Tag

KF #10. Courage

446: Making Fear Your Friend with Judi Holler

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Judi Holler makes the case for exercising your bravery muscle and making fear your friend—one challenge at a time.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The small things we do each day that slow our long-term progress
  2. Why technology is a great servant but a terrible master
  3. How to deal with fear when it never goes away

About Judi

Judi Holler is a keynote speaker, author, and a professionally trained improviser and alumna of The Second City’s Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. Judi is a past president of Meeting Professionals International, Chicago Area Chapter, and was named one of the 40 under 40 in the meetings industry by Connect magazine in 2015

Judi’s book on Fear, titled “Fear Is My Homeboy: How to Slay Doubt, Boss Up, and Succeed on Your Own Terms”, was recently endorsed by Mel Robbins calling it: “relatable, relevant and most importantly ACTIONABLE!” Fear Is My Homeboy came out last week.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Judi Holler Interview Transcript

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

Judi Holler
I am honored to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, fun. Well, I am honored to have you here. And I think we’re going to have a lot of fun digging into some cool stuff. But I got a real kick out of your fun fact, which is you do some karaoke performances from time to time, and you’ve got a go-to “Caribbean Queen.” What’s the story here?

Judi Holler
Okay. So, Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen” is always my go-to karaoke. I have a few. I have a bag of tricks. But, you know what, listen, I always loved karaoke. Who doesn’t want to be a rock star? Who doesn’t want to be Beyoncé for just a minute? And I can’t sing to save my life, so karaoke, it’s just a great way to sort of play rock star, crack people up, improvise, which we’ll talk about later, and improv background, and just be goofy.

And so, Billy Ocean really kind of became one of my favorite songs because nobody sees it coming. It’s super old school. I’ve got a thing for yacht rock and like old R&B, and my mom used to like clean the house to like Lionel Ritchie and Billy Ocean, and so I kind of grew up listening to that song and I know all the lyrics, so it’s just great because no one sees it coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s really fun and what that reminded me of is that song, I remember when I was a kid, all the time there’d be this TV commercial for an ‘80s compilation CDs called “Totally ‘80s” or something like that.

Judi Holler
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, my buddy Ronnie and I like knew every word to this commercial because it was on so much. And our favorite part was when they show you one sample and move to the other, they didn’t really transition very well, so it was like, “Everybody wants to rule the…” “Caribbean Queen.” And I was like, “Do they want to rule the Caribbean Queen because that’s what it sounds like when you splice it together?” Oh, you brought me back, so thank you, yeah.

Judi Holler
That is amazing. Oh, yeah, Billy Ocean, it’s just old school, so there might a lot of people listening and they’d have to Google it up to find out who the heck he is. But that’s why I love it because no one sees it coming and, yeah, like ‘80s R&B.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m wondering if you’ve ever bumped into any Caribbean women, like, “I’m the Caribbean Queen”?

Judi Holler
Well, you know what, okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, in the bar or so when you’re there.

Judi Holler
Totally funny caveat to that. My husband and I honeymooned in the Caribbean, and they had musical performances in our hotel lobby, and we got to know the band because they were there a couple nights in a row and I’m not a shy sort of person. And I said, “Hey, do you guys do any Billy Ocean? You got Caribbean Queen?” And they were like, “Well, yeah.” These were American performers. And so, I’m not kidding you, we have a video footage of me doing “Caribbean Queen” in the Caribbean, the Caribbean as they say it, and it was just epic, and it was just amazing and people were kind of clapping, also awkwardly wondering what was happening. It was just magic.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s lovely.

Judi Holler
So, there you have it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it sounds as though you have, indeed, lived out the title of your book, Fear Is My Homeboy because it seems like you have befriended those sensations that, “Oh, I don’t know if I wanted to go up there and do that, and everyone is going to be looking at me, I don’t know.” So, could you sort of share with us kind of what’s the main idea behind this book here?

Judi Holler
Yeah, so the big idea behind the book is this, if I could have one page in my book, literally, one page in my book, it would say, “It doesn’t get easier. Scary things don’t get less scary, but you will get stronger. Keep going.” The big idea is that when you choose courage over comfort on purpose, almost every day you will start fearing less, which is how you pick up momentum, which is how you get stuff done, and it’s how you start succeeding in and outside of work the way you really want to succeed.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, yeah, that sounds great and I’d like to have some of that. So, maybe could you give us a little bit of a picture here when it comes to what are some of the ways that we frequently choose comfort and not courage to our detriment, particularly in a career context?

Judi Holler
Yes, so I really believe it’s all the small stuff we don’t do every day that ends up holding us back in the long run and really leads to regret. And I’m sort on a mission to remove the word “regret” from the dictionary because we’re too brave, we are too busy dancing with our fear. This means we’re getting stuff done.

And the main reason we’re not leveling up personally and professionally is because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to raise our hand in the sales meeting. We’re afraid to speak up in a meeting. We’re afraid to sit in the front row, or go for the promotion, or ask for the raise, or to promote ourselves, to talk about ourselves online, to toot our own horns.

So, I’m on a mission to stop that, and I think there’s a lot of unique things you could do to get uncomfortable every day to sort of mix up your routine to make sure that you’re staying in the driver’s seat of your life and not your fear.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s really interesting is that what this makes me think about is sort of all the little ways that we choose comfort instead of courage. And it’s like, in a way, I think I may have become, at least temporarily, a little bit less courageous than before only because I’m married now, you know. And my wife is awesome, and our kids are awesome. But there was a period of time in which I was, you know, meeting a lot of people and asking for a lot of dates, and I kind of got into a groove where I didn’t have that momentum such that I felt kind of bold and able to kind of ask for and do all kinds of things because I was in that regular habit.

Whereas, now, I’m kind of settled in and mostly working from home. And so, it seems like it does take me a little bit more of a push to think, “Okay, I’m going to send that email to ask for that opportunity. All right, we’re going to do it. Okay, I’ve put this off a couple of times, now is the time.” And it seems like that’s crept in a little bit more, which would follow your theory, that I’m kind of had fewer moments of choosing courage on a day-by-day basis and all kinds of other contexts.

Judi Holler
Well, think about it like this, Pete, like you just nailed it. Here’s the deal. If we don’t work that fear muscle, we will not work the fear muscle, just like when we go to the gym. We go to the gym and it’s hard at the beginning, right? But we keep going and we keep showing up and then we get stronger. And when we don’t go to the gym, we get weaker, right?

So, I look at it that way, like we have to be working that brave muscle. And so, when you’re not dating, and you’re in a relationship, right, you’re not out there doing that scary thing anymore but you, and I can bet my bottom dollar, doing all kinds of other uncomfortable things to move your life and your business forward, and that’s the real big idea.

We have to be doing something every day. Maybe it’s just something as simple as taking a different way home from work, right? Or, asking for a discount in a coffee shop, or just like taking a selfie of yourself in public to get better and not carrying what people think. But we have to work the brave muscle and, I tell you, this is how we fear less.

We shouldn’t be chasing the unrealistic goal of fearless. Because if you really think about it, if we were fearless, we would never pay our taxes, we would never go to a doctor, we’d walk down alleys at 4:00 in the morning by ourselves, at night, we would eat poisonous foods on purpose. Like, the goal shouldn’t be fearless because fearless could be dangerous in some situations.

So, the goal should always be brave. And how do we fear less? Well, the way you get to the other side, the way you fear less is by working that muscle, and you have to use it or you’ll lose it, so doing those small scary things every day. And sometimes, maybe some days, it’s a big scary thing. Maybe you’re leading a toxic relationship tomorrow, maybe you’re literally moving to a new city, maybe you decided to quit smoking. There are big things you could do for yourself as well, but it’s all those little small things that add up over time that really end up causing a lot of the problems, so we’ve got to work that fear muscle.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it there, you provided a few examples in terms of little things you can do every day to work that muscle, from asking for a discount in the coffee shop. And that came up with Jordan Harbinger, and a little bit of Ruth Soukup as well in those conversations. So, loving the reinforcements.

Judi Holler
So cool.

Pete Mockaitis
So, what are some other key things you recommend as means of working the fear muscle? You call it, is it the fear muscle or is the brave muscle?

Judi Holler
I guess you can say it either way. There is no wrong way to work that courage muscle, or fear muscle, or bravery muscle, whatever that looks like for you. I could give you an example of someone, and this could apply to your audience if you’ve got someone who’s leading a team, or maybe there’s someone in your audience and they’re working for someone else. I bet you have a little bit of both.

I have a client, who lives and works in downtown Chicago. She’s leading a team of about three or four people. And so, remember, the idea is to get uncomfortable, to mix up our routine. And so, she found herself really overwhelmed, and really stressed out, and exhausted and crabby and irritable. She just wasn’t succeeding the way she wanted to succeed. She wasn’t leveling up.

So, she started a fear I proposed in my keynote. I work primarily as an author and a keynote speaker. And one of the things I proposed in my keynotes is this idea of fear experiments, doing something small and scary and brave every day to advance yourself and get stronger. And so, I told her about this idea, and she said, “Okay, I’m going to try something on my own. I really need to get in front of my schedule.”

And I talk a lot about focus. And this can feel scary because it requires us to do things we’d never done before in our schedule and in our work lives. Most of us sit down and we literally, the first we do, maybe sometimes before you even get out of bed is we open our iPhones and we look at our email. It’s what we do, right? Or we’d check out social media.

So, she says, “I’m going to do a fear experiment, and I’m going to take the first, I’m not going to look at email until 9:00 a.m. every day. No emails.” So, she’s getting up at 7:00, she’s not looking at that phone, she’s not looking at her email, but she’s taking the first 60 minutes of her work day from 8:00 to 9:00 to move one small thing forward for herself or for her work first, and she started small with that first 60 minutes, just that first hour for a day. And you can even go as small as 30 minutes.

And what happened for her is she immediately started triggering momentum in her life because she started actually moving things forward which made the dopamine in her brain happy and it gave her confidence to keep going. And so, she saw it, she said, “Oh, okay, if I can do this in 60 minutes, what could I do if I did 90 minutes, if I grew this?”

And she didn’t look at email for 60 minutes, she didn’t take a phone call, she didn’t sit in meetings, again, advancing a goal before she was fine to the rest of world. That 60 minutes grew to like, I said, an hour and a half to 120 minutes. And today, most days, because there’s no perfect world, no perfect day, she doesn’t look at her email until noon.

And let me tell you, she is working in corporate America, she has a boss, she has a team, but she started small, bird by bird, and it took guts because she did not ask for permission. She just took the action and monitored her results because, after all, you are the CEO of you. And let me just tell you, Pete, what she did in a year.

So, because she started with this hour, and then it grew to like a 120 minutes, I don’t think she got to noon until like the second year of doing this, but in her first year of just protecting that first 90 minutes of her day, she lost 50 pounds because she started going to the gym in the morning, she read 19 business books. She was reading zero books. She reduced her staff turnover by like one person left in an entire left. They had had a really bad problem with turnover.

She got the certification that she had been trying to get for a long time. She grew tradeshow revenues at that organization by 25%. She watched like over, I could get this number wrong, 45 or 50 TED Talks. And she found herself happy, healthy, and this really bled into her personal life, so she was leveling up at work, leveling up at home, she got herself a promotion, she was making more money. And watching all these talks and reading all these books gave her a lot of great information to be able to have cool conversations at work, with her leadership, at the dinner table, at the networking event, sending them an email, to clients.

So, again, she started small but that took courage. It took her getting uncomfortable, literally not looking at her email, to open up a whole new door. I mean, she got a promotion on a video.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that example, too, because when we talk about fear, I think sometimes it’s natural to think about big, dramatic, scary fears, like, “Oh, I’m terrified of public speaking,” or heights, or you can sort of fill in the blank there. As opposed to, I don’t imagine she was terrified of not checking her email but it was uncomfortable. It was a little bit uneasy, like, “Oh, what if there’s something really important, and someone is waiting for me, and they’re like, ‘Hey, what’s the deal? How come you didn’t get back to me?’” As well as it’s a habit, it’s a groove that you’re in, so it just feels kind of off when you sort of reject that and don’t engage in it the first few times.

Judi Holler
And here’s the kicker, and this is new data, we are spending 6.3 hours a day on email. A day on average. The average worker is spending 6.3 hours a day on email. And you wonder why we’re not getting anything done. And we wonder why we feel stuck and irritable, and overwhelmed, and I’m doing air quotes here, “crazy busy,” right?

So, if we want to get out of this cycle of suck, we have to have the courage to try something new, to break a pattern, to flip the bad habit, and the more you do it, the better you get at it, and you’re going to start seeing results which welcomes momentum into your life party, and that’s really where all the magic lives.

It’s some staggering stuff, 55% of us are checking email after 11:00 p.m., 81% of workers are checking email, work email, on the weekends, 59% of us keep up with our work email while on vacation, you know what I mean? So, we wonder why we’re overwhelmed, and irritable, and crabby. We’re not turning off the machine, right?

When you hit the pause button on human beings, we actually start. It’s the opposite. So, we’ve got to be getting in control of this, and it takes courage to break some of those habits that are important. We need to be engaged. We need to be connected, certainly. But how do we make sure that we’re the boss? Technology is an incredible servant but a terrible master.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, intriguing. So, all right, well, that’s quite a case study in terms of tremendous results possible when you just sort of unplug a little bit from the technology. Sort of reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer stops drinking.

Judi Holler
Oh, my gosh.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, geez, all these phenomenal things.

Judi Holler
That’s hysterical. Perfect analogy.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s good. All right. So, anyway, I think we talked about a few things to sort of challenge yourself and to grow the muscle. I’d love to hear a few more things. So, that’s a great idea, is maybe you start with a few minutes away from the technology and maybe in the morning, and it’s high leverage there. What are some others you’d recommend?

Judi Holler
So, I would say it’s looking for, you know, and I think you’ve got to think about it mentally, too, because you’ve got to, I believe, when you’re managing fear and working with fear, knowledge is power. So, understanding, this is a big thing for, I think, everyone to understand. If you want to get better at fearing less, you can make more bold courageous moves in and outside of the workplace, you have to understand all of the sneaky ways that fear shows up. Fear is a trickster. It hides on purpose to trick you with the number one goal of getting you to stop, right?

Because if you keep going, if you do these new things, you become a version of yourself your fear has never seen before, and so fear doesn’t know what to do with that. So, understanding, I think, for me it was really big. I have a background in the improv theater, and I started to realize all of the sneaky ways that fear showed up to get me in my head as an improv performer. So, self-doubt is fear. Self-sabotage is fear’s way of stopping you.

Let’s not forget about procrastination. Just understanding, when I understood that procrastination is a way that fear shows up to stop you and block you is a powerful thing to get. For example, I was trying to finish a really meaty chapter of my book, and I was putting it off because I was afraid to sit down and do the work. So, I found myself for, literally, about 60 minutes, 45 minutes, organizing all of the drawers in my desk. I was on a deadline. I needed to finish this chapter of my book. But, boy, my office was clean, right?

And then I realized what I was doing. I was procrastinating instead of sitting down to do the work. So, the reason I shared this is because understanding that procrastination is sort of one of fear’s best friends is really a good thing to know so that you can move through it, right, and say, “Oh, hello, fear. I see you. I appreciate you. Do you ever take a day off? I don’t know if you do, but right now I don’t need you because I’m in control. I’ve got work to do, so have a seat on the other side of my desk and come back when I’m done, right?”

So, that was an a-ha moment for me, understanding that that’s just one of the many sneaky ways fear shows up. Perfectionism. Excuses. If you have someone on your team, someone in your life, that is making excuses for why they can’t do the thing, instead of getting frustrated and upset and trying to control, ask them what they’re afraid of because nine times out of ten there’s a fear on the other side of that excuse, you know, blame, gossip, jealousy, all of those are fear-based behaviors. So, just a few ways that fear mentally shows up. And I share them because we’ve got to be aware. Awareness holds our power.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’d love to get your take then, when it comes to this procrastination story, so you were avoiding writing a chapter of your book, and instead organizing your desk. So, what exactly was the fear there?

Judi Holler
Oh, my gosh, the fear of impostor syndrome creeping in, doubly fearing that, “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough.” It was a chapter that’s been, it was meaty. It was the chapter that is now chapters three and four. We actually ended up combining it into two chapters. But I was just afraid to start because I knew that if I sat down to do the work, I would have to sit down and do the work, and I would probably face a few things that I wasn’t comfortable with in building out and beating out that chapter. But a lot of it was impostor syndrome, worried that I wasn’t good enough.

And, by the way, once I finished the chapter, oh, my God, we’re moving forward, we’re moving forward, we’re putting a book out into the world. And so, there’s that. So, it was probably a combination of things mentally for me. And I think we all find our own internal demons, but there’s always usually something there. There’s always usually a reason. Anxiety. You know, you’re anxious and feeling fearful because maybe you feel that what you have isn’t good enough or whatever that may look like. But there’s usually always something living there.

If we’re procrastinating, okay, what are we afraid of? What is it? For me, it was about not being good enough, of not being smart enough, of not having a good chapter.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly. So, now, but you were not aware that that was what was going on at the surface level, it sounds like, at first.

Judi Holler
At first, I wasn’t, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, how did you get to that level of awareness?

Judi Holler
Well, in my research, and in really studying all the different things I was studying about fear, and then realizing that fear’s job is to stop you and to block you, and that self-doubt is a way it does that. Certainly, we self-sabotage, and procrastination is a form of self-sabotage. And that’s when it clicked, I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m sabotaging myself here. My office can get cleaned anytime, right? So, what am I doing here? It’s just busy work.”

And I, still to this day, do it. My husband always says, “You know when you’re stressed out,” because I’m either doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, mopping something, sweeping something. I do an activity, right, when my mind is filled with stress about something else. So, just understanding that stressors are triggers, right, to stop us from really sitting down and do the work.

So, I’ll give you a hack. If you’ve got someone listening that finds himself procrastinating, or not able to start something, what I did, and I write about this in my book, is I set a timer for 10 minutes because I believe so much in the magic of momentum. Because once we get a little juice, it helps us move forward.

So, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and I do this sometimes with working out as well when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I set a timer for 10 minutes, I say, “Okay, let me just do 10 minutes of the thing. And if I hit that 10 minutes and I don’t feel like it anymore, then I am not in the right mental space, the energy, the vibe isn’t right, and I stop the work. But if I have caught a vibe, and I feel good,” and nine times out of ten you will because you just welcomed momentum into the party, you just keep going, and then you keep going.

So, I find just even it’s the starting, that’s the problem. And sometimes 10 minutes can get you out of a funk. Just sit down to do the work for 10 minutes. Go sit on the bike. Go for a walk anywhere. If you’re not feeling it after 10 minutes, stop. And if you are, which most times you are, keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so now, I want to dig a little bit into your mindset and your title Fear Is My Homeboy. So, how do you think about fear in terms of befriending it as oppose to dominating and destroying it and you’re subjecting it to your fiery will of superiority? So, it sounds like that’s a different kind of a feel in terms of fear is your friend versus fear is something you were to punish and minimize. So, how do you think about that?

Judi Holler
Certainly. And here’s the deal, we have to work. I dance with my fear. I work with my fear because I realize that in my community, we call ourselves fear bosses because I’m the boss of my fear not you. Fear is never going to go away. Fear isn’t going to go anywhere. But I choose to dance with my fear. I choose to work with my fear. And in our community, we’re called fear bosses. This means we’re the boss, not our fear. So, I call the shots. And fear isn’t going anywhere.

So, fear, well, they’re very different for you at the age of 20, they will for you at the age of 50, what you fear, the things you fear, what keeps you up at night. And men and women, we internalize and externalize fears very differently. So, I got really awake to this idea that we’re never going to be able to get rid of our fears. This idea, this notion of fearless that everybody is telling us we need to be. I go back to that because it’s unrealistic.

So, why am I wasting my energy, my precious energy, trying to outrun something I’ll never be able to get rid of? Let’s work together. And, yes, I may feel fear. I may be afraid about whatever it is that I need to go to do, whether it’s going to a doctor’s appointment, or it’s making a phone call, but I know, yes, I’ll feel afraid, and I’ll never not feel afraid of things I feel afraid about, but I know because I know that fear is my homeboy. That if I keep going, if I keep doing small scary brave things every day, I will get stronger, and those scary things won’t be as bad. I’m now actually start fearing less, that’s the big idea, right? We’ve got to work with it. We dance together. We dance with our fear.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, then. So, you just sort of given up the idea that fear will ever be completely absent.

Judi Holler
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, in a way, yeah, it seems like fear is both your friend and your slave or colleague, I don’t know, if you’re the boss of it how you see that.

Judi Holler
What do they say? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, there you go.

Judi Holler
So, there you go, right? It’s this idea like, yeah, fear is not the best thing to have around. It can really destroy so many beautiful things that can happen for you. Yet, keeping that enemy close is a powerful way to get to know it and dance with it a little bit. So, that’s an analogy that may help people sort of mindset to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, so now, we’ve covered a lot of different potential things to do when it comes to fear. But I’d love to hear what do you think is just the most reliably outstanding, efficient, effective means of advancing when you are experiencing fear? Like, what is the thing you think is just the best?

Judi Holler
The thing. Action. Starting action. Action. Making the decision to go, and to do something, and to stop overthinking, and to stop self-doubting, and to stop overtalking. Just go do it. There are so many ideas and dreams and goals living inside of people all over the world and they’re waiting. They’re waiting for the right time, they’re waiting for, “Someday when the kids are grown. And someday I’ll have our money, and someday when I’m older. Oh, if I was only younger,” any excuses we make. So, starting is the hack, right? If you want a hack, that’s the hack.

So, momentum, again, I’m going back to that 10-minute timer. Just doing it, right, and propelling yourself into action. Mel Robbins has a great book The 5 Second Rule, right? That’s what the book is all about. It’s action. It’s starting. It’s momentum, right?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. And so, what would you say, on the counterpoint to that, is sort of like the most frequently arising mistake? Folks, they’re trying to do the stuff you’re saying, but they are kind of flubbing it. What is sort of the obstacle that’s popping up for them?

Judi Holler
Yes, I have one. It’s probably the number one question I get asked, this idea of, “Listen, I want to be more brave. I want to put myself out there. I want to promote myself and take more risks, and all of those things. But I don’t want to look like I’m bragging. I don’t want to look like I love myself. I don’t want people to judge me or make fun of me or not like me.” We get so worried about what other people are going to think. We’re so worried about publicly failing, or embarrassing ourselves, or people not liking us.

And here’s the hard, real truth, and this is a massive a-ha moment for me, and this will help you manage fear, and I hate to break it to you, but people already don’t like you. People are already judging you. And people are already making fun of you. So, the question is, “Who are you living your life for? Who are you running your business for? Who are you living for? You or everybody else?” So, the number one mistake people make is worrying way too much about what other people think. They’re already talking, you might as well give them something to talk about.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that’s really interesting perspective. I thought you were going to say, “Hey, for the most part, people are just aren’t paying much attention to you and they don’t really care because they’re wrapped up in their own lives.”

Judi Holler
It’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
But then you took it in the direction of, “They’re already making fun of you.”

Judi Holler
Right. I mean, I’m not saying everybody is making fun of you every day, but people are already talking about you, right? Look, we can’t control that or stop that. And people don’t care about you as much as we think they do, but we’re already being judged, right? It’s already happening, so live your life. That’s the point, right? Live your life.

Pete Mockaitis
And I really appreciate that when it comes to I think I’ve had an a-ha moment recently because we had a previous guest, Mindy Jensen from the Bigger Pockets money podcast. We talked about sort of money things. And she was just making a point how she just doesn’t care at all about what other people think with regard to her money decisions or if they think she’s a total cheapskate or whatever in these certain ways. And what I found interesting is that folks are going to judge you no matter what you choose in terms of like, so, it’s funny. We have two kids and we don’t own a car yet, right? So, hey, you’re in Chicago, so you know it. It’s not so essential especially when we’re really close by a Brown Line stop.

Judi Holler
Love it.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it’s on the list. We’re going to get to it pretty soon.

Judi Holler
So good. So good.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I sort of thought people judge me or imagine me to be foolish or, I don’t know, a bad dad, or broke, like, “Oh, Pete’s business must not be doing very well. He can’t even scrap together to get a used minivan or something.” So, whatever. And so then, I sort of just imagine that to be the case, I was like, “You know what, I’m fine. We’re going to wait till the time is right, till we get just the right vehicle.” And then I mentioned this to someone, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to get a car pretty soon, that’s long overdue.” And then that person said, “Why do you need a car for? The train lands right there.” That’s like, “Wow, you just judged me in the opposite way. I assumed everyone else is judging me.” Therefore, my assertion is that people will judge you good or bad whatever you choose.

Judi Holler
It’s so true.

Pete Mockaitis
Therefore, that’s not a useful or valid or helpful decision-making criterion, they’re going to do what they’re going to do.

Judi Holler
Correct. It’s a waste of time or energy. We can’t control people, places, or things. So, all we could do is control ourselves. So, when we take action, the courage to take action, and just to trust ourselves, I mean, that’s what the improv theater is all about, just really trusting ourselves. So, I love that your guest said that, like, “I don’t care what people think.” I learned that so big and clear in the improv theater at The Second City because there is so much power in looking silly and not caring, and just doing you. And it’ll inspire other people to want to do that as well.

And that’s what need more of in the world, to get a little woo-woo here. We need more people being themselves and doing things that light them up, right? So, yeah, it’s like a brave movement. We love watching people do brave things and be themselves because it makes us want to do more of that ourselves.

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

Judi Holler
No, I think that’s it. Like I said, if I could have one page in my book, it doesn’t get easier. Scary things don’t get less scary but you will get stronger. I think a big consequential mistake people make is they do one brave thing and then they stop, and they think that, “Okay, now I’ve done it. Now, I’ve got that brave thing going.” That’s how we miss opportunities and end up with a mediocre life. We’ve got keep going and it’s just consistent action little by little every day. We don’t need to do big scary things. We can start small and just still be very effective. So, that’s it in a nutshell.

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

Judi Holler
Yes. I would say I love the Steve Martin quote, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Love that.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

Judi Holler
I would say, ooh, this is a good one. I recently read a study that showed, it was on happiness and laughter, that babies laugh about 400 times a day, and adults, we laugh, about 4 times a day. And that just certainly made me sad but it inspired me to bring more joy and laughter into my life. And I think joy and laughter is coming back into the workplace. And if we’re not having fun, what’s the point? We’ve got to sit at that fun table because we’re not laughing. We’re not a baby anymore, I get it. But laughter, for 400 to 4, how do we increase that laugh factor every day? And I loved that study.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you know, that is intriguing and I have thought that to myself, it’s like, “I would like to have some more laughs.” And, from time to time, I make a discovery, like, “Oh, my gosh, the TV show A.P. Bio is hysterical.”

Judi Holler
So good, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I binge all of those, it’s like, “Okay, now what do I do?” So, what do you do to bring in more laughs every day? I mean, you got your whole improv posse but outside that, yeah.

Judi Holler
You know what I do? I tell you this is brand new and I love this idea. I actually need to put it in my newsletter because it’s such a fun little hack. Because of this study, I have started watching on Netflix Stand-Up Comedy Specials, and I’ve been watching a lot of like “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, and those were like 15-20 minutes long. And I’m telling you, I watch about five of those “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” the other night while I was eating and making dinner because it’s all kind of in the same room. And I didn’t look at my phone once. I even forgot about my email. I forgot about the book launch. It was just so lovely to just sit there and laugh.

And so, that’s an easy thing someone could do. Just start like watching comedy specials and just let yourself laugh at the world because there is a lot of serious stuff going on, but if we’re not having fun, what’s the point? So, that’s a way to start laughing more.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that is fun and I’ve turned on the Spotify Comedy originals in there as I’m like taking a walk or whatever. And that’s great, yeah, because you don’t really need to look at it, you know. You can mostly listen to the Netflix Comedy Special, maybe you pop on some Bluetooth headphones.

Judi Holler
Correct. In your car, yup. Or, your, not car, your iPhone.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you just mix your ingredients.

Judi Holler
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. So, how about a favorite book?

Judi Holler
Favorite book, oh, my gosh. That’s a hard question. I have so many, but what I would say for this audience, I think what shifted me in a professional way, from a professional perspective, which really just changed the way I work, it’s a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we interviewed Greg.

Judi Holler
Oh, God, that book changed the way—you know that client I was telling you about, the first 60 minutes of her day, those ideas inspired a lot of those changes that she made and I made, and we just really all started working together to get in front of it and living like essentialists. So, that book is a game-changer. If you haven’t read it, go get you some.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about favorite habits.

Judi Holler
That’s definitely it, but I would say I use a goal-focused planner. I use a planner called the Volt Planner by a company called Ink and Volt. It is the number one tool in my business from a productivity standpoint that helps me living work like an essentialist, so I couldn’t live without it.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with readers and listeners?

Judi Holler
Yeah, I think my book comes out May 28, but there are a lot of folks that have had advanced copies, and one of the retailers are shipping early, and I think the quote that’s kind of getting tweeted a lot, and shared a lot, and have come up a lot even on podcasts is this one, “You can be a victim or you can be a badass. The choice is yours.”

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

Judi Holler
I would point them to, first and foremost, my website which is JudiHoller.com from a social media perspective. I am most active on Instagram, so @judiholler on Instagram, certainly on Facebook. And then I think those are the best ways to get in touch with me. And we’re doing a little freebie. I’ve got a little gift for your listeners. Do you want to share it or do you want me to share it?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yup, tell us.

Judi Holler
Okay. So, if you want to get to know a little bit more about me and kind of test drive my book without buying the book, we’re going to give you chapter one, in the beginning of the entire book, for free. And I’ve also included a couple of downloadable freebies. Most importantly, most specifically, my secret weapon which is my morning planner page.

And the way you get it is you text the word BRAVE to the number 474747, and you’ll get texted a little link, you click it, and then all of the downloadable freebies will be sent to your email once you enter your email.

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

Judi Holler
Just trust yourself. Trust yourself. What you have is good enough. And in the improv theater, we’re not trying to find the best thing, but we are always looking for the next thing. So, it’s all about momentum and moving the scenes forward on stage, you’ve got to do that for yourself. It’s about doing small things every day that are going to move your life forward. This is how you achieve results, fear less, and, of course, make fear your homeboy.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Judi, thanks for this. Good luck with the book and all your adventures.

Judi Holler
Oh, my gosh, thanks for listening.

441: Understanding Fear to Overcome It with Ruth Soukup

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Ruth Soukup shares the seven Fear Archetypes so you can better understand and conquer your particular fear.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to identify your Fear Archetype™️ and use that knowledge to conquer your fear
  2. How to seek out honest feedback
  3. How to develop courage to take the first step past fear

About Ruth

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people overcome fear and create a life they love. Through her blog, Living Well Spending Less, which reaches more than 1 million people each month, she encourages her readers to follow their dreams and reach their goals. She is also the founder of the Living Well Planner® and Elite Blog Academy®, as well as the author of five bestselling books. Her practical advice has been featured in numerous publications and news programs, including Women’s Day, Redbook, Family Circle and Fox News. Her Do It Scared® podcast launched on April 30, 2018 and her next book, Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love (Harper Collins) will be available in May 2019.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ruth Soukup Interview Transcript

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

Ruth Soukup
Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom and in particular, I understand that you identify as a Harry Potter nerd. What’s the story here?

Ruth Soukup
That I do. I am a Harry Potter enthusiast I have to say, that probably does make me a huge super nerd, but I’m going to own it. I’m going to own it. I have read all of the books probably at least ten times each and that last one, number seven, which is my favorite, I’ve probably read at least 30 times. I just could read them over and over again from start to finish without stopping.

So thankfully, my 12-year-old daughter has actually inherited my love of all things Harry Potter. We get to now nerd out together. This summer we were in London and we went to the Warner Brothers’ studios, where they filmed all of the movies. My poor husband and my younger daughter had to bear with us as we nerded out to an epic proportion, but it was really, really great.

If you ever have a chance to go, I would highly recommend it. To see just the level of detail that they put into every movie and the sets and everything was so worth it, whether or not you’re a Harry Potter fan.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s impressive. Now you called yourself a Harry Potter enthusiast. I’ve heard the term, which I hadn’t heard before, a Potterhead. Is that common nomenclature?

Ruth Soukup
I’ve never got into the communities online. I kind of I guess maybe that’s my inner outcast coming out. I’ve also sort of just been independently nerdy, so I don’t know what the correct terminology is for that. But I would say Harry Potter super nerd would be an accurate description.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Understood. Cool beans. I’d also love to hear how you’ve applied some of your nerd-like enthusiasm for researching and getting some intriguing insights in your book, Do It Scared. Could you kick us off with what would you say is the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made while doing the work on this?

Ruth Soukup
That’s a great question. With Do It Scared I was really wanting to look into this question of why does fear hold us back. In my communities I see so many people, and women especially, who feel like they’re sitting on the sidelines of their own life, who are just afraid to jump in and there’s all these things holding them back from going after their goals and dreams wholeheartedly. It was a real problem.

I had so many people coming to me and saying, “I wish I could do this, but I just can’t.” I wanted to know why. I wanted to know why fear was holding us back and, more importantly, if there was anything that we could do about it. We ended up doing this gigantic research study surveying more than 4,000 people. I hired a whole team of researchers and psychologists to help me dive into the data.

But one of the most surprising things that we discovered was that all fear is not created equal. By that I mean there’s seven very, very unique and distinct ways that fear plays out in our lives because it’s a little bit different for everyone. We call these the seven fear archetypes.

Basically, what that means is that some people are afraid of making a mistake, while other people are afraid of rejection. Some people are afraid of authority or have an unhealthy fear of authority. Other people are afraid of being judged or letting people down.

How that fear plays out in your life really makes a huge difference in how it’s holding you back, but it also makes a huge difference because once you can identify how fear is holding you back, you can also start to do something about it and to overcome it. It was really, really fun research to do, but also really exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’ve already listed out some of these archetypes here, so fear of making mistake, fear of rejection, fear of authority, fear of being judged, fear of letting folks down. Is that five of seven? What are the other two?

Ruth Soukup
Let’s see. There’s the fear of not being capable and the fear of adversity. I believe that would bring all of them. They each have a name. The fear of making a mistake is the procrastinator archetype and that’s really another name for perfectionism. That one is actually the most common of all the archetypes.

Then there’s the people pleaser, which is the fear of being judged or the fear of what other people will say and letting down people. That is the second most common one. They go on from there. If you want me to keep going, I can keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it. Yeah.

Ruth Soukup
Yeah, so the next one after that is the rule follower. The rule follower is an unhealthy fear of authority. It’s just sort of this deep-seated fear of ever coloring outside of the lines or doing anything that you’re not supposed to do even though you don’t always know who’s telling that you’re supposed to do it a certain way.

You just sort of have this feeling all the time that there’s certain things are supposed to be done a certain way and if you don’t do it right, you’re going to get in trouble, whether that’s accurate or not.

The fourth fear archetype is the outcast. That is the fear of rejection. The funny thing with outcasts is that they tend to reject other people before they can be rejected. They’re so afraid of rejection that they reject others first as almost like a proactive way of not being rejected.

A lot of times outcasts will appear on the surface to be fearless, but the truth is that they’re very afraid of being rejected by other people, so they sort of put up this armor to protect themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
You say outcasts, I just can’t stop thinking, Hey ya.

Ruth Soukup
That’s true. Different kind of outcast. Different kind of outcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Let’s hear the rest. Let’s hear the rest.

Ruth Soukup
Yeah. Then there is the excuse maker. The excuse maker is afraid of taking responsibility, also known as the blame shifter. The excuse maker is the one who never wants to have anything pinned on them. We can probably all think of somebody in our life who is like that, where just cannot be pinned down, won’t take responsibility for their actions. But where that comes from is just a deep fear of taking responsibility. They don’t want to be held responsible.

There’s also the self-doubter, which is the fear of not being capable. A lot of times for the self-doubter that will play out in hyper criticism towards themselves and others. If you’ve ever known anyone who just seems like they are never happy, never satisfied, always nitpicking people that might be a sign of a self-doubter in your life, somebody that’s a self-doubter. Or if you find yourself doing that a lot, that might be your main fear archetype.

Then the final one is the pessimist. The pessimist is usually someone who has had a lot of adversity or hard things happen in their life and they’re therefore most afraid of pain or adversity or of hard things happening again. That makes them just sort of stuck and not want to try.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. That’s a nice run down there. Your assertion is that we tend to have one of these that is the most dominant for us.

Ruth Soukup
Yes. Most people have one that is more dominant than others. You might have two or three that are all fairly dominant and they sort of interact and play together. But there’s usually at least one or two. We all have traits of all seven of the fear archetypes, but sometimes some are far less prevalent than others.

But the way that they play out in our lives is really relevant because if you don’t know the way that – what your underlying fear is, you don’t know how it’s affecting you. But once you do know, once you’re able to identify that fear in your life and start to see those patterns of behavior and to start recognize the negative self-talk that happens in our heads without us even really realizing it.

So much of this stuff happens subconsciously. As soon as you shine a light on it and start to see it in your life, that’s when you’re able to start overcoming it and start creating solutions that will allow you to move past it and not be held stuck anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you maybe illuminate, what is some self-talk that shows up and that we might not even recognize because it’s just there in the background all the time? Any key words and phrases that pop up a lot?

Ruth Soukup
Sure. Well, again, that is different for everyone, but I’ll give myself as an example for this one because I actually had this happen to me fairly recently. Like I said at the beginning, I’m the outcast archetype. My deepest fear is rejection.

That has been something that really, I’ve started to recognize recently, probably in lieu of all of this fear studies that I’ve been doing. But I’ve started to really see how the outcast fear archetype is playing out in my life and how that fear of rejection holds me back in certain areas of my life and of my business.

Specifically I have an online business. I have an online company. I have always sort of approached my business from a I-don’t-need-anybody-else standpoint of “I’m going to grow this by myself. I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to ever be dependent on anyone else.” Yet, as my business has grown, I’ve really seen ways in which that – being unwilling to reach out to people and to ask for help or to ask for favors or to ask people for things has held me back.

Even to pitch someone to say, “Hey, I see you have this podcast. Can I be a guest on your podcast?” or to promote myself in that way. That’s always been really, really hard for me. What that really is is a deep, deep-seated fear of rejection. I reject everyone before they can reject me.

And it was funny I was with – I have a mastermind group that I call my truth club. I was with them maybe a few weeks ago. They, of course, know that my archetype is the outcast, so as good friends should do, they definitely called me out on it and were really pushing me and really challenged me to stop hiding basically behind this fear of rejection.

They challenged me to – we were specifically talking about media and PR and pitching yourself to different media outlets – so they challenged me in 24 hours I had to pitch myself to 20 people and that I knew were going to reject me just to get used to the idea of being rejected. It was terrifying to me, absolutely terrifying and yet, because they are my friends, because I believe in accountability, I took their advice and I did it and I did the challenge.

You know what? It was so incredibly freeing to finally sort of break through this fear that rejection was the worst thing that could ever happen to me because as it turned out it wasn’t that bad and as it turned out several of these people that I reached out to actually said yes and not no even though I had been sure that every single one of them was going to say no. It was just a really good lesson for me.

This is something I work with on a daily basis, but it was still a great lesson for me that when you know what your fear is, then that’s when you can start to create solutions to overcome it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve got me thinking now. It’s like well, here you are on my media outlet. It’s like how did this happen. I guess your publicist, Ashley, at NardiMedia.com was the emailer. I guess that’s another strategy. You can do a little bit out outsourcing.

Ruth Soukup
That has been the strategy that I’ve used is to hire a publicist to do it for me so that I don’t have to personally be rejected, but that’s where my friends were calling me on it. They said, “No, it’s better if you start making connections yourself. You have to start doing it yourself.” I’m like, “Oh, I don’t want to,” but I did.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for sharing that. It’s really resonating as I’m thinking – this is always sort of my game as a podcaster it’s like it’s for the listeners, but it’s also for me. It’s like which follow up question am I going to ask? Is it the one that serves me or the one that I think is going to serve the most listeners? Usually I give it to the listeners, but for now I’m trying to zero in on mine.

I think about when I’m not reaching out – because I’ve done the same thing. It’s like I would like to be on more podcasts. I’ve seen it results in great growth for my show and it’s fun. I haven’t made a lot of requests and I think it’s part of the procrastinator perfection thing.

Ruth Soukup
Well, that makes sense because that’s a very common fear archetype.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I say things to myself like, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe after my show is at six million downloads that will sound more impressive than five million downloads when I make this request.” It probably is already fine in terms of packing a punch, like “Oh five million downloads, Forbes, New York Times, blah, blah, blah.” That will probably pack enough credibility/authority/power to get over that hump.

And yet, I sort of wonder. It’s like, “Well, I don’t know. I should probably research their show more because I don’t like getting irrelevant pitches, so I should really know it intimately, but how intimately. Is listening to five episodes enough or is that not nearly enough?” So yeah. Well, hey, it’s the most common archetype. I’ve maybe got it, so hey, double win.

Ruth Soukup
Well, yours could be like maybe a combination of a little bit procrastinator and a little bit outcast in the same thing. Those two can really interplay together because the procrastinator is most afraid of getting it wrong, making a mistake and not having things be perfect. You always feel like there’s a little bit more that you could be doing.

Procrastinators a lot of times, in fact a lot of times people will realize that that’s their archetype but they’ll think, “I never thought of myself as a procrastinator. I definitely have thought of myself as a perfectionist.”

But what perfectionists will do is they will try to get so far ahead of things and so far out ahead of a deadline so that they can be tweaking up until the very last minute because it’s never quite right or they’ll avoid doing things at all because they don’t want to make a mistake or because it won’t be perfect.

[15:00]

It sounds like you’ve got a little bit of that going on, but also a little bit of “Hm, I don’t want to take the chance of putting myself out there because they might say no because I’m not good enough.” That’s a little bit of your inner outcast coming out too.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear you. I think when it comes to rejection in this realm, I don’t think it would hurt my feelings too much, like “Aw,” but from a business opportunity, it would be like, “Oh, dang it! Did I blow it? If I worked it a little bit better or differently, could I have nailed this and now this door is closed to me and I’m bummed because I did it wrong and if I had done it right, then this door wouldn’t be closed to me.” I guess I don’t feel like a loser.

I’ll tell you, it is great therapy to be rejected. I remember my first book collecting dozens of rejection letters, just, was very nourishing to the soul. It’s like, “Oh hey, this doesn’t hurt so bad after all.”

Ruth Soukup
After a while you start to get used to it, but yeah, it takes a little while. Well, we do have an assessment that you can actually go and take the assessment and discover what your archetype is.

You can find that at DoItScared.com if you’re interested in figuring out what exactly – because sometimes it can be a little hard to nail down and that’s where the assessment comes in and helps you really hone in on what your top one is and the premium assessment will actually show you where you rank on all seven of them so you can really see what your top ones are and how they interplay together.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You are bringing back some memories in terms of fear. I remember at Bain & Company that was sort of an expectation. They called Zero Defect Analysis, which means you’re not allowed to make mistakes, which is terrifying, like that’s in your review.

Ruth Soukup
That would make things really terrifying for a procrastinator slash perfectionist.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, what, we’re not allowed to make mistakes. I guess, over time it became clear, you’re not allowed to make a mathematical or factual error that the client catches. It’s sort of like, take a moment to double check your stuff and don’t get caught being wrong, which is still a high bar, but not as terrifying as it originally felt when I said, “Excuse me, what is the standard here exactly?”

But it was good lessons in terms of sharpening some skills. But yeah, it was spooky for a little while as young associate consultants are getting up to speed on that skill set.

Ruth Soukup
Yeah, for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, well memories. Now, let’s see. We’ve got some of these particular archetypes mapped out, the lay of the land, the diagnosis, and so I’d love to hear – I’m sure that there are sort of particular prescriptions for each of these, but because that may take a while, could you maybe share with us some of the universal prescriptions, like-

Ruth Soukup
Universal prescriptions.

Pete Mockaitis
That help everybody.

Ruth Soukup
Yes, yeah. Well, one of the most important things that you can keep in mind when you’re talking about fear is first of all that figuring out what your fear is matters so much because that’s where you can start to identify it and start to see where it might be holding you back. But when it comes to overcoming it, the most important thing that you need to know is that action is the antidote to fear.

If you want to start to overcome your fear, the first thing that you need to do is take any step, any step at all in the right direction towards whatever it is that you want to go after, towards facing your fears.

Back to the example that I gave you, the action that I took was my friends said, “Hey, your outcast fear is holding you back. You are afraid of rejection and you’re not putting yourself out there, so what you need to do is go pitch yourself to 20 people in the next 24 hours even through you know you’ll be rejected.”

My choice at that point was to say, “Whatever, you guys are full of it and I don’t care because I’m not going to do it,” because literally it was terrifying to me. It was panic-inducing fear of just the thought of that. As they were confronting me, I was standing up. I was pacing around the room. My arms were crossed. There was yelling going on. I did not want to do this.

My choice then was to ignore them completely and to not do it and to sit in my fear or my choice was to take action and to actually do that thing that they were challenging me to do. I took the action. What I realized is that once again, action is the antidote to fear. As I took the action, that was the cure, taking a step, doing the thing that you’re afraid of.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” That is it. That’s the answer most of the time to fear is to just – sometimes it just has to be the tiniest step in the right direction. Sometimes that’s all you can do is the tiniest step in the right direction, but just taking that step will give you the courage to take the next step and then the next step. Courage is like a muscle, so the more you exercise it, the stronger it’s going to get.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and that’s interesting when you talk about fear and how it manifests you said that you were terrifying and panic inducing. I guess – I don’t experience that much when it comes to stuff, but I think my fear can show up as kind of discomfort and resistance. It’s like, “Eh, I don’t really know about that just yet. There’s probably something better/different/alternative a little later.” That’s interesting.

Could you maybe talk about sort of the flavors by which fear is being experienced because I think maybe if some folks are saying, “Hm, I don’t really experience that panic-inducing thing much. I guess I don’t have fear.” What would you say to them?

Ruth Soukup
Well, fear happens on different levels for different people too. It’s important to realize that too, which is one really cool thing about our fear assessment is that it will actually give you a measure of your overall level of fear and how much it might be impacting you. Some people score off the charts in certain archetypes, some people are fairly low in all of them and there’s one that’s a little more prevalent, but it’s still fairly low. In that case, you might not be experiencing fear in that way.

Now, for me, my outcast is off the charts and everything else for me is fairly low. It really, really depends on where you’re scoring for that. Like you said, it might just be a resistance or something where you avoid things because you don’t want to do them and you just think, “Hm, I don’t really want to do them,” and you’re not even necessarily identifying it as a specific fear in your life and yet it’s holding you back because you’re not doing it. You’re not taking that action. You’re not taking that step.

In that case, you’re probably a little bit luckier because if you’re not having that panic-inducing fear that’s really holding you back, then that’s a little bit easier to say, “Okay, I’m going to take this step. I’m going to take this action and see how it goes.” The more you’re willing to do that, the more you’re willing to take that action, the better the results are and the more you realize, “Oh, I don’t have to let this fear hold me back,” or “Oh, this really isn’t as bad as I thought it’s going to be.”

For you, as being a procrastinator slash perfectionist, the best thing that you could possibly do is to push yourself to make some mistakes and to be okay with making mistakes because every time you do something and make a mistake and it’s not the end of the world, it helps you develop that capacity and the ability to next time realize, “Okay, I can do this and if I make a mistake, it’s not going to be the end of the world.

If I put myself out there before I have six million or seven million listeners to my podcast, and they say no, that’s not the end of the world. I can always ask again and I can always ask again. It’s not that big of a deal. Depending on where you fall within your archetype and the level, it really depends on then what the solution and the cure is.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, Ruth, when you say I can always ask again, that strikes me as a profound revelation.

Ruth Soukup
Really?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. It was like, “Oh yeah, I guess you can,” which is interesting. That kind of gets me thinking that another potential antidote here is just some of the conversation. You’ve mentioned you’ve got your accountability or mastermind posse, The Truth Seekers, The Truth Club?

Ruth Soukup
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And that helped out right there.

Ruth Soukup
And that is actually one of the universal recommendations also is to create accountability in your life, to put people in your life who will speak truth to you. That’s not always easy because there’s a lot of people who don’t want to tell us the truth, who don’t want to be confrontational and a lot of times we surround ourselves intentionally with people who will tell us what we want to hear.

Intentionally putting people in your life who will push back, who will give you the honest truth, who won’t always just tell you what you want to hear, but will actually push to make you better, that is so, so important.

It is one of the best things that you can ever do for yourself is to create accountability partners in your life or to find those people that you can really trust to say the things that nobody else will say to you because those are the people that are going to push you to be your best self and to push past your comfort zone into the place where you’re pushing past fear.

That’s also the place where all the good stuff happens, where you get to go after your biggest goals and dreams and actually create the life that you love.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, well, I’m all about doing just that, so great perspective there. Hugely transformative. I want to talk a bit more about the tiny step business. If folks are – I think that’s one great tactic right there. It’s like, identifying what’s the tiniest possible step. Then if folks are even scared to take that tiny possible step, what do you do? Is there any particular mantras or mottos or kind of power up tips?

Ruth Soukup
My mantra is definitely ‘Do it scared.’ Honestly, that sounds so simple and obviously that’s the title of the book. That’s the title of my podcast. But truly that mantra works whether you’re 10 years old or 100 years old. It really does.

I see it all the time because ‘Do it scared’ has been my own personal motto for so long. It’s been one of the core values of my company since I started my company and then it’s something that I really seen be embraced by the members in my community.

I see all the time in our Facebook groups, people say, “Oh, Ruth says ‘Do it scared.’ I’m doing it scared. This is my do it scared moment.” Even my daughter, we went a few weeks ago to one of those high ropes course things. She’s like, “Mommy, I was so scared, but I just kept saying ‘Do it scared, do it scared, do it scared’ the whole time. ‘Do it scared’ that’s all I could think. ‘Do it scared’ and then I was brave enough to do it.”

Sometimes you just need to chant that in your head. Really what that means is that courage doesn’t mean that you’re never afraid. Courage is taking action despite your fear. It’s doing the one thing and then doing the next thing. Sometimes you just have to tell yourself that over and over, “I just have to take this one step. If I can take this one step, then I can take the next one.”

I think sometimes also we think that we have to have everything all figured out. That is especially true when it comes to these creating goals and dreams for our lives or having these goals and dreams in our head that we were too afraid to pursue.

We don’t pursue them because we think we’re supposed to know every step along the way and that we have to have it perfect and that we have to – we’re afraid of what people are going to say about us or say to us or that they won’t understand or they won’t get it or that we’ll get it wrong. There’s all of these fears that come into play sometimes all at the same time, sometimes one more prevalently than others.

But really, we don’t have to have it all figured out all at once. We just have to take one step. Sometimes when you take that one step, the next step becomes more clear and then the next step becomes more clear after that. Before you know it, you look back and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did all of that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. You also talk about developing core beliefs that help us overcome fear. I imagine some beliefs get shaped just by taking those actions over time repeatedly. Do you have any other approaches to go about forming and strengthening these core beliefs?

Ruth Soukup
Well, yeah, so in the book, Do it Scared, I talk about the principles of courage. There’s several that are really important. Some we’ve sort of touched on a little bit. One is there are no mistakes, only lessons.

That one is – for somebody like yourself, that’s a really important one. In fact, it sort of came out when I said, “What’s the worst that can happen? You can always just ask again.” That was a revelation to you to realize if it goes wrong the first time, you can always try it again. You can always try something else. There’s no time and there’s no mistake that’s so big that you can’t recover from. I feel like I’m living proof of that.

I actually talk about this quite extensively in the book, but when I was in my early 20s, I went through a terrible depression, really, really bad. It was my senior year of college. I ended up attempting suicide multiple times, ended up hospitalized for almost two and a half years, had multiple suicide attempts in that time. It was just really, really, really bad. As bad as you can imagine a depression would be, that was it.

At the end of it, found myself divorced, bankrupt, completely alone. All the people who had tried to be my friends along the way, I had either made them so mad or so frustrated that they had pretty much abandoned me, had nothing left. I had no money. I had no education because I had dropped out of school.

I literally had nothing and somehow from that managed by taking one step and then the next step and then the next step after that over a course of several years, ended up finding my way back to having, first of all, a normal life and then finishing school and getting married and having two beautiful kids and then starting a business that has now grown to be this seven-figure empire.

I really look at that as kind of the proof that if you think that – as badly as you think that you’ve screwed up in your life, I promise you it’s probably not as bad as I screwed up. And if I can go from that hot mess that I was 15 years ago to where I am today, then there really is hope for anyone on the planet. And that’s where it’s so important to just take one step and the next step and the next step after that.

I truly believe in my heart of hearts that there are no mistakes, only lessons and if you can start to adapt that mentality, then you stop fearing that you were going to make a mistake. That’s such a big fear for so many people is this fear of making a mistake, but realizing that every mistake you make brings you to the next point in your life and you can look back and go, “Oh, that was amazing. I learned from that. Now I can take it and do my next thing.”

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

Ruth Soukup
Well, I want to make sure that you know that Do It Scared is available wherever books are sold.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, we got it. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ruth Soukup
Favorite quote. I think I already shared it, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

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

Ruth Soukup
I’ve got to say – well, aside from this fear research that we’ve done recently, I really love the research that Jim Collins does in all of his books, but especially in Good to Great and Built to Last. Those are two of my favorite business books. I read them all the time.

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

Ruth Soukup
Favorite tool. Oh my goodness, I think the Freedom app is pretty amazing. It keeps me focused on a daily basis. I don’t know if you’ve used that before. You can connect it on to all of your devices and then set the timer and it locks you out of all distractions while you try to focus.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Ruth Soukup
Getting up at four AM every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I have to ask about this in more detail. When do you go to sleep at night?

Ruth Soukup
Usually by nine.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, okay. That works out. Any naps in the day?

Ruth Soukup
Nope, no naps. I am not a napper. The only time I ever nap is if I’m sick.

But yes, I am a morning person to the core. Sometimes I even get up at three just because I feel like it. I really do like getting up early. I love having the time in the morning when nobody else is up and the whole world is just yours. I find that that’s my time to get my best work done and just have the quiet where no one else on the planet is crazy enough to get up that early, so it’s all mine.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you wake up without an alarm, just naturally at about that time?

Ruth Soukup
I use the Sleep Cycle app, which is another one of my favorite tools, but, honestly, I don’t usually set my alarm on the weekends and I still wake up that early.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, cool. Well, nice work. Now could you share with us a favorite nugget, something you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get retweeted frequently?

Ruth Soukup
My favorite nugget is “Action is the antidote to fear.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I was totally already planning on using it as the pulled quote for our episode, so it’s a good one.

Ruth Soukup
There you go.

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

Ruth Soukup
Absolutely. Definitely go to DoItScared.com. That’s where you can find out more about the book. You can find the podcast and you can take the assessment and find out your fear archetype.

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

Ruth Soukup
I think that it’s really important to find out where fear is impacting your life so that you can be more awesome at your job. It truly is – it’s amazing once you start to identify those patterns in your life, how it sort of changes everything and can help you break through any of the resistance that you’ve been facing.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Ruth this has been a ton of fun. I wish you lots of luck and adventures as you do things scared and come out the other side. It’s been a treat.

Ruth Soukup
Thanks so much for having me. It was great to be here.

426: How to Feel Limitless in Your Career with Laura Gassner Otting

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Laura Gassner Otting charts how one can be limitless by freeing yourself from other people’s expectations.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The danger in carrying someone else’s “scorecard” of expectations
  2. What limitlessness looks and feels like
  3. Why to view purpose more broadly

About Laura

Laura speaks with change agents, entrepreneurs, investors, leaders, and donors to get them past the doubt and indecision that consign their great ideas to limbo. She delivers strategic thinking, well-honed wisdom, and catalytic perspective informed by decades of navigating change across the start-up, nonprofit, political, and philanthropic landscapes. She’s had boatloads of cool experience, from being a White House presidential appointee to founding her own organizations.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Laura Gassner Otting Interview Transcript

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

Laura Gassner Otting
Thank you so much. This is such a better podcast than the How to Suck at Your Job podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that one sort of petered out pretty quickly. Well, I’m excited to dig into this stuff. I want to hear a fun fact about you. You mentioned that your first mile that you ran in life occurred when you were age 39. What’s the story here?

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah. I was that kid in gym class growing up that had 497,623 excuses not to go to PE. I’m old. I’m 48 years old. There was a time in my life when PE was all those stereotypical things that you see like in the 1980’s dramas about the terrible coaches with their whistles and their polyester shorts. I was the one cowering in the corner. I was just never athletic. I went to computer sleep away camp, like for real, in the Poconos.

Pete Mockaitis
I also went to cyber camp.

Laura Gassner Otting
Did you really?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, but the Poconos, that’s awesome. I was just in Central Illinois.

Laura Gassner Otting
Wow. I’ve never met another human being who actually talked to other human beings, who went to computer sleep away camp. This is amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
It was fun. It was fun.

Laura Gassner Otting
We could have a whole podcast just on that. I mean I was the only girl at computer sleep away camp and I still didn’t kiss a boy until I went to college. I was special. I didn’t run a mile. I lived the life of the mind. I was super nerd. I was never heavy. I was never thin. I was just kind of there.

When I was 39 year old, I was walking into my kids’ school one afternoon for some parent-teacher conference or something and I saw the head of the school. I was like, “Ellen, you look amazing.” Ellen was in her mid-60s and she had lost a ton of weight.

I was like, “Either you’ve been really sick or there’s a new man in your life. Frankly, you look way too good to have been really sick, so what’s his name?” She’s like, “Well, actually, there is a new man in my life. His name is Mike, Coach Mike.”

Then Ellen proceeds to drag me to the dirtiest, nastiest, filled with all sorts of dust and dead bugs, gym in a Boys & Girls Club, where I do bootcamp. It takes me six weeks to actually run the mile that you have to run at the end of bootcamp without stopping or barfing.

When I got to the end of the mile, I was like, “I’m going to do this. This is amazing. What if I strung 3.1 of these together and I ran a 5K?” So I signed up for a 5K and 6 weeks later me and Ellen and Coach Mike all ran a 5K. At the end of the 5K, I thought “What if I ran a 10K?” At the end of the 10K I thought “What if I did half marathon? That would be amazing.” At the end of the half marathon, I thought, “I live in Boston. I should do the Boston marathon.”

I came home and I told my husband that I was thinking about doing the Boston marathon. He told me I was insane. But I said “If I can get a bib in the next five minutes, would you support me?” Now you have to run Boston as a qualified runner. You have to be fast. I am not fast, again, see computer sleep-away camp, right?

But what I did was I spent the last 20 years working with nonprofits and I knew a lot of people who had charity bibs, so I posted on Facebook, “Hey, anybody have a nonprofit bib that I can raise money for to run the Boston marathon?” Within three minutes I had five offers. I turned to my husband and I showed him my iPhone screen with the offers and he was like, “Oh God, you’re doing this.” At 39 years old I ran my first mile and by the time I was 41, I had run three marathons.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, congratulations. Impressive.

Laura Gassner Otting
Thank you. Well, it’s kind of crazy actually, but what that taught me, it taught me where confidence comes from. Confidence doesn’t come from this idea of dreaming big dreams. It comes from competence. You put one foot in front of the other. You don’t crap your pants and the next thing you know you’ve done something. That something leads you to confidence that you can do something else.

I never thought I’m going to run a marathon, let alone three, I thought I’m going to run and see where that takes me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. Well, I’m excited. It sounds like you followed some of the advice in your book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life. You did some ignoring. Tell me, just maybe to get us going, what’s perhaps the most surprising and fascinating discovery that you made as you were researching and putting this one together?

Laura Gassner Otting
Well, I would say the most fascinating discovery that I made is that everybody, regardless of how externally happy they seem, feels like something’s missing. I was really surprised at how broad the range was for the book. I knew that it made sense because it made sense to me and I’ve been talking about this advice that’s in the book for the last 20 years.

But I was giving a talk at a conference, a retreat that is specifically for young women of color that work in the education space, Millennials working in the education space. It’s a retreat that’s run by a friend of mine. I’m the only Caucasian person that she’s had come speak at this conference because she knows that I hold the space sacred.

I was giving my usual talk about how do you find your leadership voice and how do you find confidence. Somebody asked me a question. I said, “Let me answer that by telling you a little bit about this book that I’m writing.” I gave the framework for the book.

At the end of it these 60 women in this room, these Millennial women of color, stood up and gave me a standing ovation, the first standing ovation of my life. I was so shocked by that that I was like maybe there’s something to it.

Then I started using this framework in my executive coaching practice, where I was talking to middle-aged white guys and stay-at-home moms and Boomers that are looking for the next encore in their retirement. I started hearing people saying things like, “I feel like you wrote this just for me.”

Then you fast-forward to when I recorded my audio book and the sound technician is this guy who is a personal trainer slash thresh hair-metal guitarist slash sound technician. Afterwards, I walked out of the two days and he turned to me he said, “I feel like the universe brought you into my life at exactly the right moment. I don’t believe in that universe crap, but I really needed to hear this.”

The most surprising thing to me was how universal the idea of feeling like we’re all limited by everybody else’s expectations and everybody else’s idea of success and how much people felt relieved to be unburdened by that.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay, that’s quite a statement there. Let’s hear it again. We all, universally, tend to feel limited by other’s expectations and what?

Laura Gassner Otting
Everybody assigns ideas to us. We’re all walking around with a scorecard in our pocket. Marry the right person, go to the right college, get the right job, buy the right house. Who’s defining what the right whatever is?

We’re all walking with a scorecard of other people’s ideas, other people’s expectations of success. When we do that, we’re so limited by everybody else’s ideas, by their expectations, by their definitions, frankly, by their anxiety, by their concerns, by their worry that we become limited. It’s in these limits that we lose ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, it’s funny. I already feel a little bit liberated just hearing yeah, why do I care at all what some of these people think about this or that?

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah. Where did you get your scorecard from? For me, when I was in fourth grade a teacher said, “You’re a pretty argumentative young woman. You should be a lawyer.” Of course I told her she was wrong, but I then spent the next 15 years creating an educational path that put me towards being a lawyer.

When I got to law school and said “I actually hate this. I’m in totally the wrong place,” and I wanted to drop out, I felt like I was failing because this definition of what success would be, go to law school, become a lawyer, suddenly wasn’t right for me. I never stopped to think, “Well, is it actually something I care about?”

What’s worse is that we’re asked to pick these paths, we’re asked to pick the direction, the college, the major, the career, the trade, whatever it is that we’re doing, we’re asked to pick these things when we’re 16-, 17-, 18-years old. You know what you don’t have when you’re 16-, 17-, 18-years old? A frontal lobe.

Pete Mockaitis
I was going to say, boy, there’s lots of things. Perspective. A frontal lobe, all right.

Laura Gassner Otting
Right. Yeah, you don’t have perspective. You don’t have wisdom. You don’t have knowledge. You don’t have reference. You don’t have many things. But most importantly, you don’t have a frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the part of your brain that determines logical decision making. We’re asked to make a decision about who we are and what we want to be when a) we don’t even really know ourselves, and b) we literally don’t have the capacity to make this decision.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. That’s really thought provoking. Give us some examples here in terms of continual I guess limits or expectations that seem to be extra universal and extra limiting in terms of the biggies.

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah. There’s the teacher when you’re growing up who says, “You should be this,” or “You should be that.” A teacher has no crystal ball. They have no Ouija board. Maybe they’ve said something as an aside on some random day and we take it as definitional.

Or maybe it’s a parent or a grandparent, who after I dropped out of law school and found myself in Washington DC, the definition of success came to me in the form of a six-foot-two nice medical student named Allen, who my mom thought was going to be the answer to all of my prayers. That was definition of success for her was get married to a nice Jewish doctor.

Now, that wasn’t my definition of success because every time I kissed Allen all I could think of was milk, butter, eggs, cheese, I’ve got to pick up the dry cleaning, got to bring the dog to the groomer. There was no spark. My mother would say, “Oh, well, you just have to concentrate.” That wasn’t my definition of success, but it was put on me by somebody else. Get married, check that box.

Then you fast forward to the boss. You’re sitting in your office in your workplace and you’re thinking about how you’re going to solve a certain problem for a client or to do some project in a way that you think makes sense, but your boss is over there thinking well, you’ve got to get done as fast as possible, as expediently as you can with the biggest profit margin that’s here. It may not feel like it’s real for you.

Throughout my book, I talk about lots of different people who at different points in their career made a major change in order to feel like they were in consonance with who they were. That was a theme that came up over and over and over again, where people were like, “When my boss was saying ‘Just do it. Just make sure it’s good enough. Just do it until the check clears. That’s all you need to do.’ That didn’t sit right with who I am as a person.”

I think this sort of young definition, the sort of external pressure to have the rest of your life in order, and then a boss who might have different ideas of what success means than you do are pretty universal.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so by contrast, could you paint a picture for what does it look, sound, feel like in practice when you are indeed limitless, you have managed to let go of those things?

Laura Gassner Otting
I want you to think about a time when you were firing on all cylinders, you were at your very best, you were making it rain, you were closing a deal, you were just giving a presentation of your life or maybe it was a quiet moment with a loved one or a colleague going through a difficult situation or you were working behind the scenes to kind of put the analysis together for a product launch or a budget or something.

It could be loud. It could be quiet. It could be public. It could be private. But think about a moment like that. You’ve had those moments where you are absolutely 100% everything that you do well is being put towards the problem at hand. Can you think about one of those moments?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. Yeah.

Laura Gassner Otting
How did that feel?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s good. I want to get a better word for you though.

Laura Gassner Otting
It’s limitless.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re saying that feeling is the limitless feeling?

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah, the feeling that the what you do matches who you are so that the very best of who are is being brought towards something that you care about. It’s this frictionless belonging. It’s this momentum. It’s when you feel like you have wind in your sails. It’s when everything is in alignment and in flow and it just feels right. That’s what it feels like to be limitless.

For some people that comes in the form of staying at home and raising their family, even though they have two master’s degrees. For some it comes from getting away from those kids as fast as possible and going back to work on the day that you can. It’s going to look very different for everybody. At every age and at every life stage, we’re all going to define what that success means differently.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Now, you sort of unpack that into a bit of detail in terms of how you get there. I’d first maybe want to talk about when you feel like you’ve got the hooks of limit and expectation from another source in you and you’d rather it not be in you, what do you do to find some freedom?

Laura Gassner Otting
Well, I want to say that it can be difficult because we all have sort of expectations of other people that we have to fulfill. But I think we put a lot of those on ourselves. I think that we think that other people will be deeply disappointed and upset if we change what we’re doing.

I think the first thing that I tell people is in the course of 20 years of interviewing people at the top of their game while I was doing executive search, I never found somebody who didn’t make a left turn or a right turn or a U-turn. Everybody changes what they do at some point. They redefine themselves and they rebuild.

Now, there may be plenty of people not at the top of their game who don’t do that, but everybody that I ever met who was truly a leader was somebody who learned along the way and made adjustments and who saw failure as fulcrum and not finale.

Now, I was speaking a few weeks ago in Austin. I was talking about this idea of failure being a fulcrum and not finale. I turned to my left and there is sitting in the front row an astronaut, Commander Tim Kopra, who had been on not one, not two, but three space walks. In the middle of doing this bit and I was like, “Oh, except for you, sir. For you failure would most definitely be finale, but for the rest of the 400 people in this room, failure is absolutely fulcrum.”

I think the first thing for people to do is to let go of this idea that failure is bad, that failure is going to be something that kills us. If failure literally doesn’t kill you, if there’s still breath left in your body, you can learn from it and do something else.

Once we let go of this desperate need to please everybody else and to live into everybody else’s idea of success, once we decide that it’s okay to fail at living into their expectations, that’s when we start making room for own idea of success. Once we start thinking about what success can mean to us—and I break that out in this framework in the book—once we unpack what success actually means to us, then success can in fact equal happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s good. You talk about this concept of consonance and have a few particular drivers of it. Can you define these terms for us?

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah. What I started to notice throughout my executive search career is that even though I was interviewing people, as I said, who were at the top of their game and who were super successful, they weren’t all really happy. I was struck by this idea that after you filled in all the checkboxes and you’ve done all the right things, why do we still feel empty? Why do we still feel like there’s something that’s missing that we’re just not quite satisfied about?

What I started to notice was that the people who were the most successful and also the happiest, the ones who weren’t suffering from burnout and stress and fatigue, they were the ones who were in consonance. They were the ones who were in alignment and flow so that everything they did made sense.

I started to notice that they had really four things. Each of them had these four things in different amounts, but they had them in the amounts that they needed.

The first is calling. Calling is some gravitational force, something that’s bigger than you. It could be saving the whales and curing cancer and feeding the poor. That’s fine. But it can also be working for a leader who inspires you or a company whose brain is prestigious and interests you.

It can be getting out of debt. It can be buying a Maserati and a beach house. It can be building your own business. It can be staying home with your family. Whatever that calling is, it’s your calling.

I think we get calling wrong often because we tend to give votes to people who shouldn’t have them. We have all these people in our lives and we ask them what they think and what we should do and they reply to us based on the framework of their own thinking, so we’re giving votes to people who shouldn’t even have voices. That’s calling.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Laura Gassner Otting
The second piece is connection. Connection really answers the question “What if you didn’t go to work tomorrow? What if you didn’t get out of bed tomorrow? Would anybody notice? Would it matter? Does your work matter? Why do you, in this box, in this organizational chart, in this company at this moment, why do you matter?” Can you see the work that you’re doing connecting to solving that calling, to getting to that calling that you want to achieve?

The third piece is contribution. While connection is all about the work, contribution is really all about you. We all want our work to mean something, to contribute something to our lives, but what? Does the work contribute to the career trajectory and velocity you’d like to create? Does the work contribute to the lifestyle you’d like to live? Does the work contribute to your ability to manifest your values into the world on a daily basis?

Then lastly, is control. Control really is how much personal agency do you want and need in your life so that the work can connect and that it can contribute to the kind of calling that you want to serve. At every age and every life stage, we’re going to want and need and have the four C’s of calling, connection, contribution, and control in different amounts.

Pete Mockaitis
You mentioned different amounts. I think I want all of them and a lot of them. Are you suggesting that there’s tradeoffs between them or how do you think about that?

Laura Gassner Otting
I think there are sometimes tradeoffs. I think it is possible to want and have lots of all of them. But I think at different ages and at different life stages, we’re willing to sacrifice one for the other.

When I was 21 years old and worth my weight in Ramen soup and idealism, I was volunteering on a presidential campaign. I had all the calling in the world. I was so inspired by this leader. But connection, please, I was goffering coffee, I was making Xerox copies. My work didn’t connect whatsoever, nothing I did really mattered. There were 700 other volunteers ready to walk in the door just like me.

But that was okay because I had so much contribution. I was manifesting my values on a daily basis. While I wasn’t really earning any money – I was, like I said, worth my weight in Ramen soup – I knew that if this guy won, I could have a pretty interesting job. Talk about a career trajectory. That would be amazing.

Then you go to control. Clearly, I had no control whatsoever about how much connection the work had or how much contribution it had, but boy, it didn’t matter to me because calling and contribution were absolutely top of what I needed when I was young and I didn’t have a family or major bills to pay and I could live in squalor and be perfectly fine.

Now as I’m 48 years old, it’s a little bit of a different story. Calling, I really do want to continue to do good things in the world, but my calling right now is really building out this book launch and bringing my message to people.

I feel that deeply, which means that my connection because I’m on several non-profit boards, because I’ve got two teenage kids, because I’ve got a husband with a completely inflexible job and I have friends that live all over the world, I could be doing lots of other things with my time.

If the work that I’m doing, if the podcast that I’m on, if the speaking that I’m doing, if the research I’m doing, the writing I’m doing isn’t helping me get this book off the ground in a way that is supporting my speaking career, then it’s not interesting to me. I really deeply need my work to be connected.

In terms of contribution, I am able to bring tons of how I manifest my values in the work because clearly I talk about them nonstop. I’m getting a piece of that, but in terms of how this is going to create a career trajectory for me, I have no idea. This is a brand new career and it’s super fascinating. I’m weighing those things differently.

Then in terms of control, I’m an entrepreneur deep in my soul, so I absolutely have to have control over the connection and the contribution, but I’m also willing to give up a little bit of it right now because I’m just sort of on this – I’m on this momentum path to get this book launch going. It’s very different for me right now.

If I were 68 years old, it may be a totally different thing because I may say I couldn’t care less whether or not the work I’m doing really matters or it contributes, but I deeply care about changing the world because I was born in 1940s or the 1950s and I’m a kid of social justice and those things I care most about.

I think everybody at different ages and at different life stages will care about these things differently, but I think we get into trouble because we sort of set our scorecard in stone early on and we’re told to think about the value of the job, but we don’t think about the value of the job to us individually and we don’t let that flex and change.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. I’m curious then, when it comes to all the means by which you can discover and develop and bring about some more calling, connection, contribution, and control are there any particular practices that you’ve seen again and again really seem to make a really big impact in terms of bringing about more of the consonance?

Laura Gassner Otting
I put together a quiz at LimitlessAssessment.com. I’ll say that again, LimitlessAssessment.com, where your listeners can actually go and take. It’s about 60 questions or so. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes. It walks the respondent through each of the four C’s of calling, connection, contribution, and control.

At the end of which, it gives them this very pretty little radar chart that – go computer sleep away camp because I’m very proud of myself for learning how to build this. It gives this beautiful radar chart that shows one circle of each of the four C’s how much you have in your life and then another one overlapped, we hope, of each of the four C’s of what you want in your life.

It actually will show you visually where you’re out of consonance and give you some tips about things that you need to do. For everyone it’s going to be a little bit different, but I think the right first moves, first of all, go take the quiz. Absolutely it will tell you exactly what you’re looking for and not just what society wants you to have, but what you actually want to have and how to get there.

But the second thing is to really start pulling the people around you, I call them your ‘framily,’ it’s the sort of combination of your friends and your family, who can be your tribe, who can be the ones who you can talk to about your results of the quiz, about the things that you want, about what you might think are missing, and really sort of help reflect to you and hold you accountable to making sure that you’re doing something every day towards the change that you want to make.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Maybe just to wet the whistle and get an example there. If we want some more control, what are some great things to do that help bring that about?

Laura Gassner Otting
As I mentioned, I’m an entrepreneur. I think that most of the entrepreneurs who I’ve seen who have taken this quiz have found that they are very much in consonance in the control piece because I think they’ve made very specific decisions in their life to make that happen.

I profile a woman by the name of Terry Diab in my book. She is a carpenter by trade. She actually started working for her brother-in-law when she was very young. She would just follow all the other carpenters around on the job site, picking up nails and cleaning paintbrushes and anything that they asked them to do. She loved it. She absolutely loved the work. She went to go work for him.

She was having a great time doing it. The work was done. He would say to her, “If you leave at the end of the day and you don’t feel proud of work, you’ve got to go back and do it again. This is really important.”

Then as his business grew and grew and grew, she found that that ethos, that respect for getting the job done well wasn’t actually shared with all of the site managers that he hired. She found herself increasingly frustrated because she thought that the work could be done better and should be done better and that the clients deserved better, so she started her own thing.

She says that she ate barbecue sauce and mashed potatoes for months in order to be able to afford to continue to put money towards building out her business, but she’s now booked 12 months in advance all the time. Her dance card’s always full.

She absolutely has 100% control over the way that she does her work, the quality that she does it, the way that she can manifest her values through her work and how much money she makes or doesn’t make by how much work she decides to take on.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Cool. Thank you. Well, I’d also love to get your take when folks are saying, “You know, Laura, I love this. I’m right on. I want to get more limitless. I want more consonance. What’s one of the biggest mistakes that people end up making when they are going after this stuff?

Laura Gassner Otting
I would say the number one biggest mistake that people make is that they say, “I want more consonance, I want my work to have meaning,” and then they say, “Well, meaning has to have purpose and purpose has to be purpose like higher purpose, lofty purpose.”

And they assign these ideas to it, which are either “Well, I actually want to make money, so I don’t really want to go do that purpose thing or maybe I’ll do that purpose thing later or I don’t know if that purpose thing is for me.” Again, I spent 20 years helping people find work in purpose, in nonprofit jobs. What I’ll say is that it’s really great to go do that work, but it’s also not necessarily right for everyone.

What I’m trying to say is that the only person who gets to decide what your purpose is, is you.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Well, then now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Laura Gassner Otting
Oh, so my favorite quote, I always have to go to Eleanor Roosevelt, which is, “Do the thing you think you cannot do.” I think that we all have multitudes inside of us. I never thought I was an athlete. We started this conversation by talking about my first mile at 39.

Here’s the thing that happens when you run three marathons in three years having never run a mile before is that you tend to get a little beaten up. I went from running a marathon to going to a gym, joining a gym for the first time in my life and meeting a trainer and lifting weight. This trainer happened to be a guy who was training for an Olympic rowing campaign. He kept talking about rowing. I was like, “Oh, that sound interesting. I should check that out.”

Fast forward a few years and now I’m a competitive rower. I row at a local competitive women’s rowing team. Every time we’re on the water, the coach comes over in his little boat and he’s like, “Okay, athletes, here’s what we’re going to do now.” I’m always like, “Athletes. He called me an athlete. That’s hilarious.” But I never knew that that’s who I was.

I think if we continue to do things that we think we cannot do, we’re able to find multitudes within us and we’re able to surprise ourselves at just what we can become.

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

Laura Gassner Otting
Well, I think the marshmallow test is fascinating. Do you know the marshmallow test?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah. I have two teenage boys, so we live the marshmallow test in our house all the time. But this idea that sometimes if you can wait – and sometimes it’s sacrificing the easy win now for the thing that you really want later. You don’t have the one marshmallow that you can have now, if you wait five minutes, you get two.

I think that that’s what I saw so many times in my career in executive search that the people who had tenacity and grit and hunger and speed and weight, these were the things that I looked for in people. I’ll be darned if I didn’t have 100% marshmallow test winners in the people that I placed in these CEO positions.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. How about a favorite book?

Laura Gassner Otting
This is kind of weird, but my favorite book – I think the one that was one of the most impactful books for me is this book called Stones from the River by woman by the name of Ursula Hiegi, H-I-E-G-I. It’s a little bit of a weird book.

It’s a fiction book that was set in World War II. It’s about a dwarf named Trudy Montag. Trudy, because she was atypical, was pretty much ignored by everybody and dismissed by everybody, so she would be sort of present for lots of conversations, where people just forgot she was there because they didn’t think of her as a full human being.

Because of it in the story she gets to hear all of these state secrets and she gets to sort of infiltrate the Nazis and she’s able to work with the resistance and help them to topple the Nazis. Again, it’s a fiction book, but just help them topple the Nazis in World War Ii, but I love the idea that we are not just who everybody sees us as and that we have so much inside of us that we can be that people don’t even yet know about and we’re the ones who get to decide our stories.

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

Laura Gassner Otting
Delegating. I am a firm believer that I am not the best person at everything and that there are things where I really do truly kick ass and that if I don’t hire people to do the stuff that I suck at, then I never get to spend the time doing the stuff where I can kick ass.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Laura Gassner Otting
Every night before I go to bed, I look at my schedule for the next day. I cannot sleep well if I don’t when I have to shower the next day. That’s sort of a strange way to put it, but as an entrepreneur, somebody who works from my home, there are days that are yoga pant days and there are days that are stiletto heel days.

If I don’t know exactly when I need to be show pony ready, ready for public consumption, I have a very hard time having gravitational force in my world. Before I go to bed every night, I just scan through my next day and I just figure out when I’m going to shower.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. It’s so funny because some days I don’t make it in the shower. If I had a ritual, there’d probably be more consistency.

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah, those days where you wake up and you put on your exercise clothes but you never quite exercise because you didn’t put it in your calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist in the world. I literally have on my calendar the days where I have to pick up my kids from school because I will forget because I don’t pick them up every day. Maybe I just smoked too much weed in college, but I can’t remember anything unless it’s on my calendar.

The calendar is really – I’m not one of those people who lives and dies by my inbox. That doesn’t take over. I don’t feel this need to answer every email I get every minute of the day as soon as I get it, but I need to have a roadmap. For me, the calendar is the thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your audience and you hear it quoted back to you frequently?

Laura Gassner Otting
Yeah, I think one of the things that gets quoted back to me most is a quote that I said about a year ago on stage, where I was kind of railing about this vacation that I was about to take and I posted something on Facebook asking for tips, “Does anybody know anything about,” wherever it was that I was going.

Somebody wrote back, “I’m so glad you’re going on this vacation. You deserve it.” I remember thinking I don’t deserve it. I earned that, baby. I don’t deserve it. I said if I waited around my entire life for all the things I deserved, I would never get what I demanded.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Laura Gassner Otting
That gets quoted back to me a lot.

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

Laura Gassner Otting
I am all over the socials at HeyLGO. It’s Hey Laura Gassner Otting, so HeyLGO. HeyLGO.com is how you can find me on my website. The book is Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life. It’s on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, anywhere fine books are sold. The quiz is at LimitlessAssessment.com.

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

Laura Gassner Otting
I would ask people three questions. Number one, what would it feel like to be limitless in your job? Number two, what do you need to change in order to get there? Number three, what would be the cost if you don’t?

Pete Mockaitis
Laura, this has been a treat. Thanks so much. I wish you lots of luck with the book, Limitless, and all your adventures.

Laura Gassner Otting
Thank you so much. It’s been great fun.

412: Access Superpowers by Embracing Alter Egos with Todd Herman

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Todd Herman shares how the concept of alter egos helps you become ideal you that a given situation calls for.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you should revisit your childhood superheroes and alter egos
  2. Enclothed cognition and Halloween lessons for being awesome at our jobs
  3. How to improve your visualization through all your senses

About Todd

Todd Herman is an award-winning author, performance advisor to athletes, leaders and public figures, and is a recipient of the Inc. 500 fastest growing company award. He’s been featured on the Today Show, Sky Business News, Inc Magazine and CBC National News. And lives in New York City with his young family.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Todd Herman Lederman Interview Transcript

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

Todd Herman
Pistol Pete, it’s a pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m already getting an alter ego.

Todd Herman
Well, Pete, I’m a farm kid, who has a family that nobody ever calls each other by their first name. Everyone has a nickname. So why not kick it off that way?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying it. I want to hear a little bit more about some of your youth, in particular you won the world’s largest Twister competition at age 16. Tell us all about this.

Todd Herman
Well, I think that’s the thing that should highlight everyone’s resume, right? That’s the one you want at the very top.

Yeah, when I was in high school I played high school football, captain of the team. Then I was on student council as well. I grew up in a family that was involved in politics, so we hosted – my small city in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, we hosted this big student counsel conference for North America, in fact. Well, western United States and Canada.

During one of the events – Medicine Hat, one of its claim to fames is we have the world’s largest teepee. We are rich in Native American history there. They decided that they would host a huge Twister competition during this student counsel thing. I just showed up to this. I didn’t what it was really all about. In the end I won it all in process of elimination.

They had, I don’t know, 1,800 mats or no. It wasn’t even that many. It was maybe 1,500 mats. Then it all whittled down until we finally had a champion and I was it.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, 1,500 mats. Is that four people or how many to a mat?

Todd Herman
There were six.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s pretty full.

Todd Herman
Yes. Yeah, six or seven people to a mat, something like that. Anyways, then they were like “The Guinness Book of World Records is here and you’ve now just broke the record.” I’m like “Fantastic. This is great.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. You’re a Twister champion. We need to know what did you do differently. What was the secret to your victory in terms of how did you pull this off where others fell short?

Todd Herman
I’m a highly competitive individual. Actually, when I think back to that, probably not knowing that it was some big competition, I thought we were just out there playing, so I was just engaged in the process. If I had thought that this was going to be like rounds of elimination, I probably would have maybe got a little bit too caught up in winning, but it was definitely focusing on the process.

I was already athletic. I was flexible so that helped. I think strategic thinking. You’ve got to be able to think ahead a few spots. You can’t put your hand on one area that’s going to cause you to have to twist in some sort of odd way to get your other hand in a circle that’s way off on the other side. Yeah, probably a combination of a bunch of those things.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So you were just engaged in the moment instead of fixated on the winning and that served you better?

Todd Herman
Yeah, yeah. 100%.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s a lesson right there.

Todd Herman
Yeah, and it served me well for 22 years now working with different pro-Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, achievers, professionals on helping them to perform at their peak because as soon as you become outcome oriented, you’ve now pulled yourself out of the moment and the chances of you making mistakes go way up.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yeah. I also was curious about you’ve won the Global Leadership and Skill Development of the Year award twice. First of all, who issues that?

Todd Herman
There’s an awards company called the Stevie’s. They’re the biggest awards company in the business space. They give out tons of awards in a lot of different categories.

I’ve had my performance system put together in its current form for about 15 years. Then the last few years we’ve won the Global Leadership award twice. Then we won for the Global Leadership Training Team of the Year as well with it. Yeah, the Stevie’s is a great place to find really, really amazing people and companies and stuff doing good things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Well, I’d love to hear what are some of the keys to your victory there. I have a feeling one of them might be related to your book, but we want to hear the others too.

Todd Herman
Sure. Keys to victory, I don’t know because they have a judging panel that doesn’t really let you know that much. But we are pretty good at giving our case studies of our clients, highlighting them and then we do a discipline job of putting our stuff through a lot of rigor. We have third-party testing companies that come in and validate the result that we get with people.

There’s a company called the ROI Institute and they come in to companies all the time, typically large companies. We’re probably one of the smaller businesses that they’d be working with, but because a lot of my history is in corporate leadership development, I just took a look at the space that I was operating in, I’m like, well, this is an open hole where a lot of these kind of people that are making promises don’t actually have much validation, so let’s bring this in as a point of differentiation.

Yeah, so things like that. Judges, they like to see things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

You have my respect because I’m of like mind. if you don’t have an ROI, it’s hard to justify spending real time and money on the program even if it is a good time.

Todd Herman
Well, part of our mission for our company as well is to elevate the critical thinking skills of humanity. That doesn’t sound super sexy to people, elevate the critical thinking skills, but when you think of the problems and most of the issues that people find themselves caught up in, it’s because they’re typically operating and responding to circumstances or issues emotionally.

You take a look at the current state of the world. Maybe some of the leaders that are out there that are leading it, they are not great purveyors of the idea of critical thinking. I want to model that in the way that we do our business.

I think that just even for the listeners, I think that we’re in a day and age now where there should be a lot more being demanded of the people who are there to help you get from Point A to Point B. This idea of anecdotal, “Hey, I did it and you can too,” is, in my opinion, of a bygone era because there is no systemization in that.

That’s one of my biggest issues with the personal development, self-help and leadership world is that there’s just a lot of false prophets standing on top of great marketing that if I can be a part of a movement that takes a big swinging chisel and axe to that, then I’m happy to knock that down because I don’t like to put myself out there as a personal brand or as someone who stands on top of – no, I’ve got a very specific skillset.

I’m very, very good at what it is that I do, but I stay in my lane, whereas a lot of people like to over promise that they can solve all of your issues. I can’t do that. I think it hurts more people and it leads them down and wastes time on a path that is truly not going to get them to where they need to go or want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, we are kindred spirits. I am inspired by your vision. Keep doing what you’re doing and maybe we should cofound a company together. Loving it.

Todd Herman
In the future. In the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Loving it. All right, well, let’s talk about your book here, The Alter Ego Effect. I got such a kick out of checking this one out because I resonate on so many levels, but I’m going to give you the floor here. What’s the big idea behind The Alter Ego Effect?

Todd Herman
Well, the big idea is that we all have used alter egos and we stepped into them when we were kids when we would play with superheroes or be our favorite hockey player or basketball player when we were kids or when we were pretending to be firemen or cowboys or astronauts. We played with this idea. We actually played with the idea of alter egos as children.

What we’re doing when we’re doing that is we’re tapping into really the great superpower that human beings have, which is our creative imagination. We’re the only ones on the planet that can create heavens from hell, hells from heaven, that we create narrative and amazing story in our minds.

Sometimes that narrative and story hurts more than it helps for many reasons. Trauma is one thing. Imposter syndrome is an insidious little force that the enemy likes to use to pull us into the, what I call in the book, the trapped self.

Really, the big idea for people is that this is actually something that allows you to pull the most really authentic version of who you are and what you can do out onto whatever chosen field of play you’re using it to activate on. It’s not strange. It’s not weird. It’s not being fake. It’s not inauthentic. In fact, phenomenal leaders both in sport, business, public figures have used it to accomplish amazing things and get out of their own way.

When you think about some of the biggest challenges, complaints that people have when they say, “Why aren’t you able to do the things that you want to do or you’re not getting the results that you want to get,” a large chunk of them are mental. It’s mental blocks. It’s resistance.

Alter ego, it’s what I’m known for within pro sports, Olympic sport is building alter egos for athletes. Then that expanded out into working with a lot more entrepreneurs and executives and people in professional environments to do the same thing to help them navigate that kind of internal resistance and move away from it. It’s an extremely elegant, graceful and perseverant way of battling what can be resistance that stops many people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really fun. I totally jive with what you’re saying with regard to as a kid I totally pretended to be a superhero. I still have a Superman costume made to my measurements. Fun fact.

Todd Herman
That’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
I wear it on Halloween. I wish I had more opportunities to wear it in normal times, but they just don’t appear. There aren’t superhero themed parties, at least in my world. Maybe I should get some more Comic-Con type friends.

Todd Herman
Pete, you need to dial that. That’s the one great benefit of living in New York City, every type of party is at our fingertips here.

You just brought up something really interesting. I think it’s important for the listeners too to talk about this concept is you brought up Halloween. When you think about Halloween, Halloween is my favorite night of the year.

I don’t know where people believe on the whole Myers Brigg thing. I think it’s a good sentiment. It’s not something that’s going to solve all your problems, but when I took the Myers Briggs, when the person came back in from doing the analysis, she’s like, “Well, I think we might need to revisit this test because you just broke the extroversion side of things. You’re about as far to that scale as you could possibly get.”

For me, Halloween was always like everyone else is finally invited to my party that I live every single day of the year. I’ve got zero qualms about approaching people and talking to people. My mind frame around that is I just fundamentally feel that everyone likes to have a new good friend. No one is out there saying, “I don’t need any good friends.”

That’s why I have zero resistance to talking to anybody. I don’t put anyone up on pedestals. I don’t look down on anybody. I think everyone has a fascinating story to tell. All of those mindsets allow me to just operate in relationships very easily.

Then what happens on Halloween, people put on costumes and the moment that they do, they start stepping outside of their quote/unquote normal personality and they start to don the maybe behavior of whoever it is that they are wearing.

Now, this is an important part because this is actually something I talk about in the book. Halloween is a good example of a psychological phenomenon called enclothed cognition, which we were going to talk about at some point in time during our interview, but this is just kind of a good segue into it.

Enclothed cognition is this phenomenon that happens when human beings, we add meaning and story to the things that we wear and others wear. When we see someone with a police uniform on, we start to automatically assume some things about that person. Depending on whatever your personal experience is of that uniform. Some people it could be very negative. Sometimes it just adds an overall, overarching idea. Policemen, okay, it’s they’re disciplined or they’re stern or whatever it might be. We do that.

However, what I like to do is because I’m someone who is – one of my issues, again, with that self-help personal development stuff is that people put out a lot of ideas that sound like they’re going to work. They sound nice as well. They’re very palatable. It’s almost like I look at a lot of books that are out there and I’m like, it’s cotton candy, it’s popsicles, it’s rainbows. It looks nice, but it ain’t satisfying. It doesn’t do the job.

I’m a practitioner. I work with people one-on-one and have for over 20 years, over 16,000 hours now. When you’re working with someone one-on-one, Pete, and I give you a strategy to go and implement, what happens? You come right back around next week and you tell me what? Todd, that didn’t work.

How I know the people that have got the chops and don’t have the chops, if you have never worked with people one-on-one on this, you don’t have the chops. You don’t have the chops because you have not been put under the white hot light of performance. You haven’t been put under the white hot light of getting people results.

I am working with existing phenomena that naturally occur inside the brain. This is just one of them. I just want to find a way to leverage it. Alter ego helps to leverage this idea of enclothed cognition because what we do then – a study was done at the Kellogg School of Management. What they did was they brought a bunch of students into a room. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those word puzzles where you’ve got the word of a color, but then it’s colored differently than the word.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

Todd Herman
Right, so it says green, but it’s yellow. Then it’s the word red, but it’s done in orange. What you need to do is actually say the word, which is quite difficult because the brain processes color faster than it does the word. They time you to see how quickly you can go through this grid of different words. They bring in these students and they get them to do it. They’re testing their attention, their accuracy, their detail and how quickly they can get it done and the mistakes that they make.

Then those students finish and they move them out of the room and they bring in a new group of students. This time they hand them a white coat to put on. They tell them it’s a painter’s coat. They put on the painters coat and they do the exact same test. They leave and then they bring in another group of people. They hand them the exact same white coat, except this time they tell them that it’s a lab coat or a doctor’s coat. Then they do the test.

Well, the difference in results between the painter’s coat people and the people who were just in their plain clothes was nothing. But the difference between the people who had the lab coat and the doctor’s coat and everyone else was they did it in less than half the time, they showed higher degrees of focus and concentration and they made less than half the mistakes.

Well, why is it? Because when they put on the white lab coat or doctor’s coat, they enclothed themselves in the cognitive skill set of someone that is careful, methodical, detailed because that’s what we ascribe to those types of people.

Why didn’t it work for the people that had the painter’s coat on? Because when you put on a painter’s coat, you’re enclothing yourself in the meaning, the cognitive meaning, of someone who’s creative, who might be more expressive. That doesn’t help you with that specific task.

Then they flip the task and this time they give everybody a task of a creative task, a painting actually. Now the people with the lab coat/doctor’s coat did the exact same as the plainclothes people, but the people with the painter’s coat on, they’re more expressive. They finish the project and get higher marks than the other people.

This is a naturally occurring phenomenon. When I’m trying to help people make change happen, the silliest to do is to do what has been bandied about in the self-help personal world for the longest time as the number one way that we should defeat resistance and win, which is just do it. Willpower. Willpower they think is just this massively powerful force that human beings can use to win at life.

Here’s what I can tell you. On the field of play, of performance, willpower is like a mouse staring down at a herd of rumbling elephants coming towards it. It’s the conscious versus the unconscious. The conscious is that rumbling herd of elephants and that conscious thinking of willpower and toughing it out. All that is so much smaller in comparison.

But what is our superpower that we have to defeat resistance that’s bigger than that other force of rumbling elephants? Well, it’s our creative imagination. That’s what’s there. That psychological phenomenon of enclothed cognition is about tapping into that a little bit by using an alter ego.

It’s like the backdoor to performance we can actually gracefully move around that rumbling herd, let it go do its thing. We’re going to suspend our disbelief about what we think we can and cannot do for the moment and we are going to step in and use the power of someone or something else to actually activate the qualities that we want to go show up on that field for us.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so fascinating and so many things to chase after. I’m resonating from my own experience in terms of boy just pick the task. There’s sort of an outfit that goes with it and I’m raring to go, whether that’s “Hey, we’re going to go for a long run.”

I guess I’m thinking about doing jobs around the house with tools. It’s like I want to put on my John Deere hat and some dirty jeans and play some country music while I’m at. It’s like I’m a central Illinois, Midwestern boy who’s not afraid of some hard work and that’s just what’s going to happen here. Maybe buy a Ford truck while I’m at it. That kind of picture is what I adopt. I think it helps. It at least makes it more fun.

Todd Herman
At the end of the day, Pete, if it did nothing else but make it more fun, then who cares, right? When we think about life and if the listener is being really honest about what life is like for the most part – there’s a lot of mundane stuff that we all have to do. Then there’s a lot of challenging things that when you’re an ambitious person or you’re striving or you’re trying to achieve things, there’s just natural obstacles that you come up against.

If there’s nothing else that people took away from this idea, which is, by the way, 100% proven out. Every single human being that is listening to this has 100% used this. Why? Because it’s a naturally occurring part of the human psyche. You just can’t escape it. We all have played with ideas in our head.

That wasn’t you being weird, strange, multiple personality disorder. Nothing. That’s literally built into our way to navigate the challenging parts of your life with more grace. But if you did nothing else and all of the sudden life was a little bit more playful, what a huge win. What a huge win that would give someone to be that way.

Whatever, if all the sudden you became Farmer Pete for that 90 minutes that you’re outside cutting the grass and you’ve got the straw in your mouth and you’ve got the John Deere hat on, by the way, that’s not a stereotype, looking down at people because, at the end of the day, I am a huge farm and ranch kid. I grew up on a 10,000 plus acre farm and ranch. I’ve got more affinity towards that world than I do of any other world.

But who cares if you go and you play that character. You’re not being weird and you’re not being un-Pete-like. You’re being the most Pete-like person you can be in that moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. Yeah. In Danville, Illinois there’s plenty of that. We’ve got some hard data from that Kellogg study. We’ve got some notions that it’s sort of intrinsic to the human psychological experience.

Could you maybe orient us to a pretty cool case study or transformation that illustrates this in practice, like we’ve got someone who’s performing not as well as they want to, they adopted an alter ego in this sort of a way and this sort of an alter ego, and then they kind of lived it out and experienced an enhanced result?

Todd Herman
Yeah. I’ll go to probably the most fascinating one as an example of one that always catches people off guard. It leads off the book actually.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh Bo Jackson.

Todd Herman
It’s with Bo Jackson. Bo Jackson for people who don’t know is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the planet. He’s the only athlete in the history of major sports to be an All Star in two of them the same year. That’s Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

I was down in Georgia doing a talk. I was waiting in the green room ready to go out and into the green room walks Bo Jackson, this phenomenal physical specimen. In my head I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s the guy that I played on Nintendo when I was a kid.” He walked over to me right away. He said, “Hi, I’m Bo Jackson.” I said, “Yeah, I know who you are. You won me a lot of games on Tecmo Bowl when I was a kid.” He laughed.

He said, “You’re not the first one to say that. Are you speaking today?” I said, “Yeah, I’m going on stage next.” He said, “Oh, what are you going to be talking about?”

I said, “Well, I’m going to talk to them about mental game, but specifically I’m going to talk to the coaches and the players about using alter egos to help really unlock their performance and show up on the field and actually find the zone and flow state with it because you’re now getting out of your own way and you’re activating this imagination, which helps you perform.”

He just looked at me and he kind of got this weird look on his face like someone had just solved a mystery of life to him. He cocked his head to the side and he was like, “Bo Jackson never played a down of football his entire life.” I was like, “Interesting. Tell me more.”

He was like, “Yeah, when I was a youngster – people who know my backstory, I was a really angry kid. I would get myself into a lot of trouble. While it sounds like being angry would help you on the football field to dominate people, it would actually get me into bad penalties. I was a little bit uncoachable.

One night I was watching a movie and I saw this character come on the screen who was cold, calculating, methodical, unemotional, all of the things that I kind of wanted to be when I was out there. I thought to myself, ‘Wait a second. Why don’t I go out as that person instead of me?’”

It was Jason from Friday the XIII. His alter ego was actually Jason, which sounds crazy to some people because why would you want to activate, if you’re already angry, someone who’s a serial killer, but this is the power of this stuff is that it’s what your great takeaway was based on what maybe your issue might be or what you’re looking for.

He was looking for being more unemotional, more calculating with himself when he was performing. That’s what he did. When he put on his football helmet when he walked out onto the field, when his foot hit that field, that’s where Jason lived and Jason would enter him.

He unconsciously did almost every single step of the process that I talk about in the book perfectly. He created a context because he wasn’t Jason off the field; he was Jason on the field. He took the qualities that he most wanted that were the reverse of his frustrations and that’s what he found in his inspiration, which was Jason.

He actually leveraged an existing story, which is when you were looking for maybe places of inspiration, it’s a lot easier to just use characters that have already been built, whether in movies or whether in comic books or whether in your favorite TV show or whether it’s your favorite fictional book or existing people from your own personal life.

If there is a quality of an alter ego that is most popular or a type, it’s actually grandmothers. Grandmothers for me is the most popular alter ego that people use for whatever reason. There’s just many grandmothers that are inspiring to many people that are out there. There are specific qualities about them that they’re trying to activate.

Pete Mockaitis
They’re own grandmother?

Todd Herman
Yeah, they’re own grandmother.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Todd Herman
Yeah, 100%. Yeah, 100%.

Pete Mockaitis
Not an archetype.

Todd Herman
I’ve got a wealth manager here in New York worth just more money than people would need definitely and that’s what his is. He’s a hard charging person and could naturally fall into a bullying type, but when he started growing his company to be a lot larger and really having to adopt way more of a leadership role as opposed to a trading role in his business, it was just grating on the business and he was just turning over staff way more. That costs your business a lot.

When I started working with him and we started talking about leadership qualities, who he’s seen them in the past, he started talking about his grandmother. He wasn’t talking about his grandmother right off the bat. I just asked him a question and he started talking about her. It wasn’t really in the context of being a phenomenal leader. Then he started saying other people in business that he was maybe inspired by.

I said to him, “I don’t think so. I think 100% the most important leader that’s been around you is your grandmother.” We just unpacked that more. When he’s going into have performance meetings or he needs to have leadership conversations or challenging conversations with people, that’s who he stepped into was more his grandmother. Now he doesn’t need to use that alter ego anymore because he actually became that person that he more wanted to be.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, I’d love it if maybe we could take on an example. I imagine we’ll have to fast-track it because it probably takes a good while. That’s fine to push the fast forward button repeatedly.

Let’s say – this is semi-true for me right now – I find that I’m getting so many ideas, which is really fun and exciting and cool when I’m sitting down to work, that I’m digging it. I’m sort of chasing after them and exploring them. But then I look at what I had hoped to accomplish in a day and there’s quite a mismatch.

It’s like, oh, I chased a lot of cool, interesting ideas, which may very well have some huge potential, but now I’m in a little bit of an urgent hurry up mode because I didn’t do what actually needed to be done on that particular day. If I want to have more focused and – you said willpower’s tricky – but that notion of “Hey, here’s the list. I’m going to crank through it,” how can I use the alter ego effect to make that happen?

Todd Herman
Yeah. I am the poster child of that when I started out. Yeah, absolutely. When I was starting out getting to kind of one of my uses of the alter ego, I was 21. I looked like I was 12. I was terribly insecure about how young I looked, who’s going to believe me when I go up on stage to talk about these ideas. I don’t have 19 degrees. I’m not 40 years old yet.

I had all these ideas of the age you need to be before you’re taken seriously, how many different years of you’ve been using this or consulting on it or coaching on it before you’re taken seriously. It was just stopping me from getting out there.

The reality was I was very, very good at working with young athletes. That’s where I was starting. I wasn’t trying to go work with pro-athletes off the bat. I was working with 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, on it. I now was really good. I was good at developing rapport quickly, developing trust, then sharing all of the strategies that I had done to help me get a college scholarship, be nationally ranked badminton player.

My real skillset was my mental game, but I was getting in my own way. I wasn’t taking the action I needed to take.

I would. I would drift all over the place in my day. I would fundamentally just avoid doing the things that were going to make me money, which is in business or in sales, that’s when the white, hot light of performance is on you because now you’re on the field and it’s easy for people to see based on the results that you did ten phone calls today, but nothing was brought in revenue wise or something.

It’s easy for your self-esteem or your sense of self of concept to be beaten up in those moments. I wasn’t taking any action.

I was like, wait a second. I used this when I played football and when I went on the football field. I would go out as this composite kind of alter ego of Geronimo, Walter Payton and Ronnie Lott. The name I used was Geronimo for it. I was like but Geronimo is a little bit too aggressive. It’s not going to help me in business. Then I thought but I really want to step into this Superman version of myself in business.

That’s when it clicked in my head. I’m like wait a second, Superman puts on glasses to become the mild-mannered version of himself in Clark Kent, but I want to put on glasses and I want to become the Superman version of myself. That’s what I did.

I went out and I went to Lens Crafters in West Edmonton mall, where I was living at the time, and I bought a pair of non-prescription glasses so that I could activate this self that would be decisive, that would be articulate, and that would be confident, all the three things that I felt like I was lacking at the time in the way that I was showing up.

That was back when wearing glasses wasn’t cool or fashionable by any stretch of the imagination. The optometrist was like, “You don’t need glasses. You have 20/15 vision.” I’m like, “Please, just give me the glasses.” I bought them. That’s what I did.

I would literally sit and I would practice putting those on. Just like when he would take off those glasses as Superman, all of the sudden just the chest puffs out and he transforms, I was transforming into that other self. When I was in that state, I was very deliberate and intentional about being very decisive, being very confident, being very articulate with the way that I was describing what I could do for people.

The moment that I would start to fall out of it and become that other insecure self, I would take off those glasses immediately because the moment that you’re in that kind of state of being your alter ego, you don’t want to dishonor that idea by allowing that kind of other – whether it’s a weak or a mild-mannered or whatever self or scared or insecure or resistant self to show up – I’d take them off because I wanted to honor that idea.

It’s a very powerful mindset to be in when you’re doing that. I talk about that with my athletes and just even people that are on here right now. It’s very powerful to step into that mode. We have these phenomenal capabilities in our mind to do that.

Going then back to you, it’s that – some of what you’re talking about too could be just that there is a creative self that’s inside of you that sometimes you’re just hunting through and finding ideas to be inspired by to create the training programs that you want or to write the things you want to write. You shouldn’t beat yourself up with those things, but on those days when you did have certain activities that you needed to take care of, those need to be siloed.

Then there needs to be the most heroic version that you could bring to that to bring the best that you’ve got available into that moment so you can smash it and get the best result. Whether you think that’s you right now or you don’t think it’s you, what I do know is, that you is inside of you because the imagination has that power. Let’s find a way of unlocking it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s good.

Todd Herman
What I was doing with those glasses was I was accidently – because I didn’t know what enclothed cognition back then – but I was enclothing those glasses in the cognitive state of being smart, articulate and decisive. I was leveraging the power of another story of using Superman to help make that happen too.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, as you kind of deconstructing that a little bit, it seems that we started with what was already meaningful to you with the Geronimo, Superman, etcetera, so what was already sort of striking a chord and being resonant in the ways that you wanted to be as opposed to saying, “Well, technically, this literary figure embodied these qualities perfectly.” It’s like, “Well, I’ve never read that book, so that’s not helping me out here.”

The first thing that comes to mind for me in terms of if we’re talking about no nonsense, taking care of business, the first thing I think of is the Shark Tank intro because I get such a kick out of how they all do the same pose, where they fold their arms over each other. It’s like that’s, I guess, the no nonsense entrepreneur pose. You find it The Prophet and other business shows. I think we’ve adopted that. That’s what comes to mind.

Todd Herman
But if that’s what resonates with you, then that should be your takeaway. Yet, I’ve seen other people who are not even close to being an arms-crossed-type individual that are very no nonsense here in New York City or even not just here, but that’s my context because I live here and I work with so many people that are here. But I know more people that are no nonsense and they sit back in a very relaxed look.

Actually even Mark Cuban, when you see him and his matters in …, he’s actually quite relaxed. He sits back and sort of – but then when he starts to get excited, he starts to lean forward, his eyebrows go up a lot. Just as a person who lives in the world of mental game stuff, I’m always looking at body language of people. But if that’s what it is for you, then hold onto that and that’s what you can step into.

Pete Mockaitis
When I go about doing this step into, what exactly am I doing? I’m going to cross my arms. I’m going to imagine being no nonsense. What are my steps?

Todd Herman
Well, it’s what are the – all the steps are – because we’ve kind of unpacked a bunch of them. First place we start is context. We’re doing it for a field of play. Again, we’ve been talking about business and stuff, but this is 100% useful as a parent.

Kids use it all the time anyway, but as a parent sometimes you’re working all day long. You’ve been operating as a certain self throughout the day, then you go home and it’s hard to switch that off. Using this stuff, it crates great context for you.

For me when I go home, I don’t know want to be that articulate, decisive and confident version of myself that challenges people all day long because that’s what I need to do. That’s not what my children want. They want fun, playful, get-on-the-floor-and-play-with-them dad that’s gentle with them. I can be tough as well, but that’s so natural for me, I don’t need to magnify that up. That’s going to come out anyway.

I caught myself with, especially my middle daughter, Sophie, where she’s got this great emotional bandwidth, where she has these fantastic highs. Then she’s got these tantrums that can just go on for a very long time. I was meeting that force of her tantrum with my force of parent dad telling her to stop and all that and getting nowhere. I caught myself and I went wait a second. This isn’t how you perform at a high level.

Immediately I went to who I would be to get the best out of myself as a parent. It took me about a split second to go Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers undeniably is a phenomenal human being around young children. That’s who I stepped into.

The very next time she had this huge tantrum, I got down on one knee, just like he would. I reached out. I grabbed her, brought her in for a hug, despite the fact that she didn’t want to be hugged. She melted in eight seconds. Melted. She was done. That’s all she wanted and needed and then she was off running around, doing her own thing.

Meanwhile, I was still on the inside angry, enraged because noise and that screaming just drives me into an emotional state, but in that moment though, I did act as my best self for her and the result transformed.

Going back to you. Context matters. Second thing in that story I unpacked my frustrations. What’s a way that you’re showing up on whatever field that you’ve just chosen that aren’t getting you the results you want or how are you not showing up or what are the things that you’re doing that is providing you this angst and this frustration.

Okay, then now that you’ve got that, now it’s easy to go to the third step, which is well, how do you … want to show up and/or who already shows up that way that you’re inspired by. It doesn’t have to be in your work. It could be someone completely outside of it that you look at it and you’re like, “Oh, I’d like to be more like that person. I want to show up more like Luke Skywalker,” or whoever it might be.

What is it about their qualities that you’re looking at that you like? Is it their demeanor? Is it how calm they are? Is it about how confident they are? Is it how charismatic that person is? Whatever it is.

Then it’s okay, now is there a totem, this fourth step is what’s this totem or artifact or talisman that you can use to help activate it so that we can leverage the power of enclothed cognition. Is it that you are going to put on some Superman socks or Wonder Woman bracelet?

That’s what one of my equestrian riders – she’s a world class dressage, which is to the layperson, it’s like horse dance, where they have to do very, very specific and calculating kind of moves in the arena. It’s very challenging.

She was someone who was kind of all over the place inside emotionally, which then gets reflected through a horse. You talk about a difficult sport from a mental game perspective. You’re sitting on top of an animal that can detect any sort of emotional ambiguity that you might have. That’s why horses are used in therapy because they just have this phenomenal emotional bandwidth to work with people.

When I asked her, “Well, who most resonates with you as to how you want to show up,” she didn’t hesitate for a second. It was Wonder Woman. Not the current version because this was actually years ago. It was the 1970s version of Wonder Woman. I encouraged her, “Okay, go out. Let’s get an artifact or a totem to use.” She went out and she actually made a custom bracelet. I told her, I said, “When you do, make sure that the clasp has a loud sound when you snap it shut.”

Pete Mockaitis
Nice.

Todd Herman
Because sound is a phenomenal trigger in the mind. When that snap happens, that’s when she clicks into her inner Wonder Woman to show up on that horse as her best self.

Pete Mockaitis
I like what you said about sound. That’s got me thinking about get all your senses involved. Maybe there’s a small. Maybe there’s a texture. Yeah.

Todd Herman
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I don’t know how many people that are listening or even yourself, Pete, people use the term visualization a lot. They say, “You’ve got to visualize your goals,” or “People with vision are the ones who win,” or all these different things. The reality is, as someone who’s been teaching visualization with people as a skill for a long time, it’s actually quite hard to do.

That’s why I get frustrated with the amateurs that are out there saying, “Well, you’ve just to visualize.” It’s like it’s not that easy. Just because we can do it and do do it every single day, doesn’t mean that we can deliberately create movies in our mind easily. It’s a learned skill.

However, sound and we want to be using as much of the senses as possible. When I’m really teaching people about using imagery and visualization, it’s about engaging all of the senses because sometimes there’s a good portion of the population that are driven auditorily. I am. I am one of those people where I can build movies in my mind way easier when I start with sound then when I start with pictures. There’s other people who are engaged with smell of something or the touch of something.

That’s why this whole process of using a totem or an artifact is so powerful because just to your point, when you’re touching something, when you’re feeling something, when you’re putting something on, when you’ve got something in your pocket, whatever the case is, it’s there as a great environmental reminder of the intention of who it is that you’re’ showing up as.

That’s not being fake. That’s not about doing it to deceive other people because that’s being fake. If you’re doing something to deceive others or trick others, your intention is completely wrong. This is about tapping into the internal power of you saying, “I am being very intentional about who and what I’m showing up as so that I can get the best result from me or for others.”

Just like me. It’s not me being fake just because I’m stepping into and leveraging Mr. Rogers in that moment. That’s actually stepping into a very genuine part of me. Gentleness of course is a quality of mine somewhere because it’s not like I learned all of that challenging self or I was born that way. I learned some of that stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Todd, I love the Mr. Rogers in particular because it should have occurred to me when I was looking through your book, but then in the last couple months, I noticed that in marriage/family life I sort of brought more of my creative brainstorming problem solving-ness into conversations with my wife. She was less interested in that and wanted more kind of emotional stuff.

I just sort of forgot. It’s like, “Oh right, yeah, yeah.” It’s like, “I was just so interested in your problem and all of the potential options and solutions that I could offer.” I actually purchased a red zip-up Mr. Rogers sweater to wear as a reminder of – he’s got that song, It’s a Good Feeling, the feelings and to just slow down and listen and to talk about feelings. It’s like, “Well, how did you feel about that?” because that’s what she was wanting.

Todd Herman
Yeah. Well, if you’ve watched his documentary it’s fascinating because literally about a third of it is dedicated to them talking about his alter ego. His wife talks about Daniel Tiger. There’s this great sequence in the documentary when she says that Daniel was the more real version of Mr. Rogers because that’s who he really was.

When you think about Daniel Tiger, he’s this hand puppet that he used to talk about feelings and other things. During that sequence, Mr. Rogers, Fred, says – he’s holding up the hand puppet now near his head and he’s saying, “The distance between-“ which is his mouth to the hand puppet, he’s like, “This doesn’t look like it’s very far, but I can tell you it was very self-efficacious for me.”

It’s the same for me. The distance between the six inches in your ears and your mouth by what you want to say, but then you don’t say it. Nothing beats a person up more than when they get to the end of their day, their head’s on the pillow and they’re unpacking their day and they’re like, “Why didn’t I say that? Why didn’t I raise my hand? Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I ask for the sale?” or the action, “Why didn’t I take that final shot at the end of the buzzer?”

That distance between the six inches in your ears and the action that you want, the difference between thought and action is very, very short inside of our selves, but it can be a huge leap for many people to make. Well, what’s the bridge that runs over that gap? It’s emotion, proven by science again.

When you sever the ties inside of a human’s brain from their rational thinking brain and the emotional brain, which is the decision side of the brain, decision doesn’t happen then. It’s been shown in Alzheimer’s patients, where they can think that they want to have a sandwich, but they actually can’t get up and take action on it because there is no emotional grease that helps them make that decision.

Well, that emotional factor that helps you go from where you are now to where you want to be is the creative imagination to go by it and move around resistance. An alter ego is just a great tool to help make that happen. I talk about it enough in the book, all the different science of how to do it, the other people that have used it to actually get themselves out onto different fields of the play and do amazing things. Like we kind of talked about earlier, it’s a wonderfully playful way to help navigate life as well.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so excellent.

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

Todd Herman
We’ve just unpacked so much of it. I just strongly urge people to – I just know that a lot of people are just that mental part, that mindset side of things is the thing that can be a big challenge for them, whether it’s adopting new habits or changing behaviors. Stepping into and using these tools that they used, you’ve already used them in your past.

Pete, we had 19 publishers interested in my book, which if you know about publishing is an insane amount of publishers. Now, that’s not because of me actually. It’s not because I’m Michelle Obama or something like that. I don’t have a big platform like that. But it’s about the idea because people would walk into those meetings and they would say things like, “I feel like I’ve been doing this all my life.” I’m like, “I know you have because it’s a natural part of being a human being.”

There’s so many people who just saw so much relevance in the idea. I think that if people raced out and sunk their teeth into it, they would chew their way through the book very, very, very fast.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now could you share with us a favorite book?

Todd Herman
A favorite book of mine, I love From Darwin to Munger, which is all about mental models and how to think a lot more quickly without getting down into the weeds and details. They kind of unpack Charlie Munger and his brilliant thinking for the way that he has adopted different thinking models in the way that he navigates life. It’s an amazing book.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget that you share with your clients or audience listeners or readers that really seems to connect and resonate and gets them quoting it back to you?

Todd Herman
In that book, I don’t share a specific thing other than the ability to what’s called chunk up, which is the ability to kind of start to see things at 30,000 foot views so that you can think a lot more strategically and see what’s actually happening down on the field, not get tied up so much in the details of stuff. Probably chunking up is one of the big things that people take away from it.

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

Todd Herman
I’d point them to my home base on the interwebs would be ToddHerman.me. All of my kind of social profiles are out there. I’m active on pretty much most of them. Then for the book, they can also go to AlterEgoEffect.com to see some videos and click on any one of the links to find the book in airport book stores and book stores all over the place.

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

Todd Herman
Yeah. This is the easiest one. Don’t make the mistake I did early on. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything on your own. I wanted to be one of those people that climbed to the top of the mountain, planted the flag by myself and said, “I did it.” It’s slow and it’s stupid.

You are going to get a lot father in life by bringing around and getting around fantastic allies and being great supporters of other people. I truly do think that business and life moves at the speed of relationships. Always be finding great relationships and developing them.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Todd, this has been a treat. Thanks so much and keep on doing the good stuff you’re doing.

Todd Herman
Thanks Pete. Appreciate you.

329: Asking Courageous Questions with Dusty Staub

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Dusty Staub shares seven acts of courage and how to apply them wisely to your work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three biggest lacks of courage in the workplace
  2. The problem with being nice
  3. Finding and liberating others’ purpose, passion, and power

 

About Dusty

Robert “Dusty” Staub has worked for over 30 years with executives, families, and communities as well as with private and public companies. He has trained and coached executives and teams in creating high performance outcomes. Dusty has been a pioneer in the process of creating systemic accountability by aligning leadership and group behaviors with strategy to produce bottom-line results.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dusty Staub Interview Transcript

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

Dusty Staub
Pete, it’s my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us first and foremost orientation to this Dusty nickname? Where did it come from and how has it stuck?

Dusty Staub
Well, my father was Robert Earl Staub. He was a – had a full scholarship to Notre Dame playing football in 1942 out of Canton High School. He didn’t go. He went and fought in World War II. His nickname in high school was Blood and Guts Staub. Working as a paratrooper for 26 years in the military, he became even tougher.

When I was born, there was only one Bob Staub and that was him, but I was named Robert Earl Staub II. Staub is a German word that means dust, so when I was one day old, my dad didn’t want me to be called Little Bobby, so he nicknamed me Dusty.

I’ve been known by Dusty, except by the nuns in parochial school who refused because there’s no saint Dusty. When they called me Robert I wouldn’t respond, so I had more than one ruler cracked across my knuckles over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh gracious. I’m wondering, surely there’s a saint somewhere that – of the dusty roads or travels or hospitality for cleaning people’s feet. I don’t know. Somewhere I wonder, but who knows, they may or may not have been receptive to your counteroffer at the time.

Well that’s cool. I’m also curious, did your dad want you to have the family name, but also differentiation in the household is that he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too?

Dusty Staub
Yes, he did. He named me after himself. He didn’t like junior either, so he made it the second because he didn’t like junior. He wanted me to be different than he was and unfortunately, for both of us, I was very different. He and I had – like two rams crashing heads with each other for the first 28 years of my life until I had an awakening and transformed the relationship by changing the way I dealt with him.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Does this have to do with courage or is this a whole other area of expertise of yours?

Dusty Staub
Well, no, that’s actually where – I was working at the VA hospital. I did a TEDx talk on this called Developing the Cardiovascular System of Your Soul. I was working with a veteran and his family as this veteran was declining. I worked with him for about six weeks. I was at his bedside when he took his last breath. I was providing a psychological consult.

When he died, I realized that if that was my father in that bed, because he was the same age, that I could not have said to that man what the daughter said to her father. I realized that at some point my dad was going to die or I was going to die and we were in a hellish position for each other.

That’s where the acts of courage were born, the courage to look in the mirror and see the way I was acting, the courage to dream of a different way of being, the courage to be confronted by my father, and the courage to confront myself, and the courage to be more vulnerable and open, etcetera.

Seven different acts of courage were required for me to transform myself. In the nine months of work I was free. Then two years later my father changed. He became the dad I always wanted. Somehow in changing myself and my way of relating to him, it changed his way of responding and relating to me. It’s not funny when you think about system dynamics, but it was a revelation to me at the time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful and powerful and so we’re hearing courage being transformational in personal relationships. I’d also like to hear how this is powerful in the work environment.

Dusty Staub
Well, yeah, because most of my work in the past 35 years has been in corporations, for profit, not for profit, across all segments of US industry. I keep seeing in organizations where a lack of courage at senior leadership levels, as well as down through the ranks, but speaking of senior leaders where it leads to problems.

Two of the biggest lacks of courage occurs most often in corporate America is a lack of the courage to be confronted, number one, so people get antsy, they shut people down.

When somebody comes to give you bad feedback or give you criticism, Pete, in your organization, they’re inviting you to join a conversation that’s been going on for a while. If you shut them down, they just go back underground behind your back and it redoubles and then you get blindsided, which is never good.

Then the second lack of courage is the courage to confront to tell truth to power, to a colleague, to a powerful subordinate, to a superior. People don’t tell their truths. People don’t understand what’s going on because they lack the courage to be confronted and there’s a lot of issues there. Those are the two big ones.

I guess the third one I see is often a lack of the courage to be vulnerable, to be open, to admit I don’t know, to raise my hand and say I need help. Those three acts of courage are really critical if you want to be a good leader and if you want to have a sustainable performance in your organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, yeah, that’s clear. That’s big. I love that perspective in terms of it’s the conversations going on underground and then you’re sort of being invited to participate in it is what’s really going on there, which is a beautiful reframe in terms of instead of being defensive, to embrace it.

We had Kim Scott, who wrote the book Radical Candor, on the show earlier talk about how she sort of had an ah-ha moment when she had to fire somebody and he was like, “How come nobody ever told me this?” She’s like, “Oh yeah, we weren’t doing him any favors at all, were we, by trying to be too nice and polite and dancing around the issue at hand that needed to be addressed.”

Dusty Staub
Yeah, what I would say is people get addicted to being nice and being pleasant. They’re not protecting the other person; they’re protecting themselves from the emotional reaction, from feeling like a bad guy or a bad gal. When we don’t give people honest, direct feedback, corrective feedback, as well as encouragement, we really failed them. Being nice is definitely not nice.

I live in the South and down in the South – in New York if someone doesn’t like you, it’s a nice big FU. Down in the South it’s bless your little heart. Add the little into the heart and that’s an FU in the South.

It’s a – I do a lot of work internationally and my German clients tell me, they say, “Americans, you can’t trust them.” They said, “They’re not reliable.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, they say what they think you want to hear and they will say yes when they haven’t really committed and then they don’t follow through.”

I think that’s, again, we want to be pleasant, we want to be liked, we’re saying yes, but we’re not really thinking it through. We’re not saying, “You know? I can’t say yes to that. Here’s why. Let’s talk it through further.” Instead of going deeper or being more honest in our dialogue and conversations, we are polite and nice and we therefore fail the individual, the team, the organization, and it really damages careers. It really damages performance.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’re talking about courage a lot. I’d love it if maybe you could share some of the disguises or packaging or lies or excuses or rationalizations we use when we’re really just frankly, not courageous and that’s really what’s going on. It like we’re really scared, but it gets dressed up or rationalized in some prettier terms that we use to ourselves.

Dusty Staub
One of the biggest rationalizations – but the way, rationalize is a rational lie.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Tweet it.

Dusty Staub
When we rationally lie to ourselves – and there are psychological mechanisms. I talk about this in my second book, The Seven Acts of Courage. I talk about the defensive mechanisms of denial, of projection, of blame, of rationalization.

We rationalize, “I don’t want to hurt Dusty’s feelings.” “I don’t want to rock the boat. Things are okay.” “I can work around this. We can just work around this person. This person has been with me a long time. Yeah, it’s in over their head, but we can carry them.” There’s all kinds of rational lies that people tell themselves. They’ll even say, “You know what? Well, that person’s just mad at me. That’s not really true.”

We do 360 feedback. We gather data from multiple sources, 8, 9, 10, 12 people around an individual. People are shocked sometimes at the themes around the critical things they need to change. It’s because they’ve been hearing it from one or two people, but when they see it as a theme from five or six people all at once, it’s inescapable and then it hurts their feelings.

One of the things, Pete, I believe is that – my father said this to me. I came home from graduate school and my dad had left the military and started his own business. He said, “Son, these damn civilians.” I said, “Dad, what did the damn civilians do now?”

He said, “Son, if they were in the military, we’d shoot them. They don’t tell you the truth. They talk behind your back. When you give them a chance to tell you what’s going on, they won’t tell you. When you try to tell them, they get defensive.” He said, “They let their emotions run them.”

I said, “Well, dad, that’s – you’re calling that amateur. What’s a professional?” He says, “Son, a professional is somebody who does what’s required and necessary, not what’s most comfortable, habitual or routine.”

Pete, what I see in so many of the clients we work with and so much when I read the news is people do what’s habitual, what’s routine. They do the personality. Integrity, doing the right thing when things are easy, is not integrity. Doing the right thing when it’s hard, when it’s painful, that’s integrity.

We talk about a lack of integrity in corporate America, lack of integrity in politics right now, well, until people start showing the courage to be confronted, until people start having the courage to tell the truth without laying down judgments. I mean I can tell the truth to somebody in a way where they thank me or I can tell the truth in a way where the person feels judged, belittled and put down.

When I say the courage to confront, it’s the courage to confront with respect and compassion. When you get angry and you think you’re telling your truth, you’re vomiting on somebody, you’re dumping on somebody. That’s not respectful. That’s not respectful confrontation. That’s not the courage to confront.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it. Well, so you lay out seven acts of courage progressively, could you walk us through a little bit of sort of each one and how it looks in practice.

Dusty Staub
Sure and interrupt me if I get going too long here. The first act of courage, which I discovered, was the courage to dream and to put forth a dream.

I had a dream that I could have a better relationship with my father, that when I stood at his graveside, there would be no guilt, there would be no shame, there would be no resentment and anger, that I would be at peace with my dad. That was a dream and that was not where we were.

It takes courage to put that dream out there because the world is full of cynics. We have internet trolls. You put a dream out there on the internet, you’re going to have all kinds of people telling you can’t do it, and why you can’t do it, and what’s wrong with you. But there’s never been a statue or a tribute created for a critic. It’s for the creators of the world.

The courage to dream and put the dream out there is the courage to say, “I’d like this.” You might fall flat on your face. I had the dream – I’ve had many dreams and until I put it out there, until I begin to express it and tell other people what I want to create, it doesn’t really become real. I can’t keep it a secret. That’s a big one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so when it comes to the courage to dream, in a way, dreaming seems easy. It’s like, “Hey, you’re just sort of thinking about something.” But what kind of stops that from happening in the first place?

Dusty Staub
Well, there are many people who tell themselves they can’t have it. There’s a wonderful book by Robert Fritz called The Path of Least Resistance. He talks about the creative mindset. In there he lays out stuff that I found to be very true, which is we want something, but we tell ourselves we can’t have it. We listen to that voice and we give up on the dream. The dream is just a pipedream.

But when I say – so I’ll give you an example. When I decided I wanted to change my relationship with my father, I’d always dreamed of a better relationship. I realized that I needed to tell my mom. I needed to tell my friends. I needed to tell my dad I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with him.

I knew my dad was going to laugh at me and be critical. I knew that my mom would be sympathetic. I knew some of my friends were mad at their dads, would think I was just caving in and some of them would be supportive.

But when I put it together and said, “I believe I can create a better relationship. I don’t expect him to change. He won’t change one bit. What I will do is change how I respond and what I do. I’m going to stop being critical. I’m going to stop finding fault. I’m going to stop complaining about him. I’m going to stop yelling at him when he yells at me. I’m going to start working on showing some appreciation for what he’s been through.”

He went through two wars, World War II, Korea. He grew up in the Depression, etcetera, etcetera. By beginning to express that dream and put it out there and make it concrete, until you make it more concrete and you give some scope to it, and you begin to express it, it’s just a pipedream. But that’s – and it takes courage to do that because there’s a big part of us that says, we can never do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. Then the second act is to – the courage to see current reality. How does that play out?

Dusty Staub
Yeah, and the reason I have that as the second act is you first need to know where you want to go and start to claim it. Then the second is you have to have the courage to see what’s working for you and working against you.

Again, using my dad and I as an example, just sticking with that image, I had to look in the mirror and see the nasty way I had of reacting to him. I totally justified my behavior based on his behavior.

There’s no justification for bad behavior. I don’t care. The other person can engage in egregious behavior, my behavior is not tied to that. Otherwise I say that I’m just a reactive machine. They push this button, I react. They push that button, I react.  … my father was going to do what he was going to do and I could choose how I was going to respond.

Seeing the current reality is claiming my strengths, claiming my weaknesses, what’s working for me, what’s working against me. Not having a pipedream, somehow my dad is going to be different, but seeing the way it is and seeing how I’m interacting and what’s problematic in the way I interact and seeing that current reality and claiming it.

Some people, Pete, will not claim their strengths because then they’d have to do something with them. Some people lack the courage to claim their weaknesses. They gloss over them because then they would have to own up that there’s something they’re responsible for and they have to do different.

The courage to see current reality is sometimes the courage to see our strengths, but for some people it’s the courage to admit and see weaknesses or gaps.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay. Next up, the courage to confront. How does that go?

Dusty Staub
I’ll put it this way. Imagine you have the courage to dream. That’s your guiding star. That’s what you’re going after. The courage to create reality is the ground you stand on. If you don’t know the ground you stand on, you’re not going to be able to move. But to go from current reality to the dream, requires five different acts of courage.

The first act is the courage to confront, the courage to speak your truth, to tell other people what you see, to tell other people what you like and don’t like. It’s finding your voice and finding the power to express your voice without being judgmental or critical or negative. Just saying, “Hey, this is what I see. This is the reality I have. What do you see?” We engage in a dialogue rather than a one-way conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then likewise, there’s the courage to be confronted by the other.

Dusty Staub
Yeah. That’s the fourth act of courage is the courage to be confronted. Some people will dish it out. There are people who have the courage to confront.

Right now I think of our president of the United States. He will put it out there. He doesn’t do it nicely, but he puts it out there. But he lacks the courage to be confronted. If you’re not willing to hear confrontation or differences of opinion, it means you’re going to create extra resistance, you’re going to create more negativity, and you’re going to guarantee you’re going to get blindsided because people will just go underground with it if you have a lot of power or they lack the courage to continue to tell their truth.

The courage to be confronted means I don’t want to be blindsided. It’s like going – crossing the street, a big highway, busy highway, a thoroughfare in New York City, by putting blinders on that are about three feet out. You’re going to get hurt, maybe killed. You want to take the blinders off.

You want to have the courage to be confronted. You want to have the courage to let people tell you things, maybe not always in the nicest way, but from that at least you have more perspective and more information with which to work.

Pete Mockaitis
In this kind of conversational dynamic, you talked about not unloading with anger and what are some other sort of pro tips for engaging in a way that is positive and constructive when you’re going to the difficult territory?

Dusty Staub
Yeah, one of the major tools – we teach two major tools of the ten we teach. One is what we call power questions. Power questions are questions that are Pareto based, the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of the information gives you eighty percent of the value.

They’re also designed to go for root cause. To be most effective in your work, to add value, to grow in your position, to grow in your power as a leader, you want to be able to do root cause analysis and you want to ask value-added questions that are powerful.

For example, you’d say this is an example of “Do you like working here?” Terrible question. Yes or no? “What do you like about working here?” Better question, but still not very valuable. A power question, “What’s the one thing you like most about working here?”

If I’m an employee I go to my boss and I say, “Hey boss, what’s the one thing I’m doing you most appreciate, want to make sure I keep on doing? Now what’s the one thing I could change that would make the biggest positive difference in my performance in this team?” Then a bonus power question, “Boss, what’s the one thing I can do to either take something off your plate or to help you and this team be more successful?”

By asking those three powerful questions, you gather information from your supervisor, from your peers, from your … – if you’re really brave, go home and ask your spouse, “Hey sweetheart, what’s the one thing I’m doing you most appreciate in our marriage that you want me to make sure I keep on doing? What’s the one thing I could change that would make the biggest difference? What could I do to help you feel more loved and supported in this relationship?”

Then ask follow up questions to uncover and go for a root cause. You hit a root cause, you take care of a dozen symptoms. Poor employee morale, dropping profits, angry customers, poor quality, lack of performance, slow decision making, those are symptoms, they’re not root cause. Poor teamwork, those are symptoms. What’s the root cause? Being able to ask powerful questions.

Then the second tool that goes with that is highly interactive listening, where you follow up on what you’ve heard. You ask follow-up questions. You reflect to show that the person – that you’ve heard them. You check to make sure you really heard them well.

There’s a wonderful quote. I can’t remember who it’s from but I love it. It’s like, “The biggest problem with communication is the perception that it has occurred,” because we all hear what we want to hear.

That courage to be confronted is the courage to listen very carefully, interactively and ask powerful questions. Those two skills alone can transform your perception of you in the workplace because many people are not open to feedback, especially corrective feedback. Many people don’t ask for it.

When you show that you’re willing to ask for the good as well as the not so good, you’re willing to ask for how you can step up and be better and you show that you’re listening and you get into an interactive conversation, your value added, the perception of you as a value added employee, as a value added leader, just really goes up tremendously.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you talked about the power questions that sort of really hit the 80/20 goodness and surface it, then what do some of those follow ups sound like to get to root cause?

Dusty Staub
Yeah. Let’s say I say to you, “Pete, what’s the one thing I could do to make the biggest positive difference in our working relationship?”

You say, “Well, Dusty, if you would start being more proactive. Instead of waiting for me to give you an assignment, look and see what you think needs to happen with our key customers and come to me with some ideas. Don’t wait for me to tell you.”

I’d say, “Okay. Can you give me an example of a time you saw me waiting to be told when you think I could have been proactive?”

You go, “Yeah, two weeks ago with Mr. Jones. When he called in and there was an issue. You’d gotten an email three weeks before that, but I got on the call and I talked to him and as I talked to him I realized there were some things we could do to solve it. When I came to you to ask about it, you had several good ideas. Why didn’t you get on the phone and call him three weeks before after that email to have the conversation with him and come up with the ideas.”

I go, “Oh yeah, okay. That’s great. What would be a question that I could ask of him if I get another email or I see emails like that, what would be some of the questions that you’d want to see me ask? If I could ask only two questions, what would be the best questions from your perspective, from a strategic perspective, Pete?”

“The one question I want you to ask is ‘What’s the one thing we’re doing that makes us most value added to you and what’s the one thing we could add or do different that would make us even more value added, dear customer?’” “Those are great questions. Yeah.”

“I’d like you to start asking those of all of our key customers. I’d like you to start asking that of your teammates. I’d like you to start recording that and about once every four or five weeks, Dusty, I’d really like it if you come in and you give me a down-low on what you’re hearing and what the themes are. That’s where you start being more strategic and proactive.” I go, “Oh, that’s great, Pete. Thank you.”

Right there, you did some coaching and guidance, but I initiated it by asking the follow up questions and being willing to listen and ask for more guidance.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent, thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well next up you’ve got the courage to learn and grow. How does this go?

Dusty Staub
Well, that’s a big one. Chris Argyris, a Yale University psychologist, wrote a little book, which talked why is that really smart, successful people start to fail. It’s because they become blinded by their past success. They become – they begin to suffer from something my old boss, Dr. James Noble Farr, called hardening of the categories. The categories get harder as they experience success and they get blinded by that success and they stop learning and growing.

The courage to learn and grow is the willingness to step into ambiguity and the unknown. Most people don’t like ambiguity. They don’t like uncertainty. Yet, when you start something new, when you’re really going down into new territory, it’s going to be uncertain, it’s going to be ambiguous. There’s going to be a lot of fog. You have to be willing to navigate through the fog. That’s one part.

The second piece is – and this is true for a lot of very successful people who start to limit themselves – is you have to give up the addiction to being right. There are two pieces to the courage to learn and grow. The one is to step into ambiguity, the unknown, move through the fear. The second is to give up any addiction or need to be right.

I would rather win. I’d rather find a better way than insist on being right because being right means I’m locked into a cognitive trap. I’m trapped in my old ways and patterns of thinking. It’s what my dad would call being an amateur leader as opposed to a real pro.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Then next up we’ve got the courage to be vulnerable.

Dusty Staub
Yup. And I actually add the words to love. I got the courage to put that in there my – the publisher of the book, the hardback cover of Seven Acts of Courage, was Executive Excellence. My publisher wanted me to take out the courage to be vulnerable. He said, “Executives won’t want that. That’s not good.” But I insisted.

In 1998 the hardcover of Seven Acts came out and … I had the courage to be vulnerable to love. It’s turned out to be one of the most powerful concepts.

In fact Brene Brown did a TED talk that’s gone viral and has millions of views now. She’s talking about vulnerability and the power of vulnerability. Well, I’ve been talking about it since 1998.

For me, the courage to be vulnerable is the willingness to be open. I actually got that term from Max Depree. He wrote a little book called Leadership is An Art. He was the chairman and CEO of the Herman Miller Corporation for 20 years. There were 456th in total sales in the Fortune 500, but number 12 in total return to investors.

In his book he said, “First and foremost the leader must be willing to be vulnerable to the strengths, talents and wild ideas of the people around him.” I was so inspired by that and I realized that that’s exactly what I had to do with my dad to transform myself.

It’s one of the few things that we Americans are really taught. We’re taught to be tough and strong and independent and being vulnerable is weak. Well, being vulnerable takes real strength. It means being open, to raise my hand and say, “I don’t know,” to ask for help, to be willing to be open to new ideas and inputs.

In fact, there can be no real innovation and true passion and creativity until there is the courage to be vulnerable in the corporate ranks and the C-suites, and in the teams and organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, all right. When you say to love, what does that really mean in that context?

Dusty Staub
In a business context it means the courage to really care, the courage to really care.

I worked for a boss who was very opinionated, very stubborn. He was the first founder of the Center for Creative Leadership, Dr. James Noble Farr. He was the head of graduate studies at Columbia University. Brilliant man. A pioneer in leadership thinking.

He was always right, meant all of us were always wrong. Had – being vulnerable and open to him was to admit that I really cared about him. I didn’t like him sometimes, but I really did care about him. I cared very much about our customers. I would call that love, but in business I think it’s showing that you care, that you respect, that you really value other people.

The funny thing is, Pete, I find that – I was … in family therapist many, many years ago. In private practice I found that many, many, men and more than a few women have a fear of being vulnerable, of being hurt and so they block the love. They create the very thing they fear most, which is feeling lonely, isolated and ultimately leaving or being left.

The courage to be vulnerable, to love is vitally important in a relationship. It’s vitally important in business. It’s around that respect, that caring, that sense of letting people know “I need you. I can’t get it done without you.”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious to hear, how did that story evolve with you – what was his name, the founder of the Center for Creative Leadership?

Dusty Staub
That was James Noble Farr, Dr. Farr. Well, after being there for two years, he made me Director of Leadership Development. I worked as Director of Leadership Development for three years, created all kinds of programs, and finally I realized I wanted to go off and create my own business.

I want to Jim and I said, “Jim, you and I struggle all the time. Every time a client wants something new and I’m creating something new, you and I fight and argue. I’m actually tired. I think I can go out and do my own thing. I want to give you plenty of notice to leave.”

He appreciated that. I was also the top biller and the top creator of product at the time. He said, “All right, give me two months.” I said, “All right.” Then a week later he came and said, “No, no, go ahead and go, go ahead and go,” because he was afraid other people might want to leave with me I guess.

But I had a three year non-compete, so I couldn’t work with any of the clients, but fortunately AT&T picked us up and a few other clients came in very quickly. It was a real risk. It was really scary, but I tripled my income within the first 15 months and was able to create things the way our clients were asking us rather than trying to always filter it through the thinking of a 70-year-old guy who had things his way.

But Jim and I – I brought him out here to the farm. We did a Christmas party and we gave him a plaque and thanked him because he helped launch this business. I couldn’t be where I am or couldn’t have had all the success without him and his teaching.

He said something really nice to me. He said, “You know Dusty?” He said, “Of all the consultants I’ve worked with over the years, you’ve done more and taken my work further than anybody else and I really appreciate that.” He and I were planning to do some things and then he died from heat stroke at the age of – he was in his early 80s.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man.

Dusty Staub
But it was always that sense of respect and caring even when I needed to leave to start my own business. You can do things like that if you treat others with respect and dignity and you have that willingness to be vulnerable and open.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
The final piece there is the courage to act. What’s behind this?

Dusty Staub
The courage to act is where it all comes together. It’s the seventh act for a reason.

One of the things that I think that you do in this podcast is you help people to really be awesome in their jobs, to really step up and play their game at a higher level.

For me, wisdom and acting, there are people who have the courage to act, but they do it without really thinking. They don’t do good critical thinking. They’re not strategic, so they’re very tactical. There’s lots of activities and they’re acting on lots of activities, but not their highest and best use.

The courage to act without the dream, seeing current reality, confronting and being confronted, learning and growing, and being vulnerable is not going to have as much wisdom or guidance to it. If I act informed by those prior six acts of courage, then I can act with greater wisdom and greater strategic guidance. I might be doing less, but I’m having a far greater impact.

There is a book out now called Essentialism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we had Greg on the show.

Dusty Staub
Yeah. I love Essentialism. Greg’s brilliant. I love it because he – I like him and Daniel Pink, Drive because – and Brene Brown and Simon Sinek because these guys are all talking about stuff I’ve been doing since 1998 in business. They just keep validating me, which is wonderful.

What I love about that is I was asking ‘what’s my highest and best use.’ Looking at all of the things on your plate, all of the things you can say yes to, all of the things you’re being asked to do, the vast majority of them offer minimal value. There’s some that offer tremendous value.

Being able to act informed by those prior six acts of courage, allows you to act in more of an essentialist way saying, “What’s my highest and best use? What’s tied to my dream, tied to my strengths, tied to what I’m willing to address, tied to the information I’m getting from listening to other people carefully and to criticism, to be being vulnerable and open, to learning and growing and stepping into the unknown? What are the things I can do?”

Then reorder your priorities. Reorder your goals and let some of the goals go.” What is it I should stop doing?” is a great question. “What is it I need to start saying no to?” because every no is a strategic yes to something else and every yes is a strategic no to something important like time with my spouse, time with my kids, time to recharge my batteries, time to write my book that I’ve been talking about for 15 years, etcetera, etcetera.

Greg’s concept and his way of looking at things I think is a great gift. It’s a key question. How can I be more strategic and offer greater value. Instead of being hypnotized by activity and being a good guy and always saying yes, I need to be able to say no politely, respectfully because I’m saying yes to something more important.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have any thoughts when it comes to – this courage stuff, it’s inspiring. It gets you going, like, “Yeah, bring it on.” At least that’s how I feel, so thank you. It’s fun. Do you have any tips for bringing in wisdom and prudence to ensure that you are applying this well and not in a way that could be overzealous or problematic.

Dusty Staub
Oh yeah. That’s a great question, by the way. It’s possible somebody could take one or more of the acts of courage and go rushing off thinking, “Oh, this is great,” but they haven’t really thought through the implications. Again, it’s like pick your battle.

The courage to confront means being able to tell your truth, but it doesn’t mean you tell your truth all the time to all people in every situation. You need to say, “All right, is this the right situation?”

An employee who confronts the senior leader in a town hall in front of other people is never going to get a good response. Even if the guy or gal is a great leader, they’re going to feel some defensiveness. The better confrontation or conversation is a one-on-one and done politely and respectfully. Yet some people don’t get the courage up until they can attack somebody in a public setting.

I think being prudently aware of timing, of what am I trying to accomplish. Because you can win a battle, but lose the war. I want to think long-term, what do I want to create, how I want to be seen as value added, what are the ways I need to begin to offer my truth.

And let me stage it because I might not be able to tell all my truth all at once, but what’s the first phase, what’s the next phase, how do I see if people are willing to really hear me, how can I position this. Then also in listening.

People might have three or four things they’re critical of. I might – I’d say, “Pete, of these three or four things that you’re talking about, what’s the one thing – if I could only do one of these – what would make the biggest positive difference?” You’d say, “Well, this one,” because you know. Then I know what I need to work on.

Then I can ask follow-up questions about that one and why it matters and what difference it would make, how we would know, how you would know, how I would know that was actually making a difference. That then unpacks it. That’s that interactive listening with power questions built in.

That means I’m being prudent, I’m doing it with wisdom and information. Because to act without information, to act without guidance, to act without a plan, to act without asking for input and insight and corrective feedback is usually a recipe for disaster.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

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

Dusty Staub
Gosh, I would just say this that I love the idea of helping people be really terrific in their work place, being awesome at their jobs, which really drew me to you, Pete.

What I would say is that I think the essence of it is how do we help liberate the purpose, the passion, and the power of those around us. If I can help people focus on their fundamental why, going to Simon Sinek’s talk, we can focus on the purpose here, the why. If we then then look at how the why informs what we do and how we do it, we’re going to be much more effective.

Now, we focus on purpose. What is it that really turns you on? What is it that really is going to excite you? What’s really going to make a difference? Where are you most passionate? Now, together, focus in a purposeful way on our why or what in doing that which gives us a greatest lift, we’re going to really liberate our power collectively.

There’s a term that I coined a number of years ago. I call it the effective intelligence of an organization. One of the things we focus on is multiplying the effective intelligence of an organization by getting people to focus on these fundamentals and then giving them tools to help them move forward in a more powerful way.

I would say wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, if you can focus on the purpose, if you can then find where the passion lies and how to begin to liberate that – my dad had a great quote, he said, “Son, any damn fool can tell you you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The trick is to get the horse thirsty, then you can’t stop it from drinking.”

What makes someone thirsty? Do you know? What kind of questions do you need to ask to figure that out? Then how can we work together in the most powerful way? Liberating purpose, passion, and power I think is a key.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

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

Dusty Staub
Oh, my favorite quote right now is one by Einstein, Albert Einstein. It goes like this, he says, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe everything is a miracle and those who believe nothing is.”

I’m the kind of person, Pete, who believes everything is a miracle: the fact that we exist, that we’re alive, the fact that we can see and we can hear, the fact that I can have this conversation with you in this mysterious technology, my children, the love of my life, my family, beautiful trees here in the forest around me. Everything is a miracle.

I think that when we believe everything is a miracle, we’re open to possibility, we’re open to finding our best self. We’re able to find more and more and continue to grow and discover. If I believe nothing is a miracle, it’s all transactional. It’s all just a series of transactions. You live, you work, you die. I think it’s – the real issue is how deeply have you loved, how fully have you lived, how completely have you been your best self?

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you.

Dusty Staub
Oh, you’re welcome.

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

Dusty Staub
Oh gosh, well, Google just released its research on teams. Google hired really smart, bright people. They put these teams together. They had some teams that were outperforming other teams consistently and they were trying to figure out what the difference was. They looked at over 200 factors.

Finally, – this is on the Google site. It’s been listed in several other sites too. Apple News had it. But basically they discovered that when they started looking at the research there were five factors that make for great teams, but the number one factor that outweighed everything else was a sense of psychological safety.

If you think about it in Good to Great they’re talking about the organizations that went from good to great engaged in vigorous intellectual debate that was not personalized, where you have the type five leader, who’s not egotistical, but really looks out at the world in terms of what he or she can contribute to the world and how he or she can engage others as opposed to how everything can make him or her look better.

Vigorous intellectual debate requires a sense of psychological safety. If I feel that I’m going to be ridiculed, made fun of, punished for offering a crazy idea or offering a criticism or putting an idea out there or putting something half-baked or exploring something I’m not so sure of, I’m not going to do it.

You have people holding back, not sharing ideas, people not engaging in vigorous intellectual debate, so you don’t come up what the best answers. You don’t come up – that sense of psychological safety and then structure, and then a sense of effectiveness and feeling valued, those all come in, but the number one factor is psychological safety. I really love that study.

Years ago Becky Langford, who worked at AT&T in PR, told me, she said, “Dusty, you should let everybody know that you create a sense of safe space for people.” I said, “Eh, it’s too touchy feely. It’s going to scare people.” This was back in 1990 but actually I think if I’d done that, the business would probably be ten times bigger because that’s really the key.

When we walk in to do a training, when we walk in to do consulting or coaching, if we can’t create psychological safety, we’re wasting our time. If you don’t have psychological safety on your team, in your organization, you’re never going to be great. You might be good, but you’ll never be great.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Dusty Staub
Oh, well, I love – I would say Daniel Pink’s Drive. Daniel Pink really when I was reading his book, I had tears in my eyes because he was talking about all the research. He did – looking at the last 30 years of research.

He said, “Look, most managers and leaders in corporations are still using understanding of the 1940s and 1950s. They haven’t caught up to modern research. They’re still using extrinsic motivators, the carrot and the stick. Do this, you get this reward. Don’t do this, you get punished.” That only works if you’re making widgets. But when you need complex intellectual task and innovation, you need to have intrinsic motivators.

He identified the three big intrinsic motivators in the first half of the book. The second half is how to actually use them, which is a sense of purpose, being part of something greater which I get to contribute to, that’s intrinsically motivating; a sense of autonomy, some say so in my work week, in my work month, my work years, so I have some say so and some … in there; and a sense of personal mastery that working here I get to grow and develop.

I love that. It just gave more intellectual fire power to the work we do. It also just made sense in terms of what I felt and known since 1990 in writing my own books and my own material.

Then the other book I really like is The Heart’s Code by Dr. Paul Pearsall. Pearsall is a psychologist who works with heart transplant surgeons and cardiologists.

He said that in all of his research, in all of his work, what he’s come to realize that the heart actually carries memories. In heart transplant cases, people’s personalities change. Some of the characteristics of the heart giver, the donor, shows up in the recipient. He tells about five or six amazing stories in the book.

I was in tears throughout that book because I’ve always said look, the essence of being a great leader is that it comes from the tone and quality of your heart. He just really brought that to bear when he talked about that from his own experience and from his own work as a – working with physicians in heart transplants, heart transplant recipients.

Those are two books I really recommend: The Heart’s Code, Dr. Paul Pearsall and Drive by Daniel Pink.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Dusty Staub
Oh, put first things first. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits. I love put first things first. Know what matters most and make sure you do that first, make sure you put that first. What I see so many people do is we will put first things last. We let the trivial few overwhelm us – the trivial many overwhelm us and the important few get lost.

That goes back to Greg’s book on essentialism. Let’s focus on what really matters most, put first things first. Let’s focus on the essentials.

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

Dusty Staub
Yeah. When I was a young psychotherapist I came to a realization after about three years of private practice that have really carried over into the consulting work in our organization. It’s simply this, no one can do it for you and you can’t do it alone.

No one can do it for you. You’ve got to have the courage to step up and have the dream. See the current reality and confront or be confronted. Learn and grown and be vulnerable and open and to then take action.

No one can do that for you and you can’t do it by yourself. You can’t go off in a cave and make everything right. It’s through interaction. It’s through learning. It’s through listening. It’s through help. It’s through conflict and confrontation, through criticism, through appreciation, through recognition. It’s the interactive nature of us human beings with each other at our best and knowing that the intent is to help us be our best. That really helps.

I would say this, Pete, no one can do it for you and you can’t do it by yourself.

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

Dusty Staub
We actually have two websites. The business-to-business website for corporations and senior leaders and so forth is StaubLeadership.com, www.Staub – S-T-A-U-BLeadership.com. That links to a YouTube channel. There are like 30 YouTube videos of me. There is a – there’s a list of the books and materials, and also the team that works with me is listed all there.

The new website we started last year is for the general public. It’s for teachers, students. It’s for everybody. It’s called www.TheActsOfCourage.com. TheActsOfCourage.com. There are short videos explaining each act of courage with a story about each act. There are interviews with executives and psychologists and business leaders, and entrepreneurs. There are many articles on there. I’ve written articles, interviews I’ve had with people.

I’d recommend people take a look at both of those websites. Then of course I have a TED talk, a TEDx talk, Developing Cardiovascular System of the Soul, which there’s – also people can pick up.

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

Dusty Staub
Yeah. I would say the final challenge I would say is do you have the courage to be your best self, to claim your deepest dream and to face the thing you least want to face because it’s the act of courage that you’ve least developed that will be your Achilles heel, that will keep you limping through life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Dusty, thank you so much for going deep into this good stuff. It’s been inspiring and a lot of fun. I just wish you all the best in all you’re up to.

Dusty Staub
Thank you Pete and thank you for the great work you’re doing. If I can ever be of any help as you work on helping people be awesome at work, just let me know.

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks a lot.

Dusty Staub
It was a great interview. Thank you.