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KF #10. Courage Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

476: How to Create Courageous Change with Ryan Berman

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Ryan Berman says: "Either you drive change or change drives you."

Ryan Berman offers his tips and tricks for building your courage muscle to make exciting changes.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three elements of the courage equation
  2. One simple trick to boost your courage
  3. How to convince your boss to make a courageous change

About Ryan:

Ryan Berman is the founder of Courageous, a change consultancy that develops Courage Brands® and trains companies how to operationalize courage through Courage Bootcamp.

He has spent a career developing meaningful stories for household brands—like Caesars Entertainment, Major League Baseball, New Era, Subway, and UNICEF—and he believes that courage is the ultimate competitive advantage for any willing business, being or brand.

Ryan Berman used the courage methodology detailed in the book to launch his own Courage Brand called Sock Problems, a charitable sock company that socks different problems in the world.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank You, Sponsors!

Ryan Berman Interview Transcript

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

Ryan Berman
Thanks, man. Thanks for having me. How is it going?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s going well. It’s going well. Well, we’re going to talk about courage a lot. And I want to start us off by hearing about a time that you had to dig deep to find some professional courage. What happened?

Ryan Berman
Yeah, I think that’s a really fair question and a good place to start. I actually talk about, right now, being like I’m in it. The irony here is when you write a book about courage, you kind of have to live it. So, I’m in it right now. I actually, I don’t know how much of my story that you know, but I was running a 70-person creative agency and, to be very honest, I felt the bigger we got the less happy I became.

And I got further and further away from the things that I was most passionate about, which was doing the work. And so, the irony here is that I wrote this book to position that company, and they pretty much gave me the courage to fire myself and to start over. And so, I’m in it right now where I’m actually back.

I’m passionate about what I’m doing but you go from having all these resources to a startup. And when I described Courageous, which is more of like Special Forces, like reinvention company, where we help companies reinvent themselves. I’m back. I feel like I’m back living the premise of the book and it’s terrifying. As it is, I’m also much happier.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so that’s cool. So, then the courage there was, “Are you going to take that leap and to part from reliable income and all that sort of thing?”

Ryan Berman
Yeah, but it’s more than that. I never thought I’d be a guy with a method, and here I am. You go through this thousand-day listening tour, and I still can’t explain why people at Apple and Google and Method and Dominos let me into their lives. It wasn’t like I paid them, and it wasn’t like they were clients. And the leaders of these companies let me in, and I was fascinated by how some of the biggest companies on the planet are also the ones that are the most agile, which doesn’t seem to make sense.

And so, the more I got to dissect those companies, and realized how important being aligned with the values of the company and the leaders were. And when I really look back at like the problems that we had setup in my last company, it just set me up to be ineffective at the level that I wanted to be effective. And it doesn’t mean like my way was the right way all the time, or my two partners who was there, their way or the highway. In order for me to scale and change, and I think if we’re not working on our tomorrow, if we’re not working on sustained relevance, what are do you really working on?

And so, when I looked at it, it was like, “Okay, how do I setup a company, really, to be calculated with our courage, but help us stay ahead of the curve with everybody else?” And when I really looked at that method, it made it easy for me to leave, or easier. It’s never easy but easier to leave, because I just wasn’t aligned with who I was and what my values were.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Thank you. And so, can you tell us, if we’re kind of zooming into the typical “professional” who is working a job, how is courage helpful for them? Like, where are some of the key ways that we can chicken out to our detriment?

Ryan Berman
So, first of all, I think we have the wrong idea, or some people have the wrong idea of what courage is. So, I always wondered if it makes more sense to share, when you look at the dictionary definition of courage, the dictionary definition is the ability to do something that  And imagine devoting a hearty amount of your time exploring the topic that’s going into a book, and you’re vehemently disagreeing with the dictionary. By the way, not a good place to be. Like, the last thing I want to do is to be on the wrong side of the dictionary.

But when I looked at that definition, I didn’t see any utilitarian value to it. I’m like, “How does being frightened really help me in the  So, a lot of my early research was just seeing if I can come up with a definition that can help people incorporate, unlock their courage, and do it in a calculated fashion.

And you go up through these interviews. I call the interview process the 3Bs. There was the brave, which are like Navy Seals and tornado chasers, firefighters, the ER operating chiefs. It’s like I was really fascinated by that process. They didn’t know who was coming through the door but, yet, their job is to save lives.

Then there was the bullish. So, leaders at those companies I mentioned. And then the brainiac was the third B, so just clinical psychologists, Cambridge PhDs, immunologists, just to study our brain and the way that we’re wired. And I came out the other side with this definition of courage that I think plays well for corporate which is quite out rad. It’s just it’s knowledge plus faith plus action

And, look, in business, you’re never going to have every snippet of knowledge you need to make a call. And, by the way, data is not knowledge. Data is a means to knowledge but it still takes those synthesizers to look at the data to get to your knowledge. And you can wait and hope to collect all the knowledge in the world but you’re probably going to get passed from a competitor

And when I talk about faith, we’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about inner belief. Like, what do you feel? Like, what do you really feel? The more your knowledge goes up, hopefully, your faith is going up. And then comes the hard

Two or three in any direction is not courage. So, if I listen to this, and I’m in a workplace setting, and you’re working on something that needs courage, and I do think courage is a journey word, meaning you need it for these tough decisions. Think about it this way. Like, do you have the knowledge to make a call? Do you feel it’s right? And then you take an

So, knowledge and faith with no action is paralysis. You know what you should do, you feel it’s right, and for whatever reason you can’t pull the trigger. Faith and action with no knowledge is reckless. So, I think if some people think that jumping without a parachute, that’s one of my six courage myths, by the way. I think that’s that definition, faith and

And then knowledge and action without faith. Like, if you’re on the inside and you’re going through the motions and you’re working on a project, and you don’t feel like any friction whatsoever, or any little voice inside going, “This is a little crazy.” My sense is, it’s knowledge plus action without faith is status quo. You’re working on safe. And when your idea hits the market, and you’re not there to defend it, it’s just going to blend in with a thousand of other messages or

So, it has to be all three – knowledge plus faith plus action equals courage. And that’s how you know you’re

Pete Mockaitis
And so, what’s intriguing there is like it’s almost like if there’s not a degree of, “I don’t know about this,” then there’s less, I don’t know, juice, opportunity, differentiation, power in that thing that you’re up to.

Ryan Berman
Yeah, it’s like if you don’t feel just that little voice going, “This is a little crazy. This is crazy. Oh, my gosh, we’re going to get fired if we do this.” These are on emotional datapoints actually but you’re actually on the right path to doing something courageous, that’s going to break through.

And I come out of the courageous idea space. So, I always say, “You’re not trying to make a courageous idea that when people see it the first time, they’re like, “Wow!” You want to create this idea when someone sees it at the eighth time, like, “Gosh, I wish I did that.” And that’s sort of the tell of a courageous concept.

Pete Mockaitis
So, can you just give us examples here of some courageous concepts that kind of fit this?

Ryan Berman
Yeah, for your listeners out West, one of the things we helped is Harrah’s, which is a casino. You think, “Oh, casino. Where is this going?” And all of our research showed that people look at it as a destination. But what if we can actually turn that destination into a real destination – a city?

And so, we actually came up with a concept of Funner, California, and how awesome would it be if we made a real-life city. And the good news about Harrah’s in southern California is it’s on sacred land, so we actually went to the Council of the Tribe with the leadership team at Harrah’s, and that just tells you the level of trust we have with the leadership team, and convinced them to change the property to Funner, California. So, literally, the proximity of the property is now a real legal city called Funner.

And once we got the smiles on the face of the team, well, if you’re going to have a city, you have to have a mayor, right, because what city doesn’t have a mayor? So, who would be the perfect mayor of Funner, California? Our first mayor was Mayor Hoff, Mayor David Hasselhoff.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay.

Ryan Berman
Yeah. And so, next thing you know our commercials were with Mr. Hasselhoff, I mean, Mayor Hoff, who, of course, had keys to the city and rules to his city. And the irony here is not only did it move the needle for their business, but when you talk about holistic change, this was an example of once we got it right on the outside, we then started to talk about, “Well, what about behind the curtain of the company, the employees? How would the employees of Funner behave if there were burrows? What should a pit boss look like in Funner, California?” You know what’s not Funner? A pit boss with a suit with his arms crossed trying to take your money.

So, we started to like take this concept of Funner and really blow it out inside and outside. And I think that’s the big idea here, it’s like, “How do you come up with ideas? There is no curtain anywhere.” If there’s a curtain between internal and external, you’ve got a problem. And I think Funner was a great example of them having the courage to go, “We are a destination. Let’s do it for Funner.” And once that was their marketing communication, then we started to work inside to make the organization more fun in all directions.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool, yes. And it is kind of different, so I hear what you’re saying with regard to that faith bit. But, at the same time, that there is distinction there which is kind of meaningfully unique in terms of the innovation and being appealing to folks, like, “Oh, I don’t want to go to the one that’s less fun.”

Ryan Berman
Right, right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“I want the one that’s funner.”

Ryan Berman
“Yeah, let’s go to Funner.” Yeah, I think we actually call out, we sign off, like, “It’s not a word, it’s a place.” And to some people, like, “Funner is not a word.” And so, you know, the big insight for me also, and permission to give a quick shameless plug on the book, but the true insight was every single time in my career where we have presented the most courageous idea, and our partners chose them, the return on courage was higher, and their staffs were happier.

And every time, you know, because sometimes you’d present multiple ideas, every time we’d present the safer idea, or our partners went with the safer idea, the return on courage wasn’t even half. And, by the way, our staff was less than happy. They knew it wasn’t going to work at the level it could. So, you have this really courageous idea that makes sense for the business, by the way. Next thing you know, you’re talking about like peer through reinvention.

We weren’t just reinventing their communication. We were reinventing their culture. We’re reinventing new innovation opportunities for them. Yeah, go for it.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you say you’re comparing a return on courage for values. What’s the numerator, denominator here on this formula?

Ryan Berman
For return on courage?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Ryan Berman
Well, again, it’s less algebraic than the first time around. But I think the number one is in involving relevant business that’s sidestepping stasis or death. The return on courage is like you’re back into a relevant position. You’re building internal believers and external believers, and you’re building your courage muscle which breeds more courage, which keeps you ahead of your competition, ultimately try reinvention. So, helping these companies reinvent themselves and stay relevant.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I think you said that when you took the bolder path, the return on courage was like more than double that of the safer path. What is the number we’re talking about?

Ryan Berman
Yeah. I don’t have like the actual EBITDA number for here but, to me, almost every single time we’ve actually have a client pick the courageous idea, and obviously we’re playing off, “Here’s how you maximize your ROI,” but I don’t have like lock-me-down number on, “Oh, every time we do this, it’ll be 8x or 4x or 10x.” I wish I had more time. Maybe that’s something we can explore.

Pete Mockaitis
But it’s more than double, you said.

Ryan Berman
Oh, yeah, there’s no question. Yeah, there’s no question.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Well, so that’s encouraging right there. I think that’s a shot in the arm, a boost to the faith right there in terms of thinking, “Oh, okay. Well, this might be a little nuts, but Ryan said that when you do something that’s a little nuts, that makes sense and there’s a lot of energy behind it. More often than not, it’s at least twice as effective.” So, that’s pretty cool.

You made a reference to some myths when it comes to courage. Could you share a couple of those? Like, what’s the most pervasive or damaging and how should we think about these courage myths correctly?

Ryan Berman
Yeah, so there’s six courage myths that were sort of uncovered in the interview process, and some of them were obvious, like courage jumping out of a plane sans parachute, or courage is activated on impulse. I think courage can’t be taught, and I think those are critical. But when I really think of what’s the most debilitating one, I think it’s that courage describes other people, or courage doesn’t have a role

And I truly believe if that’s what you think, then of course it doesn’t have a role in our daily life. But if you look at courage like a muscle, and you can start to build that muscle and train for it, then you start to look for courageous opportunities inside your organization. We’re just not built that way. When you talk to leaders of companies, they see courage as a peripheral thing

And so, to me, that’s just an opportunity waiting to be unlocked. And if you can get your whole organization prepped and trained to look for courageous opportunities, I do believe those start to appear. And, again, if courage breeds courage, then you’re looking for those moments where we can be courageous to push forward those ideas that really change the game for your

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s cool. Well, let’s hear some more myths.

Ryan Berman
You know, again, I think courage is a solo risky journey. I don’t think it’s a solo. I definitely think it’s a journey but I don’t think it’s as risky as people think and I certainly  Again, especially in a corporate setting, we’re all dealing with stuff on our own, our demons on the inside, but to me that’s part of the problems. Like, how do we get out of our own way and properly communicate what we’re afraid of?

There’s a famous proverb that fear and courage are brothers, that you actually can’t get to the courageous choice without first channeling it through fear. But most of us, we suppress those things that we’re afraid of versus  And so, part of this is like, “Let’s look out what we’re afraid of. Let’s actually talk about what those fears look like. Is there a product fear we’ve got? What’s the perception fear? Which is what I would call like the marketing fear. What personal fears are you bringing to the job?” Like, “Hey, if I pick this idea, am I going to be on an island all by myself? Am I going to get fired?” We don’t talk about this stuff.

And so, as leaders, my hope is that people will empower their teams to bring this to the forefront and like I always say FOMF, Fear Of Missing Fear. Like, if you don’t have a fear, go find one and smoke out that fear, and then start to

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, let’s get to a little bit of the how of fear. So, let’s say you’ve zeroed in on a fear, how do you go about doing the shrinking of it?

Ryan Berman
Yes. So, like I mentioned a little bit earlier, I never thought I’d be a guy with a method, and here I am. So, what I wanted to do was almost take the courage out of courage and give people the tools they need to make faster decision-making but do so in a calculated way.

So, if your audience has an opportunity and the book, Return on Courage, the back half of the book is the how. Like, how do you actually know the knowledge to follow, how to build internal and external faith, and then where to take action. And the back of the book is basically the five steps to becoming what I call a courage brand. And there’s a price. There’s a price to becoming a courage brand. And price is an acronym. It stands for Prioritize, Rally, Identify, Commit,

And Prioritize is prioritize through value. So, it’s almost going all the way back to the beginning and really looking at the  And, unfortunately, most of us have, like the values are on a wall somewhere, they’re collecting dust in an employee manual, but they’re not really being operationalized and activated.

Or maybe a company has nine values or 11 values, and I can just speak for myself. Like, I can barely remember four. So, if I’m the leader of a company, and I’ve got a thousand people working for me, how do I make this clean and simple, have less values, have each value be more valuable? And then, how am I rewarding my staff on these values?

And when I say core values, they’re not eyerolls, they’re the exceptional role. Again, this is just for me going out and seeing how these companies, the most relevant companies in the world are operating. Now, are all of them like playing by these rules? No. Amazon, I think, has 16 values. That’s unfathomable to me. But, obviously, it’s working for them.

So, it talks about, “What are the values of a company?” and then, let’s say you’re just on the team, like, “Do you actually mirror those values? Are you a believer of those values?” Which brings us to the second step, which is rally,  And I think organizations even make believers or fake believers. And the funny thing about fake believers is they’re hidden in the organization. They don’t exactly wear a T-shirt that says, “Fake believer.” They don a smile and collect the paycheck but deep down, like conviction is dropped, there’s the eyerolls and productivity isn’t what it could be.

And so, I really do believe that belief is the ultimate currency in an organization. So, when people believe, they’re in, and when people don’t believe, they’re out, and that comes straight down to leadership. So, that leadership team is responsible for creating believers, which starts with the values. And then, again, are you making believers? Are you caring about your team? I think there’s four ways

And so, respecting makes believers, caring makes believers, I would say repeating makes believers, which is really annoying sometimes for the leadership team but you need to be playing on the same playbook and say the same thing over and over again. And then seeing is believing. So, if you say something, and your staff doesn’t see something, that’s a problem, right? If you say something,

And, again, these two steps are organizational health steps. It’s as simple as galvanizing your people and creating conviction. And the number one problem that I see today is this misalignment between leadership and the next-generation workforce where the leadership team can’t wrap their heads around why you don’t want to stick around for  And the next generation is like, “I don’t need a watch. I have a watch on my phone. Like, I need skills. I need to be challenged.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that’s my thing. It’s like, “Because you’re going to fire me as soon as there’s a downturn.”

Ryan Berman
Right. And so, there’s this recalibration that’s needed. Both sides need to understand each other and that means talking about it. Like you said, “Hey, if I speak up, am I going to get fired?” Okay, that’s a personal fear that needs to be discussed. It should be discussed. We don’t discuss it. So, again, I think these two steps are just about organizational health, it’s about finding people with conviction that have the right intention, that are on the metaphor of co-rocket ship.

And then we move into the I, which is identify fears, so you have to do that. And the way I try to break down fears is looking at industry fears, what’s the industry fear for your vertical, like what could take down the entire industry. Are you the

And I imagine going to an offsite and thinking through these things. By the way, this concept only came up because I was so frustrated with SWOT. You know, remember the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats? And the more times I did that, my strength ended up on my opportunity, and my weakness ended up on my opportunity, and my weakness also ended up on my threats. And so, I just wanted to come up with a better way to SWOT, which has somehow survived as the standard for the last six decades.

And so, I think an art of fear is a better way to SWOT where you can get really clear about what could take your vertical down or where’s the problems with your product, which is product fears, or service fears, and I guess that perception fears which is marketing. And, again, if you don’t know what can take you down, you can’t put a plan in place and you’re reacting. Usually, it’s a little too late by the time the thing comes to get you. So, the idea is to smoke out what could take your business down and take your vertical down, and then you have a decision to make on if you want to double-down and

The C is “Commit to a purpose.” Again, I think this is a hard thing for current leadership teams to recognize but the next-generation workforce believes that we have an obligation as a business to be purpose-driven, to make the world better,  And so, I think there’s a study where 50% of millennials felt that way, that the point of this was to make the world better not just to make money.

So, if I’m a leader, you can even roll your eyes at that or just sort of accept the obligation that comes with being a business leader. And so, that means committing to an authentic purpose, a truthful purpose. Simon Sinek has spent so much of his career playing in this space. I agree with him that we got to find our why. I think the only sort of addon is, now, I think you need to have a rally cry in that why. What’s the rally cry? Why and how are people

You look at a company like SpaceX, and there’s not a ton of proof that they’re going to be successful on their rally cry purpose, which is life on another planet. But if you work there, you’re committed. You’ll give 20 hours a day to push that boulder up the mountain on what you’re trying to achieve. And I know not every company can be SpaceX, but you’ve got to find that rally cry.

You look at Method Soap, that soap company, and their rally cry and their why was the people against dirty. And what I love about it is they had a clear enemy that they chose to take down which was dirty. Are you for clean or are you for dirty? The people against dirty. By the way, I think they have a 100 million annual sales as a target, and it’s soap, it’s a commodity. So, what I love about it is it doesn’t matter if you’re a commodity or a rocket ship. You can find a purpose and get clear on that purpose and galvanize people behind it.

And then, finally, we get down to E of PRICE which is execute your action. So, knowledge, faith and action, right? It’s go time on the execute  And, again, it just depends on what type of action you’re jumping into. But the book talks about, it’s a little bit of a choose your own adventure on, “Are you reinventing your product? Are you reinventing your story? Or are you reinventing like a new offering?”

And, again, this is the hard part. The hard part is you know what you’re doing and you feel it’s right. Now you have

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I want to zero in on some of the values pieces here because I think you’re right that a lot of organizations, they have values, maybe there’s nine, maybe there’s 16, but they’re not really alive in the sense that they’re sort of hanging out on some materials, in a file cabinet, or on some walls. So, could you maybe give us some examples of company, value, and how that gets lived for real? Because I think a lot of listeners might find themselves as like, “I don’t think I can recite our company values and I don’t think any of them are leaping to mind as I look at how we do business.”

Ryan Berman
Yeah, again, I think this goes all the way back to the basics, right? You would think that we would honor the values of the company. And the problem I think is many companies are honoring the founder’s values which may not mirror what the next generation demands, or what you demand of that next-generation workforce because, to me, that’s what values were made for. They’re supposed to be guardrails to help you make decisions. It’s to drive behavior. And if you have multiple offices and thousands of people, they all should be playing on the

So, one company that comes to mind is Zappos. They do have 10 values but their number one value is, “Deliver wow through service.” The way that comes to life, I mean, from the second you walk into their office, yes, it is wall art, but I just love this idea that they have on the wall, “We’re a service company that happens to sell blank.”

Which I love that fact. And you can go in there and what they’re selling, they see themselves as a customer service company first. It doesn’t matter what your title is, you’re the first one that you’re at the office, you’re working the call center. Their CEO, Tony Hsieh, still works the call center during the holidays and people are sort of floored when he tells them, “By the way, I’m Tony Hsieh, I’m the CEO.” It’s like he’s taking calls so they don’t believe him.

And so, he is operationalizing the values. They also have a reward system. It’s almost like when you go to like one of those game rooms where you get your tickets and you can turn your tickets in for different rewards. They basically have that where other people can give you points on service and you can redeem those points for schwag. So, there’s actual science in Jonah Berger’s book Contagious that says, “We cannot imitate things we don’t see.” Which is why it’s “Monkey see, monkey do,” not “Monkey hear, monkey do.”

And so, Tony, recognizing that, he visualized this everywhere. You see it everywhere. Everywhere you go in that office, you can’t not see something on the wall reminding you of how you’re supposed to behave. I think the military also does a really good job of this. So, the Army does a really good job of this. And leadership is their acronym, and the recognize that everybody coming in through their system is coming from different walks of life, right?

So, the Army officer has a massive advantage that they get 16 weeks of bootcamp here. They really get to train their people. And most of us in the workforce, we get like 48 hours and then we get the metaphorical weapon to go out into the workplace and try to do our job. But if you’ve ever studied Fort Knox, you’ll see, again, written on the walls, it’s leadership. It’s all those values. You get it on the dog tags. They ingrain it in you. They’re training their people.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I see there that we skipped the E and the A. We got loyalty, duty, respect, and selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage, and these things mean something for real to them.

Ryan Berman
Yeah, it’s everything to them. By the way, you talk to people that are Army infantry men, they talk about how those values play off the field as much as on the field for them. So, they’re making it real. They’re operationalizing their values.

And so, a lot of the work I’m doing now is you kind of have to go back to the beginning, and go, “Hey, the way you communicate to your team, the way you’re driving behavior, it’s like Pavlov are you actually rewarding your team off of the values. And often I’ll get from a leadership team, like, “Are we talking about internal values or external values?” And my response is, “Well, that’s exactly the problem. There’s plenty of words for us to choose from. Let’s figure out the ones that work for both and stand there.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And I think it gets you thinking right there because when these things are real, it stirs the heart, you know. And when they’re not, it’s sort of like, “Sure,” and they’re just trudging along.

Ryan Berman
Yeah, you can see why value. That’s where the eyeroll comes from versus, “Are you really using them to create the desired results for your company and your people.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. Well, so I’d love to hear, when it comes to sort of individuals, would you recommend any sort of small practices or daily activities to help boost the courageousness or courage, if you will?

Ryan Berman
Yeah, I think it starts by recognizing that it can be for you. So, let’s assume we’re past that willingness part. Look, I think, by far, the hardest part of this is the action part. It’s hard. You know what to do. Sometime you feel it’s right. It’s just articulating like, “Okay, we’ve got to experiment, we’ve  And so, I love that word, by the way, in the corporate setting of experimenting. It’s like, “How do you help people just experiment?” Well, that means you’ve got to create a process and a budget for that.

So, let’s say I’m at a company and you’re responsible for budgeting. I would actually create an experimental budget. Like, just throw it away. It’s a failed budget. It can work but you’re literally creating little experiments to learn something new. Or, let’s say you’re not. This isn’t about work, and say this is at home, that I would create

So, one of my favorite things that I like to do is I set different calendar just for myself. I block off time for myself. Sometimes it’s monthly, sometimes it’s quarterly where I’ll send myself actionable messages. So, you can actually go in and you can custom your labels and your alarms, so I actually see things that I need to see in my alarms when they go off that basically . And I think this is a great use for me in controlling technology versus technology controlling me.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give some examples for alarms and labels that you use in there?

Ryan Berman
Yeah, so one of the things that I had to get over when I was writing the book was, okay, we have this thing called our central nervous system that calls all the shots. And let’s break that down for one sec. So, central, the core of you. System, an operating system and computer, basically a computer. Nervous, don’t say that. Don’t think that. Don’t try that. Like, we’re rooted, we have archaic systems that are basically rooted in nervousness and it’s hard to shake that.

So, one of the ideas I’ve come up with was, “Oh, that’s interesting. I wonder if I can develop a central courage system to combat the realities of our central nervous system?” So, PRICE, that five-step process is basically building your central courage system. But when I first came up with the idea, I felt like an impostor talking about this thing.

And so, for me, the way I got over it was by every morning my alarm went off, I saw, “Build strong central courage systems.” And by the 12th time I saw it, or the 18th time I saw it, or the 36th time I saw it, it was building that muscle for me that I needed to see to keep me on my path for writing the book. And so now, I say, yeah, I help companies or leaders build strong central courage systems. It’s second nature for me. But when I first said it, it was hard for me to say. I’m building that muscle.

And so, I think that’s creating these ritualized triggers and using your alarms to do that. So, if you wanted to write that blog, or start that podcast, I would literally schedule time on your calendar, maybe it’s once a week where you’re like, “Today is the day.” And you see that every week at the same time and start to ritualize that process so you can build that muscle. And that makes it easier to do it again and

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Very good. And I also want to get your take, we talked about this sort of a whole organization level. If an employee finds themselves in the midst of their organization, they want to do some courageous changes, but they get resistance from teammates and bosses. Do you have any tips on how they can get more influential persuasive and get things moving even though their kind of authority is limited?

Ryan Berman
And, again, I feel this is going to sound like a promotion for the book, but I think whether it’s my book or someone else’s book, just by giving something tangible to somebody, when you gift knowledge, so when someone gives them, “Hey, do you have a minute? I thought about you while I was reading this book. Can we talk about it when you’re done with it?” Gifting knowledge is an easy way to

A hard way to start a conversation is, “Do you have five minutes?” When they don’t have five minutes, they’re not sure what you really want. And so, what I’ve learned is just by gifting knowledge and gifting the book to someone is an easy way to talk about the process of

Another is, and a lot of this statistics are in the book. Statistics are tough because people don’t think that statistics have anything to do with them. They think statistics are for other people, right? But if you actually look at the statistics, you’ve got a 52% of the Fortune 500s since 2000 that are gone. That number is going to hold. John Chambers predicts that 40% of all companies will be .

You’re going to have 9,000 brands that carousels on and off the Fortune 500 over the next six decades. I can do this for a while. The life expectancy of a Fortune 500 brand 50 years ago is 75 years. So, once you made it onto the list, you can coast for a while. Today, it’s anywhere between 12 and 15 years. So, the numbers are there. Like, this is the problem. We have to shake the leaders of the company and go, “Look, if we don’t change, someone is going to change us whether we like it or not.” And I think even you drive change or change drives you, and if you’re not careful,

So, there are house-on-fire moments. It’s just how do you shake the leaders? And, again, a lot of this content, I just mention this in the book, I talk about like, “What’s going on and why is this happening? Why is this business apocalypse really happening?” And my hope is to do that is to help companies start to deal with this and have the conversation that it’s possible for them to change.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that really hammers it home with regard to you just don’t have the option to coast anymore. You’ve got take a moment to rejuvenate for you and rest and all that stuff, but you just can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing for years at a time because the outside world will not do the same.

Ryan Berman
No, and that’s the thing. You got this iterative strategy and, actually, you will get caught, and incremental growth has nothing on exponential growth. And somewhere, there’s probably five guys in a garage that are trying to figure out a way to take you down. That’s not on your radar yet, and they’re working 19 hours a day to figure out a way to disrupt your category. So, it’s a very real thing and it’s happening all over the country and beyond.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ryan, tell me, anything else you want to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Ryan Berman
No, man, just obviously I love talking about this stuff. I really do enjoy helping companies reinvent. I think courage is a competitive advantage for anyone that chooses to learn how to do it. And I think you can unlock it in your teams. And a lot of my time right now is being able to go inspire groups and speak in different companies and try to get them to see that courage is for them. And, hopefully, once they do, then we can start working on a plan for tomorrow.

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

Ryan Berman
Yeah, my favorite quote is by a German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it’s ridicule. Second, it’s wild. It’s violently opposed. And, third, it’s accepted as being self-evident.” So, I just love that because I think that is the process of courage. That is the friction that comes with this lot of change where, first, it’s like, “Really? Like, no, this is a silly idea.” Two, “Absolutely not.” And then, third, “Well, anyone could’ve come up with a Google, right?” Like, there’s no period for joy to celebrate. It’s just sort of, “Oh.” By the way, this quote is like evidently 250 years old and still remains true today.

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

Ryan Berman
Being able to sit with Steve Wilhite, who was hired by Steve Jobs to run marketing, was probably my favorite interview. And I love all my children equally, but to be able to sit with Steve and hear his story of how he was hired and what sort of test Steve Jobs gave him to make sure he wasn’t just a yes man so he would actually stand up to him, was pretty fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

 Berman
I would say Essentialism is right there by Greg McKeown in just helping you decide what is essential because once you know that, you’ve got the clarity you need to stay on the path of what you follow and leave everything else by the wayside.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Ryan Berman
Today it’s Slack and Zoom because my company Courageous is virtual, so thank goodness for those tools because it allows us to stay connected in real time and see each other.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ryan Berman
Right now, it’s the one I explained where I’m setting my alarm with different labels to remind myself of what’s important, so these triggers. And so, even for me, after studying these for three years, I want to see those triggers.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, they repeat it back to you often?

Ryan Berman
You know what, a lot of people seem to be resonating with the knowledge plus faith plus action equals courage, which is cool. It’s like, “What do I think about this? How does it make me feel? And what am I going to do about it?”

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

Ryan Berman
Well, they’ll learn more about the book, I would go to ReturnOnCourage.com. And if you wanted to get to know my consulting practice a little more, I’d go to CourageBrands.com. And you could probably find me through the ReturnOnCourage.com website.

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

Ryan Berman
If you’re unhappy, you’ve got take your life into your control. And I really do think that’s sort of the aha moment for me, is that it didn’t matter we were getting bigger, I was getting less happy. And so, same thing, either you drive change or change drives you. And if it’s your life, then how are you to take it by being in the driver’s seat of it and make the most of it, and have the courage to drive where you want?

And, again, maybe internally, change starts with one, it starts with you and then find somebody else that’s your real raft mate who can help you make change and then go get another and another and another. And if you like challenges, I’d recommend that.

Pete Mockaitis
Ryan, thanks for taking the time and keep up the good work.

Ryan Berman
Thanks, Pete. Appreciate you having me on.

468: Upgrading Your Confidence and Courage at Work with Bill Treasurer

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Bill Treasurer says: "Boredome is a clue that it's time to move back out into discomfort."

Bill Treasurer shares practical wisdom for conquering fear, taking risks, and finding your courage.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key first step to finding courage
  2. Approaches for taking on more wise risks
  3. How to fill up each of the Three Buckets of Courage

About Bill:

In the past two decades, thousands of executives across the globe have attended Bill’s keynotes and workshops. Benefiting from the concepts first introduced in Bill’s bestselling books, participants come away with stronger leadership skills, improved team performance, and more career backbone.

Among others, Bill has led workshops for NASA, Accenture, Lenovo, CNN, Hugo Boss, SPANX, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bill’s insights about courage and risk-taking have been featured in over 100 newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, NY Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Boston Herald, and more.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Bill Treasurer Interview Transcript

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

Bill Treasurer
Pete, I’m really delighted to be here and I’m looking forward to our time together.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Me, too. And I want to go back in time a little bit to hear the story of you were invited to join the Metropolitan Opera in New York when you were 11 for singing. That’s impressive. What’s the story here?

Bill Treasurer
You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever spoken to anybody else about this. I mean, my mom knows it. But when I was 11 years old, I had a buddy who was already in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera and he was a good singer, and he and I would sing like John Denver songs together and such. And he said, “You know, you ought to come with me down to the Met because they’re looking to put people in their chorus for a Russian play that was going to be on Broadway or at the Met.” And so, I was like, “All right. Why not?”

So, I took the train down and I did a test run with the person playing piano there with him and the other people in the chorus, and got word, afterwards they called and said that they wanted me to be in the chorus. And then it became a decision, like, “Do I want this as my track? Do I want to sort of pursue singing operatically or do I want to go outside and play baseball with my buddies, and stickball and run around in the dirt like we had been doing up until that point?” So, I had a decision to make and, ultimately, I decided that the showbiz life, at least the operatic showbiz life, probably isn’t for me. So, I declined the opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, imagine you must be pretty darn good at singing. I imagine they’re pretty selective even amongst 11-year-olds.

Bill Treasurer
I got some girlfriends in college.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you also play the guitar, that seems to be key?

Bill Treasurer
No, it’s interesting, I would sing when other people were playing guitar, but what’s really kind of, it truly is interesting, is that by the time I was 11 and a little bit later, I literally would sing John Denver songs with my buddies, and the most popular John Denver song that we would sing back then was the sing-a-long “Country Roads,” right? “Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong, West Virginia.”

And then, fast forward a little bit later, it’s actually where I ended up going to college. And I’m not from West Virginia, I’m from the suburbs of New York, but somehow singing that song so many times ended up plopping me into West Virginia. And, in fact, the very first football game at West Virginia University that I attended that fall, it was the opening of a new stadium. And who comes ala helicopter, lands at the stadium, and sings “Country Roads” but John Denver. So, it’s a nice sort of closure to the story.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s quite poetic. It’s all meant to be. Well, so I want to talk a little bit about courage with you. And you’ve been working with this for a long time so much so that you’ve updated your book Courage Goes to Work after over 10 years. So, tell us, what do we need to know about courage going to work?

Bill Treasurer
Well, you know, the interesting thing is if you look at courage and you start studying it, as I did when I started writing the book, and I’ve started birthing my own business, and then it gave birth to the book, is this idea that courage is a virtue. And I’m not the first one to say that. In fact, if you rewind far enough, Aristotle called courage the first virtue because it makes all the other virtues

And throughout history, other great giants have talked about courage as being one of the premier, if not the premier of virtues. In fact, the Catholic Church calls it one of the four cardinal virtues. So, outside of work, courage has always been a preeminent virtue. And my question became, “Why would it be any different in the workplace?” Because a lot of workplaces are bastions of fear, but fear is the primary means of motivating people to get things done, sadly still, even in the 21st

And so, that becomes the right opportunity for the demonstration of  So, my whole contemplation in the book Courage Goes to Work was, “How do we take courage and apply it in the workplace not just outside as a virtue, but as the premier virtue of business and leadership?” So, if you think about it, Pete, to be a great business developer or salespeople, salesperson, means to knock on hundreds of doors in the face of rejection over and over again. That takes courage.

To be an innovator means to draw outside of the lines, experiment, make some mistakes, forward falling, to be an innovator. The greatest innovations almost always start out as blasphemy to what was before. So, to be an innovator takes courage. And then, finally, to be a leader means to render bold decisions that some people are going to disagree with and you’ve got to withstand the turbulence of that disagreement. Leadership takes courage. So, courage is essential to so many of the operating systems that make organizational life work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, certainly. So, it’s critical. And then, tell us, why is it often missing?

Bill Treasurer
I think that for many of the reasons it’s missing outside in the world and so much of it has to do with fear and what do we do when we face, or fail to face, more accurately, fearful situations. What’s interesting in the things that I’ve learned and research about courage is that courage isn’
t the absence of  In fact, John McCain wrote a book called Why Courage Matters. It became an international bestseller.

And in the book, he says, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s acting despite the fact that you’re afraid.” So, if you think about that, it means that courage is fear-full, not fearless. You’ll see these bumper stickers on the back of trucks “No Fear. No Fear.” You know, no brains. That’s not courage. Courage, in fact, is fear-full but it’s acting despite the fact that you’re afraid, and moving through it with that

So, I think a lot of people walk away when they’re fearful, they get paralyzed, or they fight, flight or freeze. But what my work is suggesting, and a few others like John McCain, is that if you work through your fear, that’s the discovery of courage. In fact, you can’t be courageous unless the presence of fear is there. But the trick is to not run away from it, it’s learn how to contend

Pete Mockaitis
And so, what are your top tips for learning how to contend with it?

Bill Treasurer
Well, the first thing is, know what you want. I know that you’re based in Chicago. There’s a playwright in Chicago, his name is Ambrose Redmoon. He’s got another one of these quotes, he says, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the decision that you’ve got something more important than fear to get done.” So, the first thing is what I call the contemplation of the holy question. The four most important words that you’ll ever learn in the English language, “What do you want?” What do you want?

If you can answer that with precision, and it may start with first identifying what you don’t want, but figuring out the condition that you want, that you don’t yet have, in other words, identify a worthwhile goal, then that sublimates fear when the goal becomes more

And so, the first thing you’ve got to do is decide is, “What is that thing that is so important, that I don’t yet have, that courage will become the activation that will sort of help me take the steps forward to get that condition that I don’t have.” So,

So, it’s critically important that you have a goal that is really compelling that motivates you to move forward, and courage becomes the activation that sort of helps you close the gap between where you are today and that important goal that you want to get to. So, the first thing to do to activate your own courage is have a worthwhile goal to put your mojo, your courage mojo, to work

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure. So, once you got a worthwhile goal, what’s next?

Bill Treasurer
Well, the other thing is it helps to understand what I call the theory of least regrets. Understand that any risk, any big move that you’re considering comes with two risks. There’s the risk of action, but then there’s also the risk of inaction. And sometimes the risk of inaction is more dangerous but it happens over a lengthy period of time so it’s harder to

So, one key question to ask yourself is, “What will I regret the least? Taking this risk, doing this courageous thing, and maybe wiping out, or not taking this risk, and never knowing if I could’ve been successful had I done  You know, a lot of bar stools are warmed by the seat of a person, right now, everywhere in the country, who’s staring at the TV screen and yelling at the bartender, talking about how they could’ve been a contender, but they didn’t. They didn’t contend.

So, the idea is that the risk we regret the most are very often the ones that we didn’t  So, as you’re getting ready for a risk, to contemplate, “What is the thing that I will regret the least, maybe wiping out and trying it, or not wiping out but not trying it and never knowing if I could’ve been successful?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. So, we got the theory of least regret. And what next?

Bill Treasurer
Sometimes it’s good to objectify the subject of experience of a risk. So, a lot of times we’ll do this  We’ll do the pro and con list, and, “Hey, here’s the credit column. I might get this if I do this thing, and here’s the debit column,” and whichever one has the most on it we sort of go with.

But a better way to do it is what I call the worst-case grid. And you simply draw an X-axis and Y-axis and a scale ranging from 1 to 10 on both axes, and then say, “If this big move, this giant leap that I’m considering, doesn’t work out, what is the degree of badness? On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is

So, for example, I decided at one point to leave Accenture. Accenture is a great company. I had a six-figure job, I was well networked. If I had stayed there long enough, I would’ve moved into a senior executive, at the time partner role. But there was something unsatisfying about the experience of staying there. So, I decided to leave and start my own business, Giant Leap Consulting.

The degree of badness, had it not worked out for me, it’s not going to be death, right? For most people, whatever the big bad move, the big scary thing that you’re considering doing, that’s requiring courage, generally, is not going to be death. And death would be a

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I guess I’m thinking my scale is bigger. I’m just thinking like the annihilation of humanity because it’s just your death, right? You’re just one life. I mean, if you’re working in a field like military, law enforcement, even food service, or transportation, you know, you can kill hundreds or thousands with your poor decisions.

Bill Treasurer
You know, I suppose if your big risk is that you’re going to put a new drug on the market that hasn’t been well-tested, I think that could be the case. Actually, it’s my understanding, this may be mythology, but it’s my understanding that Jonas Salk, who gave us the polio vaccine, that he first injected it to himself and to his own children, right? So, had that not worked out, people wouldn’t call him the hero that he ultimately became for helping eradicate polio largely.
So, the degree of badness in my case, had I left Accenture and had it not worked out, my wipeout would’ve been I would’ve had to have lived with my in-laws, right? So, my wife and I. I wouldn’t be in a soup kitchen, but if my business hadn’t worked out, for a little period of time, we would’ve had to go and live with my in-laws, and that’s not a 10, right? Like, that’s probably a 7.

So, as you consider the big bold move that you’re thinking about, first of all, identify what is the degree of badness. In my case, it was a 7, having to potentially live at my in-laws’ house. But then you also have to factor in the  And so, I looked at it, and said, “Okay, had I left Accenture and my business didn’t work out, the truth is I had worked with other entrepreneurs, I had taken night classes at Emory University, I already had a graduate degree, I had been in the workforce for over 10 years. All of those things lowered my metaphor to go high dive,” so I was able to look at it and say, “You know, the probability is probably a 2 or 3.”

So, then you just times your degree of badness, in this case 7, times your probability grid 3, and then you come up with a numeric value. For me, if it’s going to be below 50, as a numeric, as a number, I’m probably going to do the thing. If it’s above 50, I’m going to be at least more hesitant and more calculated, but probably I may not even do whatever the thing is. But the cool thing about the worst-case grid is it gives people an actual way of rationalizing and objectifying a subject of experience of taking a

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And I suppose is there a corresponding sort of positive tone that you’re bouncing that against?

Bill Treasurer
Thank you for saying that. So, oftentimes, in my workshop, so in my courageous leadership workshop, I’ll have participants think about what is the next courageous move that they might be wanting to take. A good way to think about is to ask yourself, “Where am I playing it too safe in my career?” And that starts to point in the direction of their next courageous move. And then, after they do that, I’ll have them work through the worst-case grid. Most people like it because it’s a way to be very thoughtful and objective about it.

But then I’ll make sure that they close it by doing the other. Let’s flip it upside down and say, “Hey, what if this actually works out? What if I start my own business and I get to work with really cool clients and talk to really cool podcasters like Pete, and get to write books and such? That would be ideal. That’s—What’s the best case?” And that becomes, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 10 is sort of the life of my own design. What’s the probability? Same thing, I’ve got to put it through a probability factor and say, “You know, how much do I believe in myself?” So, it’s worthwhile to do it as a positive instead of worst 0-case grid, a best-case

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you. So, I want to hear about a term you use, “comfeartable.” What does that mean and how should we think about it?

Bill Treasurer
So, I talk about it in the book that I think that sometimes we get into a low-level condition of dissatisfaction, a sort of a low-level dissatisfaction and, over time, we become tolerant of it. And, frankly, I think that many people get a low-level toleration of living in a constant state of fear and we become used to it, and we become a bit numb to it, we become comfortable with our fear, what I call

And when you’re a leader of people who have sort of grown apathetic and are no longer challenging themselves, and no longer willing to experience discomfort, then stagnation happens, and individual and organizational growth is thwarted. So, this idea that one of the enemies of management, in my opinion, is being “comfeartable” and having a number of employees around you who may have grown comfortable being in a low-level fear situation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, if you find yourself in such a spot, how do you shake it up?

Bill Treasurer
Well, I think that leaders can do a couple of things to sort of shake it up. The first thing is they’ve got to jump first. They’ve got to be role models of courageous behavior themselves. They’ve got to show their workforce that they can be the first one up and off whatever high-dive platform they’re asking other people to jump off of. So, being a role model, and ask yourself as a leader, “When’s the last time you had sweaty palms and did something that was exciting and scary at the same

The second thing is that you’ve got to create safety as a leader. Create safety. Physical safety, of course, right? We all want to work in a work environment where we don’t think that our lives are going to be threatened. But we also, as leaders, have to create psychological safety where people feel that they can voice their true opinions about things without you chopping their head

The third thing is a leader has to help people learn how to harness fear. So, the whole discussion that you and I had about moving through fear instead of running away from it, and learning to become comfortable with  Ginni Rometty is the CEO of IBM. She has a wonderful quote that she said at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit. She said, “Comfort and growth don’t co-exist.”

So, you, as a leader, have to ensure that people recognize that, “Look, discomfort is part of it. It’s part of how we grow and progress, so learning and acquiring new skills and taking on new challenges that, in fact, make us uncomfortable is how you’re going to grow as an individual but how the organization is going to grow

And then the fourth thing, as a leader, to be modulating between comfort and discomfort. You’ve got to nudge people out into discomfort where they start getting their own sweaty palms, but you’ve got to let them stay there long enough to acquire new skills and then, as they start to acquire those skills and become too comfortable with them, you’ve got to move them back out into

As it relates to modulating discomfort, if you’re up for it, Pete, I can share with you a story about how that worked in my own life.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Yeah.

Bill Treasurer
And it becomes actually the genesis of my business, and it became the genesis of my exploration into the whole idea of courage and why I think courage is so important. But if you rewind far enough back in my own career, before all of it, like I was not a great athlete growing up. I wasn’t a great runner. I’m not very tall. I’m 5’7 1/2”. I’m not built for football. But I found springboard diving. Some friends were jumping around the pool one day, doing back dives and back jumps, and girls were looking at them, and I thought, “Whew, figure I’ll try that.”

And I did a back dive, and I pulled my leg around, and I did a back somersault, and none of my friends could do it. So, I got good on the low board as a one-meter springboard diver. Fast forward, colleges started to dangle scholarships in front of me. I grew up in Westchester, New York and I won the Westchester County diving championships three times, so colleges took an interest in me. But all those college coaches would say, “Bill, you’re a great low-board diver. We’re very interested in you. We do have some scholarship money, but tell us about your high-board list of dives.” I never bothered to learn high-board list of dives because I was, and am, petrified of heights.

So, I had a coach who said, “Look, do you want to try to get a scholarship?” I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” So, he would take me down to Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.

Pete Mockaitis
I have been there. I had spoken there.

Bill Treasurer
Had you been there? Have you?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s lovely. The gals.

Bill Treasurer
Yeah, you’re right. It is the gals.They’ve got a lot of Irish there in that part of New York. And so, Iona, to this day, it’s the only place that I know of that has a diving board, even to this day, built on a hydraulic lift. So, he could take the diving board and move it from one meter to one and a half meter. Now, I’m really uncomfortable, and I’m doing screaming belly whoppers, and I don’t want to go to practice, and I’m upset with him for making me do this. I’d get welts on the back of my legs.

But after a hundred dives, my heart starts to stop racing, and after 200 dives and 50 practices, it starts to get better. After like 300 dives, I started to get, oh, bored. Boredom’s a great clue. Boredom is a clue that it’s time to move people back out into discomfort. And what do you think my coach did at that point?

Pete Mockaitis
He gives the handy hydraulic lift to increase the height.

Bill Treasurer
You are a smart podcaster, my friend. Exactly. He moved it to two meters, and now I’m back to the heart racing, I’m upset with him, welts on my legs, etc. But through this process of modulating between comfort and discomfort, he would push me out into discomfort long enough where I could acquire new skills. And once I acquired the skills, I’d settle to that place, and I’d start to, eventually, become even bored, and that became the clue to move it

So, the long arc of the story is I ended up getting a full scholarship to West Virginia University. But, after that, I became a world-class high-diver and a member of the U.S. High-Diving Team, diving from heights that scaled to over 100 feet, travelling at speeds in excess of 50 miles an hour, into a small pool that was 10 feet deep, and I’m a high diver who, I already told you, is afraid of heights. So, this was the discovery of my courage.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog. Well, that is a nice metaphor there because you can see kind of very mathematically, as well as viscerally, “Oh, a little bit higher. Ooh, I feel that. A little higher. Oh, I feel that more.” And so, that’s there. And I suppose you could think about your own courage challenges in that kind of a way with regard to what’s a tiny step versus a big step, and all the steps in between? And maybe you can give us an example there. So, let’s say not sales because I think it’s almost too easy. I want to make you work for it, Bill. Let’s say in the workplace, it’s a common thing that people fear. And what would be the equivalent of the one meter, the one and a half meters, and then the 30 meters?

Bill Treasurer
Yeah, so good question and you’re right, by the way, this metaphor. It actually became the metaphor in my business Giant Leap Consulting. But now the whole business is about, “What high-dive are you facing and how can we help you take whatever personal or professional high-dive will move you forward?” And so, an example that I can think of is I did a 360-degree feedback with a group of leaders that I was working for. It was a cohort of about 25 people. And one of these leaders got some terribly harsh feedback, that he was a hothead, that he was ill-tempered, that he was dictatorial, like really scathing stuff.

And it slapped him upside the head as a 360-degree feedback will sometimes do with some people. And some people reject the feedback, they’re like, “Well, this is a bad time,” or, “You don’t understand I inherited the worst team,” and come up with excuses. But this leader really took it to heart. There’s an old saying that Gandhi said, he said, “The truth only hurts if it should.” And it did hurt him.

And it became, “What are we going to do? You just got all of this feedback about your leadership. You want to be a better leader. The company is investing in you, putting you in this leadership program. You’re managing huge consequential projects, some of it $50 to $100 million worth of project revenue that you’re managing. What are you going to do?”

And so, working, we decided with his boss that this person would get sort of extra attention, and we did a lot of one-on-one coaching together. And what it came down to was he was so fixated on production that he wasn’t making one-on-one time with his own direct reports, not about giving them direction for their jobs, but he wasn’t making any relationship-building time at all.

He was atypical, and I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but he was sort of engineering minded. It was all about production, it was all about the work schedule, it was all about the work breakdown structure, it was all about the P&L, and it had very little to do with the building strong relationships and interpersonal chemistry of his team so that he would have some goodwill and loyalty around him. He didn’t. He had people who wanted to go work for other people.

So, he had to sort of take emotional risks of being willing to focus on his own people and treating them in a more respectful and humane way, and worry less about production, and worry more about investing in emotional relationship. I know that sounds squishy but here’s how I know that it worked. It’s about five years later, I was leading a similar leadership program, in fact it’s the very same leadership program, but it was a different cohort going through it. And three of those people, out of the 25, were people who reported to him now.

And to a person, they were telling me what a great leader he was, what a great mentor, how much he developed them, how much he was so interested in his fair treatment of them. It was like an entirely different person. But the courage for him was the willingness to be uncomfortable in terms of not being fixated on P&L and production, that stuff was always going to be there, but to invest the time in the development and the attention-giving of his own people and building relationships with them. And it made all the difference. It made him whole. It made him sort of more emotionally-attuned and aware.

Pete Mockaitis
And the fear there it could show up in terms of, “Oh, my gosh, if I spent this time talking about this mushy relationship stuff, it’s like we’re not spending time making it happen, churning out production,” so it’s kind of scary. Or, “Boy, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Are they going to cry even if I really start listening to what’s going on with their lives? And I don’t know what to do with that.” So, that can be fearful there.

Bill Treasurer
Exactly. If I invested time, and I become interested in this person’s career and what they want to get out of their career, and what they want to get out of my time being their leader, and, hey, maybe even what’s going on in their own life if they want to share any of that. I might actually have to care about this person. They’re no longer just a “resource.” It’s a human being that I’m in relationship with, and now I care about, oh, man, if I care about them, I’m going to be obliged to them in a different way than I am if I’m just their “boss.” So, you’re right, it comes with a certain risk.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s hard to fire them, too, when you care.

Bill Treasurer
It’s hard to be hard, right. It’s hard to be tough. But I think what it does is it changes the equation. So many people in leadership roles it’s all about results, right? Like, if you don’t get results, you’re not going to stay a leader. We see it with professional coaches, for example. If you have enough of a losing streak, you’re going to get replaced. So, I get it, results matter.

But I think that we have to put the equation and make sure that it’s the treatment of people as the means to the ends of getting the result. But too many people, like this person, focused on the result, the result, the result, the ends, “Give me the ends. Give me the golden egg. Give me the golden egg. Give me the golden egg,” and cutting open that goose to get the golden egg instead of the treatment of people which is the means to getting the better production.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And when you treat them you want to be clear that they don’t feel like they are means to the end alone, and that’s sort of like what they are to you. But, yeah, understood in terms of people are that which make it happen, so folks need to be treated well in order to see that occur. Now, I want to make sure we have a moment to talk about you’ve got a concept called three buckets of courage, and I know those are pretty interesting. Can you tell us about this?

Bill Treasurer
Sure. I think that when we think of courage as this big ambiguous topic, and we think, “Oh, man, courage. That’s huge. That’s for heroes. That’s for people with the machine guns charging up the hill in the theater of war. That’s for the person standing on the moon. That’s the person saving somebody’s life, or running into a burning building.” And that’s true. Courage has its place for heroics. But I believe that there’s a more tempered everyday experience of courage that’s accessible to all of us, and it helps to break down the idea of courage so that it’s not so ambiguous. And I break it down into three different behavioral buckets that I call the three buckets of

The first bucket of courage is the courage to try something you’ve not done before. It’s the courage of first attempts. It’s the courage of action. It’s the courage of initiative to cross this threshold and do this thing that other people may be doing, but for you it’s the first time. And because it’s the first time, there’s a degree of unknown across the threshold. So, I call this

You can think of the first time you drove a car, for example, when other people are on the road driving a car. But, for you, it was a petrifying experience. Or, the first time you moved into management, and you now had direct reports reporting to you, and it’s a foreign experience to you. You can draw from the experiences of others, but for you it’s the first time.

That’s different than the second bucket of courage. The second bucket of courage is the courage of vulnerability, emotional exposure, the courage of relationships, and I call this trust courage. It’s the courage entrust others and assume some degree of risk that they may betray you. Because when you entrust somebody, there’s always a chance that they could betray you, and then your judgment gets

So, for example, in the workplace, delegating a consequential, meaningful, substantial task to somebody, without pulling it back from them, and without hovering over them like a helicopter parent, but building up their skills and entrusting them so that they can be self-sufficient and self-reliant to do this task. There’s always a chance that they mess up and it becomes a reflection on your judgment. But this is the courage it takes to build relationships. And I find that the higher you go up in the organization, the less often you see the trust courage that’d be because I think that we become jaded over time because of betrayal.

The third bucket of courage is the one that we often think of when we talk about courage in the workplace. We think of the person with the shaky voice, standing up to authority, or getting the direct message when it’s really hard for them to do so. We call this the courage of the truthteller and the bucket, as the third bucket of courage, is tell courage. It’s the voice of assertiveness and truth-telling. We want people and we want leaders, especially, to be honest. But, as you know, Pete, we do a lot of socially-appropriate

When your spouse says, “Do I look fat in this dress?” Honesty, we say we want it but it’s kind of hard to give. Somebody raises their hand at a townhall meeting, “Are there going to be more layoffs?” And we’re told we’re not allowed to say. Honesty is a hard thing, so it takes courage to be the honest truthteller, knowing that the risk you assume is if you tell the truth, you might be excluded from the group and no longer belong.

So, each one of these buckets – try, trust, and tell – has some risks attached to it which is why it involves courage.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I like that because they really are different phenomenon in terms of you may well find that you are ready to try anything, but you really are slow to trust. Or, you’ve got the audacity to sort of tell people what you think, no problem, but you’re worried about kind of doing something totally different outside of your world. So, I think that’s a really handy way to think about it in terms of what they share is this notion of courage and breaking out of the comfort to do something. But they all also have their own sort of nuances or flavors. So, tell me, do you have any pro tips in terms of each of these three? Like, if you want to be more courageous in each of the three buckets, what should you do?

Bill Treasurer
Yeah, that’s a good question, and you’re very perceptive. You’re right that each one of these, you can see the distinction between them, but you also see the reinforcement. And you’re also right that we tend to be stronger in one of those buckets than the others, and that’s great. That’s the area where you could give people mentorship, for example. But if your bucket is low in any of those areas, you’re likely to give people advice that comes from fear because your own bucket isn’t full in that particular  And each one has strengths and weaknesses.

So, in terms of advice, whatever advice that I would give people, would be to start small, right? Like, no high-diver goes up and does a 100-foot jump one time without doing a thousand jumps from one foot. So, I call these leadups, so start  So, for example, if you wanted to demonstrate try courage. A small way to do that, so doing something that breaks routine, breaks habit, a willingness to go to a different restaurant at lunch. Don’t go to the same haunt that you go to all the time. Take a different route to work. Break up your routines in small ways and it would give yourself mental permission to do so in larger more substantial

Trust. When it comes to trust courage, one thing you can do is sort of fill in the blank to this question, “I will trust you when…” When is it? What is the criteria with which you give a person  Some people are like, “I’ll trust you right off the bat. I always presume trust. And then if you screw up, then I will have a hard time trusting you.” Other people are like, “I will trust you after you prove to me you can be trusted.” And they’re sort of they’ll prove it, people need evidence.

But at least be conscious to know what is the criteria with which you will give people trust or withhold trust because it allows you to understand, “Is your standard too high? And would you maybe need to lower that standard so that you can build relationships quicker with

And then, for tell courage, to have the courage or voice or assertiveness, one thing I often suggest for people in lower-level positions who are struggling with a boss who might be dominant, is to go to your boss, or maybe even during your annual review, and say, “Boss, I just need to know. Do you need me to sort of agree with everything that you say? Do you need me to be a yes person? Do you need me to be a brownnoser?” And I’m telling you, 95% of bosses are going to be like, “No, I don’t want you to. Do not. You absolutely need to push

Pete Mockaitis
Bill, thank you so much for asking. Yes, please. Not all of these disagreements and critical thinking I have to do everywhere, it’d be so refreshing if you can just tell me what I want to hear constantly. Ah, that’d be nice.

Bill Treasurer
Right. So, this tip is all about establishing a ground rule with your boss that you won’t be a butt-kisser, and a brownnoser, and a yes person, because they don’t want you to be. They’ve, in fact, clarified that but then you’ve got to go a step further and say, “Great, boss. I’ll tell you what, I will honor this commitment. Can you do me a favor? Give me some coaching right now. When I need to disagree with you, how can I do that in a way that would be receptive to your

And then that person will give them advice, “Listen, don’t do it when I’m getting ready to walk into the board meeting. Don’t do it when you see 50 items in my inbox,” and they’ll give you some coaching so that when you fast forward six months from now, and you actually have to disagree with your boss, you can say, “Hey, boss, remember when we agreed during my performance review that you didn’t want me to be a yes person, and you gave me some coaching on how to give you feedback that you might need to hear, I’ve got some things to say to you right now that will honor the commitment that we made to each other.” So, it’s basically setting a ground rule where you’ve got permission to tell the truth to your

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Well, tell me, Bill, any key things you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Bill Treasurer
I think, for the listener, there are a couple of good old tiny questions to ask yourself, “When’s the last time you did something for the first time?” It’s a good question and it’ll allow you to think, “Hey, am I extending myself enough?” The other one, of course, is, “Where am I playing it too safe?” So, sometimes it’s like the thought experiments, there’s a few key questions like that that can help your listeners orient themselves to are they extending themselves enough.

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

Bill Treasurer
Well, I do like that quote from Gandhi, right, “The truth only hurts if it should.” I like that because it keeps me accountable to giving harder messages that I might need to deliver to my clients and/or to myself, right? Like, sometimes somebody will give me feedback, and my instant response is wanting to defend myself or to find something wrong with that person who gave me that feedback. But if I just sort of sit with that quote from Gandhi, “Yeah, you know, that hurt. Why did that hurt?” And then I start to think about, “What is the truth of what they said and why does it hurt me?” So, I like that quote. That’s a good quote for me.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Bill Treasurer
I’ll tell you one of my favorite books of all time. So, I do a lot of leadership development, designing, developing, and delivering comprehensive leadership programs. Some of them are two years long, these leadership programs. And I think that a lot of people in the practice of leadership development deify leadership too much. They put it on a pedestal. And I think it’s really important that practitioners of leadership development also be heads up about the dangers of leadership put in the wrong hands.

And one of my favorite books on this is by Stanley Milgram who did the famous Milgram studies, the shock studies, I’m sure you’re familiar with them. And he wrote a book called Obedience to Authority, and it shows you how willing people are to capitulate to authority figures with very small actual authority over them. They’re willing to sort of cede control to a person who tells them to do something if they’re wearing a lab coat, and don’t actually have leadership authority over them. It’s just a fascinating book about how quickly people will capitulate to authority figures.

And a quote in there about the banality of evil, or the topic of the banality of evil, that evil often is not acting courageously. And it’s sort of a yawn, it’s the sin of omission, right, that they don’t do the things they ought to do because somebody’s telling them not do it. They’re just following orders from somebody who doesn’t actually have any control over them.

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

Bill Treasurer
Well, I was going to say the worst-case grid. I also like the five Ps. And the five Ps allow you to contemplate, “Should I, shouldn’t I take this risk?” And, again, rather than a pro and con list, it looks at five different things. The first is passion, “Am I passionate about it? Does it give me energy to think about this? Does it give me positive energy to think about this big bold move that I’m contemplating this courageous action?” So, passion is the

The second P is purpose, “If I take this risk, is it going to move me forward? That a big bold move shouldn’t be about compensation, what will this risk get me?” It should be about destination, “Where will this risk carry me or take

Then the third P is principles, “If by doing this thing, am I embodying or upholding some principles or virtues that I hold dear and say that I’m all about? If I take this risk, is it, in fact, a demonstration of this principle put to

The fourth P is prerogative, “Am I going to take this because other people are telling me to, because my dad was a dentist and he wants me to become a dentist? Or am I going to take this risk because I’ve thought about it, and it moves my life forward, it’s an exercise of my own free will, this decision, should I, shouldn’t I get off this

And then the fifth P is profit, “Do I stand to get something? If I do this thing, what is the potential or reward for my life that could be redeeming somehow?” So, if I put something through the five Ps – passion, purpose, principles, prerogative, and profit – I’m in a much higher probability of having a successful outcome to this courage action than if I don’t, or that if I only put it through a pro and con

And notice, by the way, Pete, that I put profit last. If you put that first, it skews your thinking on everything and you make the risk all about, “What can I gain?” and you start chasing the shiny

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

Bill Treasurer
I guess one nugget is it’s a quick story from a person that I got to work with on four occasions. She actually wrote the foreword to the original version of “Courage Goes to Work,” and her name is Sara Blakely, the founder of SPANX. And Sara tells the story of when she was a little kid, her dad used to sit down at the dinner table with her and her brother, she was about 10 or 11 years old, her brother was a little younger. Her dad used to ask her a simple question at the end of every week, he’d say, “Okay, kids, what have you failed at this week? What have you failed at this week?”

And she learned at an early age that if you’re not extending yourself, even occasionally to the point of failure, then it’s going to be hard for you to be successful. And I think that’s sort of a good golden nugget again about the importance, the wiliness to move and to discomfort because that’s where the growth happens.

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

Bill Treasurer
I’d point them to a couple of the websites. One is BillTreasurer.com, another is GiantLeapConsulting.com. And since we’re talking about Courage Goes to Work, guess where they can go to find that?

Pete Mockaitis
CourageGoestoWork.com.

Bill Treasurer
You are a smart man, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, Bill, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you all the best and much courageous adventures in your future.

Bill Treasurer
Awesome. Well, thanks so much for having me on. I hope that your readers drew some value from it and I really enjoyed talking to you.

446: Making Fear Your Friend with Judi Holler

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Judi Holler says: "Scary things don't get less scary, but you will get stronger. Keep going."

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

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Ruth Soukup says: "Action is the antidote to fear"

 

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

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Laura Gassner Otting says: "Everybody, regardless of how extremely happy they seem, feels like something's missing."

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.