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KF #26. Being Resilient Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

494: How to Train Your Brain for Maximum Growth with Dr. Tara Swart

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Dr. Tara Swart says: "Visualization...primes your brain to grasp opportunities that might otherwise pass you by."

Dr. Tara Swart explains the science behind neuroplasticity and how to train your brain to brave any challenge.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to use neuroscience to break out of your comfort zone
  2. The six approaches to problem solving
  3. Simple tricks to turn around terrible work days

About Tara:

Dr. Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, medical doctor, leadership coach, and award-winning and bestselling author. She works with leaders all over the world to help them achieve mental resilience and peak brain performance, improve their ability to manage stress, regulate emotions, and retain information. She is a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management where she runs the Neuroscience for Leadership and Applied Neuroscience programs, and is an executive advisor to some of the world’s most respected leaders in media and business.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Dr. Tara Swart Interview Transcript

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

Tara Swart
Pete, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited about this.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited too because neuroscience stuff is always super fascinating and you are at the forefront of some cool research and teaching at MIT and elsewhere. So, why don’t we kick it off, if you could share with us maybe one of the most fascinating or recent discoveries that’s come out of neuroscience?

Tara Swart
Sure. Well, the one that I focus most of my research on, because I think it’s the most fascinating, is about neuroplasticity. So, we used to think that by the age of 18, our brain had grown and changed and that our personality was pretty much set by that age. We know now that there’s massive growth from zero to two, that there’s a lot of pruning of neural connections in the teenage years, but that the brain actively molds and shapes itself to everything that we experience, every smell, every person that we meet, every emotion that we experience until we’re about 25.

And that from 25 to 65, we have to actively do things, learn new things, expose ourselves to different experiences to keep the brain as flexible, or what we call plastic, as possible. And if you start making some changes in your late 30s to early 40s, you can even contribute towards reducing the decline in some cognitive functions that starts to happen around the age of 70. So, when I first started understanding this really well, it just opened up a whole new world of what you’re capable of doing, and it turns around that whole idea of self-limiting beliefs.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’m curious then, so if you’re over 65, what happens then?

Tara Swart
Well, I think that a lot of people worry about their memory changing and they think it’s like the first signs of dementia or something, and people get very stressed about that. And they focus on it. What actually happens from 65 onwards is that, sure, some of the pathways that relate to, for example, sequential memory, so the order of the things happening, they do change. But, actually, we have a more super sophisticated pathway to our wisdom and intuition. And my view is that we focus on our changing strengths and we access that wisdom and we outsource our sequential memory to our devices.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I already do that.

Tara Swart
Yeah, me, too.

Pete Mockaitis
So, neuroplasticity, I’ve heard the term before and people are really excited about it. And so, practically speaking, what does that mean for us? So, our brains are continuing to change shape and we can have some impact in how they’re changed. But so, practically, in terms of, I don’t know, skill-acquisition, or learning capabilities, what does that mean for us?

Tara Swart
There’s two main things, and I want to focus on the skill acquisition, actually. But I do want to say before that, that if we don’t think about neuroplasticity then our brain is being changed by things that we’re not conscious of and, personally, that’s not something that I would really like to happen. So, I’m very conscious of what I watch on the TV, what I read in the news, who I hang around with because I’m just so aware that all of those things will be having an effect on my brain.

That aside, in terms of proactively bringing change and flexibility into your brain, it’s really about continually learning, well, learning and/or exposing yourself to new things. And the reason for that is that change will happen around us, and some people can find that really stressful, and some people seem to ride that change more easily. The more that we’ve done to introduce change and, therefore, inoculate ourselves against the stress of change, the more easily we’ll be able to deal with those things that can come from left field both at work and in life.

Equally, things like learning a new skill, and my favorite analogy for this is learning a new language. It’s a physiological process in the brain like building a road from a dirt road into a highway, a tarmac highway that you can speed down. That’s basically starting to learn a language where you have a few words when you go on vacation, all the way up to becoming fluent in Spanish, if that’s the language that you choose.

And what I really love about it is that the language thing is easy to understand. Yes, if I use an app or I get lessons, I can learn a language. It applies to things like emotional intelligence or mental resilience, things that seem much more intangible but when neuroscience tells us it’s exactly the same process in the brain, it feels much more doable for people.

Pete Mockaitis
And I want to hear some more about what you said, you said if we are introducing changes, then we become more resilient to unexpected stressors and things that happen to us. What’s the story here?

Tara Swart
Basically, anything new or anything different is seen as a threat by the brain, so the more that we are proactively introducing our brain to new and different things, the less stressful it will be when something happens at work or in life that comes from left field that we didn’t expect. So, we’re essentially increasing our comfort zone with new and different things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great and handy. Now, I’m wondering, can we overdo it in terms of we become sort of like addicted to the novelty and, “I need to be entertained and have new inputs all the time or I’m sort of like unsettled and anxious”?

Tara Swart
That’s a really good point, and I think sometimes what is an issue here is a set of words that we use in neuroscience and how they translate to real words. So, for example, when I say, “You want to make your brain more plastic,” people can take offence at that because we don’t want plastic in the ocean, do we? We definitely don’t want it in our brains. That just means flexible in neuroscience.

And similarly, novelty is not that unhealthy novelty that you’re talking about that we can get addicted to just constant stimulation. It’s just about the way the brain views something new or different. So, we prefer to be in our comfort zone, we prefer to default to our strengths, and it’s really about just pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, and increasing the toolkit that we have in our brain for different ways of thinking and different things that we’re able to do. So, that’s what I mean by novelty in this sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got you. Thank you. And so then, I’m curious, are there some cool studies that suggest just what is the impact of habitually doing that versus not? Sort of what’s at stake or the consequences here?

Tara Swart
I think what’s at stake is really just staying the same, and then something happening that you didn’t expect, and us finding that really, really difficult to cope with, and us having to draw up deep on resources that we didn’t know we had. What we’re doing if we take on new learning throughout our lives, like a language or a musical instrument, or just listening in a different way to how we’ve been listening before, is that the brain is more like moldable material so that when something suddenly changes around us that we didn’t expect, we actually know what that feels like and we’re able to go with that more easily.

And, actually, it starts from birth. If you’ve got young kids, bringing them up bilingual or multilingual is one of the best things that you can do for what we call their executive functions later in life. So, executive functions are things like being able to regulate your emotions especially in stressful situations, being able to think flexibly or creatively, and being able to solve complex problems.

There are studies that show that children who are brought up bilingual are better at that later in life. So, we’re not going to get the same benefits as starting bilingual from birth if we haven’t got that already, but we’re trying to emulate that in our adult brain.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, some things are connecting here. We talk about executive functioning and our ability to have a plastic or flexible brain for stuff that shows up. We had a chat previously with the CEO of Korn Ferry, Gary Burnison, who talked about how learning agility was like the top thing in terms of a competency that predicts executive success, and there’s a few ways you could find learning agility. But it sounds like it’s very much in this ballpark of, “How do you figure out what to do when you have no idea what to do?” It’s sort of like there’s no script or playbook, you’re in a new situation and you just kind of got to figure it out.

And so, if you have, in a way, gotten some comfort with being uncomfortable and not having a clue, but having kind of gotten it figured out time and time again, you’re better equipped to handle it again when the next thing happens.

Tara Swart
What I love about your podcast series is listening to these perspectives from people from all different industries and backgrounds. So, if you’d asked me the same question, I would’ve said the ability to adapt, to be adaptable, and have mental resilience, which is either to cope with change or bounce back from adversity. And, to be honest, I think he’s just using a different word for exactly the same thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so that’s exciting and I know I’ve had that experience. I’m thinking about sort of my early consulting career, like I had no idea, “Hey, Pete, figure this out.” Like, I don’t know. I just don’t even know where to start, and then I’d say, “Well, I guess it might make sense if we check out this and this and this.” And before I knew it, I had a decent plan. And then you do that dozens of times and it’s okay. It’s like, “Yeah, I have no idea what we’re going to do next, but history and my experience has taught me that that’s fine. That, through time, we will get to the bottom of things and all is well.”

Tara Swart
Pete, that already tells me a lot about your brain because if you think about somebody who relies solely or strongly on logical thinking, they could really struggle in that scenario. Ask somebody who relies solely or strongly on creative thinking or motivational thinking, what you’ve done is actually it comes back to the learning agility piece, which I call brain agility, is you have probably seamlessly worked through several different ways of thinking because you know that one of them will give you a solution even to something that you don’t know.

So, logic relies on things that we know and that we’ve learnt formally. Intuition relies on wisdom and experience that we’ve picked up in life. But there’s also empathy, there’s the brain-body connection, there’s staying resilient and motivated, and there’s creative thinking. So, if you’re able to work through those, at least, six different ways of solving a problem, you’re so much more likely to come up with a solution than if you’re just relying on one or two main ways of thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I really like how you’ve laid out a bit of a framework there. Can you give us those quick six bullet points there in terms of we might approach a problem six different ways? Can we hear them again?

Tara Swart
Yeah. And I actually like to put them in a certain order because I believe that logical-technical thinking is so overrated in modern societies. So, obviously it’s there and it’s important, but I like to start at the top, mastering our emotions because, to be honest, if you get too emotional or you don’t understand the impact of emotion in a crisis situation, that can really unravel you.

So, I would say that the six are mastering your emotions, trusting your gut or your intuition, listening to your body, making good decisions which is the logic, staying motivated and resilient to reach your goals, and using your creativity to design the real-world outcomes that you wish to have.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when it comes to tackling or solving a problem, it might fall into any of these or all of these is kind of sounds what you’re suggesting, is that some are more… line up readily with one of them, and others you really want to take maybe a multifaceted approach to get to the bottom of them. Can you tell us a bit about the distinction between trusting your gut and intuition versus listening to your body?

Tara Swart
Yeah, sure. So, listening to your body is actually a sense that we have that not many people have heard of which is called interoception. So, just like the five senses that we all know about, and even that sixth sense, intuition, which we’ll come to, interoception is the acknowledgement of the physiological state of the inside of your body.

It’s how, for example, our kids learn to tell us when they’re hungry or when they need to go to the bathroom. So, you recognize a feeling that you need to go to the bathroom. This is about recognizing slightly more intangible feelings like butterflies in your stomach, or the little hairs on your arms standing on end, or nervous laughter, or blushing, or sweating. So, it’s just being much more aware of our bodies than we can be when we’re super busy and focused on an important deadline.

Intuition, separately, is accessing wisdom and life lessons that we’ve picked up. So, more of a combination of physical and emotional feeling, what we know about how we lay down information in the brain and the nervous system is that we keep at the top of our mind or in the article or text the things that we need to do to live our life and do our job every day. And that’s commonly known as the working memory. Deeper down in the more limbic part of the brain, which is the emotional and intuitive system, are our longer-held habits and behavior patterns.

Deeper still, we believe, in the brain stem, the spinal cord, and in the gut neurons, we hold the wisdom and experience that we’ve picked up in life, because we can’t remember every single thing that we’ve experienced in life, but obviously we learn from these experiences. And that’s how we see patterns where, perhaps when we were younger and less experienced, we wouldn’t have noticed them before. So, it’s more about recalling patterns from the past that you’ve built up through life experience. Whereas the listening to your body is very visceral.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, good. Thank you. And so then, I’m curious, with what we’re picking up from our bodies, what are some, I guess, if this then that, like almost recipes with regard to, “If you’re noticing that something is twitching or your hairs are standing up, you might intuit or take from that sort of this signal”?

Tara Swart
There are some really specific ones and I think there are some that are very much down to the individual. But one that I actually talk about a lot with my coaching clients is about how to recognize magnesium deficiency in the body. So, statistics show that 75% of people in the modern world are depleted in magnesium supplies in their body.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Tara Swart
No.

Pete Mockaitis
And that is harming our sleep, I’ve learned elsewhere.

Tara Swart
It’s harming our immune system and it’s increasing our stress levels. It has wide-ranging effects. When we’re stressed, we leach magnesium from our system. So, a little bit like if you’re training for a marathon, you would eat more protein. When we’re stressed, we need to supplement our magnesium levels.

Now, how do you know if you’ve got high levels of this stress hormone or low levels of magnesium, they tend to go together? A really, really obvious way of knowing is if you ever get that little twitchy eyelid or tiny little, yeah. Whenever I say that, everyone says, “Yes, I know what that feels like, and I get it sometimes.”

Sometimes it can be cramping in your feet or just twitches in your fingers or toes but that’s quite a solid sign of magnesium deficiency, and many people wouldn’t know that. But if you do know, you can go and take your magnesium supplement and, hopefully, reduce your stress levels and stop the negative consequences of that on your immune system and your resilience.

An extreme one, to be honest, Pete, is that I’ve done a lot of coaching in financial services since 2007, and I’ve worked with way too many people that said, “Yes, I was getting chest pains for months but I never thought I would have a heart attack.” And I’ve worked with men and women in their 40s to 60s that have had mild heart attacks or tragically people who’ve seen their colleagues drop dead on trading floors.

So, that’s the extreme version of not listening to your body, but there are so many smaller things that we can listen to, whether it’s that we’re not sleeping right, or we’ve got these twitching muscles, all the way down to just, “Do you feel drained when you spend time with a certain person? Do you feel energized when you work on a certain project?” and really using that to choose what you do and who you do it with.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, cool. Thank you. And so then, I want to get your take then. So, this sounds great with regard to we’ve got a number of approaches we can take to solve a problem, our brains have neuroplasticity, that capability. So, if we want to do some smart rewiring of our brain and thinking, how should we go about doing it? We talked about like a language, or a musical instrument, or some other novelty that we can pursue. But I’m wondering, what are some of the obstacles or things, best and worst practices, I guess, when it comes to making sure we’re molding this plastic brain?

Tara Swart
So, I think it’s really important to say that something like learning a language or a musical instrument is very attention-intense. So, it’s inevitably going to distract resources from the day job or your work-life balance. So, I only really recommend something that major when you absolutely have the time and space to bring those things into your life. There are lots of small things we can do even when we’re stressed or busy that really help towards cultivating this more flexible brain and mindset.

So, for example, journaling is a very simple practice, something that hopefully most people could fit in a few minutes most days of the week. And what that does is really raise from non-conscious to conscious any behavior patterns that might be barriers to your success. I have to say that when I’ve done a regular journaling practice, which I have spent six months or a year at different times doing it religiously, I don’t necessarily always do that now, and I’ve read back over three to six months-worth of what I’ve written, it’s quite shocking to see your own handwriting and your own thought processes repeating over and over again where you totally expect a different outcome from doing the same thing.

And we’ve all heard about this, but when you actually see it in your own handwriting, you are compelled to try to do something different in the future. And, therefore, it’s actually a really good way of accessing your intuition and seeing where it works when you go with your gut and maybe where that was not the right thing to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you give us some examples of, in your own journals or those of others you’re aware of, how they said, “Holy smokes, this is there and I didn’t even notice it before. I’m going to do something different now”?

Tara Swart
Yeah. So, I’ll give you a small example of my own from something we’ve already talked about which was that twice a year I go to MIT Sloan to teach and I often take my journal with me because I have more time there, I’m not with the family and everything. And I was journaling, and then I thought, “Oh, I wonder what I wrote when I was here six months ago?”

So, I looked back specifically to the time that I was in Boston, and I had recorded that I was having that twitching eyelid, and I was actually having it again at the time. And so, I worked out that travel, jetlag, just being in the plane, just being in a different environment, was causing me some stress. And so, I just became much better at making sure I took all my supplements before I traveled, carrying my supplements with me, and just increasing the dosage of magnesium whenever I was traveling. That’s a tiny thing.

I would say at the other end of the spectrum, the biggest thing I’ve heard clients and friends talk about is when you’ve been in a bad relationship for so long that you still don’t leave. And when you just think about it in your mind, it’s easy to disregard that you have the same nagging doubt over and over again. If you actually recorded in writing, it becomes just so much clear. It’s really raised in your consciousness. And I know that it’s helped so many people to not make that same mistake over and over again.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I think the same thing can go when I need to fire somebody, which fortunately is rare. But it’s sort of like all those little things, like, “Huh, this is weird.” It’s like, well, you know, you can sort of make a quick excuse or rationalization or justification in the moment for a one little thing, and you sort of forget that you did that before, and then before that, and then before that. Whereas if you had a log, it’s like, “Wow, we have 50 incidents of this and many of them following the same patterns and many of them we’ve discussed numerous times. I guess this isn’t going to go anywhere.”

Tara Swart
Absolutely. When I talk about a bad relationship, I mean, either personally or at work, also bad relationships with yourself, so, for example, alcohol is an obvious one. But if you want to get more psychological, then the inability to say no is one that hugely gets clarified by journaling.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say journaling in your own hand, this has come up a couple of times, are you a big advocate for using handwriting as oppose to digital means? And why?

Tara Swart
I am and I’m not. I mean, I would rather that people were journaling digitally than not journaling at all, if you see what I mean. I think I’m probably just of the age group where there’s something to the handwritten or we might talk later about vision boards where I say it’s a collage made by hand, but obviously you can now do it digitally. So, again, it’s better to do it than not do it.

I’m a huge fan of technology but I do think, for example, that if you create a vision board and you keep it on your device, you would just less likely to look at it than if you actually have a physical vision board in your bedroom or in your office.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk a little bit about visualization in particular. So, I want to get your take on what’s that doing to our brain and the effects we might be able to harness from it.

Tara Swart
So, you know how we talked about anything new being sort of threating to the brain. What visualization does is it makes you go through a scenario or imagine a certain event or an outcome, and because when you visualize it, when something similar happens in real life it’s not as threatening because you’ve already seen it in your brain.

Now, there’s various bits of research on visualization in the brain, there’s so many that I’m actually just wondering I’d love to get through them all. But, for example, if somebody is in a coma and you ask them to imagine playing tennis, it actually activates the parts of the brain which are active when somebody is physically playing tennis. So, the whole movement parts, the hand-eye coordination, the social elements, it actually activates, just visualizing it, even if you’re in a coma, activates similar parts of the brain.

We also know that just the act of knowing that something is possible, which is half won by visualizing it in your brain, makes it more likely that you can physically achieve it. So, visualization really comes originally from sports science. And the classic example there is of a human running the sub four-minute mile. So, at one point we did not believe that that was not physically possible. When Roger Bannister first ran a mile in less than four minutes, within two months, seven other athletes ran a mile in less than four minutes. So, that’s not quite visualization for yourself, but it’s knowing that something is possible. makes you able to achieve it. And that’s kind of what visualization relies on.

My favorite story about visualization is a study that was done on people in their 80s. So, three groups of octogenarians, one group was just asked to carry on living like normal for a week, they were the control group, one group were asked to reminisce about what it was like to be in your 60s, and one group were actually moved to homes that resembled their home 20 years ago. They had photos in the home of themselves 20 years ago, and they had their visual aids and walking aids removed if they weren’t something that they used 20 years ago.

Both the reminiscing group and the active group showed improvements in their visual acuity and muscular-skeletal coordination after one week. And the reminiscing group results weren’t as dramatic as the people that actually lived it, but they were quite significant in themselves. So, there’s just so many examples of what people don’t traditionally think of as visualization.

But just tying it back to where we started, I actually call a vision board an action board because it’s not that you can make imagery of what you want in life and just wait for it to come true, you have to actively do things to make that more likely. But one of those things is to look at this board and visualize it actually becoming true.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if we are going to do some visualizations for a goal, let’s just say someone wants to be promoted to a leadership position in their company. So, if that’s the goal and we want to do some visualization, how might we go about doing that optimally?

Tara Swart
So, there are actually some exercises in the book that focus on becoming our best selves as it were. If you specifically wanted to focus on getting a promotion, then, although I call it visualization, I would say that bringing in all the other senses is important. So, it’s literally like doing meditation. You would spend a certain number of minutes as frequently as you can during the week, you could even start with one minute and build it up to five or 10, or 15 minutes, and you would imagine yourself in that corner office, wearing that suit or whatever represents you reaching that leadership position, and you would visualize who’s around you, what does it look like to be in that position, what does it feel like in your body and in your mind, what does it smell like, even what does it taste like, like the taste of success.

And you would basically envision it until you can almost feel it through your five senses and in your body, and you would build up that practice, as I’ve said, to longer and longer periods of time so that, for example, when you go for a job interview, it doesn’t feel so alien. One of the things that I encourage, from neuroscience research, is apply for jobs that you don’t even think that you could get, even if you get a bit more interview experience so you get more advice on your resume. It’s all building up to it becoming more likely in the future. Essentially, what visualization does is it primes your brain to grasp opportunities that might otherwise pass you by.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s nicely said. And when you say longer and longer periods of time, how long are we talking?

Tara Swart
Actually, the latest research on meditation shows that transcendental meditation for 20 minutes twice a day is really ideal. So, that’s not actually that long. I mean, I’m still building up to that myself. I’m not going to sit here and say that I am meditating for 20 minutes twice a day because I’m not. Although I would say more and more of my clients are actually doing that now.

So, I think if you start with 10 minutes, you try to do it most days of the week, you get yourself to daily, you either do 10 minutes twice a day or you increase it to 20 minutes once a day, it’s literally building that pathway in your brain from the dirt road to the highway. It’s just smoothing the path, deliberately practice something, repeating it until it becomes more natural in your brain.

And then, with both meditation and visualization, you can just switch it on when you need it. That’s the lovely thing about things like journaling and visualization, that if you get the foundations right, it actually becomes like a superpower that you can use when you need it.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say transcendental meditation, is that something other than what I’m thinking of when I think of meditation, focusing on breath and such?

Tara Swart
Transcendental meditation specifically means use of a mantra. It’s a religious practice that you can be ordained into, but in terms of remaining secular and focusing on leadership and business, I ask people to think about a recurring insecurity or anxiety that they have, like, “I’ll never get that promotion,” and to create their own positive affirmation that overturns that insecurity. And then you can use that in your meditation.

So, even if you just use it when you have that negative thought in your head or you sit down and repeat it for 10 to 20 minutes, either way it works. I think creating that personal mantra, you can go and receive a mantra from somebody else but I think a really good way for leaders to use is think, “Okay, what’s the insecurity that holds me back?” And then to create a mantra that helps to reframe that.

Pete Mockaitis
So, the mantra could be, “I am fully capable of doing that job.”

Tara Swart
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, is it just that simple, something like that?

Tara Swart
Just literally that simple. Whatever works for you in your words. So, just what you’ve said, every one of your listeners could go and just tweak that for their own wording and what really means something to them and use that to set a mantra, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so I want to also get your take on… so you’ve got some pro tips, I understand, for if you’re having a bad day, you’re not feeling it, you’re tired, you’re grouchy, you’re irritable, you’d rather just be in bed. What can we do to turn things around in a hurry?

Tara Swart
Okay. Well, ideally, you would make sure that you’re well-rested and well-fed and hydrated, and that you have a regular meditation practice. But on a day that maybe you haven’t been doing all of those things, I tend to run through a list of things that usually kind of time-sensitive, and think, “Okay, I’m feeling tired and grouchy, and this day is not going how I want it to. Do I have time to drink a glass of water?” Usually, that’s a yes. “Do I have time to do 10 minutes of meditation?” That might be a yes, it might not. So, if you don’t, maybe you could just do a quick positive affirmation.

If you have more time, “Do I have time to go outside for a walk or a run?” Oxygen is one of the major resources for our brain and our thinking. If we have more time, “Do I have time for a nap?” That’s usually a no. But let’s say you have a really important interview coming up and you did actually have the afternoon at home to prepare for it, if you’re super tired, if you actually haven’t slept, and that might be a really good thing to do. Again, this is very individualized.

Do you just use caffeine? I don’t recommend drinking too much caffeine or having any caffeine later in the day, but if you’ve got an important meeting or interview, you might want to have a shot of caffeine just for that temporary boost. If you’re looking longer term than that, then things like eating blueberries, having a spoonful of MCT oil or coconut oil are short-term things that we can do to boost our brain. Ideally, we’d be doing those things longer term, keeping our brain in ideal physical condition to really draw on our mental resources.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that idea of how much time do you have and just sort of having the lineup of these things. And it seems like there probably, again, some universals for all people that are good to do. And then I imagine some particulars with regard to, “Oh, boy, if I listen to whatever music, then I am raring to go.” So, I’d imagine there are some real benefit into taking some time to write up your own, “What’s my one-minute, five-minute, 10-minute sort of hitlists?”

Tara Swart
Music is a really good one so I’m pleased that you mentioned that because I forgot to, and I also agree with writing up the list. So, for some things, I’ve been writing a list for so long that I don’t need the list anymore. But, at first, I had a list of positive statements when I needed that boost. I had a list of accomplishments for when I needed a slightly longer term, “Yes, I can go for that promotion,” kind of self-project that you might work on.

Doing a gratitude list or something that can really like reframe you into more positive thinking. So, keeping these lists so that if your energy is really low, you can just go to the list. You don’t actually have to think it all up yourself is a really good idea. And whether it’s eat a square of dark chocolate, speak to a friend, listen to some music, you’re absolutely right, all of those things can work for different people, and you need to know what the right things are for you and the right timescales.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, sometimes what I like to do is, usually Twitter is no good, but there’s this account You Had One Job which just is ridiculously hilarious, I think, in terms of like people doing road signs just wildly incorrectly, or mislabeling things. It just pushes all my right buttons and so fast, it’s sort of like, “Oh, there’s a joke. Ha-ha. Oh, there’s another one. Ha-ha. There’s another one.” And then it’s like, “Okay, well, that was good for three minutes,” and I’m back to something. And I’m now had a lot of laughing going on.

Tara Swart
I love the way that you keep intuitively hitting on these things that are backed up by neuroscience because humor actually has a massive effect on the brain. So, even if just using this by yourself, looking at Twitter and laughing to yourself has a good effect on the brain, but actually laughing with somebody else.

So, imagine you’re in just one of those tricky tense situations at work, shared humor has a really positive impact on the brain in terms of bonding, lowering our guard, making us more likely to collaborate. So, each of the things that we’ve talked about apply not just to ourselves, also in terms of how do you positively impact someone else’s brain.

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

Tara Swart
I would say, we talked a little bit about what if you’re tired and grumpy, which, of course, we all have those days. I think that another really important area of research from neuroscience is around sleep. And. as a neuroscientist, I do find it quite disheartening that there are still high-profile leaders that will say, “I only sleep four or five hours a night,” just because of the impact that has on so many other people that feel that maybe they should do the same.

There’s a Nobel Prize-winning research now that shows that there’s a specific cleansing system in the brain called the glymphatic system that needs seven to eight hours to work. It needs seven to eight hours uninterrupted overnight. And that goes together with the stats that 98% to 99% of humans need to sleep for seven to nine hours per night. I think we’ve always wondered, “Why do spend so long sleeping?” And neuroscience really is giving some answers to that.

Obviously, I’d been a junior doctor, I travel a lot so I’m often jetlagged, and I don’t want people to suddenly think, “Oh, my God, I’m going to get dementia,” because that’s what the research shows if we disrupt that cleansing process regularly over our lives that it’s causally related to the onset of dementia later in life.

I just try to get eight hours of good-quality sleep as often as I can. If my sleep is disturbed, or jetlagged, or other reasons, I take the opportunity to turn myself onto my left or right side because that’s the most efficient sleeping position for that cleansing process to work. So, to me, sleep has loomed larger in important space on the research that we’re seeing coming out.

Pete Mockaitis
Wait. So, this is interesting. You’re saying that if we’re sleeping or just lying down on the side as oppose to on our back or on our belly, we’re getting more brain cleansing?

Tara Swart
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh! Oh, I never knew that. Thank you. And I am into sleep, so that is cool.

Tara Swart
It was my challenge to come up with something that you haven’t heard about, Pete.

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

Tara Swart
The one that I find myself using the most is an Alvin Toffler quote, which is, “The illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read and write, it will be those who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn.” And, of course, this connects back very strongly to what we were talking about that logical-technical skills alone are not enough, that we need that brain agility and we need that neuroplasticity. So, it’s such an old quote that just applies so beautifully to the cutting-edge neuroscience.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research that you haven’t already mentioned here?

Tara Swart
Well, I think my favorite research is that research on the people in their 80s, but my second favorite piece of research is actually done on rats. It shows three groups of rats. One group that were kept in a confined space, which equates to having a sedentary job, one group that were forced to run on a treadmill for certain number of minutes or hours a day, which is the sedentary job person that drags himself to the gym at the end of the day, and one group were allowed to roam around freely during the day and do various types of exercise whenever they wanted to for as long as they wanted to. And that equates to the person who is mobile during the day and then, at some times, does exercise that they’ve chosen that they enjoy.

And we do see a differential effect in the brain when you do exercise that you enjoy. So, there’s two lessons here really. One is to not be sedentary. And if you don’t do any formal exercise, then just being mobile as much as possible is really important. Those two groups of rats, the two that exercised, they both got the benefits of oxygenation in the brain, but the voluntary exercise group released more of a growth factor in the brain called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. And that factor leads to not only connection of existing neurons in the brain but actually growth of new neurons in the brain. So, that’s a very exciting latest part to the neuroplasticity research.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Tara Swart
Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson. I return to that book every time I have a big dilemma or unanswered question in my life because it uses metaphor. It always just seems to apply to everything.

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

Tara Swart
Definitely mindfulness meditation.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect or resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Tara Swart
I would say that psychology having informed business and leadership for so long left some things like emotional intelligence as very intangible. The analogy that I use from neuroscience of learning a language, or building a pathway in your brain for any scale, like even intangible scales like emotional intelligence or mental resilience, that is a thing that people have come back to me and said, “Once you put it to me like it was building a pathway in my brain, and you gave me the steps that I had to do to build that pathway, I felt like I could do it.”

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

Tara Swart
Well, I’m very active on social media, so on Twitter @TaraSwart, and on Instagram @drtaraswart with D-R as the doctor. Yeah, I try to put lots of neuroscience-based facts and images out on those channels. And my book is available on Amazon and at all major retailers so, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it and, as you know, there are many exercises in the book. I really do think that we need to take the time to step back and do those sort of self-development exercises.

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

Tara Swart
Yeah, I would say try to change 10 things by 1% rather than trying to change one big thing. So, go to bed half an hour earlier, walk around a bit more during the day, make whatever tweaks to your diet you know that you need to make, read a new book. Just pick 10 quick things, write them down, and just work through them over time. You’ll find much more cumulative effects and being awesome at your job than if you try to take on one big challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Tara, thanks so much for sharing the good word and good luck in all the cool ways you’re molding your brain.

Tara Swart
Thank you so much. I hope you mold your brain too.

493: How to Amplify Your Impact through Great Presence with Anese Cavanaugh

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Anese Cavanaugh shares how to create more meaningful impact by being more present and intentional at work.

 

You’ll Learn:

  1. The cost of contagious negative energy at work
  2. The 4 Ps to lead you away from burnout
  3. The Leadership Trifecta of impact, self-care, and, people-care

About Anese

Anese Cavanaugh is devoted to helping people show up and bring their best selves to the table in order to create significant positive impact in their lives. She is the creator of the IEP Method® (Intentional Energetic Presence®), an advisor and thinking partner to leaders and organizations around the world, and author of Contagious Culture. Her next book, Contagious You: Unlock Your Power to Influence, Lead, and Create the Impact You Want (McGraw-Hill) will be available November 2019.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Anese Cavanaugh Interview Transcript

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

Anese Cavanaugh
Thank you for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, first, I want to hear, you mentioned that you have an addiction for rescuing dogs. What’s the story here?

Anese Cavanaugh
I do. I have an addiction. I have got it under control and I haven’t rescued one in about five years now and it used to start with goldfish. I would take my daughter in to get a goldfish, and they would be showcasing dogs from the Humane Society or from the local shelter, and before we knew it, instead of walking out with a goldfish, we would walk out with one or two dogs. I just had this amazing inability to say no to bringing home a homeless dog. So, I’ve rescued five of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, is that the Sara McLachlan song with the commercial and the sad-looking dog? That’s what I’m imagining right now.

Anese Cavanaugh
Well, probably. The last one, you know, it’s funny I’m down to one because they’ve either passed on or my sister adopted one of them because she fell in love with him. But I’m down to my last puppy, or my last dog, he’s about 12 years old now, and he’s a little dog, and I’m not really a little dog person, but he gave me that look, that sad look, and I’ve probably heard the Sara McLachlan song in the back. I’m sure they probably channeled it in really unconsciously so you can adopt them even easier. But, yeah, he came home with me. His name is Link and he’s laying under the table right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Link makes me think of the Nintendo game. Or is that from another source?

Anese Cavanaugh
No, that’s exactly it. Nice catch.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Anese Cavanaugh
Yes, The Legend of Zelda, correct.

Pete Mockaitis
Doo-doo-doo-doo, yeah.

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah, my kids named him. My kids said, “Mom, he was rescued by the princess and became a very good person so he should be named Link.” And I was like, “Okay, you had me at hello with that one.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. If you’re the princess in the story, that’s nice.

Anese Cavanaugh
Right. I get to be the queen. I get to be the princess or the queen. I can’t really remember. It was quite a while ago but, yeah, he’s been great.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Well, I’m excited to dig into some of your wisdom here. And so, you’ve got a column called “Showing Up” on Inc.com and we’re going to use this phrase, I think, a lot so it might be handy if we find what do you mean by “show up”?

When you say show up, I’m imagining, “Hey, I’ve got an appointment at 2:30,” and then the person appears at 2:30 so they have shown up. And so, it sounds like you’re using a different usage.

Anese Cavanaugh
Well, I think that’s definitely important. I would add to that if I showed up on time for my 2:30 meeting, that’s great. And am I showing up, present? Am I showing up well-fueled? Or exhausted? Like, what is the energy I’m actually bringing to that?

Are we showing up in a way that creates more energy and is positively contagious? Or are we showing up in a way that is, going through the motions?

Pete Mockaitis
And so, what does it mean to not show up?
The contrast, the distinction.

Anese Cavanaugh
I love this question. I don’t think anybody has ever asked it to me this way. Okay, so if I’ve not shown up it means I’m not taking care of myself. It means I haven’t done my preparation for whatever meeting I’m walking into. It means that when I want to say something and I’m sitting in that meeting, and I have an idea, or I really want to chime in about something, and I don’t because I’m scared, that means I’m not showing up.

I think, for me, in the work that I do with people, when I look at showing up, the biggest place I see people don’t show up is in their own self-care and nourishment so that they can show up fully resourced.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it sounds like showing up then is sort of like your preparedness and contribution. It’s like what you have to offer presently within you. And so, you might have plenty or you might have sort of a poverty.

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah, I think that’s fair. I think it’s also showing up in that moment. If I’m in conversation with you, Pete, if you and I are standing there, we’re in a meeting, or in this conversation right now, there’s the showing up that I did before which is to review, to think about some of the questions, or to think about this conversation. I’m well-fueled, I’ve eaten well, I took care of myself beforehand, I had a moment to do kind of a presence reboot and just get here and present to this conversation.

“What is the energy I’m bringing to this conversation?” Because you and I could have this conversation and I could be incredibly not present, I could be totally checked out, I could be thinking about what I’m going to do right after we talk. I could be stressing out about something that happened right before we got on the call. Am I actually here, present, intentional and really being with you in this conversation?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess what’s interesting here is that the word showing up seems to have a couple different dimensions there in terms of physically being present, like you have appeared at the scheduled time, as well as having more to contribute because you’re energized, you’re prepared, you’re present as opposed to, I guess, maybe the opposite, as I think about it, would be sort of like you’re checked out, like you’re not really all the way there.

And it’s sort of like when I was in grade school, I was so annoyed when many people would say, “Earth to Peter! Hello? Is anybody there?” It was like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s annoying.” But it’s kind of like in anything you do that is the opposite of warranting that response kind of fall into the category of showing up it sounds like.

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah, and I love it how we’re pulling this apart.

Pete Mockaitis
So, with that present and established, you also talk about being a contagious you or establishing a contagious culture. What do you mean by contagious and what makes something contagious?

Anese Cavanaugh
Okay, great. So, contagious, if you look it up in the dictionary, there are two different definitions if you go textbook in the dictionary. One is contagious being that you’re spreading disease or something from person to person. The other is actually spreading the contagion of emotions and attitudes from person to person. So, I look at it kind of as both because I look at if we are bringing negative vibes, negative intentions, negative energy into a conversation, it’s very, very easy to match, like, what I call the lowest vibration in the room. It’s very easy to match each other’s emotions.

And so, there’s a way that in any interaction we’re in, we are contagious. Anybody who listens to this has had the experience of walking into a room, maybe it’s a meeting and they’re feeling really, really good and they’re excited to be there, and they walk in and they sit down, and within about a minute or two, they start to notice that the energy of the room is dipping. And if they look around, a lot of times it’s that one guy in the corner, I always call them George or Georgette, it’s that one person in the corner who their energy is really low, their sitting there, their arms are crossed, maybe they’re complaining, or whatever it might be.

And, typically speaking, it’s easier to match the lowest vibration in the room, it’s easier to catch it. So, this whole idea of contagious is that we walk around emoting and putting energy out into the world, and whatever we’re putting out there, it is very easy for us to either have other people catch it or for us to catch other people’s stuff. So, that’s why we’re contagious.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And I remember we had Michelle Gielan on the show some time ago talking about broadcasting happiness and how there’s all sorts of science associated with how that unfolds. Could you maybe share with us some of the surprising or fascinating discoveries you’ve made in the research here?

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah. So, okay, great. So, with Contagious Culture, that was that first book that I wrote which was about basically how everybody thinks that culture is happening around us, it’s everybody else’s, the executives create the culture, everybody else creates a culture. But what I found in that book was that, actually, every single one of us is creating the culture by how we’re showing up, just what we’ve been talking about here.

When I moved into Contagious You, I took it even deeper and I really wanted to explore the science, so I actually had a neuroscientist work with me on Chapter 8 which is called “The Science of Showing Up,” and we dug into, like, “What’s actually happening?” So, for example, we see there was a study done in Princeton where when we see another person, we decide within a tenth of a second if we like them, if we think they’re trustworthy, if they’re competent, how aggressive they are, like all these different things that we’re sorting for within a tenth of a second just based upon what’s happening in our brain and our intuition. So, that was one thing I thought was interesting.

The other piece was actually happening with mere neurons when we’re seeing people and how we’re responding to what they’re projecting, how we decide to take that on or not take that on. So, there’s a lot that I went into in that, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so I’m curious then in terms of the practical beneficial application of some of this. Could you maybe give us a story or a case study of how someone sort of grab onto these principles and had a cool transformation?

Anese Cavanaugh
I think the first one that comes to mind was a person I worked with who was super, super smart, very, very good at his job, incredibly talented, but he was having a hard time with trust and credibility with the team. He was just having a hard time motivating his team.
But, basically, he was confused because he wanted to move in his career but he couldn’t. He was doing everything “right” but what it really boiled down to was his presence and how he was showing up with the team. So, things that we found were: he had a pretty strong lack of what I call personal impeccability, which is our relationship with ourselves, which means how we are in terms of time integrity.

So, for example, with this guy, what I noticed is he would show up late for every single meeting we had. So, here’s this really, really brilliant guy, super nice, doing a good job, works for a real cool company, every single conversation that we have he shows about two to four minutes late. So, that’s one leak in impeccability. And when I look at leadership credibility, that even though that two to four minutes might not seem like a big deal, it is creating an impact for the people that we’re in a relationship with.

The other thing that was happening for him is that he was using language that wasn’t very, very strong language. So, he would use words like try, and hope, and have to, and he was really, really big on using busy, the word busy, and he would always talk about, “I’m so busy.” He’d get on a call and he’d go, “Oh, gosh, I’m so busy.” And he’d walk to his team, and, “Oh, gosh, I’m so busy and I’m late because I’m so busy and all this stuff.”

And so, that, even though these are like little, little things, in the bigger picture, no matter how great his skills were or his abilities, the way that he was showing up, the language that he was using, and then his lack of internal integrity with himself, that was getting communicated in a way that people weren’t trusting him. So, this is the problem with his team.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you say internal integrity with himself. What do you mean there?

Anese Cavanaugh
Well, internal integrity, so, for example, if I say that I want to be a really good leader and I want to build trust with my team, and then I’m late to every meeting, and I make excuses for it, there’s a way that my integrity is out of alignment. If I say that I want to take really good care of myself and I want to show up strong and solid and present, but then I go home and I don’t take care of my body, and I eat bad food, and I don’t spend any time setting my intentions, or really thinking about what I want to create that day, there is a way that I‘m not, “what I say is important to me” and how I’m actually showing up with myself is not in alignment, so there’s a breach in internal integrity.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Gotcha. Well, so then, I’m intrigued. We talk about these intentions and the energy that you’ve got there. You have the phrase “intentional energetic presence” as something that we should strive to convey. What is this?

Anese Cavanaugh
Okay, great. So, intentional energetic presence is exactly what it sounds like. It’s being intentional about the energetic presence I bring to everything I do. So, whether I am having a conversation with you, whether I am talking to a room of a thousand people, whether I’m meeting with my team, my boss, whether I’m talking to my teenager, whether I’m doing the dishes, there is always, there is an energetic presence that I bring to everything I do. And that energetic presence is either going to be something that is life-giving and inspiring and what I think of as expansive, feels good to be around, or it’s going to be contracting and heavier and not inspiring. I think of it as like soul-sucking.

And so, we have a choice, and every room that we walk into, every conversation, there is an energetic presence we bring. So, setting an intention and being even conscious of the fact that our presence has impact, and how we show up in every moment matters, that in itself I find is about 70% of the battle, it’s just knowing it. The other 30% is what you actually do with it. So, that’s intentional energetic presence.

And then if you break those three words down, you’ve got your intention, which is what you want to have happen. So, I’m basically claiming, “This is what I want to have happen in this conversation or project or whatever.” There is energy which is the energy and stamina I have to actually make that thing happen. And then there’s my presence which is, “How am I showing up and how present am I with the people when we’re actually making this happen?” You put those things together and you’re more likely to get your intended result.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, within these three areas then, are there some ways that people often fall short? And how do you recommend we rectify that?

Anese Cavanaugh
Great. Yes, so the place that we most often fall short is we get so busy we forget that this is even at play. I think that the number one killer of presence, and also trust and credibility, right now is the lack of presence that we have with each other because we move so quickly and we forget that we are bringing energetic presence to everything that we do.

So, I think that just being aware of it and taking a moment before any conversation, just go, “Okay, my presence has impact. How do I want to show up right now?” That in itself has me come to a moment of presence and it has me get out of my “busy-ness” so I can actually see what’s here.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. And so, do you have any particular tactics or approaches you recommend that we do in order to make that happen more often? One is just to have that moment of thought in advance. What else?

Anese Cavanaugh
Well, there’s an entire methodology around it. So, with intentional energetic presence I created what I call the IEP Method. So, the methodology is three parts, and the first part is being able to reboot your presence in the moment, which is what we just talked about. The second part is building a strong energetic field and foundation, which has everything to do with the food that you’re putting in your body. I mean, the hotdog and the Craft beer that you had last night could be having an impact on your ability to show up really well this morning at your 9:00 o’clock meeting.

So, being really conscious about how food impacts you, conscious about how your environment impacts you, conscious about how the people that you hang out with impact you, like this is part of building our strong field, and I have some tactics I can give you for that. And the third component of the IEP Method is the ability to create intentional impacts. There actually is a five-step framework that if you plug yourself into this, if you get clear about the impact that you want to have, and you plug yourself into your five-step framework, your next meeting or your next conversation could be very, very different. So, do you want the framework? Would that help as a tactic?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess I’d love to hear, in terms of the bringing the strong energy, for starters, what are some of the biggest drivers or sort of high-impact levers we can move with regard to the food, the environment, the people so that we’ve got more energy there?

Anese Cavanaugh
Mm-hmm, okay. All right. So, this is the thing I always invite people to do. I invite you to look at, first of all, getting still and looking at, “How does your physical body feel?“ So, I always invite people to do what I call an energy check where I go, “All right. Zero to ten, zero being you’re absolutely exhausted, ten being you feel amazing physically. Give yourself a rating,” and then they’ll give a rating. If anybody listening to this does that, the next question is, “What is the littlest thing your body needs right now in order to bring its physical energy up?”

And if we stop and get still and listen to ourselves, our body will tell us. And this is usually where we’re going to hear, “You know what, we need to get more sleep,” which is huge. It’s going to be, “You know what, I really need some good protein and some spinach, or I need you to feed me better. I need more hydration.” Our bodies will talk to us but we have to have that awareness first.

So, I never tell people, “Don’t eat sugar,” or, “Don’t eat gluten,” or, “Here’s how you’re going to do it.” I’m not a nutritionist. What I do invite them to do is to really look at, “How are you eating? How are you sleeping? How are you exercising? And are you meditating, by the way? And does the way that you eat and take care of yourself does it set you up so your physical energy feels as strong and robust as possible?”

And the number one thing I hear from people, Pete, is people go, “Gosh, I wasn’t even aware that I was at a two because I’ve been running around cyclically to have my attention on it. I wasn’t really aware that I was this exhausted or what I needed until I started asking myself these questions. And then once I started asking myself these questions and being in partnership with my body, that changes my relationship, and now I start to feel better. And then I realized that there’s even more I could be doing.” So, again, it goes back to that awareness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about the environment side of things?

Anese Cavanaugh
Ooh, all right. So, environment, I always like to have people look at their home and their pantry first. So, if you tell me that you want to feel really fantastic, and then you invite me over for dinner tonight, and I come over and there’s nothing but Ho Hos and donuts and processed food in your pantry, there’s a way that your environment is not supporting you.

So, I always invite people to look at their home base first and what is feeling good to them. Their closets are a big one. I can’t tell you how many people like leave sessions or conversations and go home and clean up their closets because every single thing in our environment is either causing contraction and it’s taking energy to even be in it, or it’s creating expansion where it feels really good.

So, common things, pantry, your kitchen, your closet, your car, what you’re wearing. When it gets to the office, it’s your calendar, it’s your office space. It’s when you look at your calendar, is it full of million different colors and back to back to back and your meetings are 9:00 to 10:00, 10:00 to 11:00, 11:00 to 12:00? Well, if that’s true then most likely that is an environmental component of something that you’re surrounding yourself with that is not energizing and it’s not setting yourself up to be the best leader possible.

So, instead you want to start looking at, “Okay, what are some things I could do?” So, for example, with the calendar, I always suggest to people, “Well, take those hour-long meetings, make them into 45 or 50s because you’re not going to miss those five or 10 minutes, or these 10 or 15 minutes. Make them into shorter so you have 10 minutes in between to reboot, take care of yourself, set your intentions for your next meeting, and then go in fully resourced. So, little things like that.

I remember I was working with a group once, and one of the people in the session was a deputy in the jail, the local jail, and he said, “Gosh, Anese, my environment, I have no control over my environment.” And I know people travel and all these different things. So, he said, “I have no control over my environment.” I said, “Well, what’s the littlest thing that you can do to make your environment feel more life-giving and energizing?” And the guy ended up taking flowers in to put on his desk in his cubicle in the jail, and he said that made a difference for him. So, it’s looking at anything in your environment that does not make you feel expansive and good, and doing the littlest thing you can to make it feel a little bit better is also the trick there.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m intrigued. Well, yes, let’s hear some more. We got flowers. What else?

Anese Cavanaugh
So, when I travel, I don’t have a lot of control over my environment so it becomes my job to make sure that I do everything I can to set myself up for success. So, proactively I will look at the hotel and try and make sure that it’s got a place to work out, that it looks like it’s clean, etc. I’ll have my room be far away from the elevator because I’m super sensitive to noise. Little things like that.

Well, when I get there, like let’s say I go in, and I can’t control the carpet or the aesthetics, so the littlest thing I might do is I might run to the grocery store and grab flowers for the room, or I will most often, if I’m traveling for more than two or three days, I will go and I will get groceries or have them delivered so that I actually have food on site to support me versus being tied to fast food, or the restaurant food, or something I’m going to be able to control as much. So, little things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
I also want to get your take, when you got these 10- to 15-minute breaks in between things, what are your top things that you or clients find valuable to do to be amazing for the next session?

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah. So, I love to use those 10 to 15 minutes to, one, I use the first part to close out any thoughts, or write any notes, or send any quick emails that are directly related to the meeting I just had before me, because what happens is I want to free up my mental energy as much as possible because, so now, I’ve just had, let’s just say I’ve just had this great meeting, you and I have a meeting, we’re 45 minutes in, it’s time to take a break. I know myself long enough that if I go away from that and I leave things open, it’s going to be harder for me to get back into it.

So, I’ll spend a couple of minutes during that break to go ahead and close any loose ends. Then people, myself, will often go use the bathroom, do a quick presence reboot, stretch, do something that will support them in getting ready for the next meeting, and then set their actual intentions or look at what I call, we have a thing called the IEP Sheet, which basically has the entire methodology on it, and they’ll fill that out before their next meeting, or they’ll fill it up with a review, excuse me, before their next meeting so that they’re connected to what they’re walking into in the next hour.

And so, close out the last meeting, use the bathroom, take care of yourself, and set your intentions for the next. And if you don’t have time to do all that, just reboot.

Pete Mockaitis
And rebooting consists of what?

Anese Cavanaugh
Oh, great. Rebooting is just to take a deep breath, notice where you’re at, you’re just getting still in this moment, just go, “Okay. Well, I’m here. I’m out of the meeting. I’m present right here, getting into my body.” So, take a deep breath, notice where you’re at, you notice what you need, what do you need right now to show up for your next meeting, you do whatever you need to do to take care of it, and then you just step into the next level of presence that you want to be in.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so, can you give us some examples of articulating those intentions?

Anese Cavanaugh
Oh, sure. All right. So, let me give you the five steps because I think that will put this all together really well. The five steps are the five steps to intentional impact. So, the first step is I want to set my intention for what outcomes I want to create in this meeting, so what outcomes I want to create.

So, let’s just say, for example, you and I today, Pete. So, outcomes for today, I want to have a very honest and organic conversation, so that’s an outcome. I want people to understand intentional energetic presence, and that their presence has impact. That’s an outcome. Maybe you and I are working on a business deal, so an outcome might be that we have an agreement for our next steps by the end of this meeting. So, two to three tangible things that are going to happen as a result of that meeting. So, those are your outcomes.

The second thing you want to set intentions around is emotional impact. So, how do you want the people in your meeting to feel? So, for me, my intention, and it can vary from meeting to meeting, but they’re usually like, well, I want people to feel safe. I want them to feel connected. I want them to feel curious. I want them to feel inspired. Maybe I’m doing a sales meeting, and I really want people to feel super, super hungry by the end of the meeting to go out there and perform and really push this month’s numbers more. So, I want to set my intentions for what is the emotion I want to create.

In that intention is also, “How do I want to feel?” And so, I find there’s great value in setting an intention. And an example of an intention for me would be I always want to feel really well-used. Like, at the end of a conversation, at the end of a meeting, I want to feel like I gave it a hundred percent, and I really showed up. So, that’s an intention for how I want to feel in that meeting.

The third step of that is then, “How are you going to show up in order to do that?” Well, we have to show up present, in command. this could be like what you’re going to wear to the meeting. Are you tracking with me so far?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Anese Cavanaugh
Okay, good. So, this could be: curious. Like, if I’m going to give a feedback conversation or maybe I’m getting feedback, maybe the way I want to open. So, I want to set an intention for how I want to show up. I want trustworthy. I’m listening. I want to show up as prepared. Just claiming this before I go into the meeting sets me up to start creating that outcome.

And then after that you’ve got two more steps which are really simple, which is, “If I’m going to show up that way, what do I have to believe? What do I have to believe about this person? What do I have to believe about the product we’re talking about? What do I have to believe about the customer? What do I have to believe about myself?” Sometimes when people are going in, for example, for a job interview and they do their five steps, they’ve set their outcomes, they’ve set their emotional impact, they’ve set “How do I need to show up?” they get to beliefs, and they go, “Oh, gosh, what do I have to believe?”

Well, a very useful belief going into a job interview or networking or a sales call is, “I believe I am the right person for this job. I believe that I will do a phenomenal job here.” If I’m giving someone feedback, “I believe that this person is a human being who deserves to have really honest feedback.” So, it’s just really getting clear about, “What am I going to have to believe in order to show up congruently, in a way that helps me create the emotional impact I want and in a way that helps me create these outcomes?”

And then the fifth step is just what do you do, which is actually at the end of it, it’s the simplest part. It’s like, “What am I actually going to have to do during that, before, during, and after that meeting?” So, for you and I: before, prepare, review what you sent me; during, be with you, answer your questions as honestly and thoughtfully as I possibly can; and after, any follow-up that we need to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. And so, if the energy is kind of low over time after time after time, and you’ve got some burnout going on, what do you recommend we do there?

Anese Cavanaugh
Great. So, is your energy low and you’re burnt out or is your energy low just in the moment?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s talk about more of the chronic situation because I think we’ve talked about some of the moments.

Anese Cavanaugh
Okay. So, in chronic, what I find is there’s seven Ps to burnout, and I won’t go through all the Ps but there’s four that if you can address these four and start paying attention to these and reboot with these four, this can help us move out of burnout. Because here’s what I find with burnout. I don’t know about you but I know people who work 60, 70 hours a week, they do a ton, people don’t know how they get it all done, and they’re moving a million miles a minute, yet they feel great, they have a ton of energy, and they’re not complaining about being burned out. They actually feel fantastic. Then I know people who work 40 or less hours a week, go to yoga every day, maybe they work 9:00 to 5:00 but they’re totally burned out. Have you seen that?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah. So, most often people talk about burnout as being something related to like you’re working too much, or you’re burning the candle at both ends, etc. And, yes, absolutely, these things definitely come into play. But what I found after doing this work for the last 20 years is that, in my mind, burnout comes from the disconnection from one of the four Ps.

And the Ps are presence and pausing. So, building these in proactively will help us avoid burnout. But if you’re finding yourself in a place of burnout, that is an invitation to stop, get present to what’s really going on, to take a big pause in your life, or in your day, or in your week, or wherever you might be, and to just get still to see what’s actually going on. So, I believe that we have to build in these pauses proactively, but a lot of times we don’t that. And so, when we catch it, the moment we start to feel burnout, that’s our opportunity to start building that in more consciously. And I could talk about that if you want.

The second part is the connection to purpose. A huge thing that I see for people, why they burnout is they forget about why they’re doing the work that they began doing in the first place. They forget about why they’re doing it, what’s important to them about it, they forget about who it’s impacting, the people that they’re actually impacting. They just lose touch because they get so busy and overwhelmed with everything that’s going on.

So, if you can reconnect to purpose and what is truly, truly important to you about the work that you’re doing, then that, I find, will often help people reboot out of burnout. And sometimes I find we can outgrow our purpose. Our purpose has to grow with us. So, sometimes somebody might’ve been totally on purpose, and they’re doing great in their role, and then all of a sudden they’re feeling burnout, and when they really dig in deep, they pause, they get present, and they look into their purpose, they realized, “Oh, well, you know, actually, I want to be doing something bigger. I want to shift my focus and my career.” So, that’s purpose.

There’s people which is staying connected to the people that you serve and remembering that you have your people that support you too, so it’s asking for help. And the fourth P is staying connected to pleasure, play, and also giving yourself full permission for pain. So, those are your Ps.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear about the permission for pain. What’s this?

Anese Cavanaugh
Okay. So, for permission for pain, so I find it’s really easy for we human beings to move through stuff really, really quickly. And something happens, and I see this all the time, something happens to make us really angry, or they get their feelings hurt, or something really hard that just happens, they’ve had a loss, something huge. And what I notice is it’s very easy for people to go, “Ugh, you know what, I don’t have time to deal with that right now,” or, “You know what, I’m a leader, I can’t be angry about this and I got to have it all buttoned up,” or whatever. And so, they don’t allow themselves full permission for pain. They don’t allow themselves to actually have the experience and then to get the support around it.

And what happens is if we continue to avoid actually engaging with our pain and getting support around it and healing it, then it tends to mount up and then it comes out in really odd ways, or at worst it comes out in something odd and even more severe at best. It just means we don’t have full access to ourselves. So, if I don’t allow myself pain, I also don’t have full access to my pleasure. So, it’s allowing full permission to be wherever I’m at and to take care of myself and get the support I need so I can manage it responsibly.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, we had a Dr. Shawn Jones on the show talking about how this could be difficult for physicians in particular. It’s like, “Somebody died. Well, that is painful and difficult, but there’s no time. It’s onto the next surgery.” And so, that could really take a toll, and that’s what his research is suggesting, that is one of the big drivers associated with physician burnout is that if there’s a whole lot of time demands and urgency and rushing, and not a whole lot of opportunity to process some of the pain going on.

Anese Cavanaugh
Oh, absolutely. I do a lot of work with healthcare and I will say that is one of that. That, actually, working in that industry and with physicians in particular really helped me hone in the Ps for this particular book because that was one of the things I saw was the cruising over of pain. And also just generally, culturally speaking, I see this in any organization I go into, this cruising over of pain because people are so busy or they feel like they don’t have the permission or they don’t have the time or space or whatever it might be to actually really dig in and get support. And by support, I mean things like working with their EAP, their employee assistance program, or working with a therapist, or whatever it might be to really honor their own mental health and wellbeing as well. So, the pain thing is important.

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

Anese Cavanaugh
No, I think one thing that is worth thinking about is just this whole idea around the leadership trifecta. There’s a trifecta, and I find that all of us tend to fall into this in some way, shape, or form. And what I find is when we have awareness around it, then we can start to shift it. And what I found years ago is that there are three different kinds of leaders that would come to me for support in this work around presence, leadership, creating a healthier culture, etc.

And the first leader was the person who had, let’s see, a tremendous amount of impact, really great at what they did, great at their skills, maybe they have a ton of degrees, they’re making a ton of money for the company, and they’re great! Except for, they were exhausted, they’re burned out, their relationships are falling apart, their health is falling apart. And so, that leader has got the impact part of the trifecta down but they did not have the self-care component. And so, what that means is that you’ve got an unsustainable model because now you’ve got a ton of impact but you’re burned out so that doesn’t work.

Then I found that there was a second kind of leader that would come less frequently. These are actually very, very rare. But this is the one who’s got phenomenal self-care, works 9:00 to 5:00, everybody likes him, they eat really well, They’re super. Their self-care is on point. However, they were completely ineffective at actually getting anything done or creating impact and holding the line around solid leadership skills to help them be impactful. So, in that case they’ve got the self-care piece but they don’t have impact.

But then I found there was a third person, that great impact, great self-care. However, they left dead bodies everywhere they went. So, they were having the impact they want to have, they were taking care of themselves, but they were doing it at the expense of the people that work with them and followed them. And in that case, that person is missing the people component of the trifecta. So, people being the ability to meet people where they’re at, the ability to make people feel seen and cared for and heard, the ability to coach and champion others.
And so, I just want to offer that part, that component is that there’s these three pieces that I think it’s really important for us to tend to in order to be as positively contagious and contributory contagious as possible which is impact, self-care, and the people piece. And I find, Pete, that most of us have two of them down pretty well, and there’s always one that’s an Achilles’ heel. And so, it’s not about having all three of them perfect, it’s just about being aware of it and then giving that third one a little bit extra TLC so that we can really show up and do our best in the world.

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

Anese Cavanaugh
Oh, yes. So, my favorite quote of all time came to me from a mentor years ago, and his name is Chris Wallace, and he said, “People will tell you you’re great, and people will tell you you are terrible and that you suck, and believe none of them.”

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

Anese Cavanaugh
I’m really digging the one about the first impression right now just because it’s so fresh in my mind from edits for this book right now. But I’m really digging the one about the one-tenth of a second and what happens, how quickly we make decisions about people. I like that one right now.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Anese Cavanaugh
Let’s see. My favorite book, I will say, Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. I’m liking that one right now.

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

Anese Cavanaugh
Todoist. Yeah, Todoist.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Anese Cavanaugh
My morning ritual.

Pete Mockaitis
And what does that consist of?

Anese Cavanaugh
My morning ritual, my alarm clock goes off at 5:30, I spend nine minutes, I use my snooze but I don’t go back to sleep. I spend nine minutes just waking up and getting present and thinking about how I feel about the day, and also how I feel about anything I might’ve gone to sleep wondering about. I find that I do my best thinking when I’m asleep sometimes. So, I spend my nine minutes, they’re mine. I don’t look at my phone. Nothing gets into my space. It’s just my space.

And then I get up, and I grab my coffee, and I set my intentions. I do my IEP Sheet, and then I’ll either meditate or workout or journal or something, I mix it up, but those. It’s basically that first 30 minutes of my day, no matter what, is mine. And I find that it helps me really, really set the tone and claim my space. So, it’s my favorite habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, I appreciate that you use the snooze button in a way that is excellent for you as most people use the snooze in a way that is shameful and they wish they could break it. So, kudos.

Anese Cavanaugh
Well, so talk about studies, have you seen the research on that, on what happens when we snooze?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear it.

Anese Cavanaugh
When we snooze, we put ourselves into what they call sleep inertia. So, every time, and I’m probably going to mess this up so I apologize in advance. I got this, I learned about this from Mel Robbins’ book The 5 Second Rule, and she talks about the snooze button. And so, as I recall the exact data is something to the effect of, we go through 90 to 110 minutes sleep cycles, and when the snooze button goes off, our brain wakes up, or when the alarm goes off our brain wakes up.

If we hit snooze, it sends us back in, and we go back to sleep. We go back into a 90- to 110-minute cycle. So, the brain goes, “Cool. I’m going to get some sleep now. It sounds fantastic.” Well, no, because now the alarm goes off again nine minutes later, and it sends us into sleep inertia. And the sleep inertia is where we get brain fog, it’s harder to wake up, we’re fuzzy, it can take up to four hours to shake it off, we’re fuzzy, our decision-making isn’t as good.

So, one of the things that she talks about, and I’ve heard this in other places as well, it’s like if you’re going to eliminate one thing from your day, if you have to eliminate one thing, get rid of the snooze button because the damage that it’s doing to your brain and your decision-making is actually quite significant. So, yeah, I don’t snooze.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And, tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that you’re known for, or people quote back to you often?

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah, “Your presence is your impact.” It’s, “Presence is our impact.” That’s the one that always surprises me that people tend to when they start to really pay attention and let this work, and they start to let this work enter them or to start to embody it. The presence is our impact, and that we get to set the tone. Those are two of the core things that come up over and over and over again.

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

Anese Cavanaugh
So, they go to IEP.io. If they go there, they can sign in and they will get, we’ve got resource kits and presence kits, and virtual toolkits, and we’ve got the IEP Sheet that I mentioned earlier, so they can go ahead and download that. That’ll give them a nice head start, a kickstart on some of this content. And then I’m out there on social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook @anesecavanaugh.

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

Anese Cavanaugh
Yeah, I would say give yourself 10 minutes starting immediately. As soon as you hear this, give yourself 10 minutes in the morning, and if the morning is not your jam, 10 minutes during the day. At some point, 10 minutes, to just get still, get into your body, to breathe, and to start to set intentions about what you want to create, whether it’s a conversation with your kid, whether it’s like anything. Just start getting intentional about what you want to create. Because if we can get in front of our days, or in front of our meetings, or whatever, I always hold that an ounce of proactiveness is worth 20 pounds of cleaning stuff up later. So, that would be one.

The other one would be to not complain for a week and see what happens. Just turn every single complaint into a request, and see how that shifts the energy of your wellbeing, but also how it shifts how people respond to you. So, those are two thoughts.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Anese, well, thanks so much for this and good luck to you and all the ways that you’re contagious.

Anese Cavanaugh
Thanks, Pete.

490: Uncovering Your Why and Bringing it to Work with Justin Jones-Fosu

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Justin Jones-Fosu explains how to lead a more enriching work life by aligning your now with your why.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to get into your “achieve more” zone
  2. 12 questions for uncovering your why
  3. How to turn any job into meaningful work

About Justin

Justin is on a mission to help professionals and workplaces to Work like they mean it!  He is a meaningful work speaker and social entrepreneur who speaks 60-70 times per year to companies, organizations and associations in the US and internationally.  His latest book Your WHY Matters NOW: How Some Achieve More and Others Don’t challenges the reader to merge their purpose and productivity to get more out of work and life.

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you Sponsors!

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Justin Jones-Fosu Interview Transcript

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

Justin Jones-Fosu
It’s great to be here, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, Justin, my mental picture of you comes from maybe the day after I met you in which you were dancing around in a blue boxing robe. Can you explain this situation to our listeners?

Justin Jones-Fosu
What happens with Pete and Justin stays with Pete and Justin except on this podcast. But, no, so when I first started speaking, one of the things for me, I was doing a presentation about fighting for your life. And so, a great way to illustrate that was with I had a boxing robe that was created for me, a genuine one, from like the boxing people themselves, and had like TBA, which stood for Think, Believe, Act, and had the boxing gloves.

And so, like that was my little thing where I’d come in to the Rocky music, and it was a really cool experience. So, that’s probably what happened. I ended up speaking at that organization and somebody stole it, I have no idea where it went, but I never replaced it. So, that’s my boxing robe story.

Pete Mockaitis
That was not cool. And you know what, that’s going to be on eBay somewhere, you’re going to bump into like, “What the heck, guys?”

Justin Jones-Fosu
Right. If I ever get famous, like that’s what’s going to happen, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so lately you’ve been doing a lot of work and research and speaking associated with the idea of meaningful work and how that comes about. And you have an interesting perspective when it comes to your why and your now. Can you sort of unpack this idea for us?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah. So, probably about, I don’t know how long now, about eight years ago I started digging into kind of your why and purpose, and I’ve been studying purpose for a while, something that was very meaningful for me. And as I’ve started travelling around, I was doing some speaking, and I started hearing these rumblings of kind of the why and purpose and I started meeting people who knew their why but weren’t doing anything about it.

And so, I was like, “All right.” I initially went into… because all my focus back in the day was all about action in terms of, “How do you actualize leadership?” I do action-based leadership. And it shifted because I started asking the questions of people who knew their why but weren’t doing anything about it. And then I realized there was a whole another group of people. And there’s a whole group of people, there were what I call now people. And the now people, these were kind of people who were doing a lot of good stuff just in the wrong places, and they were connected to their whys.

And so, that for me became the kind of the contribution to the conversation is that I want to help people to achieve more, right? And so, people achieve when they know their why because they’re able to kind of move forward. People are also able to achieve when they’re engaged in now and they’re super productive but maybe in the wrong places. But the true sweet spot of what I call the achieve more zone is where people connect their why and their now. And those things, together, when they’re operating in congruency, that allows people to achieve more.

And if anyone is like me, I’ve gone through my phases of what I call purpose and productivity seesaw, where I get into my zone of purpose, “Oh, I’ve got to be purposeful. I have to do things that mean something to me,” and I become a little less productive because it’s all about purposeful and meaning. And then I jump to the other side, “I need to be productive and I need to get things done now.” And then I start losing purpose and the things that were meaningful.

I was like, “What if we didn’t have to go through that seesaw? What if we could actually bridge the two together to achieve more?” And that’s where the why and the now came together.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you maybe tell us some stories, some examples, paint a picture of an articulation of a why, and sort of, “We got the why without the now.” And then, “We got the now without the why.” Sort of what does that look and feel like in practice?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah. So, many times I hear of so many, even my audiences, the people that engage in terms of like why. So, some people with the why and without the now can be two different ways, so I created a whole quadrant around it but I’ll talk about one of the, say, the wanderers, right? And so, in my WHY matters quadrant, one of the things, if you have a little why little now, the wanderers are the kind of people that they don’t know their why, they’re not practicing, they’re not passionate about it, they’re not giving it their all. If I had to give them a TV show, I’ll call them The Walking Dead.

But the next group of people, the thinkers, these are the kind of people that they know their why. These are the kind of people that they read the books on purpose, they read the books on why. And I’ll give you a great example, I was that person who was super purpose-oriented, I was reading books on it, even wrote a book that dealt with purpose and values. But as I was dealing with that, I wasn’t productive, like I wasn’t getting a lot of things done, I wasn’t accomplishing as much as I could. I felt super content but I wasn’t progressing forward.

And so, that was a time in my life where I was like super focused on purpose and I thought about my career, and I was super reflective. And so, those are the type of people that they get in to reflection mode, and the quadrant is the thinkers, right? So, these are people that they’re just thinking, they’re thinking, they’re thinking, but for whatever reason, whether the fear of success, fear of failure, or they’re simply just following the herd of society that they just get stuck just thinking about their why but it doesn’t translate to create action, to accomplishing more, to being productive, to doing productive behaviors, or what I call being on 10, which we can talk about later. And so, that’s the why people.

Then the other group of people, which I’ve also been as well, are those who have a high now but a low why. And in my quadrant, those are misplaced. And the misplaced are the kind of people that, like I mentioned, they’re doing a lot of great stuff just in the wrong places. And so, for me, I had those moments where I would read books, like Getting Things Done, and Eat That Frog, and a whole bunch of productivity books, and I was just being super productive but I wasn’t checking it according to my why. I wasn’t making sure that I was doing things on purpose.

So, I’ll give you a great example. So, I used to be a radio show host, right? And part of the radio show host, just three years, Listen up with Justin Jones-Fosu, we had a real great time, an FM radio station, MPR affiliate. And as I was doing the radio show for three years, I found myself in a misplaced quadrant because I was doing it and people were like, “This is awesome. You’re killing it, Justin. You’re reaching thousands of people in the Baltimore area and surrounding,” but it wasn’t connected to my why. I was doing it because it was a good thing to do and it felt like the right thing to do, like the right progression and be productive. I have a radio show host where thousands of people listen to you every week but it wasn’t according to my why.

And when I really sat down and thought through, “Why was I doing what I was doing? What was the purpose behind it? What was the intent?” I realized that the radio show wasn’t the right conduit for me, that I was actually productive but zapping me of aspects of purpose and meaning for me. And so, I decided to give up the radio show after three years, and everybody was like, “Why? Why would you do that?” But it’s because I wanted to have greater why alignment, and so I ended up pursuing and diving into things in terms of speaking and writing that were much more in line with my why but I was also able to get more time and be super productive to what really mattered to me.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, and what do you call it, I guess in your ideal quadrant where you got it both going on?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yes, the pursuer quadrant. And it’s those who understand clarity, connection, and consistency which are the components of the why and having a strong why. And those people who are engaged and on 10 behaviors which when people are maximizing kind of the effort, their intensity, how hard they go. And so, if I had to summarize why, the definition of why, it’s simply purpose, what motivates you, what drives you, the intent behind what you do. And the now is passion. When we talk about passion, we’re talking about not what you do but how you do it, the effort, the intensity with what you give and it’s a concept that I call being on 10.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it’s interesting here because I can see where you’re going. So, we got the thinkers who are doing a fine job of doing that internal reflection and zooming in on, “Well, what am I all about? What’s behind this? What are my values? What really lights me up? What doesn’t light me up?” And so, they’re having some good time where they’re articulating some of that stuff but in the process, they’re not making stuff happen so they aren’t generating a bunch of to-do’s slayed behind them in their wake.

And so, at the same time though, you can go in the other direction, in which you’re not doing any of that reflection, you’re rocking and rolling in terms of just dominating hundreds of emails and all these things.

Justin Jones-Fosu
Zero box.

Pete Mockaitis
But what is it really doing for you in terms of connecting? So, I hear what you’re saying that it can only be possible to have one and not the other. So, let’s talk a bit about arriving at a good articulation of your why. And we talked about this a couple of times in the show. So, you mentioned clarity, connection and consistency. How do we get at that clarity? And maybe, for starters, you can articulate for us your why and maybe some whys of other folks that you’ve interacted with that just inspired the crap out of you.

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yes. So, my why is to inspire people, to achieve actionable results by challenging the boundaries of what they believe are possible. And it took me a long time to really begin to articulate and get to that why because, for me, I looked back at my life, and so I did kind of a reflection in terms of, “What has been the core messaging throughout my life? What’s been part of that journey of my life?”

And my story is one where I had a lot of obstacles, extensive homelessness, we were poor initially in terms of financially but rich in spirit, had hand-me-downs at Salvation Army. I mean, all the stuff and had to really kind of overcome the boundaries that were there, single mom with two rambunctious boys. I mean, a lot of things, grew up in the hood initially. So, a lot of things that were boundaries for me and I realized that my own life was one of challenging the boundaries of what I believed were possible.

But that also translates into kind of what I do, what I call my intentional hobby, where my intentional hobby is I like trekking and climbing mountains and I like challenging the boundaries. I remember one story where me and my buddy, Marlon Barton, we do a thing called the birthday challenge. And so, we went skiing for the first time and failed. I’ve never been skiing before. A great place to go skiing for the first time. And I remember we were climbing, snowshoeing on this mountain, and literally sometimes all we could do is take 20 steps and stop for like three minutes because we were at a high altitude but we continued to climb.

And so, for me, that became my why. And so, that’s just symbolic of the nature, for me, is I’m always challenging the boundaries of what I believe are possible for being, coming from single home, from being poor financially, to being a black male in society, a lot of different things. And so, just challenging those boundaries has become a component of my journey with others.

And so, it’s not something that I have to think about doing, I just do it, right? And sometimes I have to control myself in doing it because I can come off so hard, like, “Hey, are you challenging your boundaries?” And people are like, “Justin, I just said hi, right?” And so, for me, that became, and as I reflected, that became crystal clear for my why. So, to start off, that’s my why and that’s kind of how I came about it. And it took me really about a month to really kind of think through and process and reflect, and I asked myself several different questions in order to get there, to get to that why.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And it’s very helpful. And could you share some other folks you know and their whys articulated?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Absolutely. So, other people I’ve met, I met this young lady actually about a month ago, and she talked about, you know, we went through, because she was struggling with how does she identified her why. And we started kind of going through life and questions, and I have this thing called the 12 uncovering questions that help people to kind of think through their why and develop their why statement, and we started going through some of these questions. And we came to her why, dealt with both helping fixing things but also centered around technology.

And so, she started thinking through like, “What does this look like for me in my everyday life?” And so, we started talking about like, “How do you interact with your friends?” “I always have to fix it. I always have to be a fixer.” And so, part of her why statement became, in terms of fixing things, but it also looked at how does technology help people in their lives to fix things. And so she does like A/V and IT stuff and so she’s always thinking through of connecting people to technology in ways that can help them fix some of the aspects and challenges in their lives. And so, that’s her why statement.

Other people have developed why statements because, again, this is not what you do but kind of the overall umbrella of how you do something or kind of the lens in what you look through things. So, I met another gentleman, and one of the things around his why just dealt with helping people to develop a greater sense of grit because he had to work his butt off and ended up going to the military.

And one really amazing person that I encountered, Summer Owens, and she has a great story in terms of she was a teen mom and ended up going to The University of Memphis, and her story of all that she encountered. And, actually, the way she became a teen mom that was with a sexual assault, and her why is built on what’s called so-what in terms of her resilience. And so, she became Miss University of Memphis and is now even like the national president of The University of Memphis Alumni, and just really doing a great job. And her why centers around so-what in resilience. So, “So, what you went through that? How are you going to continue to go up?”

So, she helps people to become so-what in their lives. And so, like those are people’s whys, and everybody gets to their whys differently. But, for me, in the book, some people had struggled with their why. I created these 12 questions just to help people to start thinking and processing how they approach their why.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, and I would definitely want to hit those in just a moment. But, first, you mentioned that it’s not even about what you’re doing in a moment, but bringing that lens and that perspective to whatever you’re doing. So, can you share how once you have that why, how you bring it to a job that might not have anything to do with technology or whatever the case may be, but it infuses it with something magical?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah. So, one of the things that I found as I was really kind of discovering why is like some people, I feel, have stated their whys as what they do, right? And so, “My why is to help people to being a trainer.” And I’m saying, “Well, no, not necessarily. Your why could be helping people but it may not be as a trainer because that should be the thing that you do in all aspects of your life. And if you’re helping people, you’re engaging with your friends, you’re helping them to solve their problems and bring solutions.”

And so, for me, part of my why just permeated through not just what I did but like all the aspects of what I do should be my why. And so, with my family, I’m challenging the boundaries of what they believe are possible and so we’re doing things that we’ve never done. So, at work, you may have nothing to do, like this person who loves fixing things and love that kind of infusion with technology, she was able to find a job which is great in terms of ways that integrate with what she did, but she still would be helping to fix things as part of her why in her job.

And so, it could’ve been aspects of problems and bringing solutions to those problems. So, whatever those things are, it’s very important that we don’t finetune because we may change what we do but why we do it is something that really is consistent. And so, I’m very fortunate, I love speaking, and so people bring me in and speak all the good stuff. But even with my friends, I’m challenging the boundaries of what they believe are possible.

So, like when everybody has a birthday whether on LinkedIn and even some Facebook, I sometimes send what I call the birthday challenge. This is what I do every year, which is one thing that you’ve never done that you’ve always wanted to do or that you haven’t done in a long time, and that’s to challenge you to stay in what I call the learning-based mindset.

And so, it’s one of the things I just naturally do. It has nothing to do with my job or my work, but it just permeates through all that I do. And so, some people that’s helping to fix things, for other people it’s developing greater sense of resilience, for some people it’s helping to connect people to deeper sense of family, or belonging in a family, or could be within the context of corporate America, or it could be at home, whatever those things are, it permeates that. Even if you changed job titles, why you do something, the meaning, the intent, the purpose behind it stays the same.

And so, that’s where I come to the why, not just what you do, really, it’s not what you do, but the umbrella, the lens in which you do almost all aspects of your life. Even at the gym, I’m challenging boundaries of what I believe are possible. Sometimes that’s not whys because I think I can do more than I can do but I’m still challenging those boundaries, and that’s why my birthday challenge this year is actually competing in a men’s physique competition. Don’t judge me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy. These photos, bust.

Justin Jones-Fosu
I’d take my shirt off, like, “No.” My wife is going to kill me. But all aspects of my life are centered around challenging the boundaries of what I believe are possible and achieving actionable results in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I had a buddy who participated in a men’s physique contest, I don’t know if he wants me to say his name or not, but it was impressive, like, wow, check that out.

Justin Jones-Fosu
I hope mine will be too.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so funny. I was at a wedding and he was missing the wedding because he had already signed up for this thing. And so, I kept kind of asking him for the updates, like, “Yeah, so how did it go?” And then I had the distinct privilege of being able to show the first photos of him in the men’s physique contest to his girlfriend, I mean, that was at the wedding. And I was like, “Oh, it’s so good when you have something. Well, so, hey, this actually kind of connects to my purpose, I guess.”

Justin Jones-Fosu
It’s good.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve chewed on this in terms of this is my purpose just for like work or more broadly, and you gave me some good stuff to chew on, and I think it’s not just work, but I don’t know if it’s yet all-encompassing, some are work in progress but it’s to discover, develop, and disseminate knowledge that transforms the experience of being alive.

Justin Jones-Fosu
That’s powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And it really does genuinely light me up, like when I have conversations with you, like I’m discovering stuff, like, “Ooh, that’s really cool. You know, it’s like I’m developing it. Okay, we’re working this episode, we’re making it sharp, we’re polishing it, we’re cutting some parts, we’re trying to get some good teasers, and we’re distributing it, like, ‘Hey, many thousands of folks are checking out the episode and they say good things.’” And so, that’s a thrill and then it also shows up in other sort of trainings and speaking and coaching and whatnot that I’m doing as well as even just conversation with folks about a product. it’s like, “Oh, hey, I got this Bluetooth meat thermometer. It’s amazing, you know. It’s pouring my life with all the low-fat chicken breast so I’m ready for a physique contest, Justin.

Justin Jones-Fosu
See? We’ll be competing together it sounds like. And How to be Awesome at Your Physique will be your next podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you have to be really extreme, but even in that moment, I was so delighted to be able to, I guess, disseminate the knowledge, “Hey, there’s a photo of your man on his bodybuilding contest thing.” You know, it was a thrill for me and it transformed her experience of being alive because she was like, “Oh, my gosh.”

Justin Jones-Fosu
See? And your why is permeating all aspects. There was no podcast for that, there was no speaking engagement for that. It was just you being you.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. I dig it. So, I feel like I’m getting pretty close of finetuning it and so very cool. Let’s hear about these uncovering questions. Do tell. What do they uncover and how do we do them?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah. So, I’ll go through the 12, there’s some that mean more than others in how people interpret it and so some may seem redundant but they’re really trying to piece together, it’s almost like when you put your fingerprint, when you do the fingerprint scan, that it’s like, okay, you still put your fingerprint down but it gets at it a different way.

And so, these 12 questions are, the first is, “Why are you here?” And for some people they’re like, “Why am I here?” Like, existentially, “Whoa!” Second is, “What major life experiences have you faced both positive and negative?” Third is, “What interested you growing up?” Fourth, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” Fifth, “What interests and intrigues you in life?” Sixth, “What do you wish was better in the world?”

Seven, “Have you ever had a moment when you felt like you came alive? What were you doing and why did that make you feel amazing?” Eight, “What impact do you have on others/society? What impact do you want to have on others/society?” Nine, “When have you felt inspired, hopeful, full of learning and growing?” Ten, “What excites you?” Eleven, “What do you believe about the world? What do you think the world should be like?” And twelve, “How are others better after time with you or by what you do?”

And so, asking these questions and, yeah, I’ve sometimes done workshops with these and we’ve kind of gone through aspects of the book and, man, to see people really diving in and engaging childhood, and engaging the journey of their lives, and asking questions, like, “What’s been a consistent theme over the course of my life, from childhood to adolescent to adulthood, that really helps me identifying, have a clearer why of like purpose and what I provide and bring to society, and really the impact and the legacy that I want to leave, an imprint on this world?” And people wrestle with that.

And so, this is one of the things I tell people often, especially my perfectionist people, like, “I need to write the perfect statement,” and I’m like, “It’s not about getting the perfect statement. It’s about taking that true genuine time to reflect. And then I also, like I did something, or I encourage people to do the same thing, I sent it to my three top family members and friends, and I was like, “Hey, this is what I’m really identifying with my why and my why statement. And, externally, do you think it reflects me?” And some people are like, “Justin, I’ve never even heard you say that phrase, right? Like, that came out of nowhere. So, I don’t think that’s true or remains to who you were.” I felt like I was just trying too had to come up with something that sounded really cool.

But, really, identifying like what meant something to me and people talked about challenging them, I’m always challenging. I talk about boundaries. I talk about how you challenge those boundaries and what’s possible. So, like these key themes and phrases came from my childhood and adolescence and adulthood and from me. And when people start asking themselves those questions and start reflecting, it’s not that they’ll get their immediate why statement there, but it’s them now being open to hearing and experience and not for themselves but also their closer friends and family members, what this really looks like and how they can live it out.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really dig what you’re saying here. And we also interviewed David Mead on the podcast who worked with Simon Sinek with Find Your Why and that book. And there are some nice overlaps, but he was all about, “Hey, have a partner and have them kind of carefully observe as you share sort of life stories with them, and they can kind of identify some themes from those.” And I thought, “Well that’s a good approach, yes.”

But what I love about your questions is we can get started right away in terms of right now, don’t have to find a partner, you don’t need training, facilitation, or have any interest in this, and so you can really get the wheels turning immediately which is cool. And, yeah, I kind of want to just be alone and think about this right now. Go away, Justin.

Justin Jones-Fosu
Right. I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone. And that’s what a lot of people like to do. I mean, I figure from a great perspective, just having time to reflect, and I love that method in terms of having a partner to observe. But just sometimes you having time to reflect and just to sit back and engage and to think is really emotional for some people.

Some people in my workshops and trainings have been like many tears because people go through some really painful experiences. One of the things I talk about, both positive and negative, and I went through experiences of abuse and abandonment and a lot of different things that I had to really kind of wrestle with. And so, there’s actually a part in the book where I tell people, like, “Hey, if you need a moment, put the book down and come back to it when you’re okay. And if it really gets serious for you, please seek help and get counseling to process some of these things,” because some people actually dredge up things that’s challenging for them, and they’ve put away in a nice box what’s been a part of their story.

And so, I think it’s helpful for people to take that time, like you just said, and like, “Justin, get away,” and just to reflect, and then maybe bring on a partner and/or have three to five friends or family members to look at and engage in your stories and what you shared.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, let’s say we have even a rough nascent preliminary draft sense of the why before a perfect articulation or a decent articulation. So, with that in mind, how do we, sort of day-to-day, enjoy kind of more passion of your job based upon having this?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways to approach that, right? And so, when you know your why, I mean, it allows you to better engage. One of the things is there’s a lot of work going around meaning, right? So, I talk a lot about meaning as part of the one of the definitions of why that’s meaningful. And so, I challenge the notion of meaning and so I’m like really developing this movement around helping people to work meaningfully, not to have meaningful work but work meaningfully because, often, I found that we’ve created almost this meaningful workspace where it’s external focus on meaning, it’s like the external loci.

Stephen Covey talks about internal locus of control, and we got deeper into that. But, this internal loci, it’s not about finding meaning in your work, it’s about bringing meaning to your work. It’s not about doing work that you love, it’s about loving the work that you do because one is external, one is internal. And there’s actually some really cool research that shows there’s a group of hospital cleaners, and one of the things that they found was that there’s two different groups of hospital cleaners. There’s one group of hospital cleaners that came to the hospital, they cleaned the hospital, and they left the hospital. It makes sense because they were hospital cleaners, right?

But there’s another group of hospital cleaners that they engaged with the nurses to find out when is the best time to actually come into the room, they would talk with visitors and family members, say, “Hello, is there anything I could get for you?” They saw themselves as extensions of the mission of the hospital. Now, these groups were both doing the exact same work, but one brought meaning with them while other were potentially finding meaning in their work.

And so, I think when you talk about passion and engaging at work, it first starts with us showing up and choosing each and every day to bring our meaning with us. No matter what you identify as your why statement, even if you don’t have a why statement yet, it’s that we can show up and bring that meaning, and there’s ways to do that, right?

So, a lot of our research stems in job crafting, and there’s really three ways that you can have job crafting or crafted jobs that’s meaningful for you. It’s identifying task crafting, relational crafting, and mental crafting. And so, what task crafting is simply adding a component of your job that is meaningful for you. So, for some people, what they do is repetitive, it’s not sexy, they’re like, “Oh, I want to do something else.” But that task crafting is saying, “Well, I love helping people. So, could I potentially be one of the leads for volunteering? Could I start a volunteering? Could we do something as relates to a breast cancer awareness or do one of the walks?” Whatever that could be that they may start that or be a part of the lead. And so, that small aspect of task crafting shifts how they bring themselves to work.

The second, around relational crafting, is simply enjoying friends or the people that are there so the relationships access thing. In my presentation, I talk about Cool Hand Luke, , right? If you’ve ever seen that movie, it’s one of my favorite movies of Paul Newman, and one of the things he says, the statement, “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” right? It came from that movie. And one of the things with the relational crafting is he created these games with the people he was with.

And so, they were doing like mundane things, they’re supposed to be in prison, but they had so much fun doing it with each other, right? And so, they created this relational component, and so developing strong sense of belonging and relationships, whether that’s going happy hour, whether that’s engaging and going out to lunch with one person a week, whatever that thing may be, that you come to work, and even if your work is not sexy, you don’t really find it really awesome, that you can still be awesome at your job by the relationships that you create.

But the third aspect is the mental crafting and it’s all about how do you see the work that you do. And so some of the things in my research, and I was looking at people who do repetitive jobs, and also one of the articles like “Meaningful Work in Meaningless Places” and so it talked about like even a janitor that saw themselves in an educational institution, and that janitor saw themselves helping people to learn more effectively and learn better because they created an environment where people could bring their best selves to learn.

And they ask themselves, “If I did not clean, if I didn’t do what I did today, what would this place be and how would people respond? And would they be their best selves in their learning?” And so, like that’s a great example of how do we bring what we do. And so, that’s just some of the research that dives into how can you bring that passion, how do you bring that meaning, and it’s not simply just waiting for meaning to fall on your lap.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. And I’m thinking now with regard to the task component, so the folks who were cleaning the hospital sort of just did little extra touches with regard to checking with the nurses, like, “When is the best time to do this cleaning?”

So, you’re doing a task that you’re not feeling, and you could just sort of invent whatever it may be. And so, what are some of the little tweaks, kind of like the hospital cleaner asking about what times they could clean that would be best for the patient, might help give a boost to the meaning when we’re doing some task crafting?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah. So, there are so many different opportunities or examples of task crafting that are there. So, one I mentioned before was just in terms of changing or adding a little component of something that’s meaningful for you. So, for some people, like we mentioned, is helping people. So, it could mean getting involved and engaged with community service aspect. For some people, they love creating presentations so they may volunteer to do the presentations or even just create them in PowerPoint, or Keynote, or Prezi if you still use it. But it’s like they ask how they can best engage in the things that are meaningful for them. So, that’s another example.

For some other people, I’ll give you my example. For me, when I was working for a financial service company, I wasn’t happy in my job. So, really, a lot of this movement came from me. I wasn’t being awesome at my job nor was I happy at my job. And I started asking for little different things, and so they allowed me to be a part of the learning management system in what we called My Learning. And I was able to also engage, I was really passionate about diversity equity inclusion, and so they included me as part of their implementing new diversity strategies within the company. So, my manager allowed me to be a part of that team, and it impacted my overall work.

And what’s beautiful about that, and a book called The Progress Principle, one of the things that they found when they interviewed 12,000 workers is that when people felt like they were making progress, even if it was incremental, towards something that was meaningful to them that they felt better, healthier and happier about what they called the IWL, or inner work life.

And so, like all of those components is like we all can find, we just have to stop, press pause, reflect, and ask, “What are some of the tasks that are meaningful for me?” And that’s why I love what Google used to do, they moved away from that according to recent conversations, but they used to have like this 20% rule where they challenged and encouraged people to work on tasks or things 20% of the time that were meaningful to them, that they love.

So, some of the things that we experience and have now came from that 20%, right? And so, people would do that and they would come away with great things, some things failed and worked, but those were ways that I saw companies help to implement aspects of task crafting. So, as individuals, we have to ask and press pause and reflect and ask, “What makes me smile at work? Like, what are some of the things I really just enjoy doing? Is it the interactions I have with people?”

I met a lady at the Charlotte Airport, she would sing all the time, right? She’d sell like the candy and the mints which I eat a lot of, the mints not the candy, and, remember, I’ve been working out. But she would sing all the time, and I loved it, right? So, she created this little way to bring a different component of her tasks and she loved singing, and she applied that.

So, in all the different walks of life, I think there’s opportunities for us to identify the task that make us smile, some things that we really enjoy, and find out, one, “Can we get involved in that that exists already at our job or commuting or doing other things online and/or create it?” So, maybe there’s not a social committee. Hopefully you don’t do it like The Office did, but maybe there’s opportunity for you to coordinate happy hours if you really like bringing people together, or to get people involved and create a bowling night, or whatever that thing may be, I think there’s opportunities to craft that in our tasks.

So, there’s an opposite of that, I want to help people be mindful of, that sometimes, one, people have to get buy-in from their leadership and management. Two, add that to their work, and I’ve seen in some of the research that people have gone to the opposite side, and they’ve spent too much time on the thing that they’re crafting and not enough time on their job, and so it doesn’t allow their management leadership to support some of their task crafting. So, that’s some of the risks of task crafting is that you have to get, one, buy-in but then, two, you have to make sure that it doesn’t negatively impact your job where you’re spending too much time on what you enjoy. But just occasionally implementing some of those components into your everyday work.

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

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah. So, I think the other component of just the now, is the companion to the why, right? So, yes, it’s great in terms of bringing meaning with you, but how do you bring that meaning, right? What does it mean to be what I call on 10, right? Now, to kind of illustrate the on 10, at least through air, it’s almost like this. Have you ever been to a place where people have been dancing? And, Pete, you know this too well, right? It’s like they’re using two different types of dances, aren’t they, Pete, right?

There’s like one type of dancer that’s like cool, comic-like, like boom, boom, boom, hey. “They’re not going to see me sweat, right?” And they have this other type of dancer, like, “Woo, woo, woo, brr,” right? And the first type of dancer there’s so concerned, they’re consumed about people watching them that they either remix it, they make it slower, like, “They’re not going to see me sweat, yeah, right?” But this other type of dancer that they came with like three undershirts because they’re going to sweat on every single one. Like, they came ready to get everything they had on the dancefloor of their lives. And I’ve seen you dance, Pete, that is you.

I mean, they came ready. And that’s the question mark for us in real life, is like, “Which type of dancer are we?” Not in real life because we all need to know that. But are we the dancer number one who they’re so concerned about people watching them, looking at them, that they don’t give their all, they don’t give what their 10 is? Or are they dancer number two where they’re willing even if people put them on IG or people put them on Snap or LinkedIn, Live, or whatever that may be, that they’re willing to give everything that they have.

I often find it’s people have to answer that question for themselves, “Are they on 10? Are they maximizing? Like, what are their on-10 behaviors? What are the things that they do that communicates their excellence, their best, right?” Now, one of the challenges I find with people that engage or don’t engage with fully being on 10 is that they suffer from what I call on-10 comparisons where one of the things that they consistently compare themselves to other people. So, it’s almost like somebody else doing a podcast that would compare themselves to how awesome your podcast is, and they wouldn’t give their best because they’re like, “I’ll never measure up to Pete.”

But you only have two different capacities. What they’re able to and what you’re able to do is different and there may be different parts of their lives, and so like, “How do you look at just your own reflection, do your own reflection, and identify your own self, for what is my best?

And so, while having your why and bringing meaning is super important, also how important your now is is amazing. So, even for the listeners, I simply ask you, if you had to rate yourself on a scale from one to 10, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how passionately are you currently living your why, right, whether that’s professionally and/or personally? What does that look like? What would you rate yourself?

And even a deeper question sometimes is, “How would the people around you rate you?” If we went and did an informal 360 at your office, or even if you’re telecommuting and different things like that, it’s the people that you support or work with or other team members, how would they rate you? And then, on the other side, because all my conversations are not just professional but also personal, like what would family members say?

And so, those are ways that we can ask, “What are our on-10 behaviors? How would I currently rate myself? And what does it look like for me to truly be on 10 to fully engage?” And so, in the book and other places, I talk about just ways to challenge our cruise control, but also what I call the principle of the frog, step, seed, and smile which are ways to be on 10 to have a high now and to engage in the true now.

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

Justin Jones-Fosu
One of my favorite quotes is “Anything can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” It’s unknown. I guess that’s probably intentional, all right, as a quote, like, “Yeah, let me put my credit for the quote.” That’s one of the most powerful quotes that I love as a social entrepreneur. One of the things that matters to me is the impact that we’re having on people. And it’s something that’s super powerful.

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

Justin Jones-Fosu
Woo, I love some of the research around the herd theory. And the herd theory simply, it looked at a group of creatures, and what it notices is that when this group of creatures saw impending danger was coming that they all begin going the exact same way. And I sometimes illustrate that in our presentations where I like have people get up and have them walk around the room. And normally about 80% to 90% of time, people go the same way.

And you see that play out and there’s some studies, I don’t know the official name but I’m going to call them unofficially the elevator studies. You can probably find it on YouTube where they did a study where people would get on elevators and like everybody would be faced the wrong way in the elevator. And they would study what the person who got on the elevator would do, right?

Often you would see this person would turn around and face the back of the elevator like these other people, and that’s just another example of the herd theory and why that’s important to me.

But what I love about the herd theory and what that communicates is often, experientially, we just simply follow the herd, we follow the path of least resistance. We do what everybody else does at our company. We do all the same things and we sometimes don’t ask, “What does this mean to me?”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Justin Jones-Fosu
My favorite book still is Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute. Amazing power book that helps you to better reflect and to see, “Am I projecting negativity on others based upon me not taking responsibility for my own life?” And so, that book, when I did my MBA, that transformed the way I look at life. And so, yeah, that’s one of my favorite books.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Situational Leadership II by Ken Blanchard. A great tool. It focuses on the different components on how do you, one, serve and lead others? But then also, two, where can you ask for help?

I found people that just go to their leadership without using those terminology and being able to say, “Hey, like on this specific task or this role, I need some help, I need some support. I need to know if I’m going in the right direction. I need to know if I’m failing or falling short of this.” And it’s just been a helpful way for people to, one, communicate where they are on a task or a role, but, two, to get support and direction in that same process.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Ooh, a really good habit is what I call #extravagantappreciation. I’ve been on a mission lately and part of my research in terms of how we can be more productive is how do we show extravagant appreciation on other people. It actually falls into my principle the frog, step, seed and smile. It’s what I call #imoa or an intentional moment of appreciation where we go out of our way to celebrate people around us. And I think in this beautiful world of technology, we got to go back to old school, Pete, like back to handwritten thank you notes.

And so, one of the things that I’ve been really developing a strong habit of is, twofold, I’m writing handwritten thank you notes to people and so people can do that right in their office. I challenge people to do at least two, one professionally, and one personally. And let them know the impact that they’ve had on you at work and/or the person at home.

So, my bigger habit is I encourage everyone who stays at hotels. Often, we don’t appreciate and value as much people who are housekeeping or janitors, custodial staff members. Like, I try my best to go out of my way to show them extravagant appreciation.

And, Pete, you would not imagine the smiles that come out of people’s faces. So, that’s one thing that I do, and I encourage everyone who stays at hotel, please leave a tip for your housekeeper, but not just leave a tip but, you know those little pads of paper and a pen? Write them a handwritten thank you note on your last day of your stay and let them know how grateful you are that they’re doing an amazing work. And just don’t leave the note, please leave a tip as well. But that’s one of the habits I think I’m valuing the most because it’s one that’s inspiring other people.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with audiences and they re-tweet it a lot?

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yeah, one of the things that I talk about in challenging the herd and identifying and embracing our uniqueness that this is a quote I share, it’s, “Don’t be just like anyone. Be better for everyone by being the only you.” Again, it’s, “Don’t be just like anyone. Be better for everyone by being the only you.” And that’s one of the most recorded, re-tweeted, and even in an organization, they made a big banner, I had no idea, somebody showed it to me. They put a big banner and put that in the hallway just to speak to unique-ability.

And the last, I know you just asked for one, but I have to an overachiever, I’m sorry about that, sometimes I underachieve there, is, “There are people who would love to have our bad days.” And so, it’s just a perspective, a challenge of kind of when we engage our day could be super easy to focus on things that are negative and all the things that are going wrong, but sometimes in that process and think through, like, “Man, there’s somebody who would love to switch box with me right now. Oh, I hate this situation. I hate my job. I hate my manager.” Whatever. I have a job that I can hate, right? I have a job that I can not like my manager, and other people would love to be in that position.

I know it seems at times trivial that it doesn’t mean to make people’s challenges small, but it is about, “How do we change and reflect in a unique and different way?” And so, identifying that there are people who would love to have my bad days is one of those things that helps me and in my work and in my personal life to have just a changed of perspective.

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

Justin Jones-Fosu
They can go right to the website JustinInspires.com where they can find information about Your WHY Matters NOW: How Some Achieve More and Others Don’t. Or, if they want to do the old-fashioned way, they can give me a call at 704-750-5574, but JustinInspires.com is plenty. You can see the videos and see my crazy high energy. I don’t use the boxing robe anymore but I still do dance in the presentations, and so, yeah, that’s where they can get in touch with me.

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

Justin Jones-Fosu
Yes. My challenge is stop asking if the glass is half empty or half full and let’s fill the stupid glass back up, right?

And so, like that’s the thing, it’s, “How do we take action? What is one thing that we can do to move forward?” Like, even from this podcast or all the podcasts you listen with Pete, is what one thing can you take away from this that you can apply and to fill the glass back up? Now, this is not a call to go to your nearest bar, if you’re over 21, and tell your bartender, “Fill the glass up. Fill the glass up,” right?
But this is a clarion call to fill our own glasses up with continuous learning, continuous growing, listening to podcasts like this one right now that will help you to grow and develop professionally but also you get some nuggets to grow personally as well.

So, don’t ask if the glass is half empty or half full, take action and fill the glass back up.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Justin, this has been a treat. Thank you and keep on inspiring.

Justin Jones-Fosu
Thank you so much, Pete.

458: How to End Bad Behavior and Renew Your Team Amidst Change with Steve Ritter

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Steve Ritter says: "The recipe for what makes a team effective is no different than the recipe for what makes a relationship effective."

Steve Ritter shares the fundamentals that makes teams healthy through their inevitable changes.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Where teams get stuck most often
  2. How to grow and deepen over time as a team
  3. Why there’s hope for disengaged team members

About Steve 

Steve Ritter is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Team Excellence. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is the acclaimed author of the 2009 Amazon Top 50 Business Book: Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams and the 2019 release: The 4 Stages of a Team: How Teams Thrive…and What to do When They Don’t.

Resources Mentioned in this Show:

 

Thank you to our sponsor:

Steve Ritter Interview Transcript

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

Steve Ritter
Pete, I am thrilled to be welcomed back. It has been how many years since we talked the first time on Episode 36, I believe.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that was, well, almost three because you were one of the first as someone I know.

Steve Ritter
Yeah, so a lot has changed and a lot of things haven’t changed since then.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, yeah, and we’re going to talk about both of those things. But, first, I want to get updated. So, you do a lot of fun garage band rocking with your crew. What’s the latest there?

Steve Ritter
Well, so technically speaking the music hub is a basement not a garage. And I just realized in thinking about this that we’ve actually performed 1% of the time. This group of guys got together for the first time in 1985, so I think we’re in year 34, and we get together once a month, and we mostly just improvise with pizza and cold beverages.

And, in that time, we’ve had four gigs. So, when we have a gig coming up, we get to work and make sure it’s as tight as possible, but that’s not our natural state of being. Our natural state of being is to improvise and have fun and see where it goes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve been improvising and having fun and seeing where things go – – but committed to it with your work in teams. And so, you just recently released another book “The Four Stages of a Team,” and your previous book “Team Clock” we talked about way back when. So, can you orient us, for those who are not as familiar with the first one, sort of what is your team philosophy, framework, and what’s new?

Steve Ritter
Well, so “The 4 Stages of a Team” was the book that followed the why and the model. So, “Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams” is now a 10-year old book, and that followed about 30 years of discovery of a method for what makes teams effective and how teams sustain and thrive through change after change after change.

We’ve been doing the work for about 30 years but had not trademarked the methodology and hadn’t published the book. And so, we had a lot of knowledge but we felt like we had to get the why out there. So, a decade later, and approximately 300 team engagements later, there was a lot of clinical evidence about that it works and why it works and how it works.

And so, to the why and the model of Team Clock came the how of “The 4 Stages of a Team.” The subtitle of the book is “How teams thrive…and what to do when they don’t.” So, in a nutshell, the model was designed after an analog clock where each number around the clock, from 1:00 o’clock back to 12:00, represents a stage of the team’s development.

And the notion of using a clock was because teams operate in cyclical ways, not in straight line trajectories. The inspiration for the model, back around 1980, came in a graduate school class after learning about Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team model of forming, storming, norming, and performing, which makes a lot of sense at face value when you look at teams who come together, and they form, and then they have some conflict, and they storm, and then they establish some ground rules, also their norms, that enables them to perform. And then, congratulations, now you have a team.

But when I looked at that, I realized that none of the teams in my life and none of the relationships in my life went from beginning to middle and then called it done or over. All the teams that I saw, operated in cycle after cycle after cycle after . And so, the clock became a way of saying, “So, what happens in the early phase?” And then once you establish that, what happens next? And if you establish that, where does it go after that? And when you repeat those cycles over and over, how do they grow and deepen over time?

So, the simplest model was that, in the first stage, which is investment, teams are figuring out their norms, teams are getting aligned on their mission and their values, teams are learning how to disagree and how to manage conflict in a professional and constructive way. And that provides an infrastructure and a platform and a foundation to be able to do things that feel much more like teamwork which is trust, and collaboration, and sharing, and those kinds of .

And so, the second stage is trust phase where teams learn to connect, and teams learn to share or respect, and teams learn to be accountable to themselves and to each other. So, now, when you get to that stage of a team, you’ve created a sufficient platform to be able to be really innovative, and to explore, and to experiment, and to discover, and to be creative, and to take advantage of the differences that you have on the team, and to take some smart risks and move .

And that creates change, and that’s the fourth stage, which is we call distancing because when you’re in a state of change, you kind of have to step back, and re-evaluate, and refuel, and kind of recalibrate, and refocus on whatever your new circumstances are, which takes you back to the investment phase, and to kind of resetting your ground rules, and resetting your values and mission, and making sure that everyone is together on .

And so, that’s kind of where this started and where it went was here’s the model. We believe that all relationships and all teams and all organizations, when they’re healthy, operate in these cycles. And, now, we have 300+ case examples over the last decade to help people who are going through challenges in their teams, see how other teams in all walks of life have handled those same kinds of challenges.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, 300, well done. That’s awesome.

Steve Ritter
Thanks.

Pete Mockaitis
I remember it back in my day before the book was written and, yeah, so that’s fun to see it evolve over the trajectory here. Well, so then let’s dig in a little bit into that subtitle “How teams thrive…and what to do when they don’t.” How do teams thrive? Like, what are the fundamental ingredients so that they go in a cycle, okay? So, I imagine there are a couple make or break things that could happen at each phase in this cycle that really matter.

Steve Ritter
Absolutely. So, you think about the investment phase and the team, people are either baking in healthy norms and they’re baking in unhealthy norms. They’re either moving forward with clarity around their values and their mission, and their vision, or they’re moving forward without that clarity, or they’re building in unhealthy conflicts versus healthy conflicts. When you think about the things that teams are trying to establish as a foundation that will be reliable, it’s just that.

It’s, “How do we treat each other from day to day under normal circumstances? How do we treat each other from day to day under stressful circumstances? Are we all moving in the same direction toward the same goal? Have we created space for differences on the teams? So, we may have the same destination but there may be many paths to that destination. And have we made room for the diversity of all those paths?”

And so, the idea in the investment phase is to get clarity around norms, and mission, and values, and vision, and how conflict should be handled. The place that people get stuck there is that that’s hard work. And, usually, that phase comes after a distancing phase or a change phase when people are really emotionally and physically depleted from managing.

And so, it’s difficult to work on infrastructure and build a foundation when you’re really depleted from going through a change. And, oftentimes, that’s been a change of leadership, or a change of direction, and not everyone is in agreement about whether the new leader is a good leader, or whether the new direction is a new direction. And so, that’s the place that people get stuck .

Interestingly, the place that people get stuck in the trust phase is in one of two ways. One is either that it’s working, and people are being accountable to the mission and the values, and people are feeling connected and respected and accountable, and it’s very . And the place that people get stuck is that, “Why would you want to sacrifice comfort to do something innovative where it’s a little more apprehensive or scary?” And so, people like to get into their comfort zone in the trust phase.

The other place that people get stuck is when that’s broken down in some way, and the team doesn’t have psychological safety to be able to take risks, and trust is a problem on the team. It’s really virtually impossible to move forward because what’s supposed to happen next, after trust builds on a team, is for people to explore and innovate and be creative. And when there’s not psychological safety on the team, it’s really hard to take the risk of .

And then the exploration phase, the innovation phase, has reasons that people get stuck as well because you’re out on a limb and you’re trying something new, and the chances that that might fail are part of the discovery process. And not everyone feels comfortable with being out on a limb, and not everyone feels comfortable with taking a risk, and so not everyone feels comfortable with diversity.
And so, in order for innovation and creativity to really thrive on a team, people have to be comfortable being out on a limb and taking risks and having diversity of ideas and of backgrounds on the team. And then, inevitably, that creates . And the obvious reason that people get stuck during the change phase is that most living things prefer stability, and when things are changing it depletes energy, and it’s hard to imagine a better future when you’re in the middle of a lost or a .

And so, kind of like a night’s sleep or the dormant phase of a tree in winter, sometimes we have to step back and refuel before we can step forward and get back into something that’s different than the way it used to .

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I think a lot of the beauty of this model is that it, especially if you’ve been on a particular team for a while, you can sort of see it, like, “Oh, yeah, this happens. There are cycles. There are phases. And you can’t sort of expect it to be all innovation all the time. We’re banging out new ideas 24/7 for years at a time.” So, that’s pretty handy there. So, then I’d love to get your take then, maybe you could start with an example. Let’s talk about a workplace, and how you saw some things transform from unhealthy to healthy.

Steve Ritter
Your introduction to that question makes me think of a different case example that I had considered sharing with you. Most of the case examples that we see involve teams that are struggling and are trying to get moving again. But you joked that teams just can’t be all innovation all the time. But the case example I’m thinking of, actually, that was their goal. Their goal was to be able to be all innovation all the time.

And the challenge they needed to get past was in order to be able to do that, you have to go through the other stages too. You have to manage the fears around innovation. You have to manage the change that you create. You have to lose people. You have to reinvest. You have to rebuild trust. There’d have to be glitches. You have to get through those .

But they, the team that I’m thinking of, and I didn’t end up using them as a case example in the book, is a team that is so attentive to the wellness of their entity as a team that they never let themselves get stuck. They never let conflict become destructive. They never let disrespect take any footing on the team. They never let fear get in the way of trying something new. And they embrace change as a healthy component of their .

And the result of that is that they are probably the most innovative team that I have been aware of in the history of my career. And they know that. They know they’ve become that. And, as a result, they have become a powerful magnet of recruitment internationally. People come from all over the world to be on this team, and they have become an impressive group of people that retains their talent. Nobody wants to leave this team as .

And the reason that they’re a good story is because they didn’t begin this way. I’ve been involved with this particular team for about six years, and when we began it was very similar to many team stories. This was a medical team in an academic center. And it’s not unusual for a couple things to be true on medical teams in academic centers. One is that the politics of universities-based medical centers are rich with academic politics, and they affect the way people…

Pete Mockaitis
Politics are rich. What a weird word choice. Impressively annoying.

Steve Ritter
Exactly. So, oftentimes, you’ll get a leadership change where the natural response is for the faculty to reject the new leader or to fall into factions in some way. And then you get the same dynamics that you get in any group situation. The Gallup organization has been measuring engagement and disengagement for decades. And so, it’s not unusual to have about 20% of your people unhappy anytime there’s been a change. And, oftentimes, people spend all of their energy acting out that unhappiness and then preventing the team from moving .

So, you got a team that’s trying to pursue excellence, and you got a team that’s trying to be more productive and to grow, and you’ve got a team that wants to be more magnetic in their recruitment, and you got a team that wants to research and discover new ways of doing things, but you’ve got 20% toxic, broken, dysfunctional people who are trying to hold everyone back at the same time.

And so, the idea is to be able to somehow get around the corner from the 6 of the 30 people on the team that seem to want to use up all the team’s energy moving forward. And so, ultimately, we end up in a situation with teams like this that I call stay stuck or move forward. There’s usually a moment of truth in teams like this where the vast majority of people in the room want to move forward, but a vocal minority, with power, wants to stay . And you see this in medical centers, you see this in law firms, you see this on professional sports teams, you see this in public schools, you see it everywhere that the powerful vocal minority oftentimes is enough to keep the majority stuck in some .

So, the stay stuck or move forward moment is the team, as a whole, has to decide whether to empower the bullies, or whether to move forward and invite the bullies, or whoever is bringing the dysfunctional behavior onto the team, you know, how to mitigate that. And, usually, it starts with some clarity around mission and values that everyone on the team can  that, “We want the finest clinical excellence. We want the finest patient experience. Or, we want the highest associate satisfaction scores,” or whatever that happens to be.

And if everyone can agree to those values, and everyone can agree to that mission, then it’s a question of whether people can be accountable to that, and whether people can hold themselves and each other accountable to . So, at that point, you’re giving everyone the equivalent of a striped referee shirt, and you’re empowering people from top to bottom of the organization to blow the whistle, or call, or throw a flag whenever there’s a foul. And a foul would be that we didn’t respect somebody else’s opinion, or the foul could be that we don’t view conflict as a productive and powerful change agent, or the change isn’t being managed .

And so, when people are empowered to call a foul, or to throw a flag, or to blow a whistle, and say, “Hey, that’s not what we all agreed on.” And you do that enough times, the culture starts to shift. And, eventually, people who are in that dysfunctional toxic group either leave or they find a way to get in stride with everybody .

And so, usually, at that point, you’re deciding how to kind of reward and invest in the engaged people, you’re deciding how to coach the under-engaged people into engagement, and you’re deciding how to mitigate the disengaged , whether that’s inviting them into the culture on your terms, or whether that’s excusing them from the organization in some kind of a Human Resources 101 Performance Improvement Plan, or whatever it happens to be.

And it’s surprising how the power of a culture that has shifted in that direction will take on its own momentum and that the right things will happen. Either the Performance Improvement Plans will result in the intended outcome, or people will fold into the culture and negative leaders will become positive .

So, team that I’m thinking of that became the most innovative team I’ve ever seen took on that challenge and spent probably almost two years eradicating the dysfunction. They called it a bullyectomy where they surgically removed the people who were hurting the team. As talented as they might’ve been, as condescending and arrogant as they may have been, and for being the smartest person in the room, if they were hurting the team, they didn’t belong on the team .

And so, after about two years of a successful bullyectomy or two, this team got to the business of defining clinical excellence, and using research and discovery to innovate new things, and becoming a magnet for recruitment for the world’s best . And if you think about the old spinning the plate on the stick thing where the plate wobbles, you got to spin it again to keep it moving, they just keep spinning the plate over and over and over again, and they never let anything dysfunctional or anything toxic to the team take root. They know that it’s going to happen every once in a while, because humans are humans, but they address it proactively, even if that means an uncomfortable .

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, some of those norms that you’re talking about establishing there, that everyone had the right to referee, what might those sound like in practice in terms of particular behaviors?

Steve Ritter
How we treat each other, civility, respect, appreciation of differences, embracing change, those kinds of things, Pete. The common sense things that you would have in your marriage, that I would have in my marriage, the way I would treat my children, the way I would treat my best friend, and the way I treat my spouse are the same ground rules that you want in a team or in an organization, they just apply in a larger scale.

And so, it gets down to the way we treat each other, and the way we talk to each other, and the way that we value the diversity on the team, and the way that we manage conflict and adversity in kind of a poised and resilient . It’s basic things you learn in kindergarten kind of values that somehow get a pass in a workplace but wouldn’t get a pass with a best friend or with a lover, right?

So, one of the things that we have learned is that the recipe for what makes a team effective is no different than the recipe for what makes a relationship , whether that’s a co-worker, or whether that’s a lover, or whether that’s a friend, or whether that’s a teammate on a recreational softball team you’re playing on the weekends.

The scale is different when it comes to trust, for instance. Interpersonal team may be more intimate, but the expectation that people treat each other with kindness, and with civility, and with understanding, and with productive conflict resolution, and poise and resilience and flexibility during periods of adversity and change are common sense. And, really, the refereeing is giving people permission to embrace that and to call themselves and each other out.

If in yours and my relationship, which goes back a few years now, if I treated you in a way that was disrespectful, even if I didn’t realize I was being disrespectful, I would hope that you would bring that to my . I’d hope that you would say, “Steve, when you said X, it caused this in me.” And I should have the maturity to say, “Whoa, I had no idea. I did not intend to hurt you, but I see that I did, and I own that, and that’s not going to happen again, and I’m sorry for what I did.” I should be able to do that in any relationship.

One of the exercises that we do with teams is we ask everyone to think about three relationships in their lives, at least one in the workplace, where there’s an unresolved crucial conversation that ought to happen. And the reason it’s unresolved is because it’s uncomfortable, or because you’re afraid it might make it worse, or whatever it happens to be. And then what is the issue? How do you want to address that issue? And what would be the measurement of the outcome of that being in a better ?

Oftentimes, when we see teams move to healthier cultures, that’s what’s happening behind the scenes, is that people who have been not getting along for a long time, figure out why that is and what they need to do about . I had a manager in a medical team last week say, “I don’t understand why she doesn’t like me anymore. We used to be friends.” Now, that’s a very personal exchange, but that caused her to go back to her and say that directly to her, which was my intervention with her, is, “Have you asked her what happened?”

And so, she went back and said, “What happened between us?” And it ended up being something, in the grand scheme of things, that might’ve been petty, “I found out that you made more money than I did, and I’ve never felt the same about you since,” something like that. But, now, it’s being talked . So, if you take the kind of crucial conversations 101 curriculum and methodology, oftentimes that’s what people need to .

And most human resources departments are equipped with people that have the talent to move people through conflict resolution, to move people through crucial conversations, to move people through change management, innovation technique. It’s really just giving the team permission to be well and to act on the common sense things and make relationships .

Pete Mockaitis
And I guess that’s what I’m wondering when it comes to common sense things. I mean, a lot of the things we’re talking about, you know, poise in the midst of conflict, or respecting conflict as a tool to bring about good things. I guess they’re almost a little bit subject to interpretation. I guess. If someone were to sort of throw a flag, and say, “You’re not doing this.” And they can say, “Yes, I am.” It’s almost a little bit, not to be sort of like childish or elementary, but I can see like, I guess, there’s this tension I’m thinking through with regard to, are you really going to spell it out in terms of like explicit rules, like, “We do not say, ‘That’s a stupid idea here’”? Or do you leave it at a higher level of abstraction, like really respectful in our discourse?

Steve Ritter
Sometimes it is childish and immature, and sometimes you’re calling people out for not playing nice in the sandbox. I had a situation where probably the most highly-educated group of people in the room were listening to their assessment results. And so, when you get assessment results that say there is an undercurrent of disrespect in the workplace, for instance, and that that scores a really high mean and a really high standard deviation statistically, which means people feel really strong about it, and there are some people who it affects more dramatically than others.

And you give that piece of data to the room, and then you say, “You, 12 people, responded to this survey in a strong way saying there’s an undercurrent of disrespect on this team. Or, words and actions that undermine the team are tolerated by a leadership. These are survey questions assessing the team’s wellness that give very clear valid metrics around what’s broken with the .” Then you get the conversations about, “What does that mean?”

So, I’ve had a person raised their hand, and say, “I think that’s me. I think I’m the one that people are talking about. And the truth is I don’t handle stress very well and I don’t know what to do about it because when I’m stressed, I don’t treat people very nicely. And I guess people learn to tolerate that with me. And I don’t want to be that way but I don’t know what to do about it.” And then you get four other people that raise their hand, and say, “I’d be happy to help you with that.” And then that person grows in some .

I had a person once in a public school setting where, after about a year of the majority of the faculty trying to wrest control back from the handful of bullies that were bullying the rest of the faculty, raised her hand and said, “I know that everyone thinks I’m one of the bullies, and everyone thinks that I’m one of the disengaged people. The reality is I was and I don’t want to be that person, and I see where we’re going, and I want to move in that direction. I’m just slow to change. So, if you can bear with me, I’m coming.” And everyone embraced that. Everyone embraced the fact that people are allowed to repair . People are willing to accept folks who are on their own journey to be a better teammate in some way.

So, usually, the data from the assessment, whether you do that formally with the online assessment that gives us the rigorous metrics of what’s going on in every aspect of the team, or whether you do it informally with just asking a couple of simple questions, usually leads to a , “So, why are we seeing this data? Tell me what’s going on with the team that makes this data portray this aspect of the team.” And people will tell you a story, and the story will usually lead to, “What do we need to do to fix this?”

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s really beautiful as you described these conversations, they’re just so open, so real, you might say vulnerable. It’s like, “Yeah, this is what’s really going on with me, y’all.” And it’s beautiful. And I think some of listeners might be like, “Wow, we’re miles away from people being able to disclose at that level.”

Steve Ritter
But that’s what happens. So, if the foundation, our norms and values, and that creates a platform upon which to build trust, and there is psychological safety in the , then those are exactly the kinds of conversations that happen where people will ask for coaching, where people will ask for help with .

You work from the assumption that everyone’s doing their best and most of us perform pretty well when there’s no stress. But under stress, some of us regress and some of us get immature, we’re not always at our best all the time. And so, when you’ve gone through the labor of building an environment of accountability and a culture of accountability that strengthens trust, those are exactly the kinds of conversations that  where people will say, “I would like help with this. I’m not being my best self. I’m holding the team back. I want to be a part of this moving forward. What do I need to do to get there?”

Pete Mockaitis
And for the disengaged bullies and folks who are just not having it, you mentioned some coaching and Performance Improvement Plans. How does that process work?

Steve Ritter
Well, you would be surprised at how many people who are in that category find other places to work on their own. For some people, dysfunctional relationships is their currency in life, and when a culture shifts to a healthier more trusting environment, they’re not getting their needs met because their needs are met by making other people feel small, and so they have to go somewhere where they can make that happen.

So, you always have a small number of people who find a way to leave for those reasons. But you’d also be surprised at how many people don’t want to be broken, and they’ve never really had an opportunity. We call them the tippable disengaged, folks who can be tipped into the culture. And so, disengaged people rarely become under-engaged people. They usually buy in, and they say, “I want to use my leadership skills in a different way than being a negative leader. How can I be a part of the solution

And so, I guess when you think of a PIP, when you think of Performance Improvement Plans, they’re generally designed to get somebody out. They give people a tight set of accountabilities and a tight timeframe to perform them which guarantees failure, and then you catch them on the failure, and you have a reason to let them go. That’s usually what a Performance Improvement Plan is designed to do in Human Resources circles.

But a true Performance Improvement Plan gives someone a path to grow and to improve. And if you surround them with the right coaching and the right , you end up with conversations like, “Your peers say that you’ve not been easy to play with in the sandbox. I’m guessing that this isn’t just a problem in the workplace. Perhaps this is a problem in your family, in your social circles as well. You’re 43 years old, do you want to do something about this? Is this okay with you? Because if you want to do something about this, we have resources that can help you.” And you’d be surprised at people’s ability to transform when provided an opportunity to get coached.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And when you said about the drama or the conflicted relationships is their currency in life, it just reminded me of a quote from The Office, Kelly Kapoor said that if she had to choose between two suitors, and she said, “Robbie makes me so happy, and Ryan causes so much drama, so I just need to figure out which of those is more important to me.”

Steve Ritter
Exactly. Exactly. Well, you know, but if you think about that, those of us, and I’m one of them, who thrive on conflict and who thrive on change, I’ve put three kids through college and built two businesses on assisting people with conflict and assisting people with change. And so, there’s a positive way to have that surround you in life. It’s okay to be fueled by chaos as long as you manage it in a professional and a respectful way. It’s okay to have conflict as long as you are mature and adult about the whole .

And so, there are people in life who’s competency is to be good under pressure during periods of significant change and conflict, and those people often become advisors, and consultants, and coaches, and therapists, and teachers, and mentors, and those kinds of professions because they can elevate other people into healthier places, and elevate relationships and teams into healthier places. So, conflict and chaos sometimes gets a bad rap.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. And so then, I guess I want to talk a little bit about the innovation side of things. So, once you’ve got some of those norms well established, and we’re invested, and there’s the trust is working, and we’re sort of owning our stuff and sharing it, what are some of the best practices for making the most of the innovation phase when you’re in it?

Steve Ritter
Oh, well, I think it’s a willingness to live with an unsolved problem to begin with. Innovation always starts with an unsolved problem. And being willing to experiment, and explore, and create, and fail a couple of times to be able to discover a new way of looking at that problem. And so, all of those dynamics require someone to feel safe and trusted in an environment that supports that kind of thing.

And so, I guess a rich and fertile garden of diversity, full of people who are unafraid to take smart risks and to stumble and fall a couple of times, is usually what creates new ideas. Whereas, the opposite, where people hold onto the status quo and aim for safety usually doesn’t result in new ways of thinking about things or doing .

And so, it all goes back to the foundation of common values and common goals that allow for a culture of , that enables a team to have the psychological safety for people to take risks because innovation is all about providing an atmosphere that, I suppose, has a safety net underneath it so that people can be out on a limb and take risks and try  without having to worry about whether the amygdala portion of the brain screams fear and tells you not to do it, that you go ahead and use your cerebral cortex to analyze and interpret and make decisions and try things even though your fear center is screaming, “Don’t do it.”

And, usually, that happens most effectively when the team has created an atmosphere of collaboration and psychological safety so that falling, or stumbling, or failing are not a big deal. They’re actually fuel for the next round of .

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

Steve Ritter
Well, I think that you’re going to see a barrage of social media hype around the book “The 4 Stages of a Team: How teams thrive…and what to do when they don’t.” I’m excited about this book, but I also want to let your audience know that there’s a 10-year archive of blogs on the TeamClock.com website that are categorized in every area of team effectiveness that you would imagine. And so, while the book is a few hundred pages of best practice and case study and how to, there’s a deep archive of blogs available on the website as well, so I would point people in that direction.

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

Steve Ritter
You know, I think the last time you asked me that, I quoted Seth Godin, and I think I want to quote Seth again. Seth was kind enough to endorse my first book. He talked about the importance of taking responsibility for what it means to join or to lead a team. And his most recent book is titled “This Is Marketing,” and he says in that book, “People don’t want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it makes them feel.”

And so, that might be more connected, or that might mean peace of mind, or that might be status in some way, and so I think about that quote all the time. I think about that quote when I listen to your podcast, for instance, because your podcast is a great example. I listen for the way it makes me feel. It makes me feel smarter. It makes me feel more equipped. It makes me feel like I have a better toolkit to go out and manage my life. And every episode, without exception, has that outcome when I listen.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, shucks. Thank you.

Steve Ritter
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I just put out a big survey, and I asked a question along those lines in terms of, “What are your recurring thoughts and feelings when you’re experiencing the show?” And I’m thinking I believe that more and more for marketing, and that’s been part of my…well, this isn’t about Pete’s journey to learn marketing.

Steve Ritter
But we’re thinking the same too that, as Seth says, it’s not about what you make, it’s about what it’ll do for you and the way it makes you feel.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And I think that’s true of everything, even when it’s a rational purchase. It’s like, “Oh, this is a wise investment because it will save me money or make me money, so it’s money on top of money. Of course, logically that’s just better to do than to not do.” It’s like, “Yeah, but why bother? Why do you even care what’s money doing for you in the first place?” I was like, “Oh, I feel secure and free and able.”

Steve Ritter
Peace of mind, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. So, I think Seth really is as brilliant as people say he is.

Steve Ritter
Well, not many people write a daily blog that has the followership that he has.

Pete Mockaitis
And a good daily blog.

Steve Ritter
Yeah, and I’m one that reads it every day. And, you know what, they’re not all a plus and neither are the things that I write, but there’s enough A pluses to keep reading and keep sharing.

Pete Mockaitis
And, let’s see, was I asking about a study or a quote or a book? You’ve got a little bit of everything.

Steve Ritter
You asked about a piece of research. I don’t know if you remember, you and I talked about this Journal of Applied Psychology article that came out maybe over a decade ago.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I do.

Steve Ritter
They studied what it is that most drives the outcome in a professional relationship. And they studied all of the variables and equation from gender to age to educational background to theoretical orientation, and they found that the greatest driver of outcome in a professional relationship was the perception of connection within the first hour from the perspective of the client. And so, if the client felt like there was a good connection in the first hour, the outcome of that professional relationship is going to be much stronger.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, absolutely. And in a way that just makes me feel so much better. I thought about that many, many times as our conversation because it makes me feel better about, I guess, others think I’m like being real judgmental in terms of like I’m reading a book or listening to something, I’m just like, “I just don’t like this guy.”

Steve Ritter
Right. And then when it resonates, you have the opposite feeling, it’s like, “Oh, we are connected, yes.”

Pete Mockaitis
And then I feel so bad, it’s like, “I don’t like this guy. I want to stop reading.” It’s like, “Well, Pete, you should like him. Take in broad perspectives from all sorts of different people that you like and that you dislike.” And then I come back to, “Yeah, but Steve told me that…”

Steve Ritter
In the first hour, in the first 10 pages of this book better grab me.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, so even if I muscled through this book and hated every moment of it, it probably wouldn’t deliver the goods for me just because I’m not resonating from the get-go. Maybe I think they’re scamming or unethical or fraudulent.

Steve Ritter
As an author, Pete, I don’t want you to have to muscle through any page of my book. As our mutual friend, Mawi, told me when we wrote Team Clock, “You never want to give a reader any reason to put a bookmark in the book. You always want the reader to continue to turn pages.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. Mawi episode number one.

Steve Ritter
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, he’s like the cardinal sin, I think, he said is being boring.

Steve Ritter
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Don’t do that. Oh, inspiring dude. Okay. Well, how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Steve Ritter
Favorite tool. I’m going to give you two. As a writer, I am a devotee of the Flesch-Kincaid Readability statistics in the options menu in Microsoft Word. I don’t know if you use that but it tells you not only how many words you’ve written, but how many sentences per paragraph, how many words per sentence, how many syllables per word, and it tells you at what grade level you are writing at. And I try to keep all of my writing in the eighth to ninth grade level. It just keeps the book flowing and doesn’t give people a reason to put a bookmark in any page. It keeps pages turning.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Steve Ritter
The second tool I would offer is I’ve become an owner of the HeartMath wearable biofeedback tool. And so, the app on your phone is called Inner Balance but it pairs with a Bluetooth connectable device that reads your heart rhythms. And if you want to know how to manage your stress in real time, all you do is clip this thing onto your shirt, and attach it to your earlobe and turn on your phone, and it will tell you in real time whether you’re in a relaxed or stressful state. And you can teach yourself how to put yourself in a relaxed state at any time. And what I find is when I need to perform, whether that’s my band at a wedding, or whether that’s writing a book that I want you to read, I do that at my best when I’m in a relaxed state.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite habit?

Steve Ritter
I put a little creative music into every single day no matter whether that’s five minutes or an hour. It opens new pathways.

Pete Mockaitis
And a particular nugget that you share that really connects and resonates and gets quoted back to you often?

Steve Ritter
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the concept of renewal. When you think about teams and relationships that’s happening in cycles, you realize that there’s always another chance to refresh something or to repair something. And so, when you think about the things that happen in relationships and teams, anytime you add or subtract a teammate, you have a renewal. Anytime a conflict gets resolved you have a renewal. Anytime an innovation alters the work of the team, you have a renewal. Every time you celebrate a success or a disappointment of a failure, you have a renewal. Every time a goal gets redefined, you have a renewal. And so, you get these chances over and over to elevate your relationships and your .

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

Steve Ritter
TeamClock.com. There’s plenty on the website and it’s in the process of getting refreshed with the new book information, so we hope to make it even more beneficial for our readers.

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

Steve Ritter
I have been asking people to continually assess their relationships and their teams for my entire career, and I want to make that simple. Ask three questions, “In what stage are we right now? Why are we in that stage? And what should we do to move ?”

Pete Mockaitis
Steve, once again, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck with the book “The 4 Stages of a Team,” and all your other adventures.

Steve Ritter
Thank you, Pete. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, and I look forward to all the other episodes. You’ve created a tool for all of us, so thank you for that and thanks for inviting me on again.

439: How to Find Opportunities Hiding in Crappy Situations with David Greene

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David Greene says: "Ask yourself how you can run towards a problem instead of away from it."

David Greene shares how you can identify valuable opportunities in any situation you find yourself in–even the crappy ones.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How difficulties often indicate valuable opportunities
  2. Why analyzing your anxiety often yields valuable insight
  3. David’s salad story which reveals how to 8X your efficiency on certain tasks

About David

David Greene is the co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast, author of “Long Distance Real Estate Investing: How To Buy, Rehab, and Manage Out Of State Rental Property,” online blog contributor, Keller Williams Rookie of the Year, and a top producing real estate agent in Northern CA.

As a former police officer who started investing in real estate in 2009, David has built a portfolio of over 30 single family homes, as well as shares in large apartment complexes, mortgage notes, and note funds.

David teaches free monthly seminars on real estate investing and has been featured on numerous real estate related podcasts. He runs GreeneIncome.com, a blog where he teaches others to build wealth through real estate, as well as “The David Greene Team”—and is one of the top Keller Williams agents in the East Bay.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

David Greene Interview Transcript

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

David Greene
My pleasure. I’m excited.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to chat with you too ever since I’ve listened to the BiggerPockets podcast many times. So, I’ve heard your voice, but then when I got to hear your story on the BiggerPockets Money podcast, which I’m excited to appear on, in some weeks from now, I really got a kick out of how time after time after time, you saw some opportunities that others didn’t. So, I’d love it if we could start your tale with back in the day when you were a waiter.

David Greene
That’s actually really fun to talk about that, BiggerPockets Money Podcast. I think it was maybe Episode 12, was the first time that I had ever talked about my story on a podcast, for sure, but maybe even in like the last 10 years. So, I had a lot of fun going back to remembering how I used to think and the doubts and the fears and the worries I had. And now seeing how it worked out. It’s kind of incredible. So, this should be fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, well, let’s take it away.

David Greene
Okay, where should we start?

Pete Mockaitis
Well so, there you are, you’re a waiter and you are starting to wonder how can I make some more money here?

David Greene
Yeah, so I was always a very driven guy, like I wanted to make as much money as I could, I knew it. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily greed that was driving that but like ambition might be a better word. I knew that I didn’t want my time to not count for anything.

So, I was very, very, like, motivated by if I was going to show up somewhere. And if I was going to put six hours of time, eight hours of time into somewhere, I might as well work hard when I’m there. It didn’t benefit me to show up and not work.

And that was one thing that I noticed that was different in me than other people, we both had to be stuck there for eight hours not doing the stuff we’d rather do, right. You can’t go snowboarding— for me playing basketball was what I loved to do, I can’t play basketball when I’m here at this restaurant.

So, I might as well work hard. And I noticed that a lot of other people were content to be there but not work. And I always looked at it like well, if you’re stuck here, you might as well get something out of it.

So as a waiter, the more tables you had and the better job you did at those tables would determine your income because it was like you know, 90% tips. That’s how you were getting paid. So, I noticed if I could wait more tables, I could make more money. And I knew at the end of my shift when I clocked out and I was going home, all that matter was how much money I had in my pocket. It didn’t matter if I sat around and did nothing or I worked super hard, that was over. And the money that I had was only thing I was taking with me.

So, I became determined to get as good as I could at waiting tables as well as I could and learning the skills that I would need to be able to do that to be able to make more money.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So, it starts with a different perspective like, “Okay more tables equals more money—”.

David Greene
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
“I want to make the most of my time, so, giddy up, and let’s make that happen.” And so how did you do that?

David Greene
So, the first thing I did was I looked at who in the restaurant is already the best, who’s doing this at the highest level. So, there was two waitresses that were kind of like to go-tos when they got really busy. All the tables would go to them. When there was a big party coming in, they would get the big parties, right?

And, and I started so like ingratiate myself to those girls. It was “hey, what do you need? Can I fill up your tables’ waters? Can I get them some coffee? Can I help brush your tables? Can I bring your drinks from the bar to your tables?” I always be them a priority. When my tables were all done and there was nothing to do and everyone else was standing in the kitchen kind of BS-ing, I would then go help those girls.

And I noticed that they would start to say things to the owner like, “an, this David guy is incredible. We love him.” So, I kind of got a little, “Ooh, this is good. The owner likes me now she’s treating me a little better.” So, I would start doing what we call side work at the end of the night. This is like the cleaning up of the restaurant that they make the waitstaff do.

I would get mine done and then I would go to theirs two, right, because if I have to be here for this time, I might as well clean my stuff up fast and then go help them, more compliments my way. Now I noticed that the owner was kind of pulling me aside and giving me extra training or maybe testing that other waiters weren’t getting.

She’d pull me aside and say, “Hey, these are the eight different kinds of glasses that the bartender uses. We use this type for this cocktail, we use this type for this cocktail.” I being 19 years old or whatever I was, didn’t understand what this had to do with my job. But looking back now I realize she was looking to see, is he a flash in the pan or is this a kid who really wants to learn the industry?

And when I would memorize it, she was very happy and I would get more responsibility, right? And this was my first kind of like, foray into, “you can earn your way into a better position, you don’t have to just wait for someone to notice you and say let me give you a raise, let me give you a promotion.”

So, I went to the owner at a certain point and said, “Hey, I want to wait more tables, so, what do I need to do to be like Haley and Kelly?” Those were the top two waitresses. And she said, “I’m so glad you asked. This is what I look forward to see if you’re ready for the next level.” And she gave me a list of stuff. Now I had a literal blueprint for what I needed to do if I wanted to be successful at this job.

Pete Mockaitis
So much good stuff there, that’s applicable just about anywhere in terms of, alright, attitude and making the most of the time, zeroing in on role models, on who’s the best here. Helping out, proactive favors, ingratiating to the best, asking the questions, “How do I be like that person?”

All that’s great stuff and I guess what’s interesting is, most people did not do that and you shared it in your story that’s a part of that equation could be that the owner was kind of demanding, had some high standards that rub some people the wrong way?

David Greene
Yeah, I guess I should mention that, she was a terror. I mean, people were terrified of this woman, right? When she would show up, everybody went to like, scurry like cockroaches to find somewhere to hide because they didn’t want to be seen by her right?

You hit it on the head, she had extremely high standards. Now, I was used to that in my life before this, I had been playing sports and coaches had really high standards. My parents had really high standards. Now that you mentioned it, so yeah, I’m learning something about that myself. That might be one of the reasons why I do better in life is because I have higher standards. I didn’t really think about that till right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Happy to help.

David Greene
Thank you for that. So rather than me running away from the person with the high standards, I ran towards the person and said, “How can I help you hit these standards?” And because everybody else was running away, I made me stand out.

So, I realized the reason she was always cranky and grumpy was because the standards were not being met. And I would have been part of the problem by running away. That’s why the standards weren’t being met. And by her increasing her expectations of me, it was actually a compliment, right? When everyone else was complaining, why did she care if the cracker wrapper gets left on my table or who cares if their water was empty for a minute.

I was looking at it differently like, if she’s paying this much attention to what goes on at my table, she’s noticing me, this is my opportunity to show her that she can trust me, because I was so motivated by getting more.

And what I found, Pete, is that like, the difference between taking it easy and getting three or four tables and working hard and getting eight or nine tables was literally double your income, right? So, like, if your average waiter was making 40 grand a year, and you worked harder and got eight tables, you could make $80,000 a year as like 18 or 19-year-old kid in 2000/2001, whenever this was happening. It’s a big amount of money for somebody in that position, right?

And that was what motivated me to get good at the job. So, once I got to where she was trusting me with more responsibilities, which meant getting more tables, now I had to learn how to keep the same level of service even though my workload had increased. And that was my first like, foray into being more efficient.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. There’s so much good stuff here. And at first I want to key in on that notion of you ran toward the person with the highest standard rather than running away and you being noticed is a good thing even if it doesn’t feel like it like “oh my gosh, get off my back.” That reminds me of a previous guest Eddie Davila, who said that, “Pressure is really a gift, you give pressure to someone you trust and that you’re expecting great things of as opposed to giving pressure to someone who you think is everything in them out too much or be able to accomplish much for you.”

David Greene
Yeah, that’s absolutely true and you see it with everything, you see it with professional athletes, you see it with the best performers. You see, I think even to a degree with like teachers and their students, that principle runs through everything.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then how in practice did you execute, doing more tables?

David Greene
When it came down to at this specific restaurant, it was not run very efficiently, the waiters had to do an insane amount of the actual work. And the busboys and the helpers, if there was any, didn’t do very much at all.

So, what it meant was like every dinner would come with a salad or soup and the waiter had to make the salad. And the salad had to be tossed in the dressing. And there was like nine different things you had to put in it, right. And then we had like 12 different kinds of salads. And then there was no food runner, so you had to run your own food, there were no computers, you had to handwrite all this on a ticket, right.

So, I started to notice just from listening to my own emotions, what would cause me stress or anxiety. So when I would get like a table of eight and I would take all their orders on a piece of paper, I would then go in the kitchen and I’d have to pull up a menu and look at the menu and write down the price of every item that I was going to give to the kitchen staff.

So, if they wanted a T-bone steak, I would have to write a T-bone, medium rare. I’d have to put whatever starch they wanted, a baked potato, rice or pasta, right. And then I’d have to put the price of whatever that thing cost on the ticket because that was also going to be the receipt that we gave to the customer at the end.

And all these waiters would be all like huddled around the area where the menu was trying to fight and see over the top of each other to write down all the prices and I’m like, I would get anxiety when I knew I had to go do that. It was going to slow me down and what if my food comes up, I have to run out to the tables while I’m doing this.

What if my drinks are up at the bar? So, I would memorize that menu. I took one home and I just memorized the price of everything. I made flashcards, then when I would go running, I would go in my head and I would say porterhouse $28, T-bone $26, filet mignon, oh, I can’t remember.

Then I would make a note, I need to go look up the price of filet mignon, right. And I would just run them over in my head over and over and over until I had the entire menu memorized. And that would save me the time of having to go look at that menu and write the price in as well as fighting with the other servers to be able to see it.

Now, some people said, “David, that saves you 30 seconds, big deal.” But 30 seconds in the middle of a crunch is huge.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah and again and again and again repeatedly.

David Greene
Over and over and over, that’s exactly right. So, that was the first thing I did. Then the next thing I noticed was I would feel anxiety whenever I had to go like make all those salads, right. And there was a ton of steps that would have to go into each one.

So, one night when we closed, I went to the little salad station and I broke down every step I had to take to make a salad with my hands. So, we would—this may be a lot of detail but we had the salad kept above you at like eye level in this really big bin and we would take a scoop of it out and put it in a bowl, then we would scoop the dressing from the little container into the bowl, then we would grab a fork and we would toss it all around, then we would take us a chilled plate out of a fridge, pour the lettuce on to the plate.

So, we’re like four steps here, then I would take a handful of croutons and a handful of like cut up cabbage and stuff like that, put it on the top. So, we’re at six steps, then there was a tomato that you added that was step seven, then you would have to put that salad plate on a tray behind you and make the next one.

So, I went there and I would practice this like dance of my right hand goes to grab the lettuce, my left hand goes to grab the dressing. I’ve already put the bowl where I’m going to put them in place. How quickly can I get those two things done?

The minute that the left hand is pouring the dressing into the bowl, my right hand has nothing to do, it should already be going to grab the croutons, right. And I would practice how to grab the right amount of croutons fast, how to grab the right handful size of lettuce so that it almost became like second nature to me. And I got to where I could rip through these things in maybe 10 to 15% of the time that the other waitresses were taking because they just kind of went at a comfortable pace.

Pete Mockaitis
10 to 15%, in other words eight times as fast.

David Greene
Yes, I was like, I was a blur, right. And I made it a game like how quickly can I do this. And it almost became fun when you get into the zone and you’re concentrating that hard. So, I could make it eight times as fast. And again, maybe that saved me two and a half minutes. But that two and a half minutes was really big when you were in the middle of a crunch, two and a half minutes when a table wants to order food and you’re not there can be a big impact on your tip, right.

And so, what I would do is I would go through the process of all my responsibilities of a waiter. And I would notice at what point do I get all the anxiety? At what point are we like, “Oh, I hate this part?”—because we all have those thoughts. And then how can I be better or more efficient? How can I solve that problem? Because that was the same problem my competition was having, and they probably weren’t being as purposeful at solving it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly. Well, that’s really cool how the anxiety serves as an emotional indicator for what’s happening in sort of a business process flow logistics context as a bottleneck. It’s just like, this thing is slowing it down and you’re feeling the anxiety when you’re in the midst of the slow down.

And so, by really focusing with great, I guess precision on, alright, memorize the price, alright, salad dance, let’s just flash this in half and half again and again. That’s really cool and has applications to all kinds of jobs, like this process seems to be taking a stupid amount of time, let me really go after how I can accelerate it.

David Greene
That’s exactly right and I’ve used that same strategy or technique or whatever you want to call it in every job I’ve had. Like right now I’m a real estate agent. And there are steps to every single transaction that happen and some of those I do really well and some of those I don’t do well or I feel that same level of “oh, I hate this part.”

This is always where I mess it up, right. I’m gonna have to call the client and tell them this and they’re going to give me attitude and my natural response is to be cold and apathetic because I don’t like when I get attitude, right. I’m not going to do well here.

Most of us ignore that feeling of anxiety and we just say like, we either ignore the tasks that would require it or we have half-butt it to get through there because we don’t like it. What I did as a real estate agent was I said, “Okay, this is not my favorite part. How do I get somebody else and train them to do that for me, that does love doing it?”, right.

Now the anxiety is gone and I’m focusing on the parts I like and I’m doing better. I ended up working at a different restaurant after this when I had reconstructive ankle surgery from a basketball injury. And when I came back, I said, what could I do to make more money, I can only take so many tables at a certain point, there’s diminishing returns, you can’t take more.

And I realized I better go work in a more expensive restaurant. So, I found a more expensive restaurant that was much further away. But it was like twice or three times as expensive as the steakhouse I had been working at. And that was my first foray into seeing like, different businesses are structured and use different models. And you have to take these skills I’m talking about and apply them in new ways in different places that you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, and that’s good stuff. Well, maybe when we get a couple more examples of you and noticing opportunities and how you’re making it happen. You pulled off a pretty neat stunt in terms of getting way, way, way cheaper rent in California. How did this come about?

David Greene
As far as where I was living?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

David Greene
Yeah, so what I did was I was— man, how did this start? I moved to the Bay Area in California to become a deputy sheriff and go to the police academy. And I was paying a fee to live in a house with a bunch of strangers from Craigslist. So, it was only like $650 a month, which is pretty good rent but I hated it. I mean I absolutely hated living with these mutants that I was having to spend my time with—

Pete Mockaitis
One of them is listening, these mutants.

David Greene
Yeah, I doubt they even know what a podcast is, Pete. These were people, who were very negative, very problematic, complained about everything. It was really rough. And I knew if I wanted to go get like an apartment, rent was around $2000/$2500 a month, and I could have paid it but I just didn’t want to.

So, I heard all the guys at work talking about one deputy who said that he had just bought a house. And they said, “Yeah, he got this big old huge house, it’s just him, his wife doesn’t even live with them right now, she’s overseas working. Why did he buy it?” And they were all kind of laughing at him. And they brought me into the conversation to mock him also because they knew I was like a real estate guy.

And I didn’t think I should mock him, I was like, “What’s he gonna do with all that space? Why did he buy it?” Right. So, I went to talk to Vaughn and I asked Vaughn like, why he did it. He’s like, “You know what, I just always wanted a big house man. I grew up in a small poor area.” He grew up in East LA, was very rough.

He said, “I’ve always wanted a big house. I knew it was bigger than I needed but I didn’t care. I feel great having it.” And I was like, “Well, do you want to make another $300 a month?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Let me move in.” He goes, “Okay”.

Pete Mockaitis
Here we go.

David Greene
We’ve got like five bedrooms, I’m not using.
And that’s what the number I threw out, right. Like, I could have said $200, he probably would have went with that. So, I didn’t say, “Hey, can I rent a room?” And he said, “Sure.” And then how much and now we’re negotiating the price. I structured that differently, right.

So, now I move in with this guy, I’m paying $300 a month, no utilities, no electricity, like nothing at all other than this $300 a month, and I have an entire like upstairs mansion completely to myself and a house that was about five years old.

Pete Mockaitis
I love that there. And I think there’s a cool lesson when it comes to wherever there is stupidity, there is often a mismatch of resources and thusly, an opportunity. They say, “Hey David, can you believe this guy?” and like, interesting.

David Greene
That’s exactly right, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s so much more productive and uplifting, I would say just for people being kind to each other, approach to go there as well as great way to phrase the question. In terms of free money you weren’t planning on having as opposed to “Oh, I have a resource called a room that’s empty. What should that go for?”

David Greene
Yes, and so he obviously wasn’t good with money. We knew that before we started the conversation, right. So, he didn’t value money, what he valued was like, “I want to feel like I’m a somebody.” So, he also got a little jolt out of knowing he was helping me, that made him feel like a good friend, a good person, he was providing for somebody.

So, I think a lot of us make the mistake of assuming everybody values money as much as we do when for him it meant nothing. I mean, I probably could have lived there for free if I could have sold him on how much it would have helped me or what it would have meant to me or if I did chores or something like that. But yeah, you’re right, like, he was very stupid when it came to money. And so there was opportunity that was within that kind of environment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s real nice. So well, nowadays, much of your opportunity identification comes about in real estate investing, and you’ve got a hot new book, The BRRRR Rental Property Investment Strategy Made Simple, which I’ve enjoyed reading. So, there’s a few things I’ll point to, but maybe you could just give us your quick take on what is this strategy? And how do you go about identifying opportunities in this particular context?

David Greene
So, the BRRRR strategy itself is, it’s a cool name first off, but is that really, the idea itself is still pretty simple. The problem with buying rental properties that you spend a lot of money on a down payment, then you spend a lot of money to fix the house up to get it ready.

Now you’ve got a property you can rent out to somebody else, but all your capital is sunk into the house. Okay, so you can’t use that capital to buy another house, that’s the inefficiency in buying rental properties, it takes you a long time to save up all the money that you’re going to dump into the property, right.

The BRRRR strategy involves buying it and fixing it up and once it’s been fixed up and it’s worth more, at that point you refinance it and take your money out as opposed to financing it in the very beginning when you buy it.

So, you can use your own money, borrow from your 401K, borrow from a retirement account, take a HELOC on your house, partner with a friend, however you find the money to buy the house, you go by the most undervalued asset that you can, and you’re looking for opportunity in homes other people don’t want.

You’re literally looking for the stinky, smelly, nasty house that most people look and say, “no, why would I ever want it”, right. Because you’re not going to be renting out that stinky, smelly thing, you’re going to be fixing it up to make it worth more.

It’s very similar to if you want to go buy a business, you don’t want to go buy a business that’s already be running incredibly efficient and would sell for top dollar. You want to step into a business that’s being mismanaged, their sales team is terrible, their operations team is off the hook, they’re spending way too much money, their profits are very thin.

So, you can buy it at a low margin, then use your skills to make that business run more efficiently and better. And then either enjoy the profit or go sell it at a margin, right. It’s the very same principle applied to real estate investing, but it’s so much easier to do it because all you got to look for is a crummy looking house.

So, you buy it, you fix it up, I often add square footage to it if it’s extra small house, I look to add square footage. If it only has two bedrooms, I look to take maybe the dining room and turn that into a bedroom to make it at least three because that’s what makes it worth more. Once that’s done, I pull the money out and I have all my capital back that I can then go use to buy the next house and I can increase the scale.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that and that’s a great lesson right there when it comes to the opportunity, when something seems gross or crummy, there is an opportunity there, whether you’re buying a real estate property or a business. I’ve got a buddy who’s done this with websites.

He says, “Hmm, this is a website that has some decent traffic but could have way more if they just did a few things like A, B, C, D, I’m gonna go ahead and buy that website and crank up the traffic with these smart strategies”, and lo and behold, he’s got a really valuable source over there.

So, that’s cool and of itself is not to be disgusted by the grossness but to say, “ah, there’s something here.” And I think my favorite part of the book that I read was about— so you’ve got your five stages, your buy, your rehab, your refinance, your rent, and you repeat, so BRRRR, that’s four RRRRs, the BRRRR is where that it comes from.

And so when it comes to the rehabbing, I’ve got my property here. And it’s been a heck of a time with contractors and renovation professionals. But you had a really clever tactic when it comes to paying for bids, can you tell us about that?

David Greene
Paying a contract to do a bid for you?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

David Greene
Yeah, so if you’re getting a contractor that’s going to go out to the house, take his time, give you a bid of what it’s going to cost to fix it up, and then you’re not using them, you’re not going to get a very good contractor. At a certain point, they’re not going to want to give you anything for free.

So, you can get free bids from guys when you’ve worked with them in the past. But if you haven’t worked in the past or you don’t have a very strong, like future potential to give them a lot of business, they’re going to want you to pay. If you really don’t want to pay, you want to look for ways around that, like “how can I bring this person value, so he’s not going to have to necessarily charge me all the time for whatever this bid that I’m looking for is,” right.

One of the ways that you do that is you send them other people who need the same work, you send them referrals, right. What business doesn’t want referrals, any sales person whose job is to find business, if you send them referrals, you’re helping them do their job, they’re going to like you, they’re going to give you something back, right.

Another one would be I would say, “Hey, if you get this job, I’ll put you on my social media, I’ll let everyone know you’re the one that did this, will take the best pictures, the best angles, it’s free promotion for your business.”

Contractors are usually not business minded people. They don’t understand bookkeeping, let alone marketing, sales and a CRM, right. So, when you’re providing this stuff, it’s immensely valuable to them because it’s like magic. Like “I’d never even thought of doing something like that,” right.

And I like to take that approach with all the people that I’m using is, “what can I bring?” Or what do I know that’s easy for me that I can use to help them that’s very difficult, much like doing the side work for like a woman who’s worked really hard and maybe has two kids, and she’s trying to raise them alone is the end of the day. She’s been up since six o’clock in the morning. She’s exhausted, she does not want to clean that coffee station. I probably slept until 10:30 that morning. I’m a 19-year-old dude, I’m in great shape. That is not a very big deal for me to go clean the coffee station, but it meant a lot to her.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Yeah, that’s excellent. And so, what I think is fun about your mindset that differs from any others would be like, “I’m not going to pay someone to come by and not do anything.” But you’re thinking, “No, no, no, I am paying someone for the bid in order to (1) get more bids and explore more people to see what they can do. And hey, maybe you’ll end up saving coming out ahead of a deal, and (2) to build up a relationship with the folks you find to ultimately be the rock stars.

David Greene
Yeah, when you think about the value that a good contractor can bring you versus the price of a bid, it’s not even worth comparing, right. A good contractor can make me tens of thousands of dollars just in the work that they’re doing. For me to give them 100 bucks for their time to go make a bid means a world to them but it’s nothing to me with what they’re going to bring me, right.

And that’s assuming that they’re not actually bringing you deals. I get deals from my contractors, like someone will say, “Hey, can you come look at my buddy’s house, it’s in bad shape,” and he has no one to do? And they’ll go look at it, and they’ll say, “Yeah, it’s gonna cost you $50,000 to fix it,” and those people say, “We don’t have $50,000, what are we going to do? I guess we give it back to the bank.”

I want him coming to me and saying, “Hey David, there’s this opportunity over here, they’re going to give the house up to the bank,” where I can step in and buy it and then he gets his job, he gets his $50,000 job that he wanted and I get an incredibly good deal that’s worth a whole lot more to me. I mean, some of these deals, you’ll make $50,000 in equity on an average mediocre one, right. That’s not a bad return for the hundred dollars I was willing to pay that guy to give me a bid.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. I do the exact same thing with a lot of hiring for I guess, they’re contractors in terms of they are sort of contract workers in sort of the digital or information knowledge working space in terms of it’s like, “Hmm I want someone to write something or to design something, or to do transcripts,” or whatever it may be.

I will like to take a peek in terms of “Okay, well, what can you do? Let me pay you for a sample,” even though if I have no need to use that sample, just so I could see “Oh, wow, that looks way better than the other.” So, I’ve done this before is where I’ll pay 30 people for a sample piece of work, and then say, “Ah, these are the two who are really rocking it. I want to use you now hundreds of times over.”

David Greene
Yeah, and it’s a model that a lot of industries use often, like imagine a music producer trying to find the next big boy band or something, right.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m imagining that right now, with all the guys, high five again, “Hey, girl—”

David Greene
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right there with you, David.

David Greene
Exactly. Is there a better ROI than a boy band that blows up, makes billions of dollars to sing and dance, and you sell throw pillows and all kinds of other crazy stuff. They have to go through a whole lot of people that are underwhelming, right. And they’re going to have to spend a little bit of time and money taking people lots of dinner, flying around to get to know them. But when you find that one rock star, you don’t care how much money you spent, you’re earning so much more back in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
I didn’t think we end up at boy bands but I’m glad we did.

David Greene
I don’t think that’s ever come up in one interview I’ve ever done. Good job Pete, you pulled something out of me no one else has.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you, thank you. Well, tell you before we shift gears to hear about a few of your favorite things, do you have any kind of final tips that you’d share with others who were trying to notice hidden opportunities, in their own careers, in in real estate or send the course of living life?

David Greene
Yes, I’m a huge proponent of Warren Buffett’s advice that you should be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. Now he gives that advice in the context of when you’re buying stocks or when you’re investing.

So, when everyone else is saying buy, buy, buy, you should be a little worried, pull back. When everyone else is saying you’re an idiot, don’t buy, the sky is falling and they’re running around like a bunch of chicken littles, that’s when you should actually have the courage to jump in and buy.

I’ve taken that reasoning or that principle, and I’ve applied it to almost everything else. So, when everyone at my job was like, “oh, she’s coming again, I don’t want to deal with her” and they ran away, I ran towards her, right.

When their emotions were saying, “oh, this anxiety, I hate it, I should quit” or “I don’t want to take more than three tables because I don’t like the feeling I get when I do,” I would say I don’t like that feeling either but what does that feeling signaling to me that I could be improving, right. And that’s what drove me to be better to memorize the menu to get faster and making salads and bunch of other things I did that made me much more efficient, right.

Like one thing I didn’t even mention is most waiters would go to the kitchen, get ketchup come back, drop it off, the person would say, “can I have some pepper”, go to the kitchen, get the pepper come back, drop it off, I would make around to my tables and talk to all six of them and have all of them see what they needed, go to the kitchen, get all six tables’ stuff and in one trip, come back and drop it all off.

You do that seven or eight times a night and you’re saving yourself like 30 minutes of time, right. Just that one thing. But that was because I noticed every time I was going back and forth between the kitchen, the table and anxiety, “oh, I’m falling behind”, right. Everybody else was, their answer was to quit, to pull back, to try less hard, to give less. And I went the other way and I busted through.

That’s the advice that I would give people. When you have that boss that just drives you crazy and you can’t stand them, right. There’s a reason they’re acting that way. Understand what’s in their head. Are they getting it from their boss? Are they getting this pressure coming downhill? Are they insecure and they don’t really know how to do their job very well. As a cop, I got that all the time by supervisors that knew the least about law enforcement were the hardest to work for, because they were constantly afraid that a mistake was going to be made and they didn’t know how to predict it.

Well, I knowing what should be done was their favorite because I would say I would do things for them basically. So, they didn’t have to have anxiety when they were just all over me about stupid details, rather than pushing back. I was like, “oh, this guy’s terrified that something’s gonna go wrong,” right.

So, I would step in and do a lot of this stuff for them to make sure nothing did go wrong. You become their favorite. They stop ragging on you. And if and if anything, they look for opportunities to help you, right.

That’s the advice I would give your listeners. If you have a problem with the boss and you don’t like the way it feels, ask yourself how you can run towards that problem instead of away from it. If they’re constantly hounding you about deadlines, do whatever it takes to be better at your job to get it done before the deadline, then go to your boss and say, “Hey, I’m done, what other problems you have stacking up I can help you with?”, right.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that is so perfect and it’s so funny when you mentioned the Warren Buffett advice. I thought “Oh yeah, I read a really great article about that simplifies from Warren Buffett, guides me to deals no one else’s findings, like, “Oh, David wrote that—!” I read that years ago and it’s so good.

David Greene
That’s so funny.

Pete Mockaitis
So, if I may I’m going to embarrass you to read an excerpt, it says, “I have to target the people that others are overlooking. I want a lender able to actually return my calls. I want a property manager who doesn’t have a portfolio so large that they can’t even tell me when I have a vacancy because they’re too busy. And I want a handyman who can go immediately when something significant breaks as opposed to chasing the folks who have a ton of amazing reviews and are booked up for weeks and months to come.”

David Greene
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
So good. Well, David, let’s shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things now, can you share a favorite quote something you find inspiring?

David Greene
Well, the Warren Buffett one is pretty good. But I got another one, I got another one. It’s a Bruce Lee quote, which makes it cool right off the bat ‘cause Bruce Lee said it, right. He said, “I do not fear the man who knows 10,000 kicks, I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

That’s what I did with making salads or memorizing the menu. And I got way better at that one thing and that one thing was super important for whatever my goal was, which at the time was having more tables, right.

The reason I love the BRRRR strategy with rental property investing is that it allows me to spend a dollar, get a house, get that dollar back and buy another house with the same dollar. I can scale way, way, way faster than someone who has to earn $50,000 and put that into a house and then wait till they can earn another $50,000. By buying more houses, I’m practicing that kick more than other people. And I become better and more efficient at doing it than the people who buy maybe one house a year.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you share favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

David Greene
I love the Stanford one. I’m sure a lot of your people probably talk about that, one where they brought little kids in and they said, “Hey, I’m going to leave this room, and here’s a marshmallow. If you eat this marshmallow, that’s okay. But if I come back and the marshmallow still here, I’ll give you another marshmallow.”

And the little kids that were able to wait for the second marshmallow before they ate the first, they tracked them all. And they found that they were much more successful in work. They had much higher happiness scores, they had much less like, problems like with law enforcement and mental disorders and alcoholism and substance abuse. And the implication from the study was that the better you are at delaying gratification, the happier and more successful you’ll be.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good one. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

David Greene
Man, I got a couple but I really, really, really like the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. It’s funny, we just interviewed him on our podcast yesterday. So, in a couple weeks, that one will be coming out. That’s an incredible book at just basically—a lot of the points I’m making right now, he was making similar ones, but he’s just sounds a lot smarter than me because he’s a Georgetown professor, of course. But I read it and I was like, “Yes, that’s it, that’s what I’ve been doing!” And now there’s a person with a PhD who’s saying the same thing. So, people will actually believe me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d say different voices, different credentials, a PhD or a fat portfolio of properties, I think both adds credibility to it, yeah. How about a favorite tool that helps you be awesome at your job.

David Greene
Google Drive, believe it or not, is a huge, huge help for me. Part of part of the problem with me is I’m involved in a ton of different things all the time and it’s very hard to keep my thoughts organized. Google Drive works really good for taking a thought that I have, getting it out of my head, putting it on, I would say paper but it’s actually a computer screen that looks like a piece of paper.

And from there, I can kind of flesh out whatever that idea was, and assign it to someone else and say, “I need you to take this and I need you to make it a reality.” So, Google Drive is one of the tools that I really, really, really like and it’s simple but before I had it, I was immensely frustrated with just I don’t know how to turn this process into something someone else can do. And making checklist on Google Drive and giving it to people, making a video showing how I’m doing this like a screenshot and putting the link in Google Drive that I gave to someone really brought all that stuff to life.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is so huge. And for your video making, I don’t know if you’re already on to Loom as in www.useloom.com but it is so good.

David Greene
Yeah, shout out to my best friend and buyer’s agent Kyle Rankie, he told me about Loom and it’s been incredible. We were using Screencast-O-Matic before that. But it like limits you at 15 minutes, which I had to learn the hard way after making like an hour of video and then realizing it stopped recording at 15 minutes.

But Loom doesn’t do that. So yeah, we use that. Like as a real estate agent, I’m constantly training other agents on my team and I find myself saying the same thing a hundred times a week. So, now I use Loom to make these videos and say, “Just watch that.” And that should answer your question.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s so good. I like to have Loom with, I’ve got my text instructions on the left-hand side, I’ve gotten the website or whatever I’m working with on the right, and so you can reference them both. And then you can read the text and so it’s like unmistakable, what I meant by any step along the way. So, so good stuff—

David Greene
Beautiful.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a key nugget, something you share often with your team or readers or listeners that really resonates with them and they repeat back to you often?

David Greene
I think “rock stars know rock stars” is a phrase I say a lot that sounds simple but it’s actually really deep. It’s just this concept that the best people at what they do hang out with other people that are the best at what they do. And that just this is a principle we see throughout life.

I’ve heard people say “eagles don’t fly with ducks”, “birds of a feather flock together”, like all these little sayings but when people ask me, “I need someone to do X, how would I find them?” The answer is always going to be “who do you already know that’s doing Y that would know somebody in the world of X?” That’s where I find my referrals from.

So, if you were to say, “David, I need to figure out how to solve this problem,” my mind would immediately go to who do I know that’s doing that at a high level? And if no one, who do I know this doing something similar to that at a high level? And who would they recommend?

I think most of us take way too much responsibility on ourselves to figure things out, like I’m going to go through Yelp and read 100 reviews. And I’m going to Google this for seven hours and then call all 20 people and interview each of them as if we actually have the credentials for like reading someone’s mind and knowing from an interview if they’ll be good, as opposed to talking to someone who’s already really good at it and saying who would you use?

“Oh, you know what, actually that guy, he’s great. My buddy uses him and he’s doing a high level. And that’s where I start”.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s so good. And David, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

David Greene
I have a personal blog, www.greeneincome.com where they can follow me there and read some of the articles that I write. I’m very involved at www.biggerpockets.com. This is the website where we teach people how to invest in real estate for free and the podcasts that I run, the books I publisher are through there.

And then I’m DavidGreen24 on all social media, Instagram is the when I check the most but I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, like all those sites, Greene is spelled with an E. So it’s DavidGreene24.

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

David Greene
Yeah, what I would say is most of the things that cause us to be frustrated with our lack of success can be identified as a barrier to entry in some way. There’s something making it hard for you to get from where you are to where you’re going, right. Learn to look at that like an incredibly good thing. Because that’s keeping all of your competition from raising up to go anymore. When you figure out what you need to do to get through that barrier to entry, there’s very little competition on the other side of it, and you rise very quickly.

So, for me in this example I gave the barrier to entry was memorizing menu prices. That was all that I had to do. Make some flashcards and memorize a frequent video. And the next thing that I know or memorize the menu, my boss was like, “Hey, David can handle tables, give them all to him.” And when they would get three, I would get eight or nine and then I would stay late to close and they were all going home, and when they were getting other four or five and I can triple or quadruple my income.

So, it’s the same way like being a real estate agent, it’s very hard to get started it because there’s no one that gives you business. It’s on yourself to get it and for most of us, we don’t know how to go find business on our own. That’s a big barrier to entry, keeps a lot of agents from doing well.

But if you can solve it, like all the business is yours because nobody else could figure it out. So, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve actually looked for only opportunities where it’s difficult to do because I know there’s not going to be as many people competing with me, and it will be easier to succeed once I figure it out.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it, once again, you’re reframing for opportunity. David, this has been a huge pleasure. Thank you and good luck with your real estate investing and book writing and all you’re up to.

David Greene
Thanks Peter. I really appreciate it. Have a great day.