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359: Overcoming the Fear of Speaking Up with Karin Hurt

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Karin Hurt discusses how the fear of speaking up hampers organizational growth and what you can do about it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three steps for overcoming the fear of speaking up
  2. Approaches to encourage others speak up using the only UGLY framework
  3. The primary way we dampen the willingness of others to speak up

About Karin

Karin has over two decades of experience in customer service, sales, and human resources. She’s the award-winning author of two books: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss.

A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin transformed customer service outsourcing (96M calls/year) to reach parity in quality with internal centers and developed a leading sales team that won the President’s Award for Customer Growth.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Karin Hurt Interview Transcript

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

Karin Hurt

Thanks so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, first thing I want to hear about you is that I understand in your life you were struck by lightning. What is the story behind this?

Karin Hurt

Yeah. People tell me that explains a lot about my personality actually. It was not one of my brighter moments. I was a manager of a pool, and I closed the pool because of lightning, like you’re supposed to, and then proceeded to go sit down at a metal table to wait the storm out. And so the lightning got attracted to the metal table, split a brick in half that was right in front of me, and propelled me about five feet against a wall. But I was fine. Yeah, it was really crazy.

Pete Mockaitis

So, did it strike you directly or did it strike the brick in front of you?

Karin Hurt

It hit the brick and then the momentum of it, it ricocheted into me. So I didn’t get hit directly. Yeah, it was crazy. And I was sitting next to a guy who was like 300 pounds, and he flew too.

Pete Mockaitis

That is wild.

Karin Hurt

Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

And so you went to the hospital, or how did this end up unfolding at the end?

Karin Hurt

I went to the ER, but they didn’t keep me or anything. It was fine.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Wow, that’s wild. I always wonder if people take that personally, like with you and God: “Is there a message here, because this feels very intentional and targeted?”

Karin Hurt

Yes, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis

Did you choose to interpret it in any particular way, or you just said, “Hey, man, stuff happens”?

Karin Hurt

Just took the story and ran with it.

Pete Mockaitis

And you’ve been using it on podcast interviews years later. I’m glad that you’re safe and well. And how about the other gentleman? Did he turn out okay?

Karin Hurt

Yeah, he’s fine too.

Pete Mockaitis

Excellent. All right, cool.

Karin Hurt

Well, I don’t know. I mean, he was kind of a jerk.

Pete Mockaitis

Was he a jerk before lightning struck him?

Karin Hurt

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so maybe the lightning was directed at him and I was just in the crossfire.

Pete Mockaitis

[laugh] Oh, that’s good. Thank you. So, tell us a little bit – you are the chief executive officer of the organization Let’s Grow Leaders. What is this organization about?

Karin Hurt

We are an international leadership development company, so we do long-term leadership development programs, short programs as well. We work both with corporate clients and also government clients, and we also do keynote speaking and a little bit of strategic consulting.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. That’s a nice lineup. And so, you’ve packaged some of the wisdom in your book Winning Well. What’s this book all about?

Karin Hurt

It’s called Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results – Without Losing Your Soul. And so, it’s how do you get breakthrough results and remain a decent human being along the way? And it’s really focused on extremely practical tools to do that. So, how do you win well when you have to have a tough conversation with an employee, or when you need to terminate someone, or when you’re running a meeting? How do you do that in a way that really both builds results and gains better relationships?

Pete Mockaitis

Oh boy. There’s so much we could talk about there, and I want to hit a little bit there and in particular dig into a term you’ve turned into an acronym – the fear of speaking up, or FOSU. Is that how you pronounce it? Okay, I was wondering.

Karin Hurt

Like fear of missing out, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

We talked to Patrick McGinnis, who apparently coined that phrase – fun fact – in a previous episode. He didn’t coin it in the episode, but in a previous episode we talked to him and he coined it. He also said he had “fear of a better option” – FOBO – and that never really caught on.

Karin Hurt

So funny. Well, we’re hoping FOSU will catch on.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, it’s catchy and I think it’s a real phenomenon. Now we’re talking about it, so let’s talk about that now. So, what caused you to focus in on this phenomenon? Could you orient us to some of your research or findings or discoveries on this concept?

Karin Hurt

I will tell you that we were noticing a really significant pattern when we would go in and work at multiple levels of an organization. So, we would talk to the C-level. You go and you talk to the CEO or the senior vice presidents and they say, “I just wish our employees at the frontline or our first level supervisors would tell us when they see these issues or when they see that we have negative things that are impacting our customers” or, “I wish they would think more creatively or solve more problems on their own. I don’t know why they just keep their heads down, do their work and don’t speak up.”
And then we’d go in to do work at the frontline and we hear employees say, “Nobody cares about what I think. Every time I bring an issue to my supervisor, they tell me not to worry about it, just keep focused on my job.” And so, there was this massive disconnect within the same organization. And so, we started then looking at other organizations where that wasn’t the case, where people really were speaking up and what was the difference.
And so, we also have developed some very specific tools that we use to help encourage senior leaders to ask, or middle managers to ask, and make sure they are encouraging people to bring forth problems and to bring forth their ideas in a very strategic way. And then we also have tools where we help the frontline position their ideas in a way that can be heard, because there’s this other dynamic, and sometimes people blame the Millennials, but I don’t think it’s just the Millennials, or anything is just one generation’s issue.
But people say, “My problem is my employees are speaking up, but they’re not doing it well.” And so they’re just blurting out their ideas and they’re not positioning them well, so that they’re being rejected. And that’s another dynamic. So, really have been working on how do you get senior leaders and middle managers to ask, and how do you help frontline and lower level management to position their ideas in a way that they are well received? And that’s been a lot of fun and we’ve really been learning a lot about what works the best.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. This feels like a really big, important topic and I’m excited to dig into some of the practical how-to’s, but I’d love to get your take on this issue. How big is it, how important is it to tackle this, as opposed to any other matters of communication, collaboration, culture, stuff in the work environment? Have you made some discoveries in terms of the gravity of this issue?

Karin Hurt

Yeah. So, I think it’s getting more and more important. It’s always been an issue. This is not new, but why is it so important now? And as we go into an age where so much is being automated – the easy stuff is getting automated – if you want to provide effective customer service and it’s about something easy, you drive it to self-serve and people do it online. But by the time they get to a human being, they are needing more sophisticated conversation and they want somebody who can really hear their ideas.
So now you’ve got these folks at the frontline who are really getting to the heart of what your customers’ concerns are, and if they don’t feel empowered to do the things they need to do or to raise the issues upwards and let people know what that customer experience is like, you’re not going to have the innovation you need for your company. So, I would say that is definitely a piece of it.
Another is employee engagement continues to be a challenge. There’s the Gallup research that says 70% of managers are feeling disengaged or severely disengaged at work, and where does that disengagement come from? A big part of that is people who feel like they’re not being heard. And so, when you can give people a voice, that really helps create a deeper connection to the work that they’re doing.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s powerful. That makes me think about Google’s work, associated… Is the project Aristotle? I always get it mixed up – associated with psychological safety and teams being the thing that differentiates the high-performing teams from the not so high-performing, in which people just feel safe and comfortable expressing just what they think. And you had some research I saw on your Twitter, I believe, or somewhere in my research about you – you discovered that, was it less than 1% of employees felt very confident and comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas? Could you unpack this stat for us a little bit?

Karin Hurt

Yeah. So, this wasn’t from our original research, but this was just some of the work that we were doing to understand what was happening. It was actually some work that VitalSmarts did. It was their survey. But we’re actually in the process right now of doing a big, deep study with University of Northern Colorado, so I’ll have more of our own statistics soon.
But this basically said people are afraid to really say what they feel. And I’ll give you an example, a very real example of how this played out just a couple of weeks ago with a client we were working with. So, it was a big software implementation that had been done companywide, and throughout they had had user groups, user experience calls every single week. And the users would raise any issues that they had, and then they would knock them out. And they thought everything was going fantastic.
And then the vice president said, “Okay, great. I’m just going to go now, do some management by walking around, going to the fields, see how things are going.” And she sat next to a representative who brought up the software. And it took five minutes for the first page to load, and then it took another five minutes, which is not how this experience should be. And the software company had promised that this new system would be seven times faster than what they were working with previously. And here this was radically slower.
And so, she said to the representative, “Is it always like this?” And she said, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. But it has a lot of other great features.” And she said, “No, it’s not supposed to be like this. Why didn’t you say something?” And she said, “Because my manager said, ‘The company has invested a lot in this software,
so whatever you do, just tell everybody how wonderful it is and how grateful you are to have it.’”

Pete Mockaitis

Oh boy, sabotage.

Karin Hurt

And as it turned out it was just that the network couldn’t support it. They needed to do a network upgrade. There was nothing wrong with the software. They needed to do a network upgrade, which is not a big deal. And they were able to fix it within 24 hours. But these representatives have been suffering with the lost productivity of this for a month. And so, that’s the kind of thing where, who was scared there? Well, probably that person’s immediate supervisor. And you can’t have an environment like that if you really want to get to the root of problems quickly.

Pete Mockaitis

And so, we talk about fear there. Can you maybe unpack that, in terms of what is the specific fear, and how real is it, versus imaginary?

Karin Hurt

Yeah. And that is a lot of what we’ve really been thinking a lot about. How real is it? So I think people are afraid. You can’t get in trouble for not doing anything or not saying anything, but you can get in trouble if you say something that people think is dumb.

Pete Mockaitis

Fair enough. A safer bet is to keep your mouth shut.

Karin Hurt

Safer bet is to keep your mouth shut, exactly. And so, that is part of it. And also I believe sometimes it’s fear at the middle management level, which then trickles down. And so people say, “Don’t go to my… Don’t bother them with this.” So they keep the ideas down.
And then a big part of this fear, which we find, is that somewhere along the line somebody spoke up a long, long time ago, and it didn’t go well. Either I’m a manager and I used to have a terrible boss and I wasn’t allowed to speak up, and now I have a new boss, but I’m not giving my new boss the benefit of the doubt because I’ve learned these old habits.
I was working in one organization and it was so crazy. They were all telling these stories to me about how nobody ever listens and you could really get in trouble if you try to raise issues. And so I started saying, “How long ago was that?” And, “Well, that was 10 years ago. It was 15 years ago, but it’s still the same now.” They couldn’t come up with a current example, but it was so deeply embedded in this culture. And so, for that organization, we really had to give the management team very specific tools that they could use to encourage people to speak up and really come out and say, “No, the culture is different now.”

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, I dig that. So, when the bad things happen, could you unpack a little bit? Let’s just take a good, hard look at the worst case scenario when it comes to speaking up. So, in terms of someone just yells, like, “Don’t bother me with this! Handle it yourself, Karin, I’m busy!” Or what does it sound like in practice when it goes wrong?

Karin Hurt

Or, “That’s a dumb idea.” Or, “We’ve tried that before.” “That will never work.” “This is out of your swim lane.” You hear that. “Stay in your lane. Don’t worry about that. That’s not your issue to deal with.” Usually when you hear stuff like that, it’s coming from an insecure manager.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. But what’s interesting is – call me an optimist – but none of those reactions were extreme, like, “You’re fired” or, “If you ever mouth off in this sort of a way, suggesting that all of the ways we’ve worked and the processes that we’ve implemented are inadequate for your higher standards and you’re ungrateful, then you could just find the door over there.” So, it sounds like it’s sort of dismissive, it’s kind of disrespectful, it would make you feel like… I’m hearing the Charlie Brown music in my head, like, “Oh, bummer.” But it’s not, brutal. It’s just sort of unpleasant and it just makes you feel not so good.

Karin Hurt

I totally agree with you. And that’s really the point. I think that a lot of this fear people have exaggerated in their heads, or they’ve extrapolated from one bad experience and then forgotten the other 99 good experiences they had when they did speak up.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So then, let’s dig into a little bit of the how-to. So, if you’re experiencing some fear of speaking up, maybe how do you tackle the emotional element of that, and then how do you actually do the positioning of the issues?

Karin Hurt

Yeah. So I would say first and foremost it’s, how do you connect your “What” to your “Why”? What is it that you want to say, and why is it so important? Because if you can ground in the greater good that you’re trying to accomplish, you’re going to get some courage from that. Another element in terms of overcoming the fear is, think about some times that you did speak up, and what did you do to make that work, and what was the impact? Rather than thinking about maybe the one-off circumstance where you spoke up and it didn’t go well. One of the best ways to build confidence is to recall on past experiences that were successful.
And then the next is to use some tools to do it well. And one of the most important techniques that we teach is, how do you initiate the conversation? So, you’ve got some hard news or some bad news that you need to give to your boss, or some feedback that you are worried is not going to be received well. Start by making a real genuine connection: “I really, really care about you and your career. I care about this team and I care about the projects that we’re working on, and I really want us all to be successful. I’ve had some observations. Do you have a minute?”
It’s very hard for anybody to become defensive when you start like that. So, start by creating the genuine connection. And then from there, make sure that you’re doing this in private. If you’re talking about something controversial, nobody wants to be confronted in front of a bunch of other people. This is different than if your boss is in a team meeting and says, “Does anybody have any suggestions?” That’s different, because they’ve invited it in. But if you are the one initiating it, it’s always better to take it offline and have that conversation.
And then the next piece is to really consider what is the person you’re trying to persuade – what’s big on their mind? What is their most important things and how can you position what you’re looking to accomplish in a way that relates to that? If their most important focus is the financial bottom line, how can you position what you’re worried about in terms of the impact it’s going to have on the financial bottom line? If they’re are most worried about the customer experience, how do you position what you’re going to say in the way that what you’re worried about is negatively impacting the customer experience?
And then the other is stakeholdering. Often there are other people who you can gather information from, or you can help engage in your argument, that may have more credibility on the subject than you. So, I’ll give you an example on that one. I worked at Verizon for 20 years, and at one point I was leading a 2,200-person sales team. We had had a particular month, where like Murphy’s law, everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did. We had several feet of snow, just a bunch of different things.
And it was very clear to me that there was no salesperson on my entire team that was going to make quota. And if you don’t make quota, if you don’t get to a certain threshold, you really don’t get any compensation additional to your salary. And this is a huge deal for salespeople. And so, what I was worried about was that if people were beginning to look towards the end of the month and they said, “There’s no way I’m going to make any commission this month”, they were going to sandbag and save all their sales for the following month, which would have been terrible for our revenue numbers.
But I really couldn’t go to my boss, who was the regional president and say, “We need to lower quotas”, because that looks self-serving, because if I lower my team’s quotas, my quota goes down. So instead, I went to our finance director and I explained to him and I did the math and I showed him how we would actually get more revenue and more margin, even if we paid out more commissions by lowering the quotas. He got the math, he said, “I think you’re absolutely right.” He went to the regional president and explained it, and they lowered quotas. So, I think sometimes so long as you get what you want, it doesn’t matter if you get the credit for the idea. So yeah, I think that’s also part of it.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool, and very sensible and proactive, to identify that and get that going. I’m fixated. Now, the snow – I know I did some work with wireless companies in training. So the snow impacts the quality of the signal, but are you talking about just their ability for people to get to their meetings?

Karin Hurt

To a store. So, I was retail sales, so I had all the Verizon Wireless stores in Maryland, DC and Virginia. So if you have three feet of snow, customers are not coming to your stories, even if you’re open.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, understood. Thank you.

Karin Hurt

At least not to buy a new phone. They may be coming for something to repair, but that doesn’t create revenue.

Pete Mockaitis

Understood. Okay, so we talked about the individual professional raising an issue upward to management. So now, what if you are the manager and you want to encourage people to speak up effectively? How do you do that?

Karin Hurt

A couple of different ways. One tool we use and I have created is called “Only UGLY”. And so, this is just four very easy questions that you can ask your team. What are we underestimating? That’s “U”. “G” – What’s got to go? “L” – Where are we losing? And “Y” – Where are we missing the “Yes”? So, an example of this – we did an “Only UGLY” conversation; it was a company that had grown from five people to 110 people in five years.
So, as they were growing, people were coming from other companies and they were bringing their favorite project management software, their favorite communication tools, and they just kept adding more and more tools to the mix. And so, we were doing this strategic offsite and we broke the team up into the four conversations. And the “What’s go to go” group listed every communication tool and project management tool that they had, and they listed like 27 of these.
And then they gave everybody in the room a dot and said, “Put a dot next to three of these that you think are the ones we should keep, that you use every day.” And all the dots clustered in the same couple of tools. So then they said, “What would happen if we got rid of everything else?” And everybody in the room was like, “Yes, thank God.” Then they looked back at the chief operating officer, and they thought he was going to be furious because they thought he wanted these tools. And he said, “Oh my gosh, I thought you wanted these tools. You know how much money we’re going to save if we don’t have to pay the licensing on all this?”
And then they simplified, because what they were finding is that people were spending as much time updating software and programs as they were working on the work. So, that was a quick, easy example. If you ask people, “What do we need to stop doing? Where are we missing the ‘Yes’?” Ask your team, “Where are there opportunities that you may not be thinking about here that could really add additional revenue or improve the customer experience?”
Every single time we use this exercise with teams, it is fascinating to me how fast how many ideas get into the room. We were working the other day with a company and we just spent two hours doing this exercise, and they came up with a list of a whole easel sheet of things that they could immediately implement within the next 30 days that would really make life better. And then they came up with three strategic projects that they would work on for the next year. A good investment of two hours.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. So let’s review. So, we’ve got four components – the UGLY. Can we hear them again?

Karin Hurt

What are we underestimating? So maybe we’re underestimating competitive pressures; maybe we’re underestimating the shift in the job market; we’re underestimating this new call center that’s opened up down the street that’s going to take all of our best talent because they’re paying $2 more per hour. “G” – What’s got to go? What do we need to stop doing? “L” – Where are we losing? Where are we losing to our competition; maybe where are we losing talent; why are we losing talent? And then “Y” – Where are we missing the “Yes”? This is, where are there real strategic opportunities that we could be focused on that we’re not?

Pete Mockaitis

That’s excellent. And it reminds me of a powerful question we picked up from Jason Nazar, who founded Comparably. We interviewed him some episodes ago, and his power question was, “What am I pretending not to know?” That’s potent. And you’ve even made it all the more richer, more robust with subcategories of the ways we pretend not to know things. That’s cool. Thank you.

Karin Hurt

Sure. So the other thing I would say is if you really want people to tell you the truth – it’s not just management by walking around MBWA, but one of the things we often see, we call it, “Oh crap, here they come” – OCHTC. And how are you showing up? When people see you coming, are they excited to tell you what they’re working on? Are they knowing that you’re genuinely interested in hearing what’s working and what your ideas are? Or are you showing up pointing out everything that’s wrong, telling them your point of view, and shutting things down? And in every organization we see some of both. And so, just how do you show up in a way that is really curious? And when people really believe that you are genuinely interested, they’re going to want to show you what they’re doing, and that’s where you’re going to really get some of the best practices.

Pete Mockaitis

I’m curious, you mentioned being curious and best practices. Are there some more practices, some key things folks do that maybe subtly or not so subtly just kill that willingness to speak up from others?

Karin Hurt

The very best way to kill that is to ask people for their ideas and feedback, and then not do anything with them. You’ll see the employee suggestion boxes or the electronic version of that, where these ideas go to die. And so, even if you can’t implement the idea, somehow acknowledging: “Hey, we’ve heard you. Thank you so much for your input.” Really recognize people who are speaking up and bringing ideas forward. And even if you can’t, then you at least explain why: “This is a great idea. This is why we can’t do this at this time, but thank you. And please, keep these ideas coming because I’m sure you’re going to have one that will be exactly what we need.” And just really being encouraging of that.
I read an article the other day and I think it was Harvard Business Review, where they were talking about, this company had a recognition program for, if you stole somebody else’s best practice and implemented it and it was really successful, the person whose idea you stole would get recognized, and you would also get recognized. So people were really encouraged to not just keep doing their own things in their own teams, but to share with other people.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s great. Well, Karin, tell me – anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Karin Hurt

I think that’s good.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Karin Hurt

Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I think that’s very relevant to what we’re talking about here, because half the time when we do things we realize that they weren’t as scary as we really thought.

Pete Mockaitis

Right. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Karin Hurt

I am a real big believer in the diffusion of innovations, which is old; it dates back to the ‘60s. But I find that theory has been one of the most grounding theories for me in large-scale change efforts. And the idea there is, who are your change agents? How do they influence people? Who are your early adopters? How do you get them involved in spreading the word early on? Who were the people who were reluctant? And really mapping out in any change, where do different people who you must influence fit in this change curve? And then what are the strategic ways that you can make sure that you are bringing people along and giving them what they need to feel comfortable about your change?

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Karin Hurt

I love almost anything written by Seth Godin, but my favorite is Tribes. One of the keynotes that I do is Turning Your Volunteers into Brand Ambassadors or Building Your Army of Brand Ambassadors, depending on whether you’re talking about internal or associations. I really believe in his theory of how do you make genuine connections, one person at a time, in order to build tribes that are meaningful, in order to influence the large-scale change that you’re trying to accomplish?

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Karin Hurt

Our blog is my favorite tool, I would tell you that. I believe that content marketing is just so important to be able to serve people and show what it is that you have to offer to add value every single day. So, I would say my WordPress blog is certainly my favorite tool.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite habit?

Karin Hurt

Exercise. That is the only way I can manage all of the stress of being an entrepreneur and keep the level of energy up, for sure. So, I’m a big fan of kickboxing and running and pretty much anything that keeps me moving.

Pete Mockaitis

Excellent. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, then they quote it back to you?

Karin Hurt

Yeah. The big thing is really being willing to show up authentically. In so many of our keynotes, that’s really one of the most important messages, is how do you ground yourself in who you really are, and show up with confident humility in that way? And when you can do that, and balance the confidence, the humility and the focus on results and relationships, which those are the four components of our Winning Well model – people will follow you, and you will be able to accomplish great things, and you will have more influence.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Karin Hurt

Our website is LetsGrowLeaders.com, and you could subscribe to our free blog. We write two articles a week, and that’s a lot of powerful tools there. And also our book is available on Amazon and just about everywhere, and that’s called Winning Well.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Karin Hurt

I would really love for people to take something they really, really believe in and have the courage to position that argument well, to speak up, and to be the change. And we like to say, be the leader you want your boss to be.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Karin, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck and success with your speaking and your books and all that you’re up to!

Karin Hurt

I really, really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. Thanks so much.

358: Solving the Five Problems of Virtual Communication with Dr. Nick Morgan

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Communication expert Dr. Nick Morgan describes how the five problems of virtual communication have made the world angrier over the last decade, and what to do about it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The magic question that bridges much of the virtual gap
  2. How bad online behavior is leaking into face-to-face communication
  3. How video calls confuse our sixth sense and exhaust us

About Nick

Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache. He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to deliver an unforgettable TED talk. He has worked widely with political and educational leaders. And he has himself spoken, led conferences, and moderated panels at venues around the world.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Nick Morgan Interview Transcript

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

Nick Morgan
Pete, it’s a great pleasure to be with you again. We talked a while back.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Indeed. It was such a treat then because your book Give Your Speech, Change the World was such a hit with me and with many, many readers. You’ve got a new one coming out all about connecting in virtual spaces. First, I’ve got to see if you have seen this clip from the TV series Silicon Valley about the holographic communication chamber.

Nick Morgan
No, I haven’t, but it sounds cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh. Well, the thing that gets me is that they start with – and we’ll link to it in the show notes – they start in a fancy holographic chamber and then it’s not working. Someone sticks his face up near the camera trying to fix. It was like, “Oh, we don’t have enough bandwidth.” They get on to a Skype-like program and then it sort of freezes up. It’s like, “Oh, you’ve got to update your software.” Then they’re on a cellphone and the connection goes bad.

It was like that is wise in terms of no matter what technology you’ve got, something can go awry technically. Then you’re speaking about things that aren’t quite working even beyond the technical difficulties. What’s the scoop in the book, Can You Hear Me?

Nick Morgan
That’s right. The technical stuff is what people tell me about first and of course, that’s very irritating as you just described it. That was sort of a great compendium of all the things that might go wrong. As we all know, they do. They do on a regular basis. Calls get dropped, the audio conferences mute button doesn’t work. The video conference is exhausting for some reason where it freezes up because there isn’t enough bandwidth. These things – it’s the stuff of daily life.

What’s fascinating to me is that people just sort of accept that. They don’t talk about it much except of course as it’s happening.

It’s a little bit like – I was reading about traffic jams the other day and it turns out that if you measure people’s blood pressure while they’re stuck in a traffic jam it goes way up, but as soon as the traffic starts moving, their blood pressure comes back down. They don’t stay that angry. That’s really interesting to me because it suggests that we have this tolerance for sort of low level, hassle at the technical level.

But what’s going on beneath that and what I found in doing the research for the book is that each of those forms of virtual communication basically strips out the essential thing that humans need to communicate with each other, which is clues that you get when you’re face to face and talking to someone easily and naturally about their intent.

That’s what we care about. We care about what is that other person thinking/feeling, what does that other person mean when they say what they say.

If you’re sitting across from somebody and they say, “Your hair is on fire,” and you know them, you can tell immediately whether they’re kidding or whether you actually need to get a fire extinguisher. Online, you can’t tell.

Most of our virtual communications, therefore, are endlessly frustrating and endlessly misunderstood because of that lack of emotional information, that lack of human intent. We imagine that we’re communicating the same way. We’re all generals fighting the last war.

We talk to each other via email, via audio conference and even via video conferences, which we can get into assuming that it’s the same as face to face because we don’t really think about it. We don’t know any other way to communicate. As a result, we communicate assuming that everything’s getting through, our intent is getting through and it actually isn’t.

We can offend the other person or the other person misunderstands us. Then we don’t quite understand why and we get cranky as a result and welcome to the virtual world. That was the territory that I discovered as I began my research.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. That assertion there is that what we fundamentally want to know is the intention of the person on the other side. We’re sort of – you’re suggesting your research reveals that we’re going to be more interested in what the human is thinking/feeling/believing than in the sort of word content that they’re projecting.

Nick Morgan
That’s absolutely right. We care about their emotions. It’s the emotions tell us how important is this communication. Is this person trying to get something across to us that’s desperately important? Is this person just making chit chat? Is this person flirting with us? Is this person angry at us? Is this person a threat?

All of those kind of questions play constantly in our unconscious minds. We want to know the answers to those things. When we don’t get the answers, then that makes us uncomfortable.

Here’s the added twist about this that I discovered. Imagine the human brain as a multi-channel organism that’s constantly seeking for other people’s intent and attitude. Then imagine that that attitude doesn’t come through, the intent doesn’t come through because it’s stripped out by virtual communication.

Then what happens is the brain doesn’t like empty channels, so it fills the channels with memories and assumptions and stuff it makes up. But, and here’s the thing, it fills it with negative information because it makes sense in evolutionary terms to assume the worst.

If you’re walking through the savannah and you see a shadow, it makes sense for your brain to assume that it’s a tiger and to make steps to get out of the way before you’re killed rather than to assume it’s just a friendly rabbit or something. Our brains do the same thing when we don’t get other people’s intent, we assume the worst.

That’s why virtual communications are always turning into trolling situations or people are always getting angry at you or you make what you assume is a joke in say, email, and the other person is offended for some reason. You think, “How could they be so stupid? I didn’t mean that at all.” Then you get angry at them. Then you have to spend six more emails straightening out the mess that’s been created.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is fascinating in terms of just fundamental human nature. I did not know that in terms of we are naturally filling in the empty channels and we have a strong bias for filling it in in a negative way. I guess I see that all the time, but I guess I didn’t stop to think that that is kind of hardwired into most people as opposed to, “Oh, I bumped into a couple touchy characters in my day.”

Nick Morgan
Sure. There are of course human exceptions, but what we’re talking about here is not the out loud things that people say. People are often more or less like Mr. Rodgers in that situation. We’re talking about the unconscious assumptions, of course. Those we’re less aware of, but they exist very powerfully nonetheless. They influence our decision making. They influence how we react to other people.

The brain is out there always asking “Is this person friend or foe? What’s this person’s intent?” When we’re not getting a clear answer, we assume the worst. That’s the nature of virtual communications. That’s the problem – in fact that’s the first of five problems that I talk about in the book that lead to so much of our frustration in the virtual world.

The reason why I think a large part of why so many people have noted that the world has turned angry in the last five, ten years and it’s a phenomena that many people ask about. They say, “Why is everybody so angry these days? Why is the conversation, the political conversation, the business conversation, why are all these things turned so sour?”

Hello, it’s because for the past ten years we’ve switched from mostly face to face communications to half virtual, half face to face or maybe it’s more like three-quarters virtual, a quarter face to face. It’s a huge unregulated social experiment that’s been going on for about a decade now since the mobile phone became ubiquitous. We’re only just now beginning to wake up to the dangers associated with it.

At first, the advantages were obvious. It’s easier to communicate, much less friction to use the Silicon Valley term. I can send out thousands of emails, it doesn’t cost me anything. I don’t have to lick any stamps. I don’t have to walk to the post office. There are all kinds of – there are unquestionable benefits with audio conferences and video conferences and email. I don’t travel as much so that cuts down on wear and tear. It saves the travel budget.

There are powerful incentives to use virtual communication. That’s why, especially as I say it the last ten years, that’s why it’s just swept the planet and swept the human race. But only now are we starting to wake up to the fact that there are some downsides.

For me the single most alarming statistic that captures this is that when a group of psychologists studied teenage girls and their time on cellphone. What they found was there’s a straight line relationship between the number of hours you spend on your mobile phone and the likelihood that you’re depressed.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Nick Morgan
It just goes straight up. It goes straight up. Every hour you add – and it’s typical for a teenage girl to spend six hours on a cellphone.

Pete Mockaitis
In a day?

Nick Morgan
In a day. Yeah. The rates of depression are rising at a really alarming rate and suicide too tragically.

Pete Mockaitis
That is striking. Do you happen to recall – I’m such a dork for the data – roughly, what’s an extra hour do in terms of my odds for depression?

Nick Morgan
Well it’s – at the top end it’s like 30% of the cohort are depressed, so do the math backwards. That’s around six hours per day on the cellphone.

Pete Mockaitis
That is striking.

Nick Morgan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
As you were sort of talking about this human nature stuff with emails, it reminds me one of my very first corporate internships, I remember, I was at Eaton Corporation, a diversified manufacturing. I had not heard of them before. I was like, “Oh wow, this is like a Fortune 500 company. This is pretty large and established.” It was cool.

It was like, oh man, it reminded me of – it was funny – I was familiar with Office Space before I had actually been in a cubicle-like environment. It was like there we were. I actually had a lot of fun. It was interesting characters and intellectual challenges. I was like, “Oh, working is fun. This is kind of cool.”

But one thing that really tripped me up was the emails because it’s sort of like when I would get an email, like, wait is that person – are they trying to – do they think that I’m not doing my job. I would have all these sort of paranoid thoughts pop in.

Nick Morgan
Right, right.

Pete Mockaitis
Then when I would send an email, I’d have a couple times in which someone seemed kind of rankled with me. I remember my buddy Dan and I, we sort of partnered up with each other. We called it PCS, Political Consulting Solutions, in which we would preview each other’s emails and provide feedback on how it could be misconstrued in a way that’s going to really upset the other person. We spent a lot of time on this. It was wild.

Nick Morgan
That’s such a great example of what I’m talking about. I love that. Your solution is one, broadly speaking, that I suggest, which is you begin to create a community that discusses the implications of this.

The reason why most people don’t do that is that one of the unintended consequences of making email easy compared to office memos back in the day or inner office mail or whatever it was people used to do, is that we get tons of it now. We’re buried. Everyone talks about information overload, that’s because it’s easy to do.

We have a difficult time just coping with it all, so we tend to go through it very quickly. We just react emotionally. We actually are using that unconscious brain in a way that also has its unintended consequences and leads to negativity and suspicion and paranoia and all those juicy things. Yeah, that’s a great example.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. You say you’ve laid out five key problems associated with this. I’d love to get your view on what are the problems and your sort of favorite practice to ameliorate that problem or to address it a bit.

Nick Morgan
Yeah, sure. The first one I talked about is this lack of feedback is the fact that I can’t detect what you’re intending toward me. It’s a like a sensory deprivation chamber, most virtual communications, in one form or another. Email is the worst because that’s just words, black and white marks on a screen.

Of course, audio conference, you’ve got a little bit of the people’s intent through the voice. Actually some of that is stripped out and I can talk about the technical reasons for that. That gets a chapter in my book. Audio conferences are worse than you think, which is why we find them so boring. Nonetheless there’s a little bit of information there.

And we get a little bit more in a video conference. But on the whole, video conferences, people think, “Well, I’m actually seeing the other person,” you have to remember, it’s still just a two dimensional representation of a three-dimensional person. It’s still screening out things that you get easily and instantly face to face that you don’t get in video conferencing, which is why video conferencing is so tiring for most people. That’s the first big problem is the lack of feedback.

The second one is that as a result of that lack of feedback, we lack empathy. Normally, say if you’re standing with somebody, you’re having a quick conversation and you say something sarcastic and you see the pain in their eyes, you can do something instantly, and people mostly do, nice people on the whole, they’ll pat you on the arm or say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” because they’ll see the reaction in your eyes. They’ll get right away that your intent back to me is “Oh, you hurt my feelings.” People can repair that because we have that empathic connection.

That’s the second big problem is that empathic connection is just largely gone.

The third problem is that you don’t have any control over your own persona or not enough control because what happens online since it’s done by machines for machines through machines is that it remembers forever.

The classic example of this is the drunken frat boy and the sorority girl pictures on Facebook that come back to haunt you when you’re trying to get your first job. We all can appreciate that that sometimes things happen in social media or online that we wish would go away.

Some governments around the world have started to rewrite the rules so that you are allowed to insist that information like that be pulled down, but it’s not universal yet. It’s very hard to do. It’s time consuming and a struggle. Lack of control over your persona, the information that’s out there, is a problem.

This is an interesting one because when I first started talking about this with my publishers, their reaction was, “Well, that doesn’t seem all that important really,” until I said – they said, “You might want to leave that one out.” I said, “Well, come on now. Think of the number of times in a day that somebody Googles you.”

They hadn’t really thought about it before, but people Google you now when they meet you. If you’re a potential customer or if they’re going to be your customer, you Google them. If you’re going to date a relative of theirs, they’ll Google you. People Google each other now often and on and on and on. The result is that there is information about you out there online, sort of whether you’re aware of it or not.

The other thing that happens is for people who do take control of this and create a website and a persona and you Google their name and up comes something that looks sort of bright and breezy and professional and interesting, compare that with somebody else who you Google and maybe there’s three or four different Nick Morgan’s that come up.

One of them looks a little sketchy. The other one might be me and whatnot. Then you think, “Oh, this person doesn’t exist. What’s the matter with them? Why don’t they have a website?”

In a way it’s also the competition that if you don’t control your persona, then people see you as less than human. That’s the third big problem.

The fourth problem, and this is a really subtle one, is that when you take out these emotions as I’ve been describing, then it actually makes it hard to make good decisions. The reason for that is we like to think of ourselves as logical beings who make logical decisions, but in fact, most of our decisions are based on emotions.

There’s a famous case of a stroke victim named HM, whose initials are used in the medical literature because he’s so famous. But he was kept anonymous, but his initials were used. He had a stroke which paralyzed his emotional centers of his brain. He was therefore unable to make decisions because it’s emotions we use to rate the importance of something.

This is easy to understand if you go back to a very simple example from your childhood that hopefully this never happened to you, but let’s pretend you walked up to a stove at age two and you saw this bright, glowing orange thing and you thought, “Oh, that looks cool,” and you put your finger on it.

Then what happened? Well, then suddenly you were subsumed with rage, and pain, and anger, and fear, and terror. You started screaming for your mother and all kinds of things happened. You never forgot that moment if that happened to you. You made a decision right then and there and you always followed it ever since never put your finger on a glowing hot stove ever again.

That goes up there because so much pain is associated with it as a very high and important decision. It sounds silly, but that’s the way in which our brain creates structures in order to allow us to make decisions. We rate things on their importance based on the number of times they come up in our memory and the amounts of emotion that are attached to them.

If you think of remodeling, recently we were remodeling our kitchen, there’s a ton of decisions you have to make when you’re remodeling a kitchen. You have to decide how much the surface is and what are the cabinets going to look like.

Pete Mockaitis
The knobs. There’s so many choices of knobs.

Nick Morgan
There are whole stores just devoted to knobs, Pete, it’s crazy. You can lose your mind trying to make these decisions.

Well, how do you make those decisions? Ultimately you start out all happy to do it. Let’s pick the best one and you do a little research. Then after a while you’ve made about 50 decisions, you just can’t stand it anymore. You just start going, “That one.” You just point and you say, “I’ll take that one.”

What are you basing it on? You’re basing it on some kind of emotional memory. That drawer pull reminded you of one that you used to have in your home when you were a kid and you loved it or you want one that’s different from the one you used to have in your home when you were a kid because you hated the home when you were a kid. That’s how we make those kind of decisions. We make them based on emotions and memories.

Pete Mockaitis
Or even if you’re imagining the future in terms of – or likening it too – it’s like, “Oh man, that’s so futuristic. That’s like some cutting edge Star Trek space-age knob there. I want to be like Captain Picard when I’m opening my drawer.”

Nick Morgan
That fits my image of myself or the image that I want to be.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally.

Nick Morgan
Yeah, that’s the fourth problem.

Then the final one is that when you compromise this kind of decision making and emotional connection then what happens is people don’t commit in the same way. This is where we get into the whole trolling problem and the fact that we’ve all experienced at a very simple level if – contrast say the Amazon website, most of shop on Amazon and we keep going back to Amazon. Why? Because they’re completely obsessive about making that experience work for us.

But think about another shopping website that you’ve gone to that the experience wasn’t that great. Maybe the response was slow or it was hard to find the right product or in the end they sent you the wrong one and you had to send it back and that was an incredible hassle. How many times are you going to go back to that website? Never. You’re one and done.

That’s the nature of the online world is one and done compared to a face to face world where if you have a convenient coffee shop, maybe one time the barista screws up the coffee and gives you something that doesn’t taste very good, but you forgive him because he’s a human being and it’s local and convenient and you’re going to go back there again. If it happens enough times, maybe you won’t. You’ll find another place.

But face to face the experience is very different. We have a much higher tolerance and a much stronger sense of commitment to people that we meet face to face. That’s the final problem, just the online commitment, the online connection between people is very fragile and very transient.

If we try to communicate, and this is my main point in the book, is we’re still trying to communicate as if we were living in a face-to-face world, so we assume those kinds of connections are made on the same basis as they are in the real face-to-face world and they’re not.

I go into an email conversation. In a way I haven’t really reflected on kind of assuming the other person knows my intent. Why? Because when I talk to them face to face, they pick up my intent without any effort, so I don’t have to put a lot of that into my email if I’m thinking in those terms.

But in fact, I do and that’s really the beginning of the solution is I say, you need to start putting in the emotions and the clarity and intent, specifically the human intent into your email. It feels strange at first.

But I say it all begins with a question, which a neuroscientist told me he thinks about under the circumstances, which is “How does what I just said make you feel?” As soon as you ask that question, then the whole game changes and we can begin to turn virtual communications into something that words not quite as well as face to face, because of the way our unconscious minds are wired, but it’s going to work reasonably well. But that’s the key thing.

There are two implications of that. First of all, it allows you to tell me how you’re feeling emotionally because it gives time for that and it gives the space for it. But second, it also gives you the respect to say “I care about how you feel.”

Now face to face, I can’t help but care because if I say something and then that hurts your feelings and I see the pain in your eyes, then I’m hardwired to care about that because we humans are decent, most of us. The number of psychos, thank God, are fairly small. Most of us are hardwired to respond sympathetically that we have empathy, so we care.

But online, we don’t. That’s why we need to ask that question, “How does what I just said make you feel?” It’s about taking the time to do that and also showing the other person the respect and the empathy and the caring that says “I want to know these things. I’m going to take a moment to do that.”

It involves a real shift. It’s not difficult to understand or technically difficult to do, but it involves a huge shift in just the way we think about communication because essentially what we’re doing is putting back in the emotional connection, the intent, the clarity of that intent, which we do reasonably well most of the time face to face and we do horribly online, horribly.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s striking in terms of I can see – you made a compelling case here for why this is extra critically necessary when it comes to the online dimensions.

Although I don’t think it’s a bad question for in-person contexts either because I think a lot of times – we’re not, even though there’s – I guess for example, if you’re looking at a room of a dozen people in a conference room and you’re presenting something, it can be hard to kind of keep your eye on all of them at the same time.

Nick Morgan
That’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
It would be great to get some of that feedback. What’s great is it can even surface information that’s not yet conscious I’d say. I’m just imagining this playing out.

Nick Morgan
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
To the person you’re saying it to because, “How does this make you feel?” Then especially if they’re on the spot and they can’t squirm out and say “Nothing,” they might say – if you have a decent relationship, I guess some people would just not say anything. Because I can imagine a lot of times they’ll say “How does it make you feel?” and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s fine, I guess,” it’s just like the emotion is sort of like uninspired.

Nick Morgan
Right, but then you’ll know.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Nick Morgan
Then you’ll know that. Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like this proposal-

Nick Morgan
You can tell by the reaction.

Pete Mockaitis
-is fine I guess. It will probably get the job done, but it’s not going to inspire tremendous energy and enthusiasm and commitment from the people on my team. Are we okay with that or are we not okay with that?

Nick Morgan
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Now there’s a whole other conversation that maybe needs to be had.

Nick Morgan
That’s right and it’s a good thing to have. I think one of the things you’re pointing to is that what’s happening is that some of our bad behavior that we’ve learned online is in danger of leaking back into our face to face.

We’ve all complained about this when we go to a meeting and half the people are on their cellphones. You’re going, “Wait a minute, don’t you even have the courtesy to put down the cellphone and talk to me. Here we are face to face. We’ve gone to all the trouble to get together face to face and you’re still on your cellphone. Come on, that isn’t acceptable behavior.” Some people surface that and insist that people leave their cellphones at the door or turn them off or whatever.

I’ve noticed more and more and I know many other people have as well, I’m sure you have, bad behavior from virtual communications were leaking back into face to face and in effect making – the worst possible outcome would be if face to face were dragged down to the level of virtual communications.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just imagining we’d pull out an emoji notecard from our pockets and just display that. “This is my response to what you’ve said.”

Nick Morgan
Well, I say in the book that we’re in danger of raising a generation of people who are uncomfortable communicating face to face and incompetent communicating online.

Pete Mockaitis
That is quotable, Tweet that and spooky.

Nick Morgan
Yeah, scary.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to kind of hit something you said earlier before it disappears. I was quite intrigued. You mentioned that because of our kind of false assessment of what’s being transmitted in audio, that leads to it being very boring. Because of our false assessment with video, that results in a 2D versus 3D, that results in it being very tiring. Can you explain that pathway a little bit more in these two dimensions?

Nick Morgan
Yeah, sure. This involves a slightly technical explanation, but I’ll make it as simple and brief as I can.

What happens when the phones were invented and the engineers said we’ve got to get the human voice into twister copper pair, that was the original phone line, was that they studied the human voice and realized that the human voice covers three bands of sound.

There’s the basic pitch at which say you and I are speaking. If I held one of the vowels that I’m saying out loud and made kind of a note out of that, so nooo, if I held that tone, we could find that on the piano. We could find that pitch. The pitch at which people speak exists within a pretty narrow band of about around 200 Hertz. It goes up to about 300 – 350 and goes down to about 100, but it’s a pretty narrow band, several hundred Hertz wide.

The human – if you think about human hearing, one of the extraordinary things is we can hear up to 20,000 Hertz when we’re young and healthy. As time goes on if we listen to too much loud rock music, we lose a bit at the top. But the basic human hearing range is 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz.

Now you think about why did we evolve to do that and the reason is something quite extraordinary about the human voice, we can identify other people’s voices without any apparent effort at all. That’s an extraordinary achievement when you think about it.

As soon as you pick up the phone and it’s your significant other calling or a family member, your mother, your father, friends, family, or if you hear politicians or famous actor’s voices on television or on the radio, you instantly know who all these people are. You know without any effort several hundred voices. It’s an extraordinary thing when you think about it.

The way you know that is there’s the basic pitch that people speak, but every human voice is like a fingerprint in that it’s individual and it’s characterized by a certain set of overtones over the basic pitch and undertones under the basic pitch.

There are three bands, as I said, there are the overtones, that your voice makes, which we can’t hear consciously but are fed into the sound of Pete’s voice or Nick’s voice, and then there are the basic pitch at which we’re speaking, and then there are the undertones.

Now, what the engineers realized was you could leave off the overtones and undertones and you’d still be able to understand the basic pitch. You’d be able to hear and understand what people were saying. They noticed that the human voice became a little less distinctive. It was a little harder to tell people apart, but not impossible because you still got some of that sound richness even in the narrow band.

Okay, that’s what people did for telephones and then the same thing happened – there was never a time when it suddenly became convenient to put massive more bandwidth into the sound of the human voice. Once the original science had been done, nobody ever thought let’s redo this and suddenly increase the ear buds and the speaking phones and everything so they can get 20,000 to 20 Hertz.

They never did that. As a result, the sounds are vastly restricted to that narrow band of the basic pitch.

Now here’s why that’s important. When you take out the undertones especially, also the overtones to a certain extent, but when you take out the undertones, then you take out the emotion. Emotion is conveyed in the undertones.

Now, because of our earlier discussion, you’ll know that that’s very important. As soon as you take out the emotions, then it gets hard to make good decisions and it’s also very boring because emotions, other people’s intent, are what we care about.

Basically the simple way to put this is when you’re on a regular team meeting with your team, which is spread out all over the world, then your boss is droning on about something, you can’t tell as well what the emotions are being conveyed in his or her voice because the undertones are taken out. They’re edited out. As a result your boss is both boring and you can’t read him or her as well.

That’s why there’s the stories of what people do on audio conferences in order to stay human, alive and on the planet are hilarious and …. The vast majority of people as soon as they get in an audio conference put their phone on mute and start doing their email. They’re only half there.

Then there are lots of good stories when I was doing the research I came up with a number of hilarious stories about gross and disgusting things, some of which I couldn’t put in the book, that people do when they put the phone on mute instead of listening on the audio conference.

Pete Mockaitis
We can’t let that go. Give us just one or two examples please.

Nick Morgan
Of course, people go to the bathroom and then forget

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, bummer.

Nick Morgan
Make revolting noises.

Pete Mockaitis
Embarrassing.

Nick Morgan
Yeah, embarrassing noises. But my favorite, people have sex believe it or not. Sometimes that gets overheard. While you’re on the boring audio conference, imagine somebody else is having a good time.

But my favorite one, my favorite one is there was a team that had a group based in South America, in Brazil I think it was, and a team in Asia and a team in the United States.

Obviously everybody except whoever the poor soul was that was talking had their phones on mute because an earthquake happened to the Brazilian team. They left their phones on mute and fled the building and didn’t come back and nobody noticed. The rest of the world didn’t know. The rest of the team had no idea that their teammates in Brazil were suffering an earthquake. That tells you just how dissociated and ridiculous audio conferences are.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man.

Nick Morgan
somewhere else on the phone can have an earthquake and you don’t even know, I mean come on.

Pete Mockaitis
That is wild. It’s not just one person. It’s numerous.

Nick Morgan
Right, there were several people sitting around that conference room table, which was by then shaking obviously.

Pete Mockaitis
That is wild. Well, thank you for that. Now these undertones, overtones business now I hear that, have a mental image I guess, audiogram, audio picture of what that sounds like in terms of when I’m speaking on the phone with someone or a conference call. But if I’m using something like a Zoom or a Skype, are we kind of collecting the full range from an audio bandwidth signal?

Nick Morgan
It depends a lot on the technology. What happens is though even if you use a good microphone, then the person at the other end may not be getting all of the information because of what he or she may be listening on.

If you’re listening on ear buds, ear buds are the worst, even good ones. Of course, they use this kind of trick technology. They don’t actually produce the low notes. They use a trick of the human ear to make you think you’re hearing it, by suggesting by doubling up on the note.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, so I’m not actually hearing the real stuff, but it’s kind of trying to-

Nick Morgan
No, your brain is filling it in.

Pete Mockaitis
-give me something that resembles it. Whoa.

Nick Morgan
Right, the brain is filling it in to a certain extent. You’re not actually – we’re having this lovely conversation, Pete, but you’re not actually hearing my voice. You’re hearing a kind of memory and a construction of my voice.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting. I want to get your quick view then on, while we’re on that subject, I’ve used a lot of meeting platforms in my day and you’ve done a boatload of research. I know that different circumstances and contexts call for different solutions, but if you had to give me your personal favorite in the world of Zoom versus BlueJeans versus GoToMeeting versus Adobe Connect, which one would you say reigns supreme?

Nick Morgan
What I’m liking is – there are some Zoom setups that I’ve seen – Zoom seems to be the easiest to me just of all the ones I’ve used. I’ve used them all. I have no particular beef or no investment in any particular one. But Zoom seems to be the easiest.

Some Zoom setups are starting to build in better speakers so that you can get a broader range of response built into the room for example. I’m in favor of those kind of setups where we start to put back in the sounds that have been stripped out.

But understand one other thing we were going to talk about, videos. Let me just quickly say the issue with video, and that’s another interesting one. We humans are brought up to think about the five senses. That’s sort of what we imagine we have. There’s actually a sixth sense that all of us have, which works very, very hard and that’s called proprioception.

Proprioception is the effort that your mind and my mind make to track our location in space and the location of everybody around us.

Just to pick a fun example, that’s why most people find cocktail parties so exhausting because there are a lot of people milling around. You keep track of where are all those people are. Your unconscious mind is keeping track of where all those people are even if you can’t see them, so even the ones behind you. you’re doing it with a little bit of sort of weird sixth sense again that people have of – you know the prickly feeling you have at the back of your neck. You kind of know somebody’s behind there so maybe you sneak a little look.

It’s a combination of looking and sort of the feeling that you get when there’s somebody behind you and physical sensation and shadows. You use all the means at your disposal. Proprioception is a very hardworking little sense to keep track of where everybody is.

Well, on video that doesn’t come through. Once again, that channel is emptied out pretty much because you can’t tell where that other person actually is in space because they’re sitting on a two dimensional screen, which is maybe four or five feet from your face. But you know they aren’t kind of there because you only see their head and shoulders.

You know they aren’t actually four feet away from you, but you don’t know where they are. Are they ten feet, twenty feet? Your brain works really hard and assumes that that person is both more dangerous than they actually are and farther away or closer than they actually are. You don’t get a good read on it. Your brain is working extra hard and it is again filling that channel with information which is made up essentially.

We find that very exhausting. That’s why people often end up shouting at each other on video conferences or report themselves fatigued after an hour of video conferences. It’s very hard unless you’re really practiced at it, to do a long, long video conference. Whereas, most people if they’re enjoying the conversation, wouldn’t mind an hour or two conversation face to face.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re bringing me back to some days which I’ve done 11 hours of video coaching calls in a day and I can confirm that tuckered me out good.

Nick Morgan
Wow. There you go. I’m impressed you went that long. That’s really-

Pete Mockaitis
I’m used to the load in video sense. Um, so—

Nick Morgan
Well, just remember, you’re making your unconscious brain work very hard. I talk in the book about things you can do to improve it.

One of the things – it sounds trivial, but it’s really not – is you can do this on your end, is set up your video conferencing to give the other person subtle clues as to the depth perception involved in the room.

I say have something that’s near you that they can easily estimate the size of and then put something like a plant a few feet back. Then have a wall clearly behind that with things on it that will help them size what they’re seeing.

If you give people those three layers of depth, then that’s actually visually very helpful for them. They’ll find talking to you much less stressful than they otherwise would. It takes a certain amount of effort.

And of course, adequate lighting. Everybody has heard that I’m sure now about video conferencing. It takes – because it’s just a camera, a TV camera, and it takes a lot of light to reproduce enough through the pixels that you need a lot of extra light. That’s something that most people don’t do, so we’re squinting into the gloom and we can’t see the other person very well.

Adequate lighting and a sense of depth perception really go a long way to improving that sense of ease that you’ll give the other person. Now that won’t help you unless the other person does the same thing, but at least you can be kind to whoever you’re talking to.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now part of me is wondering if you did the reverse in terms of I put a giant can of Coca Cola just to really mess with their whole ….

Nick Morgan
You see that wicked thought, Pete, that comes from online communication. There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man.

Nick Morgan
You’re prone to misbehave online.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m guilty. Well, tell me anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about a couple of your favorite things and see if there’s any new favorite things since last time?

Nick Morgan
Yeah, sure. I would just say one of the other quick fixes that I talk about, which I recommend very highly for anybody who has an ongoing team audio conference, that sort of arrangement, where you have people in Singapore and the US and Europe say and you talk to them all every week all the time and you need to keep an ongoing happy relationship with them.

Then at the beginning of every call, do the virtual temperature check is what I call it, where you ask them – think of a stop light, red, yellow, or green. You can also say amber if you like amber better, red, amber or green.

Red means “This is an awful day. There’s disaster. You probably should let me off this call.” Yellow means “I’m having a stressful day but I’m okay to be on the call, but cut me some slack.” Green means everything is great.

What you find is if you ask people just to do that simple check, they feel they have permission to do that, whereas often what happens on audio conferences is your world may be falling apart around you, but you get the … audio conference because you have to do it. It’s your job. You don’t feel comfortable saying online, on an audio conference like that, “Well, actually life’s awful right now and here’s what’s going on.”

That audio conference set up because it’s stripped of emotion, doesn’t give us the permission to do that typically. Audio conferences often get off to a bad start because half the team is missing in action literally or figuratively and nobody knows. Resentment builds up and misunderstandings build up.

This is a way of just getting clear and allowing whoever the team leader is to say if somebody does say red, say “Well, okay, sorry to hear that. Do you want to talk about it? Do you want to be let off the call? Shall I get back to you later? Do you want to have a side conversation?” It allows you just to handle that in a compassionate and thoughtful way.

Same with yellow. You can say, “I’m sorry that it’s not green. Do you want to talk about it or is it good enough that you can get along?” They’ll make a choice. Then do the same thing at the end of the call. It’s very quick. It’s easy to do. Yet it allows you to put some of that emotional connection back in that the internet and virtual communication has taken out.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Nick Morgan
I always come back to “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” That’s my favorite all time quote. I probably said that the last time, but I’m still – that’s still my all-time favorite quote.

I use that with clients all the time when we’re talking about asking does this speech have enough impact. Is it going to change the world? Of course, that means for a specific audience and specific moment. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a politician announcing world peace or something like that. People can change the world in small but important ways.

I think it’s a great quote and a great test for any kind of public communication.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Nick Morgan
Favorite book, I just read the 12 Rules for Life, the Peterson book. I think that’s very thoughtful. It’s not that the 12 rules are so surprising. They aren’t. They’re basically the Golden rule and a few others of decent behavior to each other.

But what’s really incredible about that book is the discussion leading up to each of the 12 rules. It’s just very deep, thoughtful examination of human frailty and the nature of evil in the world and why we do the things we do and how we need to treat each other, just a very deep and important book I think. I got a lot out of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you.

Nick Morgan
Like I said, the rules won’t surprise you, but it’s the discussion that’s thoughtful and useful.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Nick Morgan
A favorite habit?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Nick Morgan
Besides coffee? Coffee and cookies. My new favorite habit is I’ve started to do more yoga and tai chi because tai chi is beautiful. It’s kind of like organized slow dance. I was never a very good dancer, so tai chi sort of gives me the illusion that I can kind of control my body in space.

My only fear about it is it doesn’t feel like much exercise. I’m not working up a sweat doing tai chi, but my tai chi instructor keeps telling me, “No, this is very good for you. This will be very good for your circulation and your balance and all kinds of good things.” I’ve really been enjoying tai chi. I recommend it highly, very good way to de-stress and to do a different thing than your normal day-to-day life, which involves much virtual communication.

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

Nick Morgan
PublicWords.com is our website, P-U-B-L-I-C-W-O-R-D-S. There’s a contact form on there. You can reach out or just shoot me an email at Nick@PublicWords.com.

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

Nick Morgan
Yes, I do. If you’re spending any kind of time communicating virtually, then I challenge you to think about how am I going to make clear what my intent is in these conversations and these communications and how am I going to give other people the respect to find out what their intent or reaction is.

It begins with asking yourself the question and asking other people around you the question, “How did what I just say make you feel?” and proceeding from there. But we need to put that respect and care for each other’s emotions and reactions back into virtual communication.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Nick, this has been a real treat. Thanks again for coming on back. I wish you tons of luck with Can You Hear Me? and all the good stuff you’re doing.

Nick Morgan
Pete, thank you so much. It’s always great to talk to you. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

357: The Six Morning Habits of High Performers with Hal Elrod

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Miracle Morning author Hal Elrod condensed the six habits of the most successful people in history into the SAVERS acronym and describes how they changed his life—and how they can change yours, too.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Approaches for silence that generate new ideas
  2. How NOT to do affirmations
  3. The impact of tiny amounts of exercise

About Hal

He is one of the highest rated keynote speakers in America, creator of one of the fastest growing and most engaged online communities in existence and author of one of the highest rated, best-selling books in the world, The Miracle Morning—which has been translated into 27 languages, has over 2,000 five-star Amazon reviews and is practiced daily by over 500,000 people in 70+ countries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Hal Elrod Interview Transcript

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

Hal Elrod
Pete, I’m feeling awesome at my job of being a podcast guest right now, so ….

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, well you’re off to a great start with the enthusiasm.

Hal Elrod
You got it.

Pete Mockaitis
I also hear that you’re enthusiastic about UFC. What’s the story here?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, it’s kind of funny because I’m the most non-violent UFC fan I think that there is. For those that don’t know, UFC is Ultimate Fighting Championship. If I would have ever turned on the TV and saw two guys fighting, I don’t think I ever would have gotten pulled in.

In 2004 I think it was, I just turned on the TV on Spike TV and the reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which for those of you who don’t know, this is actually how the UFC turned – they were a failing company and they turned themselves around by putting fighters in a reality show.

It was like the Real World meets UFC fighting, where fighters lived in a house together for six weeks and they competed in a tournament, where they’re fighting each other and they’re sharing rooms with each other. I got really connected to the storyline of the fighters. Then I actually cared about what they were going to do. Then fast forward, I’ve been a fan now for gosh, 13 years or so.

Now it’s just two people that are – the people that compete in the UFC, they have to master seven or eight different fighting disciplines. There’s no other sport – in basketball, you just master basketball. In UFC, it’s you’ve got to be proficient, not proficient, you’ve got to be excellent in wrestling, and excellent in jiu-jitsu, and excellent at karate, and excellent at boxing, and excellent at all these different styles.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a full hour of UFC programming before. I’m impressed by what these athletes do. They are fit – in great shape. I just hurt watching it, so I think I turn away. It’s like, “Ow,” then I find something else.

These athletes – you literally at the top level, in the UFC essentially, you’ve got to be as good as Michael Jordan at basketball and while you’re as good as Jordan at basketball, you have to as good as Tiger Woods at golf and – these guys train, they’ll train – they’re basically train 12 hours a day, 6 to 12 hours a day. They’re training – Monday they do wrestling for 3 hours, then they do boxing for 3 hours. Then Tuesday – it’s just crazy to have to train not just one sport, but 7 or 8.

Pete Mockaitis
That is why their physiques are striking. It’s like that person is among the fittest that I’ve beheld.

Hal Elrod
And their cardio, to compete at that level and do that.

Yeah, the funny part is I’m non-violent. A lot of times in a match it will get too violent for me. I love the sport. I love the storyline. I appreciate the athletes, but yeah, when it gets bloody and stuff, which it does sometimes, I’m like, “Ah, ….” It’s funny, I’m a huge fan, but I don’t like when they hurt each other.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. It’s funny, that’s sort of like – that’s kind of one of your things is you are such a positive guy and talking about sort of potential and possibility and how to unlock that largely in terms of getting the momentum going through morning routines. I’d love it if you could give us maybe the short version of your incredible story about how you got into morning routines to become such a believer. What happened in your life that sparked this?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, I usually frame the story by saying I’ve had a few rock bottoms in my life. Those kind of, each one was the catalyst for a different component of my life’s work today.

Let me start by just saying to define a rock bottom, it’s something that we’ve all had. In fact many of them will have more of them. I define a rock bottom as simply a moment in time, moment in your life, a moment in adversity that is beyond what you’ve experienced before.

I don’t compare one person’s rock bottom to another and say, “Well, mine’s worse than yours or yours is worse than hers.” It’s relative to who you are at any given moment in time.

When I was in elementary school and my girlfriend broke up with me, we had been going out for two weeks that was a rock bottom for me. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t imagine going to school any more, like life was over relative to who I was at the time.

The major rock bottoms I had when I was 19 years old I was one of the top sales reps for Cutco Cutlery. I never considered myself a salesperson but a buddy got me into – “Give this a chance.” I’m like, “Eh, I’ll try it just to get you off my back.” Ten days into the career I broke the company record. That sent me on a path of oh, maybe I’m not this mediocre person I’ve been my whole life. Maybe I can do something extraordinary. I went on to break all these records.

A year and a half into the company that I was working with then, I was giving a speech at one of their events. After my speech driving home in a brand new Ford Mustang – I had bought my first new car a few weeks prior – I was hit head-on by a drunk driver at 70 to 80 miles per hour. Then my car spun off the drunk driver, another car hit me from the side, directly in my door at 70 miles an hour and instantaneously broke 11 of my bones.

My femur broke in half. My pelvis broke three separate times. My humerus bone behind my bicep broke in half. My elbow was shattered. My eye socket was shattered. Ruptured lung, punctured lung, ruptured spleen, so on and so forth. I actually, clinically, I was dead. I clinically was found dead at the scene. I died for six minutes, was in a coma for six days and was told my doctors that I would never walk again.

Came out of the coma and three weeks later took my first step and went on to fully recover and walk again. That was really – the turning point for me there was – or I decided maybe I’m meant to do more than just stay in sales because I was going to stay with the company forever. I loved the company. I decided I had to do more.

I had always wanted to be a professional keynote speaker, Pete, because I had been speaking at all these conferences for my company. I thought man, I would love to do this for a living. There are these people like Tony Robbins and you see all these – this is what they do. I would love that. It would be like a dream come true.

I had this kind of – I don’t know if you’d call it an epiphany or just a realization – I thought maybe that’s why I’m going through this experience. They say everything happens for a reason, but I’m a firm believer that it’s our responsibility to choose the reasons. It’s not predetermined. It’s not fate. It’s not out of our control.

Something bad could happen, you can say “This happened because life’s unfair and there is no God.” You can find all sorts of reasons why everything happens or you can say what I did, I went, “Maybe I’m supposed to learn from this and grow from this and take this head on so that I can learn how to teach other people to take their adversity head on.” That’s what I did and I launched that into a speaking career.

Then fast forward and kind of bringing it to what led into more morning rituals, in 2008 when the US economy crashed, I crashed with it. I lost over half my coaching clients, I was a coach at the time, half my income in 2008, couldn’t pay my mortgage, I lost my house, I cancelled my gym membership, my body fat percentage tripled in six months. It was just this real six month downward spiral.

A sequence of events led me to go on a run and listen to an audio from Jim Rohn.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Jim Rohn. The musical—

Hal Elrod
The great Jim Rohn.

Pete Mockaitis
I love the music in his voice.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, absolutely. Jim Rohn, this is the quote that he said on that run. This quote came to my life faster than I ever thought possible and it really is the catalyst for the Miracle Morning. He said “Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

In that moment I went, I’m not dedicating time every day to my personal development, therefore, I’m not becoming the person that I need to be to create the success that I want in my life. I had this epiphany that I’ve got to go figure out what the world – I’m going to run home and figure out what the world’s most successful people do for their personal development.

I’m going to find the best personal development practice in history of humanity or best known to man and I’m going to do that. And I didn’t know what it was going to be. I ran home and I Googled best personal development practices of millionaires, billionaires, CEOs, Olympians, you name it.

And I had a list of six different practices. They were all timeless. They had all been practiced for centuries. I almost went well, none of these are new. I think we’re really conditioned in our society to look for the new, the new app, the new movie, the new season on Netflix. We want new, new, new. We’re all new.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve got to update the app like every month.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, exactly. I almost dismissed these. I was like, ah, these are timeless. It’s almost really silly. When you really translate it you can say these are the practices that the world’s most successful people have been doing for centuries. I want something new. It makes no sense.

The epiphany I finally went, wait a minute. This is what successful people do. I don’t do these. Then the real epiphany was which one of these am I going to do and then I went wait, what if I did all of these.

What if I woke up tomorrow morning an hour earlier, because that was the only time I could figure out in the schedule to add an hour. I was working all day trying to not lose my house, which didn’t work. I lost my house. But I was just trying to stay alive, stay afloat. I didn’t feel like I had any extra time.

Even though I wasn’t a morning person I thought if I want my life to improve, I’ve got to improve. I’ve got to wake up an hour earlier and I’ve got to do one of these six practices. The epiphany was what if I did all of them, what if I woke up tomorrow morning an hour earlier and I did the six most timeless, proven, personal development practices in the history of humanity.

I woke up the next day, I did them. I sucked at all of them. We can talk about what the practices are, but I didn’t know how to do – one is meditation. I didn’t know how to meditate. I didn’t know how to do any of these things really well. I was really terrible at all of them.

But one hour into it my very first day, my very first hour of what is now called the Miracle morning, it didn’t have a name back then, I felt incredible. I felt confident for the first time in six months. I felt energized. I felt motivated. I felt like I had clarity.

The realization is if I start every day like this, where I become a better version of the person I was that went to bed the night before, and I do this consistently day after day after day after day, it is only a matter of time before I become the person that I need to be that can create the success that I want, any level that I want in any and every area of my life.

I thought it would 6 to 12 months; it was less than 2 months that I more than doubled my income. I went from being in the worst shape of my life physically to committing to running a 52-mile ultra-marathon. I had never run more than a mile before. My depression went away within a couple of days. Because my life changed so dramatically and so quickly, I started calling it my Miracle Morning. The rest is history.

Years later I wrote the book and now it’s this worldwide movement with about a half million people from what we can track every day do their miracle morning and the results are really amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an awesome story. It makes sense in terms of having engaged some of these practices. I love the gumption, okay, I’m going to do all of them. You put this together into a snazzy acronym, SAVERS, standing for these six steps of silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and scribing, which means writing. I understand you’ve got to make the acronym work, no shame there.

Hal Elrod
It was my wife’s idea for an acronym. I was writing the book one day and I was frustrated. I go “Sweetie, Stephen Covey’s got the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Robert Kiyosaki’s got the Cashflow Quadrant. These gurus always create this memorable system.” I said, “I’ve got these six hodgepodge practices and I didn’t invent any of them.”

She goes, “Sweetheart, why don’t you get a – calm down first of all,” because I was all stressed, she goes, “Why don’t you get a thesaurus and see if you can find other words with the same meaning and make an acronym?” The acronym is a huge part of it. She gets all the credit for that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. I guess along with that then, I’d love to dig into each of these practices and just hear a little bit in terms of what it means then the best practice or a pitfall associated with doing it or an optimal dosage or amount of time to do each of these.

I imagine in many ways the answer is it doesn’t really matter, just do something like that and you’re all good. But if there’s some finer points to maximizing, well, hey, you’re the expert. I want to hear them. Let’s dig into silence and then the rest.

Hal Elrod
Here’s what I’ll preface all of this with. I am a very results-oriented person. A lot of these six practices are taught in a way that’s kind of woo-woo, that makes somebody feel good while they do it, but they don’t necessarily see measurable improvements in their life.

And for me that was unacceptable. It was unacceptable in my own practice, but then especially when I wrote the book I thought, I need to make these really practical and actionable and not just fluffy and airy-fairy and woo-woo. I’ll give a tip on each of these in terms of how do you make it kind of practical and results oriented.

The first S in SAVERS stands for silence. I’m actually really – it was originally meditation. I’m really glad that it became silence because some people, their silence is prayer. They might not want to meditate. Or for me it’s actually a combination of both. But meditation is really the crux. It’s the majority of my time in silence.

If you think about it, most of us, we don’t have a lot of time in silence. It’s usually we’re – it’s kind of chaos from the time we get up, then we’re in the car listening to podcasts or the radio, music, something like that. Then we’re at work with people and on phone calls. There’s usually not a lot of time for kind of peaceful, purposeful silence.

Yet that’s when – when we quiet our mind, that’s when our best ideas come. We tap into our inner wisdom. We tap into the wisdom of – if you want to get woo-woo for a second – the universe or higher intelligence, whatever you want to call it, God.

But meditation, the way it’s been taught, people often – they’re taught to clear your mind. Most people, they can’t do that or it’s very challenging and it takes somebody years to get where they can actually do that. Well, for me, I want results. I will use my meditation as a way to set the mindset for the day.

I’ll look at my schedule and I’ll go “Okay, what do I need to accomplish today?” It depends on what’s on the agenda. I just finished writing a new book. When I was working on that book, every day, every morning, I’d meditate before I’d write and I would go, “Man, I need ideas.” I need some content for today. I would set my intention for the meditation.

My intention would often be “Okay, what am I working on? What chapter am I working on today? I need ideas for this chapter.” I would just set that as an intention. Then I would meditate. I would always have my notes app on my phone in front of me with my timer going for ten minutes usually is what I meditate for.

I don’t think there was a single day where I wasn’t flooded six ideas, where I would pause the meditation timer, I’d open up the note tab and I would write an idea. Then I would go back to mediate and then I would just sit there.

Here’s the difference, I wasn’t trying to think. When you force thought, you don’t usually get your best thought. It’s in those moments – that’s why when we’re in the shower, not even thinking about something, we have our best ideas. When we’re falling asleep, not even thinking about something, we have our best ideas.

This is a way to engineer that space for you’re tapping into your genius every single morning so that you bring those ideas and that clarity into your day. That’s one way to meditate.

Another way to do it is sometimes I might have a speech for that day and I go “I need to feel confident. I’m speaking.” I will literally just affirm things while I’m in my meditation. I’ll just affirm things like what did I do today – I chose three statements.

I’ve been having some cognitive challenges because I just went through – I just finished cancer. I beat cancer, but I still have chemotherapy ongoing for maintenance and it really – the effects to your cognitive ability are really damaging. They call it chemo brain. They kind of laugh it off, but it really – it’s a very real thing what it does to your brain. I’ve had a lot of trouble with my memory and this and that.

This morning I just meditated on saying “I am brilliant. My brain is brilliant. My memory is excellent.” I forgot what the third one was. Anyway, the point is use meditation not to remove thought. You can. Sometimes I’ll meditate in that way where I just try to get a state of being really loving and peaceful.

But ultimately I typically will have a specific result that I want to generate internally, either mentally or emotionally, and I will set that intention going into the meditation. I will use the meditation actively to do that. I will think something over and over and over while I deeply feel it in a way that will serve me for the rest of the day. Any questions? Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Can you give us a sample of your internal dialogue of going over and over and over again?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, that was the one today. Here, I’ll bring it up real quick.

This morning I went “My brain is brilliant. My memory is excellent. My heart is pure.” I just affirmed that. What’s interesting is we’re about to get into the A of SAVERS, which is affirmations. But I often will combine the SAVERS.

For example, when I get to the E in SAVERS is exercise, while I’m exercising, I’ll often do the V, which is visualization. I’m then making that mind-body connection and leveraging the power of both simultaneously. I’m also being efficient with time.

“My brain is brilliant. My memory is excellent. My heart is pure.” That is an affirmation, but I will meditate on that affirmation and then kind of get the benefits of both.

Sometimes I will – I have pictures – I’m in the room where I do my Miracle Morning right now. I have pictures of my children, my family, my wife up along the wall. Sometimes I will just look at those pictures and just maybe look at one. I’ll look at my picture of my daughter like I am right now and I’ll just internalize the gratitude and the love that I feel for her. Then I’ll close my eyes and I’ll just meditate on that for a minute or two. Then I’ll go to my son.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say meditate on that, you’re just sort of experiencing that.

Hal Elrod
I’m just feeling it.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to letting your mind chatter in any direction.

Hal Elrod
I’m just deeply feeling it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, I’m just deeply felling that emotion. Yeah, that experience.

I’ll use meditation a lot. I’m big on gratitude. I’ll often use meditation – I’ll simply take the emotion of gratitude or the experience of gratitude, most people when they experience gratitude, it’s usually at the intellectual level. If you say “What are you grateful for?” they can list things off. They feel it in their head, but there’s a big difference between intellectual gratitude and deep, heart-felt soulful gratitude at the level where it puts you in tears.

I’ll use meditation to try to get there, to try to get to feel that much of an emotion that serves me. Again, the emotion – gratitude is one, it could be confidence, it could be love, it could be whatever.

I do pray. I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. That’s a whole other conversation, but prayer on even the scientific level as well as the spiritual level. A lot of times I’ll use my silence as prayer and I’ll just – for me, it’s very fluid. There is no right or wrong and that’s probably the biggest – here’s the biggest key.

Let me, whether we close with this for this portion, but when it comes to silence, if you’re at all overwhelmed by meditation or anything like that, set a timer on your phone for ten minutes and be in silence for ten minutes, that’s it.

The only way you can fail is if you judge yourself for any part of your experience. If you go, “Oh, I shouldn’t be having these thoughts. Oh, I shouldn’t be thinking. Oh, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Oh, I shouldn’t have thought of that.” That’s the only way you can fail at silence is to judge your experience. If you just sit there in silence, you cannot help but get value.

Number one, it lowers your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the fear and the stress chemical in your body, the hormone that causes fear, that causes stress. When you sit in silence, it’s scientifically proven – there are over 1,400 scientific studies that prove the benefits of meditation. It’s scientifically proven that when you sit in silence, it lowers your cortisol.

Now, granted, if you are intentionally thinking stressful thoughts, I don’t know that that would achieve that objective. That’s where judging yourself is a stressful thought. But yeah, if you sit in silence, you will lower your stress, you will gain clarity, new insights will come into your mind and you’ll get better with practice.

Your first day in silence is your worst day in silence. Every day that you do it, you’ll stumble upon new levels of consciousness, new ways of feeling, thinking, being that once you grab them, you can then get there quicker, easier, stay there longer. The benefits of spending time in silence will simply be amplified and deepened over time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Then with silence, what makes it silence is just that you’re not actively reading something, listening to something, tapping away on your phone, you are – or in motion, so you are seated and you may have your eyes closed and you’re just sort of letting your own internal self be the focus.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, exactly. I like to sit up straight. I bought a meditation pillow on Amazon a few months back. That’s been big. There’s something about just having a – it was like 29.99 or something – having a spot that I specifically go to meditate. Because before I got lazy in my meditation where I was doing it on the couch kind of slouched over.

If there’s any wrong way to meditate, really the big one is judging yourself for the experience, thinking that you’re doing it wrong. You’re not. As long as you’re in silence, you’re not doing it wrong. If you have a negative thought, just let it pass and focus on something positive.

But if there’s a wrong way to mediate beyond judging yourself, it is your posture. When you sit slouched over, laying down, your breath slows, you’re not – you want to find the balance between relaxation and alertness, attentiveness. Sitting up straight, sitting tall, breathing deeply, being really alert and aware, but very calm and relaxed, that’s the ideal state for that silence.

Like you said, it just means that there’s no stimuli. There’s no stimuli, where you’re not focused on something. That’s why closing your eyes is good. Now there are ways of meditating where you can have your eyes open. Sometimes I will open my eyes and so I’ll look at the pictures of my family or I’ll look at a beautiful picture of a sunset/sunrise that puts me in a really nice state.

But yeah, everything that you said is correct, just doing – by the way, setting a timer is the other piece I was going to mention. You don’t have to think “How long am I doing it? Am I doing it long enough? Should I do it longer?” Don’t be checking the clock, just have your timer set.

That way you know, “I’m free for ten minutes to not think about anything,” or think about, whatever, “I’m free for ten minutes just to sit here in silence. I’m not going to lose track of time because that timer is going to go off when it’s time for me to get up and do my affirmations or whatever’s next in your Miracle Morning.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Cool. Yeah, let’s talk about the affirmations next in the Miracle Morning. What do you mean by that and what do you not mean by that?

Hal Elrod
I’m biased in that I’m often asked do you have a favorite of the SAVERS and the politically correct answer would be no, they’re all equally important. But the answer is affirmations are my favorite by far.

Affirmations are – first let me just say, I believe they’ve been taught incorrectly or ineffectively I should say by self-help gurus, if you will, for, I don’t know, decades. I don’t know how long. But let me define what an affirmation is then I’ll talk about why they’ve been taught wrong and what I find is the most effective way to do them.

An affirmation is simply a written statement that directs your focus towards something of value. Now, you could write affirmations that were negative, that were not of value. Obviously that’s not an objective of yours. We have written statements that directly focus towards something of value.

The way affirmations have been taught, there are two problems with the way they’ve been taught for decades, I don’t know, centuries, I don’t know how long.

Number one is a form of affirmation that’s essentially lying to yourself, trying to trick yourself into believing something that is not true or is not yet true. For example, let’s say you want to be a millionaire, well, a lot of self-help pioneers have taught, just put the words “I am” in front of whatever you want to be and say that to yourself until you believe it.

You say, “I am a millionaire. I am a millionaire. I am a millionaire.” But we all know the truth. We know our truth. We’re not a millionaire. We want to be millionaire. We say, “I’m a millionaire,” our subconscious or even our conscious mind is going to go “No, you’re not. You’re lying.” Then you’re fighting with reality, which is never ideal. The truth will always prevail.

You go “I am a millionaire,” and your brain goes, “No you’re not. You’re not even close.” You’re like, “Shut up. I’m doing my affirmations.” Number one problem with affirmations the way they’ve been taught is lying to yourself is not optimal.

The second problem with affirmations the way they’ve been taught is that self-help pioneers have taught you to use flowery passive language. We’ll still on the topic of finances. You may have heard this affirmation; it’s very popular, or some variation of this. “I am a money magnet. Money flows to me effortlessly and in abundance.”

A lot of people say that affirmation and they really like it. I believe they like it because it makes them feel good in the moment. They go, “Man, I checked my bank balance this morning and it was negative, so I need some affirmations to make me feel better. I’m a money magnet. Oh, that feels good. Money is flowing to me effortlessly. All of my financial problems will be taken care of by the universe,” or whatever.

It’s like no, that’s not how money works. It’s not effortless. That’s very rare. Go buy a lotto ticket, hope. That’s not going to happen most likely. The way that money is created is by you adding value to the world or to the marketplace and then you’re compensated for that value.

I’ll give you an example of how to use affirmations in a way that is not based in lying to yourself or in this passive language that makes you feel good at the moment, but takes your responsibility away from creating the results that you want. There’s four steps to create affirmations that produce results.

Number one is, affirm what you’re committed to. Don’t say, “I’m a millionaire,” or not even “I want to be a millionaire,” say “I’m committed to becoming a millionaire,” maybe even add a when, “By the time I’m 40 or 50,” or whatever or in the next 12 months or 24 months, or whatever.

Start with number one what am I committed to. It’s a very different when you affirm something you’re committed to versus something that you think you are or want to be that you know you’re not.

The second thing is why is that deeply meaningful. After you affirm what you’re committed to, reinforce, remind yourself, why is that deeply meaningful to you. If you want to become a millionaire, why? Is it because you want to … financial freedom for your family, because you want to buy fancy cars.

Depending on how meaningful it really is, that’s going to determine how much leverage you have over yourself to actually do the things necessary to get you there. That’s number three is affirm what specifically you’re committed to doing that will ensure your success. What are the activities you’re committed to that will ensure your success?

I’m committed to increasing my income to $100,000 a year and saving 50% or whatever. Get very specific on the activities that you’re going to do. When I was in sales I would affirm how many phone calls I was going to be making every day because I knew if I made that number of phone calls, my success was inevitable. I couldn’t fail. The average … would work themselves out if I made my phone calls every day.

Then the fourth part of the affirmation formula is when specifically are you committed to implementing those activities. When are you going to make your phone calls? When are you going to run every day to lose that weight? When are you going to take your significant other out on a date or tell them you love them or write? What and when are you going to – what are the activities and when are you going to do them?

Those four steps: what are you committed to, why is it deeply meaningful to you, what activities are you committed to doing that will ensure your success, then when, specifically, are you committed to doing those activities. Those are the four steps create what I call Miracle Morning affirmations.

Miracle Morning affirmations are practical and they’re result-oriented and they reinforce the commitments that you need to stick to ensure that you achieve the results that you want to achieve in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig. It. Well, we’re having fun here, but I could get perhaps the one-minute version of the visualization, the exercise, the reading and the scribing?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, I’m long-winded, so thank you for setting me up. I appreciate that.

Visualization, here’s what I’ll say two things on it. Number one is the world’s best athletes, almost all of them use visualization including UFC fighters. There’s a reason for that. It’s they visualize themselves performing optimally and achieving their goals so that they go there mentally and emotionally before they ever step on the court or before they ever open the book or before they ever write.

They’ve already gone there in their mind, so when it’s real time, when it’s game time, when it’s practice time, it’s that much easier to go there.

The other thing I’ll say on visualization is don’t just visualize the end result, visualize – in fact, more important, visualize the activity. See yourself getting on the phone to make those calls. See yourself opening your computer to write those words that’s going to make that into a book. See yourself going to the gym or lacing up your running shoes and heading out your front door, especially if you don’t feel like it or you don’t like doing those things.

See yourself doing it with a smile on your face in a way that’s appealing. When I was training for my ultra-marathon, I hated running. Every morning I visualized myself enjoying running. Because I did it in the morning in my living room, when it was time to run, I actually had already created this anticipation that I would want to do it. Then I actually felt that when it was time to go for a run. That’s the power in visualization.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Now when you say visualize yourself, I’m thinking almost like dreams. Sometimes they’re first person, sometimes they’re third person. Do you visualize, like you’re seeing yourself from a third-person vantage point putting on the shoes?

Hal Elrod
You can do both, but I usually do yeah, first person and then – or no, third person, where I see myself from the outside. I see myself like I’m watching a movie of myself. Part of that movie will involve me looking in the mirror usually. That’s part of it almost always.

Pete Mockaitis
The dramatic montage music.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Yeah, feel free to play the music. Literally play that music on your phone while you’re doing the visualization. A lot of people do that.

The E is for exercise. Here’s what I’ll say is that if you like to – if you don’t exercise at all, this applies to you. If you exercise – if you already go, “Dude, I go to the gym after work or on my lunch break or I like to run in the evenings. It’s my-“ this still applies to you and here’s why.

I’m not telling you that you need to switch your gym time to the morning, what I’m telling you is that the benefits of exercising in the morning even for 60 seconds, if you’re sitting on the couch going, “I know I should – I don’t have any energy. I’m so tired,” stand up and do 60 seconds of jumping jacks.

I promise you at the end of the 60 seconds, you’ll be breathing hard. Your blood will be flowing throughout your lymph system. Your brain – the oxygen, your cells will be oxygenated. You’ll feel ten times more awake than you did before you did those 60 seconds of jumping jacks.

I in the morning usually do stretching followed by a seven minute workout. That’s an app on the phone. It’s also on YouTube. It’s totally free. I highly recommend it. It’s a full body workout in seven minutes. It’s fast-paced, so you get cardio as well as strength training, as well as stretching and flexibility. That’s what I recommend in the morning, just a little bit of exercise and –

Pete Mockaitis
What’s the video or app called? The seven-minute thing?

Hal Elrod
7 Minute Workout, number 7 Minute Workout.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s just called 7 Minute Workout. Okay, that’s easy.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, it’s phenomenal. There’s a few different apps. I use the free version. Then the – actually although I subscribe to the monthly version to open up all the different exercises and different workouts and this and that.

But the R is for reading. I don’t need to say much on this is that we’re all, every single one of us is one book away, whatever topic we want to improve in our life, we’re one book away from learning everything that we need to learn to improve that area of our life.

You want to be happy? There’s a book on that. In fact, there’s hundreds. What to have an amazing marriage? There’s a book on that. In fact, there’s hundreds. Do you want to be a millionaire or be wealthy and financially free? There’s hundreds of books on that.

In fact, so I just made a documentary called The Miracle Morning. It reveals the morning rituals of some of the world’s most successful people. In that is world-class entrepreneur Joe Polish.

He said that, he goes, “When I meet someone and I say ‘What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year?’ and they go, ‘Well, I don’t read. I haven’t read a book.’” He said, “It blows my mind that in places where people have access to books and they know how to read and therefore they have access to everything they need to know to transform anything in their life to be at the most extraordinary level they could be,” he says, “It blows my mind that people aren’t reading every single day.”

Why aren’t you reading every day? It could be five or ten minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be a long time. Think about it, if you read 10 pages a day, that’s 300 pages a month. No, no, let’s say 5 pages a day, that’s 150 pages a month. That’s one self-help book a month, 12 a year. You’re a different person.

You’re separating yourself from 95% of our society and you’re joining the top 5% that reads those books because you’re learning everything you need to transform any area of your life. Any questions on reading and then we can dive into the last one?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. No.

Hal Elrod
Okay. The final S is the word scribing. That’s a pretentious word for writing, but I needed an S for the final part of the SAVERS to round out the acronym.

For me, journaling is – this is where goal setting is involved in scribing. That’s under that umbrella. Journaling is what I would – that would be my scribing. I use an app called Five Minute Journal. They also make a hardcover version if you prefer to write by hand. You can also just write freehand on a piece of paper.

The Five Minute Journal, I like it because it’s scientifically researched and it’s very simple and takes five minutes. It’s simply pre-prompted statements or questions. There’s just a few.

In the morning it’s three things I’m grateful for and the three most important things that I need to do today to make today a great day. I don’t know if it’s worded that exact words, but that’s paraphrasing. Of all things on my to-do list, what are the three that will make the biggest difference in my life, my business, etcetera.

Every morning I start by focusing on three things I’m grateful for, which remind me that my life is already amazing. It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside of me if I focus on internally what I have to be grateful for, everything is – there’s always things to feel amazing about. There’s always things to complain about. What we focus on becomes our reality.

I start with gratitude, then I look at my to-do list, I look at my goals, like okay, of the infinite things I could work on today and out of the 20 things that are on my goal and to-do list, what are the three that will make the biggest impact for me right now and move me forward toward my most important goals?

If you think about it, most people we don’t take the time to just get that level of clarity. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s a game changer.

Because here’s the problem, most of us are busy. Every day we’re busy. Being busy tricks our brain into thinking we’re being productive. But productive isn’t busy. Productive is busy doing the things that move us toward our biggest goals, our greatest dreams, the life that we truly want to live and the impact we truly want to make.

That simple act of scribing every morning, forcing your brain to clarify it in writing, what are those top three priorities, that is – for me, that’s been a game changer. It’s allowed me to make massive progress on these goals that once were just fantasies that I never even thought – really believed I could accomplish.

Like making a documentary, that was a fantasy. I didn’t know how to do that. Now we just debuted at a film festival. That will come out probably later this year.

A lot of that is because of – it’s all because of the SAVERS. It’s all because of this process reinforcing the beliefs through meditation, through silence, and affirmations, and visualization, and all of these practices all combine to really create optimal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual kind of capacity every day that will allow you to become the level ten person that you need to be, if you will, on a scale of one to ten, to create the level ten life that you want, that I believe that all of us really deserve.

Pete Mockaitis
That is beautiful. Thank you. Well, Hal, tell me, anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Hal Elrod
The point is that the SAVERS, any one of them will change your life, but if you implement – try them all for a month. I would say do the 30-day challenge, the Miracle Morning 30-day challenge, do them all for a month, either 5 minutes each for a half an hour total routine or 10 minutes each for an hour routine.

Then you’ll have real experience to go, “Okay, do I want to keep doing all 6 of these?” Maybe only 4 of them really resonated with you. You only want to do 4. Maybe 4. It could be 5. I don’t know. But try them all and see what happens. It’s pretty life changing.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now could you share with us a favorite book?

Hal Elrod
Favorite book is – well, it’s this book – one of my favorite books is called Vision to Reality. In fact, let me give you two. They’re by the same author. I just got her new book. Vision to Reality is her first – I think it was her first book. Oh no, it’s her second book by Honoree Corder.

Her new book is called Stop Trying so F*cking Hard Live Authentically, Design a Life you Love, and Be Happy. It’s in my hand right now. I’m reading. I’m about halfway through. I am loving this book. She’s a great author. She’s written like 25 books. Her original Vision to Reality has been my favorite for a long time, but I think the new one might surpass that. It’s called Stop Trying so F*cking Hard.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Hal Elrod
Favorite tool would be that app I mentioned earlier, the Five Minute Journal app. That’s one of my favorite. I put one picture every day and it allows me to capture my life every day for the past few years that I’ve used it. Reflecting on that is really meaningful.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite nugget, something you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Hal Elrod
The biggest thing is we all usually have this monkey on our back of urgency, like, “Man, I want to be where that guy is or where she is.” “Man, I have all these goals and dreams; I want to be there now.” It creates this feeling of scarcity, where we’re not where we want to be.

What I found, not only in my own life, but studying other people is that any time you find yourself wishing or wanting that you were further along than you are, just realize that when you finally get to the point that you’ve been working so hard for so long, you almost never wish it would have happened any sooner.

Instead, you look back and you see the timing and the journey were perfect. All of the adversity, all of the challenges, it all played a part in you becoming the person that you needed to be to get where you want to go. If you can take that hindsight and bring it into your life now, use that to be at peace.

No matter where you are right now, no matter what’s going on, no matter difficult or whatever is going on, be at peace with where you are, every day, along that journey while you simultaneously maintain a healthy sense of urgency to take action every day to get where you want to go. But don’t get there out of a feeling of stress, and anxiety, and I’m not where I want to be, just embrace where you are.

If you’re alive, you’re perfect. No matter what’s going on around you, all that matters is what’s going on inside you. Be at peace with where you are and take steps every day to get where you want to go.

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

Hal Elrod
Go to MiracleMorning.com. That’s probably the best place. There’s a bunch of resources there. You can put in your name and email and get the first few chapters of the book for free. You can get – it comes also with an audio training for free on the Miracle Morning, a video training for free. Of course, the book on Amazon you can get the audio book, the paperback, the Kindle. That’s probably the best place to buy it.

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

Hal Elrod
Yeah, here’s the thing, to be awesome at your job, I think to be awesome at anything, it’s really about who you are as a person. There’s so many components to that. There’s your knowledge, your emotional intelligence, your physical energy, the enthusiasm that you bring. There’s many components to who you are.

To me that’s what the Miracle Morning is. It’s dedicating time every day to become better. Not that there’s anything wrong with you, but we all have unlimited potential as a human being, if you want to get better at your job, become a better version of you, dedicate time to your personal development.

Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be in the morning. You can do a miracle evening if you wanted. Just dedicate that time so that every day you become better than you were the day before. You become more knowledgeable, you lower your stress, you increase your belief in yourself, your confidence. All of the things the Miracle Morning does for you, you do that every day and you can’t help but bring a better version of you to work every single day.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Hal, this has been a real treat. Thanks for unpacking this and giving some finer distinctions. I wish you and the Miracle Morning and documentary and all your up to tons of luck.

Hal Elrod
Pete, man, I appreciate you. Thank you so much for having me on. For those of you listening, I love you. I appreciate you. Thank you for tuning in and please leave a review for Pete on iTunes.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

356: Living Out the Wisdom of Napoleon Hill with Jeffrey Gitomer

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“King of Sales” Jeffrey Gitomer discusses his new book Truthful Living, a compilation if the wisdom of Napoleon Hill. He also hashes out his tips for persuasion and personal development.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why Napoleon Hill is still worth listening to 100 years later
  2. The number one thing people don’t do that will benefit them
  3. The five most important words in the English language according to Napoleon Hill

About Jeffrey

Jeffrey Gitomer is the New York Times bestselling author of some 15 books on personal development, attitude, and sales, including The Sales Bible, The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude, 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling, and award-winning The Little Red Book of Selling, which has sold more than five million copies worldwide and is cited as an essential work in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Widely known as the King of Sales, Gitomer is a dynamic keynote speaker whose social media footprint reaches millions. He is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeffrey Gitomer Interview Transcript

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

Jeffrey Gitomer

It is my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, mine too. And I want to get us started by orienting a little bit. You have the title or nickname “The King of Sales”.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s a great orientation at the beginning.

Pete Mockaitis

How did that come about?

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’ll make everyone angry. I grew up in a business household. My father was a businessman, my grandfather was a businessman, and I define them as non-entrepreneurs because it’s from a lineage of business people. And entrepreneur is somebody whose dad worked for General Electric for 40 years and his mom is a teacher, and he bought a franchise. And that’s how I look at entrepreneurship.
But I started my own businesses at the age of 21 and I began cold calling in Manhattan, and I made very large sales, literally millions of dollars’ worth of sales by either cold calling or by being pre-prepared for a sale. And when I left that, I started to do consulting to companies and I realized that they didn’t know how to sell. So I began to teach them my strategies, and then in 1992 I began to write them. I wrote for the Charlotte Business Journal and about 50 other business journals around the country every Friday for about 15 years.
And when you do that you develop what’s known as “a body of work”, and that has been the fuel for many of the books that I’ve written. I’ve written 13 books to date, and two more on the way before the end of the year. And it’s been a very hard challenge. I wake up every morning and I write. I do what I say, and then I go out or talk to companies. I was just in Chicago yesterday, giving a talk to leaders and giving a talk to salespeople, and I’ll do that probably 20 times between now and the end of 2019 in public. And then I do corporate ones as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Three months. There you go.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I’m pretty booked.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, certainly. We’re going to talk about your latest, Truthful Living. But before we get there, I’d love it…so, since you have generated and codified and written and published so much sales wisdom, I can’t let this opportunity slide to put you on the spot. If you had to give me your single most critical recommendation or the two, three or four and a half most critical recommendations for selling more effectively, what would they be?

Jeffrey Gitomer

My number one rule of sales is, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” You have never gone to a car dealership to get sold a car. You have never gone to a department store to get sold a suit or a television. You go to buy one. Salespeople don’t quite get that, and when you get there, they want to tell you stuff rather than ask you stuff. So, people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.
Ask before you tell. Find out why they want to buy before you start to talk about what it is that you do, because they may not be interested in it. All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not quite so equal, people still want to do business with their friends. And so, the challenge for the salesperson is, become friendly and likeable and trustworthy before you start. It ain’t that tough.
But actually there’s a caveat to this now, because in today’s business world, you have to engage people socially. You attract them, then you engage them, and then you connect with them. So I challenge people to attract with some value message, and then you engage with by being real, and something that I can actually use – my content. And then I connect with them because you perceive a future value of some kind, then at some point they may be willing to buy something. But don’t try to attract me with a sales message; attract me with something that I want.
So I’ll give you an example. If I’m wanting to be on your podcast, I might send you “25 Things That People Do to Have a Great Podcast”, and then a week later “25 Things That People Screw Up to Have a Lousy Podcast”. Then I call you up and say, “Would you like to know the five things I didn’t tell you?” And if my 25 things were valuable, you’d say, “Hell, yeah.”

Pete Mockaitis

Totally.

Jeffrey Gitomer

But if I call you up, if I email you, LinkedIn you, whatever, and say, ”I’m the greatest guy on the planet. I’ve written a lot of books that are really interesting. I’m a great guy. I think I’d make a great guest for your people and I think I could create a lot more listeners.” You don’t give a sh*t about that. You’ve heard that from everybody, haven’t you?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s true, yes. Many, many messages like that have come my way.

Jeffrey Gitomer

So, I would challenge you that if there’s not a perception of value, then there’s no real reason to connect. I’m not going to buy your television set because you’re the cheapest. I’m not going to buy your car… In fact, when you’re the cheapest, it makes me doubt. How could you possibly be $500 cheaper than somebody else?

Pete Mockaitis

“What’s wrong with it? What’s missing? What am I overlooking? Are you lying to me?”

Jeffrey Gitomer

Yeah. They use the words “just like”. “Well, it’s just like an iPad.” “Okay, then I’ll take an iPad.” I don’t understand, why would you compare yourself to something that’s clearly marketed better and branded better?

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha. Well, thank you.

Jeffrey Gitomer

No problem.

Pete Mockaitis

I appreciate getting the overview of that. Now I want to dig into a bit of the book here. It’s called Truthful Living, and you are featuring some goodies from the classic writer Napoleon Hill. Could you orient those who don’t know who that is? Who is this guy and why is his old stuff worthwhile?

Jeffrey Gitomer

He has written more words on personal development and achievement and wealth than any other human being on the planet.

Pete Mockaitis

No kidding!

Jeffrey Gitomer

Yeah, that’s number one. Number two, he wrote his opus, Think and Grow Rich. It was published in 1937. And the foundation and I’ve had a relationship for more than a decade. They unearthed his earliest writings, his earliest lessons that he gave at the George Washington Institute in Chicago, lesson by lesson in a course called Truthful Advertising. And at the end of each one of the lessons, he had an “after the lesson visit with Mr. Hill”. And those “after the lesson visits” were the foundation of Think and Grow Rich.
So when I saw what they had, I edited out all of the sales advertising stuff and was left with the fundamental elements of what went into Hill’s life’s work. And it was phenomenal, because it was raw and real. Never published, never edited. I compiled all of the documentation, and all I did was I added a beginning to each chapter so people could understand what they were about to read. I would occasionally put an annotation in each of the chapters to clarify some of the things, because the book is 100 years old. There may be some lexicon clarification that’s needed. And then I ended the chapter with how to put this into your life. All the rest of the words in there are 100% Napoleon Hill authentic.

Pete Mockaitis

Very cool, yeah.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It’s way cool. And it was a labor of love for me. It took me a couple of years to do, and when it was completed I knew that this was going to be major. I just knew it.
And it’s fun for me. I’ve been writing and publishing books for 25 years. This is by far the best experience I’ve ever had.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great to hear. Then let’s hear a little bit about some of the content here. So, any sort of surprises or particularly potent takeaways from Napoleon Hill? I’d say particularly in the context of suggestions that would help professionals be more awesome at their jobs.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It starts out with Chapter 1: Success Is Up to You. It’s like a warm slap in the face. Not a cold slap in the face; just a warm slap in the face. And then Lesson 2 is Finish What You Start. How obvious can that be? No one’s going to go, “Wow, finish what I started? Never heard that before.” But Hill shows you and tells you the importance of it. Why is it important to become known as someone who finishes what they start, and how does that help build your wealth?
And in each one of these cases, whether it’s chapters like How to Think or The Value of Self-Confidence, and then his cool chapters like, The Law of Harmonious Attraction. Come on, dude. That’s so cool. What he’s saying is, hang around people that you can get along with well, and together you’ll achieve more. The book just makes sense, and I think that’s probably the most eloquent thing that I can say about it. It is an easy book to read, and even easier to apply. But it takes work. And my statement has always been, most people are not willing to do the hard work that it takes to make success easy.

Pete Mockaitis

And could you give us some examples in terms of some of the hard work that is not done by many folks?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, I wake up every morning, as you do… Do you have a morning routine?

Pete Mockaitis

Right, yes.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Does it involve writing?

Pete Mockaitis

No.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Does it involve reading?

Pete Mockaitis

Yes.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Think about it. My morning routine has been the same five things for 25 years. I read, I write, I prepare – one of those three things, or all three – and that causes me to do the other two things – think and create. So I’m a thinker and a creator. I’m not an email reader, I’m not a news watcher, I’m not a time-waster. I’m going to be productive for my first hour of the day. And I don’t want to hear whiny people telling me that they have a kid, because I have a 9-year-old every other week. She gets up at 6:30 so I had better be rolling at 5:30.
And people say, “I’m not a morning person.” Well, there’s a reason. Actually everyone is a morning person, except for the people that drink beer and watch television until 2:00 in the morning. Those are not morning people. Those are people that drag their butt out of bed and make some excuse about having a headache or a bad day. And blame the weather for their day.
And this is a book about taking responsibility, not blaming. Success is up to you. Now, any one of your listeners can get a free chapter of the book. We’ll send you the URL. Do you have the URL for the free chapter? I’ll get it to you. You can download a free chapter, the first chapter, which is Success Is Up to You, so that any one of your listeners can have access to that information so they can see it for themselves. It’s in an e-book. Just put your email address in there, done. I’ll get that to you later today or first thing tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis

Got it. So then, I’d be curious to hear maybe in your own experience, what were some of the most transformative elements in this that you found really made a world of difference in terms of, you learned it, you latched on and it did the trick in great effect?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Keep in mind, I’ve been a student of Napoleon Hill for 45 years. And not only did I have to edit it, but I had to read it. And then I had to record it, which means I had to read it aloud. It was, for me, an additional transformation. It’s not going to change your life, but it will supplement everything you do in your life. And there’s a full-page quote: “Ambition is a contagious thing.” Okie-dokie. How ambitious are you? Because people that have been in the same job for 20 years have lost a lot of their ambition.
And he has laws and words. There are five words that he considers the most important words in the English language – imagination, desire, enthusiasm, self-confidence, and concentration. There is a chapter in here called The Magic Key, which later on became a book called The Magic Key by Napoleon Hill, 30 years later. And it’s all about the word “concentration”. How well can you focus? They call it “mindfulness” now; I don’t know why. And then he has something which I think is really, really cool. Let me see if I can find it here real quick. It’s called the “5-point rule”. Can I read it?

Pete Mockaitis

Sure, yeah.

Jeffrey Gitomer

“Success may be had by those who are willing to pay the price. And most of those who crave a $10,000 a year position…” Now remember, this is 100 years ago, so that would be about $250,000 in today’s money. “Who crave a $10,000 a year position, especially if they are engaged in business, may realize it if they are willing to pay the price. And the price is eternal vigilance in the development of self-confidence, enthusiasm, working with a chief aim, performing more service than you are paid for, and concentration. With these qualities well-developed, you will be sure to succeed. Let’s name these qualities the ‘5-point rule’.”
Now, think about that. First of all, concentration is in the five most important words, and the 5-point rule. So, he is making certain that every reader understands. Repetition leads to mastery. So he’s playing the word “concentration” as much as he possibly can because he defines it… Let me see if I can find the definition real quick.
“Concentration is your contractor and builder, the overseer of the boss carpenter and all the other forces, the purchaser of materials and supplies.” In other words, if you’re building a house, you need that one person to make sure the focus remains intact and that everything gets built. Otherwise, stuff stands around, people are late for the job, you’re missing this, you’re missing that. Somebody has to keep everything together, and that’s what Hill wants you to do. He wants you to focus in on everything that’s important to you. That’s where we’re at.
There’s nothing in here where you guys say, “Oh my gosh. Concentration? I never heard that before.” No, everything in here has been heard about before. The question is, or the challenge is, how do you put it all together to be able to turn it into money? And that’s what this book does – it creates a game plan for wealth, not just success.

Pete Mockaitis

I’d love to hear some of these points then, in terms of, these are the five points. How does one rapidly go about developing each of these – the self-confidence, the enthusiasm, the concentration?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, the word “rapid” is a tough word, because things don’t happen like a Domino’s Pizza delivery. You don’t get great at success in a day. You become successful day by day. People go, “Jeffrey, how did you do that?” I say, “Well, I worked my ass off for 20 years and then all of a sudden I became an overnight success.” So, people don’t see the ”work your ass off” part; they only see the success part. Or I’ll say, “Well, I’ve got 112,000 Twitter followers.” And they say, “That’s easy for you to do.” I said, “No, it’s not easy for me to do.” I started with one, like everybody else. I have 28,000 LinkedIn connections. I started with one in 2008. So, I’m relatively late to the game. I fought it for a while, and then realized that I could develop a community and help even more people by recording things for YouTube, by going on LinkedIn.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. So, we’ll sort of strike the word “rapidly” I guess from the prior question. So then, what are some of the optimal practices, activities, behaviors day-by-day to build up the self-confidence, the enthusiasm, the concentration?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, if I tell you success is up to you, and then I tell you you have to believe in yourself, and then I tell you that you have to develop self-confidence – those are qualities that happen on a day-by-day basis, especially in sales, when you make sales. You can’t always develop that quality if you’re in some kind of a managerial position, because it’s very difficult to measure. Sales you can measure in a heartbeat. “What did you do today?” “$100.” “What did you do today?” “$1,000.” “What did you today?” “$50,000.” It’s measurable. And it’s further measurable by how many referrals did you get and how many reorders did you get. I’m pretty confident that as a salesperson I can measure my own success.
And when Hills says “Success is up to you”, then you as a person, regardless of what kind of job you’re in, you have to determine, write down what it’s going to take for you to succeed, because it may be that you just want to be the best teacher of all time. Okay, great. Can you win the “Best Teacher” award this year? That’s some indicator that you’re on the right path, because if somebody else wins it, you can’t go and say it was political. That’s sour grapes. Either you’re the best or you’re second best. And second best doesn’t win the prize. There’s no participation medal in sales.

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha, yeah.

Jeffrey Gitomer

So, I’m looking at it as, it has to be a daily thing. What are you doing every day to be enthusiastic on a regular basis, to be self-confident on a regular basis? And you practice. If you want to practice being a great communicator, just join Toastmasters. So, take lessons in what it is that you’re trying to achieve, but do it consistently.

Pete Mockaitis

And what would be the analogous or equivalent lessons or activities or practices when it comes to the enthusiasm and the concentration, for instance?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, when you wake up in the morning, you have a choice. You can have a crappy day, a good day, or a great day. It is a clear choice. “I’m going to have a great day.” You tell yourself that in the morning and then everything you do has some kind of positive response to it. If you hate your job, today is the day you’ve got to quit. What are you miserable for? If you have a bad boss, go get another boss. The best part about America is, you’re free to choose.
So I’m free to choose my attitude, and I’m going to read something on attitude every morning to get me going, or I’m going to watch something on attitude every morning to get me going. I’m going to write something about how I feel, I might tweet something. There are all kinds of things that I’ll do. I’m going to prepare, like I had to prepare yesterday for my seminar in Chicago. And that’s going to cause me to think and create. And if I think in the positive, then the answers will be in the positive, the words will be in the positive, and I will create my own outcomes. I’m here to create an outcome for me. And it’s a selfish thing, but if I want to be the best dad on the planet, the first thing I have to do is be the best person. Otherwise I’m going to have, quote, an “attitude” about it.

Pete Mockaitis

I’m curious, are there particular resources that you go to time and time again to spark the positive attitude? You said you’re going to watch something or read something or look at something.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I don’t have a consistent resource. I’ll read something 100 years old. I’ll write down what I’m thinking about. I have a book called The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. There are 220 pages on attitude that it took me 60 years to figure out. So, I’ve created a book that sold 300,000-400,000 copies in America, millions of copies around the world. And I’m happy with that. But if I want more information, then I’ll go back and read Samuel Smiles, a paragraph or two, or a page or two on character or self-help. Or I’ll read something by Orison Swett Marden, a page or two, from Every Man a King. Or I’ll read something by Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people. I go to my library and I can pick out anything. I don’t go to the library, I have a library. Books are not just for reading; they’re also for reference. So, I have a massive library that I call on, and I’ll maybe only read five pages, but it’s enough. And if you are doing it for 25 years and you read five pages a day, you’ve read a lot of stuff.

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely, adding up.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s why I said “day by day”. I achieved my positive attitude in 1972 by listening to Earl Nightingale, The Strangest Secret, watching a movie called Challenge to America by Glenn Turner, and reading one chapter per day of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich for one year. And there are only 15 chapters in the book.

Pete Mockaitis

Mathematically, yes, over 20 times then.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Bingo. Well, I took the weekends off.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, gotcha. I also want to get your take on, one thing about your writing that I’ve always found intriguing is that in your lists you will have a decimal. For example, one of your books, 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling. What’s your thought process behind this practice?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I did consulting early on in Charlotte before I was writing anything. And one of my clients wanted to do a leadership course, because he’d already been doing time management. And I created a list of things for him. I literally created a speech for him about the qualities of a great leader. And I got to the end of the list and I go, “The glue that puts this together is the word ‘commitment’.” So I made it 0.5 – “8.5 Qualities of a Leader”. And I showed it to him. I was so enthusiastic, I couldn’t stand it, about what I’d done. And the guy said, “I don’t like it.” I said, “Okay, I’ll use it myself.” You can go on Google right now and look at the “8.5 Qualities of a Leader”. I guarantee it’ll pop up someplace, because I wrote it.
And I’ve been using 0.5 ever since. I trademarked another 0.5 list from Jeffrey Gitomer. I have been using 0.5 as the glue piece for whatever it is that I’m trying to put a list together for, so that I can tie the whole list together with one point, whether it’s as simple as “Have fun” or “Do the right thing”, or more complex, in the case of 21.5, or in the Little Red Book of Selling 12.5 was “Resign your position as General Manager of the universe”. You don’t have time to manage the world. Just manage your own closet and your backyard and your kids and your family.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. So with a trademark, the 0.5, does that mean I can’t make a list with 0.5? I’m stepping on your intellectual property?

Jeffrey Gitomer

You can, but I will sue you.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, will you? But we’re friends now.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I’ll call you first and say, “Please remove that.” Some people violate that. I’m not the world’s policeman. If they want to do it, that’s their karma. But people know me by that and have known me by that since the first thing I wrote.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Jeffrey Gitomer

I would. Just from a standpoint of the book, I’ll just say a couple of things. You can pre-buy it right now. Is Jen there? What’s the URL that I’ve got to send people to? I think it’s HillsFirstWritings.com. And that will take you to a landing page, and if you enter your email you’ll get the first chapter free.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Jeffrey Gitomer

You could stick that in the show notes. We’ll email it to you anyway. You might want to consider talking to people about our podcast, Sell Or Die. We have gone daily, because the podcast is so popular, it’s unbelievable. Jennifer Gluckow and I do it; she’s my partner. And it’s engaging and it’s fun. It’s not over the top. It’s expletive-rated; they call E-rated or something. Say what you want to say, sometimes the guests are a little bit explicit, and sometimes I am. But Jennifer, never. She’s a pristine, first-class New York City babe. But I think that there is an ability for your listeners or your fans to take another look at a podcast that I think can affect them, if they’re in sales or they’re in business, because we have really good guests. And you can be one of them if you’d like.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I’m honored. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Jeffrey Gitomer

We get a lot, a lot of action. We’re over 100,000 downloads a month now and we’re shooting for the moon.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. Kudos and congrats, and good luck!

Jeffrey Gitomer

Thanks. Luck. There’s another thing in one of the chapters.

Pete Mockaitis

Luck or Pluck.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Exactly. You either work hard and create your luck, or you are buying lottery and wanting to win and hoping and scratching your number off and going, “Oh, crap, I lost again.”

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, understood.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I don’t know why people play the lottery.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s not a great investment, in terms of your ticket.

Jeffrey Gitomer

No. From what I’ve seen of it, if you have all your teeth, you can never win.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s fun. There’s one tidbit I want to share. So, you know Dan Kennedy.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Of course. I love him, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis

I thought you would.

Jeffrey Gitomer

He has brass balls, and he’s accurate.

Pete Mockaitis

He had a great bit; I think it was factual. Someone had the winning lottery ticket, and he was anticipating that everyone was going to start asking him for money. So, after he got the winning lottery ticket, he called up all sorts of friends and family and said, “Hey, I’m in a tight spot. I can’t really explain it, but I need to borrow $1,000 right away.” So, just about nobody helped him out. So, the next day it’s announced that he has the winning lottery ticket, and sure enough he dramatically cut down on his inbound requests for money.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s incredible. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. So now, let’s hear about some of your favorite things. How about a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring?

Jeffrey Gitomer

One of the quotes I wrote is, “People will rain on your parade because they have no parade of their own.” That is time immemorial, not just in business, but in politics. That’s number one. That’s my best- written quote, other than “People don’t like to be sold but they love to buy.” But quotes that I love: “You become what you think about all day long” by Earl Nightingale is probably the best of the personal development quotes that I’ve ever, ever read. The Zig Ziglar quote of, “Make every day is productive as the day before you go on vacation”, if you’re looking for a productivity mantra. I live by quotes; I have thousands of them. In fact, any of your listeners the want my Retweetables book, there are 365 140- character quotes that they can use in a heartbeat. Not just by me, but by lots of people.

Pete Mockaitis

Sure thing. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I wrote The Patterson Principles of Selling, based on the life and times of John Patterson, who is known as the Grandfather of Salesmanship in America. Because he didn’t sell anything, he created pull-through marketing by advertising for women to go demand a receipt when they bought stuff. And the merchant would say, “We don’t have a receipt.” And then three days later a cash register sales guy would come by and go, “Do you guys need receipts?” And literally sold a million cash registers between 1900 and 1911.
I’m in awe of him the same way I’m in awe of Steve Jobs, who created things that we don’t know we need and now we can’t do without. He created the redistribution of music, he created the laptop that everyone tries to… I had a T-shirt that said, “Windows 95, Macintosh 85”, and that was pretty much what the deal was. So, I like the innovator, I like the person who’s trying to be first at anything, whether it’s Roger Bannister running the 4-minute mile, or Neil Armstrong being the first guy on the moon, although that’s a little controversial as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Everybody in our place uses Asana. We’ve graduated from Slack, although we still slack one another. I use Microsoft Word. I love Google Docs, because I can share some of my stuff with other people, but when I’m writing myself, I find Word is the most comfortable thing for me to create in. The best tool that I’ve ever found in my technical life is Dragon for Mac.

Pete Mockaitis

For Mac? I’ve heard people say that Dragon for PC rocks, and Dragon for Mac breaks all the time and it’s super annoying and they hate it. But you’re saying you’re loving it. It’s getting it done. It has 100% delivered for you.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Yes, and it’s only about 97% accurate. But I use it and I’m very successful at it and I love it, because I’m not a good keyboard person. So, my last three books have been done with Mac.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome, cool. Good to know.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It’s Dragon for Mac. And if you like the subtlety of it, I think it’s very important to understand this as a writer. If I’m talking into the screen and it’s taking my words and I take a few minutes to edit it when I’m done, I don’t have to think about anything with my fingers. I don’t have to think where the P key is, where the Return key is, none of that. I’m concentrating on my words, not on the keyboard. And that’s a significant part when you’re writing with a stream of conscious.

Pete Mockaitis

And as I’m thinking about it, you even have the ability to jot down a quick note. It’s like, I’m saying one idea and I’ve already got another. And so, I’m going to write that down and that’s going to be there for me next.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool, thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I think my favorite habit is probably hanging out with my family.

Pete Mockaitis

Right on.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s the best habit I could get. My fiancée and I are going to have dinner tonight that she doesn’t know about yet. And that’s becoming a habit. It’s a wonderful time to just sort of clear the air and talk about life in the big city, or life in Paris, which is even a bigger city.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome. And tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that seems to connect and get retweeted over and over again?

Jeffrey Gitomer

If you go to my Twitter feed you’ll see a bunch of them. But the one I just tweeted, which I think is going to be a pretty important one: “Don’t give your children advice you don’t take yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, that’s a command. “Don’t give your children advice you don’t take yourself.” [laugh] I’m sorry, I’m just thinking, I keep saying, “Johnny, don’t poop on the new carpet.” [laugh]

Jeffrey Gitomer

But here’s the deal – make a friend. “If you make a sale, you make it commission. You make a friend, you earn a fortune.” And that has been a real lifelong retweetable for me. I’ll tweet it out once a month or so and I still get tons of response.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Jeffrey Gitomer

Easy. Go to Amazon to get the book. Just go Truthful Living and it’ll pop up. And go to my website, Gitomer.com. And listen to the podcast Sell Or Die and you’ll get all kinds of information on a daily basis for free.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. And thanks so much for the invitation. That’s very kind. I’m excited.

Jeffrey Gitomer

My people will reach out to your people.

Pete Mockaitis

Wheeling and dealing. Cool. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking be awesome at their jobs?

Jeffrey Gitomer

If you don’t love it, make tomorrow your last day. Go find something you love, and you’ll make 10 times more money, even though you have to sacrifice something in order to make it happen.

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha. Awesome, thank you. Well Jeffrey, this has been a treat. I wish you tons of luck in your Kingship of Sales and with Truthful Living.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Pleasure for me.

355: Channeling Emotions Productively with Hitendra Wadhwa

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Columbia Business School professor Hitendra Wadhwa defines inner mastery and shows how to achieve it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five pillars of inner mastery
  2. Key questions and framework for daily reflection
  3. Two strategies for redirecting your emotions positively

About Hitendra

Hitendra Wadhwa is Professor of Practice at Columbia Business School and founder of the Institute for Personal Leadership (IPL).  Hitendra graduated from the University of Delhi in mathematics and received his MBA and a PhD in Management from MIT.  He has received the 2015 Executive-MBA Commitment to Excellence Award, the 2012 Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and the 2008 Columbia Marketing Association Award for the Most Dynamic and Engaging Professor.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Hitendra Wadhwa Interview Transcript

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

Hitendra Wadhwa
Thank you, Pete. It’s a pleasure to be with you and your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us, what’s your role at Columbia?

Hitendra Wadhwa
I have a responsibility as a professor of practice in the Business School to take our MBAs and executive audiences through journeys to prepare them for this world of dynamic change and uncertainty and fast pace that we live in today. I have created a class that I call Personal Leadership and Success. Over the last about 12 years that has been my research and my teaching.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Then you’ve also founded the Institute for Personal Leadership. What is the kind of core work or ethos over there?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Gandhi, he once said, he said “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would be enough to solve most of the world’s problems.” My aspiration in building this class was to say hey, listen, we have these incredibly talented, very aspirational MBAs and the executives that come over to Columbia.

And in many ways they’re really aspirational and really talented about finding a way to master the universe, but what about finding a way to master your own self as a starting point …. There are theses in personal leadership both in my work at Columbia and then the Institute, is that there is so much more to our potential than we tap into on a normal day.

What if we were both able to for our own selves and for the individuals, and teams, and organizations, and community that we serve, if we were able to get all of us to our fullest potential, to be at our best in every moment, in every day, what kind of a team and organization and a product and impact, and life that you could build?

That’s really in a sense what we do at the Institute is take the research, take the teaching that I’ve been doing over the years at Columbia and put it out there for any individuals to be able to tap into through the content we created, through the digital learning journeys that we offer. Then also through organizations to help them support the individual, team, and organizational transformations that they might be engaged in.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, really cool. Now you talk a lot about inner mastery resulting in, later on, outer impact. Can you orient us a little bit to this concept?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Sure, sure. Outer impact means any role of the kinds of aspirations and hungers that we have from the outside. We want people to like us, to support us, to be open to being followed by us, to be inspired by us, to change their behavior based on what we’re saying and doing. As a result of that, to be able to launch products and manage teams and deliver great outcomes to the world and bring about positive change.

All of that is the outer stuff in life and leadership. The mainstream, the conventional view of how to do that, is that we have to define certain qualities or attributes of what makes for a great leadership on the outside to have that kind of an impact.

It could be something today around you have to be very adaptive as a leader. Once we evolve … based on what changes you’re seeing around you. But on the other hand, you also have to have grit. You have to have tenacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, stick with it.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, to stick with it. Yeah, exactly. Then you have to be very extroverted because there’s a very gregarious outer energy that you need in order to … and flourish in the world of people. But on the other hand, there’s Susan Cain and she’s telling us to … quiet, that there’s a lot of power to introversion, to the quiet kind of character of a leader, who seeks to be the thoughtful, quiet, empathetic listener in the room. And everything in between.

You want to be connected today in the world of social media and never eat lunch alone, but build your network, but on the other hand you also have to be very disconnected because you want to practice mindfulness and meditation and peace and be the reflective leader, not the one that’s just constantly in the fray of life and all that.

If you take all of these qualities, the reasons … try to convince me that we have to face up to the truth. The truth is that we are being asked today to be everything and the complete opposite. This is no way there is a simple winning path, a human achievable path to getting there.

Unless you do something like Einstein once said. He said that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In this case, to me, this obsession with outer behavior and outer speech, what we are saying and what we are doing, as a way to which we have outer impact limits us from recognizing that the greatest lever that we have, the greatest power and possibility that we have is to in fact cultivate what I call your inner core.

Your inner core is this stable, pure, intentional, purpose driven, wise part of yourself, your best self. All of us have caught glimpses of, some of us have more systematically cultivated. When you operate from that inner core, we are just able to in the moment operate on the basis of intention, not just instinct.

To be able to bring all the appropriate facts to bear rather than have biases and distortions that blind us. Be able to make decisions with a certain amount of thoughtfulness and freedom, rather than attachment and insecurity.

The idea behind inner mastery is not as much to in a sense retrofit some wisdom from the outside or some new skill from the outside, as it is to invite people to reflect on and deepen their connection with their best selves.

To continue over the course of their life to not merely be committed and obsessed with the outer impact, but also with the deepening of the immersive living and leading inner core, knowing that when they’re doing that, they are going to be able to operate and bring the best energy, the best consciousness, the best thinking, the best judgment on the outside. So inner mastery leading to outer impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Then it sounds like your advocating is not so much about internally trying to be more quiet or gregarious or changing your fundamental natural personality, so much as developing into your best self.

Hitendra Wadhwa
In fact, Pete, my hypothesis is that for many of us, there are more possibilities to our personality than what 20th century science has educated or confined us to. When you and I are talking about whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it is true that the Myers-Briggs suggest to us that you can either be one of the other. It’s very popular too and has been used in organizations.

But I can also tell you this, most of that has been upended by some of the latest science, which suggests that people have the capacity to also be if you might call it ambiverts, where Daniel Pink talks about it in his book To Sell is Human.

There is all this research that suggests that – I remember when I took the Myers-Briggs when I was in McKinsey, I found a couple of dimensions quite intuitive and insightful, but I really rebelled against a couple of them. Thinking versus feeling, well wait a second. Why can’t I be both a thinker and a feeler?

Introvert versus extrovert, why can’t I be both? I feel I draw energy as much from outside when I’m with an audience and I’m engaged with them. Right now I’m drawing energy from this conversation with you. At the same time, I have periods where I love to draw energy from within me. There is an intro and an extrovert within me.

To that end, – I’ll just give you a great example of history. You take Abraham Lincoln. There’s a historian, he in his study of Lincoln, he said – he was a contemporary. He said “I went and spoke with a number of his colleagues and his friends.” He said, “I found that there were not two of them who spoke about Lincoln in the same way. It’s as though he revealed himself to different people in different ways.”

He said “Some said he was a very ambitious man and some said he had not an iota of ambition. Some said he was very cool and impassive and some said he was susceptible to the most intense of tempers.”

There is research, by the way, to show that when we are deeply infused with our purpose, with something we really care for, then when we have to act out a behavior in the service of that purpose, which is contrarian to our – if you want to call it our personality – we actually feel more authentic acting contrarian to our personality because we are acting in concert with our values in that moment, with our principles at that moment.

As a simple example. Let’s say if you really care about supporting your team after they’ve done six months of intensive product development work and launched this incredible product in your market. You might be an introvert, but in that moment, you are actually going to prepare and plan that celebration party for the launch of the product.

When you’re in there, you’re going to go and act out completely opposite your personality, very engaged, very connected, very joyous, very outwardly focused even though it’s against your personality. Not to say you want to do that, but here’s what the research says, you will feel more authentic doing that because you so deeply care about the aspiration of being there to celebrate that beautiful moment with your team.

Anyway, I just want to offer that up to you because the thesis I sort of want to propose to you and to your audience is that 20th century science, which is still what a lot of us operate with regard to the education system that we go through and what organizations also sometimes inform and guide us with their cultures – 20th century science was a lot about who we are. Today’s science, the 21st century science that is very vibrant and continuing to evolve, is actually telling us who we can be.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay, cool. Well, I guess there’s a lot in there. I guess I’d like to get your take when it comes to this inner mastery stuff. What are some of the key I guess sort of roadblocks or things that prevent us from achieving inner mastery and what are some of your top suggestions in terms of actions and disciplines and practices for getting there?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, that’s a great question. It is a journey. It’s not just a one-time sort of choice we make and then we’re just instantly and magically there. It’s a journey I’ve seen all great leaders in history kind of evolve and grow themselves along. It’s a journey that is a lifetime commitment. There’s no one point where I would offer it becomes perfect and complete.

We like to think in my work of inner mastery along five pillars. There’s purpose, which is about a lot of direction, alignment for your life as to where you’re headed. Stephen Covey used to call it “start with the end in mind.” What is that end that you have in mind feel like?

Then there’s wisdom, which is about emotional intelligence and your thinking, and your mindset and making sure these inner forces are very much harmonized in line with your purpose.

Then there’s love, which is about expanding the heart to seek to take joy in other people’s joy.

Then there is self-realization, which is to start seeing yourself more – not only through your words and actions or your feelings or your thoughts, but also from the spirit that you embody from within, the space of pure consciousness, tranquility, pure joy that great journeyers on this passage and path of life have been able to cultivate, so self-realization.

The last one is growth, which is around this continuous commitment to growth now.

In terms of what gets people derailed from inner mastery, one of the key problems is that we get so invested in our duties, in our responsibilities, in our well-intentioned desire to be of service to our friends, to our family, to our colleagues at work, to our organizations imperatives, to our communities that in that process we get, if you want to call it, spread thin, we get burnt out, we get stressed, we get to digress, digress from that part of us, which is really at the core.

One practice that I highly recommend as a way to stay more true to yourself, to your pursuit of your own … is daily introspection. Take 15 minutes of time every day and structure and organize an activity that takes you into a very soul-searching, quiet, honest, mirror that you can put on yourself.

It could be a form of thought providing. It could be a scoreboard that you create for yourself, where you’re checking in on yourself on a certain set of values of character traits or what have you. It could be just a single question that you ask yourself.

Winston Churchill, for example, he used to ask himself, he said, “I don’t go to sleep at night without challenging myself with the following question, which is ‘did I do something highly worthy today?’” I don’t mean just kind of puttering around and doing things. Did I do something highly worthy today?

Here’s a man who had incredible highs, being at the pinnacle of power, 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister of England at a very critical hour. But he also fell from grace from time to time. At those times when he was away from the madding crowds and thrown out of power, how did he act, what choices did he make, what behavior did he engage in?

This question about did I do something really worthy today – there is a story where his son once was on a train with him when he had been deposed from the Prime Minister’s office. He was out of power. His son asked him, he said, “Father, we’re on this train. We’re in California. We’re on vacation. Why are you going in a small cabin and sweating it out on this hot day and doing work right now?”

After a few hours Winston Churchill came out. He said, “Son, I can’t help it. I must do something truly worthy every day. What I’ve done right now is write a dispatch for this newspaper in England and I’m going to send it.”

Now this man when he was out of power, being defeated in the Prime Minister’s – the political election in 1950 when he was out—1945, sorry—when he was out of power. He ends up doing so much prolific writing over those next five years, that he ends up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. Think about that pursuit of mastery when the chips are down.

So a daily introspection, a daily question that you ask yourself would be one strong suggestion. Then I do want to sort of just encourage that. Listen, we all fall from grace. We all can’t live up to our highest ideals and standards every day. But that should not discourage us.

Nelson Mandela was once asked by Opera Winfrey, she said, “Mr. Mandela, you’re so incredible. People have such admiration and awe of you. You are a living saint. How do you feel being like a saint?” He said, “I am not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who never gives up.” I think that’s a great working definition for all of us to have.

There’s an article he wrote in his life and his leadership and his struggles and the mistakes he made and the growth he had to go through, and main lessons I reached from it was a great – great people take on great causes. In taking on great causes, they make great mistakes. Through those mistakes, they generate a lot of learning for themselves. They acknowledge their mistakes and they grow from it. That’s the growth that I think all of us can aspire to, not necessarily perfection overnight.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have any suggestions for other powerful questions that could be candidates for a daily reflection?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Well, if you and your audience are open to it I can share my own personal favorite.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Hitendra Wadhwa
I think one of the greatest missed opportunities in life is to befriend death. We tend to operate in a world where we almost want to make death invisible.

I smile sometimes when I’m walking here in my neighborhood in the Upper West Side. There is a funeral home here. It is so discreetly architected from the outside in terms of its façade as to be completely nondescript. Yet, sometimes the garage door is open and I glance inside, I see a hearse that carries people over when they’ve passed over.

I feel a great sense of gratitude when I see that because it’s a reminder to me about the gift of every moment of life and the fact that I cannot take it for granted for myself or for others around me and that it can end at any time. My favorite question is to ask myself that if this is the way I keep living my life as I’m living it right now, then at the moment that I’ll be dying, as I look back at my life at that moment, will I be grateful and happy or will I have some sincere regrets?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, thank you. Okay. Any other questions that pack a punch?

Hitendra Wadhwa
You’re definitely making me walk into my sort of magic box and take out whatever tools I can, which is great. I appreciate your service to your audience.

Well, Steve Jobs had a similar question. His question was that if today—and it’s a little bit more provocative—if today was my last day on earth and I kept doing the things I had been doing, would I be happy? He said “If many days pass by where the answer is no, no I wouldn’t be doing this if this was my last day on earth, then,” he says, “then something is wrong in my career and the life.” That was his question.

The last one I want to offer you is not a simple question, but it’s more just a framework. That framework is both Nelson Mandela used it and Benjamin Franklin, which is that they created a scorecard for themselves, a simple one sheet paper with a few qualities in it that they were seeking to really work on. Then they would ask themselves, did I live up to that standard, did I live up to that quality today.

In the case of Ben Franklin, he would give himself a black dot if he saw that he hadn’t lived up to that quality on a given day. He did that for each of his 13 virtues as he called them that he had for each day of the week.

In his autobiography that he wrote later on in his life he reflects – he says … – he says “I never really reached a point where I was able to clean up my act so well that I didn’t have a single black dot on those weekly grade sheets. But I do to my satisfaction note that over the course of many years that I tracked myself this way, the number of black dots had decreased.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. I admire – it takes a level of honesty and humility in the first place to acknowledge that it was a black dot day as opposed to squinting and justifying and rationalizing, “Well, I mean the circumstances were such that I had to engage in gluttony or else it would have been rude,” for example. I think that was one of his 13. I think it’s gluttony and sloth and chastity and assorted virtues there.

I think that would be the hard part for me is in terms of like, finding a way to convince myself that I did not deserve a black dot for my behavior after all during the course of this day because there was some extenuating reason.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, no, I’m with you. That’s very humble of you to operate that way. I’m sure you have a rich, reflective life, Pete, otherwise you wouldn’t even be doing this show.

Since you’re mentioning some of his virtues, perhaps you might even remember humility, one he added later upon some criticism that he received from a friend of his, who talked about how “You’re very respective, Benjamin, but you’re not very light.” To your point about some of the pitfalls, the other pitfall here is to make sure it’s the right scorecard.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, what I also get into some of your perspective when it comes to – when negative emotions pop up, you’ve got some thoughts with regard to how we can channel those into effective directions. How do we do that in those moments where you’re ticked off, you’re frustrated and annoyed, enraged, fill in the blank in terms of emotion you’d rather not experience. How do you channel those into better places?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, yeah. Let me share a story about Abraham Lincoln. He used to open – had moments like that where he was very triggered by things that were happening in the field at the time of the Civil War, very stressful time you can imagine for a leader like him. He wasn’t really in complete agreement or alignment with this general doing this thing here and this battle or that general doing that thing there.

He would write these letters to these generals, where we was extremely vociferous in his criticism to them. Some of these letters have been received by the generals and it’s in history as to what they were told and scolded by Lincoln for.

Then there are a lot of these letters that historians found after Lincoln’s passing in the Presidential desk in the White House, unsigned and unsent. They’re called Lincoln’s hot letters. You might be aware of them.

That’s one technique right there for us, which is to engage in this Lincolnesque kind of grace, which is to say, “You know what? I am angry right now. These are the thoughts that I am feeling right now and I am not going to act upon them because I don’t really trust myself right now in terms of my judgment. I’m not seeing things in the fullest and most nuanced of light as I should.”

Maybe in this case what might have happened is that at the time he wrote these letters – he wrote them, but he went to get his sleep, to cool down, hit the pause button, as I call it, and when he was cooler and calmer, he made a call. If he felt at that point that it would be constructive for him to express that criticism in just those words, he might have sent the letter off.

When he felt like, “You know, in the larger scheme of things, I want to keep this general motivated. I think there’s a different, better way to motivate them. I kind of want to let them know this but in a way that will still make them feel empowered and inspired and motivated to do the right things, so net-net I shouldn’t send this letter out in those cases ….”

A simple path for us is just to keep check on what is happening within us. Not just to focus on the conversation, not just to focus on the body language, but to focus on the inner storms that might be brewing.

If we feel that they’re beyond a certain level that we can trust our environment, to recognize that our first responsibility is not to act on the insight, but to in a sense, act on the inside, to calm some of these inner storms and to create a little bit of distance.

Whether it’s just asking for a bathroom break, whether it is just doing a little bit of deep breathing, whether it is stepping away and listening to soothing music, going talking to somebody that can distract you and put you in a happy place because that’s the kind of person they are, going for a brisk walk, sleeping over it. Any and all of these are mechanisms to which we allow in a sense our best self to be emerged rather than get consumed and act upon our inner demons.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so just taking a pause right there. There is one strategy. Any other approaches?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Well, I would offer another one which steps the game higher. This one would require some level of basic mastery that then allows us to play this more advanced game. Hit the pause button, couple other things we can do to just get to feel a sense of ownership over our state of inner awareness and mastery is a starting point.

But then what you can do is really lean into that emotion rather than seek to distance yourself from it or to express it in some sort of non-constructive way, to lean into and ask yourself “Yes, I’m anxious right now. Yes, I’m hurt right now. Yes, I’m angry right now. Now what am I going to do about it?” to in a sense, recapture agency over the situation, over the problem. Say, “I’m going to do something about it.”

I’ll give you an example. Have you heard of Buck, B-U-C-K?”

He is a cowboy. He’s a rancher out here in the US. He was the inspiration behind the book The Horse Whisperer and ultimately the movie that Robert Redford made called Horse Whisperer on which he was an advisor.

Actually, you and your audience might enjoy having him on the show. He’s a remarkable human being. There’s a movie, a documentary on him called Buck. I think you and your audience will both enjoy the documentary as well. Incredibly inspiring.

He when he was growing up – it’s all in the movie – so this is not information he hasn’t shared in public. But when he was growing up he had an alcoholic father. If I recall I think his mother was not there. I think she may have passed away early. He was, among other things, he was beaten up.

He was very good at the rodeo, so he was doing lassoing and things like that. His father would encourage him and his brother to go and do that, but then constantly berate them, beat them up, alcoholic, right? When he was in his teens he had to in a moment of desperation, escape from his home under all the duress and stress. He was raised in foster care.

Fast forward now to the time he’s an adult. He now says that “The pain that I went through at that time and when I reconnect with that pain, it motivates me to want to make sure that people around me and that I can serve do not feel ever that kind of pain, not just people, but even horses.”

There is perhaps traditionally, as I best understand, the way the ranching culture is working here in the US, horses have been trained under the assumption that the way they will obey is by punishing them if they don’t obey during the early formative training years. You inflict some kind of pain on them, driving something sharp into their body or etcetera, as a way to make them realize the value of obedience or the risk of disobedience and so they start obeying you.

His approach is one that is based on love. His approach is one that is based on creating a trusted bond between the master and the horse. He goes around the country, training ranches on how to take their horses, some of whom have been very disobedient, and make them very tame, make them start to really align and harmonize their actions and behavior with their ranchers.

Here he is, he is a horse whisperer. He gets these horses to do things that others have not been able to ever get done before. It’s all coming from this pain that he has experienced at some point in his life. Because he took agency over that pain and said, “I’m not going to ignore it. I’m not going to channel it in something futile and ineffective. I’m going to channel it into something heroic and beautiful.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you, so that became a powerful motivation there in terms of this his sort of standard that – of how things ought to be and therefore he’s going to do all the efforts necessary associated with making that come to be. That’s cool.

I wonder then when it comes to anger, if you’re thinking about using that to channel into positive stuff. I guess in some ways it’s possible to be angry and then just do a lot of things because you’re angry. It’s like, “This cannot stand. I am taking action. I am going after this injustice.”

I wonder though how sustainable that is because, at least for me, that’s kind of exhausting as a fuel source, that sort of anger. From a hurt, I can see that being a little bit different in the sense of that is something that I know and I just I will not allow others to experience, whereas anger it’s sort of like – it can come up every time you think about the thing that should not be. Is there any sort of nuance in how you go about channeling anger?

Hitendra Wadhwa
That’s a great point. It’s funny because when I started studying some of these great leaders from history, which is one path through which I have sort of built up this whole teaching and work and growth and leadership, I’d assumed that these were incredibly peaceful collective tranquil people.

Yet, when you study their lives, I saw how for several of them, not necessarily all, but several of them a key source of energy for them was their – in a sense, their righteous anger against something that was deeply troubling about the social order of their day.

Whether it was Gandhi with his views on the huge loss that India was facing with British rule and the subjugation and the atrocities being committed against their less advantaged communities in society, Martin Luther King, of course, and civil liberties, Nelson Mandela, of course, with what he was doing, Mother Theresa and her work with the poor, etcetera.

Many of these people were deeply, deeply, deeply—if you want to call it—angry, but they had come to a place where they could lean into that anger and channel it.

The important thing I would offer you is that you cannot have the tail wag the dog. The tail is your emotion. The dog is the purpose or journey that you’re seeking to make in life and leadership.

For those of us who have not yet perhaps gained a certain level of mastery – let’s say mastery could be quantified from level 0 to level 100. If we are at step 34 and Gandhi is at a step 67, we shouldn’t seek to jump from 34 to 67. That would just not make sense.

In our case, if to your point, we have a certain experience that we want or a certain issue that we’re concerned with, were we to get as angry as he was getting, we might get burned by it to your point. We might get consumed by it.

In our case at step 34, it might make more sense to use some of the other tools of emotional mastery to create a little bit of distance and buffering from that emotional state because we can’t handle it. We don’t have the voltage in our light bulb to be able to handle that kind of power yet.

It might make more sense to stay within more confined bounds and to use more confined smaller sparks of anger to kind of get to a good place if that is a path we want to choose.

But as we grow in our capacities, we may be in a position to take on even more heroic causes and to take on even more purposeful, energized, disciplined journeys because we just built that machinery within us, both in our brain in terms of finding and fighting patterns of neurons and just physically and spiritually overall. Until then, to your point, we may want to just stay in more bounded space.

When we do have those intense bursts of any such emotional state, maybe our best mechanism there at step 34, which could be different from … step 67, our best mechanisms there, might be to do some deep breathing, might be to hit the pause button, might be to do some mindfulness, some meditation practice or something like that, just get ourselves into a safe place, into a place where the best in us can operate so that the tail, again, is not wagging the dog. But if the dog is strong enough, they can have a strong tail and still allow the dog to control the tail.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Mother Theresa, she once said, she said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”

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

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah. This is not as much conventional kind of study as you’d expect, but one that I have huge regard and affection for anyway and I think would be of value to your audience.

Bonnie Ware is a palliative care nurse in Australia. She used to essentially look after people who were in the last several weeks and months of their life. They have this terminal illness in most cases and therefore were starting to plan their exit.

She would ask them this question, “What is your biggest regret in life?” The most common answer to that question is the finding from this research that I want to offer to you and to all of us. What do you think your audience might think is the most common regret of the dying?

Pete Mockaitis
They didn’t spend enough time with their family and friends.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah. That’s very similar to what I hear from my students at Columbia as well. That certainly one of the regrets that she heard from time to time. The most common regret was that I … you get that I was not living a life true to myself. I was living it based on other people’s expectations.

I want to just encourage reflection on that by anyone who is listening here today because notice that that pitfall can arise as much in a personal life as a professional life. That pitfall is not about I should have been hanging out more with my family than my work.

What he’s actually saying is whether it is family or whether it is work, there is a risk that in our desire to conform, to love and be loved, to relate, to be recognized and rewarded, is it a risk that we might be letting the clock of time run out before we have truly lived—truly, truly lived.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Hitendra Wadhwa
If you’re open to it, I’d recommend two. For those who are drawn to really deeper kind of quests about the meaning of life, my favorite book is the same as the one and only book that Steve Jobs had on his iBooks which is Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda. For those who are interested a more sort of focused commentary on life and leadership today, my favorite book is Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Meditation.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted or attributed to you frequently?

Hitendra Wadhwa
The idea that all of us have within us a space of purity, purity of intent, purity of purpose, very wise and joyful and calm and balanced and secure space within us. I call that your inner core.

There is research today to show that if you go beyond the mountains and plains and rivers into the structure of the earth, you have the hot, molten lava, but beyond the hot molten lava you have a solid sphere of pure metal. We call that the earth’s inner core.

Metaphorically picking from that, beyond our outer senses, beyond the hot molten lava of our thoughts and emotions that might volcanically erupt from time to time, beyond all of that there is this space of pure consciousness within each of us. That’s your inner core and that’s the space through which when you get deeply anchored, you’re able to bring out and project and manifest your best.

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

Hitendra Wadhwa
Our website is simply PersonalLeadership.com. There are resources there in terms of articles I’ve written, videos that you can watch and executive programs online that you can take. I’m working on a book that I expect to get published next year. I certainly would be delighted and honored to have you look out for that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Hitendra Wadhwa
One technique that I learned from a colleague, Adam Byrant. I say colleague because he and I often have been teaching together. Adam was a columnist at the New York Times, where he wrote this column for many years called the Corner Office, in which he used to interview CEOs about their leadership journeys. He shared this anecdote from one of his – or there’s two from one of his interviews.

The CEO talks about how she said “I like to practice the MRI rule.” That’s what I want to offer to your audience as one thing to do at work or one challenge to take on at work.

The MRI rule is any time that you are disappointed, hurt, angry, reactive, impatient, about anything that somebody has done, the MRI rule tells you to apply to it the most respectful interpretation, which means before you start including the character or start assuming that the intentions are really poor or bad or etcetera, try to ask yourself are there any other ways to interpret what happened here.

What could be going on in their health? Could they be having a relationship challenge at home? Could they be having a really stressful day with regard to their boss or some other things that are happening? Could some budget have suddenly been cut off from them? Etcetera.

Since you don’t know everything, are there things that you don’t know that could be happening, that may allow for a deeper understanding of what they have just done or responded to. I found that sometimes it’s not even what is happening to them in the present, but what experiences they have gathered over the course of their life that you don’t know about.

When something is triggered from them in a certain way, rather than quickly judge them for it, seek to understand, seek to make the space to recognize that in the rich fabric of their lives, both past and present, there is a lot more that if you knew perhaps, you would get much more sympathetic and connected with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Hitendra, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for sharing the goods. I wish you tons of luck with Personal Leadership and all you’re up to.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Well, I want to congratulate you for the excellent work that you’re doing. I’ve been deeply both inspired and impressed with the path you’re on. This is the modern, new sort of path you’re communicating, connecting and serving audiences like yours. Congratulations to you on that.

All the best to you and certainly to your audience as well. I’m grateful for this opportunity. Thank you and wish the best of success in life and leadership by operating from your inner core.