happened here. And so, if there’s something really big happening, I do want that by me, because it’s like, “This got a heavenly touch and I’d like that to be near me in this moment.”

Maxie McCoy
It’s powerful. And I think knowing what those things are for you… I am so blown away by that story; that’s incredible. Yeah, I would keep it by you and in your pocket at all times.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s fallen apart a few times. I’ve had to try to repair it, because it’s been around.

Maxie McCoy
Can I borrow it?

Pete Mockaitis
If you are next to me. While we’re in the same room you can have it in your pocket. So, whether it’s a lucky charm or an item from heaven, or a placebo – there’s something to that. I also want to get your take… On your website you have one of the most interesting hashtags that I’ve ever seen, and it’s #batshitgrateful. [laugh] I was like, “Boy, there’s a combination of words, and I think I love it.” So could you unpack a little bit of that? What does that mean?

Maxie McCoy
I absolutely can. I’m trying to remember the genesis of this particular hashtag, but I really think it just came from a place of being so grateful, #grateful was not enough for me. And people say “batshit crazy” often. I was like, “No, I’m not crazy. I’m grateful.” And then “batshit grateful” was born. And for me, kind of going back to that ritual conversation and the power of gratitude – I ended up ritualizing in my own life because things were just getting crazy and I was trying to find a way to ground back into myself so I could listen to take these little steps that were opening up on my own path.

People talk about gratitude journals all the time, and every year I felt like I was writing New Year’s resolutions, “This is the year that I’m starting the gratitude journal.” But it actually wasn’t until I read Oprah’s What I Know For Sure, which is one of my favorite books. And she talks about in her career, and at the height of her career, she was feeling a lot of unfulfillment in her own work. And when she looked at the reason for that, she brought it all down to the fact that she had stopped a gratitude journal that she had done for decades, because things were at the height, it was getting crazy. She had more than she’d ever had, and yet it wasn’t feeling like enough.

And I just had this light bulb moment of, “Okay, if Oprah felt like that then, then I sure as heck have to get my head wrapped around feeling grateful for what’s going on in my life right now.” And there is so much to back this up. One of the things that has always stuck with me about gratitude journaling is that if you do that for five minutes, it increases your long-term well-being by more than 10%. And 10% is the same impact as doubling your income. So you can feel the effects of doubling your income just by gratitude journaling for five minutes a day. And that really sums up the practice of being “batshit grateful”, but the hashtag as it is is just a way for me to just put out in the world that I am so grateful for where I’m at, even though I have a million places that I want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s cool about even just the concept of being “batshit grateful” is like being crazy – it’s sort of over the top. It may make people go, “Whoa”. Nonetheless, it really is wonderous that, whatever – you have delicious food available to eat, or that you can summon a Lyft or an Uber, they just snap up, from your phone you can contact anybody in the world and be in touch with them.

Maxie McCoy
You can have Pete’s voice on your phone any morning you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, so much to be grateful for.

Maxie McCoy
It really is so much.

Pete Mockaitis
My voice. And so, with the gratitude journal, could you unpack a little bit what happens in these five minutes? So you’re feeling grateful, you’ve got a pen and paper, and what are you doing?

Maxie McCoy
I think that you are just reflecting on your day. And when I say “I think”, I mean you’re reflecting on your day. You’re coming up with, no matter how bad your day was, no matter how good your day was, what are a few things? I always encourage to do three; two of those being, what are the things that you’re grateful for outside of yourself? So, what you just said – “I had a really amazing meal”, “I got to FaceTime with my best friend, who lives in another country.”

And then really taking that third, that last piece of the stuff that you’re jotting down and asking, “What am I grateful for myself for?” So whether that is, “I had a lot of motivation today and really got a lot done” or, “I feel like I handled that conversation really well” or, “I was really honest.” Just being able to be grateful to yourself, not just to the things happening to you. I do three. I jot down three and give a lot of detail. You could do five, if you wanted to do that every day. And it really is piecing out what are the things, no matter how simple, that you are feeling particularly grateful for that day.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice piece there. So when I’m doing gratitude stuff, it’s usually in prayer. I think of three to five-ish things that happened the last 24 hours. And I took that form Shawn Achor and his Happiness Advantage work – an amazing book.

Maxie McCoy
Amazing book.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I think of three to five things that I’m grateful for, just in general, that are generally great, like it’s pretty cool that I have a baby. But then you’re adding a whole another dimension there, in terms of grateful about yourself, because I think it’s quite easy to criticize. I see my shortcomings all the time.

Maxie McCoy
All the time. Our brain is wired for that. We’re kind of wired for criticism.

Pete Mockaitis
And so it could be, “I’m grateful that yesterday I was able to do four podcast interviews, even though I was feeling really hot and tired. And they were great.” So, that’s something to feel good about, in terms of what I could do there.

Maxie McCoy
Exactly. That’s exactly it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Maxie, tell me – anything else you want to cover before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, I think that we’ve talked a lot about this internal journey that we can have in order to kind of figure out where your life is going. But I think one of the things that we don’t talk about enough is how in certain situations, external validation from the people that we love the most and who are some of our biggest cheerleaders can really have an impact on us believing in ourselves enough to take these actions.

And so, the last thing that I would say, just in terms of what can make a really big impact in figuring out where it is you want to go – and this was one of the more transformational exercises I’ve ever done in my life – is really surveying. And we hear this a lot, about getting 360 degree feedback, doing peer reviews. There’s so much here on why this works, when it comes to our own self growth. But really figuring out where people see you and where they see your potential and your value, can eventually help you get there. You eventually will start to believe in yourself and the way that they see you and that they believe in you.

For me what I had done was, I had a friend who put together five questions. She sent them out in a typeform to around 15 to 20 of my closest, I call them “cheerleaders” – people who are your biggest fans and believe in you and have your best interests at heart. And we asked them what makes me irreplaceable, what is my superpower, what’s holding me back, where they thought I would be five years from now, and then anything else they wanted to say about my potential or my value or my talents.

And then that friend actually synthesized all the information to me and delivered it to me in person, and then gave me all the raw data. And I am telling you, Pete, my life – this was years ago – I am literally living the life that is in that spreadsheet of answers right now, because they saw it. I just was too scared to do anything about it, but knowing that these people believed in me and what they saw started to open up me being able to see what that North Star might be, and how to get there.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool, that is bold. Can you lay it out – what are a few of those questions that got in there?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, the five are: What makes you irreplaceable? What’s your superpower? What’s holding you back? What are you up to five years from now? And then any additional notes on talents, potential, or unique value.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And what I like is that it’s a positive. We had a guest talking about self-awareness – it was Tasha Eurich. Self-awareness and talking about doing dinner of truth. And that’s really cool.

Maxie McCoy
Super cool, but I don’t want to be there.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds pretty spooky, whereas those questions do have some constructive stuff – “What’s holding you back?”, to deal with. But most of it is going to make you feel awesome.

Maxie McCoy
And sometimes you need that. We’re hard enough on ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s cool. Well, thank you for that.

Maxie McCoy
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell me now – how about a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Maxie McCoy
I find this incredibly inspiring. You can tell me how you feel about this, but it’s from an artist named Ashley Longshore. She’s incredible, one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram. But she says, “Instant gratification will get you stone drunk or pregnant. Everything else is going to take some time.” I think it’s just a really funny way, and I say it to myself often to just have some patience with any of the things – with ourselves, with trying to figure all of this out. We’ve just got to stick at it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Maxie McCoy
The McKinsey study – I think this was late 2015 – specifically around advancing women’s equality, which is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, that $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025. And for me that’s just a reminder of why this work matters.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Maxie McCoy
Lilac Girls. So this one is Martha Hall Kelly. I read it, I’m obsessed with it. In all of this self-help work that we’re all always doing, I have transitioned my mind at night to being obsessed with fiction, and this is just one of my favorites. It’s got some complex female characters that I dig.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool, thank you. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Maxie McCoy
So, I use and love – and this goes back to the gratitude journaling – an app called Reflectly. It’s a daily gratitude journal where you rate your day, and then you can see over the course of time what your metrics are, like how happy you’ve been over the course of a week, through the course of a month.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Maxie McCoy
Am I allowed to talk about the Oprah candle again? Because that’s just hands down my favorite habit. I light her every day. And by the way, I buy her in bulk.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect or resonate with your people, and you hear it quoted back to you frequently?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, this quote around, “You never know who you’re inspiring” gets retweeted all the time from me, because I think it’s just a reminder to all of us that our actions, even if they feel small and insignificant – our actions, our stories, our voice – it all really matters so much. You have no idea the impact you’re having on other people.

Pete Mockaitis
And Maxie, if folks want to get in touch or talk to you, where should they go?

Maxie McCoy
Please, I love talking to people. It’s MaxieMcCoy.com. You can email me directly at an inbox I do check, at hello@maxiemccoy.com. Or quickly, I’m always fast on social. It’s @maxiemccoy, Instagram and Twitter.

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

Maxie McCoy
I really think that everyone should do this survey about their humans, and just get that feedback and believe them. I also put the survey in my book, which is You’re Not Lost. It’s on any of the major retailers. You can find out a little bit more about the story and how to do that there.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Maxie, this has been a ton of fun.

Maxie McCoy
So fun!

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks so much for sharing your take, and good luck with the book You’re Not Lost, and all you’re doing!

Maxie McCoy
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so batshit grateful to be here.

333: Better Negotiation with Greg Williams

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Greg Williams reveals several secrets to negotiating for what you want effectively and respectfully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three points to remember when negotiating with bullies
  2. Six common body language cues in American culture
  3. How to get productive outcomes through open communication

About Greg

Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert, has studied and practiced negotiation tactics and strategies for more than 30 years. He’s spent over 20 years studying the way body language can affect negotiation outcomes. Greg’s education and experience come from formal negotiation settings, universities, governmental municipalities, seminars, and the school of hard knocks. He’s served on numerous corporate, business, and governmental boards.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Greg Williams Interview Transcript

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

Greg Williams
Hey, you’re more than welcome, Pete, and thank you for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have many credits to your name. It’s like the Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert is right next to it. But even more so, I saw you were honored as the Business Man of the Year by the United States Congress. I didn’t even know Congress issued such honors. What is the story here?

Greg Williams
Actually, that was several years ago. When one does a lot in the community, one gets recognition for what it is that the value add happens to be.

At one particular point in time I had been appointed chairman of the New Jersey Development Authority by then governor Whitman. That authority addressed the needs of small, minority- and women-owned enterprises throughout the state of New Jersey.

That was part of the catalyst, the activities that I engaged in during that time, that actually allowed Congress to bestow such an award upon me of which I was very honored to receive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s just fun to hear you tell the story. Your voice has some music in it and the word choice is distinctive, so I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable conversation. Congratulations and thank you for your service. That’s really cool.

Greg Williams
Thank you very much also, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so you’re a negotiation whizz. Can you share with us maybe to kick us off, could you maybe give us a fun story of how a negotiation got transformed or how someone was really worried things were not going to go so well, but then with some pro-tips, things turned out amazingly?

Greg Williams
Well, first of all, one should always understand the mindset that one possesses before entering into any negotiation situation because if you experience a sense of angst, you need to identify why you have such feelings.

Is it because you perceive the other entity as having so many more resources than you do that there’s no way you can actually come out ahead or even even with them? Is it the fact that there is something else that’s causing you to have the feelings that may disallow you from being as vibrant in the negotiation as you otherwise would be?

Once you identify those feelings, deal with them and deal with them to the point that they are reality or just thoughts in your mind. The reason it’s so important to do so is because the feelings you carry into a negotiation will to a great degree determine how you will negotiate in that particular situation.

Let me tell you of a story real fast also, Pete, to actually highlight the point. I recently stayed at one of the five star hotels. I thought, “Hm,” one day they didn’t clean the room. I had called down and I came back to the room at three something in the afternoon. The room had still not been cleaned. I had a black-tie event to attend at night.

I told them, “Please clean the room after six o’clock in the evening.” They said it would be taken care of. Well, I returned something after ten that evening and the room had not been cleaned. You know how people tell you, “Oh, we value you as a customer.” My response to that is “Okay, I’m from Missouri. Show me.” I’m not from Missouri, but that’s the cliché.

First of all, when you’re negotiating you always plan for what might occur and how you might respond. I thought to myself, “Okay, well these guys are saying I’m a valued customer to them. How would I like to position them, first of all, such that they have the opportunity to show me through their actions that I’m a valued customer?”

What that also means is I’d have to come across in my own mindset what it is that I would want from them versus what they might actually offer. I weighed those thoughts.

I called the front desk. I asked to speak with the service – the front desk manager and told him the situation that I had just cited a moment ago. Sure enough, he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer of ours.” I’m thinking to myself, “Are you serious? Okay.” I said, “Well, what does that mean?” He said, “I beg your pardon?”  I said, “What’s your definition of a valued customer?”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Greg Williams
Yes. Here’s the thing, Pete. When you ask such a question, people usually get caught off guard because people usually say, “You’re a valued customer,” and they’ll usually take the floor.

Listen also when people start to talk to you as far as the cadence, the pace in which they speak, because you’ll also be able to glean insight per their nonverbal communications, the pauses, as to what their thought process might be.

Anyway, he said, “Well, that means that we want to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with your stay at our property.” I said, “Very, very good.”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what would really make me happy in this situation.” He said, “Well, what would that be, sir?” I said, “If you could just deduct a night’s stay as a result of this mishap because after all, you’d expect something like this,” and I’m not denigrating any hotel chain, but I said, “You would expect something like this or could possibly expect something like this at a Hotel Six, but definitely not at-“ I named the other hotel.

What I did there was positioned in his mind a Hotel Six, and again, not denigrating Hotel Six chain, but in comparison to this particular hotel chain, they were substantially at a higher end as it were.

I heard the pause. He didn’t say anything for a moment and I thought to myself, “Okay, he’s in thought mode.” He said, “Sir, I can definitely do that.” Well, that allowed me to get a few extra hundred dollars that I otherwise would not have had.

Now, that’s one particular way that you can position someone, number one, as far as what you wish them to compare themselves too based on what they’ve already said, thus to get them to show in action what it is that they mean by in this case a valued customer.

But even more so had he said too quickly, “Sir, no problem, we’ll definitely give you that,” and I was someone that wanted to take advantage of the situation, I then could have said, “Oh, and I’ll have a bottle of Dom Perignon also if you don’t mind sending that up to the room.” I state that simply to say, you have to always be aware of how quickly someone responds to a request or a concession that you made.

That’s just a short story just to highlight those points.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Now, in the course of that conversation, when did you explain the problem? They mentioned that you’re a valued customer, was that sort of before or after you kind of laid out the picture?

Greg Williams
I had laid out the picture and then he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer.” You’re right about that because you also have to set the stage as it were for how you would wish the negotiation to progress. By setting the stage, by telling him of the circumstances that had occurred earlier in the day and the evening, I also had positioned him to think, “Oh God, this guy has really gone through a whole lot.”

Mind you, oh boy, again, never try to take advantage of any particular situation in a negotiation because it could always blow up in your face and you can have all kinds of retributions to pay as a result of doing so.

Mind you at check in time, and this particular hotel had one organization that had about two or three thousand folk from a different organization that was already there. I was part of an organization that had another fifteen hundred people or so. Even at the check in I heard the day before it was a 90 – 9 – 0 minute wait just trying to check in.

I had already invoked that when I did check in. Mind you, I was checking in the day after that, but I had already invoked that thought process and got upgraded to the executive suite as a result of doing so. Again, don’t try to take advantage of situations, but when they are there for you to address, if you choose, do so.

Pete Mockaitis
With the room not being clean, so I mean in a way that could be a big deal or not at all a big deal.

Greg Williams
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
How’d you go about describing that it was substantial?

Greg Williams
Well, all I said to him was – first of all, I talked about the fact that I had arrived earlier or I should say got up earlier in the morning and left around nine o’clock or so and did not come back until something after three in the afternoon. I paused. Then I said, “And the room had not been cleaned at that time, which surprised me.”

Now notice how I said, “which surprised me.” Again, I paused just to let it sink in. Number one, I let it sink in and I also wanted to hear how he might … respond.

He said, “Sir, we can send someone up right away.” I said, “Well, no, I have to get ready for a black tie event a little later on this afternoon and I need to take a quick nap. How about if you get the room cleaned after six PM?” He said, “Okay, well that will be fine also.”

Again, after all of that did not occur and I talked to – then it was the night … was actually on, night desk manager, front desk manager. I told him about the whole scenario of what had occurred and the fact that the room was supposed to have been cleaned after six o’clock between the time that I left after six and returned. It was positioned just right, just right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s also interesting the comparison to a Motel Six, which I have stayed in once or twice in my day as situations warranted it.

Greg Williams
Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
I think is probably has a strong reaction … “Whoa, no. Never us. Not that.” That’s interesting because it’s not aggressively cruel to say that, but it’s honest. You might expect that from a Motel Six and you wouldn’t expect that here, so you’re just sort of sharing that honestly.

Tell me a little bit about your tone. You sound friendly as we’re speaking. Did you deliver the message in a similar tone there?

Greg Williams
Yes, because I did not want to come across as being overly demanding or be someone that was perceived as a jerk. I basically – I almost used the tone that I’m using right now. Number one, this type of tone will elicit empathy from the right person because had this been –

Had he, as an example, Pete, had he said, “Sir, okay, we’re sorry, the room didn’t get cleaned. I apologize. That’s the most I can do.” I would have adopted a completely different tenor and tone with him.

First of all I would have let a pause hang out there to see what else he would have said, to get him to negotiate against himself. “Well, sir, are you still there?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m here or not. I heard what you said, but even the tone at which you said to me depicted the fact that I guess customer service really doesn’t mean a whole lot at this fine chain that I’ve been very accustomed to having top-notch service at other property. Is it just your property that I’m going to have a challenging situation this time?” It would have been completely different.

With my latest book, Negotiating with a Bully, I talk about just that, using the right tonality in a situation such that you don’t become overly confrontational initially unless you have to be, want to be perceived as such.

You always want to match the tenor of the individual with whom it is that you’re negotiating such that you don’t … push them away or push them too hard or whatever be the case because if you push someone into a corner that’s mild and meek, they may come out of that corner doing unexpected things that you were not/are not prepared to deal with and thus you have to be very mindful of that also.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say matching the tone, that’s your perspective that if they come at you aggressive, that’s appropriate to respond with an aggressive tone?

Greg Williams
Well, it can be. What you need to do first is find out exactly what they plan to do with that tone. Some people may use it just to back you down. “Well, Greg, I tell you, I don’t think there’s anything that we can do.” “Oh, really?” “Yes, there’s nothing that we can do in this case.” “Hm.”

“Well, Greg, are you still there?” “Yes, I am, but I’m trying to decide to whom it is that I should speak since you can’t satisfy this particular situation, that might be able to lend me some form of satisfaction. Can you tell me the general manager of the property or better yet, the regional vice president of the property? I’m sorry, let’s just skip the small steps. I’ll go right to the president of the chain. Can you tell me who that might be because I need to talk with someone that can get this done?”

Now what I have implied with that, like, “Uh oh, maybe this guy’s not going to be the pushover that I thought he may have been and this guy appears to be willing to take this to higher levels that may cause more trouble for me than is warranted because I really do have the ability to go ahead and address the situation.”

I’ll tell you I’ve used the situation in a lot of situations, even with the products that were on sale whereby the sale had ended.

You walk into an environment and you say to a sales clerk, “I’d like to have this item.” “Oh, no problem, sir.” “Oh, no, no, no, I mean for the price that it was advertised.” “Oh, well sir, that sale ended yesterday.” “Oh, well that’s fine. You’re empowered to give me this at the same price, right?” “No, I’m not, sir.” “Oh, so I know that means your manager can give it to me at that price, right?” I shake my head yes as I’m saying right.

The salesperson will usually say, “Well,” if he says yes, okay, he’s backed himself into a corner because – and, again, I never try to get anybody into trouble, but now he’s put his sales manager on the line for being able to deliver this. Again, it goes back to how you wish to position someone such that you let them know you’re going to be somewhat persistent while not being overly bearing ….

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. It reminds me – I was once a consulting with a call center op situation. I remember it was interesting that inside the customer service reps scripts, it was like, “If a customer says any of these magic words, then they will get immediately elevated to someone else to help out.” I think some of the magic words were, ‘lawyer, FCC, FTC, media.’

Sometimes – I’ve done this only a couple of times just like, “Well, if you can’t do anything, who would I have to reach out to to get resolution? Would it be the FTC, the FCC, the lawyer, the media?” and just throw them all into one sentence to see what happens.

Greg Williams
Exactly. You know Pete, to that end you have to be aware to whom you’re making such a statement because if you’re dealing with someone that really either can’t or doesn’t care about what you do, you’re wasting time. … when you’re negotiating, you always need to be negotiating with an entity that can really give you what you need or want or at least provide a stepping stone to the resource that can do something.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Greg, thank you. Well, so your specific book here is called Negotiating With a Bully. I’d like to get your sense first of all, how do you define bully and how do you know if you’re dealing with a bully?

Greg Williams
It goes to how you feel. Each and every individual has to be able to sense to a degree the way he or she feels as though he or she is being bullied because here’s the thing Pete.

You and I may be engaged in a negotiation. I may all of the sudden drop the tone of my voice and because of some trigger that that reacts or I should say that that creates in your thought process, it may remind you of a time when you were in school and someone with a deep voice did such and such to you and thus you may think subliminally, “Uh oh, I’m getting ready to be bullied or something to that nature.”

Meanwhile, someone may drop their tone with me and I may think “Okay, so the guy has a frog in his throat,” or something like that.

I say that to say, when you feel as though you’re being bullied, you can do one of a few things. You can actually say to the other individual, “You know, I feel like something has changed all of the sudden. I sense you’re being more aggressive at this time.”

That person may say, “Oh,” and just I know you can’t see me Pete, but I literally as I did that, I genuinely touched my chest near my heart, which is a sign of sincerity saying, “Oh no, that was not my intent. I apologize.” Even if you noticed the tonality of my voice offered ever so slightly too.

Well, that individual more than likely was not really trying to be – not attempting to be a bully in that particular case. The person may have been passive aggressive at that particular time, but nevertheless, once you told that person what you were sensing, if that person’s intent was not to convey such actions or sentiment, that person will change his or her behavior.

Okay. Let’s take a situation where someone says to you, “Yeah, okay, so what?” Well, that’s – now you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Pete Mockaitis
“You’re darn right, Greg. If you’re going to come after my company’s reputation, you’re going to have me gunning for you.”

Greg Williams
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now you have a better idea of exactly what you’re dealing with and the intent of that person.

Another scenario that you could adopt at that particular point and time is – okay, … the exact same … said to me … role play.

Pete Mockaitis
I said, “You’re darn right, Greg. If you come after my company or my reputation, you’re going to get me fighting right back.”

Greg Williams
“Oh, Pete, can you tell me more about what it is that you mean by that, ‘fighting right back’? What does that mean?”

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m going to make your stay as obnoxious as possible.”

Greg Williams
“Oh wow. Well, Pete, I really don’t want you to do that. What might I do to avoid that?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Well, you can conclude this conversation and we’ll go our separate ways.”

Greg Williams
“And that will satisfy you?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Yes.”

Greg Williams
“Okay, well I’ll tell you what, Pete. How about if I tie you down instead and now that I know exactly what you want, I’m going to make you give me everything I want before I let you go. How does that sound to you?”

Now, let’s break out of the role play for a moment. That was a little quick scenario. What I just found out through the words that you made a moment ago was the fact that. You want to exit.

Suppose you were in my environment and I’ve been in environments where some folks have done some real sneaky things to the other negotiator. Turn the heat up when the person was not being agreeable to the negotiator in whose building or environment the negotiation was being held. Turn the air up so it can get cooler, more comfortable when things are going good, etcetera, etcetera.

Literally put time blockages in front of someone. If I know you have a deadline to get a negotiation finished with me because before another session segment … be created with your team members you have to wrap this up and all of the sudden you come at me the wrong way as it were, I will start speaking a little slower, I’ll become a little more ….

I may do the exact same thing if I know you’re one of those individuals that love to talk fast and try to show a lot through movements of your hands and your body language displays that you’re really ‘let’s get it done move, move, move.’ I may intentionally slow you down to irritate the heck out of you.

There are all kinds of mind games that can be played. Some verbally, some non-verbally, but the point is you need to know what that other person’s restrictions are. … he … of the negotiation, the timeframe in which he’s willing to engage you to do so.

Here’s something else also Pete that I’d like all of your listeners to always remember, my tagline is ‘Always be negotiating.’ That means what you do today influences tomorrow’s outcome.

Even if you’re negotiating with a bully to the degree that you let … push you around and you don’t do anything to push back on him, you set yourself up to be pushed around tomorrow, the day after that, … in any environment you’re in with him and thus you have to set the stage properly to deal with people not only for today, because in so doing today, you … tomorrow. That’s point number one.

Point number two, I don’t care who you’re negotiating with … see yourself as being so insufficient, so lacking of resources that you immediately feel as though you have to subjugate yourself in order to get what it is that person is negotiating with you for because if the person is negotiating with you, there’s a purpose that they have in mind.

If you uncover the purpose, if you understand who’s not at the negotiating table that’s motivating that person to enact the actions that that person engages in, you will have a better insight also as to how to manipulate that person. By the way, manipulation is not a bad word, so just keep that thought in mind too.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, well, can you – let’s hear about that a little bit. Manipulation is not a bad word; how should we think about it?

Greg Williams
Well, we think about it based on what action is performed.

In theory, you’re in New York City. Traffic is whizzing by. You’re looking at your phone and you’re just sending text messages or whatever, not really paying attention. You go to step off the curb right in the flow of traffic and I manipulate your body out of the path of oncoming traffic. Have I done a good thing by possibly saving your life? I think you’d say yes.

The point is the definition that you give to a word or words has specific meaning at the time that the word is being implemented. I use the word manipulation sometimes knowing that some people have a negative connotation of that word and I may say something along the lines of, “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Now did you even notice how my voice went up a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Greg Williams
Just to explain, when we get a bit excited, our voices will tend to rise. “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Again, you can’t see my body language, but my eyebrows became somewhat furled also.

Again, … I’m focusing on this particular situation, so again, nonverbal cues and body language play an added role to give additional leverage to the words that you use, but by doing that, you give more insight about what it is that you’re thinking of.

If used the word manipulation in that particular situation and that person has a negative connotation associated with that word, that person then knows that, “Wait a minute now, he thinks I’m trying to negatively influence or impact him, his thoughts, his decisions, his actions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” That’s one mild way of really pushing someone back away from you.

Again, you need to know what certain words mean to someone. I said a moment ago, my tagline is ‘you’re always negotiating.’ There are times I will be in environments where I will just observe who is sitting with whom, just to observe the relationships that are formed by those individuals knowing later on that I have to engage with either those parties.

If I know that X is associated with Y, I then know that hm, I may be able to get Y, use Y as a leverage to influence X also. I’ll go into an environment sometimes and I’ll just watch how people use their body language.

Pete, I’ve consulted with large corporations I appear to be the person sitting off to the side taking notes, meanwhile what I was really doing was observing the body language of who it was that was supposed to be leading the opposing groups negotiation efforts and what … that person was taking from someone else at the table that was the real source of power for that particular team or that particular side of those that were negotiating.

Again, you can pick up on so many different cues if you but pay attention to what’s going on in you environment. If you’re going to be in a negotiation environment, get there early also, just so you can pick up on some of those cues.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, talk about cues. I also want to get your take on – body language can be a little bit tricky and ambiguous subject, what do you see are some of the most reliable body language signals, like if I see this, it quite probably means that?

Greg Williams
Well, let’s set culture aside for a moment. The reason I want to set culture aside for a moment is because I want to speak generically first.

In let’s say the American society, taller people will usually be perceived as being more influential etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, than people that are not as tall as they are. Attractive people will also be perceived as having this extra oomph as it were than people that are not as attractive.

If you’re negotiating with someone that’s taller than you and you’re literally standing face to face, one of the things that you can do is literally stand closer to them and see what they do with that. Basically what you’re saying with that little, small gesture is “I’m willing to come into your space because I’m not afraid of you.” You … take notice to whether or not they take a step back or something of that nature.

Now, if they take a step back, dependent upon where you are in the negotiation – and that body language, by the way, of taking a step back, literally says, “You’re in my comfort zone. I’m not comfortable with you standing this close as I am and therefore I’m going to put a little bit of distance between the two of us.”

You as the shorter of the two individuals send a signal, as I said a moment ago, of “Hey, I’m not afraid of you. You have more resources than I do, but so what? I will still come into your environment.”

Shaking hands. I don’t want to get into presidential politics, just take note – well, take note, first of all, when you’re shaking hands and if both hands are perpendicular to one another, the two individuals are saying, “Hey, I’m equal to you. You’re equal to me. I recognize that fact in you. You recognize that fact in me.”

If one hand is on the bottom and another hand is on top, literally the hand on top is indicating, “I’m hands above you.” That indicates a power position in that particular situation. Thus, I always take note of when any political leader allows his hand to be on the bottom as opposed to on the top because that also signals – now, it can be a ploy from time to time too.

Again, in positioning you can literally let someone have their hand on top of yours as you’re shaking their hand just to see exactly what they will do after that.

A lot people, especially politicians, know about the … handshakes, the hidden signals in handshakes so forth and so on. That’s one particular body language gesture that you can look at.

The other that you can look at and you see politicians doing this a lot is while they’re shaking hands, they’ll have their other hand on the person’s elbow or something of that nature. Well, that’s a power move that’s even above the fact that somebody has their hand on top of yours. You’re saying to them with that hand on their elbow, “Okay, I’m going to be in control in this particular situation.”

The counter to that is to literally place a hand on the person’s shoulder. There are also these hidden meanings in body language and those were some just with the handshake of itself.

Here’s something else to note via body language, especially when you’re either standing up – well, when you’re standing up, take note of how an individuals feet are placed as far as their relationship to one another.

When feet are aligned, the two individuals are aligned per what they’re discussing, how engaged they are in that particular conversation, etcetera.

When one foot points in one particular direction by one individual, right then, that person has mentally begun to disengage from the conversation and more than likely that person is going to exit the conversation in the direction that foot is pointed, in the direction that that foot is pointed.

Those are some quick clues. Eye contact, eh. Again, it goes back to culture. But just because someone looks away from time to time does not necessarily mean they’re trying to avoid whatever it is they’re discussing, but you do need to note when they look away.

If someone says to you, “I think you’re the best person I’ve ever met in the world. I think you’re really fantastic,” meanwhile, they’re looking off to the side. Well, hey, the sentence may not convey exactly the meaning the body language is sending because they’re not really sending that to you.

Anytime you have doubts about whether or not someone’s words and body language happen to be matched with – or the two are synchronized, always follow the body language. The body attempts never to lie because the body always wants to be in a state of comfort. Telling a lie puts the body in a state of discomfort. The body will try to adjust.

The wringing of the hands sometimes is the fact that somebody is experiencing some form of angst, some form of anxiety and that’s the way the body tries to calm itself. Touching one’s elbow, one’s wrist, one’s hands, one’s nose, ear, again, those are signals that “Well, I’m a little uncomfortable at this particular point in time.”

Here’s something else to take note of. When people are trying to recall things, they will – and some folks say it depends on whether or not they’re right or left handed, but again, you establish the base with how they act with this action that I’m about to describe in a non-threatening situation first and then you’ll know to what degree they’re really speaking truthfully or not.

But people that are trying to recall things will tend to look up and to the left. If someone says to you, “So Pete-“

Pete Mockaitis
Now, their left?

Greg Williams
Yes, their left. I’m sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
Their left, okay.

Greg Williams
Yes, exactly. Thank you. Thank you. Their left.

If someone were to say to you, “So Pete, what did you do last night?” You say – you look to the left and you go, “Well, I went out to dinner with my wife,” and yada, yada, yada. Okay, that’s one thing.

If on the other hand, the same question was posed to you and you looked up and to the right, your right, that’s the direction in which people look towards the future and thus they are in the process of trying to formulate what they think will really happen to a question that you’ve posed that was supposed to have occurred in the past.

If you take note of that, again, as a negotiator, you don’t necessarily have to say anything, but you can take note of the fact that wait a minute, that person looked up to the right. That’s the creation mode in most cases, so why in the heck was he looking up to the right. You can pose a few more questions towards the same type of environment – about the same type of environment I should say, to see exactly what the person does with his or her eyes.

Then, later on in the negotiation, I might come back to you, Pete, and I say something about, “So Pete-“ now this is called an assumptive question what I’m getting ready to project. “So Pete, you said three nights ago you and your wife actually went to a movie. What was the movie you say?” Then watch the person. If the person then looks back up to the right again, oh my gosh, have I ever caught this person in one heck of a whopper.

Again, you don’t have to let the person know at that particular point in time, but you do know that person is definitely not being 100% truthful with you at that particular time.

Those are some body language gestures that you can take note of. In my prior book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, I go into a lot more tactics and strategies that one can uncover just by observing body language.

Pete Mockaitis
You used the word definitely there. Is that sort of after you’ve established a baseline associated with their behavior and the other body language signals?

Greg Williams
Yes. That goes back to what I was saying earlier about the fact that I’ll go into an environment and just observe how someone reacts in different situations where those situations are nonthreatening. Again, when you’re using small talk to gain such insights, you might say something about “So where are you from?” Okay, most of us know where we’re from so forth and so on.

They’ll … say something and … ask a question about “How long have you lived there?” They may look up and to the left because what they’re trying to do is “Gosh, how long have I lived there?” They’re going through that thought process as opposed to looking up and to the right.

Now if they look up and to the right and they say, “You know, I think it’s been about 21 years.” Okay, take note of that. Take note that they didn’t look up and to the left, but instead they looked up and to their right to reference something that occurred in the past. Then you pursue it. You may something along the lines of “Did you play baseball at the high school in such and such a place?” Now let’s say he looks up and to the right again.

Now, notice that’s supposed to be the opposite when they’re doing their recall, but if you notice that they keep looking up and to the right for recall and to the left when they’re trying to think of future things that will occur, you then have the baseline for which to then place your emphasis per whether or not they’re being 100% truthful.

But that’s why it’s so important to understand and establish that baseline, which is why I love to just go into environments and just observe how people are using their body such that they’re conveying different sentiments in nonthreatening environments.

Then I have something to compare their actions to when we enter into what they think is the formal negotiation, but in theory, in reality, you’re always negotiating. You’re giving off clues as to how you will react in different situations any time you’re in an environment where people are observing you.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about some of those dominant signals or gestures. I want to get your take on what strategy is optimal because if someone is doing a lot of dominant stuff with me, I just don’t like that. It makes me feel less rapport because like okay, you have to be in charge.

I think that can really be harmful because in terms of establishing liking, rapport, trust, it’s like, I don’t like this person. But I guess there can be other times in which a dominant strategy is helpful. How do you think about that?

Greg Williams
It definitely can be helpful. Again, dependent upon the individual that you’re dealing with. Pete, some people want to be led because they feel more comfortable being led by others such that they don’t have to make decisions.

Other individuals are the type that you just mentioned a moment ago. “My gosh, hey, don’t be putting my hand on the bottom. Don’t be touching my elbow.” If you sense that type of person, again, you need to match the modality of the person that you’re speaking to in order to get them to do what it is that you want per the outcome that you seek.

Thus if you are too overbearing – if I use the tactics that you just mentioned a moment ago, putting your hand on the bottom, touching your elbow, etcetera, etcetera, even putting my hand on our shoulder, I’d be pushing you away with my gestures and running the risk of turning you into someone that might really come back and undermine my efforts later on, which … be very understanding of how someone wants to be treated and how they want you to interact with them.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. The degree that you do so per how they perceive you doing so is what you have to be very much aware of. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll scare some people away, other people you’ll make come closer to you because truth be known, they get off on that as they say. That’s what they like. But in other cases, you may just repel someone.

Again, you never want to do so to the degree that you push someone into a corner and have them become irrational because then you truly don’t know what it is that they may do, especially when you’re negotiating with them.

You make a person make one concession after another, after another, after another, after another. Next thing you know they say, “Oh the heck with it. You know what? I don’t give a heck about this whole doggone deal. I’m out of here.” You go, “Whoa, what just happened?”

Well, what just happened, the incremental small steps that you pushed that person into to make them all of the sudden say, “You know what?  The heck with this. My self-pride is at stake at this particular point in time and that’s more valuable to me than the outcome of this negotiation. You go negotiate by yourself.”

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

Greg Williams
Well, again, it was my mother many years ago that used to say to me – because I watched her literally, Pete, negotiate for everything. As a little kid I remember one time saying to her, “Mom, that’s embarrassing. You’re always asking people to lower the price, to add a little bit more, my gosh, won’t they think we’re poor?”

She said to me, “What do you care about what other people think of you as long as it is that you’re getting what you want? The more money you save, the more money you’ll have to do with as you choose and please.”

As a kid, seriously, I quickly got over the embarrassment and I learned to ask for whatever it was that I wanted. You have to have a certain thickness of skin not to necessarily allow the thoughts of other people to influence your actions to the degree that they do so and those actions become detrimental to your own well-being.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think a large part of it would be a matter of just how important is this sort of long term relationship for you in terms of are you going to see this fancy hotel person. In a way, if he thinks Greg is the most demanding, unreasonable customer I’ve ever encountered based on you wanting a free night for the room not being cleaned and how much is that a downside to you versus your boss or your spouse. It’s a very different game there.

Greg Williams
Pete, you know what? Oh my gosh, you are spot on. Here’s the other potential downside to that.

In that particular situation if I had been so … the individual thought, “Oh my gosh, no problem. Yeah. I’ll give you one night’s remittance. No problem.” Then he puts some remark in my file, in my record that said whatever and then that stayed with me as I went from one particular chain or I should say one particular property in that chain after another.

I go to check in and people are looking at me like I have a third eye in the middle of my forehead. I’m wondering why. I say that to say that’s another reason why you don’t want to be mean or nasty to somebody because you don’t know to what degree they’ll get you back behind your back.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Greg Williams
Oh, Lord knows I already gave it. You’re always negotiating.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Greg Williams
Yeah. The reason that’s so inspiring is because it keeps me grounded. Okay, we all go through days … at times we may have an up day, a down day, but life is truly what you make it. Thus, it’s nothing more than perceptional. If you’re the one making it what it is to you anyway, why not choose to make it the greatest that it can be. You’ll live a lot better by doing so.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Greg Williams
There’s all – everything in life revolves around negotiations. If you really wanted to read some additional books on the topic of negotiation, one that I really love is Getting to Yes by William Ury. My gosh, that book is old, old, old, but nevertheless, there’s still some great insights into that.

His more recent book is Getting Past No. A lot of us don’t know what to do when someone says no. Remember no only means no for the moment. Life is ever changing, ever evolving, so be persistent in achieving the goals that you seek to acquire. Don’t let no stop you for the moment.

Another book of mine that I think you may be able to tell that I love negotiations, but Difficult Conversations is another particular book, another old one.

Here’s something, here’s one that I recently started listening to. It’s actually an online course, Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. Boy, oh boy, you can gain a lot of insight as to why people do what they do based on the emotions that they experience and in the moment and how it is that you can incite certain emotions, certain triggers within someone to get them to either abide by what it is that you’re requesting and/or back off of you if that be your outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Greg Williams
Always negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff. I will ask for some of the most mundane things just to see the results from time to time. The reason I do so is because I’m always collecting data. Okay, I did this in this particular situation and it worked.

I’ll pick up pennies off of the ground and there have been times when I’ve asked people, “So, you try to achieve wealth. How many of you in here will pick a penny up if you see it lying on the ground?” People will snicker from time to time.

But the point is, we make progress in small steps. A penny is yet another small step towards an overall wealth outcome if that’s what you’re really receiving. Don’t be too pride – don’t have much pride in order to subjugate yourself to goals that you seek because all you’re really doing is holding yourself back.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you?

Greg Williams
Well, I love it when people that I haven’t seen for years will come up to me and say things along the lines of “Oh Mr. Williams,” and when they say Mr. Williams, I always say, “No, no, my father is nowhere around right now, just please call me Greg.” They’ll say, “You have helped me so much by teaching negotiation strategies that I’ve been able to use to get a lot more in life.”

… to other individuals, serve other individuals. I attempt to give back to those, especially younger than myself because I’m at a point in life now where one day they will be the rulers of the world that I will have to live in. I hope by giving them insights, instilling in them the knowledge that they can use in order to not only look out for those that they care about, but for other individuals in the world, that the world will become a better place.

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

Greg Williams
Well, they can go to my website, which is www.TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can send me an email to Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can also reach me via phone at 609-369-2100.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Greg Williams
Yes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Go out there and negotiate every doggone day because if you want a raise tomorrow, start positioning yourself to get that raise – I’m sorry if you want a raise in six months, next year whatever, start positioning yourself today to do so.

Understand what it would take from your boss such that you become such a valuable resource that he has to give you the raise that you ask for simply because you are that valuable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. No only means no for the moment. The more persistent you are about achieving a goal, the more goals you will achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Greg, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck in your negotiations and all you’re up to.

Greg Williams
Thank you Pete … and much more success for you in life because it’s waiting for you.

332: Making the Most of Online Higher Education with University of Phoenix’s Doris Savron

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Executive Dean Doris Savron highlights appealing opportunities and best practices for enhancing your career through online education. This episode is sponsored by University of Phoenix.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The differences between certificate and degree programs
  2. Key trends on evolving fields with interesting opportunities
  3. Pro tips for finishing courses you start—and retaining the knowledge

About Doris

Doris Savron is the executive dean of the College of Health Professions, College of Education and College of Humanities and Sciences at University of Phoenix. Her career spans 20 years in healthcare, information technology and academia. Prior to joining the University, Savron spent 10 years in leadership roles in healthcare operations, rehabilitation services and information technology consulting. She holds a master of business administration from Cleveland State University and is completing her doctorate in health administration from University of Phoenix.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Doris Savron Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Doris, thank you so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Doris Savron
Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into this. I understand something that really excites you are sports and that you’ve been to the World Series, the Final Four, Wimbledon, and more of the epic grand championship finals to come. What’s the backstory here?

Doris Savron
I’ve always grown up loving sports. I played sports in high school and actually had an opportunity to play in college and turned it down.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Doris Savron
Because I wanted a really true college experience. But I love the competition and the feel of the energy and the buzz. I have favorite teams, so I try to attend those games, but any of those final matches are always exciting regardless of who’s playing.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. I get just a kick out of just extraordinary excellence in any field that I can appreciate. I’m not a hardcore sports lover, but when I just see something amazing that a human being has done, you can’t help but go, “Wow, look at that.”

Doris Savron
Yup. My favorite is just the never quit attitude, like the constant just pushing. You see that in those final games because everything’s on the line, so you just see people at their peak performance. It’s really exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, peak performance is what we love here. You help people get there with the University of Phoenix. Can you orient us a little bit? What is your role there?

Doris Savron
I serve as the executive dean of three colleges, the College of Health Professions, Education, and then Humanities and Sciences. Ultimately, my team and I are responsible for designing the different courses, certificates, degree programs that our industry leaders are telling us they need and want.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That sounds like a large span of responsibility.

Doris Savron
It is. Never a dull moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. Could you maybe orient us a little bit to see sort of what could be possible, maybe a cool career or story or transformation or big difference that emerged when someone went ahead and said, “You know what? I’m going to go pursue a certificate or a degree of sorts,” and kind of what that meant or the difference it made for them.

Doris Savron
Sure. One that actually immediately comes to mind is a young woman had started in one of our degree programs, finished her masters of education in administration and supervision with our online format.

She then partnered up with somebody else, who also attended University of Phoenix and they created or opened a tuition-free charter school that was specifically focused on disadvantaged kindergarteners through second graders.

They’ve been recognized for that work in multiple ways, including Forbes 30 Under 30. Then they continue to serve their community. They’re making a huge difference not just in what they’ve done with that school, but they engage and participate in the community.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. I want to first maybe get some terminology clear here. We talked about certificates and degree programs. What are the differences and the ins and outs of what constitutes each?

Doris Savron
Time is probably the biggest difference. Certificates really are focused on a specific area, for example, billing and coding is a specific area of health care, where degree programs are wider and more encompassing. A health care administration degree covers not just the billing and coding and understanding patient needs, but it could cover finance and leadership and management.

They’re more encompassing. They take a lot longer because there’s more courses you have to take. They are longer credits. It allows you to do multiple things in that industry, where a certificate really zeroes somebody into a specific track.

Information technology is another example where things move so quickly that somebody who has a degree might have to continue to specialize as technology changes. There’s certificates available for example in cyber security. Instead of going back and getting another degree, you go back and get a specialization or certificate in this specific area.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well that sounds pretty handy. It sounds like there’s a specialization there in terms of this certificate will kind of immediately, potentially, qualify you for a whole bunch of roles that I need people to do precisely that.

Doris Savron
Yeah. Depending on the certificate you choose, it will tell you which track or what’s available to you.

There’s some lower level entry level certificates that get you started in a particular field, like billing and coding to get somebody started in healthcare that maybe hasn’t had a professional job yet or hasn’t been in health care.

Then you’ve got some of the more advanced even post-graduate certificates, which get you specialized at a higher level in a specific space. We have post grad certificates in informatics, which really – if somebody’s already working in a healthcare field, is now going to specialize in a data analytics and looking at information and patient trends to determine how do we do better.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. Then also when it comes to the online or in classroom story, could you give a little bit of perspective on I guess maybe the primary pros and cons or if someone was trying to make that call, because I see it frequently, it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got a job right now. Do I want to exit for a timeout to go to school or should I try the online thing?”

What might be some perspective to put that person in good shape to make a great decision?

Doris Savron
First thing when choosing between a physical campus or online, you want to look at lifestyle and schedules.

You’ve kind of already referred to that if I’m working or I have children and they’ve got sports activities after school. What is my availability? A lot of times if they want to attend a physical campus, they have to go a specific night for a longer period of time not that night all the time. Their schedule may not allow for that.

Luckily, they could do that after work hours too because there are now programs that are offered in a variety of fashions even on campus. But online allows you to do it from any location as long as you have an internet connection and a device that allows you to connect to the classroom.

You could do it at night, at home, when kids are in bed. You could do it on the weekends if you travel a lot for your job. You could do it while you’re waiting for a flight delay or even on the plane that has internet access. You’re turning unproductive time into productive time a lot of times in that situation.

It’s really trying to understand what somebody’s trying to accomplish and what their schedule is like that really dictates what’s best for them in choosing between online or a campus.

Pete Mockaitis
Are there some cons on the online side?

Doris Savron
Frankly, I’ve taught in both and there’s benefits to both. It’s really dependent on somebody’s lifestyle.

Obviously, online you have to be more prepared in creating a schedule because you don’t have somebody there physically in front of you saying, “Hey, this is what we need.” You get a syllabus. You know what your deadline dates are and then you go deliver. You still interact with faculty members online and classmates.

But it’s a little different when you’re behind a screen versus when you’re in front of a person on that accountability factor. You have to be pretty self-driven and manage your schedule well to succeed in online.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get some pro-tips there when it comes to doing so, what are some of the best practices or habits or things you’ve heard students do that really enable them to successfully complete and go the distance and find that sort of self-drive and accountability within.

Doris Savron
The biggest thing is finding an area that they’re really interested in. If somebody wants to explore where’s a job growing, what industry, but then they have to look at what their passion and interests are and align those too.

But then the second piece is, and this is probably the key and most important thing to do is really create a schedule and a plan.

We often tell students, “Hey, if you have a family that is counting on you for different parts of your day, make sure you sit down with the family and create a plan of what nights you’ll do your schoolwork, what days of the week you’ll do your schoolwork, and then create a plan and a commitment to that.” When you have a supportive group of people helping out along, that actually helps with success too.

It also helps with accountability. We’ve often found our students saying, “Oh yeah, I got reminded by my kids that I needed to get my homework time in.” It helps sharing what you’re trying to accomplish with other family members and friends.

The schedule is important, not trying to do everything in one setting. We’ve had in some instances where somebody is trying to cram everything in on a weekend and that becomes overwhelming because then you feel like you have no balance.

If you chunk it up and do a little bit at a time, then that leads to more success over time. People can start to see those accomplishments. You can check something off a list which keeps them motivated.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then so thinking about different people or lifestyles and how things fit, I’d love to get your view in terms of you’ve been around, you’ve seen a lot of students do a lot of programs, who seems to be the kinds of candidates that just are fantastic?

They’re rocking and rolling and the online certificate or degree program is just the thing that is perfect for them versus maybe another segment that this isn’t quite the perfect thing for them.

Doris Savron
Well, we’ve definitely, I’ve seen just from my teaching experience that there’s some students that are just intimidated about the whole factor of going back to school. Then trying to understand how they learn best. Some people do better with the face-to-face interaction and visually seeing things. But with technology today, you could also get that in an online environment.

But it goes back to that are you committed to what you want to do, do you know what you want to do, and then have you created the plan. You do tend to see people that are busier and have more obligations in their work life, tend to be successful online because they’re already managing multiple activities and have learned how to prioritize really well.

You just have – some people just prefer the face-to-face interaction. Even with the technology and what’s available online, still would prefer being in a classroom space with somebody just that one day a week and getting the bulk of what they need that day and their schedule allows for it. Those individuals really do need more of that interaction.

But we’ve seen all types of learning styles and experience levels do really well online. It’s the commitment, and the time, and schedule, and putting the work in that really determines how successful they are.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you there. I’m intrigued. When you talk about the technology, sort of what’s hip and cool and new?

I remember back in my day, going back in time, I remember we had, I think this was Blackboard was the platform. I’m thinking this is over a decade ago. There wasn’t a whole lot to it. I guess you could submit quizzes and documents and have a little chat window. But what’s the cutting edge cool stuff you’ve got going these days?

Doris Savron
There’s a lot of technology that is available even outside of the classroom. We have students that work together on teams. We have space for them within the platform to work and engage with each other, create their profile, share pictures. But they could also use their phones and the technology they have already to FaceTime and do their meetings virtually so that they’re seeing each other in real time space.

A lot of those tools are available out there already to students based on the technology they already own. We see them communicating outside the class quite often and trying to connect and really put that personal touch to their interactions.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. I remember the favorite tools I discovered back in the day it was called Twiddla, T-W-I-D-D-L-A. It was just a shared whiteboard application.

Doris Savron
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Which was kind of hard to find actually. I looked at many options. We found it. That was pretty cool.

When I’m trying to explain some math concepts or working with a client in that kind of a way having that visual piece is good. Do you have any cool proprietary stuff that’s like, “Hey, on our platform you can do this?”

Doris Savron
We actually use a lot of what’s already off the shelf because it’s easier for students who already know that material, so it’s a slower ramp up time. We use tools like Office 365, and the group settings, and things that they can do and share documents virtually because it’s already available to them and part of the classroom.

So they’re also getting better at leveraging that technology because they’re now using it seamlessly to collaborate and communicate with each other virtually.

In work environments today there are a lot of people working from home, there’s dispersed teams. That’s a different way to work with somebody than just being able to sit down in front of them and talk. We’re trying to make sure we’re also using the tools that the employers are using out there so that they’re actually getting better even at leveraging that and becoming more efficient with those tools that way.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Great. Maybe I’d like to zoom out a little bit and think about sort of fundamentally the benefits associated with going after an online certificate or degree program. I think some motivated learners who have natural curiosity and listen to the How to be Awesome At Your Job podcast, like, “Well, yeah, I can learn stuff a lot of ways.”

Sort of what’s the magic or the benefit or the incremental goodness one gets when they go for a full blown online certificate or degree?

Doris Savron
Well, we all know how much industry is changing. We’ve looked at what’s happened in healthcare over the last three to five years.

Even somebody who’s been in the industry eight to ten years, find themselves – for example, nurses never had to use technology before. Today, they actually take in all the patient information and how they engage with the patient, a lot of them use iPads and laptops to capture the information.

That takes a different level of working and interacting so that you don’t use the human factor of how you engage with the patient, but you still leverage the efficiency of the equipment. We try to teach them on how to embed that into the work that they do so up-scaling and staying ahead of what employers want is extremely important. It allows you to differentiate.

You don’t wait until it already happens because then you’re behind the eight ball. Anytime you can differentiate yourself with a certificate, it allows you to get a leg up on everyone else who is looking for some of the same opportunities.

But just the opportunity to learn and interact with other people. For example, in an online format, there are people across the country that are in those classrooms, so you’re learning also from their experiences and how they’ve gotten to a certain career path.

That part of the learning, which is not necessarily directly tied to curriculum is also a value add because you’re learning from other people’s perspectives and appreciating the differences and how that could all create synergy.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. We’ve got the community, the human, the real world element and experience sharing and getting that element. As well as the differentiation because I guess it’s sort of hard to put on a resume, ‘I watched 30 YouTube videos about this topic.’ I’ve never seen that on a resume. Maybe it would look good. Maybe it would be well, okay. It doesn’t maybe have as much of a punch as something official.

I’d like to get your take on that when it comes to maybe if it’s like perception or from the employer value perspective on the, let’s just say the brand, University of Phoenix.

Because I’m thinking in some ways, I think there are some industries that are kind of concerned with pedigree in the sense of, “Oh, you’re not at a top 20 business school, well then move along,” and others I think maybe would find that favorable like, “Awesome. University of Phoenix, you’re hustling. You’re working hard. You’re a self-starter. You’re going after it.”

What are maybe some trends you’ve seen in terms of industries or employers who just think, “Yes, I love this brand and this stamp that I’m seeing on your resume?”

Doris Savron
Employers have multiple locations, so when they have to quickly upscale or find a way to get people ramped up, we have the capabilities of being able to do that pretty quickly because we already do that in an environment that allows you to do that no matter where somebody’s sitting.

For us, it’s really, it’s critical for us to understand what employers want. We spend a lot of time listening to employers.

Then we design curriculum and student learning outcomes that align to that so that we can measure to make sure that students are getting that component of what they need.

In addition, in every one of our areas, there are professional associations in those industries. Specific specializations might have even industry exams, where somebody could actually say, “Here’s the credential I’ve got. I passed the test.”

We try to in those circumstances align our curriculum and content to those specific expectations so that we know that they’re getting that level of exposure to the content. Then they can go sit for that exam externally as well. It gives them another differentiator.

For us, it’s critical to pay attention to what employers are saying regardless of the industry. We’ve done a lot in our healthcare partnerships, where we’ve actually run classes on those employer sites so that they’re in place after work …

Pete Mockaitis
That’s handy.

Doris Savron
Attend a class. It allows them to quickly then ramp up to a specific skillset that they need to move their specific organization forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. I’m curious a little bit about some of the trends here. We made some reference to healthcare, to cyber security, or IT things.

Doris Savron
Information technology, specifically cyber security space, because of – I mean I’m sure you’ve seen it – issues with systems being hacked into or people’s information being taken. There’s opportunities in really understanding well, how do you set up an infrastructure to protect people’s privacy in those organizations.

There’s some specializations there or certificates there, and even degree programs there that would lend people to be able to go into those jobs we’ve seen.

Even with education, there’s some markets and areas that have shortages of teachers. There’s some states that’s an opportunity area as well. Then anything around behavioral sciences/mental health is also some trends we’re seeing that have a need for people that are more prepared to do the jobs.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting. Behavioral sciences and mental health, I guess I’m thinking of full-blown therapists or you know.

Doris Savron
Counseling, yeah, counselors, counseling. There’s a variety of specialties in that area, but there’s family counseling. There’s school counseling. You can do that level. Those usually require advanced degrees and some practice hours as part of their degree time.

But we all see what’s happening with the pressures of living in today’s world. There’s a higher need to be able to have people – to help people understand how to cope in challenging circumstances. We’ve seen some pick up there as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. I guess I’m also thinking, if folks are interested in this kind of an opportunity and they’re looking at the online path, so University of Phoenix is one option, what are some other tips or criteria you might recommend in terms of folks checking out their options and vetting and determining, “Oh, this is a good program versus one that maybe I’ll pass on?”

Doris Savron
First they want to make sure they understand what other support services might be offered outside the classroom. Are you assigned a specific counselor that can help you walk through your programs so that you’re meeting all the criteria? Do you have potential to do tutoring and workshops? What’s your ability to be able to engage and interact with faculty?

Those are all important parts of both inside and outside classroom support that’s important. Not all programs are offered 100% online, so they’d really want to take a look at the program area that they’re interested in and see if the entire program is offered online or parts of it are offered in almost a hybrid fashion where you so some classes online, some on campus, so they’d have to understand where that campus is.

In some cases residencies are required that they’ll have to travel in to specific locations once or twice a year to be able to fulfill that requirement, but then the bulk of their work is done online. They just really need to understand those expectations.

The biggest thing is really just understanding what career path you want to take, what are the degrees that align to that, so then looking for those programs and then making sure the format of how it’s offered really aligns to what your schedule allows and your lifestyle allows.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’m curious to hear, we talked a little bit about the importance of the scheduling and good habits and whatnot to actually do the work and make the time.

Do you have any other perspective on how particularly folks who are kind of doing double duty or triple duty with the family and work and education at once, when it comes to the actual studying, learning, knowledge retention stuff, how can people really make the most of a given hour that they’ve dedicated to maximize retention and brain expansion?

Doris Savron
Sure, we always recommend look at first what the outcomes are for the week. What are the key things you’re supposed to be learning for the week? Then quickly scan what are the materials that will support that. Then you know what you need to get started with.

But chunking up the time is important because you can, especially someone who’s busy with work all day, chucking up the time is important and then taking notes because that’s how you retain, you’re rewriting what you’ve just heard and almost summarizing it.

But then for us too is because a bulk of our students are working, we tell them now go – what you’ve just learned, go pay attention to what you see at work and try to apply some of these things at work because putting it to practice is really another reinforcement of learning. They come back and share then that in the classroom through their discussions of, “Hey, I tried that. This is what happened.”

Working with people, other members on a team also helps because it’s reinforcing some of the conversations and learning. Each person picks up something different.

Then we always recommend try to share what you’ve learned with somebody else. Try to teach them, whether it’s another student or another person at work, so you’re reinforcing the information over periods of time.

But the biggest thing is chunking it up and then really trying to capture key messaging or notes. Some people do it on an iPad with a pen that they can write with and capture those notes. Some will do it on just pen and paper, traditional style of learning, take a notebook and a pen and write it down.

It just depends on how much time somebody has each day and what their learning style is. We’ve seen a variety of things work for students.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that when it comes to getting your own experience and applying the learning to that experience then bringing the experience back to the learning. I think Cal Newport said, and we’ll have him on the show one of these days, “Hey, if you can teach it, if you can explain it, if you can summarize it, then you know it.”

Doris Savron
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
By the process of pulling that back out of your brain, you are really making the learning stick and sink in all the more.

Doris Savron
absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we talked about a few tips here. I’d say if you had to prioritize or say as close as possible to the one thing or top tip or most leveraged thing learners can do to succeed here, what would it be?

Doris Savron
I would definitely go back to the plan and then setting maybe mini milestones because it can be overwhelming when you’re doing a degree program because it could take several years depending how many transfer credits you bring in.

Creating small milestones of things you can check off a list. Maybe it’s every course you do something specific to celebrate that. Maybe it’s grab a cup of coffee and celebrate one more class closer to graduation.

It’s the schedule and the plan that’s important. Then making sure you celebrate the accomplishments along the way because that keeps you energized and motivated to continue to move forward.

I would say the other one too that we often talk to our students about is balance. You still have to live your life. You don’t want to cram and take up every weekend and do your homework. You need that balance and that separation and reprieve to be able to take in more information.

We tell them it’s important to still do some fun things or things you’re passionate about in between so that they’re not just trying to work and then go to school and then don’t have any of that break from some of that time that your brain has to take to process and take things in. Those are probably the key ones.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that. The celebration, it can be a small one and it’s powerful. We chatted with BJ Fogg about forming habits and how critical doing a little bit of a celebration even it’s just, “Yes,” a moment that totally counts and is worth something.

Doris Savron
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Doris, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to highlight or mention or share before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Doris Savron
I would say because I often hear from people, “I don’t know. I think I might be too old or it’s too late for me to go back to school or do something new or try to take another class,” I would say it’s not too late for anyone. We’ve seen a wide range of people from experienced to aged come back and explore different certificates or programs.

That’s important because things keep changing. They’re changing at a faster rate than they’ve ever changed. We’ve seen industries completely transform. Investing in yourself and really taking the time to learn new skills, try new things, take some risks is an incredible learning opportunity. You learn about yourself during that process too.

But the best thing is you’re prepared for some of those changes that are coming and it helps you stand out when you want to go take that next step.

Pete Mockaitis
Right on. Thank you. All right, well now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Doris Savron
Sure. It’s one that comes up often. I try to live this philosophy. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.” It’s important for me to really – things that I’m passionate about just to try them. Don’t let fear get in the way. But it’s true. You only have so much time, so you’ve got to make the most of it.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Doris Savron
Anything around women and leadership. I feel like I’ve had a lot of women invest in me and help me get to where I am today. I feel like it’s my obligation to give back, so I read a lot about how to help and support women better trying to grow career paths. I’d say anything in that area. I don’t have one specific one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. How about a favorite book?

Doris Savron
I love to read, so I probably read about two to three books a month, but my most two recent favorite ones is Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Pat Lencioni.

Doris Savron
Yes. I’ve even done a study with my team because there’s so many nuggets of really good information there.

Then the one that I’m still in the process of reading is called Own It and really about how to embrace what you offer and really leverage that in your strengths to carve your path.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. How about a favorite tool that helps you be awesome at your job?

Doris Savron
I love my Kindle app because I can read on the go. I travel a lot, so I can read anywhere that I even find myself delayed, on a plane, waiting in line. But I also love any sort of app. I get my news from news apps on my iPhone, quickly get key nuggets of what’s happening in the world. I’m probably an app junkie.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. We had Laura Vanderkam on the show who said that she read all of War and Peace primarily from the Kindle app on her iPhone.

Doris Savron
Oh my goodness. I have not done that. That I have not done.

Pete Mockaitis
She said War and Peace is actually so bite-sized it lends itself to …, which shows that I did not know how War and Peace was structured and have not attempted to read it. But cool. How about a favorite habit?

Doris Savron
I would say – I don’t know if it’s a favorite habit, but it’s a habit. I have sometimes a hard time kind of getting my mind to stop. I keep a notebook next to my bed and some of my best ideas from come from what I’ve captured in the middle of the night because I just couldn’t sleep so I got it on paper. Then I was fine.

Then I took that he next morning, I’m like this is brilliant. Then I’d take it and apply it. I’d say just carrying a notebook all the time even next to my bed at night so I can capture any thought that comes up at any moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Is there a particular nugget or piece of Doris wisdom that you share often that really seems to connect and resonate with people when you do so?

Doris Savron
Yeah, I think this is one that my team would probably affirm to. I’ve heard them even repeat it is ‘assume right intentions.’ We work with a lot of different personalities and experiences.

Because we work at such a fast pace that things happen. If you assume right intentions, you get to the source of what truth is faster than trying to assume that somebody’s trying to get in your way or block what you’re trying to do. Everybody’s relationship wins as a result of that and you learn some things that way.

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

Doris Savron
I would say LinkedIn is probably the best one. I’m starting to use Twitter more. But LinkedIn is probably where you can see some of the things I post or some of the things that are important to me, but they can also reach out to me in messaging there.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Doris Savron
I would say change is inevitable, so learn to embrace it and make the most out of life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Doris, thanks so much for this. Good luck with your vast spans of responsibility and pursuing your dream of attending all the sports finals and all you’re up to.

Doris Savron
Thank you. I appreciate the time.

331: Making Things Work through Context Creation and Candid Communication with Josselyne Herman Saccio

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Josselyne Herman Saccio opens up about creating your own context and communicating honestly for a more productive workplace.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What most people get wrong about communication
  2. The danger of scapegoating
  3. How to get productive outcomes out of your team

 

About Josselyne

Josselyne Herman-Saccio is a communication expert with Landmark, a personal and professional growth, training and development company that’s had more than 2.4 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark’s flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Josselyne Herman Saccio Interview Transcript

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

Josselyne Herman
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’ve got a lot of great stuff to dig into, but first and foremost, I need to hear about your experience as a pop star in the ‘90s.

Josselyne Herman
That is like ten lifetimes ago, but it was a dream come true. It really was. I had always wanted to be a singer since I was four, so to be able to accomplish it and travel around the world as a pop star was literally pinch me every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. What were you singing? What was the story?

Josselyne Herman
What was I singing?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, I was in a group called Boy Krazy with a K. We were kind of like the New Kids on The Block, but the female version or a precursor to the Spice Girls. They were modeled after us actually.

Pete Mockaitis

Josselyne Herman
We were singing pure pop. It was definitely bubble-gum pop all the way down, but we had a number one record in 1993 so that was definitely an accomplishment.

Pete Mockaitis
What was the name of the record and the hit track and could you sing maybe one line for us?

Josselyne Herman
Of course. It was called That’s What Love Can Do. As soon as I start singing it people go, “Oh, I know that song.” But it went, “That’s what love can do. I don’t know what to break your heart in two,” like that. It was one of the songs that was the most played song on the radio of 1993.

Pete Mockaitis
Congratulations. Well, that’s what’s so fun among many things about you is that you have a wide array of experiences. Your IMDB profile was illuminating, as a producer, a manager, a casting director, a non-profit founder, wife and mother of three, and some animals in there too. How do you do it all?

Josselyne Herman
Yes. Well, I have it all; I don’t do it all. There is a distinction because if you want to have it all, you’ve got to have a great team of people around you and you’ve got to have people that are willing to support you in having that kind of life and I do, both in my business, my non-profit, my neighborhood endeavors, my family, everybody works as a team and as a community. We get it done as a unit, not as individual ….

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Maybe you can start us off by giving just a little bit of perspective for how have you gone about thinking about who you have chosen to bring into the circle and to partner with?

Josselyne Herman
Well, whoever I end up … work at my company or to work with me in my non-profit, they’re always like-minded people, people who want to make a difference, people who want to fulfill other people’s dreams. It’s pretty easy to have people operating as a team if what you’re up to is big enough. If you’re only up to something at an individual level, you don’t really need a team.

But like right now I’m dealing with something with my family where my mother fell and broke her pelvis and she’s 87. As a family, we’ve gotten together and we’re covering all the different shifts at the rehab and helping my dad, from my 12-year-old son to my 22-year-old daughter and my 16-year-old son and my husband, my sister, and her husband, and her children. We’re all just as a family, taking on whatever needs to get done so there’s never any holes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. That’s great. Well, you do a lot of work with Landmark, so can you orient those who are unfamiliar with the organization or the Landmark forum in particular? What’s it all about?

Josselyne Herman
Well, Landmark’s like a global organization that really works to support people and empower people and enable people in fulfilling in what matters to them. We’re like a coaching company.

People do our seminars or our programs and we provide high-performance coaching for people who want to have an extraordinary life, not just go through life, but actually accomplish their dreams and make a big difference in whatever area that turns them on and lights them up and inspires them.

Pete Mockaitis
I remember going to the Landmark forum when I was in college. It was pretty cool. It was a powerful experience for me. I appreciate what you do and what you’re up to. I remember the forum leaders were kind of like, “Ahhh,” at the time and here we are just chatting.

Josselyne Herman
That’s right. Just human beings, I know. It seems like, “Oh my God, do they ever go to the bathroom? Do they eat? I don’t know.” But yes we do. We have real lives and we’re real people.

The difference is we’ve spent years mastering those distinctions that you get in the Landmark forum or the rest of the … for living. Those distinctions are designed to produce the kind of human being who can be with anyone at any time under any circumstance and have power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind. That’s not too bad.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I remember a couple of them, and then hopefully others have just sort of taken root and even if I can’t consciously summon them. But we did this one exercise – there was some – it was intense. There were – I remember we did this one exercise.

Pete Mockaitis
All we did was we stood very close, maybe like a foot away from another person and just staring at them in the face and looking at their eyes. It was. It was powerful. It’s like there’s nothing to be afraid of or intimidated about. We’re just two human beings in space nearby each other right now. But no one does that, so it was really noteworthy in terms of the effect it had.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, that’s The Be With exercise.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, that’s in the advanced course, which is I think one of the most profound opportunities to actually discover what it’s like to just be with people without all the stories or the fear or the … we add to being with people.

It’s really – it’s something that you can practice with all people because we don’t do it as you said. Go home with the person that you live with and just actually just be with them without having to fill the space with talking.

That might not work on the radio or in a podcast, but as you go to actually be with people, it’s quite remarkable because you can see yourself in all people and distance between you and people and all that fear and all that story and all that kind of whatever stops us from being with people fully gets disappeared in that exercise and people get a real experience of being someone beyond their individual thingness.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. You’ve got a few areas of expertise. I’d like to dig into a few. Can you tell us how can we be superman or superwoman without experiencing a whole lot of stress all the time?

Josselyne Herman
Well, it really is the context … decisive because – I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that term before, but some people have, some people haven’t. But if I hold my finger up and I say, okay, the context is body part. What’s right there is what?

Pete Mockaitis
A finger.

Josselyne Herman
Exactly. If I say now the context is number, what’s right there?

Pete Mockaitis
One.

Josselyne Herman
Is a one. If I say the context is now direction, it might be up. It’s not that the content of your life is giving you stress, it’s the context in which you’re viewing it or holding it or experiencing it.

If the context is “Oh my God, I’m overwhelmed,” then it doesn’t even matter if you only have 5 things to do or 55 things to do, you’re going to experience it inside of that lens. The context is really what … your experience of life. I have a lot of content, but it doesn’t occur for me as stressful because I’m operating inside of the context of having it all.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Interesting, as opposed to “I’ve got to go do this next thing. Ah!”

Josselyne Herman
Yes, exactly. I also deal with everything in my calendar rather than my head which helps because you can’t actually double book yourself in reality. You only do that when you’re using your thoughts as a test for reality.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. I’m with you there. Then how does one go about establishing that context? You just say, “I’m having it all?” Is that all there is to it or what’s done to make that context real and cemented and take root and effect?

Josselyne Herman
Well, one thing is people – the first step that I would recommend people do is get clear about what really matters to you. What is the picture of what you really want? Not necessarily something connected to your past or what’s practical or what’s doable based on your credentials, but what do you want.

If you can create that picture and actually look at what it looks like, you can see what it looks like, then you can begin to design your actions to fulfill on that versus being limited to what you think is doable based on your path.

A lot of it has to do with what’s your vision for your life, for your family, for your company, whatever you’re dealing with. Like for you with what you’re doing with this podcast, what’s your vision for that other than just going through an interview because it’s in your date book? It’s like okay, but what are you really creating with the messages that you’re putting out there in the world for your listeners?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. It’s easy I find to sort of slip in and out of that a bit in terms of I am transforming the experience of work and unleashing energy and happiness for professionals everywhere versus I’ve got to get this thing out before the publish date.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, and if you aren’t in the context that you say you’re up to for other people, then it’s inauthentic. If you’re transforming the experience of work and this is your work, that would be kind of like do as I say, not as I do, right?

Keeping that real for yourself – I know in my office, I make sure that the environment is one of team and support and integrity and fun. If it’s not that way in my office, I have everything to say about whether I can bring that to my office. I’m not looking for it from my office; I’m bringing it to my office so that people have that experience when they work with me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Any other perspectives in terms of keeping that context real? You’re getting clear on what you want. You are sort of returning to that frequently. Anything else?

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, I would definitely keep it written down because the world just kind of happens and your life just kind of happens and you end up, like you said, going in and out of just kind of going through life and living it on the other side of that. It’s easy to fall into that default going through life, getting through this to the next thing, to the next thing.

But the second thing I would recommend is really to brainstorm with other people. Don’t try and do it all in yourself in your head. Your thinking is limited to your own brain. Borrow other people’s brains and really look at what your vision is and how it can be accomplished, not just from what you see in your linear vision, but non-linear about it and actually work with people to get their perspective and ideas for actions that you can take. You don’t know what they might see that you don’t see.

Pete Mockaitis
When we’re borrowing other people’s brains, do you have any best practices associated with leading those people to say yes to the borrowing and some of the best questions to surface the perfect wisdom?

Josselyne Herman
Again, it depends on what you’re dealing with. The context is, again, decisive always. Whatever you’re out to accomplish. First share your vision. If you don’t share your vision, then nobody can contribute to accomplishing it for you.

If you can share it with people and what you see possible if that vision got accomplished, then people can have a space to contribute to you their ideas and their perspectives and what they see. All of the sudden your vision is malleable and it’s not like a thing that you’re going to do. It becomes something that is morphable into something else based on what other people contribute.

Maybe it grows, maybe it shifts and you’re not stuck with something like an agenda. You’re really committed to fulfilling on whatever is possible out of that vision being realized versus the pathway. It’s not like, “Fly this airline, fly this airline.” It’s like, “No, I want to go to France. How am I going to get there?” So what’s your France?

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Maybe just throw an example in here. Let’s just say that someone is looking to get a job they love. They’re currently not so pleased with their current work environment. They’re thinking “What I really want to do is work in a field where I am creative and have an amazing team around me,” and that sort of thing. If they’re going about borrowing people’s brains, what’s that look like and unfold in practice?

Josselyne Herman
I would first start by saying, “Do you know anybody or do you know anybody who knows anybody who’s hiring in a creative field?” Or you could say, “Listen, I don’t really know what kind of field I want to go into, but who do you know that I could talk to to brainstorm on what kind of fields are available?”

You start to do some recon, but inside of – nothing like solid that you’re trying to get – it’s not like, “Oh, let me talk to you right now about getting this job right now.” No, it’s like, “Let’s have a conversation to explore and discover what might be possible in this industry or that industry.”

Then all of the sudden you’re free to really look rather than driven to make something happen. That creates a very different kind of conversation with people because they know when you’re trying to get something from them and you know and everything is constrained in those conversations, so it becomes a much more open space to create something than having to force something.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood, thank you. Well, when you talk about conversations, you’re bringing back all kinds of memories here with Landmark and the conversations that we engaged in. I’d love to just dig into some of your take when it comes to communication skills, powerful conversations. What are most of us humans getting wrong when it comes to doing this in our daily lives?

Josselyne Herman
Well, I think mostly we react to things and then we’re on automatic and we really aren’t creating our responses. We’re reacting either from some imaginary threat or maybe a real threat, but most of the threats are imaginary or we’re trying to prove something, or produce a result and look good.

That gives us a quality of life that is very distinct from the kind of quality of life when you’re actually out here living life and dancing with whatever’s happening and just kind of free to be and free to act on whatever matters to you.

When people get triggered – I’ll just give an example from my actual life, so it’s not conceptual. Recently I noticed that in my office I was not looking forward to going to my office. That’s very odd for me because I love what I do. It was like I realized it was that the person who was working for me wasn’t doing what I expected them to do in the job and I wasn’t pleased with the way it was going.

I was pretending that it was all fine because I didn’t want to have to deal with hiring somebody new and training them. That was the truth of the matter, so I was just kind of functioning as if this was going to work out. But that was really a lie.

I knew it wasn’t working and I was just tolerating a mediocre work environment, which many of us do. We just kind of survive life. We don’t really live it. We survive it. We get through it.

I sat down with her and I said, “Listen, this is – my inauthentic way of being is that I’m pretending that this is working when it’s really not. These things are working, but there’s more things that aren’t working. It doesn’t seem like this is your future, like this is what you want to do because the way you’re being and acting isn’t really working in the job. You’re not doing what I hired you to do.

I have to micromanage you. It’s got to be horrible for you to have me on you like that. It’s not working for me either as your boss.”

I got into a kind of conversation with her and it became clear that she really wasn’t loving what she was doing and she really wanted to do something else. I said, “Great. Well, what do you want to do?” I asked her what she wanted. I really brainstormed with her on how could we set her up so that she could be doing that and I could find a replacement with somebody who actually wanted to do this job.

Within two weeks, I hired somebody else. She trained them and I got her another job. I negotiated her deal.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, that’s a way you can have win-win scenarios in communication. It doesn’t have to be like you end things on a bad note. You can really stand for people to have the life of their dreams, even if it’s not in your office.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Now that seems so – it seems like, but, of course. That just makes good sense. It’s not working for you. It’s not working for them, so let’s change it up and get it so it does work.

Josselyne Herman
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
But in practice most people don’t quite go there with that level of honesty and candor and I don’t know, vulnerability, all that stuff. What do you think gets in the way there?

Josselyne Herman
I think looking good, like we’re so driven to look good and be the – well, “I’m the boss and you’re the employee. You’re not doing good, so now you’ve got to fix it.” I don’t really look at things that way because I’m more interested in having things work than being right. I think a lot of people are driven by default to be right, make something wrong.

When you can’t make something work as a human being, if you can’t make your relationship work, you’ve got to make your partner wrong to justify why it’s not working. If you can’t make your office work, you’ve got to make your employees wrong or your boss wrong or the job wrong somehow to justify why you’re not really rocking it.

From my perspective that’s one of the biggest things is when people … that they have a loss of power in having things work around them or having things thrive around them, the default is to find a scapegoat of why, a reason why it’s not working. Then you’ve got to be right about that and justified about that.

That’s a killer. Forget about work, just look at – turn on the news. Look at what’s happening. This is our world. This is what it is to be a human being by default.

It really is like a new kind of person to be somebody who goes, “Okay, this isn’t working. Where am I not being straight or lying about something or pretending something?” Being responsible for how things are, not to blame, but you have a say in how it goes.

This isn’t like, “Oh, it’s just this person that’s just untrainable.” No, it’s like this isn’t working. There’s something we’re pretending when it’s not really that way. People do it in personal lives. They do it in business. They do it at the level of society, at the level of organization, at all levels.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really a powerful distinction there associated with being more interested in having things work than being right.

I’d like to dig in a little bit in terms of I guess sometimes when things don’t seem like they’re working it feels like an intractable fundamental thing. Let’s just go somewhere. Right now we’ve got a precious six-month-old baby at home.

Josselyne Herman
Oh lovely. Congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. He’s a joy and we love him. It’s so swell. But one thing that’s not working is us feeling vitalized, energized amidst the challenges that come when he doesn’t sleep so well. In some ways it’s like, hey, what’s not working is that it’s rare that both of us are rested and in a pleasant mood with each other

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, I get it. I have three kids. I’m right with you. I’ve been there. I’m glad I’m over it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. We’re kind and respectful and not snippy, but it seems like some of those magic moments are hard to come by when there’s just sleep deprivation.

Now, in some ways it seems like, “Hey, that just kind of goes with the territory with a youngster,” but in another way it seems like it’s not working. I guess not to overly complicate things, but it seems like at times there are tradeoffs or sacrifices or kind of fundamental realities that can result in non-workingness, but I have a feeling you might challenge me here and open up something bigger.

Josselyne Herman
Well, I’m not going to challenge you. I would look at it as supporting you because one fundamental thing that we deal with at Landmark, and this is not just a Landmark thing, this is a life thing, is without integrity, nothing works. It doesn’t matter how great you are, how much you love each other.

Without integrity – and I don’t mean morality, I mean without all the spokes in your wheel – things don’t work. You can’t win the Tour de France if you don’t have the spokes in your wheel. Now if you have the spokes in your wheel, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the Tour de France, but it’s required to have an environment that allows for workability and high performance.

Sleep is one of those spokes. When you don’t sleep sufficiently, whatever that is for you, everybody has a different number, it does impact your performance in life and your ability to be extraordinary is impacted if you’re not eating or you’re not sleeping or whatever those kind of fundamental spokes in your wheel of wellbeing.

Without integrity, you don’t have workability and high performance is out of sight. You can’t even see it from there.

From the perspective of being a new parent, one of the things you’d have to look at is what does it look like for integrity to be present in your wellbeing. How many hours – for each of you it may be different. You’ve got to discover yourself because there is no recipe, like my husband needs six. I need seven for that to be well. We look at how you do that when you have a young child that is waking up and validly so.

There are a lot of actions you can take to accomplish that. You can swap nights so that one night one person gets less sleep than the other and the other night – so that you always have a rested person.

You could also have – make requests of other people, like, “Will you take the baby for this night grandmother or grandfather?” I don’t know what your situation is or a friend where you leave and that other person comes in. Go swap apartments. Go to that other person’s house while they take care of the baby for that one night because one night a week, you restoring that kind of wellbeing makes a difference for you.

It could be a function of naps. It could be normally you would like to go to sleep at midnight because that’s what you like, but it really doesn’t work. You might have to start going to bed when the baby goes to bed so that you can get those hours in in those two to three hour stints.

Another thing is sleep training, which most people, they have a very specific view on that. But my view changed depending on my child. My last child I was finally like, “Cry your head off. I don’t care,” and he did and he slept great. He would go to sleep at eight; he would wake up at seven. I was like, “Oh my God, I have so much time.”

But that was not like that with my first child. I was up making sure she was breathing with the mirror half the night because your brain goes crazy. You’re like, “Oh my God, she’s crying. She made a noise. Let me go-“

There’s all sorts of actions you can take. But I would look at it from a perspective of integrity. It’s not – then you don’t have to kind of suffer. You can get what’s going to work. It’s not like, “Oh my God, I shouldn’t be upset about this.” No, no, no, you actually need a certain amount of hours, whatever that is. If you don’t get it all at once and you get three at a time, then swap, then you’ve got to do that so that you get whatever that six is.

Pete Mockaitis
So the themes here when you say integrity is just sort of work ability in your definition here, so it’s like we’ve got the stuff in play that just needs to be there in terms of the basic ingredients.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, the definition from – from our perspective integrity is being whole and complete. This case it has to do with your wellbeing. In a bicycle wheel analogy it’s all the spokes being there. If you’re not eating all day, that’s – your wellbeing is not whole and complete.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Then in this specific instance, once we got clear on what it takes to be whole and complete, we explored options and some of the breakthrough possibilities are I guess considering new angles that extend beyond maybe constraints we just took for granted.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah. Like I know I can hear everything. I used to be able to sleep through an elephant stampede through my room when I was younger, but when I had kids, all of the sudden I hear them breathing literally from like 100 feet away.

I can hear everything, so I had to use ear plugs on the nights I would be sleeping because I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I heard them. Even though my husband was happy to take the night, I – it wasn’t working, so I had to get the earplugs so that I could actually sleep during the time when I had somebody available for me to sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well that’s good. Thank you. We went deep on that, much appreciated.

Josselyne Herman
My pleasure. Listen, without sufficient sleep, you can become like a crazy person. I mean like literally it is required for you to have wellbeing. You must get sufficient sleep. If you get less than sufficient sleep for a couple nights in a row, it catches up with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I feel you there. Shifting a little bit back to the workplace environment. What are your top suggestions for professionals trying to get some of these great positive relationships and productive conversation and outputs flowing from themselves and their colleagues?

Josselyne Herman
Well, I think communication is the biggest key because without being in open communication, it’s very hard to get anything done with a group of people. Through communication, you can work out anything, including moving somebody to another company.

It’s like, if you withhold communication, things get tense. If you don’t say things, things get constrained and pretty soon you’re just not satisfied or fulfilled at work because there’s a lack of flow of communication.

I think that would be the number one thing that I would say people should keep in front of them is “Okay, what do I need to communicate? What do they need to communicate,” and actually be able to listen to employees or your employer or your team about what their vision is and what they need to fulfill and what they see as matters to them because it’s not just like a machine to get your vision completed.

It’s like, “Okay, now is this working for you? What’s missing? What could we elevate? What do we need to put in so that things work better?” I do that weekly with my team.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. Could you give us another example or a story to make it all come to life in terms of “Hey, before this was going on and then we communicated in this way and then after, here’s what happened?”

Josselyne Herman
Well, I can tell you just what I’m dealing with right now with my mother. My sister lives in a different state, so we don’t see each other that much. We’ve been dealing with this sort of remotely and I’m a little bit closer to it geographically.

When my father would tell me, “Oh, this is what’s happening with her.” I’d be like, “What do you mean?” Then I’d start reacting to what my father’s telling me. Meanwhile, I’m not even talking to my sister. I’m talking to my father about his version of what she’s say – it was all discombobulated.

Then I finally just got on the phone with my sister. I said, “I need to know that we’re on the same page here about what we’re doing with mom because it sounds like you want something else.” She’s like, “What do you mean?” I go, “Well, what do you want? What is it that you want for mom?”

Then she told me and that was completely different from what I was interpreting from what I was hearing her and my father talk about. Then I said, “Okay, well here’s what I want.” Then we said, “Okay, well, let’s look at how we can accomplish this.” It became very, very similar what we wanted but we were in a story that we wanted different things.

She thought I wanted to take her out of this rehab center immediately. I thought she wanted to leave her there for a month. It was like just two ships passing in the night and not even making contact.

As soon as we … communication and made it real in our conversation and found out what was going on for each person, then we could get in collaboration to accomplish what we’re really committed to, which is my mother being well. That’s all we both want.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. So the hang up there is rather than just going there in conversation, “What do you want? What do I want?” is just sort of like assumptions and stories that we’re inventing about other people.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, and most of our assumptions don’t show up for us as assumptions. They show up for us as the truth. We don’t think we’re assuming because we’re like, “Well this is what they are. This is what they want. This is how they are,” rather than actually getting in communication to discover what somebody wants or who they are and what their dreams are or what their vision is or what their goals are.

We assume, well we know this is what they want. They don’t have to tell us. We know a lot, but knowing doesn’t translate to being. The work of Landmark is all about accessing being.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. Well, Josselyne, tell me, anything you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Josselyne Herman
Make sure you schedule a date night.

Pete Mockaitis
Noted. Thank you.

Josselyne Herman
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Josselyne Herman
Gandhi, that’s one of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you wish to see.” But Willy Wonka is my other favorite, which is, “We are the dreamer of dreams.” That is one of my favorite quotes. I love that movie.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Josselyne Herman
There’s a book called Black Box Thinking, which is very powerful, which has people look at failures and look at what was missing rather than living in a story that they’re a failure and able to then impact their performance and elevate their performance in that area. I think that’s a very powerful way of looking at life.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Josselyne Herman
Taking a hot shower at the end of the day to complete the day and just kind of shut down.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you mean at the end of the day like right before bed or the end of the workday?

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, right before bed.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.

Josselyne Herman
It actually, physiologically shuts your body down and has it ready for sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with people and they quote it back to you?

Josselyne Herman
Yes, yeah. Well, being unmessable with is sort of my little phrase that I’ve coined and started a campaign around to try and get that in the dictionary, but that’s – people know me for being unmessable with and being a Barry Manilow fan. I know. I admit it. I’m not ashamed.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it. Josselyne, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Josselyne Herman
LandmarkWorldwide.com is the website for Landmark. There’s tons of videos and articles. I’m in many of them or the interview is conducted … them, but all of their forum leaders and really powerful tools for people who are committed to living an extraordinary life.

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

Josselyne Herman
Well, I would say don’t wait until someday. There’s no such thing. This is it. This is your life. If you’re not fulfilled and satisfied, take on living life now because it’s not going to happen any other time. This is it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well Josselyne, thanks so much for this. This was a fun little blast in the past for me, remembering some Landmark goodness. I wish you and Landmark all the best in what you’re up to.

Josselyne Herman
Thank you so much Pete and to you too. Again, treasure that family, but make sure you get a date night.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Josselyne Herman
Okay. All right. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

330: Becoming Indistractable with Nir Eyal

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Nir Eyal shares how habits keep users coming back and how to become indistractable in the midst of such forces.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How habit-forming products win over higher quality products
  2. Four steps to becoming indistractable
  3. How to turn a distraction into traction

 

About Nir

Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. The M.I.T. Technology Review dubbed Nir, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.” Nir founded two tech companies since 2003 and has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He is the author of the bestselling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today. Nir is also an active investor in habit-forming technologies. Some of his past investments include: Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn), Worklife (acquired by Cisco), Eventbrite, Product Hunt, Marco Polo, Presence Learning, 7 Cups, Pana, Kahoot!, Byte Foods, Anchor.fm, and Symphony Commerce. Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Nir Eyal Interview Transcript

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

Nir Eyal
My pleasure. So good to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I really enjoyed learning about you and reading your blog and listening to the podcast, Nir and Far. Could you maybe give us a little back story for sort of your background and how you acquired the nickname of ‘The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology’?

Nir Eyal
Sure thing. Let’s see. I started two tech companies. The last one was at the intersection of gaming and advertising. In those two industries I learned a heck of a lot about how companies change consumer behavior.

I was at the forefront of apps back when apps didn’t mean iPhone apps because the Apple app store didn’t exist. I was very early in the game back when apps meant Facebook apps and people were doing all kinds of stupid stuff like throwing sheep at each other and things like that and Farmville, if you remember that back in the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, my buddy Luke was a part of the Farmville team.

Nir Eyal
There you go. I kind of had this front row seat. They were – companies like that were our clients. I had this front row seat to see all of these experiments come and go. I learned a lot about how companies change our behavior. I became fascinated by the psychology of designing for habits. I had this hypothesis that the companies that would be able to make it in the future must figure out how to build habits.

I invested a lot of time into learning about habits and then I kind of came up to a wall when I looked for a … to try and explain to me how to build habit-forming products. I didn’t find it, so I decided to write the book I couldn’t find. That’s why I wrote Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. I wrote the book after interviewing academics and practitioners, a lot of the people who helped build Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and WhatsApp and Slack.

I wrote the book not for them obviously. They already know these techniques. I wrote the book for everybody else. I wrote the book for people out there who are building the kind of products and services that can really help people live better lives if they would only use the product.

That’s why I wrote the book because I know there’s so many people out there like I was that struggled … how to build a habit-forming product that can help people build healthy habits in their lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a whole lot of good stuff there. We had BJ Fogg on the show not too long ago. It’s just a fascinating topic to dig into, habits and how they get formed and the influences associated with them.

Maybe could you just sort of dig into some of the components here in terms of when it comes to your book Hooked and the Hook model? What are some of the building blocks that we can use in forming habits, both in the stuff we’re making as well as just our lives and how we’re influencing our fellow colleagues at work?

Nir Eyal
Yeah, absolutely. My first book is called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. It was really tailored to people – to business people, to people who are building products and services.

My next book actually that’s coming out early 2019 is called Indistractable. It’s about how to manage these distractions. How to make sure we do what we say we’re going to do? Why is it that we get so distracted when we say we’re going to do one thing and then invariably we end up doing something else?

You sit down at your desk. You’ve got a big deadline looming and instead of working on that project for some reason you’re checking email 30 minutes later for no good reason. My study and research into habits has kind of taken me to both sides of the equation.

But let’s start with Hooked because I think it sounds like most of your listeners are professionals looking to find ways to keep customers engaged. We know that it’s much more cost efficient, much higher ROI to keep an existing customer engaged versus having to spend all of that money to acquire a new customer.

That’s really where my sweet spot is. When customers ask me – I’m sorry, when clients ask me how do I keep people coming back, the answer is you have to build a hook.

That if you look at every habit-forming technology out there, whether that product – the best in the business, the people who keep us checking our phones, companies like Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and WhatsApp, and Slack, and Snapchat, every single one of them has what’s called a hook.

The hook is the basis of my book. It’s this four-step experience that users pass through when they interact with a product. I can walk you through those four steps here in a 30,000 foot view of it at least. There’s a lot more detail in the book, but I’ll give you kind of the overview.

Hook has four basic steps. Every hook starts with a trigger to an action to a reward and finally an investment. I know many of your listeners have heard of BJ Fogg or Charles Duhigg. There’s lots of perspectives there, but … is really designed not for personal habits. This is for product habits. When it comes to a product, you have to have these four basic steps. I’ll walk through them very quickly.

The first thing that you have to do is that you have to define your internal trigger. That’s the first step of the hook. Now an internal trigger is an uncomfortable emotional state. I know for many of your listeners, they say, “Whoa, whoa, wait. This is supposed to be about product design and building great customer experience. What does it have to do with emotions and icky sticky stuff like that?”

The fact is people buy and do everything they do for one reason only. That one reason is to modulate their mood. If you don’t understand that basic psychological fact, then you’re missing something.

Everything you do – it’s called the homeostatic response. When you feel too cold, you put on a jacket. When you feel hot, you take it off. When you feel hunger pangs, you eat. When you feel stuffed, you stop eating. Those are all physiological sensations that make us do something.

The same exact formula exists when it comes to psychological discomfort. When we’re feeling lonely, we check Facebook. When we’re feeling uncertain, we Google. When we’re feeling bored, we check YouTube or the news or sports scores.

You have got to identify, whether your product is something that needs … a habit or not, your first step is to figure out what’s the psychological itch that you are going to satiate for your customers. That’s the internal trigger. You have to know what that is if you want people to do anything.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. This itch, it could be big or small in terms of “I’m worried that I’ll be alone the rest of my life and I’ll never find someone,” or “I’m kind of bored right now.”

Nir Eyal
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Then that whole spectrum. I’m curious do have any sort of insights or research when it comes to which of the – what are kind of the categories of itches and are some kind of way more potent as human motivators than others?

Nir Eyal
There’s a lot of techniques that we can use to find that internal trigger. The criteria here is if you’re building the kind of product that requires repeat use – and we should probably talk just for a second about why should I even care about habits. Why do habits affect my bottom line?

Some of the biggest reasons that habits are so important is that they are a huge competitive barrier that it’s very hard for the competition to swoop in and take your customer away once your user, once your customer has formed a habit with your product.

If you think about people who don’t need a habit, let’s take insurance. Insurance will never be a habit-forming product. It just doesn’t occur with sufficient frequency to ever form a habit. The problem with a product like that – there’s nothing with a business model that doesn’t require a habit, it’s just that your competition can come in very easily and undercut you based on price or some feature.

For example, Geico comes around and says, “15 minutes saves you 15% on car insurance.” Well what happens when somebody else says, “Oh you know what? 12 minutes saves you … percent on car insurance.” Just the next feature or the next discount and boom, your customers have abandoned you.

If you don’t form this habit, if you don’t pass customers through that hook, you are at the mercy of these other factors.

If you think about that compared to Google, for example. If I polled your listeners right now, I’m guessing probably 90 to 99% have searched with Google in the past 24 hours and maybe a couple percent have searched with Bing, the number two search engine. Is that because Bing is worse? No.

It actually turns out … studies, when people can’t tell the branding, when they strip out the branding, people can’t tell the difference between the search results. But the fact is we don’t stop and ask ourselves, “Hm, I wonder which the best search engine would be?” No, we just Google it with little or no conscious thought, purely out of habit. That’s all it is. It’s just a habit.

That’s what’s so amazing about these habits is that it turns out once you have a habit, it’s not the best product that wins. Do you hear me right? I’m telling you it’s not the best product. It’s the product that can create the monopoly of the mind, the thing that we turn to with little or no conscious thought.

We wouldn’t even know if Bing was any better because we don’t even give them a chance because we have formed a habit with some other solution. That’s why habits are so, so powerful.

Back to the topic at hand here around these internal triggers, around figuring out what those internal triggers are. The key word here is frequency. When we’re trying to figure out what are our customers internal triggers, we want to figure out what sparks this itch, what’s this need to modulate some kind of mood that occurs with sufficient frequency.

It turns out the research tells us that if we don’t get the user to do the key habit within a week’s time or less, it’s almost impossible to change their habit. There are some exceptions, but the behavior really has to occur within a week’s time or less.

We can talk about what happens if your product isn’t used with sufficient frequency, for example, what if you are selling insurance, how can you build a customer habit. We can talk about that, some ways that you can actually bolt on a frequently occurring habit onto a product that’s not bought frequently.

But what I tend to see, specifically with companies out there that are selling something, like a one-time solution or … product, we are so focused on getting people to check out that we totally neglect finding ways to get them to check in. That’s a big mistake.

This is the future of commerce is finding ways to keep people engaged with us as opposed to relying on these one … transactions that cost us a fortune to acquire these companies and then we lose them to the completion next time.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood, thank you. So now, let’s talk about the action.

Nir Eyal
Sure, the action phase is defined as the simplest behavior done in anticipation of a reward, so the simplest thing that I can do to get relief from the psychological itch.

For example, let’s take Facebook, a lot people think that Facebook is a very habit forming-product. If you are using Facebook because you’re feeling lonely or seeking connection, that would be the internal trigger. The app is simply open the app and scroll a feed.

As soon as you’re scrolling that feed, what happens to your boredom, what happens to your seeking connection? … a little bit. You’ve got that satiation … emotional discomfort occurring just through that simple action.

If you can be the kind of company that figures out even what seems to be trivial little actions, too much thinking, too many steps, too much confusion, any little step that you can remove from the process is going to make the likelihood of the behavior more likely.

I call it the intoxicated test, that you want to build the kind of product and service that is so easy to use that your customer or your user could use it even if they were drunk. That’s how simple your product needs to be, particularly when it comes to digital products.

We want to make sure that’s as easy as possible to get relief from that psychological itch.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Thank you. Then next up, reward.

Nir Eyal
The next step of the hook is the variable reward. The variable reward phase comes from the work of BF Skinner who was the father of operant conditioning back in the 1940’s and 50’s. He did these very famous experiments, where he … pigeons, put them in a little box … a disk …. Every time the pigeon pecked at the disk he would give them a little reward, a little food pellet.

What Skinner observed was that he could train the pigeons to peck at the disk as long as they were hungry, as long as they had the internal trigger, they would peck at the desk whenever they had this internal …. Great, called operant conditioning.

But then Skinner started to run out of these food pellets. He literally didn’t have enough of them. He couldn’t afford to … a food pellet every time; he started to give them just once in a while. Sometimes the pigeon would peck at the disk and they wouldn’t receive a reward. The next time they would … at the disk, they would get a reward.

What Skinner observed was that the rate of response, the number of times these pigeons pecked at the disk increased when the reward was given on a variable schedule of reinforcement. We see the exact same psychology at work on all sorts of …, wherever there is mystery, wherever there is uncertainty, wherever there’s a bit of the unknown, we find this to be incredibly engaging and incredibly habit forming.

Best examples online if you think about scrolling the feed on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter, everything has a feed these days, that’s a form of variable reward. If you think about looking at a deck for some kind of enterprise software and seeking your sales numbers go up or go down, that’s a variable reward that keeps you coming back.

If you think about in the media a story is interesting when you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Everybody wants today’s news, not yesterday’s news. What makes for a good book, a good movie, any of these experiences have to have this variability, this bit of uncertainty. We have to build that into the product. It has to scratch the users’ itch. It has to give them what they came for.

This isn’t just cheesy gamification. This is actually addressing customer’s needs, but leaving this bit of uncertainty, a bit of mystery around what they might find the … time they engage with their product or service.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you, so you’re actually better off instead of delivering just tremendous delight every time, kind of at least checking the box to scratch the itch but sometimes just doing it in spades, like with Facebook newsfeed, “Oh my gosh, that person is engaged now. Wow!” whereas, “Okay Trump did something else,” in terms of how satisfying I find that reading of the newsfeed that day.

Nir Eyal
Right. We want to make sure that it’s actually rewarding, it actually gives people what they want.

What we’re finding now with Facebook for example, is that when the algorithm got out of whack, when people started saying, “Oh, this is a bunch of crap I’m not interested in,” they stopped using it because it wasn’t addressing the users’ itch. But they moved somewhere else. They didn’t just stop. They just changed their habits. Some people did, not everybody. But they’re changing their habits.

Now we’re seeing the tremendous rise of Instagram. Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars. There was a Wall Street bank that just tried to assess what the value of Instagram would be today if it wasn’t part of Facebook, it would be worth over 100 billion dollars. Even though everybody laughed at Zuckerberg when he bought Instagram, this stupid little app.

Zuckerberg really gets habit. He knows that if he doesn’t own his customer habit, somebody else is going to capture that habit. It’s very important that he keeps it. People are starting to migrate over to Instagram because it’s giving them more of what they want.

The internal trigger for using Facebook used to be connecting with friends, loneliness. Then Instagram turns out to be a better solution to solve that problem, but it uses the same exact hook.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Nir Eyal
Which brings us by the way to the fourth step. It’s probably the most overlooked. What’s very different I think from my model from other models is this investment phase. The investment phase is something that the user does … some kind of future reward, some kind of future benefit. It’s not about immediate gratification. It’s an act that the user does for a future benefit.

For example, every time a user gives a company data or content or follows people or accrues a reputation, all of these things make the product better with use. Now why is this so revolutionary?

You think about the history of manufacturing, it used to be that customizing a product was very difficult and very expensive. Henry Ford is quoted as saying that you can get the Model T in any color as long as it’s black. The reason he said that is because it’s hard to customize stuff, especially physical stuff.

But if you think about it, what’s so amazing about these products, specifically things that are connected via the internet, and today everything is connected in some form, is that we can actually improve the product with use.

Everything in the physical world, everything we have made out of atoms, your clothing, your furniture, everything that you use, loses value, it depreciates with wear and tear. But these habit forming technologies, if you think about it, what’s so amazing about them is that they appreciate with use. They get better and better the more we interact with them.

They do that because of this investment phase. If you are not improving the product every time the user interacts with it, you are missing a huge opportunity.

Now, the way this all fits together into this infinite loop is that every time I invest in the product, what I’m doing is also loading the next trigger.

We’ll stick with Facebook just because we’ve been talking about this example. Every time I like something, comment, post, friend, I’m loading the next trigger. I’m giving the company the opportunity to have a reason to send me an external trigger once again prompting me through the hook once again, so a notification, a ping, a ding, a ring, something that tells me, “Hey, come back. Something that you did has some kind of follow up action to it. You should come back and see.”

You post a photo. There’s an external trigger that sends you a notification that says “Come check out what your friend said about your photo.” The action is to open. The variable reward is the uncertainty of what they said. The investment now is you write back, you like, you comment, continuing the hook again, and again, and again until we’re all habituated.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. That’s sort of how it all works together. I’d like to look at the opposing side of this. How does one become indistractable in the midst of these brilliant people with huge budgets creating this super hooking stuff?

Nir Eyal
Yeah. Sometimes when people hear this it sounds icky. It sounds unethical. It sounds manipulative. It can be used for manipulation. Anytime that we are using these techniques to get people to do things that we want them to do for our commercial interest, sorry, that’s a form of manipulation.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Manipulation has a negative connotation, but it doesn’t necessarily have to because there’s two types of manipulation. There’s persuasion and there’s coercion. Persuasion is helping people do things they want to do. Coercion is getting them to do things they don’t want to do. Not only is coercion unethical, it’s bad for business.

If we get people to do something they don’t want to do, they complain about it. They regret it. They tell their friends. It’s a terrible business plan. We don’t want to use these techniques for coercion. …. People exercise more, to save money, to get more sales, to use software that helps them use better lives, to use our service that would help them if they would the product.

That’s the disclaimer here as a product maker is to use these techniques to help people do things that they want to do but for lack of good product design, don’t do.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued a little. I think some folks would say, “I wish I could be on Facebook less and yet I find myself going there again and again.”

Nir Eyal
Perfect. That’s a perfect lead in to my next book called Indistractable, which will be available on Audible starting in Spring of 2019. When it comes to answering this question of how do I use Facebook less, the answer is not to wait for Facebook to make a product that you don’t want to use. Okay?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Nir Eyal
So many people today, the tide’s turned against technology. I’m not saying that these guys are not innocent. There’s lots of things these companies do that I don’t like. If you think about monopoly status, if you think about their use of data, lots of things I’m not happy with these tech companies.

However, this one particular question around how do I use the product less, why are they making products that I want to use all the time, don’t hold your breath. If you hold your breath and you wait for them to make a product that is less good, you’re going to suffocate. That doesn’t make any sense, right? They’re not going to make a product that is worse, that you don’t want to use as much.

In fact, if you think social media is habit forming, just wait until we all start using virtual reality and all the other stuff that’s going to come down the pipe in the next few years. This is going to look like nothing.  We’ve got to build the skill of becoming indistractable. We haven’t been taught how to cope with all of this distraction, all of these things – the cost of living in a world with so many good things.

Right now we are talking thousands of miles apart from each other on a free service that technology has made possible. If you would have told me as a kid that this would be possible, I would say “Nah, that’s science fiction. No way are we going to have all this stuff,” video calling and classes for free, and the word’s information at your fingertips. It’s amazing.

But the cost is that we have to learn these skills to cope with managing our attention. How do we become indistractable? Well, it’s a great question. It intrigued me for five years. Since I published Hooked this is all I’ve been thinking about. I tried all kinds of techniques. What I ended up with was another four-part model. I have a thing for four-part models.

The first thing to realize is that distraction starts from within, that time management is pain management. We talked about earlier when it comes to building habit-forming products about how important it is to attach your product or service to an internal trigger.

On the flip side, as a user, this means if you are doing something that you don’t want to do – if that’s the definition of distraction is something I didn’t intend to do and I did anyway – you have got to understand that distraction starts from within.

The icky sticky uncomfortable truth that a lot of us don’t want to face because it’s so much easier to blame Facebook or the sugar industry and the baker who makes the cookies and Coca Cola for making sweet beverages and all of our problems we can blame on somebody else, the icky sticky truth is that we don’t like to face is that these internal triggers start from within.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like I’m bored, and that’s why I went to Facebook.

Nir Eyal
That’s right. If you can’t stand hanging around your kids because they’re driving you crazy and so you’re checking Facebook to escape from them, that ain’t Facebook’s fault. If you sit down at your desk and you check email/Slack because you can’t stand to work on that really hard boring project right now, that’s not Slack’s fault. We have got to figure out what’s going on inside us and fix the problem or learn to cope.

Now some of this problem comes from the workplace. I was giving a talk and I asked this question to kind of prove this point. I said, “Look, here’s how we know it’s not the technology’s fault because if you won the lottery tomorrow, you have 40 million dollars in your bank account. You never have to work for money another day in your life. Do you still check your work email account? Do you still check those Slack panels at 11 o’clock at night?”

This one woman stood up in the front row one time and she said, “Yeah, I’m going to use my email one more time to send everybody a message that says ‘Screw you suckers!’” I think that’s about right. It’s not the technology. It’s if anything our addiction to work.

So many of these internal triggers come from the workplace. And in large part, and I talk about this a lot in the book, they come from sick work cultures, cultures that cultivate and create these negative emotional states that we seek to escape with our devices.

The first step, we can go a lot into the culture and how we change the culture of a company, but the first step, big picture, is to find those internal triggers, learn to cope with them, and to help our organizations become healthier environments that don’t create so many of these internal triggers that we seek to escape. That’s the first step.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, let’s get the overview, then maybe I’ll dig in.

Nir Eyal
Okay, I’ll do the overview real quick. The first step is to manage our internal triggers. The next step is to make time for traction.

The idea here is that so many people complain about distraction, but when I ask them what did the news or Facebook or your boss or your kids distract you from? What were you so distracted from today? They take out their calendars and I look at the calendars of most people and they’re blank. There’s nothing on their calendar.

The fact is you cannot call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from, which means we need to get into the practice of scheduling out every minute of our day. It’s okay to schedule time to do nothing. I want you to schedule time to do nothing. I want you to schedule time to think.

But if you don’t schedule your day, somebody else will, your kids, your boss, your significant other, Facebook, Donald Trump, somebody’s going to eat up that time unless you decide what you’re going to do with it. That’s making more traction.

The third step is to eliminate, to hack back those external triggers. We know that two thirds of people who own a smart phone never adjust their notification settings.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh, wow.

Nir Eyal
Right? Crazy. How can we start to complain that technology is addictive and it’s hijacking our brains and it’s irresistible if we haven’t taken ten minutes to turn off these goddamn external triggers … don’t serve us?

To be clear, they’re not all bad. If an external trigger helps you wake up in the morning or reminds you to go exercise, that’s great. It’s leaning towards traction. But if it’s not, if it’s making you do something you … want to do, it’s leading towards distraction. We have to turn it off.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. I am just – that is a shocking statistic to me because whenever I get a new app, I get a notification from that app. I’m like, “No, no, no OfferUp.”

Nir Eyal
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“I wanted you to notify me if someone wanted to buy the thing I put up. I did not want you to notify me if one of my random friends is now using OfferUp. I don’t care. This needs to go.”

Nir Eyal
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I’m pretty merciless on that. I’m stunned to hear that two-thirds are like, “Okay, whatever. Sure you can interrupt me in any way at any time about anything.”

Nir Eyal
Yeah. Crazy, right? I don’t think we have a right to complain about technology being too addictive until we start to take these simple steps. That’s why I’m not worried. I love teaching people how to hook others to form healthy habits. I also think it’s on us to make sure that we don’t get unhealthily hooked. That it’s our job as consumers to take these very simple steps to put technology in its place.

Frankly, I should say actually, I misspoke there, all distraction. Because look, if you haven’t dealt with those internal triggers, it’s not going to be just Facebook, it’s going to be the television set. If it’s not that, it’s going to be radio or it’s going to be magazines or it’s going to be trashy novels. It’s always going to be something unless if we figure out how to deal with distraction at large.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it.

Nir Eyal
Oh, and there’s one more step I forgot to tell you about. The last step, you know how we talked about traction is actions you take that you want to do, distraction is the opposite. The opposite of traction is distraction. Distractions are all the things that we do that we don’t want to do.

The last of the four steps that we can take is to help us make traction – sorry, distraction less likely. We do that through pacts, all kinds of ways.

This comes from Ulysses in the Odyssey. Ulysses is sailing his ship past the island of the sirens. They sing this magical song that any man who hears wants to crash his ship onto the island of the sirens and dies there, so Ulysses comes up with this idea.

He says, “I want you to tie me to the mast of the ship and no matter what I do and what I say, don’t let me go,” because he knows he doesn’t want to get distracted. He doesn’t want to do something that he knows he doesn’t want to do. It works and he sails his ship right past this … and he didn’t become distracted.

We can use the exact same techniques ourselves. It turns out that there are literally thousands of free apps and Chrome extensions and tools that we can use to build these pacts in our life.

For example, whenever I want to do focused work, I use this little app. It’s free. It’s called Forest. I type in how much time I want to do focused work for and in that period of time if I pick up my phone and do anything with it, there’s this little virtual tree … die.

Pete Mockaitis
It dies.

Nir Eyal
Okay, stupid little virtual tree. Who cares about this virtual tree, right? But it’s enough of a reminder, “Oh, you took a pact with yourself not to look at your phone.”

Another thing I like to do is I find a focus friend. Many times when I do writing and writing is really hard work, it doesn’t come naturally for me, I’m very frequently tempted to get distracted, Google something or check email. I write with a buddy. I have somebody, a focus friend, who I get together with and we write together. You can do this in the office too. Find a colleague.

Then the final thing I’ll mention, and by the way, in the book I mention literally dozens of different things you can do. Another thing I do, I use this website that I liked so much I actually became an investor in it. It’s called FocusMate.com. FocusMate.com, all it does is you pick a time when you want to do focused work and then you’re connected with somebody else, somewhere in the world for that period of time.

In that time you log in, you see them on your – it’s a video feed. They see you. You say, “Hello. How are you doing? Go.” Then you start working. It’s amazing how just seeing that person holds us accountable. It’s a pact that we make with that other person to only do focused work during that period of time.

In short, these four techniques of managing internal triggers, making traction more likely, hacking external triggers and then finally, making distraction less likely, if you do these four things, you will manage distraction. You will become indisractable.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful and so cool. I’ve heard of a number of these tools, but Focusmate, wow, that’s another one. How does the person know if you’re looking at your email?

Nir Eyal
They don’t. By the way this is one of dozens and dozens and dozens of different things we can do. The idea isn’t oh, this is the solution for everyone. The idea is to use these techniques, to try them on for size. Some work for a while, then you have to find a different solution. Some work for some people and don’t work for others. The idea is it’s a process.

Becoming indistractable is like personal growth, you’re never done. There will always be potential distractions, but by identifying where your problem is, “Oh, it’s the internal triggers,” or “Oh man, it’s these external triggers,” or “I haven’t made time for traction,” or “I need to make distraction more difficult”—By understanding where the problem is we can do something about it.

… I think every other book I’ve ever read on this topic is like this ten things you can do. It’s not organized. It’s not clear in people’s brains where these different techniques fall into place. Then of course it becomes very difficult to utilize them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now I want to go deep into the root of things at the start when it comes to just acknowledging your internal itches there. I think that one fundamental one is I’m just actually not okay with being bored for more than one minute.

Nir Eyal
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s pretty common because it’s sort of like – I’m thinking about the train right now in Chicago, the L. Often 100% of people in a train car will be on their phones I’m looking at. Maybe they’re doing fantastically wonderful things, that it’s rewarding and fulfilling and satisfying for them, but my hunch is it’s not. That some of them are just killing the time and they could be putting their mental energies into something that serves them better.

How do you grapple with that one? I’m not comfortable being bored anymore because I’m used to being constantly entertained.

Nir Eyal
Yeah, well the first step is to ask if it’s really a problem. If you take the train every day and during that time – there’s this myth that people can’t multitask. I know you’ve heard that a lot, right? That we can’t multitask, we can’t multitask. That’s not really true. We can multitask.

… what we can do is utilize different channels. We can’t utilize the same channels. I can’t ask you to solve two math problems at the same time. I can’t ask you to watch two television shows at the same time. I can’t ask you to watch – to listen to a podcast in each ear. But we can certainly multitask different channels.

Actually, this utilizes a technique we call temptation bundling, where we can take something we enjoy, something we like as a reward and use it to help us build a habit, to incentivize a behavior that we may not really enjoy.

For example, … I never liked working out. I just didn’t like going to the gym. What I used was this technique that has been well researched now. I actually listened to my podcast as my reward for going to the gym. That’s the only time I listen to podcasts.

I’m using different channels. I’m exercising with the physical channel and I’m listening with auditory channel. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

If part of your commute to work involves enriching yourself with listening to an audiobook or a great podcast, that’s fantastic as long as it is intentional. If you’ve planned ahead – for example, for me, every night from 7:30 to 9:30, that’s my social media time. That’s time I literally have on my schedule for checking Facebook, and Reddit, and YouTube, and all the stuff that I want to check online, but it’s only for that time.

I’ve taken what otherwise would be a distraction at any other time of the day and I’ve turned it into traction because it’s done with intent. I’ve planned ahead and it’s on my calendar that that’s when I’ll do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. If folks do find they’re in a place where it’s like “I’m going on Facebook,” “I’m going on YouTube instead of paying attention to my child or talking with my friend who’s in front of me at a restaurant or something.” Once you notice “Hey, I got this itch that I seem to have this need to scratch compulsively and I wish I didn’t.” What do you do?

Nir Eyal
What do you do? Let me give you a few techniques, okay? The first thing that we try and do is to actually fix the problem. If the problem is something that we can solve, if it’s a deeper issue, if it’s caused by a difficult life situation, a toxic work culture, these are things that we need to actually fix in our lives or they’re going to just keep coming up again and again and again.

It’s finding the things that we can fix and then learning to cope with the things that we cannot fix. I’m not naïve enough to say that everyone can just leave their job or fix everything in life. There are pains in life. Life involves some degree of suffering.

The problem is that we expect our technology or a pill or a bottle to make everything pain free, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we become dependent when we haven’t learned how to cope with pain. Time management is pain management. We have to learn that. Here are a few quick techniques that we can use. Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

One technique that we can use that psychologists tell us is incredibly effective is to name the internal trigger.

If we can name the source of the discomfort and look at it as an outsider would, meaning you’re working on a big project, it starts to get kind of boring and you start reaching for your phone, you literally start saying to yourself, “Oh, there my hand goes reaching for my phone because I’m feeling what? This project is difficult. It’s hard.” We start literally talking to ourselves like a third party will talk to us, like a good friend might talk to us.

Then what we want to do is to use a technique called surfing the urge, kind of like a surfer on a surfboard, where we allow some time for this negative – this uncomfortable sensation to wash over us.

I use a technique called the ten minute rule, where I will just give myself ten minutes when I catch myself about to get distracted or even in the middle of the distraction I say, “Okay, what am I feeling right now? I am going to give into this temptation. I am going to do this distraction, but in ten minutes.” I literally set a timer. I tell myself “It’s fine. I can give into that distraction. No problem. In ten minutes.”

Then all I have to do is in that ten minutes just do this exercise, just surf the urge, get curious about that sensation, be with that discomfort. Don’t do what I used to do which is tell myself, “Oh, there’s something wrong with me. I must be a loser.” I beat myself up. I was so mean to myself. Instead, it’s normal. It’s something that happens to every person. It’s happened for every human being that ever lived.

This is how we get stronger is that when our body tells us oh, this is something difficult that you’re trying to grow into … totally normal response to have these negative emotional states. To just stick with it for ten minutes and almost always what you’ll find is that sensation subsides. That’s how we develop our ability to manage pain, which is how we manage our ability to manage time.

This is why every other technique out there hasn’t worked for people because we have all these productivity tips, but fundamentally even if you use these productivity tips, if you sit down at your desk, and we’ve all felt this – you have a to-do, you know what to do exactly, but then it’s hard and I don’t want to right now and it feels bad. If we don’t cope with that, if we don’t learn these techniques to overcome that discomfort, we’re never going to be our best.

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

Nir Eyal
No, that’s – we covered a lot. You asked some fantastic questions. If anybody wants more information, my website is NirAndFar.com. That’s N-I-R, spelled like my first name, Nir and Far. Not near like the real word, but like my name, NirAndFar.com. Yeah, I hope you come to the website. I’ve got some resources there. Again, the book will be out early 2019.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thanks. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Nir Eyal
Yeah, so one of my favorite quotes, it’s actually a part of the mantras that I repeat to myself every day. It’s a quote from William James, the father of modern psychology. He said “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” I think that’s a really important life lesson that the art of being wise the art of knowing what to overlook.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. How about a favorite book?

Nir Eyal
There’s a lot. This is always such a tough question for me because so many of my friends are authors. I always get in trouble.

I’ll say one of my latest favorite books is a book actually about addiction, which I think is the best book I’ve read about what addiction really is. I think most people don’t understand what addiction really is about. They call everything addiction. But there’s a book by Stanton Peele called Recover. Recover and Peele is spelled P-E-E-L-E, Stanton Peele. I really, really enjoyed that book. I thought it was fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Nir Eyal
A favorite tool. I mentioned a few of them. One of the tools I don’t think I mentioned, maybe I did, it’s called Time Guard. Did I mention Time Guard?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think so.

Nir Eyal
Okay, so Time Guard is a terrific tool. It’s not my favorite app. It’s free. Here’s how Time Guard works. Remember we talked about pacts and how you can see these pacts with yourself, kind of like Ulysses did? The way Time Guard works is it will block out certain apps and websites on your phone when you don’t want access to them.

Remember how I told you how I allowed myself social media time between 7:30 and 9:30 and I turned a distraction into traction? Well, Time Guard, if I slip up and I accidently open up Instagram, Time Guard doesn’t let me use it. It turns off the connection to that specific app or YouTube or whatever you want it to whenever I try and use it during the off hours.

It was really great at breaking that bad habit. Now it doesn’t happen as often because I’ve learned that it doesn’t work during those times, but Time Guard is a great tool for breaking that habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Of all these habits you’ve formed and broken, what’s one of your favorite habits?

Nir Eyal
Wow, there’s so many habits. It’s hard to decide. I think one of the habits that’s really served me well – and a lot of people don’t know that there’s a slight nuance between a routine and a habit, so it might be worth clarifying.

A habit is behavior done with little or no conscious thought. A routine is just a behavior frequently repeated. When people say reading is a habit or running is a habit or working out is a habit, it’s not really a habit unless you do it with little or no conscious thought. I can’t call any of those things, even though they’re helpful things, habits. I would call them routines.

But I think one of the healthiest habits I have is changing my food habits. We know that health and fitness is not made in the gym, it’s really made in the kitchen. Over years and years of changing my diet, I’ve started to create this habit of preferring healthier food. I think that’s really – I hope … we’ll see how long I live. I hope I don’t jinx it by saying this. But hopefully it will become a habit that serves me well in years to come.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Is there a particular nugget you share that seems to be frequently cited and quoted back to you?

Nir Eyal
I think – I don’t know if I can make this a nugget size, but I’ll try my best. The message I really want to leave folks with is that we can do this, that when people think about distraction that the current narrative is that it’s someone else’s fault. It’s the big tech companies that are hijacking our brains. That’s just not true.

In fact, believing it is dangerous because what this does – we know that – there’s been several studies now that show that the number one determinant of whether someone can reach their long-term goals is their belief in their own power to do that goal. This is incredibly important.

If you believe that your brain is being hijacked, if you believe that you’re powerless, you make it so. That’s the message I really want to leave folks with is that we have the power to manage distractions. We have the power to become indistractable.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Nir Eyal
Sure. This has to do I think with the workplace because so many of our internal triggers come from toxic work cultures. My challenge – and I know this isn’t easy and it’s not something that everybody can do and that’s why it fell into this challenge category.

I want you to observe your workplace culture around responsiveness to technology. I want you to see if you might be able to at least spark a conversation around why your company is as responsive as it is. If you have a great tech culture, that’s terrific.

The reason I think this is such an important challenge is what we find is when companies start looking at this problem of tech overuse, what we find time after time is that tech overuse in the workplace is a symptom of a larger dysfunction, that if your company can’t talk about this problem of tech overuse, there’s all kinds of other skeletons in the closet you can’t talk about.

What companies are finding is is that when they open the dialogue, when they create a work environment with psychological safety where people feel safe talking about this problem, which by the way, nobody likes. Even hard charging bosses don’t like checking their email at 11 o’clock at night. Nobody likes this problem.

The idea, the challenge here is see if you can spark a conversation with a colleague about the responsiveness through technology in your work environment and if there’s some things you can start doing to potentially change that culture. I’ve got some resources on my website as well that can help you with that and reach out if there’s any questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Nir, thank you so much for this. This was a real treat. I wish you tons of luck with the upcoming book and all you’re up to.

Nir Eyal
Thank you so much. This was really fun.