This Podcast Will Help You Flourish At Work

Each week, I grill thought-leaders and results-getters to discover specific, actionable insights that boost work performance.

610: How to Communicate with People Who Disagree with You with Dr. Tania Israel

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Dr. Tania Israel says: "If you actually listen... then they'll be more interested in what you have to say."

Dr. Tania Israel discusses the fundamental skills that help us have more empathic conversations.

You’ll Learn:

  1. One skill to make difficult conversations more manageable 
  2. How to stop seeing disagreement as a threat 
  3. The two fears that keep us from actively listening 

 

About Tania

Tania Israel is a Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Raised in Charlottesville, Virginia and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Arizona State University, Dr. Israel is known for her work on dialogue across political lines, social justice, and LGBT psychology. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Rise.com. Build your team’s learning library–the fast and fun way–with Rise.com/awesome

Dr. Tania Israel Transcript

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

Tania Israel
Thanks. I’m delighted to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m delighted to have you. And I think the first thing we need to hear about is your knack for writing, not just books, like Beyond Your Bubble, but also song lyrics. What’s the story here and could we hear a sample?

Tania Israel
Well, I have a quirky muse, and she writes lyrics but not the melody so I have to borrow the melodies from pop songs and showtunes and Christmas carols and all kinds of things. And I’m a lyricist but not a singer so I’m going to spare you. But if you want to hear my lyrics, I actually just started a podcast with a friend of mine who teaches about Buddhism, and then I write songs about the teachings, and a friend of mine who has the voice of an angel sings them, so that’s a much better way to hear my lyrics.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. I remember, in college, taking a class about Buddhism and, man, sometimes there was head-scratching. There’d be a long Sanskrit word, like, Tathāgatagarbha is not a something but it’s also not not a something, it’s like, “Oh, man.” So, maybe bringing it to song will help clarify.

Tania Israel
It’s really something where the teachings can sometimes be murky but I can summarize it in a catchy tune, so there’s something for everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s a gift. Well, there are some murky stuff that I want to talk about and get your insight into. So, you’ve got a fresh book Beyond Your Bubble. Can you tell us, first of all, what’s the big idea here?

Tania Israel
So, the big idea is that it’s possible to have dialogue across political lines, and there are some skills that you can cultivate that are going to help you do so effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love it. And we love skills here and dialoguing across difficult lines, be they political, or the silos in organizations, or just your boss or teammate who just has the complete opposite view of yours, I think it’s so important. But you know better than I. Tell me, what really do we have to gain if we really master this skill? And what do we have to lose if we don’t?

Tania Israel
Sure. Well, this book all started because, after the 2016 election, it was pretty clear that we have some divisions in our country and that we weren’t communicating effectively across this divide. And this has been affecting us in terms of our relationships, our family relationships, our relationships with people in our communities, but also in the workplace. And so, this is one way that it really can make a difference in terms of work.

Employers are actually losing people’s time and energy to tensions on the political divide and the stress about the divide. So, it turns out that people are more stressed now about politics than they have been in the past. And so, really, this book is something that I wrote to try to help to remedy this problem so that we can both reduce our stress and also have more effective conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds great. And well, I’d love to get your take on this. To what extent is the stress, the fear, real versus imaginary? My perception is that it’s kind of real. I saw some startling stats about, and I forgot who did it, like the percentage of folks who don’t feel comfortable voicing their views, which I think was the majority politically, as well as the percentage of folks who said they might fire someone if they donated to the other side, which I found alarming. It almost made me think, “Well, maybe the smart professional choice is to not talk about it.” What do you think?

Tania Israel
Well, I think it is some real and it is some overblown in our minds. So, there’s certainly evidence that the country is more polarized politically than ever in recent history, and there’s also a lot of evidence that our perceptions of people on, what we would consider, the other side are distorted so we see that divide as being larger than it is.

So, if we’re imagining somebody who’s on a different political party than we’re in, we’re imagining the most extreme example of that that we’ve seen arguing on TV, and that they’re the spokespeople for that, and they’re super angry, and that’s not most people. Most people are somewhere in between there and that they can also be humanized a little bit so that they’re not these stereotypes that we have in our minds.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think that’s dead-on when you said distortion. I’ve got Jonathan Haidt in my ear because I’d listened to his book The Righteous Mind, and he said, “Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. And it blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.” And that powerfully resonated. So, if we are distorted, if we are blind, how do we get undistorted and unblind?

Tania Israel
Well, I think that there are a number of things that we can do. I think the first is just to be curious about people who have different views than we have. And so, if we recognize that we don’t necessarily already know everything about them and the way they understand things, then it’s going to lead us to want to know more.

And I ask people their motivations for…before the book, I had actually created a workshop, a two-hour workshop, that was building skills for dialogue, and I would ask people, “Why are you coming to the workshop?” And there were a couple of things that were the primary motivations. One is that, “I have somebody in my life who we have different views politically but I want to keep that person in my life,” and so that was a big one.

Some people are like, “I just don’t understand people who have a different view.” Some people want to persuade, some people want to find common ground, but these are sort of the most common things that I heard. That piece of, “I just can’t understand other people,” what I always say is, “Well, okay, you have somebody in front of you who could actually help you to understand. Wouldn’t you want to know? Like, wouldn’t you want to try to find out more from them rather than just sort of putting your framework on who you think they are and what you think they believe?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s well-said to not sort of just ascribe things to people. And so then, can you sort of show us maybe how that works in action with that curiosity? I mean, what do you ask and what do you not ask?

Tania Israel
Absolutely. Sure. So, like I said, the book focuses on skills, the workshop focuses on skills, so I’ll just lay out the skills that seem most important. First of all, listening, and it’s what Stephen Covey calls “Listening to understand rather than listening to respond.” And in my field of psychology, we call it active listening. But it means that when somebody says something that rather than saying a thing that’s contrary to what they’ve said, instead we give them space to say it.

And then we do speak up, what we say is we reflect what they’ve just said to us so that we make sure that we understand and they feel heard, so we sort of summarize back what they said. So, that’s the key piece in listening. Also, managing our emotions is important. Just even imagining dialogue across political lines, people get so riled up. In fact, people have been telling me that, as they’re reading my book, it’s just decreasing their stress about the idea of having dialogue with somebody.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds great.

Tania Israel
I know, which I’m delighted to hear that, so that’s fantastic. And then how do we try to take somebody else’s perspective and put ourselves in their shoes? And then when we are going to share our views, how do we do that most effectively? So, these are really the pieces that I think are important for the puzzle of making things work well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, can we talk about each of those skills? How do we do each of those things well?

Tania Israel
Yes. So, I was thinking about this in terms of “What does this look like?” And in the book, I’ve got a bunch of examples, like, I’ve got a fictional set of cousins who are having conversations about a lot of different things. But let me just kind of bring an example to you. Right now, certainly, racial justice is in the cultural consciousness, and so this is something that people are really struggling with in terms of, “How do we have these conversations?”

I thought, “All right. What if you see a friend or a coworker wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and that’s not the perspective you’re coming from?” So, you could see that and you could say, “Well, I think all lives matter,” so that’s one way of responding, or you can say, like, “Tell me a little bit about what you believe. Tell me a little bit about why you decided to wear that T-shirt.” And the same is also true the other way that if somebody is wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt and somebody comes up to them and says, “Well, I think all lives matter.” Then you can say, “Well, these are the reasons that I think Black Lives Matter,” or you can say, “Oh, tell me why you say that. Like, I’m curious about your perspective and I’d like to hear more.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That sounds simple enough. And so…

Tania Israel
It’s not.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Like, the words are not complex to formulate. But, I guess, it’s just sort of like, well, what happens next? Where do things get really interesting?

Tania Israel
So, I think that the first thing is even to have that initial conversation and ask those questions, it’s helpful to have a connection with somebody, that that relationship with another person if you already have that. And people often do have that with their neighbors, and with their coworkers, and with their friends and family members. They’ve got already some kind of connection. And so, if you have a sort of trusting relationship, it’s easier to delve into that.

One of the challenges right now is that there’s so much conflict about politics that it’s harder for people to feel trusting. So, sometimes you have to lay some groundwork in terms of having some positive interactions with somebody, finding some things that you have in common that maybe don’t have to do with the conflictual issues, and that makes it easier to start that conversation.

But the other thing that comes up is just the emotional level of it because the things we’re talking about are political but they’re really also very personal that they get to people’s experiences and also their deeply-held beliefs, and so that can obviously trigger us in terms of our emotions. So, knowing how to manage our emotions, knowing how to breathe deeply when you start to feel yourself getting riled up, to notice when you’re feeling flushed and your heart is racing, and to know how to actually reduce that stress, can be really important in terms of persisting through a difficult conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, tell us, do you have any pro tips for how we do just that with the managing of emotions?

Tania Israel
Absolutely. Well, it turns out that breathing is something that we all do every day, and that is one of the most helpful things if you find yourself getting flushed and heart racing and shallow breathing. Taking some deep breaths can be very helpful to…basically, what happens when you feel a threat is that your body responds as if that threat is a saber-toothed tiger.

And so, even if that threat is somebody saying something that you disagree with, or that feels threatening to your beliefs, then your body is going to react in that same way. It’s the sympathetic nervous system. And so, what we can do to counteract that is we can breathe deeply. We can also do other things physically. We can pay attention to the feeling of the chair under us, of our feet on the ground. You can even touch your own hand to soothe yourself a little bit. And those things can actually help somebody to reduce that stress enough to continue on with the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, there’s much I want to dig into here. So, let’s talk about that breathing more deeply. Sometimes I worry that if I do that, it might come across as a sigh, like, “Oh, boy, here it is,” and I don’t want to make that impression. So, can we breathe deeply on the sly or how do we do that?

Tania Israel
It turns out that because you’re always breathing anyway, that you can still breathe, you can change a little bit of the pattern of your breathing, and nobody needs to know. Actually, the best thing to do is to practice all of these skills when you are not in the middle of one of these conversations. So, doing deep breathing, practicing listening just with somebody who you super-well get along with is a great thing to do before you practice some of these listening skills with somebody who you feel some conflict with.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when it comes to the listening, you mentioned that we’re listening not to respond but to understand. Are there any particular kind of internal cues or prompts or questions, or how do you run your brain optimally so that you’re listening really well?

Tania Israel
That’s a great question. And when I do the workshop, I spend about half of the workshop on listening, and people tell me that one of the things that they get out of the workshop is realizing how hard listening is and sometimes what bad listeners they are because they notice how difficult it is for them to just stay attentive to what somebody else is saying rather than what they want to say.

So, that’s really part of it, is, “How do you keep focused on the other person?” And if you know that what you’re going to need to say, when you have a chance to speak, is summarizing what they just said, you’re going to pay a lot more attention to it. So, if you really think, “All right, my goal is to be able to listen so that I can say back to them a summary of what they’ve just said,” that’s going to help to keep you focused because you’re really going to want to try to understand it.

I think, also, if you know that you’re going to have a chance to speak later, then it can be helpful. So, recognizing that the conversation doesn’t have to be, “They say what they think, you say what you think, they say what they think, you say what you think,” that if it’s, “They say what they think, you summarize that back to them,” they maybe go a little bit more deeply into what they think, maybe you ask them open-ended questions, and you can stay with that for a little while to really make sure you’re developing a deeper understanding.

And then you can switch, so then you get to talk about your view. And what you would want is for them then to be focused on understanding more about your views. So, it’s doing the same thing for them that you would want them to do for you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great perspective there. It’s like there’s no obligation, it’s not a courtroom for you to put forth your viewpoint. I mean, sometimes maybe you’re in the middle of a meeting and the decision is being made in that meeting, okay, yes, we got to hear all the viewpoints. But it’s like totally fine if we maybe have a full conversation about Black Lives Matter, and then we just don’t get to my view, that’s okay. And maybe we’ll get to it later, or maybe they ask, and it’s like, “Oh, shucks, I’ve only got two minutes so maybe we’ll do this over lunch tomorrow.” And I think, in a way, it’s almost like a paradigm shift to just sort of be okay putting that aside, like, nothing bad will happen if you hear them and they don’t hear you.

Tania Israel
Right. Absolutely. And I’m going to tell you the fears that people have about doing just that because people tell me these things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Tania Israel
So, one of the fears is, “There’s a thing that will make all the difference if I just say it that…”

Pete Mockaitis
You think so.

Tania Israel
“…then they will understand things the way that I do, and that will change their minds, and they will come around to the right view.” And that is one of the things that I hear from people that they feel like they’ve just got to say this thing because it’s going to make all the difference. And so, here’s the thing I just want everyone to know – it’s not going to make a difference. That amazing thing that you think is going to change everything if you just can get it out of your mouth, it’s really not.

And so, I think take some of the pressure off of yourself to feel like, “Oh, I must say the brilliant, clever, smart, right thing, and it’ll change everything,” because it’ll probably won’t. And what has a better chance of changing things is if you actually listen and they feel like you care, and then they’ll actually be more interested in what you have to say. So, that’s one fear that if you don’t say that thing, then you’re missing that opportunity to change the world.

The other fear that I hear from people is actually, “What if I listened to their view, and what if it actually changes my mind?” and that’s a little scary for people because these are really deeply-held views. So, I came across this literature on something called intellectual humility, and there’s so much richness here because, really, what I think of it is how to be righteous without being self-righteous.

And so, being righteous is really about holding onto deeply-held values that feel in alignment for you. But you don’t have to then put down everybody else’s views, that’s when you get self-righteous when you feel like, “Mine are the only views that are worthy.” And so, if you have intellectual humility, you can actually have these deeply-held views and be curious about where somebody else is coming from, and help them feel humanized and valued even if you aren’t going to change your mind about that issue.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, there’s so much good stuff there. And I’m thinking about that listening in terms of your odds of persuading are better if you say very little or even nothing in that conversation because there will be another time in which your influence and receptivity has grown there by having done that listening. And I think that’s a powerful reframe as well just right there in terms of, “By saying less, I will achieve more in the influence that I seek, and it’s fine to have a breath there.”

I also want to dig into this notion that we perceive a threat like it’s a tiger coming at us when it’s really not. I mean, that’s kind of the human condition. But how can we establish more of a baseline level of chill when we go there so that this falsehood does not feel real to us, we’re not really under attack, it’s just another idea that we can try on for a second and see what happens?

Tania Israel
Absolutely. And I appreciate you’re sort of talking about the paradox there of listening versus talking, and what’s most powerful. And it does mean that we have to go into this in a particular emotional state to really be able to hear what somebody else has to say even if it does feel threatening to our beliefs. And I hear a lot from people saying, “Well, it’s not just my beliefs. Like, I feel like if that person holds certain views or attitudes about my group, about the type of person I am, then it feels threatening on a more existential level, on a more, ‘Am I going to be safe here?’ level too.”

So, I think, in addition to the physiological ways that we can ground ourselves that help to manage emotions, having a clear understanding of those people who are on the other side can be really helpful. And that’s where recognizing where we might have distortions and stereotypes of people, I think, can help. So, some of those things that we can do cognitively just to recognize that people are not necessarily the extreme that we would think that they are. So, I think just knowing that is useful.

I think the other piece is that the more we listen, the more we know that. The more we really hear somebody, the more we hear their humanity and the complexity of their perspectives, and the harder it is to stereotype them. So, I think that knowing some things before we go in, and then really just paying attention to somebody and being curious, can help to make that person less threatening.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk about growing the empathy over time then so you get a better understanding of where they’re coming from and how they might feel that way or conclude those things. Do you have any additional tips on how we can just have the empathy skill be stronger always?

Tania Israel
So, people have a lot of different approaches to building that empathy skill, and a lot of people actually find things in their faith traditions or in the field of psychology. I would say that these are some of the places that people turn to for developing more empathy and more compassion.

And so, I think if you have a faith tradition that gives some practice for that then that’s helpful. We’re talking about Buddhism earlier, if you have a loving kindness meditation that you do; if you’re Christian there are some teachings based on the “Love thy neighbor” kind of perspective; Quakers talk about holding people in the light. There are different kinds of things that people do for that that can help them to keep their heart open to other folks. So, I think if you already have something, that’s a tool.

And the thing I would say with that, and with any of the skills, is that practice is really helpful. So, always coming back to that and not necessarily thinking that in the first interaction you’re going to have with somebody, you will understand them and feel that empathy completely.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, I also want to zoom in, are there any particular phrases or scripts that you just love here? So, I don’t know, if it’s sort of, “Tell me more about that,” or, “I’m curious about this,” or, “When did you first believe this?” I’m just wondering, are there any things that you found, boy, again and again and again, they tend to open things up and be super helpful?

Tania Israel
Sure. One of the phrases that I like is “I’d love to hear more about that,” and just leave that open for somebody. One of the things that we don’t always do well is we don’t always allow a question to just be out there and then just for us to stop talking. Ask the question and then give them space to respond, because sometimes we’ll ask a question, like, “I’d like to hear more about that.” They don’t have a set response to that because it’s not what we usually do. We don’t usually sort of delve in more deeply. So, just putting that out there, “I’d love to hear more about that,” and then stop.

Pete Mockaitis
And maybe let’s back it up even before words start getting exchanged. So, use the example of a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, so maybe it’s that or a red Make America Great Again hat, it’s like a garment or a something gives you an indicator of what someone thinks about something, and you don’t care for that viewpoint. What do you recommend doing just like internally before we even start a conversation? Because I think it’s quite possible for the mind to leap to assumption, prejudice, judgment. It can be harsh, and it can be unfair, and it can be intense. How do you recommend we address that in ourselves if that’s there?

Tania Israel
Oh, that’s a great question. I think that it’s so important that we start with what’s going on internally for us. I think that the first thing is to notice that, to notice that that’s coming up for us, that we’re making these assumptions about that person, and maybe to start to get curious inside. Maybe you see somebody wearing a Make America Great Again hat, and you go, “Huh, I wonder why they made that choice? I wonder what their experiences are that led them to want to adopt that perspective?” And so, I think starting that curiosity internally, asking questions, rather than the sort of statements that we might be making to ourselves about that person can be a good start.

Pete Mockaitis
And what’s interesting, when you have that curiosity, and maybe this is a little bit too flippant or playful, but there could be any number of reasons that don’t even mean they love Donald Trump. Like they have lice and this is the hat they have available, it was a joke, it was a bet. They’re trying to develop these skills associated with having difficult conversations, they thought this would draw people to them. I mean, none of these are particularly likely but they’re all possible. And when you have that curiosity as opposed to assumption, it seems like it can take a lot of the intensity out of things from the get-go.

Tania Israel
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s true, like very likely someone is wearing that hat because they believe that, because there’s something about that that resonates for them, and don’t you want to know what it is? Don’t you want to know more about that? And I always think that that’s the most curious thing is that people say, “Well, I just can’t understand,” but when they’re given an opportunity to understand, they shy away from it, or not just shy, like forcefully push away from it.

And that’s actually probably the thing that I learned most from doing this work is that people have these motivations that bring them to it, that bring them to want to have dialogue but that’s not the only want that they have. They want to maintain this relationship but they also want to vent, and they want to feel validated in their own beliefs. And so, I think that having multiple wants is really important for us to really know about ourselves because if we think, “Oh, you know, I really want to have this dialogue but I can’t because the other side is not going to want to have this conversation.” I hear that from people a lot.

And what I know also is that, ah, people have a lot of reluctance to do it themselves because there’s another motivation that they have that either is stronger or, at least, is in conflict with that desire to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m thinking a little bit about defensiveness now. We talked about some of the work we can do internally in terms of being curious and watching yourself and checking the assumptions that you might be leaping to, and not sort of being really eager to ensure you put out your viewpoint. Do you have any other perspectives on how we can sort of preempt defensiveness? Because I think some people get defensive quickly, and some people are defensive only when they think you’re really coming after them. So, what’s the best way to minimize this impact?

Tania Israel
So, it’s really helpful to get to know people outside of the political conflict. Sometimes there are things we have in common. People can relate a lot to other people who are trying to raise children in the middle of a pandemic. Like, okay, maybe that’s something you have in common. Maybe you both coach soccer. Maybe there are things that you have in common that you can talk about. You don’t have to start with the thing that’s most conflictual. You can build some connection.

In other ways, I mean, if you just see a stranger who’s wearing a hat or a T-shirt, sure, you might not want to go up and have that conversation with them, and so you can or not do that. But there are people who might be closer into your life and into your community or your workplace, and then maybe you’ve got an opportunity because maybe you’ve already got some foundation with them, and then you can venture into these conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now let’s maybe shift gears a bit away from explicitly political stuff. So, let’s say you’re working with a boss or a manager of another department who’ve kind of inferred that, or they’ve explicitly said that they’d like you or your department to no longer exist, like downsizing or outsourcing, or something that also just kind of hits you where it counts in terms of “What I have to contribute does not seem valued.”

Now, that may be a fair or unfair characterization, but if you’re in that place, well, you still need to consider their viewpoint and collaborate and get to great decisions together. Are there any additional things that you’d highlight here?

Tania Israel
Sure. Well, there’s a lot wrapped up in that. One is that if there’s a power differential between yourself and somebody else, so you’re talking about like a manager, that can really affect things because that feels more threatening, and it feels like you may not be as comfortable expressing a view, or even asking more questions about it. So, I think that’s another piece that we have to take into consideration with these conversations is, “Are there power differentials that are affecting things?”

Okay, I’m going to get to your question in a moment, but I’ll just share that I was listening to one woman who was interested in dialogue and, partially, because she was trapped in a car with her supervisor driving somewhere, and her supervisor was just like going on and on about his political views, and not something that she agrees with, and she didn’t feel like she could get out of it. So, I want to speak to the managers for a minute.

This is something to know is that you’ve got a lot of power, and putting somebody in a situation where they’ve got to hear your perspective can feel really vulnerable for that employee. And so, I think really being aware of how that might be affecting people in the workplace is really important. So, that’s if you’re coming from the manager side, and that’s, again, about politics. So, let me move back to your scenario then.

Listening is still really helpful. Somebody says, “Wow, I don’t really know that we need the kind of work that your department is doing.” You can argue back and say, “Well, yes, you do.” But don’t you, first, want to know how they came to that conclusion because you’re not going to actually be able to make an effective argument to them if you don’t know how they got there. So, “Oh, why do you say that?” or, “I’d love to hear more about that. I’d love to hear more about what a bad job you think I’m doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Tania Israel
But, really, just asking, “I’m really interested to know how you got to that conclusion,” and then you actually got to be really interested to know.

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

Tania Israel
The one other thing that I’ll add, because I talked about listening and reflecting and summarizing with somebody says, and I think that’s really important for people to know, is you don’t have to actually be able to create in your head a transcript of what somebody had said and say it all back to them. The way I would describe this is what you want to do is you want to nugget-ized what they said. You want to get the nugget of something really important. And so, just know that if you’re listening to somebody, that’s the key thing, it’s like, “What’s the nugget of what they’re saying that’s most meaningful and important to them?”

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

Tania Israel
Sure. Lisa Slavid, who’s the fabulous cartoonist of Peadoodles and also did a drawing for my book, I first heard this from her, “With relationship comes grace.” So, in other words, the stronger our bond with somebody, the more forgiving they are when we stumble.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m going to chew on that for a while. Thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Tania Israel
I find myself referring a lot to the Hidden Tribes study that grouped people in terms of a lot of different factors related to political beliefs. And this actually helps with that, what we were talking about, which is that even though we think most people are at the extremes, they found that most people are in what they call the exhausted majority.

Pete Mockaitis
Exhausted majority. Yeah, that’s good. And how about a favorite book?

Tania Israel
Memoir is my favorite genre, and I just listened to Chanel Miller reading her own story in Know My Name, and it is absolutely stunning.

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

Tania Israel
I love the Pomodoro Method. And something that helped me to write the book was doing Pomodoro with colleagues on Zoom.

Pete Mockaitis
So, just like accountability there.

Tania Israel
Not just accountability but having company in it. So, yeah, that really helped me to stay on track and get the book written.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Tania Israel
I will sometimes record myself talking about something, and then I’ve been using Temi to digitally transcribe that, and that also helps me with my writing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. And speaking of nugget-izing, do you have a particular resonant nugget that you share that seems to really connect and resonate and get quoted back to you often?

Tania Israel
Some people seem to love this thing that I created that I called the flowchart that will resolve all political conflict in our country.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s quite a claim. It sounds like there’s lots of love there.

Tania Israel
Yes, it’s sort of nugget-izing my book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Where do we find that?

Tania Israel
You can find that, and all my other stuff, on TaniaIsrael.com.

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

Tania Israel
Be curious about people who are different from you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Tania, this has been fun. I wish you much luck with your book Beyond Your Bubble and all your interesting conversations.

Tania Israel
Thank you so much. It’s been great to be here.

609: Why You Need to Stop Multitasking and Start Singletasking with Devora Zack

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Devora Zack says: "You can either do one thing well or two things poorly at any given moment."

Devora Zack debunks multitasking myths and shares how singletasking can help you get more done– one thing at a time.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why multitasking reduces your efficiency 
  2. How to unplug effectively 
  3. Why we get addicted to multitasking 

About Devora

Devora Zack is CEO of Only Connect Consulting, a Washington Post bestselling author and global speaker with books in 45 language translations. Her clients include Deloitte, Smithsonian, Delta Airlines, the FDA, Johns Hopkins, and the National Institutes of Health. She has been featured by the Wall Street JournalUSA TodayUS News & World ReportForbesSelfRedbookFast Company, and many others. She is the author of Networking for People Who Hate NetworkingManaging for People Who Hate Managing and Singletasking. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Hydrant. Hydrate all the more effectively, efficiently, and deliciously! Listeners save 25% at drinkhydrant.com/awesome.
  • Magic Spoon. Enjoy free shipping on delicious, healthy, high-protein cereal that reminds you of childhood. Free shipping on the variety pack at magicspoon.com/HTBA. 

Devora Zack Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Devora, welcome back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Devora Zack
It’s a pleasure to be back with you. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear, you’re doing a lot of interesting work and research and speaking and training. Tell me, have you had any cool insightful new discovery since the last time we spoke?

Devora Zack
Oh, yeah, I’ve had so many cool discoveries since we last spoke mostly about how to transform the virtual environment into one where people really can connect in deep meaningful ways whether it’s networking or interpersonal connections. It can be done. And I’ve had a great time uncovering those possibilities and helping people feel more connected during this challenging time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that sounds so good. We might have to have a third appearance because that’s right up our alley. But we’re all prepped up to talk about singletasking today. But if you found some tools, yeah, maybe drop those into the favorite things and integrate some of that and the goodness here as a sneak peek. So, I want to talk to you about singletasking, sort of what’s the big idea here and how do you define singletasking versus multitasking? Like, what counts versus doesn’t count when we’re determining something multitasking?

Devora Zack
Well, just let’s start with understanding the foundation of my work, which is that multitasking is a myth. It’s actually impossible to do two simultaneously competing activities in your brain at the same time. So, when people claim to be multitasking, what is actually happening is what the neuroscientists call task-switching. And when we’re task-switching, what’s happening neurologically is our brain is very, very rapidly moving back and forth between tasks, and that has all kinds of negative impacts on our lives internally and externally.

It makes us less productive, which is interesting because the big reason people say that they “need to multitask” is because they have so much to do. So, doing that makes us unable to enter an emerging state or a flow state because, by definition, we’re not focusing deeply on one task in front of us. It lowers IQ and, here’s the biggie, it even shrinks the gray matter in the brain. So, multitasking isn’t really multitasking, it’s task-switching and it has a whole range of negative effects on us.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, those sound negative. So, could you share with us any of the most hard-hitting research, like the alarming numbers or studies or stats that would make us say, “Whoa! I’m convinced. I got to cut this out”?

Devora Zack
There’s so much. I think that what is alarming and overwhelming is that this international research done over the past 10 years in the highest esteemed institutions and organizations are all in agreement, they’ve all been consistent, that attempting to do more than one thing at a time is neurologically impossible, and that it does everything from harming our relationships, it makes us much less respectful than we used to be of people who are standing in front of us engaged in a conversation, and it also makes us feel professionally because we’re not able to maintain focus on one thing at a time.

And just as a quick aside, when you said I have a virtual environment, what’s interesting and maybe it links to singletasking, it absolutely does because it’s getting even harder now because we’re all sitting behind screens so much at the time, it’s very tempting to allow ourselves to be distracted.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, totally. It’s sort of like right now we can see each other but you don’t really know what I’m looking at. I’m looking at my prepared questions but I could be looking at any number of other interesting news articles or Facebook or you name it while, supposedly, having a meeting, and I’m not really there at all.

Devora Zack
And we have all kinds of reasons for that. We can say, “Oh, I’m very effective at doing this. I can get away with it,” or, “I’m being more efficient,” or, “The meeting is not interesting anyway.” But one thing I can say is that, just to do a reality check for ourselves, we know when someone else is not giving us their full attention, whey they pause between a question and answer, when they ask to repeat. So, we’re not tricking anyone either when we’re living distracted lives. I call it SBS, scattered brain syndrome, that we’re dealing with these days.
Sometimes people say to me, “But, Devora, I can multitask, I can go for a run and listen to music, or I can empty the dishwasher and talk on the phone.” So, that’s an important point to raise because it’s all touched in my book called “When Multitasking Isn’t Multitasking.” So, it’s only considered multitasking if the two activities are competing for the same brain space. So, if, for example, I’m on a conference call and I’m squeezing a stress ball, that’s totally fine. It’s when I’m on a conference call and returning emails that things start to fall apart.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. So, it’s like we can’t compete for the same channel or function stream or capability. I guess, are there…how might we segment that? So, running and listening is fine, stress ball and online meeting is fine, I guess one is physical and one is mental. How do we think about the channels that we have available that are distinct from one another?

Devora Zack
It’s a good question and an important question because we tend to err in the direction of thinking that things are not competing for the same set of our brain. So, for example, if I’m driving in my car, and at home, on a route, I take all the time, then I may not need as much of my conscious part of my brain as if I’m on a business trip driving in the rain in the dark and somewhere I’ve never been. So, we tend to overestimate our ability to do two things at once. So, I caution people to really think hard about, “Are two tasks really separate?” And as a good example, something that people think they can do, is walk down a busy street while talking on the phone. And, in fact, while we’re all aware by now of the terrible dangers of texting while driving, but a more recent phenomenon is texting while walking. And it sounds silly, but, in fact, there are people fall down staircases, walk into traffic, bash into other people, just because they think, “Oh, I can handle it. I can do it.”

So, really, to spend time in self-evaluation about not only, “What can I physiologically handle doing two things at once?” but also “Maybe I’m diminishing my life experiences personally and professionally by deciding that I’m never where I’m at.” So, part of it is being where you are. Like, how about, when I work with coaching clients, I often encourage them, to take a walk even for 10 or 15 minutes outside without their phone and see how that experience is different from what a lot of us have gotten used to. And the other side of all these studies is they’ve discovered that even if we spend 15 minutes a day being “non-productive,” like if we’re doing a crossword puzzle, or just taking a walk outside, that that actually increases our productivity by 25% overall.

So, there’s lots of good news too, is that by giving ourselves some downtime, for example, there was a Harvard Business Review study that found that if you take lunch, like even half an hour at work without doing work at the same time, that you’re more productive over the course of the day. So, if you got to feel guilty about, “Oh, I’m not working hard enough,” just reverse that guilt, and feel guilty if you’re not spending some time, I call it time-shifting, shifting down your time so that you can do things that maybe seem idle but actually are very rejuvenating.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Devora, I love that. And any encouragement you can give me to play a game of Fortnite or have a nap or take lunch in the middle of the day?

Devora Zack
Oh, I’m glad you mentioned that. Fortnite, actually…no, I’m just kidding.

Pete Mockaitis
She’s got it all. She’s got it all prepared. And I love the point about just sort of diminishing the quality of your life when you’re not paying as much attention. I remember, boy, when my buddy Mohamad was in town from Dubai, he was on the podcast, and we were just sort of walking in Chicago. We’re trying to find a place to eat, that’s the goal, we’re going to eat lunch. But I was just so happy to see him and having so much fun with the conversation, but I actually made the conscious choice, it’s like, “I’m going to devote zero attention to looking for a place to eat and all attention to chatting with and enjoying Mohamad.”

And it was funny, we walked around kind of aimlessly for a good while, which is fine by me, I’m sure. Any of the food would be perfectly adequate, and then we happen to bump into a great spot. But I think that’s a good point in terms of we can be, without even being aware of it, diminishing our life experience by not thoughtfully, conscientiously choosing “This is the one thing I’m doing now.”

Devora Zack
That’s right. We tend to blame our technology for the interruptions. There’s a section in my Singletasking book called “If Your Phone is so Smart, Can You Teach It to Heel?” and it compares smartphones to puppies. So, we’ve all been around puppies that are cute and adorable and lovely, and around puppies that are out of control and jump up on the table and don’t leave you alone. And who is responsible for that? Is it the dog or is it the owner? So, I think we all kind of know, it’s the owner’s responsibility to keep their puppies, to train them so that they’re good members of a shared society or sidewalk.

And we do the same things with our phones. So, maybe you and I are meeting for lunch, and we haven’t seen each other in a year or two, and I’m like, “Oh, darn. I can’t believe my phone is going off again. Just a minute. Just a minute. This is so annoying. Oh, no, here’s another text.” So, in reality, technology obviously can be a great friend of ours and super useful. However, we need to be in charge of it rather than letting it run away from us.

And there’s all kinds of tips and techniques in my book about ways to manage technology personally and professionally. So, I’ll tell you a fun one since we’re talking about going to lunch with a friend. I’ll tell you a fun one, which is that we can go out with a group and, depending on when you listen to this podcast, to socially distance if necessary, and everyone puts their screens, anything that have screens, onto a chair off to the side, and the first one to touch the pile of phones or screens treats everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. A little pressure.

Devora Zack
Exactly, a little peer pressure. And there’s a version of that you can use for work which I encourage people do, which is if you have a team meeting, is to give everyone, or have everyone if you’re working remotely, an agenda and a pen or pencil, and the only electronics that’s allowed to be on is whatever you’re connecting through, whether it’s Zoom or another platform, and make the meeting half the length of time with everyone committing to be fully engaged. And you’ll be amazed how much more efficient you are, and how much more community you build, and more better connections, because people are there actually together instead of being a million different places at once.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like that so much. Well, so we’re going to dig into some particulars when it comes singletasking and how to do it optimally and sort of avoid the multitasking and the distractions, and technology as being one of them. I got a real chuckle, you’ve got an appendix called “Retorts to Multitask-hardliners,” and I think I’ve been here before, and I think some listeners are probably here now, and say, “Okay, yeah, I think I maybe heard about some of that research. And that might be true for the population at large and maybe the majority of people in a given study, but, you know, that’s just really how I like to operate, and it really works well for me. And, boy, I feel so productive, so multitasking works for me, but maybe not most people.” Lay it on us.

Devora Zack
So, I would say, first of all, what kind of mistakes are you potentially making? Like, if you’re responding to an email and, in a team meeting, are you fully engaged or are you answering the questions? Did you hear the questions? And, at the end of the day, how much have you actually gotten done? And then compare it, just test a little bit, just spend an hour or two focused on whatever is at hand. And I really encourage people to start small, and you’ll be blown away by how different your work is and how different your mood is when you focus on one thing at a time.

Another piece of resistance people have to the concept of singletasking is they think that it implies that we’re somehow less productive, or we get less done, or we don’t have as many capabilities, and it’s not about that at all. You can get 10-12 things done in the course of a day while singletasking at any given time. So, it’s not saying you can only do one thing in a 10-hour period. Maybe you can do one thing for a 20-minute period, and that’s all you’re doing, and then you switch to another thing. And it’s the conscious choice that a lot of us aren’t making these days about “What am I committing to in this moment? Am I going to watch my kid play a sport? Or am I editing a legal document for tomorrow’s meeting?” So, just pick one for that time. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the other choice. It just means that’s not your choice in this specific time period.

Now, another resistance people have is they just don’t have the tools, like, we’re overwhelmed. So, set up systems that will not require superhuman strength to overcome temptation. So, an example is if you’re driving in a car, we all know we shouldn’t text while we’re driving, but,” It’s just this once, and I’m at a stoplight, and I’m late, and I’m lost, and I’m going to an important meeting, and I’ll keep looking at…” Like, we always have reasons to convince ourselves to do things that aren’t maybe in our best interest. But don’t require yourself to combat those reasons. Set up, I call it, a fence. Set up a fence to mitigate the temptation in the first place. So, when you get into your car, toss your phone in the backseat under a pile of coats and start driving.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that.

Devora Zack
And you’ll be cursing yourself, probably you’d be like, “Aargh!” but in the end you’ll get there alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. What is it, Ulysses or Odysseus kind of getting himself tied to his boat so he could hear the siren song but not be tempted to go toward it and its destruction? It’s sort of like you just decide, you cut off that option, it’s not available to you. So, there it is.

Devora Zack
That’s a great analogy. Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And so, I want to get your take in terms of sometimes multitasking feels really good. Is there some neuroscience or some dopamine or neurotransmitter stuff going on in terms of the sensations and how it feels to switch or do a lot of things quickly? What’s going on there?

Devora Zack
So, our brains crave novelty. So, if I’m sitting at my computer inputting data for three hours, and then something pops up on my screen that’s different, my brain is pretty psyched, so there is something to that. And then what we would do then is, there’s various techniques we can use, but one of them is to turn off all auditory bings and all visual popups so that when we’re focusing on writing something that we’re completely focused so we don’t get that novelty in there.

Another is to say give yourself treats. Like, if I’m going to work for 45 minutes, then after that I can do something that’s completely different. Create that novelty for yourself. And you might be surprised at how deeply you go into a thought state, and so I recommend actually setting an alarm so that you don’t have to keep looking at the clock or wondering how long it is. And then when your time goes up for doing your tough tasks, the harder one, then even if you’re like, “Oh, I feel like I could go longer,” it’s better to stop and take a break, because if we stop a task while we’re still excited about it, the next time we engage in it, we’re much more likely to have a positive feeling about it as oppose to if we work, and work, and work until we’re just hating our jobs, and then you’re going to avoid it the next day.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, that is just a powerful reframe for me personally. Thank you. To stop when you’re still excited about it means you’ve got some enthusiasm ready for next time. And sometimes I think it’s, “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be enthusiastic about this. I better milk it for all I can right now because it may never come back.” Like, if I feel like doing my taxes right now, that’s a rare event so I better really run after it until it’s absolutely gone. But, instead, I should stop while I still got some enthusiasm left.

Devora Zack
That’s right. It’s like an old saying about a party, “Leave while you’re still having fun.” What you can also do is to do a little self-awareness about why do you think this time, working on your taxes, felt okay. Do you happen to have music on in the background? Were there no distractions? Were you sitting in a different environment? Was it that you did it following an exercise? Just try and identify maybe what made it different so you can replicate that. And other times, it’s just a matter of you don’t feel like doing it. You force yourself to, and 15 minutes into it, it’s not so bad, and you’re in the flow.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay. Very nice. Well, so I’d love to get your take here, when you talked, you mentioned sort of setting an alarm or an amount of time, “I’m going to do this for this window.” You’ve got an approach called the cluster tasking technique. Tell us how this works.

Devora Zack
So, many of us have an activity or two that takes over our day and it prevents us from getting any of our bigger work done. So, as a way of example, for a lot of people it’s messaging, whether emails or IMs or texting, and we can spend all day messaging and then we never get to the bulk of what we’re here to do. A study, which wasn’t even that recent, it was a few years ago, so I bet these numbers have gone up, found that we look at our phones at an average of 150 times a day for a total of four hours.

So, what we can do instead is to put those tasks, that repetitive task, and for right now we’re just going to call it messaging, it could be a different task for you, and we’re going to find two or three cluster times during the day where that’s all you do. So, maybe it’s right when you get into the office in the morning, right after lunch, and maybe 4:30 near at the end of the day. And you can decide this is a half an hour block, a 45-minute block, and a 20-minute block, or whatever you decide. And so, during those times, all you were doing is reading and responding to messages, and during the rest of your workday, you’re not looking at your messages. And this is a tough pill to swallow, at first, for many people because you’re like, “Well, I have to be available all the time,” and so I’ll address that in a minute.

However, if you’re not like going off the grid for two months, if you do it three times a day, you’re only going to be not looking at your messages for a couple of hours at a time, and, as a bonus, when you are looking at your messages, that’s all you’re doing so you’re not distracted, so you make fewer mistakes, and committing to two different things at one time, or writing the wrong date for an event, so you’re way more efficient overall. So, that’s a great simple technique to try. A lot of my clients say it’s worked really well for them.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Devora Zack
Yeah, thanks. You give it a try. It’s very useful.
So, people say to me sometimes that they need to be available to others and so they have to always have their phones on and nearby. And a general true rule of thumb is if you try to be everywhere for everyone all the time, you’re never anywhere for anyone with full focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Any of the time, yeah.

Devora Zack
So, you can either do one thing well or two things poorly at any given moment. And when people say, “Oh, you need to be available all the time,” if I’m coaching someone, and I might ask some follow-up questions, like, “What do they think they really mean? They really mean that you follow through what you say you’re going to do, that you’re going to be responsive, that you’re clear about deadlines?” And people get used to the idea that “Even though you may not be available to me every minute of the day, when we’re talking, I get your 100% full attention so our conversations are more efficient and shorter, and I get the picture of how helpful it is.” And there’s going to be exceptions.

So, if you were on a conference center, and there’s a huge conference that day, you might need to have your phone with you all day, but just to be aware that there’s exceptions but, most of the time, to err in the direction of saying, “Here is when I’m doing this particular repetitive task.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I like that turn of a phrase there in terms of you can do one thing well and two things poorly, and I think it’s possible, although rare, that, you know what, doing two things poorly is the right choice right now in terms of there’s sort of a mandatory conference call of little value to you and to your team, but it’s, “Hey, everyone’s got to do this thing, so it’s like, okay,” so you just got to do it. But your desk is also a mess and even just a little bit of attention is going to make it better. So, you can make the conscientious choice that, “I know what’s happening here. I’m going to do two things poorly, and that’s the right answer. But most of the time it’s not.”

Devora Zack
And there’s also ways to work within that situation. So, for example, if, again, when I’m working with clients and if they have exactly what you just described, a mandatory department-wide meeting that’s two hours every Thursday, or whatever it is, that there’s an opportunity to, in some cases, delegate that responsibility to maybe someone who works for you who could actually learn from the call and it would be a benefit for him or her to be on that call.

You could say to the group, “I’m available for the first half of the call. So, the items that I can contribute to, is it possible to discuss this in the first half?” And this isn’t always possible, but I’m just saying to always explore options so that you really are where you need to be. And sometimes, also, you might think, “Oh, this call is boring,” and so you start organizing your desk, and then you might miss something, and maybe there was something interesting that just happened.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, there is the risk you take.

Devora Zack
But one thing for sure is that if you’re on one of those calls, you can tell when someone is doing something else, and they’re not impressing you with their professionality when you know they’re distracted. So, part of it might just be building a reputation with someone who’s present.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood, yeah. Thank you. Okay.

Devora Zack
I’m a tough cookie.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, absolutely. Sure. And I think there are some exceptions to every principle or guideline, like, “Hey, hundreds of people are out there, everyone’s muted.” Okay. But even then, you have options as oppose to it’s either/or, doing two things poorly or giving this my full attention. You can get creative and say, “Well, maybe I’m here for this part, maybe I’ll delegate,” so there’s many ways to slice it, which I like.

Devora Zack
Actually, one thing I heard recently is that doodling can be a very useful device in staying focused on a conversation. The doodling doesn’t take up a conscious part of your brain, and kind of releasing that extra energy, just by drawing images on a notepad can help people stay focused. That’s another new technique I learned recently.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if we’ve got some lifelong multitaskers, and this is kind of challenging in terms of training the attention to zero in on the one task, how do you recommend we develop that skill, that focus, that discipline?

Devora Zack
So, there’s really two parts of our lives, to speak broadly, that we can apply to singletasking. One is internally, and we’ve talked a little bit about that, like in our brains, how to manage our brains, and the other is externally, how to manage our environment. So, the first thing I’d say is start small and pick something that you can manage and that you think is doable, and also start with something tangible.

So, we have these smartphones and they’re incredible. As a matter of fact, I heard someone recently say, “Really, the phone is just a rarely used app on the smartphone.” They do so much more than just phone-calling now, and so that can be very convenient. It’s also our alarm clock. It’s also our camera. It’s also our flashlight. It’s so many things. And I encourage people to look for places to unbundle some of the potential areas of usefulness in our phone because it can lead to distraction. And a good example is we all know, and every sleep scientist in the world would tell you, the worst thing you can do before going to sleep is to look at your phone, for all kinds of reasons, because the blue light wakes us up, because there could be a stressful text popping up, a news report we don’t want to see. But when we use our phones as our alarm clocks, that’s the last thing many of us do.

So, how about investing in a cool old-fashioned alarm clock that you can play your favorite song to wake you up, and see what it’s like to wake up and fall asleep in a relaxed atmosphere is one example. And so, looking for ways to unbundle. Like, when I teach seminars, I time people a lot of times for timed activities, and for a while I used my phone because there’s a stopwatch on it. Then I realized that I wasn’t unbundling, so I got just an old-fashioned kind of handheld stop…what is it called?

Pete Mockaitis
Stopwatch?

Devora Zack
Stopwatch, right. And it’s great, and it keeps me focused. So, look for ways to help yourself succeed.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, before the stopwatch, I had it around my neck, and just even feeling the pressure of it around my neck was a little reminder, “No, no, I’m on the clock for this one.”

Devora Zack
That’s good.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, I’d love your view then, if folks think, “I am too busy for singletasking. I have to multitask,” then a part of the game is really just identifying, “Well, hey, what’s truly the most important thing? Like, what is really worth that?”

Devora Zack
Also, learn some of the science because you’re actually too busy to multitask. You will be way more efficient in getting things done by focusing on one thing at a time. And in my book “Singletasking,” I have some examples of going through a typical day while you’re attempting to multitask versus singletasking and seeing how the time flow works, and it’s based on reality, just through a lot of different people’s experiences, and it’s remarkable. So, we start off with like, “Oh, there’s this bad news.” But now we have this great news that you can live a more sane structured life by doing one thing at a time.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell me, just how many hours a day do you think is at stake here in terms of excellent singletasking versus poor multitasking? What kind of a lift, or a gain, or a timesaving do you think this adds up to on a daily basis?

Devora Zack
Maybe all our waking hours. It depends what measurement you’re using for what’s a good use of time. So, if you consider a good use of time being with a significant other for 45 minutes for dinner without anyone looking at any screens and talking about interesting topics beyond just the mundane? Do you consider a good use of time to be taking your dog for a walk outside? So, it depends how you define it. What I will say is that in terms of work tasks that there have been, again, studies that show that when someone is having a pure focus on one activity at work at a time, that they’re more creative, more structured in their output, they get it done in less than a few hours, and so it really works in your favor to be fully focused.

And some people say, “I can’t focus anymore. Like, I’ve lost ability to focus because that’s the kind of world we’re living in.” So, when people say that, I encourage them, or you, as you’re listening now, to think of something you love to do. Just think in your mind, if you’re listening to this podcast, of something that you enjoy, it really brings you happiness. And when I ask that question with people in the room with me, I get all kinds of so many different types of answers. Maybe it has to do with doing an athletic activity, or an instrument, or a craft, or a conversation with someone you care about.

And what we find is that there’s a correlation between that act, whatever activity you thought in your mind or said out loud, and the fact that you’re totally focused on it, that it focuses you when you’re doing it, that nothing else exists in the world, that if you love going to museums, and when you’re in a museum, that’s the only thing that exists in the world, or reading a book, or running a race, or whatever it is. That’s part of the appeal. And so, it also shows that you can do it. You can focus. If you thought of even one thing in your life that you really get fulfilled doing, then there’s a correlation in that and being able to focus your brain on other activities. And that’s called mental elasticity.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. Well, tell us then, if let’s say there are some interruptions outside your control, a sudden emergency, an interruption, how do you recommend we refocus?

Devora Zack
Okay. Great. So, I’m glad you asked that because there are emergencies, and we want to go with the flow when there’s an emergency, and it doesn’t negate everything else you’re working on when there’s not an emergency. However, we’re always looking for ways to manage emergencies. So, an emergency can be big or small. So, a smaller type of emergency is you’re being interviewed on a podcast, let’s say, and you’re working from home and someone barges in and starts yelling in your office, your home office, for example, so that would be an emergency you need to deal with.

But we always want to take it one step back, and say, “Is there anything potential I could’ve done to anticipate a possible emergency and how to make sure it doesn’t happen?” So, I encourage people to, very simple low-tech technique, put Post-It notes on your door, if you have a door where you’re working, at home, virtually or in a shared office, and make a note saying, “This colored Post-It notes mean don’t come under any circumstances. This one means come in if it’s super important. And this one means I just closed the door because I don’t like the breeze. Come visit and we’ll chat a little bit.” So, again, it has to do with setting up systems.

Now, let’s say there is something that distracts you and you asked about pulling back in. How do you get focused again? And I would say taking a little in-between time, like, “Maybe I got so scattered or overwhelmed by the emergency that I can’t seem to focus back on the work I was doing before. So, that’s a perfect time for me to let myself go for a walk, or to talk to someone, or get some fresh air, to reboot.”

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

Devora Zack
One thing I’d like to share is that singletasking is a relatively new idea, and it’s also a super old idea, it’s in our nature. So, when we were hunting and gathering, we wouldn’t have done very well if we were distracted all the time, so it’s kind of part of our ingrained human success. It’s ingrained in us to be successful by singletasking. And it’s also a new concept to a lot of us today, this day and age, and so to be kind to yourself when you try these techniques and to give yourself plenty of space to mess it up and to take two steps forward and one step back.

And there are a lot of activities suggested, and also that you can actually use in the book Singletasking. So, the first part of the battle is convincing yourself that it’s worth a try, and the second part is learning how to do it, just like some people are organizing and structure their physical environment, and for others of us, it just seems so impossible. So, there are techniques that can help you be successful. So, I wish you all the best of luck in it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you.

Devora Zack
You’ll be happy that you did.
Pete Mockaitis
Well, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Devora Zack
I love quotes so much. I change my favorite quotes all the time. Okay, here’s one of my favorite quotes right now. I’m sorry, it’s Steven Pressfield, “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb, the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

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

Devora Zack
It’s a scientist named Douglas Merrill, and he works on this area of focusing our brains, and the quote is “Everyone knows kids are better at multitasking. The problem? Everyone is wrong.”

[36:18]

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. And a favorite book?

Devora Zack
The Phantom Tollbooth.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job, or to help virtually remote-working folks connect all the better?

Devora Zack
My favorite tool in helping virtual folks connect all the better is in building connections among them through embracing technology instead of fighting against it. So, I teach a class called “You Are Not Alone,” and instead of saying, “Here are all the things we can’t do,” we take whatever technology each of us has and we figure out what we can do based on what’s right in front of us. And it sounds simple but it makes a huge difference in how we build connections with each other, and how we accept what the possibilities are given what the reality of the situation is.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; you hear them quote it back to you frequently?

Devora Zack
Yes, especially for people that are in fields like ours, whether you’re interviewing people, or working with people, or inspiring people, or writing books for people, what’s a great rule of thumb, because there are so many so-called experts out there, and I love this one. Elinor Glyn, an author, “Life is short. Avoid causing yawns. Be interesting. Be fun. Be unique. Be quirky. Engage people.” Life is short. We don’t want to be the cause of any yawns.

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

Devora Zack
My website is MyOnlyConnect.com, and it has tons of samples from media, podcasts, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, and all sorts of information about my three different books. Networking for People Who Hate Networking just came out in a second edition. It has tons of new chapters and sections that people are finding really useful in this day and age.

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

Devora Zack
Yes. It’s another quote but it’s also a call to action. It’s from Philo of Alexandria, and this is especially important today, “Be kind for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Devora, thank you. This has been a treat and I wish you all the best in your singletasking adventures.

Devora Zack
Thank you so much. You, too. I hope it works well for you.

608: Finding Extreme Clarity for Better Career Fit with Tracy Timm

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Tracy Timm says: "He or she with the most clarity wins in times of major uncertainty."

Tracy Timm discusses how to define your professional value and find greater fulfillment in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three types of fit that determine career satisfaction 
  2. Why an emphasis on job titles hurts our careers 
  3. How to get clear on your toughest decisions in one hour 

About Tracy

Tracy Timm is the founder of The Nth Degree® Career Academy, the proven career clarity system that helps high-potential professionals discover, define, and drive careers they love. She has a degree in behavioral psychology from Yale University and studied design thinking with the founder of the d.school at Stanford University. 

Tracy left a successful but unsatisfying career in finance, traveled once around the world on Semester at Sea, and discovered her ideal career. For more than five years, she has applied these lessons in her career advisory work with hundreds of individuals and over one hundred fast-growing companies. Tracy lives in Dallas, Texas. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Pitney Bowes. Simplify your shipping while saving money. Get a free 30-day trial and 10-lb shipping scale at pb.com/AWESOME.

Tracy Timm Transcript

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

Tracy Timm
I’m super pumped, man. It’s been a long time coming, some mutual friends between the two of us, and this is going to be a fun conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for your patience. It’s all my fault that it was a long time coming.

Tracy Timm
Oh, my gosh. Absolutely not. You’re a busy man.

Pete Mockaitis
We take our time when we investigate or stalk prospective guests, and, well, you came up tremendously. So, I want to hear, first of all, you have won three different national championships in two different sports. What’s the story here? What are the sports? And how did you do that?

Tracy Timm
I did not achieve that level of success again until I was a senior in college, and not in softball but, actually, I had finally got recruited at Yale to play softball, I played for two years, and then I quit the softball team to do other things and find something that I really enjoyed, and I started playing club volleyball for the team on campus but the club team not the varsity team, and we won a national championship my senior year. And, like, nobody saw it coming, it was the most random event of all time. Yeah, nobody saw the Yale volleyball team coming. But we had so much fun, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s lovely. So, we’re talking about you’re being unstoppable in the world of careers. So, I’m curious, do you think there’s a parallel in terms of your sports championship unstoppability when it comes to being unstoppable in your career?

Tracy Timm
Oh, man. Yeah, when I was getting recruited out of college, and I was finding that a lot of companies, and you might know this already, are really interested in hiring athletes because of the background of dedication and hard work that they’ve shown in one particular area of pursuit. So, yeah, I think that there’s an element of relentlessness and grit and persistence.

And the thing that I always tell people now is, like, especially if you’re in a job where you’re doing something like sales, or you’ve got quotes, or you have to perform to a certain level, when you’re an athlete, especially, let’s say baseball or softball, success is hitting the ball three times out of ten. A 300-batting average is excellent, and anything above that we’re like, “Oh, my gosh. Can you believe it?”

But that means bad athletes go back to the dugout seven out of ten times, so you have to develop this just like skin on you that is, “You know what, three out of ten is a huge win, and if I can do a little bit more than that, I feel amazing about myself.” You get beat down a lot so, yeah, I think that there’s an element if you really want to feel unstoppable of building that muscle over time. And, certainly, being an athlete would help with that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that three out of ten, I have a spreadsheet when I evaluate all these different business initiatives, and that’s just my assumption is that, “Yeah, there’s about a 30% chance this thing will work, and a 70% chance I will torch all that time and money and it will yield nothing.”

Tracy Timm
Oh, God. I’ve never thought about it like that.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, hey, hope your book takes off, Tracy, but…

Tracy Timm
Geez Louise, we’re going to be one of those three out of ten times this book. It’s a good book.

Pete Mockaitis
And if it isn’t, just write three more books.

Tracy Timm
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s all. That’s all, Tracy. Just do that. Well, let’s dig in a little bit in terms of so, Unstoppable: Discover Your True Value, Define Your Genius Zone, and Drive Your Dream Career. That sounds awesome. I want to hit, first of all, if anyone is feeling not so unstoppable because maybe they were laid off with COVID and they don’t know just how choosy or big dreamy they can be right now, what would you say to them?

Tracy Timm
My heart really, first and foremost, goes out to those people because we are in weird times and more than ever in, maybe, our lifetime, myself being only 32, about to turn 33, this is some of the most uncertain times that we’ve lived through at our age. But what I think we all could benefit from and take a step back and get some perspective on is that, yes, this is a kind of a weird crazy time, but, to me, the pandemic is just a reminder that life is crazy and uncertain.

And as much as we think we have control over anything going on, let alone our careers, it’s largely an illusion that we are dictating exactly where our future is going at any given time, which is not a reason to give up, but it’s a reason to maybe put where you’re going through right now into some perspective, and maybe take a little bit of the pressure off of yourself, and ask yourself, “Okay, if life is inherently uncertain, and, yes, we’ll get back to something that looks like a new normal, but I can never really depend on things the way that I used to, how am I going to respond? How am I going to react?”

And, in my business right now, what we’re seeing is that he or she with the most clarity wins in times of major uncertainty. So, when there are more people applying for the same amount of jobs and, of course, it’s going to mean more people with maybe better credentials than have ever applied for those jobs, I’m hearing crazy stories, like people with PhDs applying for jobs that don’t even require bachelor’s degrees type of thing, the question becomes, “How do I compete? Or, how do I find my way back to some semblance of clarity and confidence and certainty?”

And I think the answer has to be you have got to go back to the basics and figure out what is truly valuable about you as a professional and an individual and be able to articulate that value incredibly clearly to someone who is in the position to hire you or to employ you in some way. So, I get it, and it’s hard. It’s not easy to stare down the barrel especially if you’ve had a pretty stable existence so far, or maybe you’ve lived a very reactionary career so far, but I don’t think that those are your people. I think your people are the proactive ones who are looking for, “Okay, how do I make the most of this time? How do I bounce back better? How do I take advantage of this white space?” And it’s all about clarity.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that so much because that’s been my own experience with, boy, when I get really clear, results are happening. That’s just like, boom. And I think my problem is, I’m thinking about the StrengthsFinder, Ideation and Activator are two of my top strengths, and so I just get a lot of ideas and I want to do a lot of ideas, like, “Waah!” And then, in so doing, well, not a lot of things get all the way to the done finish line. And then when I’m really clear, it’s like, “No, no, Pete, I am completely certain that this is the critical thing that needs my attention right now, and, thusly, I’m going to do it,” then some cool things start happening.

And so, that’s my experience kind of in the entrepreneurial realm. And I love what you’re saying is when you’re in job-seeking, job-hunting professional career mode, it’s powerful, well, not only because I think you can dig deep and be super impressive and dazzle people with the research you’ve done because you had a narrower field of stuff you’re going after, but, also, that you’re articulating your stuff so well, it’s just impressive, like, “Okay. Well, that’s amazing. That’s exactly what we need,” or, “You know what, that’s not what we need, but you were so clear, this other thing over here is exactly what you want. Go talk to them instead of us.” Boom!

Tracy Timm
You’re so right. You’re absolutely right.

Tracy Timm
The cool thing, too, is that leaders want that amount of clarity. Like, we’ve had multiple times where graduates of our program have gone to their bosses and said, “I did this work and I know exactly what I want to do. And here’s why I’m the best at it,” and they’re like, “I wish everyone of my people could tell me that,” because they’re playing a guessing game, “We’ve got this sort of team full of athletes, if you will, and we’re trying to figure out what positions to put them in to get the best results of the business.” And if you don’t know your value, they’re definitely not going to have absolute clarity into your value either, so it’s only mutually beneficial.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so you break that into three components, they each start with D: discover, define, and drive. Can you give us a quick overview of what does that mean and how do we do some of that? And then we’ll go on in a little more depth.

Tracy Timm
Yeah, let’s do it. So, I find that what happens is a lot of people, if you were to say, like, ‘Discover comes first, define comes second, and drive comes third,” a lot of people in the midst of uncertainty, and, especially career uncertainty, jump to the third piece, which is drive. So, they start networking, and they’re all over LinkedIn, and they’re all over job boards, and they’re contacting recruiters, and they’re applying to jobs. And what they’ve done is put the cart before the horse.

So, I like to go all the way back to the beginning. When I deal with somebody who’s in any way uncertain, unclear, and unconfident in who they are as a professional, then we have to go all the way back to the beginning, we have to go all the way back to the foundation of what makes you you. So, in order to do that, we have to go through a really solid discovery process of what those individual, I’ll call them puzzle pieces, of your professional value are.

And then, once we’ve done that deep dive, that discovery part, that’s when we can transition into the define phase. So, once we’ve done all the discovery, we’ve got all your puzzle pieces, then we can set them all out on the table, create the framework for success for you, and put those puzzle pieces together properly, aka define your genius zone as a professional.

And it’s only when we’ve defined what your niche is in the world, your ideal best and highest value, what’s called your Olympic gold medal level ideal profession where you have the best chance of succeeding at the highest level, adding the most value, and getting the most in return, only then do you want to go in the drive component, which is, “Okay, now I’m going to actually take action on this. I’m going to network my tail off. I’m going to navigate with more certainty. So, I’m going to actually test drive my ideas and really explore with interest and adventure what it is that I can do, and really nourish myself along the way.”

So, yeah, I think you have to go back to the foundational components before you can really jump into the doing and the tasks, which is hard for people like me, frankly, who are like high sense of urgency, go, go, go. I have Activator and Maximizer in my top five, so I’m all about getting on the road and getting going, and 75% done is usually completely done for me, and I’m onto the next thing. So, yeah, I really encourage people to go back to the drawing board. And it may sound like starting over, but what it’s really doing is honoring all of the value that both comes naturally and easily, and from a values perspective to you, as well as that that you’ve learned and earned over time, and making sure you don’t waste any of that energy or experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. I think it makes sense in terms of, especially if it’s like, “Uh-oh, income has disappeared. I need that stat. So, that path through that is get a job. So, where are the jobs? I want to go after the jobs.” So, it’s natural as sort of an apparent knee-jerk reaction but I’m right with you that for it to be the most enjoyable, lucrative, complementary job, you’re going to have to do some of that discover and define stuff. So, how do we go about doing this discovering of our true value?

Tracy Timm
Yeah. So, I find that, you know, when I first started my business, my story goes all the way back to the fact that I graduated with a degree in psychology that I loved, but then I had no idea how to apply that professionally. I didn’t know how to translate that desire and interest and learning something into a role that I would do day in and day out, that I wouldn’t get bored with, and so I did it all wrong.

My first job out of college was on Wall Street, and I ended up being miserable and quitting that job, and traveling around the world, and spent every last time I had, and all that stuff. And so, one day, I just remember sitting down, the truth of it is I got fired from a job that was a horrible fit for me, and I was like, “Okay, self, like if this thing doesn’t work, like, what do you really want? Like, who do you have a heart to serve? And what problem do you want to solve for them? And who do you think about when you’re falling asleep? What is the thing that’s just on your heart?”

And, for me, it was that person that I was years before that who had all this potential that was just like bundled up inside and looking for a route out, looking for the thing in the world that you could go just slay at, right?

So, it took me three years to develop this methodology, and I was coaching people on the side, I was working as a human capital advisor.

And so, over that three years, I was discovering what elevates a person from an employee. So, let’s just say you’re an asset, you’re a line item on a spreadsheet, you’re having to justify your paycheck every two weeks, to, “What takes that person and elevates them from that to an asset?” Because once you’re an asset, you are irreplaceable. We’ve worked with all those people, where you’re like, “Oh, my God. How could we do business without Kim? Like, does someone else in the world have Kim’s job?” Probably. “Does someone else in the world have Kim’s sort of pedigree or whatever?” Definitely. But there’s something about Kim in that role, in that company, with that team that makes her unstoppable.

So, the magic combination I’ve found is three things. There are three specific ways you can fit into a company and three specific ways that a role can really be a deep fit for you, and if you have all three, then you become that asset in that area.

So, the first three steps are now, nature, and nurture, and this is exactly the formula that you need to discover what your niche is in the world, or your true value as a professional. The now component is made up of your core values and your commitments to yourself and your lifestyle, and that equates to what type of culture fit you’re going to be in a company. So, now is kind of your culture fit.

The second puzzle piece, or handful of puzzle pieces if you might say, is I call it nature. And so, nature is your personality, your gifts, your behaviors, your talents, and even your aptitudes, things that just come naturally and easily to you. And that’s how you become a strong behavioral fit in an environment, or a company, or a role.

And the last set of puzzle pieces I call nurture, and nurture is everything else. It’s what your cumulative life experiences have taught you. So, it’s education, it’s work experience, it’s even things in our 30-day program we call your ninja skills. So, that’s, “What did you learn from travel? And what did you learn from your hobbies? And what did you learn from your extracurriculars and volunteering?” All of that adds value as a professional person, and so you’ve got to write those things down and articulate what those values are. It’s skills, it’s knowledge, it’s expertise.

And if you stack those three items on top of one another, so the foundation is now, it’s your core values, and then you layer on how you’re naturally good in that area, and you layer on top of that what you’ve learned or studied or practiced or experienced, then, and only then, do you become this sort of Olympic-level athlete at your job. And then we can say, “Okay, if you’re Usain Bolt, then we know exactly the one event on the track that’s perfect for you. If you’re Michael Phelps, we know exactly the one event in the pool that’s perfect for you to win the most gold medals,” in this case, to achieve at the highest level, to have success, to have it sustainably, and to become an asset in a business, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, as opposed to a liability or just an employee.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if the now leads to a cultural fit in the organization, and the nature of the nature leads to behavioral fit in the organization, what does the nurture kind of fit lead to?

Tracy Timm
Job fit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, job fit.

Tracy Timm
That’s like, “Do you have the skills or the knowledge or the expertise to do the thing that you’re required to do?” And if you have all three, the cool thing is that you know how to do it, it comes to you also without having to work as hard as someone else, and you deeply value it so you’re likely to work harder at it than anyone else, and that’s the magic. It’s sort of amplifies or, what’s the word, exponentiates, makes exponential, your value because it’s layered so deeply into who you really are in all of those different areas.

Pete Mockaitis
What I think is intriguing here is that, I mean, you can be in roles that have zero out of three, or one out of three, two out of three, or three out of three. They kind of go all the way up and down. And so, I’d imagine that the flavor of discontentment you’re experiencing, if you will, would be kind of distinct in terms of, like, “I’m in over my head and have no idea how to do the things that they’re asking me to do,” would be we don’t have that nurture job fit in play.

Tracy Timm
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to, “You know, hey, man, I dig the way we work it but, I mean, who cares?” So, in terms of like, “I don’t think that the world really needs us to exist in it, and it wouldn’t be any worse off if it didn’t, but, you know, I like my coworkers and I could do the job, I can fly all over those spreadsheets like nobody’s business.”

Tracy Timm
And you know how insidious that is, right? It’s how people get stuck in these jobs that really aren’t serving them or allowing them to serve, it’s that there’s just enough. There’s just enough good about it, or, “I’m just good enough,” or, “I just got another promotion,” or, “I just got another raise, which is telling me that I’m good at this thing, and telling me that the world needs it,” but at the end of the day, you’re like, “Really? Is this what I do, the widgets? Is that what I’m going to be all about?” And that’s what keeps people up at night, but it’s really hard to break away from that without clear evidence that that’s what you’re supposed to do. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And could you maybe give us an example of, “Hey, here’s a person, maybe it’s a client, and how, hey, here are some things about their now, about their nature, about their nurture, that landed perfectly in a role, and it’s just as resonant and harmoniously beautiful”?

Tracy Timm
Yes. Okay. So, I’ll give you the first one that came to mind because I ended up hiring her. This is how perfect this was, and it just goes to show you that you may not think that your dream job exists, but I guarantee you, if you’re specific enough and you’re talking to the right people, it does. Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not out there. It’s one of those cases if you don’t know until you know, or you can’t know what you don’t know, right?

So, about a year ago, I had a woman come through our program who told me, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell because we saved her so much money, she was like, “Okay, Tracy, I’m 99% sure I have this 10-year plan where I’m going to go back to school and I’m going to finish my bachelor’s degree,” because she had a degree in Fine Arts, she didn’t have a proper sort of bachelor’s, “And then I’m going to go work in a school environment for a few years so I can get some experience under my belt. And then I’m going to go get my guidance counselling degree, so that eventually, 10 years from now,” after what they had decided as a family and they’ve calculated was $70,000 of college tuition and 10 years of work and/or college experience, she could finally be, ta-dah, a high school guidance counselor.

She’s 99% sure and I was like, “What’s the 1%?” She’s like, “I don’t know if I’m going to like it perfectly. Like, I know that I have a heart to serve people in transition, in transformation, and the underserved, and I think it’s this cohort of people, but I’m not 100% sure.” So, the more I pushed her, the more it’s like, “I’m like 50% sure this is right, not 99% sure.” I think she just convinced herself. So, I said, “Listen, make one percentage point of an investment with me to see if this is 100% what you want to pursue. And then if you are going to eliminate your husband’s 401K and go back to school, and yadda, yadda, yadda, and spend the next 10 years, you know that it’s right for you, you know that you’re not sort of putting good money after bad.”

So, she goes through the program. Within three weeks, so we’d only gotten through now and nature basically, we realized that her nature, she has an extremely low amount of formality naturally, like she’s really great at dealing with ambiguity, which is great, but if there’s a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of red tape, a lot of unnecessary structure in the way of how things get done, she gets really frustrated, really overwhelmed, and it doesn’t really work well for her, which may sound, on the face of it, like, “Oh, this person is unemployable,” if you’re out there thinking, “You can’t do my job like that.”

That may be true but there are definitely environments where that type of personality is really useful when you’re having to work with somebody through an ambiguous situation where you’re going to have to show confidence when they don’t see the end goal or results, and you have to handhold them through that process. It’s a really valuable thing to have if you’re working in an environment of uncertainty. That’s not a valuable thing to have if you work in a high school.

So, within three weeks, we knew exactly that this was a horrible decision that she and her family had made, so we saved them $70,000. She unenrolled, from school, because she had already started like potentially taking classes. And by the end of what was then an eight-week program, which is now a 30-day program, we realized that actually what she wanted to be was a career coach, which is kind of funny. The answer is not necessarily in the title. It just so happened that when we combined her now and her nature and her nurture, her niche was all about serving people through ambiguity, who are going through some type of transition or transformation, with deep emotionality and empathy.

And what was great is that I hired her almost on the spot. It was really funny. We’re in the middle of a workshop, and I was like, “Oh, I think I have an idea. We should talk about it later because there are other people around.” And she was my very first coach that I ever hired and trained to facilitate our programs. And the reason that I felt so confident hiring her without her ever having coached, ever, she doesn’t have a certification, she doesn’t have any of it, she consistently gets tens our tens from our clients because she’s naturally empathetic, so that goes under the nature column, and communicative, and thoughtful, and emotional.

She deals really well in ambiguity, so when our clients are like, “I don’t know if this is going to work,” she’s like, “Borrow my confidence. You got this,” and handholds them through the process. She has a theater arts background so she can actually mirror emotionality, and she knows how to show up for people in a way where they feel like they’re the only person in the room, and it’s not fake. It’s her training. She’s learned how to do that. And then her value set is all around serving people and allowing them to reach their fullest potential.

And so, there were all these really cool puzzle pieces that I would say the average maybe leader or manager wouldn’t necessarily put together, but because we put her niche together, together, I was able to see how these seemingly disparate qualities, from now to nature to nurture, actually complemented one another in such a way that it set her up to be successful in that role without her actually ever having physically done that role before. So, all I needed to do was teach her the program, and that was the last puzzle piece we needed from a nurture perspective. But her facilitating the program came easily because of the theater arts background, because she had actually led and managed people previously, again, all in different scenarios, but it was 100% transferable to working for me.

She tells me at least once a week, “I’m doing like my soul’s work. This is my dream job.” And it’s just so cool that I get to see that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’ve zeroed in. So, that’s the discover phase there that we’ve done, those three Ns?

Tracy Timm
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, how do we define the genius zone?

Tracy Timm
There are a couple ways to go about this. It’s kind of like personality and background and core values math in a sense.

When you go into define, the goal is to figure out how all those things come together and complement one another. So, one of the ways I like to do this is think about like a triple Venn diagram in your mind’s eye, so you’ve got now at the top, nature on the bottom left, and nurture on the bottom right. And what we’re looking for is the nexus in the middle. Where do those three things overlap? I find that the easiest way to do that is to just pick a value, so like pick one datapoint in your now piece, and ask yourself, “Where does this value show up for me in my nature? Is it a part of my personality? Is it a part of my natural behavior set? Is it a part of my gifting? Is it a part of my talents?”

And then ask yourself, “Now, what have I added from nurture to make myself even more dangerous in that area?” So, if I have a personal core value of caring for people, caring for others is like one of my top five core values, and then in my nature, I’m naturally an empathetic person who’s thoughtful, who’s socially-oriented, who’s outgoing, who’s really good at persuading, or whatever. And then, also, in my nurture, I have been in Toastmasters and practiced speaking and the power of persuasion. And in my nurture, I have gone through a transition and a transformation myself. And, let’s say, maybe that transition is I’m recovering from an addiction of some sort. And I can talk from my own experience, and I can be really incredibly powerful and articulate in helping people through that process themselves.

Well, hot damn, now we’re cooking with grease because we naturally care about it, it comes more easily than it does for most people, and you’ve put in some time to really gain skills and knowledge and expertise in that area. And then the goal is just to do that over and over and over again for each core value. And if you’ve got, let’s say, seven to 10 core values, which is what most of us have at any given time, then you’ve got seven to 10 core components of your ideal profession. And so, we just need to weave that into a narrative, it gets really powerful. That’s where you can start to really powerfully articulate your value and define your niche in the world.

Sans job title. I was just on a panel earlier today, and this woman was like, “Listen, the answer is not a job title.” Just like the answer to ‘who your life partner is’ is not their name. They have a name, your dream job has a title, but the reason that they’re your dream person is all the qualities that make up that job. And I think we need to reframe looking for careers like that. If we can describe the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our dream job, that’s so much more powerful than account manager or sales representatives. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true, it’s like, “I want to be a business analyst.” Like, maybe you do. Because even the title, I think that’s a great distinction because that title can mean wildly different things to different organizations.

Tracy Timm
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And, like, one organization’s business analyst is your nirvana, and the other organization’s business analyst is your hell, even though you might still be fiddling with Excel in both of them.

Tracy Timm
You’re absolutely right, Pete. I think you’re spot on. That’s the difference, and that puts you back in the driver’s seat, because if you can articulate your value that way, then you’re never beholden to someone else defining you, or someone else saying, “Oh, this is what you’re talking about.” Well, no, because you know, “Actually, it’s not this. It’s that.” And you know why and you’ve done the hard work to back up that answer.

We just graduated a girl a month ago who, two weeks, after she graduated, had competing offers for a job that she had been reticent to apply for because she didn’t think she had the experience or the accreditation to actually be chosen. Not only did she, she just needed to build the confidence that she did via the experience she already had, and she had competing offers within two weeks of graduating. And now she said she’s making $14,000 more a year, she’s working at a dream company, she’s able to leverage those offers against one another for better benefits and more flexibility, and their family is on like a whole new trajectory all because of confidence.

It’s just crazy to me. It’s not easy. It’s hard work. But I think it’s simple. I think the math is simple when you break it down.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve called it math, and I was intrigued when you zeroed in precisely. It’s like, “Well, we have seven to 10 core values at any given time.” It’s like, “That’s okay. Let’s dig into that,” because there’s a number of ways we could define that. You tell me, what do you mean by a core value and how do we figure out those seven to 10?

Tracy Timm
Yeah, okay. So, I have sort of my favorite process for figuring out my core values every year, and this is how we teach it in our 30-day breakthrough program. So, what I like to do is I call it the 10, 20, 30 core values brain storm. So, for 10 minutes, what you want to do is just think of all the things in your life that really move the needle for you. And some good questions to stir the brainstorming process for that are, “Where do I find joy? What lights me up? What makes me feel good? What gets me excited? What do I need to live a good life? Who do I need to be to be a good person in my own eyes?” It’s all about your core values, not anybody else’s. And if you’re going to take the time to do this, please rid yourself of the expectations of other people, at least for these 10 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I was going to say, to that point, so feel good, hey, I love positivity, but I think we might also say feel bad, like, “Hey, where do you feel guilty because you know you have failed to live up to something that matters to you?” With that asterisk that matters to you, as opposed to, “Oh, I feel bad because I didn’t call my mom enough,” and I kind of do that, but it’s not because of her expectations, because I really respect and appreciate all she’s done for me, and I love her, and I want to be the person who is a great friend and son, and grateful and giving to her. Hi, mom. She listens.

Tracy Timm
Oh, hi, mom.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yeah, I guess it’s not so much because of my mom is disappointed or upset with me, but it’s because it’s, no, that’s who I want to be, and I’m often not being that.

Tracy Timm
Yup, I think that’s really powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I feel some guilt associated with that.

Tracy Timm
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, we dig in a happy place, and then also, in the guilty place, so long as it’s purely your guilt and not inflicted from another party.

Tracy Timm
Yeah. Well, you can go to another level which is what pisses you off.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

Tracy Timm
Like, what’s the thing where you’re like, “Why don’t more people signal when they’re turning right? What does that mean to me?”

Pete Mockaitis
And that gives you so much insight too in terms of, boy, like if it’s a movie or a book or just something you heard someone do, or a news article, it’s like, “This is filling me with such joy and delight. Why?” or, “This is making me super angry. Why?” And that can point you to a value. But continue. So, we have 10, 20, 30. So, we’re starting with some questions for 10 minutes. We ponder.

Tracy Timm
Correct. And just get it all out and don’t judge it. So, it doesn’t need to be one-word values, and they don’t need to be like life-affirming. The last time I did it, one of the first two things that I wrote were warm kitten cuddles because I have two cats that I absolutely adore. And then the second one that I wrote was a bar where the bartenders know my name. Like, I like the idea of having a home bar, of having like people know you, of being part of a neighborhood. And so, those are what I wrote. I didn’t over-analyze them. I didn’t ask, like, “What’s the deeper value here?” I just wrote the thing, the thing that brings me joy, or the thing that makes me feel good, right? So, that’s the first 10 minutes. Don’t judge it. It’s brain dump. Get it all out.

The second part, for 20 minutes, is this is when you go and actually find a list of core values, and you either print them out on a piece of paper, or you look at them on a spreadsheet, and you’re circling every single one that resonates with you. All of them. And this is your opportunity to fill in the gaps. So often, the first 10 minutes, maybe you forgot something, or you had a mental block on some area of your life that actually really is important. This is where we’re actually going to find inspiration from the words themselves as opposed to try to pull the inspiration out of ourselves, if that makes sense. So, 10 minutes of brain dump, 20 minutes of reading words and circling them.

Pete Mockaitis
And these are the words that you dumped.

Tracy Timm
No, this is a whole additional set of words, so it’ll probably be complementary. So, the things that came naturally to you that you just dumped out of your brain might not be in these perfect value words.

Pete Mockaitis
And where do I find this value word list?

Tracy Timm
I use CoreValuesList.com. yeah, it’s not my own. It’s just 500 words.

Pete Mockaitis
CoreValuesList.com. Thank you.

Tracy Timm
You know what, it’s really funny. Enough people have asked me that that I should make my own page TracyTimm.com/CoreValues. But, heaven, I’m so lazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you might be able to put some flavor on it. Like, if they’ve got 500 pieces of raw material, you can do some categorizing and, you know, I don’t know.

Tracy Timm
I like that. I like it a lot. Well, so, now you jumped the gun on me because step number three is categorizing. At this point, you’re probably going to have 50, 100, 150 words or phrases, either written down, I like to do mine in a spreadsheet because then I can just move them easily. But the goal now is to look at your words and start grouping them in groups that are similar. So, if you looked through all your words, and you’re like, “Okay. Well, I have a lot that are on sort of health and wellness. It’s all different words, like, vitality and strength and everything else having to do with health and wellbeing, and it sort of falls into that category, and that’s what it is. That’s the value. That’s the underlying value of these words or phrases.”

The 30 minutes that you’re spending is getting your massive chunk of words down to 10 or less groups,
10 or less. Because if you have more than 10, it’s way too many cooks in the kitchen. If you have less than seven, I would argue that you’re not specific enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Tracy Timm
Yeah. And that’s how you figure out your core values. And what I like to do is, at the end of the hour, 10, 20, 30, at the end of the hour, look at your groups and give them names that resonate with you. If that’s just words then it’s just words for you. If it’s phrases, then give them like a really strong powerful phrase. I’ve had clients do mythical characters or historical figures, so they picked like George Washington was their whole category is, let’s say, honesty or whatever, and that’s really what resonates for them.

Pete Mockaitis
Self-sacrifice. George Washington. What a guy.

Tracy Timm
Right. Hardworking and whatever, yeah. But how powerful is George Washington as a value for that person because of the image that it conjures, and how much more powerful is it then hardworking or honest or self-sacrifice?

Pete Mockaitis
Like, generous. You’re right, it stirs something in you because you’re like, “Man, when I was listening to 1776, like, this dude was wow, you know.”

Tracy Timm
Yeah. And core values are only as powerful as you make them, right? So, it’s these platitudes that you put on the wall and you don’t ever use, and the words don’t even resonate with you. Why are you laughing so hard?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now you got me thinking. It’s fun. You’re right. Like, you get to be you and expressive, and so now I’m thinking of myself. Like, as a child, one of my…well, I guess I still play it today a couple times a year. There’s this strategy game called Master of Orion, super dorky, on a computer.

Tracy Timm
All right.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it launched me into strategy consulting and strategic thinking stuff.

Tracy Timm
I love this, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if I were to sort of play this game, but that’s also important to me, it’s like using resources well, like, being a good steward of them. I also just enjoy it, like strategically optimizing, like, “Hmm.”

Tracy Timm
Oh, totally. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if you could put that as one of my values is that I am the Master of Orion.

Tracy Timm
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Which is so dorky, which is why I’m laughing. It’s so dorky but, to me, it is very meaningful.

Tracy Timm
It’s so accurate.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, I know what that means and I want to be that.

Tracy Timm
And I want to be that. Exactly. I got to tell you. The best ones are the people who are creative that’s because I’m a creative person. I find the ones that resonates really powerfully for people, they actually go that extra mile, and it’s this uber specific thing that only they understand but it fully encompasses the value, if that makes sense.

One of my absolute favorites was this girl, she was one of our workshop participants a while back, and she was like, “One of my core values is ‘Welcome to my party.’” And she said it just like that, “Welcome to my party,” and I was like, “I’m sorry. What?” And she’s like, “It’s this one specific memory I have where I hosted this incredible party, and so many people came and I was so engaged as the host that I lost my voice. And so, by the end of the night, I was like, ‘Welcome to my party.’” And she said people made fun of her forever, but what it encapsulated for her was this sense of like providing a space for people to have a great time, and how much energy she got from that, and how much joy she got from that, and she loved being in charge. So, it’s actually a more complex value but it was so perfect for her that it’s Master of Orion for you. It’s fabulous. I love that. So, I think that’s how you do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, if I may, can I put you on the spot, drop it on us, your seven to 10 core values in all of their unique flavors?

Tracy Timm
You want to know them?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Tracy Timm
All right. You know what, you’re so lucky, Pete, I actually have these up on a spreadsheet all the time because I like to refer back to them whenever I’m making decisions. This is the cheat code for life. If you have your core values figured out ahead of time, and someone says, “Hey, do you want so-and-so to potentially be your business partner and make an investment and take 50% of your business?” or somebody is like, “Hey, would you consider even coming to this event that I have to go to later tonight or do you need to go take care of your mom?” or, “Hey, do you want to spend your money on this vacation or do you want to spend your money over here?”

If you already have your values figured out ahead of time, it is the equivalent of a life-easy button because you can look at your core values, and you can go, “Ugh, that doesn’t even fit number one. Out.” You don’t have to lose sleep. You don’t have to be overly-emotional about it. It’s amazing. So, literally, I pull these out all the time. Like, I was entertaining a potential business partner earlier this year, and my gut was telling me, like, “Uh-oh, I don’t know. Don’t you want to be Sara Blakely and own 100% of SPANX? And do you really want to give this away?” And it was all ego-driven, right? It was all sort of in-the-moment, emotional, reaction and response.

And then when I actually wrote, I literally did this, Pete, I wrote my core values in the middle of a piece of paper, and then on the left, I put a pro column, and then on the right, I put a con column, and then anything that this…if saying yes to this partnership produced a pro that had to do with core value number one, I had to write it on the left, but if it produced a con, I’d write it on the right. And by the time I was done, I had five to seven pros for every con on the other side, and I was like, “Oh, the better version of me who deeply thought about what mattered ahead of time is telling this current ego-driven emotional version of me, ‘Hey, dummy, you already did the hard work. Why are you thinking about this so hard? It makes sense. Let’s move forward.’” And it made me feel so much better about my decision.

Okay. So, my top 10 core values. Number one is “deeply in tune” which is feeling divine, grateful, faithful, and hopeful, so it’s kind of how I live my faith. I’m Catholic so I’m pretty into that. But even beyond that, it’s like, “Am I listening? Am I grateful? Am I thoughtful about my career decisions? Am I hopeful about the future? Do I feel aligned?” Number two is “it takes a village.” This is a new one this year because Tracy Timm was rowing the business canoe alone for about five years, and my arms got real tired, so “it takes a village” is feeling supported, loved, comforted, and connected. If I’m living those two values, then I also get to live my third value, they’re all in a row, which I highly advise people do, my third value is “in my element” which is feeling confident, capable, masterful, and impactful. So, if I’m deeply in tune, and I have the right people on my team, I get to be in my element more often than not.

Which then, if I’m in my element, I get to be number four, which is “fully alive,” so that’s feeling excited, eager, adventurous, and awake. Being awake is such an important word to me because I feel like I lived a good portion of my life as a zombie, and I don’t want that for myself or anybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
I can’t help but tie together Catholic and fully alive with Saint Irenaeus. Oh, my God, was this man fully alive. That’s one of my faves.

Tracy Timm
Thank you for that. Oh, my gosh. I feel so affirmed. Yes, love it. So, if I’m fully alive then I get to be number five which is “in the moment.” And, for me, in the moment means engrossed, and aware, and connected, and kind of full of wonder. Like, I tend to be the kind of anxious fearful person more than I am the full of awe and wonder person, but I really aspire to that value so that’s why that’s my fifth value.

Number six was a personal sort of plea for myself at the beginning of the year. Number six is “less is more,” and that was feeling uncluttered and organized, synergistic and prosperous. So, how could I eliminate to create more? And I told myself, by the end of the year, that meant that I was going to commit to like Marie Kondo-ing/home-editing my world, and I’ve made like baby steps in that direction but it’s only September, so we’re going to get there.

Seven is “serenity pool.” Have you ever floated in one of those float chambers?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’ve wanted to but I haven’t done it yet.

Tracy Timm
It’s worth it. I wouldn’t do it for longer than 45 minutes. I got a little antsy and bored by the end of it, but the first 30 is just like, “This is heaven.” So, serenity pool for me is feeling light, and peaceful, and balanced, and harmonious, and putting enough in my life to create that on purpose. Number eight is “vitality or bust,” which speaks a lot to me because I need to give myself good strong boundaries. So, vitality or bust is way better than feeling fit, or whatever. It’s like, “No, you’re going to do this.” And so, that’s feeling strong, fit, energy-rich, and energy-giving.

And then the last two are “keep going,” which is something I have to tell myself basically every day, which is feeling determined, dedicated, resilient, and resourceful. And then the last one is called “living inside out,” which, to me, means being authentic, being heard, being understood, and being genuine in that exchange with people. So, wow, I’ve just laid it all out there. It is bare.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. I appreciate it. And it shows, I mean, the vulnerability and the realness, and like straight up, that’s what really matters to you. There it is.

Tracy Timm
It is, and I put in the work to figure that out. And it took about an hour or two hours to do. I do it once a year in January, my whole team does it in January. We get together and we sort of go over and what’s everyone’s values for the year. It’s part of our annual meeting so that I know what my people care about, and they know what I care about. And so, if we’re showing up to work, we’re there to do our jobs but it also serves our own values.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I love it. We’ve talked about values a few times on the show but I don’t know if we ever quite got this raw and precise.

Tracy Timm
Nice. I’m glad.

Pete Mockaitis
So, kudos and thank you. Glad we went there.

Tracy Timm
Thanks for asking the question. That’s all you.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for getting there. All right. Well, let’s see, wow so much good stuff. I asked, hey, drive, I mean, there’s plenty of tips on that but go ahead and lay it on us, one or two tips, tactics, that just rock when it comes when you’re actually the job hunting?

Tracy Timm
I have two for you. Once you know your niche, well, now you just got to put your vision into action. And there are two things that I think we don’t do enough of that everyone should be doing if you’re in the process of discovering your ideal career or making any type of professional transition or transformation whatsoever.

Number one is, our maxim in the business is 10 minutes in front of a human being is worth 10 hours of online research. So, if you aren’t actively speaking to other human beings about your niche, about what you’re pursuing, about what it looks like, the who, what, when, where, why, describing it to them, talking to them about your transition, anything, if you are going back to the fear of living behind the computer screen, which I know it’s easy for us to do, especially us millennials, shame on us, right, we forgot how to talk to humans, you are wasting time. Categorically wasting time. Ten minutes in front of a human being is so much more of a dynamic engagement and interaction that could not be replaced with 10 hours of Googling and job boards and LinkedIn updates and things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And when you spend that time, you suddenly have so much richer stuff to Google, it’s like, “I’ve never heard of that company. It sounds amazing.

Tracy Timm
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
And then that time you spend, it just has a whole different energy to it, like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t wait to learn about this thing. It sounds amazing,” as opposed to, “So, what are some business analyst opportunities in the Chicago area?”

Tracy Timm
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe that is the appropriate thing to look for but it’d be great if you had that gusto and that certainty from having tapped into someone else’s brilliance.

Tracy Timm
Well, yeah, because, remember, this is How to be Awesome at Your Job, not How to be Mediocre at Life. So, if you want to be awesome, talk to other people who can show you, “Okay, yeah, you’re almost there. But if you want all the things you want in a job, you should be looking here. This is what you’re really describing. And it lives here and it exists here, and it’s called this,” which is not something that Google is ever going to autocorrect you for, you know.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Tracy Timm
So, that’s number one, we call that network. That’s step one in sort of this drive part of the process, and it’s everybody’s least favorite part, like nobody wants to “network” because they think it’s awkward and they’re going to talk to people they don’t know, and 99 times out of 100, you have a preexisting amazing network that you’re just not tapping. They want to help but they don’t know how to help you, they don’t know what you want, and all they need you to do is go to them and tell them what you want. It’s brilliant. But you have to ask.

And so then, the second piece of advice in drive I call “navigate,” which is really just a fancy way to say test drive your options, like have an informational interview, go shadow someone, do not be the person that accepts a job, or applies for a job without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Like, investigate what you’re pursuing. Inspect what you expect. And the easiest way to do that is to test drive your assumptions.

And the only thing that keeps us from doing that is we’re afraid to be wrong 100% of the time. It’s like, “Oh, well. But if I just accept this then my job search is done, and I can wash my hands of this and I’ll be happy. I’m sure of it.” And every time I’ve done that, I’ve been ignoring a blaring siren red flag going, “This thing is not in alignment with your core values,” or, “This thing is going to make you turn your nature inside out,” or, “This thing is going to make you feel like you’re in over your head all the time. And even though you’re a fast learner, it’s not going to be fun for you.”

So, test drive your options and assumptions. And I listened to another woman today talk about this, and she was like, “Be curious. Have fun with it. It’s not a right or wrong, live or die, type of thing. It’s be curious. Ask the follow-up question. Follow somebody around. Ask about their day-to-day.” And the things that you learn from that navigation component of the job search they will either affirm to you that this is going to be life-giving and wonderful, or they will allow you to dodge the unnecessary bullet more often than not.

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

Tracy Timm
My call to action is whenever I’m uncertain about things, especially life and career things, I like to go back to logic and reason and what I know to be true. Like, what ultimate truth is there? And my favorite anecdote about this that really spurs me to action anytime I’m afraid to try something, or anytime I’m afraid to really go for something, is that I met this guy on Semester at Sea, who’s a professor of psychology, and he taught me. I was just in the pits of despair.

And I was so deeply unhappy with my career at that point, and I asked him, like, “Listen, is this just how it has to be? Do I just have to suck it up? Is this what work is? It pays well, so I guess I get to have a lifestyle that’s nice, that’s fun. But 12 hours a day, five days a week, I’m pretty unhappy. Is that just how it has to be? Or, should I go for it? Should I actually try to find…?” because even then I didn’t know what it was, but I was like, “Should I go try to figure it out?” And he was like, “Tracy, it is always worth it to take your meaningful shot for the stars because the way that our brain processes regrets is that you will regret infinitely more something that you didn’t do than something that you did and failed at.”

Those are the only things you can regret, one is called regrets, or sins of omission, that’s the thing you didn’t do, and the other one is a sense of commission, that’s the things you did wrong. And the reason that you regret things you didn’t do infinitely more is because there’s no answer, and your brain is looking for the end of the story. It’s looking for what happened as a result of that action. But because you didn’t do anything, there is no result. There are, in fact, though, an infinite number of potential results, the what-ifs, and the would’ve-beens, and things like that, that literally haunt us, and have the opportunity to haunt us our whole lives not because we regret it inherently more but because our brain is looking for that solution.

So, if you’re out there on the fence, and you’re like, “How do I be awesome?” live a regret-free life, and go for the things you want. And if nothing else convinces you to do it, let the logic of the fact that you’re never going to regret failing at something more than you’re going to regret wondering what would’ve happened. That’s one my favorite pieces of advice.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Well, now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Tracy Timm
The first is the one that I discovered most recently which is Einstein, which is, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life feeling stupid.” That was my very first job out of college. I was a really hardworking fish, climbing a really big tree, and feeling like, “Why isn’t this working?” And I think a lot of people feel that way. And if that’s you, get yourself out of that. The other is, “Don’t ask what the world needs? Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who’ve come back to life,” and that’s Howard Thurman. And that’s really what is one of the cornerstones of our business core values, it’s like, “Let’s bring people back to life.”

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Tracy Timm
I think my favorite psychological phenomenon that’s been studied a lot is cognitive dissonance. So, it’s the idea that your body and your mind cannot exist for very long at odds with one another, which means if you believe something but you behave in a different way, then something has to give. Either you have to change your behavior or you have to change your beliefs.

And I’m of the belief that a lot of people are suffering for longer than they have to, because instead of changing their behavior, whether it’s in their life or their career or anywhere else in their life really, they haven’t changed their behavior, they’ve convinced themselves of a different set of beliefs, and so they’re suffering longer because, really, deep down, they don’t believe that. They’ve only made it logical or reasonable to explain away their behavior. So, cognitive dissonance, I think, is huge, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m about to ask you for a favorite book. I’m currently reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) about cognitive dissonance, which is amazing. I recommend it. What’s a favorite book that you’d recommend?

Tracy Timm
Well, Unstoppable, the career book for you, and please go check that out UnstoppableCareerBook.com. I’d appreciate it. But if you’re not going to read my book, I would highly recommend that you read, maybe in addition, this book, it’s a total throwaway coffee table book but it was a game changer for me, it’s called If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules, and it’s by Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott.

And she wrote it originally as a list of like eight rules for living that was published in the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul, and then Jack Canfield tracked her down and said, “I know you wrote this. Can I attribute this to you?” because in the original printing, it was anonymous. And because of that conversation, she was inspired to write the book where she explains each of the rules in detail. So, each of the rules for living comes with like four or five different virtues that when you sort of master those virtues, you’ve mastered that rule for living. It’s powerful. It’s really powerful.

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

Tracy Timm
TracyTimm.com. In fact, I’m going to go ahead, for your audience, create a little landing page, TracyTimm.com/awesome is where you can go, and you can get all kinds of freebies there specifically if this is resonating with you. You can book time with somebody on our team to just talk about what’s not working in your career, and we can help you get on the right path, and that’s absolutely free. So, TracyTimm.com/awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Tracy, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all of your unstoppable adventures.

Tracy Timm
Thank you so much, Pete. I just appreciate what you’re doing for the world, and I know everybody out there, I don’t know how they don’t adore you. You’re an absolute treat. So, thank you so much for having me.

607: How to Make Any Work Energizing and Motivating with Todd Henry

By | Podcasts | No Comments

Todd Henry says: "It's about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically."

Todd Henry explains how to tap into your personal motivation code to bring more energy and excitement to your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What it really takes to create lasting motivation
  2. How our motivations distract us—and how to curb that
  3. The 27 flavors of motivation

 

About Todd

Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work. He is the author of five books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and the longtime host of The Accidental Creative podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Magic Spoon. Enjoy free shipping on delicious, healthy, high-protein cereal that reminds you of childhood. Free shipping on the variety pack at magicspoon.com/HTBA.
  • Rise.com. Build your team’s learning library–the fast and fun way–with Rise.com/awesome

Todd Henry Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really excited to dig into your wisdom but, first, I want to understand, you’ve got a secret music album project you’ve been working on. What’s the story here?

Todd Henry
I’m really curious how you even know about that because I’ve only mentioned it very briefly, like a couple of times but, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
We have a prompt on the form when you booked the interview that says, “Tell us something nobody knows about you.” I stole that from Lisa Cummings, her Strengths podcast. It’s like I’m so thrilled.

Todd Henry
I guess I told you then I guess that’s how it happened. I don’t even remember that. Okay, yeah. So, I think maybe we talked about this the last time I was on the show, but I have a background in the music business. I spent a handful of years after college playing music and traveling and all that, and then, frankly, kind of put that on the shelf for a number of years.

And then, for whatever reason, about seven months ago, right before COVID, I picked up my guitar and I just started writing songs again. So, it’s been a really fun, what I call unnecessary creating project, that’s what I call that discipline, is having something in your life you’re creating that’s not your work, something that’s not about you, it’s not about your clients.

So, for the last handful of months, I’ve been putting together a music project, which is just kind of fun, which, by the way, is for my ears only, and maybe like family and select friends so it won’t be coming to a Spotify app near you anytime soon. But it’s just been fun to really explore that side of my creativity again after 20 years. And, to be frank, I’m like really blown away at how different it is recording now versus 20 years ago. What I can do now in my home office is the equivalent of what I would’ve spent 20 grand on in a studio 20 years ago just because of what’s available, app-wise. So, it’s pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is wild. I love playing that stuff, like the iZotope RX7, 8 is out now, just a few days ago in terms of…well, we can dork out. But I think it sets the stage well, like, hey, your expertise is creativity but your latest book is called The Motivation Code. Kind of what’s the connection or how did you scooch on over into the realm of motivation?

Todd Henry
Yeah, this was a very unexpected book for me to write, not just in terms of people who read my work but for me, it was very unexpected. About four years, a friend of mine, Rod Penner, who was a veteran of a management consulting firm, he had left the firm several years before but I didn’t know what he was working on, and he just reached out to me, he said, “Hey, I want you to take this motivation assessment I’ve been working on.” That was in 2016.

And I don’t know about you, Pete, but I’m sort of one of those guys who kind of roll my eyes whenever I hear, “Oh, here’s an assessment you should take,” because I always think like those quizzes in magazines are something like, “Which Harry Potter house are you a part of?” Like, that’s what I always kind of think, I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” And he’s like, “No, no, no, this is different. You need to take this.”

And so, I did. And, frankly, what I discovered completely blew my mind. I mean, it just really, really amazed me how accurately this assessment described things like why I make the same mistakes over and over again in my life, why some tasks are unbelievably energizing for me, and other tasks are complete drudgery. Like, I would stay up four nights in a row until 1:00 in the morning to do some things, but then you ask me to file some paperwork, and it’s like it’ll take me three minutes but I’ll put it off for a week and a half.

I mean, just all of these patterns why I succeed in some leadership roles and I fail in other leadership roles, all of these patterns were just laid out before me. And this assessment was called The Motivation Code Assessment. And so, I thought, “I’ve got to figure out a way to get this into the world, to get this into other people’s hands,” because it really transformed so much about the way I see my day-to-day work, and I wanted to do that for other people as well.

The only problem was I was in the middle of writing a book at the time called Herding Tigers that came out in 2018. So, I’ve been working on this book in the background for about four years. And over the course of that four years, as I dove into the research, realized that this motivation code assessment is based on over 50 years or research, started in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the outcropping of that work has been developed into this assessment by a team of PhDs and researchers over the course of the last several years, and then I became involved in 2016, and we started working on putting together a book to try to bring this to market, and now the book is available.

So, it’s been a long time coming and an expected twist but it’s kind of one of those things, I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, where when you come across something that is so unbelievably transformative, you just want to tell everybody about it. And that’s exactly what happened to me with this research.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is exciting in terms of, aha, the scales have fallen from your eyes, and you see and recognize patterns and explanations for what’s going on there. And, indeed, I suppose why you can accomplish some things quickly and go late into the night and other things if they’re really in a short of amount of time, you’re dragging your feet. Boy, I’ve had that same experience. And I imagine, when it comes to creativity, that’s huge with regard to, “Are you motivated to put in that time to do that in excellence? Or are you just sort of like, ‘Yeah, well, you know what, I guess this is a job and I’m contractually obligated to crank it out, so I guess I’ll do that now.’” And it shows up in both how rewarding you feel and meaningful as well as just how much you put in, and, ultimately, the quality of the work product.

Todd Henry
Right. Exactly. And we tend to think of motivation as being a binary thing, “Either I’m motivated or I’m not,” right? But what we’ve discovered is it’s actually where you get your motivational energy, that there are different flavors of motivation, or as we call them, there are 27 different themes of motivation, 27 different ways you can get your motivational energy. And when you’re consistently operating within your top motivational themes, or what we call your motivation code, you are more engaged, you are more creative, you will put more discretionary energy into the work because the work itself is giving you energy. You’re engaging in work that’s not draining you of energy. Instead, it’s giving you energy, it’s feeding you energy, which is a very different way, by the way, of thinking about motivation.

This is not the traditional way that we think about being motivated. We just need to get motivated. You just need to psych yourself up. You just need to go out there and make it happen. Well, the reality is often we’re working against the way that we’re wired when we try to amp ourselves up, we try to motivate ourselves. But if we understand those themes, if we understand what it is that really drives us, we can structure our lives and our work in such a way that we’re approaching it according to where we get our motivational energy, and that completely changes the calculation.

And the other thing we’ve discovered is that when you are operating, to your point about creativity, Pete, when you’re operating within your motivation code, you’re more likely to experience this phenomenon that we call flow, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed and made popular. And flow is that state where you kind of get lost in your work, where the work is challenging enough to kind of keep you engaged but not so challenging that you lose your interest in it. And we’ve all had those moments where we just get lost in the work, where we forget time and we’re just complete.

Well, what we discovered is that there’s a pretty high degree of correlation between operating in your core motivations, those top three motivations, and experiencing flow in your day-to-day life, which is when you kind of have that sense of getting lost in your work. And, of course, that’s going to lead to better work when you experience that phenomenon.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Well, so that all adds up conceptually. Could you maybe share a specific story of someone who they came to a new discovery via the motivation code, and then, wow, suddenly things were different? They tapped into something big that made a real impact in their work and life.

Todd Henry
Yeah, I’ll give you the example that I’ve been sharing pretty liberally because the example is me, and I’ll tell you how discovering this affected me. So, my top three motivations, my motivation code, are make an impact, meet the challenge, and influence behavior. Meet the challenge is pretty significant. So, make an impact, my number one, is related to the fact that I need to see the direct impact of my work. I have to be able to see that what I’m doing is leaving a mark on the world around me in some capacity.

Number two is meet the challenge. That’s a pretty close second to make an impact. So, here’s an example of how this helped me understand something that was going on in my life. So, in my entire adult life, Pete, I have probably played a grand total of maybe five hours of video games, since I was like 22 years old. So, I’m now 47.

And then about a year and a half a year ago, maybe two years ago, my son introduced me to a game called Fortnite. Are you familiar with Fortnite?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, I’ve played Fortnite. I played some Fortnite today, Todd.

Todd Henry
Okay, there we go. All right. So, for those who are not initiated, like Pete and I, Fortnite is a game where basically you’re dropped onto an island. You have to basically discover resources and find weapons, and then you have to eliminate other players. And the goal is to be the last person standing or, as they call it, to achieve Victory Royale. So, you want to be the last person standing on the island.

So, what’s great about Fortnite is that it’s challenging, it’s really difficult because you’ve got a hundred other players all of different skill levels. It’s predictable in that there are some pretty clear parameters, but it’s also random because what you do depends on what other people do within the game. And it’s pretty easy to just jump right back in if you get eliminated, so it’s easy access. And then it’s also finite. Like, each game, maybe if you play the entire game, it lasts about maybe 20 minutes, 18 to 20 minutes. So, it’s a really short defined thing.

Well, for somebody who’s wired to meet the challenge, Fortnite is like a narcotic. And let me explain why. So, my son introduced me to this game, he’s like, “I think you might like it. You should try it.” So, I loaded it up on my iPad, and I dive onto the island, and I land, and I think I lasted, like, I took two steps and, boom, I was gone. I was eliminated immediately, right? I was like, “That’s stupid. Play again.” So, I immediately go back into the game. This time I think I lasted maybe like 10 or 15 seconds. By the end of the night, I’d made it like maybe into the top 75.

So, I keep playing this game, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better. And, finally, about a month and a half later, I’m sitting on the couch, my wife is beside me doing something completely ridiculous, like unproductive, like reading a book or something while I’m sitting here playing Fortnite, and so I let out a little whoop. I just achieved my first Victory Royale, Pete. I let out a little whoop, and my wife said, “What happened?” And I explained to her, and her exact response was, “Way to beat that 7-year old, honey. Way to go. Good job.” I’ve never felt so small in my life.

But for somebody wired to meet the challenge, here’s why Fortnite is really dangerous. When I am doing a long-arc project, like let’s say writing a book, that might seem like a challenge to somebody who’s never written a book before, but for me that just looks like a big long-arc project. Something that’s due in a year does not feel challenging to me. It doesn’t feel like an imminent challenge that I need to tackle. So, it’s really easy for me, when I’m working on something like a book project, or something else with a long timeline, it’s easy for me to say, “I’m going to go find something right now I can do that’s  going to feel like a challenge for me.” Fortnite feels like a challenge for me. That’s a distraction that I could easily jump into but there are any number of other things. There are little projects, little things I could be doing that feel like challenges to me right now but are a distraction from the longer-arch work I need to be doing.

So, do you know what I’ve had to do, Pete, is I’ve had to say, “All right. Writing a book is a long-arc project. That takes like a year and a half, two years, from the time you agreed to write the book to the time it hits the market. I need to find ways of establishing little challenges in my work on a day-to-day basis to make sure that my work feels challenging to me.” So, for me, it’s, “I’m going to write 500 words before 9:00 a.m.,” or, “I’m going to write 500 words between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. today. I’m going to write 500 words. That’s my challenge today.” I have to find ways of instilling challenge in my work because if I don’t, I will get distracted by things that are maybe completely frivolous, maybe a waste of my time, but that are satisfying, they’re scratching that meet the challenge itch.

Another one that’s really interesting and unique is, and I hope it’s okay that I say this because we actually share this motivation, as I’ve seen your motivation code report, is make an impact as a podcaster because our podcasts are downloaded a million times a year, and I know yours is as well because I know what your stats are, right? So, as a podcaster, you put lots of stuff into the world but you don’t often get a lot of feedback about the things you’re putting into the world. So, one of the challenges for me, being wired to make an impact, meaning I need to see the impact of the work I’m making in the world, one of the challenges I experienced is that I put things into the world that people don’t respond to. And when people aren’t responding to what I’m doing, I start wondering, “Am I doing the right kind of work? Is my work any good? Should I maybe just sell everything and go move into a Trappist monastery or something? Does any of this make any sense anymore?” Because my motivation of make an impact isn’t being scratched.

And so, sometimes I will do things to achieve an impact just to see that I’m making an impact. I’ll do things that may or may not be helpful to other people just so I can make an impact, or just so I can get some kind of a response from people, because that’s one of my core motivations, that’s one of the shadow sides because you can sometimes try to create an impact where it’s not welcome, because that’s what you’re wired to do.

So, once I began to understand these things and how they play out in my life, and one of my other motivations, my number four is actually overcome. That means I like to work against an enemy. But that means, sometimes, Pete, that I invent enemies where they don’t exist or I invent obstacles to overcome where they don’t exist, and sometimes that can be a waste of energy or a waste of focus. So, once I began to understand how these motivations play out in my life, I began to structure my days, my life, my schedule in a way that was more meaningful. And it actually allowed me to scratch that motivational itch or to get my energy in the right place every day so that my work wasn’t draining to me as much as it was energizing to me.

Now, every motivation is positive but every motivation also has a shadow side. So, once I began to understand some of those shadow side tendencies I just described, I could notice, “Oh, wait a minute, you know what? I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Does my work feel challenging to me? If not, how could I create a challenge right now? You know what, I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Am I making an impact and seeing the impact in my work? If not, then maybe I need to find a way to get some feedback about what I’m doing right now.”

Or, for example, I started a folder of feedback letters that people would send me, or emails people would send me, that I can go back and review where people have written to me about what my work means to them. Because in those moments where I’m not getting, I’m not scratching that motivational itch, it helps me to see, “Oh, my work is having impact. I’m still having an impact on people. I just need to remind myself of that.” So, it’s allowed me to structure my life and my days and my work in a way that is more consistent with how I’m wired to get my energy, and this really made all the difference in the world in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Yes, I was just going to ask, and I’m glad you shared it. So, if you’re not feeling that make an impact with your invisible podcast audience, how are you getting there? And so, you check out the folders. And it’s true, like I have times where, well, I just naturally think it’s fun to chat with people like you and learn stuff. But sometimes I don’t think it’s so much fun to like hunker down, like, “Okay, what are the teasers? What’s in the opener? What’s in the closer?” Like, to actually take a conversation and get it across the finish line to, and this is an episode that stands alone and is consumable, digestible and friendly to pop up and listen to. Like, that is not as much fun for me than chatting with folks like you and learning stuff I like.

So, then my motivation can fall a bit short. And it’s so true, when I just think about the impact that I make. One of my favorite comments from a listener was, “I wake up every morning early so I can listen to it twice.” Like, for me to think about…because there’s some content I love, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything that much. Breaking Bad was so awesome for me but I never woke up early to watch it twice.

So, that’s so cool. And then I had even a little printout in terms of, “Boy, hey, what does it mean to have like 20,000 folks, like demographically in terms of male versus female?” So, I just sort of had images, little icons, that would represent 20,000 people, and sort of look at it. And, sure enough, it helped, and then it got torn up by my toddler, so I should make another one.

Todd Henry
But, yeah, see that’s a classic behavior of somebody driven to by that motivation, make an impact, is you want to see a visible representation of the people that you’re impacting because you can’t see them, right? Even right now, people don’t know this because we’re not recording the video, but we’re actually looking at each other. So, typically, I don’t experience that when I’m recording an audio podcast, but I have no doubt that one of the reasons why you want that feedback is partly related to the way that you get your motivational energy, right, because of wanting to connect with the person on the other side in some capacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And it seems like folks just…they can feel more that I’m on their side because I think I’m hopefully giving you some smiles here and there. Because sometimes I think it can sound like a grilling or an interrogation, like, “Give me your best wisdom now. Give me another example. Give me the data behind it. Have you really thought through that?” So, like if I’m coming across that way, I want to be able to reassure them, “Oh, no, hey, Todd, it’s just Pete here, and I’m really interested in your stuff so that’s why I’m asking these questions.” That’s what I’m going for.

Well, so then you mentioned a number of these themes in terms, and, boy, we could spend, I’m sure, multiple hours just laying those out. So, maybe why don’t we just do the list because they’ll tee up my next couple of questions? Could you take two or three seconds now to just name them all? And maybe they come into some clusters.

Todd Henry
They do, yeah. So, again, this research has been conducted over the course of 50 years. We’ve had over a million achievement stories shared. And the language that comprises The Motivation Code Assessment actually was parsed from those million achievement stories. That’s where we discovered the patterns of where people described what it is that was motivating to them about their achievements.

And so, they break down, generally, into six families, six families of motivations. What we say is while they are in a family because they share some DNA, they’re also very different in terms of how they play out in your life. So, even though they’re in a family, that doesn’t mean that they all behave the same. Just, for example, if you have siblings, you share DNA but you probably look different and you probably have different personalities and different things you’re interested in, and that’s kind of the same way that these motivational themes exist with one another but are very different.

So, the first family is what we call the visionary family. And, generally, the visionary family is focused on the future. They’re focused on what’s next. Sometimes they struggle to be present because they’re always thinking about what’s coming up. Actually, one of your top themes is a visionary family theme, which is experience the ideal. Another one is make an impact, which also is one of your motivational themes. And then achieve potential is the third motivational theme that falls in the visionary family.

And then we have the team player family. And, as you can imagine, team player family, themes are all about being with other people, being a part of something great. They really get their energy from the collective effort. That’s really where they get their motivational drive. By the way, these themes tend to be pretty low on my motivations. Generally speaking, I tend to be somebody who’s motivated to work by myself and to work alone, and I like that. It’s great. With the exception of our first theme, which is influence behavior which actually is pretty high on my list. So, influence behavior, serve, collaborate, and make the grade are the four themes that fall under team player.

The next family is called the optimizer family. People who are motivated in this way, tend to be people who are good at taking something and making it great. So, taking something that might be operating okay and making it great, perfecting it, tweaking it. They tend to love working with systems and trying to squeeze maximum efficiency out of systems. So, you have the themes improve, organize, develop, make it work, establish, and make it right.

And then we have the achiever family. The achiever family is driven about moving forward, about persevering, about accomplishing things. And the themes in the achiever family are bring to completion, meet the challenge, advance, and overcome. And then the final two themes, or two families, I should say, are the key contributor family. Key contributor family, these are the people who like to be at the center of the action. They like to be the people making stuff happen. So, you’ve got excel, bring control, be central, gain ownership, be unique, and evoke recognition.

And then the final family is the learner family, and these are people who love to explore, they’re people who love to ask questions. These are the people who often get into conflict with the achiever family when they’re working on a project together because they’re asking, “Why are we doing this? Let’s try seven other ways before we settle on one.” And the achiever family people are like, “Let’s just get it done.” But the themes that fall under the learner family are explore, master, demonstrate new learning, and comprehend and express. So, that is all 27 themes in a nutshell, and all of the six families along with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess where that leads me next is, so that’s a nice rundown, and we can see that, yes, those are different. And so, with mine, I’ve got them scored from the top ten: experience the ideal, and then make an impact 9.6, and then on mine on the bottom, evoke recognition 5.2, and make it right 5.1, which is true, I don’t really care about things the right away. In fact, I kind of like it if we’re breaking new innovative territory, and it’s like, “That’s not how it’s done.” It’s like, “Yeah, I know and I love it.” So, it doesn’t really motivate me when it comes to like accounting stuff, like I’m not going to commit fraud or anything, but that doesn’t fire me up, like, “Oh, man, we just really stated those financials perfectly in accordance with Gap.” Like, “Oh, I don’t care. As long as I’m obeying the law and not being a taker or a whatever, I’m all good.”

So, I guess my question is, well, I think it’s a mark of a good assessment is I read the top results, and I say, “Yes, but of course…” and, “Aren’t we all this way?”

Todd Henry
Right, of course. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I want to get your vibe in terms of is it fairly evenly distributed across the population? Or are there some folks who make it right is their number one, and there are just as many of them as there are of me?

Todd Henry
Oh, absolutely. No question. And not only that, but there are people…I mean, we’ve given this assessment now to tens of thousands of people. What we’ve discovered is there are people with every one of these motivational themes as their top theme in almost any role you can imagine, right? Because it’s not like, “Oh, if your number one is experience the ideal, then you should be a podcaster.” It’s about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically.

Now, let’s say that you are an accountant, as you just mentioned, and let’s say that your top theme is collaborate, which we have certainly had accountants who are high on collaborate. And let’s say during tax season, you’re stuck in a cubicle doing work, you’re cranking out tax returns in a cubicle by yourself for eight hours a day, you’re probably going to go into a funk and maybe not even know why. You might think you hate your job. You don’t hate your job. What you hate about your job right now is the fact that you have no human interaction for eight hours a day, and you’re fundamentally to get your energy from collaborating with other people.

So, where this is very helpful is in parsing the difference between, “I hate my job,” or, “I hate my tasks,” and, “I hate the way I’m approaching my job,” or, “I hate that I’m approaching my tasks.” Those are fundamentally different things. So, if that is your job, and, for example, you’re wired to collaborate, so you’re going to be in a cube cranking through tax returns all day for eight hours a day, you need to be disciplined about saying, “You know what, I’m either going to, A, find a way to maybe find another teammate that I can do these tax returns with, or in proximity with, or, B, I’m going to structure a social lunch every day. I’m going to take a break in the middle of my day, and I’m going to have social lunch where I get to interact with people, talk about things, we get to collaborate on what’s working, what’s not working, so that I, at least, have some motivational reprieve from these tasks that are going to drain me by the very nature of the tasks because of the way I’m wired.”

Now, somebody else, to your point, who’s wired, say, for establish or to make it right, they might love just being in a cubicle all day just getting it right. That’s all they care about, “If the number is balanced, I’m experiencing nirvana,” because that’s how they’re wired. It doesn’t matter if anybody is around them. They just want to experience getting it right or making things the way they’re supposed to be. So, this is where the difference is between motivational themes and how you score on the motivational assessment. This is how it makes a difference in terms of how you approach your work. It’s not so much about the task you do.

We spend so much time looking for the perfect job, Pete, and that is like chasing vapor. There is no perfect job. Any job you do is going to have tasks you don’t enjoy. But if you learn what drives you, what motivates you, you can begin to structure how you approach your job in a more meaningful way, in a way that will allow you to activate those core motivations more intentionally, more purposefully, and more consistently. And when you begin to approach your work that way, suddenly, you’re going to find, “I’m enjoying my job. I’ve always hated my job but, suddenly, I find that I’m enjoying my tasks more.” Well, it’s because you’re thinking about how to more strategically approach your work according to your motivational types instead of waiting for your job to scratch your motivational itch, which it’s probably not going to do with a few exceptions.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And it really is pretty eye-opening there in terms of what I’m drawn to and then what I’m not. And sometimes it’s sort of like, in running a business, it’s like for the goal of running a profitable business, I know that using the metric of expected profit generated per hour demanded of me is the optimizing metric to utilize to get the most of that result.

Todd Henry
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And sometimes that is quite motivating in terms of I say, “Oh, look, there’s a really big opportunity to make a big impact. Go after it.” And sometimes it’s just sort of like, “Yeah, I know there’s profit there, but I just don’t really care.” And so, it’s actually hard for me to find the discipline to do the thing that I “should” be doing when there’s not a lot of motivational code alignment embedded within them.

Todd Henry
As I’m just looking right now, because you gave me permission, I’m looking at your top motivations, that’s not what’s going to drive you. If you were driven to gain ownership, for example, or if you were driven by any number of the achiever family themes, you would be somebody who’s like, “I don’t care how many podcast downloads I have as long as I have more than that person over there.” Like, that would be what drives you, “I don’t care how many downloads I have as long as it’s 20% more than what I had last year.” That’s how you would be wired, but that’s not what your motivational themes tell me about what matters to you. Those aren’t the things that you’re measuring.

The challenge is the things that are motivating you are a little more difficult to measure. I have a feeling that you’re never 100% satisfied with any episode that you put out in some capacity. Is that true or is that false?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely true. Sometimes I don’t like to listen to them too closely because then I’ll start…

Todd Henry
Because you’re judging yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
…critiquing the bejesus out of them.

Todd Henry
Yeah. And part of that is the experience of the ideal motivation which is your top motivation, meaning that you are still chasing the perfect podcast episode, which is why your listeners love you, by the way, that’s why you have raving fans, it’s why you have amazing swag for your show, it’s why all of these things, is because you’re trying to create a best possible version of what a podcast could be, which is fantastic. The problem is that you can’t really ever get there because that’s sort of an idealized understanding of what podcast is. And so, as you’re chasing that, the goalpost just kind of keeps moving. But that also energize, I assume that really energizes you as well. The idea of chasing after the ideal version of a podcast is probably something that really energizes you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And so, experience the ideal, I guess this is maybe more for me, so that’s both about experiencing, making real my ideals, my values, and such, as well as experiencing the ideal – am I using this philosophy term right, the platonic form, huh, maybe – of podcast to make the ideal podcast that is part of the game, in addition to the fact that making this podcast speaks to the values that I hold dear.

Todd Henry
Yes, absolutely. So, what gives you joy is the process of creating the thing that was in your head and putting it into the world, and then obviously making an impact, that’s your number two, but seeing the impact of the thing that you’re putting into the world. But it’s the process of doing that that really gives you joy of chasing after those ideals, of chasing after the vision that you have in your head, right? That’s what really gives you joy.

And so, some of the traditional metrics that we use to determine success or failure, or on podcasting or any business, quite frankly, are not the things that give you joy. Whereas, somebody else, quite frankly, they don’t care what they’re putting out. Their numbers are going up. They’re great with it. Or if they have 20% more than they had last year, “Great, that’s all that matters. That’s what gives me all the energy I need.”

And so, when you ask the question, “Well, aren’t we all kind of like this?” Well, we’re all motivated by a blend of themes, and all the themes modify one another, but we each have sort of a unique code that really describes where we are when we’re operating in our sweet spot, right? And so, when we begin to understand that, and understand how these top three to five themes really play together in our life, it begins to explain some of these patterns, some of the things, the tendencies that we have, some of the ways that we maybe get ourselves into trouble sometimes, but also those moments when we feel really, really alive.

It explains, for me, why I cry every time I see The Pursuit of Happiness or Rudy or some of these movies, right? It’s because, well, overcome is one of my top themes. Of course, I’m going to be motivated and moved by some story of somebody overcoming the odds. Of course, I am. Whereas, somebody else thinks, “That’s really cheesy.” “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” But, like, yeah, that really…it doesn’t just move me. It moves me to my core, and I never had terminology to explain that before. But now, suddenly, I realize that’s because that’s how I’m motivated. That’s where I get my energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, when you talk about like movies and strong emotions, like, well, hey, I’m a big advocate for, “Hey, man, do some introspection or reflection on that stuff. It’s telling you something.” And it’s funny, so my favorite movie is Life Is Beautiful. And if you think about, oh, geez, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. If you think about the ideal of a father, wow, I mean, what that guy does for his kid, it’s hard to imagine a more challenging circumstance and an ideal response to it for a child. Wow, there you have it. I’m going to have some water, Todd.

Todd Henry
I have no reaction to that. See, that’s what’s interesting. You’re tearing up thinking about it, whereas I’m tearing up thinking about Rudy and all these overcomer movies because that’s such a core part of my motivation, right? And so, in many ways, these motivational themes help us define things that we’ve always sensed but never had language for, which is what makes it so powerful and also so practical, because then not only do we understand but we actually have some stuff we can do about it to make sure that we’re experiencing them more consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, so Todd, let’s see, so if folks who want their motivation code, they get the book, or what’s the easiest cost or most cost-effective way to get as many of the goodies as they can get?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, there is a version of the assessment in the book, it’s a free version of the assessment that basically gives you your top three themes, tells you what your top three themes are when you take the assessment. So, if you go to MotivationCode.com or just anywhere you can get books, you can buy the book. In there, there’s a link to take you to the free version of the assessment to give you your top themes.

We also have, like you took, Pete, we have a full version of the assessment that you can take as well, but as a good starting point, I think the free version of the assessment will you your top three themes, and really begin the journey of understanding more of what it is that moves you to action.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, it sounds like, to summarize, the general parameter here is you get that understanding of what are your top motivational themes, and then you start looking for ways you can align more of your work and life with that, and it may involve trying to do different tasks, or may just be change the way you’re doing your existing tasks.

Todd Henry
Unquestionably. And there’s an entire chapter in the book that’s based on, “So, now what?” Again, we’ve all taken assessments, and then we sort of attach some letters to our name, like, “Hi, I’m an INTP. You?” That’s fine. Not always very practical. Not always very useful. So, really, what we wanted to do was make sure that the book explains to people, “Okay, what can you do about this?” And one of the things we know for certain is that we learn and we grow best in community.

And so, one of the things we recommend is talking to somebody else about what you’re discovering, “Hey, Pete, I just discovered that my top motivation is make an impact, and I’ve noticed that I’m in kind of a funk lately because I’m not seeing a lot of the impact in my work, and I just want to talk about that with you.” Or, “Hey, this thing came up and it didn’t really seem to make sense for me.” I mean, we do have that happen from time to time where people…I was a given a workshop a handful of months ago, and somebody was kind of arguing with me, like, the specific theme was be unique. And they said, “Yeah, but I don’t have a drive to be unique. Like, I don’t wear weird clothes and I don’t have like spiked pink hair. I don’t really have that drive to be unique.”

And this person happened to be a pastor, and I said, “Well, tell me about what you do.” He said, “I’m a pastor, and I give talks.” I say, “Okay, tell me this, if I told you I’m going to write a sermon for you, and I want you just to kind of go out and read that sermon, or deliver that sermon, you’re going to deliver it however you want, but you’re going to use the words that I give you, and you’re going to use the terminology I give you. Would that be satisfying to you?” He’s like, “No, because what I say has to be a unique expression of how I see the world and who I am.” And I said, “You just used the phrase in describing back to me.” It’s like, “You’re arguing to be unique isn’t your motivation but you’re using that exact phrase to describe back to me what it is that drives you.”

And so, sometimes people, when they first discover what their motivational themes are, they don’t necessarily understand what it means to them, and then in the course of talking with others about it, they suddenly realize, “Oh, this does make sense,” because people can reflect back to them what they see in their life in a way that helps them contextualize what these motivations actually mean in terms of how they’re playing out in their day-to-day life. So, that’s one of the things that is really important.

And, listen, we learn and grow in the context of community in any way. I need you, Pete, you need me in order to really fully see ourselves. Like, we do because we all have blind spots. And so, that’s one of the main things I want to make sure people take away from this, is don’t just go do this and then say, “Okay, that was interesting,” and then walk away from it. But, instead, talk about it with someone else and invite them to speak into your life as well, and say, “Hey, where do you see this playing out in my life? How do you see these things playing out? And what do you think I can do to better position myself to experience these motivational themes more consistently?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Todd, any final thoughts before we shift gears to hear about some of your favorite things?

Todd Henry
I think the main thing is just recognize that, especially if you manage people or if you’re somebody in a role where you have organizational responsibility, I think traditionally we have relied on blunt force methods to motivate people, whether that be pay raises, words of encouragement, flexibility, things like that, and the reality is those things work for a season and then everybody reverts to the mean. They don’t last because they’re blunt force.

If you want to engage your team, and if you want to engage the people around you, the absolute way to do that is they understand the specific code that unlocks their motivation, and you owe it to them. If you’re a manager of people, you owe it to your team to understand what it is that uniquely drives them and brings their best work out on a day-to-day basis.

Another handy tool to help people bring forth their best work is Rise.com Rise is an all-in-one system that makes online training easy to create, enjoyable to take, and simple to manage. With Rise, anyone can easily create guides, courses, and other training content. You can start from scratch or customize hundreds of prebuilt lessons, helpful course templates, and gorgeous sample courses to build content even faster. Your learners will love Rise, because Rise courses are beautiful, interactive, and engaging. Your managers will love Rise because Rise makes it fast and easy to create, distribute, and analyze online training. And your IT department will love Rise because it has everything your team needs to manage online training in one secure, enterprise-class system. See why you’ll love Rise by starting a free 30-day trial at rise dot com slash awesome.}

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, my favorite quote in the world is actually from Thomas Merton. I don’t have it in front of me so I might get it wrong, but it’s, “There can be an intense egoism in following everyone else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they justify their haste as a species of integrity.”

So, what’s interesting about that is they want quick success and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. I think we have so many people around us who are in a hurry to become successful to the point that they forget who it is they are and what they value, and, in the end, they may achieve what they were going for and realize it’s hollow because they abandoned everything that they value in order to accomplish it.

And so, I’m a firm believer that who you’re becoming is much more important than whatever it is you’re accomplishing in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, now, could you share a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

Todd Henry
In the book, I talk about the work of Deci and Ryan and some of the work that they did in exploring motivation, and kind of how motivation plays out in our day-to-day life. And they were some of the first people to discover that any kind of extrinsic motivation imposed upon someone, extrinsic motivation meaning something that you sort of do to prompt motivation, so it could be a pay raise, or words of encouragement, things of that nature, is short-lived. Very short-lived and doesn’t last for very long. In fact, even words of encouragement, over time, eventually lose their impact on people because people grow used to them.

And so, if you’re going to use that, if you’re going to use either pay raises or words of encouragement, you better be prepared to continue doling out more and more raises, more and more words of encouragement over time because, eventually, they will lose their impact because that’s just the way that we’re wired as human beings.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Todd Henry
So, right now I’m reading a book called Why Information Grows, which is blowing my mind, but it’s about why information, specifically on earth, why information grows here but it doesn’t grow on other places in the universe. And it all has to do with, I won’t go into the specifics, but it all has to do with the fact that information is encoded much more readily in solids than it is in gases, and our planet is, the conditions are just right for the right kinds of solids to exist to allow us to encode information. So, it’s a really fascinating book. It’s a little technical but a really fascinating book.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Todd Henry
The Techo Planner by Hobonichi is my favorite little tool. I use it for journaling, I use it for tracking my dailies. It’s really like the perfect little notebook, a little paper planner to sort of carry around and use to help organize my life and my work.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit, something you do?

Todd Henry
So, I may have mentioned this in the last episode, but about 17 years ago, I began a habit of every day study in the morning. It’s the first I do in the morning. I get up and I read and I spend some time thinking and writing in the morning, and it has fundamentally transformed my life. If you want to learn how to think systemically, if you want to learn how to see bigger patterns, if you want to advance in your career, if you want to have better relationships, the absolute best thing you can do is make an investment in your intellectual self. And that begins by having a regimen of regular study in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really connects and resonates with folks; they quote it back to you frequently?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, it’s funny, the one thing that was like an off-the-cuff article I wrote like five years ago, the title was “Don’t Let Your Rituals Become Ruts,” and that is the most quoted thing on the internet for some reason, I think, because the Get.Momentum app on Chrome uses it as one of their screensavers, but I see it tweeted more than anything else.

But I think the thing probably that I’m seeing resonate most often is our early book called Die Empty, which is really about making sure that you’re not taking your best work to the grave with you. And I’m seeing that growing in momentum around the world. Actually, it’s fun. I’m seeing it, it’s been translated into, I forget how many languages now, but it’s really cool to see people talking about, like, “I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me. I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me.” And that’s been kind of a fun thing to see growing as a movement around the world.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah, if you want to know more about motivation code, just go to MotivationCode.com is the best place to learn all about the assessment and the book itself and the company. And you can find me at ToddHenry.com, and also my podcast, The Accidental Creative, where we list the podcast.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. Listen, the work that you do, the things that you produce, that really, really important project you’re working on right now, I mean, no offense, but nobody is probably going to remember that in a hundred years. I’m sorry, but they’re not. I’m sorry, Pete, nobody is going to probably remember your podcast, or my podcast, or any of my books, or any of that stuff in a hundred years. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to say that.

But, listen, the impact that you have on the people around you will resonate for generations to come. You don’t have a responsibility to change the world but you do have a responsibility to change the world around you. So, be the kind of person who makes echoes in the lives of others. And if you make echoes in the lives of others, those echoes are going to resound for generations to come.

And generations has a great quote, it says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees and whose shade they will never sit.” As you create echoes in the lives of other people, generations down the line, people are going to be sitting under a tree that you planted, that you had no idea was even planted, right? So, just be the kind of person and be the kind of leader who makes echoes.

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, this has been awesome. I wish you all the best in your adventures.

Todd Henry
Thanks so much, Pete. And thanks again for having me on the show.

606: How to Learn Faster so Robots Can’t Steal Your Job with Edward Hess

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Edward Hess says: "If you want to stay relevant in the workplace going forward... you've got to be able to do tasks that technology can't do."

Edward Hess discusses how to stay relevant in the digital age via hyperlearning.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you need to rethink the way you work 
  2. The secret to achieving inner peace 
  3. How to redefine your ego 

 

About Edward

Edward Hess is a Professor of Business Administration, Batten Fellow and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business. He has spent twenty years in the business world as a Senior Executive and has spent the last 18 years in academia. He is the author of 13 books and over 140 articles and 60 Darden Case studies. His work has appeared in over 400 global media outlets including Fortune magazine, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Washington Post. 

His recent books and research has focused on “Human Excellence in the Digital Age: A New Way of Being; A New Way of Working; Humanizing the Workplace; and Hyper-Learning.” 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Pitney Bowes. Simplify your shipping while saving money. Get a free 30-day trial and 10-lb shipping scale at pb.com/AWESOME.
  • Rise.com. Build your team’s learning library–the fast and fun way–with Rise.com/awesome 

Edward Hess Transcript

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

Edward Hess
Well, thank you very much for having me. It’s wonderful being with you. I really admire what you do with your podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, I admire what you do here and I’m excited to talk about hyper-learning which is something I think I’m into and so are the listeners. First, can you tell us, what is that and maybe open with a fun story about a professional doing hyper-learning to see some cool results?

Edward Hess
Well, hyper-learning is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn at a continuous high-level rate. It’s the skill that’s needed in the digital age where the digital age is going to, basically, technology is going to transform how we live and how we work, and the technology is going to produce so much new data and new knowledge so fast that basically whatever we think we know, and we probably don’t know what we think we know, but even if we did know what we think we know, the shelf life of that is going to be estimated to be two to three years.

So, we basically, have to become very, very adaptive. We basically have to be a continuous lifelong hyper-learner, and the big challenge to that is that we’re not wired to be a hyper-learner. And we’ll talk about that, but a good story, well, I’ve worked with a lot of people, a lot of companies that are embracing this. And I think one of the best stories was a company who got their leadership team together, and I spent a week with them, and we went into the details. I’m very granular on behaviors, as you know, and so we got into, “How do you be a hyper-learner and what’s the highest level of learning?” It means you’ve got to be a great listener. It means you’ve got to be a great collaborator. It means you’ve got to basically calm of what’s going on in your mind and body. So, we focused a day on how to listen.

And this guy was a senior executive and was sort of quiet. He was a technology guy. Quiet, but he was engaged. In the next morning, one of the practices of this company is have a check-in every morning, “Where are you? How are things fitting?” So, everyone went around the table and came to this guy’s time, and he said, “Well, can I share something personal?” “Of course. Of course.” He said, “I called home last night and I had the reflective listening checklist that Ed gave me with me and I put it by the phone, and I talked to my wife and talked to my kids, and the conversation kept going on and I kept looking at the checklist. And, really, it was sort of amazing. We talked like an hour and a half.” And he said, “That’s not usual.” And everyone said, “Oh, that’s good. That’s good.”

He says, “Well, my wife called me back after she put the kids together, and this is what she said. She says, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing at that meeting, but keep doing it because that was the best conversation you’ve had with me and our kids in a long time because you really listened.’” And the guy broke down crying in the meeting. That’s a wonderful story about how, if you will, changing one’s behavior so you can really be present and listen with a closed mind which is necessary to learn. Not only can it impact you in the workplace, but impact you in the home place.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s beautiful to kick us off, and I want to talk about, indeed, how was that done. I love your first chapter, which is “Achieving Inner Peace.” And we’re just getting started after that with a subsequent chapter. So, that is a key roadblock for great listening. So, yeah, how do we pull that off, first of all?

Edward Hess
Well, I think, if I can, let me lead into it this way. I think that people have to go and embrace hyper-learning come up with their own why, “Why should I be a hyper-leaner?” and that’s pretty easy. If you want to stay relevant in the workplace going forward, to have meaningful work, you’ve got to be able to basically do tasks that technology can’t do. So, everybody sort of knows what that is. The higher-level thinking, higher-level emotional engagement, etc., and so we can figure out the why.

But then the question comes down to, “Why do I need to change anything?” And this is the thing that’s the hardest for people to basically accept. And, basically, we’re all suboptimal learners. We are wired for efficiency, all right? We are wired for speed, right? We basically go out in the world and we process information which confirms what we already believe. We go into the world wired to confirm what we believe, to affirm our egos, and to basically validate our stories of how the world works. We basically see what we believe. That’s a scientific fact.

So, if you think about it, if everything is changing, new data, new knowledge is coming, new ways of doing things, and we’re going in the world looking for confirmation, we’re not going with an open mind, we’re not going to explore, wow! What are we going to do inside of ourselves to help us rewire? So, instead of seeking confirmation and affirmation and cohesiveness, instead of being a reflective thinker, if you will, as you know Daniel Kahneman called as lazy thinker, instead of being that, being an active, engaged thinker, what can we do to basically help us be that way? And it all begins with inner peace. And I finally got there. I’m sure you were wondering, “When is he going to get to inner peace?”

But inner peace is the answer or the pathway to beginning to take ownership of what’s going on inside of us, to take ownership of it. Ownership of our mind. Ownership of our emotions. Ownership of our behaviors. Not to be a reflexive reactive, so reflexive and reactive. And inner peace, I define it, if you will, as this state of inner stillness or calmness that enables you to go out into the world and embrace the world with your most non-judgmental fearless open mind with a lack of self-absorption.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds great. I’d love some more of that. How do I do it?

Edward Hess
Well, inner peace has four blocks: quiet ego, quiet mind, quiet body, and positive emotional state. And it all starts out with the quiet ego and the quiet mind. And how do we do that? And the science is pretty compelling that the best way to start on this journey is mindfulness meditation. All right? And then as you advance to add, if you will, loving kindness, meditation or gratitude meditation.

It also quiets your mind. It allows us to basically learn, “We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. And there’s not an automatic link between our emotions and our behaviors.” I can remember early on, and understand I wasn’t born with inner peace, and it took me a long time to get to inner peace, okay? So, I’ve been a work in progress for decades. But I could remember in younger age, my wife and I were having a, I’d just say, a heated discussion, and she interrupted me, and she says, “Excuse me, do you understand that there’s not…because you feel emotional, you don’t have to behave in that way? Do you understand that your emotions are not hardwired into behaviors?” And I looked at her, and I said, “No, I didn’t know that.” And she says, “Well, I think you need to work on it because you have a choice.” And she was so right.

And so, inner peace is taking ownership and managing what’s going on. We have a choice. We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. So, how do you do it? I’d say start with meditation. That’s the best way to get there, and you’ve got to engage in daily practices: gratitude; visualization of how you want to behave; being very granular on coming up with “How do I want to go into the world? How do I want to behave today? How do I want to think? How do I want to listen?”

And the model is inner peace is the foundation. Then you need a hyper-learning mindset, the way to go and approach the world, then you’ve got to look at how you behave. And the book is really, the book plus a workbook, it’s an embedded workbook with lots of reflection times, with questions, and lots of workshops with deliverables. In fact, if people buy the book and they come to my website, the publisher will give everybody a free 140-page hyper-learning journal where you can take all the stuff, so it’s very action-oriented.

And so, there’s a whole chapter on hyper-learning behaviors, and there’s a diagnostic, and you would take…Pete, you’d take the diagnostic, the hyper-learning behaviors diagnostic, and grade yourself, and you would see, “Where am I the weakest?” And then you see how the behaviors fit into a format and to a pyramid, and you’d say, “What’s the building block I need to work on?” And the two building blocks that most people have, most males have to work on are quiet ego, and the second building block that everybody sort of has to work on is listening. Okay. Well, how do I listen?

Pete Mockaitis
If I may, just before we get in there, when you talk about mindfulness practice here, are you just talking about you sitting quietly at a relaxed and alert posture and focusing on your breath and returning your thoughts to your breath as they go elsewhere? Or what specifically are you thinking when you say mindfulness practice?

Edward Hess
Mindfulness meditation, yes. Mindfulness meditation, basically, focusing on your breathing, and, as you’re saying, when the thought comes into your mind, just let it go, don’t engage with it, and then take yourself back to focusing on your meeting. You can focus on your breath, you can focus on a body part, okay? Something that you’re basically, you bring yourself back to. So, mindfulness meditation, you can focus, if you wanted, on doing a meditation, a gratitude meditation, in effect, visualizing people that have helped you, etc. in expressing gratitude to them, or gratitude for people that are in your life that you’re thankful for. And then when your mind sort of wanders, you come back to that. But the key one is mindfulness meditation, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, let’s say we’re doing that, it’s great, we’re on our way…

Edward Hess
And I would recommend highly, when you do your mindfulness meditation, to also, at the same time, do deep breathing practices. And you can either do the coherent breathing practice, which comes out of Columbia University, or you can use, if you will, some people may not want to, but the Navy has got some good deep-breathing practices that, basically, you calm yourself, and then you basically do your breathing. But you basically try to get your breathing where you can breathe in very deeply and breathe out very slowly, and the number of breaths you take per minute. And the goal is to get to where you can basically breathe comfortably and get down to two breaths per minute.

Pete Mockaitis
So, two full inhales and outhales.

Edward Hess
That’s right, in a minute, okay? And five is good, five is very good. But if you work on it, yeah, it takes a year basically.

Pete Mockaitis
I was going to ask about sort of like the dosage or time. So, that, I’m sure, it varies quite a lot but, hey, inner peace, mindfulness meditation, how much do we got to do and for how long till we get there?

Edward Hess
Well, it’s sort of like this, becoming a hyper-learner is like becoming a world-class athlete, or a world-class painter, or a world-class dancer. You got to work at it every day. There is no easy pathway to transforming us once we get to the age we’re at. And so, you start out with meditation, two minutes, you try and do it two minutes a day, and it’s hard, but you keep working at it. The book is based on daily practices, which you do rigorously every day, and then there are some practices that you sort of alternate.

But if you want to succeed on this journey, and many people have, and it is hard to express the power of what we’re talking about. It’s life-changing. It’s life-changing because you have this peace and you’re just not reactive. You’re able to sense things. Your thinking improves so much. You’re not so emotionally reactive. You can become a better collaborator, all of these things, but it’s going to be an everyday practice.

In companies that I worked with, I worked with some public companies. I can’t say their names, where every day before every meeting, they do a two-, three-minute, up to a five-minute meditation. In one company, worldwide, it’s a company that has blue-collar, white-collar, etc. workers, the first thing, every day, worldwide, there’s a 15-minute silence. And you can meditate, or you can think about the people in your life that you love, or you can give thanks to whoever you want to give thanks to, but it’s embedded. It has to be embedded in your life and embedded in the workplace to work.

And, yes, it takes time, but I do it with…some of my MBA students get into this, and they reach out years later. I just had one reached out. This was four years ago. He reached out and was just saying, “I just want you to know I’m still meditating like you said every morning.” And he said, “It is just unbelievable.” He says, “I’m so much more effective at work, a family life. This stuff is magic.” So, we’re talking about if you want to…we’re fixing to go into an era that is going to be as disruptive for us or even greater than the industrial revolution was for our ancestors.

In fact, I believe the era we’re going into where technology is going to take us, this is going to be every analogous to our ancestors long time ago who had to leave, if you will, the jungles of Africa because of, basically, mother nature, and earthquakes, etc. and actually go out into the fields, the savannahs. Our primate ancestors had to leave the jungles and go into the fields. The good news is the fields had big animals so there was lots you could eat. The bad news is the big animals were fast and strong and could eat our ancestors. They had to learn an entire new way of living in order to, if you will, not become extinct.

To some extent, that’s where we are. In order to basically have meaningful work and meaningful relationships and a meaningful life going forward, because automation is going to invade all of professions. Degrees are not going to protect people anymore. Nobody knows but very smart people say that people coming out of college today probably have six different careers, five or six different careers. We will have to continually be an adaptive human being. You don’t get that way being raised the way we were in our culture, survival of the fittest, and you don’t get that way by basically being wired the way we are.

So, the answer is, no, this is not easy. It takes self-discipline and practice but it’s not magical. It’s not hard. All you need to do, I mean, really and truly, if you spent, in the beginning, if you spent two or three minutes, I believe it’s very important to work up my daily intentions. My daily intention is my list of how I want to be today, how I want to behave today, and, “Do you want to be kind? Do you want to be caring? Do you want to be open-minded? Do I want to slow down once I feel my body going faster and faster? Do I want to, before I go into a meeting, take four or five deep breaths?” Whatever it is, you read those every morning, you visualize yourself doing it, and you go out. And then at night, you come back and you grade yourself, “How did I do? Oh, wait a minute, I forgot to do this in this meeting.” Okay, write this down.

Same thing with your meditation. If you start out at two minutes, then you go to three minutes, then you go to five minutes. It varies so much per person, but you can get to 20 minutes within, say, two months. And if you did 20 to 30 minutes a day the rest of your life, you’d be in good shape. You don’t have to do four hours a day like the Dalai Lama. Twenty to thirty minutes a day you’d be in good shape. If you really want to take it to a higher level, you do it in the morning, and you also do it in the evening, and you do a different type of meditation, either the gratitude meditation or the heart meditation.

And the other aspects of it are basically you get to be very behavioral. What behaviors, in order to be a hyper-learner, do you need to excel at? Well, you need to have a quiet ego because you need not to be defensive. We’re working on that with meditation. But what does that mean? Well, I got to be a good listener. Well, how does a good listener do that? A good listener is totally quiet when you’re speaking. He or she is not making up their answers. They’re not thinking about the next meeting. They’re not thinking about the last meeting. They are totally silent, listening to what you’re saying, fully, fully present. Well, that takes a while to get there. So, how do you do that?

Well, the first thing is keep your devices away from you. We have a way. I’m going to sit at the meeting, and both my hands are going to be on the table or I’m going to be sitting in this way. And you start figuring out, “How am I going to concentrate on what that person is saying?” And your mind is going to wander. Bring it back, that’s the meditation training. So, I’m fully, fully present. I call it the three R…the goal is 3RP: really, really, really be present.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, really, really, really be present.

Edward Hess
Are you having fun? Hey, you having fun, man? Huh? Are you having fun with this? I’m serious. How does it sound?

Pete Mockaitis
Very much, I am. I didn’t if you were demonstrating listening or if you’re asking me, Pete Mockaitis, real time. Yeah, I’m quite fascinated so I want to hear. So, being really, really, really present, you’ve said that listening conversation checklist was game-changing for that gentleman in the session. What are the things on this list that we should be doing?

Edward Hess
Well, this is from memory. One, don’t multitask. Two, make eye contact. Three, calm what’s going on, calm yourself. If you’re thinking about something else, take deep breaths, calm yourself. Smile at the person talking, and they’ll smile back at you. That basically generates positive emotions. When there’s positive emotions between people, you’re more likely to learn. When things come into your mind, if you start making up your answer, immediately try to turn back to listening. When your mind starts to wander, recognize it, go back, listen.

Very important. When the person stops talking, do not advocate or state what you believe. Ask a question. If you hold yourself to asking questions, that’s going to help you listen because you want to ask questions for two reasons. To make sure you understand what the person was saying so that when you respond, your response has a higher probability of being effective. But the other thing is, the most important thing, as we go into this digital age is understanding the concept of otherness. No one can excel at thinking in ways the technology can think. No one can excel in basically higher-order emotional engagement by themselves. We need others. We need others.

And we need others, a special kind of others. Others that trust us and that we trust. And trust comes from people feeling cared about. And the number one way that a person feels cared about is when you show that you have listened by asking good questions, when you say that “I want to make sure I understand you,” it says, “I care about you, I respect you. I respect you as a distinct human being.” And then you can have a conversation, if you will, if you disagree or you don’t disagree, why, but that conversation should be data-based and respectful.

The workplace is going to change in this area. If you work in a workplace that is a survival of the fittest, highly-competitive workplace, well, that organization is going to become extinct because you can’t optimize collective intelligence and people leaning together at their optimal level in teams in a very competitive workplace. I tell people, “Listen to learn not to confirm.”

And so, you go through this process. It’s a whole approach that, “Okay, wait a minute. I’ve got to learn how to think differently. Instead of seeking confirmation, I got to seek novelty and exploration and discovery. I got to actively go look for disconfirming information to test what I think.” How many people when they believe something go out and look for disconfirming information? Not a lot. I got to basically defer judgment instead of “yes, but” “yes, and.” I got to embrace differences and try to make meaning of those differences because, again, we process a very small amount of the stimuli that can come through our body from the world, and no one can process…it’s like less than 0.1%.

And so, in the digital age, we’ve got to be able to excel at not knowing and knowing how to learn. We’ve got to excel at going into the unknown and figuring things out. And that happens best with other people because they will see things that we don’t see. And so, a whole new way of working and a new way of being is what this book is about. How do you go out there with that new way of being? How do you bring your better self, work on your best self? How do I come to the table, to the meeting, to be off to Zoom, to whatever? How do I bring that best self here and be the most open I can be in order to learn but also to be a good teammate showing respect, and respecting the human dignity of the people that I’m working with, and understanding I’m not competing with them?”

The biggest competition in the digital age is Ed Hess, not Pete, not you, Pete, I got to compete. If I do my work on myself, I’ll be fine, and I know that I need you also, and I’ll help you work on yourself just like you help me work on it. No more is it Ed versus Pete. No more is it a zero-sum game. It all comes down to collective intelligence.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I love a lot of what you’re saying here in terms of, okay, so we start with the inner peace and the mindfulness, and we’re doing great listening and asking questions, and seeking dis-confirmatory evidence, and being curious and exploratory, and focusing on other people, and having sort of the multi-people intelligence enable the hyper-learning as opposed to digging deep on speed reading or memory tricks, the focus is on the human dimensions.

And so, I’m curious, so we’ve got “Chapter 8: Having High-Quality, Making Meaning Conversations.” So, we’ve already got a couple pro tips for the listening. Are there any sort of key questions or things that we should do in order to engage in these conversations that facilitate hyper-learning?

Edward Hess
Yes. So, let’s go back to the bases. First, we have the “come to the meeting with the right intentions about the meeting.” We have to come into the meeting as best we can with a quiet ego, a quiet mind, a calm body, not be stressful, and a positive emotional state. The highest levels of learning are enabled by a positive emotional environment.

The workplace people are going to need is, my good friend Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is a requirement. So, you got to ask yourself, “Okay, and if these not people that I work with all the time, how do I behave in such a way that Pete trusts me? Because psychological safety is built upon trust. I trust you’ll do me no harm. I trust that I can speak up, so it comes down.” And in the book, there’s workshops as to “If I want to basically engage in a caring manner with someone else, how do I behave that way?”

The book is very practical, “How do I have to behave so you care about me? How do I have to behave so you trust me? What would I do?” And when I do my work in this, I have teams of people that work together and they do exercises, such as “What does a person have to do for you to trust them?” And then you do the opposite, “If a person does X, how will that basically hurt trust?” And people have a conversation. So, they’re having a conversation, what caring means to them. How will they feel cared about? When would they trust somebody? And they’re learning from each other. And then they’re asking each other, “Okay, now how can I improve my behaviors? How can Jane improve her behaviors?”

Making meaning conversation is when people come together to learn from each other to basically make meaning of words which, in the workplace, we all take for granted. And so, for any conversation to make meaning together, you have to do what? You have to truly try to understand the other person’s point of view in a non-judgmental manner. You have to actually put yourself in their shoes. Then you have to evaluate their data, and they’ll evaluate your data. But the goal is to come to the best answer. And it sounds I know a little, I don’t know, soft. But you know what?

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s dead-on. I mean, Annie Duke, a professional poker player, talked about this.

Edward Hess
It is soft. And, basically, if you want to go out ten years from now and say, “What’s going to be the most important human skill or what’s going to be the thing that we add to the world that technology doesn’t add?” It’s going to be emotions, positive emotions. It’s going to be emotional engagement. Emotions are going to have to come into the workplace big time, and that’s going to challenge a lot of organizations, a lot of people, because people are going to have to be very cognizant of setting the right emotional environment. But also very important, cognitive or working on being emotionally the type of person that people want to help and want to collaborate, because I keep coming back to the words collective intelligence.

Collective intelligence is going to be the difference between winning and losing in the business world going forward for organizations. And that means it’s not any one person. It’s a group. So, am I the type of person that people are going to want to help? Do I want to be the type of person that people are going to help? Then I got to get down and I got to think about, “Okay, how do I come across? Am I consumed with myself?” And you learn real fast that in order to be your best self, you have to become selfless, and you have to define your ego in a different way.

Most of us, and that’s the concept of new smart in the book, most of us raised in the education system, and basically up to about age eight or ten, young kids are hyper-learners. They have no fears. If you remember how you learned how to ride a bicycle. Somebody may be holding, it may have wheels, but someone helps you on, or you get on, they say, “Move your feet,” and you fall off. What did you do as a kid? Most kids, somebody may cry, somebody may not, but it doesn’t matter. They get up, they dust themselves off, and they get on it again. And they keep getting on it till they move that bicycle a little bit. They basically have the courage to go into the unknown, they have the resilience to bounce back, and that courage is to figure out how to make this work. Well, that’s what we’re going to have to excel at doing.

But about eight to ten, it starts getting schooled out of us, and we all get focused on grades, all on grades. And I‘m sure you made the highest grades in your class, but in order to make the highest grades in your class, what did you have to do? You had to make the fewest mistakes. So, we were raised to avoid mistakes. We were raised on being smart, and our egos started being identified with smart. And once we identified, and the older we get, with being smart, and we go up in the hierarchy in companies, we think we know things. We’re smart, we got the big office, and we’re very protective of our ego, and the fact that we don’t want to be wrong. And we’ll argue to Timbuktu on anything.

Well, that’s a pathway to basically failure because, in the world we’re going into, the change in the philosophy, we need to redefine our ego from that definition of smart to new smart. And new smart has five principles, but I’ll just share one. The number one principle, I’m defined not by what I know or how much I know, but by the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating. I just changed the definition from a “how much” and a “what” to the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating.

And if people take that approach, it makes it far easier to be an effective collaborator. It makes it far easier to build caring, trusting relationships, which are caring, trusting relationships are the condition precedent to the highest levels of making meaning together. You can’t make meaning together unless you trust each other, and you believe that the other person is not going to harm you, or use your mistakes against you, or ridicule you to the boss, or whatever.

And so, what this really means is all the political gains in business is going to basically go out the door. Basically, you got to take all that stuff, you get a giant trash bag, and dump it all in, tie it up, very, very tight, don’t put it in the dumpster. Actually, take it to the trash place and watch it shredded.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s a powerful note there. And, yeah, I’d love to hear now if you could share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring.

Edward Hess
I think so much of it goes back to the golden rule. I think the other thing, I think what’s so important, and I’m paraphrasing here, we have to accept the fact that no one, and this is from professor Barbara Fredrickson, no one achieves excellence by themselves. That, to me, is very powerful.

I think the other powerful quote that I keep in mind now is from Daniel Kahneman who predicted, I think it was in the summer of July 2019, that by 2030, there will be no cognitive function that a computer will not be able to do better than a human being. And the reason that’s such a powerful quote, it basically alerts all of us that we’re going to have to develop skills that are different than most of the skills that we’ve been developing in the past. And all of those skills are going to be the soft skills because the human part is going to be the part that becomes so very important in society.

And so, I think that I’m old enough that back when everybody served in the military, the quote, “Leaders eat last.” “Always take care of your team before you take care of yourself,” I think all of those are still valid. Leaders eat last. You don’t go to the head of the line. And some of the best leaders that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with were the most humble people who basically were other-centric.

Herb Kelleher with Southwest Air, Horst Schulze of Ritz-Carlton, the senior leadership team back when I was working with them at UPS, and Mr. Casey at UPS, it’s recognizing the human dignity of the people you work with, and that people are not just a cog in the machine. I think the other thing is that the industrial revolution model of humans being machines doing the same thing over and over again, technology is going to do all that type of work, and we basically have to get out of this machine mindset, and we need to basically figure out how we’re going to create the environment where people can flourish and have meaningful work and meaningful relationships that raises the big challenges for big companies that are basically focused on a model that’s command and control.

You cannot command and control somebody that thinks at their highest levels. I cannot say, “Pete, I command and control and direct you to be innovative. I command and control and direct you to be creative. I command and control you to think clearly.” That stuff doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. And so, for your viewers, and you’ve got a wonderful viewing group, the thing that I leave with them is I invite them to basically consider to become not just a hyper-learner but to become an awesome hyper-learner. Because I think, based on what I know from reading about your listenership, I think many of your people will embrace, if you will, the challenge that’s here, but also, they’ll have the right mindset, the right growth mindset, to go out there and say, “Let me try some of these things. Let’s try and see if it works.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Ed, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you all the best in your hyper-learning adventures.

Edward Hess
Thank you very much. Thank you for having me in. I wish you all the best and keep doing the good work you’re doing, man.