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290: How to Make the Impossible Happen with Steve Sims

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Steve Sims says: "Most people don't do things not for the fear of failure, but for the fear of being laughed at."

Bluefish founder Steve Sims shares the approaches that enable him to create legendary experiences for his exclusive clientele.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How Steve got the Pope to drop by and bless his client’s wedding
  2. The magic question that unleashes possibilities
  3. How relationships are like oak trees

About Steve

Steve Sims is is the visionary founder of Bluefish: the world¹s first luxury concierge company that delivers the highest level of personalized travel, transportation, and cutting-edge entertainment services to corporate executives, celebrities, professional athletes, and other discerning individuals interested in living life to its fullest. He has been invited to speak to MBA students at Harvard (twice), has spoken at the Pentagon, and has been featured in major media all around the world: From The Sunday Times and China Post, to The Wall Street Journal. You can learn more at stevedsims.com.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Steve Sims Interview Transcript

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

Steve Sims
It’s a pleasure to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve got so many interesting tales with your clients and extraordinary experiences that folks have had. I was most intrigued if I could hear the tale behind how you got a client to get married in the Vatican by the Pope.

Steve Sims
Yeah. I get some strange ones.

I had a client that just said he only planned on getting married once and he wanted to do it at the top-shelf level. I asked him – I actually flew into Europe and I asked, “What does that mean?” and he went, “I’d love to get married in the Vatican.” We then had to do it.

Bottom line of it is we had no idea what we were doing. In fact I will whole heartedly say that I have no idea what I’m doing 90% of the time. I just make steps to find what needs to be done quickly and in this situation I knew some powerful people in Europe, I knew some powerful people in Italy, so I just started reaching out.

I went out shaking the bush to find out if anyone had any leads, spoke to a very important family in Florence. I said to them, “Look, I want to do this in the Vatican, but like everything I do, I want to see if I can push it further. I want to see how far I can do it.” They said, “Well, what you need is you need someone to introduce you.”

Believe it or not, it’s very, very, very cheap to get married in the Vatican, but you have to have someone allow you to do it and that’s the problem. Along the way of getting people to allow you to do it, those are the people that cost the money.

It’s like most things. You want to go down in the Formula One race in Monaco with Ferrari, the tickets literally say on them one Euro, but you can spend thousands upon tens of thousands to get those tickets. The Oscars have zero price on them, but they’re very expensive if people sell them on. It’s usually the people that get you the ability to have a yes that are more expensive than the venue itself.

I spoke to these people in Florence. They said, “We know some people who know some people,” and we started on the ladder of getting in.

As soon as we knew we had the opportunity for the Vatican, we wanted to find out what chapel we could use. As soon as they show you what chapel we can use, you push it and you go, “Is there another? Is there an alternative we could look?” You just push it and push it until you basically in the end of the road and you get the best possible chapel.

“Well, this would be fantastic. I have to approach this subject and it may sound silly, but what are the opportunities of-“this is a better way of putting it, “What needs to happen in order for the Pope to actually do the ceremony himself?”

You learn the lesson very quickly in my job, never ask a question that they can answer yes or no to, unless that’s the answer you want. No is the easiest word in the planet. Every language in the world can say no. It’s short, easy, and nine times out of ten, the knee-jerk reaction for every question you ask that’s even slightly out of the realm of normality. Don’t ask a question where they can give a gut response with no.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, I’m on the edge of my seat. You said, “What has to happen?” what did you hear? What happened?

Steve Sims
It was kind of “Well, you need to get permission.” I went back, asking people, “How do I get permission?” Then you had to do the walk of the Vatican. You had to visit the certain areas of the Vatican to make sure it could happen.

Then the chapel was chosen, the ceremony commenced, halfway through the ceremony, the Pope walks in and blesses them mid-ceremony and then leaves. The funny thing is, no photography was allowed for the event.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Intriguing. What were the steps that led to the Pope getting the message? By the way, which pope?

Steve Sims
Francis, the current one.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the current pope. Okay, cool. Pope Francis, how does he get the memo and how is he inclined to say yes?

Steve Sims
Well, I’m a great believer in two things. No one ever got on the roof without climbing a ladder. I literally will have everyone be a rung of that ladder to get me to where I want to go. As we all know, ladders start at the bottom, which is one step.

I’m using that analogy to make it simple so people realize very quickly, if they haven’t already, there’s no super intelligence on the other side of this podcast. It’s just real – it’s an I can over an IQ. I won’t allow the fact that it’s never been done before to be of any significance to the conversation whatsoever.

I will ask someone that knows more than me, “How would you go about it? What would need to happen you would perceive for this to happen? How would you go about this step?” You ask five people that and you usually find they’ll be a commonality between say two or three of the answers.

Then you go, “Oh, can you help me? Can you introduce me to that person?” If I go in cold, they’re going to go, “Well, who are you?” I want to avoid all that conversation. “Can you contact them as someone that knows me and goes, ‘Steve Sims, startlingly good looking man, perfect face for podcast, can you help him?’”

Nine times out of ten I get other people to introduce me to that person and in fact I would say it’s probably my secret sauce, that way allows more people when I reach out to them they go, “Bobby was telling me that you sent people down to the Titanic and you do this for your own job. How can I help you?” You go, “Glad you asked that question. This is what I’m looking for.”

Sometimes you’ll get, “No, I used to be part of that, but I can’t now.” You go, “Fair enough, I appreciate it.” You may even turn around and go look, “You’re not involved in that now, but if I ever find something that would still be in your circle of influence, do you mind if I come back to you?”

Remember the relationship you make today, may not be one that can be utilized for two, three, four, ten years. But if you look at it for a quick gain, those are usually the weakest relationships. Always be open to see where doors open and keep those doors open.

I just literally got ahold of people that can make the right phone calls, make the right whisper in the ear. When I asked the Vatican to make the question, while they were doing that, I went to other people so that he would get the same request from about four different angles of credibility and respect so that I would be within that same model.

They say credibility by association, if I’ve got five people that you respect telling you I’m brilliant, then I’m going to be credible before you’ve ever spoken to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I guess I’m wondering, with the message, there wasn’t any sort of magic in it as opposed to – or brilliance in terms of the offer, like, “Hey, Pope Francis, I know you’re big on mercy and the joy of the Gospel and forming missionary disciples and if you go here-“ there’s none of that, it’s just people making the introduction, right?

Steve Sims
Exactly. A lot of the time – it’s hard for me – I may know what you have an interest in, especially when you’re working with a certain level. We can brushstroke this with major celebrities, business icons from Elon Musk to Pope Francis. When you’re up in that level, the easiest way for you to get a no, is to contact these people and go, “Hey, how much is it going to cost me?” Money-

Pete Mockaitis
Right. It almost kind of cheapens it, like, “Oh, he is not for sale, Steve. How dare you?”

Steve Sims
Oh, you can guarantee you’re kicked off the line in a heartbeat.  You need to do your homework. You need to either go in there.

In the situation in the Vatican, which is still one of the wealthiest cities in the world, the Vatican itself, and as a country, designate a self-governed country, but the bank of the Vatican is one of the wealthiest banks in the world.

You can’t go there and go. “Hey, I’ll make this payment. I’ll wire the-” They don’t care. You’ve got to go in there and either find something they want or find someone they’ll do it for. I have no idea what my people have done to have the respect that they did from the Vatican, but I made sure that the people asking the question had the ears and the attention of the people they were asking.

I’ll do that with anyone. If I need to get ahold of Richard Branson, Elon Musk, any of these people, I will make sure that the people that I’m talking with have that credibility and respect in the sandpit that when they reach out, they are listened to.

Now, during that I need to come up with what’s the win here. It’s very much easier with everyone else other than the Pope. But I may find out that they’ve got a book coming out, they’ve got a project coming out, they support a local school, they support a local cause, they’re big on a certain gala in their hometown.

You can research things and go, “Hey, I believe you’re part of this such and such gala once a year in Dallas, Texas.” They can go, “Oh, yeah.” “This is what I’d like to do. You know I want something, but I’m going to tell you quickly what I can do for you. I can help promote that. I can help sell out half the arena. Would that be of interest?” Give them a win-win quickly that shows you’ve done a bit of homework.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Thanks for taking us through that pathway.

Maybe we need to back up a smidge. Could you give me a little bit of context? You’ve got a company Bluefish and a book that talks about a bit of your escapades with that company called Bluefishing. What’s the background story here?

Steve Sims
As we’ve already said, if any – I doubt by now anyone listening to this has thought that I’m a genius. That’s good. I’m a bricklayer from East London that went from working on the door to becoming a concierge for not the rich and famous, but the richer and unknown throughout the globe.

I’m a big deal in probably the top 3% of the world. But my website doesn’t even have a phone number on it. There’s no way of contacting me unless you know someone who knows me.

Pete Mockaitis
I feel cool just talking to you now. “Oh, how did Pete do it?”

Steve Sims
Oh, there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve just got to know people who respect Steve Sims. That’s what it’s about.

Steve Sims
Yeah, you know people who know people.

It just grew. Then a couple of years ago Simon & Schuster asked me if I would do a book. I’ve been offered to do a book. I’ve been in the media many, many years. We’re about 23 years old now, so we’ve been in every kind of publication worldwide you can think of, but we never wanted to do a book exposing the clients.

But this time they actually said to me, “No, no, no, we don’t want you talking about what you do for your clients. We want to know how you do it. How do you build up relationships? How do you create a win-win? How do you consult luxury brands and solopreneurs with the same passion and detail.”

It was a great opportunity at the ripe old youthful age of 51 to just go, “I’m going to talk about a bricklayer, how he gets to do this with Elon Musk and the steps it takes to create an irresistible relationship and how to solidify a message to be completely transparent, to be impossible to misunderstand.”

All of those elements, because I’m a great believer that you can download an app now for everything, from how to wash your T-shirt to how to speak in Chinese, how to calculate the weight of a bridge based on a scan from a picture. You can get an app for anything now, but you still cannot get an app that will teach you how to communicate one human to another human.

People have actually called me a master communicator. I am not a gifted or master communicator. I am actually not a very good communicator at all, but I am looking exceptional because of how bad everyone else is getting at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, well that’s a nice frame. Let’s hear it. We’ve heard a couple of the perspectives. Could you share a few more in terms of the core principles and favorite tactics?

Steve Sims
Do your research. If there’s someone that you really want to speak – I’m a great believer that it’s positioning. Everything in life is positioning.

If there’s someone that you want to meet, whether it be romantically, business-wise, mentorship… whatever, but if it’s someone significant enough that you want to get into a relationship with that person, that’s the key. I’m not on about getting a selfie outside a bar at 12:00 at night in Hollywood. I’m on about a relationship. If you want to get a relationship with someone, do your homework.

The internet has given us the ability for you to be able to Google anyone. It could be the principal of your local school, it could be the real estate developer on a new project, it could be the Pope himself.
You can Google what they’re interested in, where they’re seen, what they’re behind, what they support.

And then in doing so, you can actually make sure that now that you’ve seen that they go to a lot of horse events and that they have a great love of equestrian, you can start hanging out in those circles.

Then when you see them, you can make sure you go to the bar or you go to the restaurant, you sidle up next to them, and as you’re doing something you can go, “Hey, listen. That’s a nice watch. Oh, you’re so and so. Didn’t I hear somewhere that you’re a collector of watches?” Drop a nugget in. There’s nothing easier to get someone talking than when they’re talking about themselves or something they love, which in some cases is the same thing.

If you can get them talking about or say, “Hey, I saw you in a magazine and you were with a Porsche. Why do you like vintage Porsches? I saw you were doing something with this vineyard. I like whiskey. Why do you like wine?”

It’s going to be for two seconds while we’re getting a drink. Just do something like that to get them. It shows a commonality. It shows that you’re actually being completely open. You’re not trying to go, “Oh, I didn’t recognize. Oh I didn’t know who you were.” Don’t be an idiot. You stood there. You’re talking to the guy. They probably think that you’re sniffing around in any case, so say to them, “Oh, you’re so-and-so.”

Be very transparent but be entertaining. I’m a great believer in all communication has to have the three E’s. You have to be engaging. You have to be educational. You have to entertaining. If you can have those three, in any communication, whether it be a podcast or chatting up a person at the bar, if you’ve got those three things in there, then you’re going to do well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very nice. In the book you lay out a few particular elements such as the password. Could you unpack that a little bit in terms of what do you mean by password and then how do we get it?

Steve Sims
Yeah, this was a huge intelligent idea of ours. We started throwing parties in Hong Kong, me and this fellow meathead that I worked on the door with. We invited rich people to come to them because guess what? Poor people can’t afford to. Quite simply I invited rich people because I could make money out of rich people.

I thought to myself, but I don’t want to be inviting problems to the club. I don’t want some arrogant git turning up at the door and demeaning everyone and being disrespectful.

What we did was we came up with this really silly, and it is silly, little principle, this little game. What we would do, and this is back in the ‘90s, the age of the fax. We would fax them where the location of the bar was, what time the party started and the password.

What we thought was if you’re humble and solid enough, confident enough to quote a silly phrase, that’s the person we want. We want the people that are up for a laugh. We don’t want the arrogant person turn up going, “I’m on the list. Let me in. You’re wasting my time.” I want the people that are there for a bit of a giggle.

We used to make up the stupidest passwords. We had finish this sentence, ‘One fish, two fish, red fish …’ so people would walk up to us and go, “Blue fish,” and we’d let them in. That’s where the company name came from. That’s how deep we are. It literally came from a password that we used repetitively.

But we would also come up with one and say to people, “Name two of the Telletubbies.” You’d have the head of an airline come up to you or the owner of a bank and go, “Tinky-Winky, Po,” and we’d say, “In you go. Enjoy your night.” It was just a really good way.

We got people turning up going, “Oh, I don’t know the password. Let me in.” We’d stand there and we’d be like, “There’s no party here, mate. No, no. Sorry, you must be in the wrong place.” The whole party is going off behind us. There’s people in a line and we would just dismiss them and get rid of them. Then the next person would step in and go, “Tinky-Winky.” We’d go, “In you go. Enjoy yourself.”

We noticed that if we had a password, if we had a hurdle, if we had something that you had to do, even if it made you slightly uncomfortable, you were more committed and loyal once you were on the other side of it.

We’ve had passwords for many of our events. I’ve worked with Sir Elton John at his Oscar party every year. We have a pre-party on a Friday. We use the exact same thing. We have a password.

We got these people from all over the world in black ties and ball gowns that have paid a serious amount of money, a small car, to go to one of my events, and they’re not getting in the door still unless they’re humble enough to come and say this funny password and we let them in. It’s all a state of mind and a position.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating. This reminds me. I had a client who will remain nameless. He was a psychiatry student. He would have parties in which at the front of the door, he would have a handful of pills and we would say, “Well, you’ve got to take one of the pills to come into the party.” Folks were like, “Uh, no thanks,” would go away verse the person who did were, they’re like, “This is an adventurous, bold person. That’s what we’re going here for.”

Now all of the pills were placebos and that could probably get him in some trouble with the review board, so he’ll remain nameless. But it has a similar effect for good or for evil.

Steve Sims
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Of the filtration there.

Steve Sims

Yeah, I’m a great believer on the filter. Even when we get people actually try and join any of my groups, like I have a very successful consulting practice. I interview every single person that I’m going to consult before I go into a consultation. I want to make sure it’s the right fit.

As I openly say, and I don’t want to offend anyone, “Assholes don’t get better with time,” so if you take someone into your company, even if you take them on board as a client, if they’re a dickhead when they come into your company, they’re only going to become a bigger dickhead during the company. Try to be careful of the people you take into your group, into your circle, into your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very nice. Well, there’s a few more elements I want to make sure to cover. You talked about making yourself impossible to misunderstand. What does that look like in practice and how do people screw that up?

Steve Sims
There’s this word at the moment going around that I absolutely despise called authenticity. People go, “Oh, he’s so authentic.” That’s ridiculous. It’s like looking at someone and go, “Oh, he’s bleeding. He’s walking.” It should be something that we take for granted and we don’t draw focus to. But now authenticity, because we live in an insta-perfect life, authenticity is something we strive to find.

I’m a great believer in something called transparency.

I’m also a great believer that my stomach is far smarter than my head, so when you meet someone you look at the suit. Whether or not you think you do, you do. You look at the car, you look at the key ring, you look at the jewelry, you look at the watch, the shoes, the belt.

You look at the whole makeup of that person, even if it’s in nanoseconds and you look at that person to judge friend or foe, can I trust them, is this someone I want to hang around with, and that’s your mental perspective.

Then your stomach gets those little butterflies. The guy is talking a bit too much here and I’m not quite sure I believe what he’s saying. You get those little butterflies. I’m a great believer that forget your head, forget the visuals, if you’ve got butterflies, move away. Get away from someone.

I’m a great believer in talking to people, trying to use transparency in the communication. The easiest way to do that is to be – and I’m going to quote a sentence here from Brian Kurtz and Joe Polish, ‘There’s a difference between being easy to understand and impossible to misunderstand.’

If I’m speaking with someone and I say something along the lines of, “Hey, Pete, I’ve heard about your show. It sounds like a fantastic show. I don’t know too much about it,” don’t lie, “I don’t know too much about it, but I’ve had enough people tell me that I should chat with you in order to be on your show. Is that something that you’re open to pursuing?” Be as blunt and as bold as that.

Don’t go up and go, “Oh, Pete, I’m your greatest fan. What’s the chances, if you don’t mind, if it wouldn’t be an inconvenience.” That’s all fluff. I want to be crystal clear.

When I go up to iconic people that I’ve just started working with or I want to work with. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been at a party and I know someone has contacted someone else and introduced me, but I haven’t yet been able to speak to them.

I’ll go up to them and I’ll go, “Are you Roger-” and they go, “Yes, I am.” “My name is Steve Sims. I believe someone has already reached out to you. If it’s of interest to you, I look forward to making communication with you. But I just wanted to say I’m here. I’m actually going to go over and grab a drink if you’ve got the time, would you like to join me, if not, we’ll talk another time.”

Just keep things real, bold, and direct, and don’t waste the time. You’ll be surprised that when you’re that polite and very transparent, I’ve never had anyone go, “I’ll get back to you.” I’ve always, when I’ve approached it like that, I’ve had them go, “Well, I need a drink. Yeah, let’s just grab a drink together.” “Okay, fine.” Then we’ve gone over and we’ve ended up having a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Yeah.

Steve Sims
That’s the key. Whenever you get into any relationship, you’ve got to look at the relationship and go, “Look, is this a fad or is this an oak tree.”

I look at every relationship with those two questions. Is this person here to help me with this project or is this someone that I want to grow a relationship with. I can know a cool catering company in say Paraguay and know that more likely I’m not going to be there again and I can go, “Thank you so much. It’s been wonderful,” but there may not be any need to invest any further in that relationship.

Then there will be someone I meet that I’d go, “Hey, I really want to be-“ that’s when I look at them as an oak tree.

When I say an oak tree, an oak tree starts off as a little seed. It can be stamped on. It can be crushed. It can die of starvation. To become an oak tree, you have to water it, nurture it, prune it, protect it. So the time that it’s a 300-year-old oak tree and you can run a bus into it and it will still be standing. That’s a relationship.

Relationships are not by sending someone a Christmas card every year. You’ve got to prune them. You’ve got to massage them. You’ve got to feed them. You’ve got to protect them. You’ve got to put energy into anything worth its weight in gold. That’s why I say, when you meet someone, is this a fad or is this an oak tree. That’s how I look at every relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that perspective. As you relay that scenario in which you’re interacting with someone who is high status or influential or super busy or maybe annoyed that you’re approaching them, you have got a turn or a phrase about getting comfortable being uncomfortable. How’s that done in practice?

Steve Sims
Well, as I said to you in the beginning, I don’t know 90% of what I’m doing. I’ve had people ask me to close down museums and have Andrea Bocelli serenade them. I’ve asked people – asked me to send them down to the Titanic. Where do you start? The same as everything, you start at the beginning.

There was a period in my life where I was starting to do more and more of this stuff that I would sit there and almost do a little jingle on the spot and go, “Oh my God, what am I going to do now?” My insides, my little leprechaun is just dancing around going, “Whoa, what’s going to happen? I don’t know what I’m going to do next.”

But then I suddenly got used to the fact that most people don’t know what to do. I got comfortable with hang on a minute, why don’t I ask people. “Do you have any idea what would need to happen in order for this to happen? Have you ever done anything like this and if so, what can I do to emulate it?”

I started asking questions. I found the more that I ventured out – it’s the classic elastic band – the more you stretch, you never go back to your original shape. I’ve been uncomfortable many, many, many times.

And my dad actually – and it’s in my book – my dad actually said to me many years ago and it’s probably one of my fondest quotes. At the age of 16 I had no idea, like all kids, no idea what my dad was talking about. I remember my dad just looking at me one day and just going, “Son, no one ever drowned by falling in the water, they drowned by staying there,” and then he walked off.

I remember at the age of 16 going, “What the bloody hell was that about?” It hasn’t been until my later years that I realized that if you’re not getting the answer you want, try a different question or try the same question with a different person, but if you keep trying to do the exact same thing you’re doing and you keep getting the same result that you’re getting, that’s where you’re going to drown.

Pete Mockaitis
You talk about asking three times. What’s the thought process there?

Steve Sims
Yeah, a lot of people, they will come to me. They will see me in the newspaper. They will read a book. They will see me on speaking gigs and they want to do something, but there’s a great deal of humiliation that stops most people actually getting to do what they want to do.

They will come to me, they may want to do something big and grand, but they’re actually scared of humiliation. In fact, most people don’t do things not for the fear of failure, but for the fear of being laughed at.

People come to me and they go, “Oh, I’d really like to just shake the hand of – I’d really like to meet-“ they want to do more than that, but they’re scared of it. You just go, “All right,” and you just let them talk. Then you go, “All right, why do you want to do that?” Literally just ask why and shut up.

Then they will go, “Oh, well, you know, this happened in my life and this happened and they were there and it supported me. I just felt that that would be a good chance to-“ “So there’s quite a bit of meaning to it. It’s not just a quick thought you’ve come up with.” “Oh no, no, no. I’ve had this dream for a while.”

“Okay, so you’re telling me that you’ve had this dream for a while, but you shaking their hands, is that really going to be the crescendo to the end of this movie? Is that going to be case closed, end of chapter? Would that really be significant? Is there something that we could do that would really get you excited and basically wake you up at 2 o’clock in the morning going ‘Holy hell, I can’t believe I did that.’?”

Each time you ask, you start to unlock them a little bit more and you get closer and closer. In the end, you’re prodding the …. When you’re there, you actually can just play with it and find out.

If someone’s really passionate about something, I hate to say it, but they’ll sell their first born to get it. Really dive in to what’s important to them. Never take the first answer because what people say and what they mean quite often are two different things. If it’s about the fantastical and the whimsical and the passion, nine times out of ten, they’re too shy to really expose to you what it is in case you’ll laugh at them.

And you know what I look like. I’m a big ugly fellow. A lot of people now openly tell me what they like because they know the amount of people I work with and they know how credible I am at doing what I do. But a lot of people for many years were very cautious and scared and apprehensive about basically what is unveiling yourself to expose what you’re really excited about.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful, particularly early on. “I just met you,” in terms of there’s a certain level of vulnerability or exposure that is just uncomfortable for folks so they don’t quite go there.

Steve Sims
Yes, yes, exactly. You’re right. You’ve got to help them. You’ve got to ask the questions. “Is this going to do it? Why do you want to do that? Hey, I’m here for you. Let me in. Tell me why you’re stood here in front”

I’ve had people they’ve had the whiskeys at night. They texted me at 1 o’clock in the morning or phoned me, left a message. “Steve, I want to talk to you about doing this because I really want to do it.”

Then when you speak to them in the morning, the drinks worn off and they’re a little bit more embarrassed about actually fully exposing it, which to be honest with you also is great news for me because it makes me look like a rock star when I’ve exceeded what you’ve first asked for.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. Steve, tell me anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Steve Sims
No, I just want people to get out of their own way. Basically, get that saying that I said about drowning in the water, write it down on a piece of paper, and don’t be one of those people that drown by staring at things too much. Just keep moving. But nope, let’s continue with the podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
All right then. Tell me, can you share a favorite quote and maybe you already did, something that you find inspiring?

Steve Sims
That one was probably one of my most favorite. One of mine that I probably use most regular is I ask myself whenever I’m doing anything that’s copy or writing, ‘Is this impossible to misunderstand?’ I use that one. That’s more of a working quote that I use to myself a thousand times a day whenever I write to someone. Is my message to them impossible to misunderstand?

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thanks. How about a favorite book?

Steve Sims
What? Apart from mine? I’m actually a funny reader. I don’t – books aggravate the hell out of me. Joe Polish sends me a load of books. I get very aggravated because as he says aggravated oysters makes pearls.

When I’m reading a motivational book by like Ryan Holiday or Tucker Max or Cameron Herold, or any of these people, Tim Ferriss. I get aggravated because I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to do that. I’ve got to make some notes.” I find myself getting agitated.

So when I do like to read, I like to escape. I really like the Dragon Tattoo books, the trilogy that they did. I really like anything by Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. I like to escape my world when I read. Otherwise, I’ll audiobook any of the ones I know I’m going to be aggregated by.

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

Steve Sims
I’m actually talking to you from the garage of my motorcycles. I collect motorcycles. My favorite tool is to jump on two wheels and escape. That’s my safe zone.

When you’re on a bike, when you’re playing golf, when you’re waterskiing, when you’re doing kickboxing, when you’re doing yoga, you can’t be thinking about anything else. That’s my meditation. That’s my escape. My favorite tool is two wheels going around the canyons.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Any other favorite habits?

Steve Sims
Whiskey, hugging my wife and barbequing badly.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Tell me is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with people when you are hearing your message?

Steve Sims
Yeah, I’m a great believer, and this is usually my consultant gigs and my speaking, I’m a great believer in keeping things ugly. We’ve become too Photoshopped and we’re living in an insta-perfect world all the time.

Every time you see anything, you look at someone and you suddenly realize that the girl’s actually 12 foot tall and the legs are 9 foot. We’ve got used to seeing things that aren’t real anymore.

You’ll look at a real estate advert and you’ll see a beautiful apartment building and the apartment building just happens to have left out all the other buildings around it and shown this big sunset and a picture of the ocean in it and it’s in Minneapolis or Chicago. It’s not even near the ocean.

You can’t trust what you can see nowadays. I’m a great believer in #filterfree. Don’t filter stuff.

If you want to write something, try handwriting it. Instead of typing the letter, handwrite the letter.  A minimum, handwrite the envelope. Use text more. Use video texting more. But do things that expose you and your full content, not just shouting and yelling the message.

I once had a guy yell at me because he had texted me or messaged me on Twitter and I hadn’t responded. That’s not communication. Communication is two people in front of each other going, “This, this.” It’s a back and forth, back and forth. It’s not throwing a message out there and hoping someone responds.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Steve Sims
My terminology with that is keep things ugly, raw, and real.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And do you have a particular place you point people to if they want to learn more or get in touch?

Steve Sims
I’ve got a website with all my ramblings and rants called SteveDSims, S-I-M-S, that’s SteveDSims.com.

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

Steve Sims
Yeah, do something that arouses you. I want you to something that you haven’t done that just excites you and just kind of like would make you wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning going, “Holy hell, I did that today,” and do it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Steve, thank you so much for sharing this. It’s exciting, opening a world of new ideas and possibilities and boldness. It’s been a lot of fun and I wish you and Bluefish tons of luck.

Steve Sims
Thanks pal, appreciate it.

270: Reclaiming Workplace Inspiration with Scott Mautz

By | Podcasts | 2 Comments

 

Scott Mautz says: "You can create the conditions where inspiration is much more likely to occur."

Scott Mautz introduces the nine anti-muses and provides strategies for regaining inspiration at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The difference between inspiration and motivation
  2. The nine anti-muses that drain inspiration from your work life
  3. Five ways to reframe the fear of failure

 

About Scott

Scott Mautz is a popular keynote speaker and author of “Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again”. He’s a Procter & Gamble veteran who successfully ran several of the company’s largest multi-billion dollar businesses. He’s the CEO of Profound Performance LLC (a keynote, coaching, and training company), teaches at Indiana University, and has been named a “Top 50 Leadership Innovator” by Inc., where he also writes a weekly column for the national publication. He’s appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, and many other national publications and podcasts.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Scott Mautz Interview Transcript

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

Scott Mautz
It is awesome to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’re going to have a whole lot of fun, and I’m intrigued. One thing I learned about you recently is that you have performed some standup comedy. What’s the backstory here?

Scott Mautz
Indeed, I have. It started on a dare, actually, Pete. So, in college people were like, “Oh, at least you’re not like the un-funniest guy in the world.” And I entered the search National Comedy Competition and I almost won the dang thing, and I thought, “Whoa, wait a minute. Okay, I may want to do something with this.”

So I didn’t decide to go after it full bore as a profession per se but I did do a lot of paid gigs, did a lot of discussion of standup on stage for many years in grad school, and then I just kept at it as I entered the professional world as a major outlet, I guess, for lack of a better word, of I just want to express myself on stage, and had been doing it, boy, for a long time. But it’s been a while since I’ve done it now because my speaking career takes the front seat to that. So I try to pepper a little bit of that into my talks though because that part of me will never really go away.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. You know, my wife and I, we just saw John Mulaney…

Scott Mautz
Oh, he’s fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
He did seven shows in Chicago, in this giant Chicago Theater. Sold them all out. And it was entertaining, you know. He’s got a whole flavor that’s enjoyable.

Scott Mautz
Yeah, he’s fantastic. He’s skilled.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I want to hear your skilled area. It sounds like standup comedy is not the primary thing you’re known for.

Scott Mautz
That’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
But it gets in the mix. And so, your recent book Find the Fire has been getting some real momentum lately. So, yeah, tell us, what’s the scoop with this book, and what’s the main, and why is it important?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, I appreciate it. Thank you for asking that, Pete. Well, Find the Fire, the subtitle is Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. Here’s the premise, my man, it boils down to this. And I don’t know if this is going to surprise you or not. But it turns out that 70% of us, 7-0, have lost that loving feeling, as I like to say, at work that we actually no longer really feel fully inspired in our jobs, 70%.

And what’s crazy about it is that the research shows the majority of us, like over – in fact, the latest update is well over 70% say that, “Look, if I want one thing from my boss, one thing from boss, please, the number one thing is I want him or her to be inspirational.” And, yet, ugh, at most, about 11%, 12% would say, “Yeah, my boss is inspirational.”

So that’s a massive gap. And what happens, Pete, is people say, “Okay. Well, you know what, that’s life. That’s life in the big city. I’m never going to fully get back my inspiration at work. They call work work for a reason. That’s life. And inspiration, of course, is elusive and mysterious and it’s tricky, and I’m going to have to wait till it shows up in my life again.”

And the truth is, and this is what the book is about, Find the Fire, the truth is after having researched this for, gosh, almost 15 years now, Pete, I can tell you, that inspiration can, in fact, be codified and coaxed. You can create the conditions where inspiration is much more likely to occur. That’s what the book is about.

And to give you a little bit more flavor of that, you know, I intersperse, probably not surprisingly, humor in that to lighten up what could be a heavy subject, trying to find inspiration in our lives. And it can be heavy for a reason to perceive that way because a lot of people go about trying to re-ignite their fire in the incorrect way.

What research tells us, Pete, is that social science shows most of us, when we’re feeling uninspired, what we’ll do is simply ask, “Well, what inspires me? And I’m going to go try do more of that.” The answers are as different as the person you’re talking to. If I were to ask you, Pete, it would be, who knows? It could be Lionel Richie, I don’t know. For other people it’s going to be Irene Cara, it’ll be a sunset, it’ll be a great leader, whatever.

But the truth is, the answer to that question, “What inspires me?” is far too passive. It’s elusive and when we find out what that is it can get repressed in a toxic work environment. And it turns out we’ve been asking ourselves the wrong question for years. The right question is not, “What inspires me?” but, “How did I lose my inspiration in the first place?” And believe me it was everywhere. When you started your job, you didn’t have to think about it. It was in every nook and cranny, everywhere, like a half-finished highway construction, you couldn’t avoid it. You didn’t have to try.

And so the premise is simple. If you can identify the wells that have dried up of inspiration over your life, how you’ve lost your inspiration, it’s so much more efficient and powerful, Pete, to refill those wells than it is to try to dig a brand new well of inspiration which can take years, it’s far too passive, far too elusive. And the book talks about what drains our inspiration and how you can bring it back into your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So you’re saying that the source of inspiration, it varies wildly, and widely, from person to person, but the sort of disruptors, the evaporators, the drainers of inspiration are somewhat universal.

Scott Mautz
That is exactly right. And I find this very curious, Pete. I’ll set this up for you with – how’s your Greek mythology? You’re ready to brush up on it a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I totally, in preparation for this conversation, I picked up, you know, the Wikipedia article about the nine muses, so. And, in fact, I remember learning this once, and so we could talk Thalia and Urania, NBD… it’s all good.

Scott Mautz
Nice. I’ll give the briefest of refresher course. For all the listeners out there that are scratching their heads saying, “So how is this awesome on the awesome podcast?” Here’s what it all boils down to. Greek mythology teaches us that Zeus and Mnemosyne, god and goddesses, they had nine daughters. As Pete mentioned, they’re what’s called the nine muses. You probably heard the term before, “I’m waiting for my muse to whisper to me.” That’s a frequent terminology you hear from artists.

And, in fact, these muses that, according to mythology, they’re the ones that inspire us. It’s where the word music came from, or the word museum came from which is essentially the output, the physical warehouse, stores all the output from the muses in the museum. And as mythology teaches us there were nine of these muses that presided over different fractions of arts and science.

Well, I find it fascinating, and I’ll let your listeners determine whether or not it’s a coincidence, that statistically speaking, research shows us there also happen to be, precisely, nine, what I call, anti-muses, nine forces that break out from the pack of all the things that can drive us nuts about our work life. I find it curious that nine things statistically broke out, head and shoulders above everything else, for being the most common things that can drain our inspiration from our work life. Thus, I call them the nine anti-muses.

And, Pete, you steer, but let me know. If you want, I can go into now describing what these nine anti-muses are.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I do want to hear each of them and if we can certainly find it the sort of solution or approach to sort of preempting that. But, first, I want to hear, you mentioned – I love a bit of statistical research robustness. Can I hear a little bit about, what was that process by which you landed here? It seems like the number nine wasn’t, you said, “Okay, I’m going to land on nine because that’s cool schtick for my book.” But rather, nine just bubbled up naturally from a research process. What did that look like?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, great question and it truly was a coincidence. In fact, I didn’t even know there was nine muses when I started my research, when I stumbled upon the nine forces. I found out later that it was reverse. I found out there was nine muses and thought that very interesting when I stumbled upon the nine anti-muses, if you will.

But this process is pretty much this way. I’m very blessed to be able to have access to all kinds of research in what I do in my life now as an author, as a writer, I also am a adjunct professor at Indiana University where I teach others-oriented leadership, and I get all kinds of access early on, especially because I also write for Ink Magazine ten times a month, and I get access to fascinating research sometimes before it’s even published.

So, for a very, very long time, I simply began by reading everything I could about the field of inspiration. What is really? What are its roots? Why do we believe it’s so mysterious? Understanding the anatomy of inspiration, if you will. And then I began getting my hands on the most cutting edge, I guess, information and research available in the arena of inspiration. And piling it up year after year I came across a rich vein of research from a couple of experts in inspiration out of the University of Rochester, and continue to just build up my pot of research.

Then I came across several studies and started to cross reference them for determining, “Okay, now that I have this backdrop of understanding of inspiration, what it really is and how it affects our lives, how is it taken away from us? What does the research tell us?” And I began to cross reference studies that would indicate these are the most common sources of inspiration drain.

And after, probably, 20 to 30 cross references of over a hundred studies, I was just amazed to find out it kept pointing to these nine that were breaking out from the pack. After that I came across a story, believe it or not, of the muses, I discovered there were nine muses, and I thought, “Man, that’s really cool.” And I don’t know if that’s coincidence or not. You believe what you want to believe but that was the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I appreciate going into some detail there. And so maybe before we dig into the nine, if you can give us a quick contextual orientation here of how shall we define inspiration? And what are some of the, you know, most basic building blocks or anatomy of inspiration?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, a super place to start because people, they don’t necessarily – you ask them to define inspiration, it’s very difficult. I mean, we know what it is, Pete, we know the feeling. We know that sense inside us that builds up, that excitement that pushes everything to the peripheral, but it’s hard to describe it. We know that it’s behind many of our greatest accomplishments.

But what we may not realize is that, in truth, inspiration is really, it’s the Holy Grail of enthusiasm. Its power extends well beyond that of motivation. And let me just briefly explain the difference between inspiration and motivation, and I think that’ll really make it clear what inspiration really is.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Scott Mautz
Motivation, that’s the pragmatic consequence of inspiration, right? It’s that engineer in you that proceeds in a step-by-step fashion, one step at a time, with marching orders in hand until you achieve your goal. And that’s a good thing. Who doesn’t want that?

Inspiration precedes motivation though. It yields a moment of galvanizing energy. It shoves motivation into action. And here’s the big distinction. With motivation we take hold of an idea and we run with it. But with inspiration, an idea takes hold of us, and that can make all the difference in the world, free levels of energy, discretionary energy that you have to put behind something.

When an idea or a feeling takes hold of you, you feel like you almost have no choice but to throw your discretionary energy behind that thing. That’s why inspiration is so darn powerful and why it’s so important that you bring it back into your work life.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s intriguing. As you described this, and I’m thinking about times I felt what you’re describing, at times for me, it feels sort of close to obsession. It does have a hold of me. It’s like I’m so curious like I want to know the answer to this thing. I want to see if this is possible or true or the case for a particular argument, if a given idea is likely to work and has sort of valid underpinnings.

And so it’s almost like I can’t help but think about it sometimes more than maybe is ideal or healthy for work-life balance. And so I don’t know if you have anything to say: inspiration versus obsession.

Scott Mautz
It’s a darn good question. I think it borders into obsession when you lose the plot of why are you seeking to be inspired in the first place. What’s the point of harnessing that inspiration in your life? If it’s to achieve a balanced objective, if it’s to serve something greater than yourself, if it’s to achieve a personal accomplishment, and it’s directed and focused, it’s fantastic.

It’s when it borders on obsession it can become dangerous. Frankly, Pete, in addition to keynoting and workshops, I do some one-on-one coaching as well, and sometimes I have to coach entrepreneurs that have started their own business and their inspiration has gone beyond into the realm of obsession. But you have to bring it back to the, “Why are we inspired and why do you want to be inspired?” to keep it all in perspective.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. So, all right. So now that we are fully contextualized, bring it on. Let’s do the rundown. The nine anti-muses, you know, what do they look like and what do we do about them?

Scott Mautz
Fantastic. So here they are, nine anti-muses. These, again, this is not my opinion. This is what a heck of a lot of data tells us, these are the nine things that are most common that drain our inspiration from our work life.

So the first one on virtually anybody’s list, regardless of the data source, regardless of the psychologists that I interview, regardless of the source, is fear. And fear is probably, almost literally, the antithesis of inspiration, more specifically the fear of failure, fear of criticism, and fear of change. And I’ll come back, we absolutely must talk about that one because its prevalence is ridiculous, 50% of all adults say that fear of failure is the number one thing in their life that’s kept them from revisiting or accomplishing their goals.

The second anti-muse is settling in boredom, a feeling that if we were truly honest with ourselves, truly honest, we’ve had a plateau in our career, and it’s much easier to just put it into a parking spot, right? Life is dotted with many tempting parking spaces and we may choose to pull into one of them, if we’re honest, and over time we become bored, and our learning and growth stutters. And before you know it, the inspiration has evaporated right out of the side of the door here.

The third one is inundation, becoming overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is like the new black, you know, it’s in fashion. It’s so interesting to say, compare stories of how overwhelmed we are these days. Well, it’s having an impact, as you can imagine, in many ways, besides the fact that it just pushes away inspiration from our life.

The fourth anti-muse, the fourth way we lose our inspiration, whether or not we realize it, by the way, subconsciously or not, is a lost of control. Having far too little influence on outcomes in our business, outcomes in our life, far too little control over the events of our life. Closely related to that one, the fifth anti-muse, and, man, this one devastating in its totality. I can’t tell you how many people in the thousands of interviews I did for this book have told me about dwindling self-belief, the fifth anti-muse.

The sense that when a push comes to shove, deep down inside, you have this fundamental belief that, “I’m not good enough,” and you’re caught in this world of comparing to others rather than comparing to who you were yesterday and how to become a better version of yourself versus yourself yesterday rather than comparing.

The sixth anti-muse is disconnectedness. This one is a tricky one. It sneaks up on us more than any of the other anti-muses. And what I mean by that is you look up from your work one day and you realize, “Man, I don’t have as much time to spend with my friends.” Maybe you’re in a new business unit, for example, and you haven’t made friends yet. Maybe you have a few toxic team members that are kind of ruining the fun of what it used to mean to come to work and to connect and bring joy to each other. You feel disconnected from the place that you’re working at.

The seventh one is dearth of creating. And out of all the interviews, Pete, that I conducted, and all the stories that I gathered, believe it or not, the most emotional stories, tied closely with the stories behind fear and fear of failure, where people had told me they’d simply stopped creating in their work life, and in their life.

That’s what I mean by dearth of creating. You’ve stopped. You realize, “When was the last time I contributed something unique and powerful with my personal stamp on it that only I could’ve done. I’ve fallen into a process of following process, and meeting after meeting, and blind output without a unique stamp and a unique creation,” which is closely related to the eighth anti-muse – insignificance.

And feelings of insignificance at work in that what we’re working on, if we were truly honest with ourselves, it doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t matter to the company, it doesn’t matter to other people, and most importantly, it doesn’t really matter to you.

And then the last, the ninth anti-muse, the last, is what I call lack of evocation which is where you work in a toxic work environment or for a toxic boss where all other things that might be positive about the workplace environment, they’re all just crushed under the weight of toxicity. Again, most commonly by just a brutal boss that sucks all the joy out of your job for you, or an overall unhealthy workplace culture and environment.

So those are the nine anti-muses, Pete, and we could steer wherever you want to. I would suggest, perhaps, a discussion on fear for a bit, but we’ll go where you want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Well, boy, Scott, tell you what. This is heavy stuff.

Scott Mautz
That’s why there’s humor in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m tearing up a little bit. It’s just so sad, you know, to imagine a workplace that is just dead, devoid of inspiration and that this is many people’s lives. And I think all of us experience, you know, one or more of these on a given week, sure. But as you just sort of stacked them onto each other, I imagine, “Oh, man, you see a workplace where you have all of these every day. It’s yucky.”

And so, thank you, Scott. I mean, this really kind of gets me, you know, call me an optimist but I’m like all the more energized about the entire mission of How to be Awesome at Your Job. It’s like, “That is not okay and, by golly, we’re making a difference to reduce the prevalence of this which is not appropriate in a workplace for just the experience of being alive as a human being.”

Scott Mautz
Very well-said. I mean, I couldn’t say that better myself, Pete. And here’s the good news, the book is called Find the Fire, not “Put a Wet Blanket over the Fire and suffer from a lack of oxygen.” So I’m going to provide oxygen now for your listeners…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes.

Scott Mautz
…if you’re ready to go there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I would. And, you know, what’s interesting is I was thinking of a situation, I’ve known a few people that they’re in, in which their inspiration just goes whoosh, gets zapped out quickly. And that was when there was sort of a change in leadership at the workplace. And so whereas before they were doing their thing and having fun with it, just rocking and rolling.

But then with the change in leadership there also came quite a lack of clarity in terms of, “Okay, who’s really in charge here? What’s really my job here? Who actually gets the decision, authority and rights under this area? What exactly am I supposed to be doing today at work?”

And so, in a way, I guess, rather than neatly falling into one of these nine, it kind of sort of embeds a couple inside it like a loss of control or an insignificance and disconnectedness, boredom if you’re not doing much because you don’t know what you should be doing. So it’s sort of a cocktail that all at once brings in a number of those.

Scott Mautz
That’s so true. And it’s a great point, Pete. You know, I often get asked about lack of clarity, and here’s a quick way to think about it. The opposite of clarity is to have something be muddy. And what’s create mud? Well, it’s a combination of the raw dirt, and when we pour water on top of that, and if you think about it it’s a simple analogy.

The dirt is the core work that we do. The root spring up from that. It’s what gives us nourishment and provides our income, it gives us our sense of wellbeing and a job and a sense of purpose. That’s the dirt. Now what happens when you get new bosses or you get a changeover? They come and they bring water to that dirt. To them the water is very clear, right? They have a clarity of intent. And they want to pour their knowledge, and their clear knowledge, and their clear experiences over you.

And what happens when water and dirt mix? It creates mud. And those two things create this universe where, despite the intent of the giver of that water, things can get very muddled up. So to get back to clarity in your life, despite the best intentions of those new bosses that are bringing the lack of clarity to the table, you just got to get back to the objective of what is it you’re trying to accomplish. Push back on the creation of new work.

And I talk in the book Find the Fire about many ways to do that. You mentioned that you have to like get clear on role definitions and even a decision criteria definition. I used to work at a company, in fact I worked for Procter & Gamble for 23 years and I was blessed to run some of their largest multibillion dollar businesses.

And one of the things that we learned was the importance of being very clear on the decision-making process when things get really unclear. Who decides? Who has a vote? Who’s just an executor? And you would be amazed. I’d go into a meeting and talk about lack of clarity, there’s 10 people in the meeting, “Who here thinks they have the accountability for this decision?” Eight of them would raise it. “Who thinks they’re responsible for the outcome of this decision?” You know, seven would raise it. I’d be, “Oh, my gosh, we’re in trouble.”

So just trying to provide the clarity in that mud is powerful. And you’re exactly right to point that out because it’s a big cause of drain of inspiration in our lives.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so good. Well, then let’s dig into some antidotes here. So when it comes to this fear stuff, fear of failure, of criticism, of change, what’s the prescription?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, let’s talk fear of failure because it comes up number one on the list, almost regardless of the source of data. And so I just want to talk about fear of failure for a second because, Pete, here’s what I really want your listeners to understand to help them be awesome at their job. It’s very difficult to be awesome at your job when your brain is busy reframing and engaging, I should say, yourself in the wrong conversation, and that’s what fear of failure does to us.

If this was a visual show, if it was a TV show, I’d have a slide up showing you what neuroscience teaches us about the fear of failure, that there’s a part of the brain that literally shuts down in response to fear of failure. It’s the frontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain that’s responsible for growth and risk taking and exploration. That part literally shuts down in the face of fear of failure, so there’s a physical aspect to this and it engages that fear of failure, engages our brain in the wrong conversation.

And if you want to be awesome at your job and help others be awesome at their job you have to reframe the discussion your brain is having with yourself about fear of failure. I’ll give just a few examples. Here’s a few ways you can reframe your fear of failure. I find these to be very powerful. First, what if I were to tell you and your listeners, Pete, there’s only three ways that you can actually fail: when you quit, when you don’t improve, and when you never try?

What if I were to remind you what the great Zig Ziglar once said, a motivational speaker, one of the greats of all time. He once said, “Guess what, folks? Failure is an event not a person.” I wish I had a dime for every person I coached, Pete, that take some recent failure as a harbinger of things to come in the future and believes like, “Well, this is a prognostication of what…this is what I’m going to become. I must be this failure.” And you’re not.

What if I were to tell you, just a few more ways to reframe it, what if I were to tell you that failure, the truth, it doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. It doesn’t happen to you to destroy you and your confidence. It happens for you so you can learn and grow from it.

What if I were to tell you that you don’t suffer when you fail. Your ego does. I tell myself this all the time. Guess what? Your ego and you are not the same thing. They’re two different entities. When you fail, your ego takes a blow and it needs to sit at the kids’ table where the rest of the unhealthful emotions that have played far too big of a role on your life.

And, finally, one last way to reframe, I always remind myself that when I’m feeling that pit in my stomach before I’m about to try something new that scares the heck out of me, I remind myself that when I’m feeling that, that fear, that’s not there to scare me, that’s there to tell me that what I’m about to do must be worth it otherwise I won’t be feeling anything.

Just like that – in what? – in two minutes I offered five ways to reframe the fear of failure. And your listeners can do the same and must do the same because this is a toxic source of inspiration drain and even, Pete, for the people that are saying, “Dude, I hear you but I’m blessed, the fear of failure doesn’t apply to me.”

Good for you, you beat the odds, but statistically speaking it is mathematically impossible that you don’t have somebody in your life that suffers from fear of failure, whether it’s a co-worker or particularly, and sadly, whether it’s a child. The data is becoming very clear that, especially as kids enter college age, they were recording the lowest levels of self-esteem we’ve ever recorded on college campuses and a lot of that comes from the pressures kids put on themselves and the fear of failure that is just running rampant in college campuses and amongst kids in general.

Pete Mockaitis
Whew! This is potent stuff. Yeah, I’d love to dig in on the notion of when you fail you don’t suffer, rather your ego does. So I think some listeners would say, “Well, yeah, that still sucks, though, Scott. Is it beneficial to have a suffering ego?”

Scott Mautz
I like that. And it can suck if you assume the ego is imminently intertwined. And what I often do, I literally do this, Pete, I literally do this. When I’m thinking about something like, “Oh, man, I’m going to do that. But if I blow it, Oh, my gosh, I’m going to look like a fool.” I literally picture separating my ego from myself, from my true self, and making it go sit at the kids’ table where I’ll look at it and I’ll understand that, “Yeah, I know we’ve got to feed it and rub its belly every once in a while, but it’s not who I am, it doesn’t sit at the adult dinner table.”

And what I find is the more you can separate, and at least be aware of that, it’s really powerful because most people aren’t aware. Their ego and their sense of self are so intertwined they have a hard time separating the two. And it’s okay to take dents in your ego and, by the way, it’s okay to have an ego. There’s no one that has 0% ego. A lot of people have less than others and that’s cool. It’s just when we let it define and define who we are that it becomes problematic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s so interesting. And so then, when you visualize your ego what’s it look like? It’s a kid version of you?

Scott Mautz
Yes, that’s usually the way I look at it. Frankly, that’s exactly the way I picture it, a kid version of me sitting over there, you know, often whiny, often self-preservationist, often wondering about, “How is this thing going to reflect on me?” and, frankly, most often not service oriented. And I find that I’m very much able to keep my ego and my fear in check when I remind myself, “Okay, what’s the servitude in what I’m about to go try? Who am I going to serve to help them become a better version of themselves? Or what end benefit will I have for somebody else with what I’m about to try besides just the selfish benefit for me?”

And people give you a lot of slack when they know you’re trying to give them service, right? And I always find that that’s helpful, and I view that little kid ego sitting at the kids’ table as the most selfish version of myself that’s not focused on serving others. And that helps me put it in its place as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is nice. And then if you think about sort of humility as a virtue, and people like people who are humble, and similar roots to the word humiliation, when you have an ego that gets some dents then that can, in fact, be an asset to have your ego cut down from time to time.

Scott Mautz
Right. That is exactly right. And it’s not easy to do it but it starts with self-awareness that it does need to be cut down from time to time, right? Now I’m sure you’ve met people, Pete, I’m sure you’ve met people that are completely unaware that their ego is running rampant and taking over. I’m sure you’ve met that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, from time to time.

Scott Mautz
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, that’s awesome. So that’s a nice dose of good solutions when fear is in the mix. So, maybe you tell me, Scott, as you think about professionals who are in their daily work organization environments, is there another particular anti-muse you think would be valuable to deconstruct?

Scott Mautz
Well, you know, you almost have to talk about, for a minute, inundation and overwhelmed because we’re all feeling it. And you had indicated this before, Pete. I meant to say that no human being experiences all nine anti-muses at once, or if they do they’re a complete and utter mess. That’s not like the statistics don’t support. Research doesn’t support that that’s what happens to us, generally speaking.

What happens is, like you said, most of us can associate with three or four of these in periods of our life over time or in any given week or sometimes within a given day. And so the single most common next to fear is probably, virtually everybody feels inundated. So one of the things I wanted to share with your listeners is us feeling overwhelmed and inundated is at least in part our own fault. And I know people don’t like to hear that. They want to know that, “No, it’s the demands of the business. It’s the demands of the world we work in. We must do more, more, more. Produce more, more, more with less, less, less.” And part of that is true.

But we’ve also lost the art of pushing back especially when new work requests come into the fold, and I talk a lot about this in Find the Fire in the inundation chapter. And if I may, I’ll share just a little bit of advice about how to master the art of pushing back because I think it’s a powerful way to keep things on your plate manageable enough that inspiration has a chance to show up in your work life again, and just a few tips on that.

One of the most that I found when it’s time to push back on a new workload request is to come from a place of accountability, and give a different yes to the request. The reason we don’t push back is nobody likes saying no. It’s painful, right? It’s painful to tell somebody no especially your boss. Especially your boss. But you don’t have to say yes but you can give a different yes to the request.

You know, “Yes, I understand you want that done,” to your boss, “but first let me come from a place of accountability. I’m accountable to deliver my entire workplan. Let me lay out on paper for you the workplan. This is what I’m working on,” which, by the way, research shows that 74% of most bosses have no idea of the true impact of what their employees are working on, how much time they spend doing it, and the amount of things they actually do during the day.

Visualizing it on a piece of paper, respectfully, and playing it back and saying, “This is my total portfolio of work. If you want me to do this, these are the two things that are going to suffer, and I want to deliver the total portfolio work to you.” So rather than just saying, “I don’t want to do that. I have too much to do,” you demonstrate on paper how much you have to do, what has to give in order for you to take that on, and then you can also accompany that with a different yes.

“So as you can see here, boss, from my workplan that I laid on paper for you, I can’t take this on without something else suffering, which by the way earns more appreciation for what you’re working on,” by the boss as a side note. “But because I can’t take that on, I’ll tell you what, let me give you a different yes. I’m going to steer you to somebody that can help. I’m going to help you whittle down the amount of work it actually has to get done there. I’m going to lay out for you a resource that we could hire to take at least part of that research project on,” etc.

You find ways to get to an agreeable sign that you’re trying to help with the objective of the request even if you can’t actually do the work itself. Very powerful ways to push back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that. And, Scott, I’ve got to ask. So, now, I think, hey, talking about fear again. If a listener is saying, “Okay, Scott, I have a sinking feeling that were I to do that my boss would say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to hear your whining or your excuses. We all have a lot on our plates, and I need you to make it happen. All of it.’” What do we do?

Scott Mautz
Boy, is that really familiar? Is that ever familiar? And, first of all, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us were to, obviously, to experience that, and from time to time that, for sure, is going to happen. But this is where people fall down, is in the face of that first push of the boss, looking like whining or they’re accusing you of whining.

They have to understand, you have to get them to understand that, look, at the end of the day, you indeed are trying to be responsible and accountable. And then you go item by item, and you engage in discussions on, “Okay, I hear what you’re saying. All these needs to get done. Let’s talk about the realities of each of these pieces of work. Are there things you can do to help me achieve this objective in a different way?” You don’t wear down and just give in yet.

Now, I’m not saying, Pete, that there’s not going to come times where, if you have the kind of boss that’s toxic and is just going to say, “I don’t care. Do it.” Okay. Well, that speaks different volumes for how to address lack of evocation and how to work with a boss how just won’t work with you. but in that scenario, you have to be realistic and say, “Okay, I’m not going to give in just yet. I understand he thinks I’m whining. If I continue to come from a place of accountability and can demonstrably show the impact it’s going to have on the other deliverables, and get that boss to engage on, I hear you. I know it all has to get done. I want to roll up my sleeves with you to figure out how all of this can get done together.”

You have to keep at that. And if it gets to a point where he’s like, “I hear you. You’re not getting it.” Go away and just make it happen. Well, that’s a different discussion to have. That’s where you get into a different chapter of the book, how to deal with just toxic bosses. But the big point is hold your ground, be firm, you could even use what I call the Bermuda Triangle of bargaining in those cases where they’re playing hardball with you saying, “It all needs to get done.”

You’re like, “Well, hold on a second. Let’s talk about the Bermuda Triangle area of bargaining.” You wouldn’t use that term with him or her. But what that means is there’s three things: time, resources and scope as a triangle. And in the middle of that gets suck, time and wasted opportunity and energy and everything. So you talk to that boss and you say, “Look, there’s time, resources and scope. I can accomplish what you want, the full scope of it if you give me two times more, two more weeks, or we can reduce the scope, give me a few more resources and I’ll do it in half the time.”

You get the point. You use time, resources and scope, those are three variables, and you negotiate with your boss. So if scope is absolute, “You must do it all of it. I’m putting my pin on scope.” Great. Negotiate on time and resources then. Makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. I’ve seen a slide like this long ago. Thank you for resurrecting it for all of us. That’s good stuff. Okay. So, well now, I’d love to hear a touch then in terms of, hey, we got some toxic boss, toxic colleagues, there’s a lack of evocation. What do we do?

Scott Mautz
Yeah. Have you ever experienced that, by the way, Pete, that kind of environment? I was wondering if you’ve ever had that.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, only for small…fortunately, only in small stretches of my career but there was a time when I worked in the pantry at Kmart in high school in which I was not impressed by some of the leadership examples in my midst. It felt like it was toxic at times in terms of, you know, if I stack the Pepsi wrong. Oh, man, it was so brutal.

Scott Mautz
The reason I asked is if you can remember, then I will address your question. It kind of douses everything else out, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter what else is good about your job, when your boss is toxic nothing else matters. Is that a true statement? Do you think?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, if you encounter your boss frequently it really can very much be the case.

Scott Mautz
Yeah, and research tells us that’s what most people would say. So I talk in the book, and I will just touch on a few pointers. I give a little bit more of a complete plan on what do when you have a manager that’s like that and how frankly you can not only kind of work with them but turn them into a source of actual inspiration for you.

Here’s what some of the data and experience tells us that we do. First of all, and people don’t want to hear this but this is truth. First and foremost you have to bring the attitude that you want reciprocated. The more that you paint the boss into the corner, the more that you talk about that toxic boss as a toxic boss, the more it feeds on itself, the more you come to believe it, and maybe this is the most important point, the more you feel like you’ll never be able to reverse that situation.

And, by the way, people hear about that when you’re talking about your boss and, God forbids, if the boss ever finds out, that makes it really difficult to ever build new bridges. So, first and foremost, you got to bring the attitude that you wish was reciprocated back, number one. Number two, and I think people like hearing this one even less, you’ve got to learn how to give that boss feedback. You want to talk about fear of fear, that’s a scary thought.

But you make sure that your boss is open to it, and some of them aren’t, and I understand that, but you would be surprised. And what the research tells us is, in truth, even amongst toxic bosses, the vast majority of them really don’t understand the full impact of their behavior and what it’s having on their employees. And it takes brave people to call them out on it and say, “Okay, I want to make sure you’re open to some feedback assuming you agreed.”

Pete Mockaitis
And you just ask that question, “Hey, boss, you open to some feedback?”

Scott Mautz
Yeah, it sounds so obvious. And if they say no, okay, well, then the next step is quit. But you proceed with bravery and then you just kind of follow kind of a pretty straightforward pattern with humility, with transparency, with empathy. You help them understand the impact that their behavior is having on you and on the organization, never making it about them as a human being because bosses and human beings become defensive when it becomes personal. It’s about their behavior and the impact their behavior is having on your ability to do your job and your ability to want to show up to your job.

That is very straightforward, you be respectful, always direct with specific examples as you give the feedback and don’t waiver, as difficult as it is, believe me you’re doing that person a favor because the odds are they might also be a fairly intimidating individual and, believe me, they’re not getting enough feedback, and feedback that might actually make the difference for them.

And, finally, you just got to make sure you’re focusing on your perspective of how to help them not like what you would do if you were the boss, which is a big trap that people fall into when they start giving feedback to a boss. So those are just a few tips.

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

Scott Mautz
Yeah, I think I just wanted to mention that if the listeners are interested in what they’re hearing, the book is called Find the Fire, and I’ve put something together for your listeners, Pete. If they go to ScottMautz.com, S-C-O-T-T M-A-U-T-Z, right on the website, I have it ready to go, a prompt will pop-up where they can download a free workbook that goes along with the Find the Fire book that helps them, it’s a fill-in the blank workbook that helps them write down and retain the key concepts in the book.

And we all know, and research is very clear on what happens when we’re able to write down concepts for the retention of those very ideas. So they’ll be able to get there a free workbook at ScottMautz.com along with a lot of other free tools that I have prepped and ready to go for your listeners.

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

Scott Mautz
Oh, yeah, sure. I have two. Maybe my favorite of all time is probably not surprising given the way our discussion opened about my love of humor, but I really do believe that, “The shortest distance between two people is laughter.” And I found that to be imminently true in my life. And another quote, which is also some of the best advice I could give another human being, is to, “Chase authenticity not approval.”

And I can’t even tell you how many people give away their power, and I talk about this in Find the Fire a lot, when they choose to chase the constant approval of others – their boss, their mother-in law, their sister, whoever it might be – and they chase approval, constantly seeking to compare to others, wanting that approval rather than chasing the authentic version of themselves and being who they were meant to be, not what’s expected of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Scott Mautz
My favorite book I have on my table, I have it in front of me here, it’s called Die Empty by Todd Henry. It’s a fantastic book that sums up a lot of what’s important to me and my life. It’s a book about unleashing your best work every single day so that when you’re on your death bed you don’t have regrets about, you know, “I wish I would’ve created this. I wish I would’ve done that.” A fantastic read. I think your listeners would enjoy it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And tell me, is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect with folks, like they’re nodding their heads, they’re re-tweeting, they’re quoting it back to you?

Scott Mautz
I’ll probably start with the authenticity one that I get so many comments back on, the importance of chasing authenticity instead of approval. I’ll probably stick with that one because so many people bounce back to me on that one.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. And, Scott, tell us, is there a particular challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, I think it’s just you don’t have to accept that inspiration is something that is mysterious. It can be codified and coaxed. You can create the conditions where inspiration is much more likely to occur. You really can. If you understand what drains it then you’ll understand how to counter those and refill those wells. And when you have inspiration at your side, man, could you ever be awesome in your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Scott, this has been so enriching. Thank you so much for taking this time and sharing these goodies. I wish you tons of luck with the coaching, and professor-ing, and writing and speaking, and all you’re doing there.

Scott Mautz
Thanks so much, Pete. An absolute pleasure.

265: Getting the Most Out of Each Day with Peter Shankman

By | Podcasts | One Comment

 

 

Peter Shankman says: "The majority of things I do aren't normal... but they work for me."

Peter Shankman walks through his unique take on productivity and lessons learned from ADHD that anyone can apply.

You’ll Learn:

  1. 4 simple rules to be more productive
  2. Tricks to eliminate distraction
  3. Why you should always ask for a deadline

About Peter

Peter Shankman is a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage. An author, entrepreneur and corporate keynote speaker, this “worldwide connector” is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer service, social media, PR, marketing, advertising, and ADHD. He founded Help A Reporter Out, ShankMinds: Breakthrough, Geek Factory, and more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Peter Shankman Interview Transcript

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

Peter Shankman
My pleasure. Good to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have had a fascinating background which has been fun to learn about as I’m doing my research here. And I want to hear a little bit about some of your history when it comes to publicity stunts and people doing publicity stunts. Can you share maybe one of the most strikingly interesting, outrageously wild publicity stunts that come to mind from your experience there?

Peter Shankman
Well, first of all, I want to say it’s really funny to be on a podcast about being awesome at your job because I’ve had a total of one job in my entire life and it lasted two years, and when I went to go to my next job I realized that I just don’t play well with others. And so, I’ve been working as an entrepreneur for about almost 20 years now, and it is never once felt like a job. So, I think the number one key of being awesome at your job is do something that you don’t actually feel like you’re working at. It’s pretty awesome. But I love your podcast and I’m happy to chat.

PR stunts, what can I tell you? I can tell you that a PR stunt for the sake of a PR stunt is pointless. All the best PR stunts in the world they do several things. They drive product, they drive sales, they increase brand exposure, they increase revenue. You’re never going to find a CEO who’s a big fan of people who say, “You know what, we should do this stunt.” “Why?” “It’d be great. It’ll go viral.”

Pete Mockaitis
Go viral.

Peter Shankman
Like, “Shut up.” So, if you look at something like the – I’m totally spacing on it now – the guy with the abs, Old Spice. Old Spice, several years ago, they did these things on Twitter where people would tweet the Old Spice guy, and he’d respond by a video. It cost them about three bucks a piece to do, generated ridiculous amounts of brand exposure and sales, right?

I’ve had clients, we’ve done events where we’ve created massive, massive publicity, and massive, massive exposure that has led to sales. Some of the best ones I remember, God, back when domain names costs like 79 bucks a piece. We did one where we offered domains, it was a domain service, a domain name company, a TLD, and we offered free domains for one night to protest the fact that they cost 79 bucks when they shouldn’t, and we broke the internet.

It was back in 2000 where there’s still a lot of people on dial-up and we crashed the northeast seaboard. It was pretty impressive. But, you know, again, great exposure. After the promotion they sold like, I think, 40 times the amount of domain names in two hours they would normally sell in three weeks. So, if you’re going to do a stunt, at the end of the day if you’re going to present it to your boss with that, they will look at you and think you’re awesome if you come up with this great idea, but then also tie it into revenue, tie it into why it’s important.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’d like to hear. Any that just failed, bombed, where it’s just silly disasters?

Peter Shankman
Oh, I had tons. You look around, I’ve screwed up once. I mean, there were tons. Let me think about some great ones that have bombed. Any stunts that rely on going viral, right? You can’t make anything viral. What you could do is make something good. So, I would suggest that people need to focus on making things good, because if you make something viral that’s not going be that great.

The only thing that makes viral as far as I could tell is H1N1 or some source of disease. You want to make something good, you want to create something that people say, “Wow, this is pretty cool to look at. I’m a huge fan of this and I like this. I trust them.” No one believes how great you are anymore if you’re the one that has to tell them. Your goal is to create something that people understand and like and want and want to use without them saying, “Oh, yeah, I feel like they’re marketing to me or selling to me.”

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Cool. All right. Well, thank you. So, I want to spend most of our time chatting about some of the ideas and applications that you’ve collected much of within your book Faster Than Normal. Can you share with us what is sort of the main premise of the book and why is this important here and now?

Peter Shankman
Faster Than Normal is the basic premise that a lot of us are undiagnosed ADHD. Some of us have sort of been diagnosed. I’ve had it for 10 years, but for 30 years I always thought I was just different and strange, right? At the end of the day, what you find is that ADHD, since it has come out as a disorder, has always been considered a negative.

And when I realized that I had, and realized there was a name for it, and realized what it was, I’m like, “Holy crap, this thing has actually done tremendously well for me. This disorder is actually responsible for the majority of my success.” And when I realized that I quickly became aware that ADHD can be considered a gift, not a curse if you understand how to use it.

And so, for me, I’ve spent the past countless years documenting how I use my ADHD as a gift, what I do to allow myself to use it to the best of my ability, to benefit my life, to allow me to sort of – for lack of a better word – do more than normal people. And it sounds crazy but it turns out that when you have a faster brain, as long as you know how to use it, you actually can do a lot.

Here’s a pretty good example. If I offered you the choice between a Honda and a Lamborghini you’d probably choose the Lamborghini, right? It’s a faster car. It’s a sick ride. It’s amazing. But you’ve got to know how to drive it. If you’re used to driving a KIA Sportage your entire life, and someone gives you a Lamborghini, if you don’t know how to drive it you’re going to step on the gas, expecting it to respond the same way that your KIA responds, you’re going to smash it into a tree or kill someone or fall off a bridge.

You have to understand how to drive your faster brain. Driving your faster brain is different than driving a regular brain at a normal speed, so there are pluses and minuses to that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I’m really intrigued to hear your point, so that folks don’t tune out right away, it’s like, “Well, I’m not ADHD so this doesn’t apply to me.”

Peter Shankman
Oh, it applies to everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when you said there are many, many folks who are undiagnosed ADHD, and I had a former girlfriend who kept insisting that I, too, had ADHD. So, what might be some of the telltale signs? And what do we do about it if we find ourselves in that case?

Peter Shankman
Well, I’ll take it a step further for your audience. You don’t have to have ADHD to appreciate the tools and the sort of life hacks that I use on a regular basis.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Peter Shankman
You can be a normal girl or guy who just wants to get three hours a day back in your life productivity-wise.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds nice. Very nice.

Peter Shankman
Yeah, the stuff that I do allows me to get about three hours’ worth of productivity back in my life every day, and they sound crazy until you realize how beneficial they are. First example, I get up usually around 3:45 in the morning.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, 3:45 a.m.

Peter Shankman
3:45 a.m. And the first reaction of anyone who hears that is, “Wow, that’s crazy. What are you? A farmer?” And I get it. It’s not normal, but the majority of things I do aren’t normal but they work for me. I get up so early because it is the only time during the day – when I don’t have to be on my phone, or at my computer, or doing something with work, or focusing on my daughter – I can work out.

So, I get out of my bed and I either go to the gym, go for a run, or more often than not, lately get on my Peloton bike which sits literally six inches to my bed. I sleep in my gym clothes which, again, that’s crazy. But, really, what are your gym clothes? Your gym clothes are a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, right? Probably the same thing you’d sleep in anyway. And my socks. So, the second I wake up I thrown on my sneakers on, I’m dressed.

It’s kind of hard to talk yourself out of going to the gym when you’re already in your gym clothes. I have automatic lights that come on. My lights are all internet of things, my curtains, my shades, my everything. Everything in my apartment is internet of things so the second 3:45 a.m. hits, the light starts coming up slowly, so I’m awake with natural awake lighting, and the chance of going back to sleep drop massively.

Then, once I’m up, I get on my Peloton bike, I do like an hour or two hours of working out. Well, what that does is that gives you a ridiculous hit of dopamine, okay? It wakes you up. It gives you that dopamine which is basically the focus chemical. It’s the focus and happy chemical that says, “Hey, you are awake. Let’s go kick some ass.” It’s like a winner’s high. A winner’s high essentially.

You can get the same thing from speaking on stage. You can get the same thing from skydiving, the same thing from illegal drugs. It’s that dopamine hit that everyone craves. Well, I am now full of it by 6:00 a.m. okay? So, now, I’m out of the gym, I’m out of the whatever. I go to my closet to get dressed, and my closet has exactly two sides to it and they’re labeled.

The first side says, “Office/Travel,” and it’s full of T-shirts and jeans just like I’m wearing today. The second side says, “Speaking/TV,” and it’s full of buttoned down shirts, jackets and jeans. That’s it. My suits, my vests, my sweaters, my night shoes, all that stuff, my ties, those are all in my daughter’s closet in the other room.

Because if I had to go into the closet every morning and say, “You know what, I wonder what I should wear? Hmm, let’s see. Hmm, look at that sweater. Mom gave me that sweater. I wonder how well she’s doing. I should look her up. Let me check.” Three hours later I’m naked in the living room on Facebook and I haven’t left past.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. So, you’re saying that the key there is because of ADHD.

Peter Shankman
Elimination of choice.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, understood. Okay. Cool. And so, then, now a number of these rituals seem like, well, I don’t know if you chose to do them as a means of managing in particular your ADHD because they sound wise just in general. Maybe I want to back up just a little bit though. So, you wake up at 3:45 a.m. And what time do you go to bed?

Peter Shankman
Usually about 8:30, 9:00 o’clock at night.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool.

Peter Shankman
And here’s the thing, for everyone listening saying, “Oh, my God. I’ve missed out on everything. I’ve missed all the good networking.” No, you won’t. I’ve been doing this for years. I have not missed out on a damn thing because all the people who really have the power to make decisions they’re not out drinking, right? You’re having breakfast with them at 7:00 a.m. at the plaza, egg whites and coffee.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Peter Shankman
That’s the real thing. I have never missed out on anything business-wise by going to bed early.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. Well, so there we go. So, we talked about the elimination of choice in terms of in the closet a lot of things are elsewhere, and it’s labeled it. It’s so funny. I just labeled my closet recently because, well, there’s all sorts of clutter, I was like, “We just got to get really clear on what goes where in that way the clutter goes away.” It’s like, “Oh, this is the sweater kind of cubbie. All right. Now, I don’t get to think about it anymore. That’s always where the sweaters are.” And so, I dig it. It’s very cool. Now, you sort of gone ahead and sort of defined in particular four undeniable life rules associated with ADHD that are applicable more broadly. And so, what are those?

Peter Shankman
Well, the first one, like I said, is exercise every day. Second one is elimination of choice. The third one is the concept of eating healthy. When you’re ADHD you’re just driven, you tend to have two speeds and only two speeds. My two speeds are namaste and I’m kind of bitch. There is absolutely no middle ground. There’s no middle ground. And so, once you realize that it’s a lot easier to live your life.

So, for instance, you know how certain people who – and I know some of these people – they get home after work, and they’re like, “You know what, I’m tired. I don’t really feel like cooking. I’m going to order in a pizza.” And they order a pizza, and they have two slices, and they box the rest of it in a tin foil and they put it in the fridge, right? That’s called leftover pizza to have at another time, right? Okay, I’ve never had leftover pizza in my life. That is just not a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
You just devour the whole pie?

Peter Shankman
If the pizza is in front of me I’m eating the pizza. I have never once had leftover pizza in my life. There was a comedian, I remember, who said, “I don’t eat until I’m full of eating until I hate myself.” That’s what I do. I basically sit there and I will eat the pizza because, again, two speeds. And so, knowing that, there was a great movie that came out in the ‘80s, it’s called War Games, and it was about a computer with Matthew Broderick.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, right with the news.

Peter Shankman
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
An interesting game, okay.

Peter Shankman
Exactly. And the computer understood. The very last line of the movie was the computer understanding that you can’t win at nuclear war, and he says, “The only winning move is not to play.” And so, I have determined that in my life the only winning move for me is not to play. I allow myself certain times in very constrained conditions to play.

For instance, the last two weeks of December, I knew I wasn’t traveling, I knew I wasn’t working, and I let myself eat, right? But sure enough, I probably ordered pizza every single day. Now, I’m back onto healthy, and because of that I cook all my food in advance. Like every Sunday I make a ton of skinless chicken, I make a ton of lean flank steak, things like that that I just carry with me. I have a ton of spinach salads, yogurts, things of that.

I take yogurt with me out the door, I’m eating as I walk to work. It stops me from going, “Oh, look, there’s a Dunkin Donuts,” or, “Look, there’s a McDonald’s,” or, “Look, there’s…” whatever. It turns that off because I simply know that that is not an option at that time. And I have those, and it sounds rigid but it has to be that way because I work in shared community and some idiot is always bringing in donuts.

For example, I walked in my office today, I haven’t been since early last week because of the holidays. I walked in today, some client delivered me a 10-pound box or one of those 10-pound tins of popcorn, regular cheese and caramel, right? I opened that, I opened the box, I took out the tin, I didn’t even break the seal on the tin.

I simply left my office, walked up to the administration desk up front and went to the two women who worked there, I’m like, “Hey, I got a present for you,” and I left it there. “Wow, you’re so nice.” “No, I’m simply ridding myself from sitting in my office eating 10 pounds of popcorn today.” So, again, eliminate that, know what works for you, know what doesn’t, so I try to eat healthy. My logic is if I’m grandmother wouldn’t have recognized it as food back in 1908, I won’t eat it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Peter Shankman
And then the fourth rule, I think I’ve touched on this earlier, simply getting enough sleep. So, it’s amazing what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. The second you don’t get enough sleep your body – and it’s the same thing with not drinking enough water – your body is unbelievably good at adapting, and so it will basically, if it says, “You know what, you haven’t gotten enough sleep. I’m going to make you do other things. I’m going to make you think that you want to do other things when I’m just trying to get you to sleep.”

Same thing with water, “You haven’t drunk enough water. I’m going to make you feel hungry but you’re not actually hungry. You’re thirsty. But I know there’s water in whatever food you eat and maybe that’s a way for me to get what I need.” The brain is amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
So, the corollary then, on the sleep side, is what’s the body prompting us to do when we’re sleep deprived?

Peter Shankman
It varies. We could do everything from, “Oh, my God. I need several more cups of coffee,” or, “I need to take a stimulant,” or even just sitting in your office zoning out and not being anywhere near as productive as you can.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Peter Shankman
Right? And it’s so funny because people, “Oh, I wish I could eat or sleep. I don’t have the time.” Well, I’m pretty sure that where you live and where I live, the sun orbits the earth around, or the earth orbits the sun around the same time, right? If you live in one part of New York and I live in another part of New York, and you say you don’t have the time, but I somehow do have the time, I’m pretty sure it’s not that time has nothing to do with it.

I’m pretty sure that we both live on the same part of the planet that revolves around the sun at the same exact time so I don’t suddenly have an hour more in my day time-wise than you do. What I do have is the priority.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. Cool. So, now I’m intrigued then, in a way it seems like the elimination of choice is one that really reinforces and supports all the other three.

Peter Shankman
No question about it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’d love to maybe go a little bit deeper then on that. So, we talked about the closet and the food. What are some other ways you think professionals could really be enriched by some application of elimination of choice?

Peter Shankman
My desk has my laptop on it, it has my screens on it, and that would be about it. Maybe it has a glass or a bottle of water. Keep your desk clean. Keep the stuff clean and you will find that there’s nothing to get lost in, right? I have to do work on Facebook for a living so I do kind of a wonderful extension for Chrome called Kill Newsfeed which does exactly that. All I see on Chrome is my advertising and things like that so I don’t get suck down that rabbit hole.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Peter Shankman
I go into specific places. I have five books that I’ve written, and for the last three of them have been written entirely on airplanes, I mean, I fly a lot for work, but flying is also the best place where I can get work done. So, I have actually done things where I will go and I will fly – I flew to Asia – to write a book. I flew to Asia, I had two weeks left to my deadline, I wrote chapters one through five on the flight out.

I landed in Tokyo, I went through immigration, I went back through immigration, I had a cup of coffee in the lounge, got back on the same plane, same seat two hours later, wrote chapters six through ten . . . landed 31 hours later with a bestselling book. It sounds crazy but, again, if it works for you it’s not.

[00:18:14]

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve heard sort of different variance of that, writing a book was it J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter? She went to a hotel.

Peter Shankman
Yeah, she went to a hotel. Same thing. Same exact thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Or some others will go to a remote cabin or cottage.

Peter Shankman
My basic thing is if I need to work, I need to go to a place where I can go into… Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, and the basic premise behind that is exactly that. On my plane, I’m in my, what I call my zone of focus, okay? Nothing can bother me. I have a flight attendant constantly bringing me water or soda, whatever.

It’s in-air in-flight internet which kind of sucks anyway, so I don’t have internet, right? All I have is my laptop, my comfortable seat, a bathroom 30 steps away, and 14 hours to do nothing. I use a wonderful program on the Mac called Ommwriter which allows you to shut down every other program, alert, whatever, on your computer as long as you’re using it, and only shows you a white screen that you can type on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Interesting. And so that’s just for writing then.

Peter Shankman
Yup, and I put on a really good headphones, I have some great work music and I just go to town.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s hear about the work music. What are you sporting there?

Peter Shankman
Oh, my God, it varies. It’s everything from themes, a lot of theme songs, a lot of movie soundtracks, some great ones. Everything from The Book of Eli which is all instrumental, all the way up to Rocky which has some really good powerful stuff on it, it keeps me going. For me, it’s really about listening, having that music play in the background.

Studies have shown time after time that music does help your concentration and, yeah, it’s really about having that. And I love my headphones, I have my Harman, P35 I think, great headphones. And I use everything I have to get what I need to get into the zone I need to be in, the place I need to be in so I can get everything I need to get done done.

Pete Mockaitis
So, with the music, are you deliberately choosing, “Hmm, I’m a little sluggish or sleepy. Let’s kind of pump it up,” versus, “Ooh, I’m a little bit all over the place. Let’s slow it down”? Or is that kind of how you’re playing that game?

Peter Shankman
Not necessarily. I have music. If you go to my work music it does tend to be a lot less vocals, a lot more instrumental, because if it’s vocals I’ll wind up singing along which might not often help. But it’s definitely a lot more instrumental. But, yeah, again it’s just music that I love. Whatever works for you, use. But, yeah, that’s the kind of stuff for me that I’m a huge fan of.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am intrigued here. It seems like one of the themes we were talking about here from the early rising to the flying to Asia and back is about sort of isolation or separation from distractions in general, but people in particular. And so, I guess I’m curious about the other people side of the equation. It’s like one approach is to just get completely away from them via they’re not awake or you’re in a plane and you can’t be accessed. What are some of your other thoughts for how that you manage that area kind of prudently and appropriately?

Peter Shankman
Well, I have a four-year old daughter, and when I’m with her I want to be completely and fully with her, right? I don’t want to be looking at my phone so I’ll leave my phone in my room and just go out and play with her. For me, it’s really about being in that moment and being as present as possible, and I know that when my phone is in front of me I’m going to look at it, right?

And so, I also know that I’ve set up my life in such a way that I’ve worked. By the time 5:00, 6:00 p.m. is when I head home to see her, I’ve been working since – what? 6:00 a.m.? 7:00a.m.? – so, I can take a break.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Peter Shankman
I can go enjoy myself, and that to me is huge. There’s no guilt there. And I shut off my phone at night when I go to sleep at night. I don’t just put it on silent. I shut it off. And what I found from that is that, “Oh, my God, what happens if I shut it off? Will I miss so much?” You know how many times I’ve actually missed something important, I think once. And the people who matter in my life are my parents, my daughter’s mom, they have my home number.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Peter Shankman
Worst case, if it’s 2:00 in the morning, they can call the home number. It’s never been a problem. We make a lot more of these problems in our minds than really exists.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m also curious to hear, you’ve dropped the name of several tools whether it’s a Chrome extension or a piece of software or your headphones. I would love to hear all the more. What are some additional tools or hacks you’re using with the tools, whether it’s the calendar, the to-do list, or whatever, that you find handy for running your brain and your life?

Peter Shankman
Yeah, I think you have to figure out what ecosystem you belong to and stick with it. So, I’m in the Mac and Google ecosystems, so I have my iPhone. But because I’m on Google, I also use a Huawei Mate 10 which is a phenomenal phone, so I use both of them. And the apps that I use vary for what I need. I use everything from, I’m huge on WhatsApp, on WeChat, all that stuff where I go overseas a lot, so how can I continue to be connected and not have to worry about losing that connection wherever I go. And then I’ll shut down when I need to.

So, what other apps do I use? I love shopping. Being able to think about something I might need, add it to my shopping order over the course of a week and then just hit send every Saturday. So, again, it’s really just eliminating the choice and eliminating the worry of, “Did I put that there? Did I take care of that?” Whatever.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Now, when you say hit send with shopping.

Peter Shankman
So, I use FreshDirect. That’s only in New York. I’m not sure if it’s everywhere. But essentially FreshDirect, I just order everything online, it shows up four days later. It’s from a store out in the city. It’s phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. I dig Instacart here in Chicago.

Peter Shankman
Yeah, same thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Okay. Well, any other things that you want to share when it comes to the creative energy or this mythical hyper-focus? How do we tap into some of these superpowers?

Peter Shankman
I would suggest one more thing, and that is that when you don’t have a deadline, that’s a problem. Like I can’t work without a deadline, and what I’ve learned is to tell my clients to give me an actual date and time that he wants something, because if they don’t, what ends up happening is it becomes the most important thing to do until the next project I get, and then that becomes the most important thing and I haven’t finished the first one.

So, if you tell me, “Oh, just give it to me whenever,” you’ll never get it. But if you tell me, “I need it by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.,” you’ll get it on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. because now I have a deadline to work backwards from there. And we do that a lot. Most CEOs, we tend to not be able to complete things because there’s always something new coming up. So, if you give me a deadline I’ll make sure I get it.

And the last thing I’d suggest is make sure you have a tribe of people who understand what you’re doing for a living and understand what you need and how they could benefit you. Essentially, have a support system. We don’t talk about this but working for someone else, entrepreneurship, whichever work you’re doing, it tends to get lonely, right? Most people don’t understand what you do and unless they’re working right with you and want to share people right with you because then it becomes a competitive thing.

You really want to focus on having a tribe of people. I mean, for me, I run a Mastermind group, it’s called ShankMinds and we have just under 200 people in it, all of whom are either entrepreneurial in nature or work for themselves, whatever. And I could say, “Guys, do me a favor. I’m putting it out here. I want to make sure I’m up for it. I have a thousand words I need to write by March. Make sure I get it done.” And I’ll get emails 6:00 a.m. “Hey, done it yet? Done it yet? Done it yet?” and it forces you to do it. It’s great. So, I’m a huge fan of having a tribe, having a group of people who you trust.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, thank you for sharing. And so, then, anything else on tapping into the hyper-focus and creative energies?

Peter Shankman
I think, at the end of the day, you can’t force it. If you’re not in a mode or in a mood or in the right place to get what you need done done, don’t do it right then; do it another time, right? Do something else. One thing that I’ve had great success with is doing things that I love first. So, I’ll go for a run or I’ll do something.

I talk to kids in school all the time and I tell them, “Look, if you have two subjects in homework, Math and English, and you love English but hate Math, do the English first. Because you love doing English, that in itself will give you a little bit of a brain chemistry boost that will let you get through the Math.”

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I find that logical on one hand, and then I’ve got in my other ear, “Is it Brian Tracy Eat That Frog advice associated with procrastination or feeling like a bowling winner who knocks out the trickiest thing, at the end of the day and feels momentum?” How do you…?

Peter Shankman
Here’s the thing, at the end of the day, your homework is due tomorrow, either way. So, for me, I look along the lines of being able to, I want every bit of availability to be able to do the stuff I love. And I know that if I do the stuff I love first I’ll be excited about it, I’ll be happy about it and then I will feel that hopefully will translate into giving me just a little bit of brain boost to get through that I don’t love. Now, I totally understand what Brian said and all that. I get that. It’s just different ways of working.

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

Peter Shankman
Oh, we’re good. I think, at the end of the day, ADHD or just trying to get more out of your day is actually a good thing as long as you know how to use it.

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

Peter Shankman
A friend of mine once told me this to me, he said, “If you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay. I see two levels there.

Peter Shankman
Huge fan. Always been a huge fan of that.

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

Peter Shankman
So, I used to date a woman who was neuroscientist, a Ph.D. neuroscientist, years ago. And she took me, she knew that I skydive, and she used to do studies on the brain and things like that. And one day, she said, “I want to your blood and do some tests on you for fun.” This test for me, she basically took my blood right before I jumped out of a plane, when I woke the day I was going skydiving because I have about 500 jumps, and then again when I came down. She said, “Yeah, when you woke up, you’re pretty much normal, classic ADHD, 25% less monoamine inhibitors, all those things,” I had no idea what she meant.

And she goes, “And then when you land, you’re pretty much a coke addict.” She goes, “You’re about as high as a kite, you’re about a mile away from being a full-pledged junkie.” I’m like, “Intriguing.” And so, it’s that sort of wakeup call that, “Yeah, this stuff really works and you can use it to your advantage.” I found that amazing. Getting your brain into that place where it’s just supercharged is such a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. And now, how about a favorite book?

Peter Shankman
What’s my current favorite book? There was a great book called They Can Kill You But They Can’t Eat You, it’s by a woman named Dawn Steel. She was the first female head at Paramount, and she talks all about making it in that industry. It’s a great book when you’re looking for inspiration.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you’ve already mentioned several tools. But could you tell us about a total favorite of yours?

Peter Shankman
Like I said, Ommwriter is definitely a given. Anything that allows me to work better, faster, quicker without delay. So, whether that means not having to talk to people, it could be anything from an airline app all the way to my Canon camera which transfers photos from my real camera all the way to my phone automatically so you get great Instagram shots. Whatever it is.

Pete Mockaitis
How about TextExpander? I’m a huge fan myself.

Peter Shankman
I love TextExpander. Yeah, love TextExpander. I love, like I said, Ommwriter. All those things are great. I use a great one called Jing by TechSmith that allows me to grab, it’s a great screenshot program.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, yeah.

Peter Shankman
So, you have tons of them out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Peter Shankman
Dropbox, Google Drive. Again, anything that works for you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget that you share that you sort of hear quoted back to yourself often?

Peter Shankman
You can’t make anything viral but you can make something good.

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

Peter Shankman
My link is at shankman.com, the Mastermind is at ShankMinds.com, and the podcast/book on ADHD is at FasterThanNormal.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Peter Shankman
If you do nothing else, get up a half an hour earlier. It’ll change your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. All right. Well, Peter, this has been such a treat. Thank you for sharing. And good luck in all of your writing and masterminding, and all you’re up to.

Peter Shankman
My pleasure. Looking forward to it. Talk soon.

Pete Mockaitis
Bye-bye.

258: Doing the Work You Do Best with Ken Coleman

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Ken Coleman says: "Our sweet spot is at the intersection of our greatest talent and greatest passion."

Broadcaster Ken Coleman guides us in discovering what we’re created to do… and how to see that dream become a reality.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The litmus test for your passion
  2. The “nuclear option” for dealing with a difficult teammate or boss
  3. What to do when you’re burnt out at work but can’t leave just yet

About Ken 

Ken Coleman is host of The Ken Coleman Show and EntreLeadership Podcast, and author of One Question: Life-Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices. Ken is an acclaimed interviewer and broadcaster who equips, encourages and entertains listeners through thought-provoking interviews, helping them grow their businesses, pursue their passions, and move toward a fulfilled purpose. You can follow him on Twitter at @KenColeman, on Instagram at @KenWColeman, and online at kencolemanshow.com or facebook.com/KenColemanHost.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ken Coleman Interview Transcript

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

Ken Coleman
Thrilled to be on. Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. Well, I’m looking forward to it. It’s so funny, I’ve seen your name many, many times in the iTunes Careers podcast charts, and now you’ve got two of them sort of surrounding me in the Top 10, which is not that rankings matter. It’s quite a mystery how they arrive there. But it’s fun to be talking to you like live, like you’re a real person and here we are chatting.

Ken Coleman
Yeah. Well, you know what, I am live and I’m a real person so that’s very exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
Two for two. So, I’d love it if you could dispel something I’ve been wondering about for quite a while when I see the EntreLeadership podcast logo. What does the word EntreLeadership mean, because I’ve got my own conceptions but I’d like to hear it from you? is it a state of mind, or a precise definition, or a brand? What should I think about this word?

Ken Coleman
Yeah. Well, Dave Ramsey is the founder of Ramsey Solutions, the Dave Ramsey Show, and the author of that New York Times bestselling book EntreLeadership, and the word comes from Dave’s desire to train internal leaders many, many years ago just as his company was beginning to grow in the 20, 30, 40 team member range, just training his own internal leaders.

And he began to think through, “Now, what does a healthy leader look like in an organization? We certainly want them to have all of the traits of an entrepreneur, but we also want them to be solid leaders as well and not all entrepreneurs are great leaders.” That’s a real combination, if you think, your audience, they can define what an entrepreneur is and then what a leader is.

And so, he smashed two words together, he goes, “I want leaders who are solid and can lead, but also have an entrepreneurial spirit, an entrepreneurial focus,” and so the word EntreLeadership, together, came into a teaching curriculum; internal. Then people started coming in from outside the walls of Ramsey Solutions and, over time, eventually it became a division and a bestselling book. So, that’s what EntreLeadership means. It just means an entrepreneurial leader.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. I’m with you there. And so, now, you’ve got a newer show here The Ken Coleman Show which is cool. So, it’s all about – as I read from the description and listened to a little bit – folks who sort of feel often stuck in their jobs. Could you give us the broader picture for what that show is all about and a fuller picture for the problem of folks who are stuck in their jobs?

Ken Coleman
Sure. The Ken Coleman Show is completely focused on helping people discover what it is that they were created to do. And then once they discover that, well, then, “How do you make a plan to see that dream become a reality?” That is, in fact, what’s is about. So, you got people across the spectrum, we have people who call in on the show and they’re not sure what it is that they want to do with their life or what it is that they were created to do. No clues. They just need some sounding board to begin to look internally, and I’ll get to that in a second.

Then we have people who are confused, so they have a good sense of what they may be passionate about but they’re not sure how their talent intersects there. Then you have a large group of people that are stuck, and these are people who are actually good at their job, they have great talent, but they’re doing something that has zero passion.

And so, these all comes from a very simple analogy that a mentor gave to me many, many years ago when I was in my 20s, and the idea that is we all have a sweet spot. And our sweet spot is at the intersection of our greatest talent and greatest passion. So, in other words, we are living and working in our sweet spot when we’re using our top skills, top talents, the things we do best to do the work that we’re passionate about, the work that we love.

Then when you throw values on the backend of that, so I use my great talent to perform my great passion to see the results that I care most about; that’s talent, passion, values. When those three can intersect in that type of a purpose sentence and we live that out, we’re in our sweet spot. And everybody gets that analogy from sports.

If you’ve played any type of sports, whether it be baseball bat or a tennis racket or golf club, when you hit the ball perfectly in the sweet spot of that instrument it’s almost as if you cannot feel the contact of the ball, it’s such a clean crisp hit. And this isn’t just a homespun metaphor. There’s a guy by the name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you cannot spell it, you have to look it up.

But he’s a Romanian psychologist, that’s right, and he’s done 30 years of work on this idea of flow. And what he describes is essentially the same process of striking a ball with a club or racket or a bat, and that sweet spot it just feels as though it’s effortless. It’s almost as if time begins to stand still and disappear. So, there’s great science behind this.

And so, Pete, we’ve thrown this out there, we put it out there three months ago, and the response has been fantastic because people need a sounding board or need help walking through what their top talents are and what their top passions are and how those intersect, so that’s what we do everyday, one caller at a time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very cool. So, there’s so much to dig into there, and so I’d love to get your take on, so I guess, a role that matches your talent, your passion, and your values. And I guess, in a way, this isn’t quite binary in terms of, “This matches my talent. This does not match my talent. This matches my passion. This does not match my passion,” but it’s sort of like a spectrum, or zero to 100% range associated with a given role and how well it’s fitting into that sweet spot.

So, I’d love it if maybe you could orient us a little bit to what does something that’s kind of in your talent or your passion or your values sweet spot look, sound, feel like in practice versus something that is awesomely on track in your talent, your passion, your values? So, I imagine you’ve had many listeners and many callers and many clients and such that you’ve explored and assessed that.

But I think it’d be great if you could paint that picture for listeners so that it’s a little bit of a, “Oh, I thought I was doing okay, but, wow, there’s a whole lot more out there for me.”

Ken Coleman
Sure. Well, I think the easiest way to describe what you’re asking me to describe is, “What does it actually look like and feel like when I am doing work that I was created to do?” And, again, it comes down to the simple scale of, “Does the work that I’m doing right now, does it fire up my soul?” Because if it doesn’t, now we know, well, there’s reasons why.

But it’s the idea that when you are engaged in work that you truly love, that you’re passionate about, it’s because you’re actually good at it. Very few among us, I’m sure there’s some freaks out there who like to do things they’re terrible at. The only thing I do like that is golf. Like I play golf but I’m terrible but I enjoy the camaraderie.

And so, the reality is most of us don’t want to do anything that we’re not good at. And so, you can test your passion level. So, do you feel yourself alive and excited? Do you get a bit of a rush? Do you feel the juice? You’re just like, “Man, this is so much fun. I enjoy this. I get so much out of this work. I don’t want to stop. I find time just” as I said earlier, “beginning to slip away before I realize it.”

Passion is the great indicator as it relates to work that I love and work that matters to me, that’s values. So, if you don’t feel that and sense that, I can just tell you, it’s the greatest indicator and it’s the simplest indicator, then something is off. And most likely, what we find is, is that you may be good at doing what it is that you’re doing but there’s no intrinsic connection for you, there’s no heart connection, there’s no soul connection.

And so, that’s what you’re always looking for. Now you can flip that and you can see where people get confused and spend decades feeling like they’ve not caught an opportunity. So, this is the flipside of the question you asked me, “What does it look like when you’re not in the sweet spot?” What we see a lot of times is people pursuing something that they are very passionate about.

So, a lot of the emotion and devotion towards some work, but sadly they’re not aware that they don’t have the talent to pull it off. Something is missing and it’s in the talent/skill section. Maybe sometimes it’s just something you need to learn, but you’ll spend so much time pursuing something you’re passionate about but you don’t have the talent to pull off.

I run into this on the show a lot, Pete, with people who have tried so many different entrepreneurial opportunities and it just never click for them. And then when you begin to break it down, you realize they didn’t have the skill to pull of what they were trying to pull off. They loved it.

And so, a personal example, to pick on myself. I love the game of basketball. I absolutely love it. I love to consume it, I like to play it, but I’m 43 years old and I’m 5’9” so if I tried to make a living playing basketball or coaching basketball it’s just simply never going to work. And so, you have to be able to understand, “Wait a second. Do I have the necessary talent and skill to perform this function that I’m passionate about?”

And if not, it’s just about dialing it back and getting into a space of self-awareness to go, “Okay. This might be something that I do as a hobby or engaging hobby, but I can’t pull it off at least in this function.” So, I would work with somebody on the phone and say, “Okay. What do you love most about this type of work?”

And then you get to understand what it is they love the most. You go, “Okay. Now, what are your top talents? Can you pull it off? Because maybe it’s just a redirection and it’s a different perspective, a different avenue of performing work that you care about.”

So, again, it’s back to, “Am I having a hard time getting to work on Monday morning?” If that’s an issue of burnout. And if you’re passionate about something, you never burnout. You might get really, really tired and you need a break, but you don’t burnout.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s a helpful picture. Thank you. And so, now I’m thinking a little bit about some of the tricky issue. I think that it’s quite possible that you could be in a role where you got the talent, the passion and the values, and yet it’s not profitable. You talked about entrepreneurial things, I thought, “Well, they might just not have a product-market fit in terms of like the actual good or service that they’re bringing to the market, and no one really kind of wants it badly enough to buy it,” which I’ve seen and lived numerous times in my entrepreneurial failures.

And then, also, I think outside of entrepreneurial land, if you’re enmeshed in an organization with people and politics and teams and all that, I’m curious to zoom in there because I think there are many folks – and I’m thinking of a few right now, those close me – who, they got the talent. They really great at doing the thing. They got the passion, they really believe in what it’s all about and think it’s really cool to advance it, and they’ve got the values in terms of that’s really meaningful stuff that they’re working.

Let’s talk about the healthcare industry, for example. And yet there can be some challenges with regard to difficult co-workers, employees, bosses, politics, meetings. It’s sort of like the external kind of surrounding stuff that kind of diminishes the beautiful fit that we found here and brings it down so the experience of work is not delightful and awesome. What are some of your perspectives for dealing with those just difficult things that get in the way there?

Ken Coleman
Well, you gave me two scenarios so I’ll try to address both of them. Let’s go to the last scenario which is that lines up, the work lines up with their passion, their talent, and their values but it’s not fun anymore because they got a difficult leader or they’ve got difficult team members or the culture itself is really unhealthy, and we have that all the time on the show.

But, again, you’re in your sweet spot but this idea that life is a yellow brick road where little people are singing to you – like in the movie The Wizard of Oz, as you move along the journey – that’s just not the reality. So, I would say to that person, “You’re doing the right thing but you’re in the wrong place.” So, there’s no confusion, you’re doing the right thing but you’re not in the right place, because if you can’t fix the culture and you got difficult people then you need to get out.

Again, Pete, I have that call pretty regular. I’d say I probably get that call five or six times a week, and it confuses us and rightfully so, because you’re going, “Wait a second. I’m dreading going into work. I must not be in the right industry. What am I supposed to be doing?” And when I ask a follow-up question, you find out, “No, you’re just in the wrong place, in an unhealthy environment. Get out.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s really what I want to zero in on, so get out. Like, how do you navigate a little bit of that tricky zone in terms of you could sort of get out right away, you could try to change, to adjust, to influence things, to provide some feedback? How do you think about that world? If folks are right there, right now, it’s like, “Hmm, I am doing the right stuff but I am in the wrong spot,” what would you say are kind of like the immediate next step actions?

Ken Coleman
Well, the first thing is, can you do anything to make it better? What can you do? Before you pull the eject string there or hit the eject button, what can you do to make things better? Is there anything you can do? So, for instance, if you got some difficult teammates then I think there are some real healthy confrontation, you need to go to leadership and you need to go directly to them and you work on them.

I certainly believe in redemptive power. I believe in redemption, that people can learn so I’d start there. You just don’t throw your hands in the air the first time you deal with a difficult person. So, after that, if there’s no resolution after you’ve handled yourself well on a peer-to-peer basis and then you’ve taken the problem to leadership, and if the problem doesn’t get better then you’re immediately going, “Okay. What’s my plan? What’s my plan to get out?”

And when you think about a plan, you’re always going, “All right. Where is it that I want to jump to? How long is that going to take to get in a position where I can jump? Is there some additional qualifications, education, things of that nature that I’m going to have to do, some networking, relationshiping?”

And you don’t just jump. I never recommend unless you are in physical or mental danger. If it’s that serious then you leave that day. I don’t want to minimize that because that happens. However, most of us can put up with difficult people. Most of us can put up with a difficult leader. And so, I want you to be strategic about it, and you’re thinking through, “Okay. Where is it that I want to land? How am I going to get there? How much time do I think is that going to take?”

And it’s just like creating a plan for anything else. If you’re planning a vacation, you’re planning a workout routine, same kind of mindset so that you can move forward, but move forward in control as much as you can and you’re not putting yourself in financial danger or putting yourself out there with nothing to jump to.

Now, the only caveat to that is if you’ve got a substantial emergency fund, you got a lot of savings out there, or you have zero debt, and you’re well below your means then, hey, I would say eject because there’s no stress or pressure on you and you can get out right now. But outside of that I’d want you to come up with a plan.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And I love the phrase that you dropped there, redemptive learning, which is – speaking to my Christian roots over here – I dig it.

Ken Coleman
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I want to talk about that because I think that it’s easy to assume that someone, “That’s just the way they are. They don’t care. They’re checked out. They don’t like me. They’re not into coaching and growth and learning and development. They don’t value the same thing.” When I think it’s easy to say, “That’s just the way they are,” and sort of almost like writing them off.

And I think part of that comes from maybe folks have tried a couple times and haven’t seen much traction in terms of bring an issue up, or maybe it just comes from sort of a voice of fear justified, like, “Oh, that sounds like a really tough conversation. Well, it probably isn’t worth it. It wasn’t going to do anything anyway.”

So, I’d like to get your pro tips on, in practice, how do you engage in some of those difficult conversations and embark upon bringing about some redemptive learning?

Ken Coleman
Yeah. Well, before I give you some tips, we need to acknowledge something that most of us are terrified of confrontation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ken Coleman
And that’s a natural thing. It’s not fun, and especially in a work environment to sit down with somebody and go, “Hey, you’re a jerk,” but you’re not going to say it that way, but that’s essentially how you feel you’re going to come across. And the idea that is just insane, “I don’t want to put up with this. This isn’t even worth the stress of thinking about a difficult conversation,” otherwise known as confrontation. So, a lot of us are really terrified.

Now, there are certain people, I happen to be wired this way – if you’re familiar with enneagram – I’m fine with confrontation. Confrontation, to me, is kind of like it’s a sport, it comes along with life and I’m cool with it. It doesn’t mean you have to enjoy being mean. It just means you don’t mind a difficult conversation.

So, if you’re going to get in a situation like that and you’re at a point where you go, “This has got to be fixed. It’s got to change or I’m out,” then this is all about how you posture yourself. You sit down, and I would never do a one-on-one, I would have a leader involved just because I feel like, in this day and age, you just seem to have a witness there that, “Hey, this is how this went down. It was handled professionally.”

But I would have that sit-down with that difficult person and go, “Hey, this is how I’m feeling,” and that’s not accusatory. You’re putting it all on you, you’re saying, “Hey, this how I’m feeling. I’m perceiving you this way. And I want to ask you, is that reality from your point of view? Do you see it that way? Do you understand why I feel that way?”

And what’s happening there are two little tips that you asked for. Number one is you focused on the way you are perceiving it. You didn’t present it as a fact so, therefore, they have less chance to be defensive. The second thing you did, which also disarms in this, you ask them if they see it that way. So, now, you’re asking, and that interrogatory little tool there of a question, again, keeps them from feeling under attack.

Now, again, full disclosure, if a person is insecure and naturally defensive, no matter how you say it they just don’t like being called out on anything no matter how sweet and kind you are. But I would lead with that, and then I would say, in the course of the question, “Hey, I’ve sat down together today, and I ask you these questions and I put this out because I want us to not have this tension and I’m sensing it.”

And if they agree there’s tension, then, “Hey, what can we do? Because I’m here for this reason, and this is what I want to be, and I want to have a great relationship with you, and this is causing,” whatever, whatever, whatever. Very honest and extremely clear. Don’t beat around the bush. The more ambiguous you are the more defensive and insecure the person that you are confronting is going to be. And clarity may not be fun. It may be a little awkward but it is, as human beings, we crave clarity.

Is there anything worse than being unclear in confrontation? If the person that you’re confronting is going, and what they’re doing is they’re going, “Why don’t you just shoot me straight? What’s really going on?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely.

Ken Coleman
And you’re creating more tension. So, clear, clear, clear but very kind.

Pete Mockaitis
And actually it really amplifies the uncomfortableness.

Ken Coleman
Oh, sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Discomfort. That’s the word – discomfort. When you’re there, in terms of like, “What exactly are we talking about here? I think that something heavy is on your mind but I don’t perfectly know what it is yet. And I’m kind of spooked and just sort of waiting for the shoe to drop.” So, I love that tip about being super clear, and I love that sentence associated with, “I want us to not have this tension. I want to have a great relationship with you.”

And I think, boy, even the most, I don’t know, hardcore, purely task-result oriented, Grinch, heart of stone human being, I think if you hear that, I think just everyone will say, “Well, yeah, I’d like that too. It may be hard because of all these things you do that drive me nuts, or I might not think it’s in the cards because you are so wrong so profoundly in these ways that disrupt me.” But I think that that is something that just about everyone can agree to, which is cool.

Now, I want to zero in, I’m a little fixated though on you brought up getting a witness. And I think that, in a way, that makes awesome sense in terms of you don’t want things misconstrued, “I didn’t say that at all,” right? And it totally can happen. But, at the same time, having an observer present changes kind of the vibe, the dynamic. It’s almost like, “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble. This is serious hardcore stuff.”

And so, yeah, it sounds tricky. So, let me know more of your philosophy there.

Ken Coleman
No, it’s not. It’s not. There’s no trickiness about it. In fact, having a third person in there that is objective and in leadership or on the same level as both of you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Sure.

Ken Coleman
So, they’re investors. So, this is not somebody that would be below them. Ideally, it’s a leadership position. And I probably did not stipulate that, so let me be very, very clear. That’s what I’m suggesting. If this is a serious confrontation, this isn’t some just little, “Hey, listen, you said this the other day in a meeting.”

No, this is like, you gave me this scenario, Pete, of like you’re not happy, you want to get out, so this is the last resort. So, that’s when you get the third, that’s what I’m talking about. And it’s not tricky at all. Because it actually does what you said it does, which is it takes a whole another level of seriousness, like, “Okay. What’s going on here?” Especially when you’re letting them know what the meeting is about, and then they realize that person is in there, that leadership is in there and it just got real. And that’s what needs to happen. This is serious business.

Number two, it’s not just about having a witness so that things cannot be misconstrued and that you’ve got all that kind of stuff for HR and for the record, but it’s also so that you’re in check as well. You’re not going to come at somebody with a machine gun of charges and blare them out in front of a leader either unless you’re completely tone deaf, so it also keeps you in check and helps your posture stay in a place of gracious confrontation, “Hey, this isn’t about being angry. This is about let’s get some resolution here.” And so, it becomes less personal when we have another person, especially in leadership, that is observing.

The third thing is that person is objective. So, when it’s all said and done, it’s good to have that leader speak into the situation, even one-on-one with each of you afterwards, or right then and there, or later. But I absolutely think if you’re about serious redemptive confrontation you need to have a third-party person. I mean, that’s exactly what the Bible prescribes. And I think that if you’re going to confront somebody, you go right to them, but I think in this type of work setting where it’s really ugly, I would have a third party involved.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got you. So, I think that’s helpful that we’re aligning in context right here.

Ken Coleman
Again, I think healthy confrontation, you get a leader involved and you get on the same page, in that way they realize, “Hey, we’re not coming after you. I’m not taking a shot at you. We need to fix this. This is not acceptable behavior.”

I just don’t see any problem with bringing in a leader especially if you’ve talked to the leader ahead of time. Now, if the leaders says, “I’m not comfortable. Handle it one-on-one,” then go for it. But I’m giving you what I think is the best way to handle confrontation in the workplace, I mean, serious confrontation where it needs to stop, behavior needs to change. If this was a misunderstanding, Pete, then I’m fine with just one-on-one go to lunch. But I think if a behavior needs to stop then it’s got to have a third party involved.

Pete Mockaitis
Here’s my resistance point, it seems like bringing the leader in, like it definitely brings with it a set of awesome advantages that you’ve laid out. I think the disadvantage, that I used the term tricky not to mean like politically sneaky in the sense of the word tricky, but tricky as in, “Ugh, the person on the receiving end of this may get seriously enraged that I “tattled” or told or brought the hammer of authority upon them in a way that it’s sort of like diminishes their reputation, good name, whatever you want to call it.” And so, I’m thinking that you could get a little bit of a backlash or a negative response just from the fact that that has happened.

Ken Coleman
Yeah, again, you’re not bringing authority down on them. You just have somebody that is either an equal peer on the same level who is just somebody who cares about both of you and wants to help with the resolution, or a leader is involved because, again, the behavior needs to stop, so I’m really not worried about them getting enraged.

And you’re not doing it publicly; you’re doing it in a private setting with leadership. I just think that’s a healthy, healthy environment when you can do that. So, we may have to agree to disagree. This is not my particular line of expertise. I’m not an HR consultant, but that’s my answer to that question.

Pete Mockaitis
Ken, what I’m loving here is that you have introduced something wholly new to my brain in terms of like, “Oh, that’s a fine thought,” and I am playing it every which way in terms of the pros and cons and implications and repercussions. And, of course, listeners will make their own judgments. And so, I’m digging it, and I’m thinking that this tool absolutely has its place in the toolkit so it’s been expanded in my brain which I like. It’s almost like a video game power up noise.

Ken Coleman
Sure. And understand that that’s how I think confrontation should be handled when something needs to stop. We’re not going to be sweet and soft about it. We’re going to be kind and respectful, but extremely honest. And, to me, there’s no sense in having four or five processes and setup. So, yeah, I get that. I may be uncomfortable over some but I can tell you this, if you try it, it’s the beginning of the end of that behavior one way or the other.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Okay. Well, so we covered that in great detail. So, moving on to new topics. I’d like to get your view for if folks are right here right now feeling some burnout but not yet ready to make the leap because of financial or other sorts of considerations, are there any pro tips for what can make the experience of work life suck less right here and right now where you are?

Ken Coleman
Sure. Yeah, I think it’s about progress. So, you’re in a position where you know you want to leave where you’re at but you can’t, and so it’s about mindset. And what we know about the human condition, there’s all kinds of science out there on this, is that when we are making progress towards our goals, even if it is incremental, so it can be the slightest amount of progress, it does motivate us further and it keeps us engaged.

So, engagement is many times about making some progress, so that could be a multitude of things. If somebody calls me on the show and says, “Okay, Ken, this is going to take me three years to get out of debt, and so it’s going to take me at least that plus then I’ve got to go to school to get where I want to go.” I had a caller the other day, he said, “It’s going to be about five, six years. What do you suggest I do in that time?”

And so, we broke down where he wanted to go, what he wanted to do. And so, he eventually wanted to be a physical therapist. He’s only got so much he can do, so what would he focus on? Well, the fact that he’s knocking off his financial goals, that’s going to fire him up because every time he pays off a debt he’s getting that much closer to freedom. Freedom to pursue what it is that he wants to do.

So, there’s some financial goals that if you begin to change the perspective that it’s not just paying off some stupid decisions that you made years ago, it’s, “Wait a second. Every time I pay something off on a monthly basis I’m getting closer and closer to my goal.” That’s a mindset switch and it really will help you.

But then, specifically, I told him, I said, “Hey, what are some things you can do because, at the end of the day, you really love the idea of helping people and through therapy and things of that nature. So, what about massage therapy or could you go work for a physical therapist 5, 10, 15 hours a week so that you’re at least in the space of the work that you want to be doing?” He lit up like a Christmas tree. He’d never even thought of that.

So, there’s a guy that if he goes and he just starts working part-time for a therapist, or he starts working for a spa or something like that, and he’s engaged in the work that he wants to do long term, he’s getting a little taste of it. And so, what that’s doing is I liken passion to an appetite. If you want to get a healthy appetite, a nutritionist is going to tell you you’ve got to put the right stuff in your body at the right times, and so that’s three, four, five, six meals a day, whatever.

So, you can do the same thing while you’re in the waiting. What little things can you do? What can you read? What classes can you take and in the space that you want to be in? What you’re doing there is you’re feeding your appetite and you’re keeping your passion not only alive but you’re actually growing your passion, and you’re keeping everything kind of going and it allows you to get through what you need to get through the whole idea of doing what you have to do so you could do what you want to do.

And, many times, what you’ll find is that you’ll get there faster because your passion is motivating you. So, it’s all about getting as much as you can while you can. You’re not going to get it all but get a little bit, get as much as you can, and you’ll find that time flies and you get where you want to be before you know it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Well, we’re entering the sort of final phase of these questions. I’d love to hear, you’ve asked many questions in your podcast and your book One Question: Life-Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices. What are some of the most exceptionally useful tidbits, if you could just give us a bullet or two or three, that you’ve gathered from these folks that are particularly applicable to working professionals?

Ken Coleman
Yeah, that’s hard to choose from, but I think two that popped to the top of my mind, one was from Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, arguably, the greatest researcher in business sort of relates to great companies, what makes them, what breaks them. And I asked him, actually, in my book One Question I was coming at him on this idea of we all love greatness. Think about it, we love to go to a great restaurant or to a great concert or cheer for a great team, but, sadly, when we look at the numbers, most of us are okay with an average life. We don’t pursue greatness in our personal lives.

And I was asking him, “Why is that?” And he said something that I’d never thought about before but it’s so brilliant, he said, “It’s not that we’re risk-averse; it’s that we’re ambiguity-averse.” And I’m going to say that again because it’s so heavy. He says people don’t pursue greatness because they’re worried about the risk. They don’t pursue greatness because they’re worried about the unknown.

So, for instance, Pete, if I say to you, “Hey, we’re going to do some action sport,” and I say, “There’s a couple of risks. You might break an arm at the very worst but you’re going to get beat up a little bit. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” I’ve told you what the risks are, and you go, “Okay. Great.” But if I say, “We’re going to go do something, and we have no idea how it’s going to turn out,” that can literally paralyze a person. And it’s true; science shows all kinds of data there.

The number one thing that humans are afraid of is the unknown. So, that speaks, by the way, into the stat that many people have heard, that people are more afraid of public speaking than death, because with death we kind of go, “All right, I’m dead.” While public speaking, “I don’t know if they’re going to like me or go throw tomatoes at me, they’re going to laugh at me,” whatever it is. This ambiguity is what paralyzes us. So, that was really, really strong.

And then the other piece is I interviewed Coach K, the Hall of Fame Duke Basketball coach. It was the first interview I ever did. It’s crazy story. Unbelievable how I got to do that interview. But he said something to me at the time, and I had little ones, they were all, I think, under three. And he said something about some of these point guards that he’s had in the past, and he singled out two specifically: Bobby Hurley and Tommy Amaker.

And he said, “Both of those guys were very, very different, and I coached them different.” And he said that, “I had to learn how to let them be who they are in the framework of the system.” And then he went into another story, he said, “I’m the same way with my program in general. I don’t give much leniency at all with freshmen. For instance, if a freshman misses the bus by five minutes we’d leave him there even if he’s an All-American. But if a junior or a senior is five minutes late, we’re going to hold the bus.” He goes, “I call it fair but not equal.”

And it was a great piece of parenting advice and leadership advice that has stuck with me. It’s really, really true. As leaders, as parents, we’re going to have to really understand this idea of fair but not equal. You can’t treat everybody equally. And we live in a day and age, Pete, you know this in 2017, almost 2018, where it’s all about fairness, fairness, fairness but what it’s really about is equality. And there is certain equality that has to be in place.

We just talk about rights, but I’m talking about in a workplace. You’re going to have to treat certain people differently, and you can be fair but you can’t treat everybody equally as it relates to in the business and what they’re doing, the function they’re doing. They have differently personality so you’ve got reward them differently, you recognize them differently, you reprimand them differently. Same thing with parenting. It’s a really brilliant thought and it’s something that I think about on a daily basis as a dad.

Pete Mockaitis
Those are nice clear distinctions. I dig it. And, then, to sort of swap it a little bit, you’re often asking many people many questions. I’d love it if you could share a couple transformational questions that you’ve been posed or asked of and that have been particularly transformational for you.

Ken Coleman
Well, that’s a very interesting question. I don’t recall that I’ve had any guests that I’ve been in an interview format who’d turned the tables on me and asked me a transformational question just by nature of what we’re doing. But I certainly think of some transformational questions that I’ve had mentors ask me.

I had a mentor who was mentoring me in the area of marriage when I was in my 20s, and he said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “The next time that you’re going to express disappointment or anger or whatever with Stacy, I want you to ask yourself this question first, ‘Is it going to matter 25 years from now?’”

And I remember going, you know, I’ve probably been married like three or four years at the time, and it was so revolutionary to me, and not just in my marriage but in general. And I think that that’s something I’d pass along. That’s probably one of the most powerful questions that I’d ever been asked by somebody, was that right there.

Because, I think, many times we react in the moment, and then it’s the type of thing that if we put that kind of filter on it, think of the lack of confrontation, think of the dumb tweets that we wouldn’t tweet, or think of whatever it would be. But to put that lens on, it is really important, so I guess that’s probably the most transformational question I’ve ever been asked by anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Cool. Well, Ken, tell me, anything you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and rapid fire and hear about some of your favorite things?

Ken Coleman
Oh, no, man, this is your show so I’m just here to answer your questions. I’m enjoying this.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, then, let’s do it. Can you start us off by sharing a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ken Coleman
Yeah. Well, I share this one on The Ken Coleman Show all the time. I probably share it once a week, and it’s by W.H. Murray, and this is a Scottish mountaineer who was also a writer. And you got to think of this, as I’m sharing this, as a guy who made his living on these daring expeditions. But he once wrote, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative, there’s one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and, magic in it.”

And here’s my favorite three words, “Begin it now.”

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

Ken Coleman
Favorite experiment, a bit of research. I think some research by the University of Michigan. I reveal this in my book One Question and it’s in the last chapter, talking about how to re-attain this habit of inquiry that we all are born with. As little kids we ask hundreds of questions a day. And the University of Michigan did some research on that premise, and so they found that toddlers sometimes can ask as many as a thousand questions a day, hundreds and hundreds of questions a day, up to a thousand questions a day.

But, by the time the average American reaches the eighth grade, we’re asking three questions a day. And that research fueled me to write that last chapter, and I just was so really, I think, despondent at the time. It’s such a strong word but when I read I was like, “What is going on?” In life and our Western education system is beating the curiosity out of us.

Think about this, Pete, we’re becoming trained to be test-takers instead of pathfinders. So, it’s all about, “Hey, get ready for the test. Get ready for the test. Standardized test.” It’s all about taking tests and having the answer as opposed to knowing how to ask questions. And I think that curiosity is the great key for life. It’s going to unlock so many doors for you. So, that research, for me, I got lost in that. It was pretty interesting stuff.

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

Ken Coleman
Favorite book. I think right now that could change within the hour, if you ask me that again. I would say The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. It’s about Thomas Jefferson. He’s one of the great thinkers the world has ever known. I’m a big Jeffersonian, fascinated by the guy. But it’s a book largely written from the letters that he wrote, so I would say that’s probably my favorite book.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool that helps you be awesome at your job?

Ken Coleman
That would be feedback.

Pete Mockaitis
Right on. And how about a favorite habit?

Ken Coleman
Quiet time in the morning. I’m up before everybody else. It’s dark. It’s quiet. And I’ve got a little routine with music, and reading, and meditating, and thinking, and breathing. I would say that with a great cup of coffee is my favorite habit.

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

Ken Coleman
I think the thing we hear from the audience the most they quote is the proximity principle, and that says that in order to do what I want to do I have to be around people that are doing it and in places that it is happening. And this is a game-changer when you realize that and you just get where you need to be. You’re observing, you’re learning, you’re watching. So, we’re hearing a lot of that. I think that’s kind of the thing right now; the axiom.

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

Ken Coleman
Yeah, KenColemanShow.com, and love for them to check out the show. If they don’t have Sirius XM they can get it. It’s a daily podcast on iTunes or Google Play. We’ve got a great free resource. In fact, that Jim Collins answer that I mentioned to you, that’s actually available on my website KenColemanShow.com, it’s absolutely free on the homepage. I forgot to mention that. But that’s such great, I love that so much. You can get that audio chapter for free from the audio book. But then check us out, subscribe, and share on iTunes. And, again, Sirius XM Channel 132.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. And, Ken, do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d leave folks who are seeking to be awesome at their job with?

Ken Coleman
Yeah, I think that the thing you need to remember on a daily basis, and you need to find a way to remind yourself and make this come alive, but if I could record a little audio bite that everybody would listen to every day it would be to say you matter and you’ve got what it takes. You really do matter. There is something that you were created to do, a very unique role.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to big dollars. It doesn’t have to necessarily be tied to fame or power, but it is tied to significance, and you do matter. And that’s the first thing, and then you do have what it takes. You have within you what it takes to do what it is you were created to do. So, now, it’s just about doing it, you believe that. And if you truly believe it, then you’ll become it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Ken, thank you so much for sharing this time and perspectives. This has been a real treat. I wish you tons of luck with your shows and books and speaking and all you’re up to.

Ken Coleman
Thanks, Pete. I really appreciate you, man. Thanks for having me on.

247: Thriving in High-Pressure Situations with Eddie Davila

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Eddie Davila says: "Pressure is a gift. You don't give pressure to somebody unless you trust them, unless they have a history of success."

Professor Eddie Davila discusses how to identify, view, handle, and thrive amidst pressure at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why pressure is really an honor and a gift
  2. What to do when you get stressed in low-pressure situations
  3. How to use stress to prep for high-pressure situations

About Eddie 

Eddie Davila is a faculty member in Arizona State University’s highly ranked supply chain management program.  At ASU he teaches over 3000 students per year in person and online.  He has a 12-part intro to supply chain management series on Youtube that has over 3 million hits.  It is actually the top ranked item on youtube when you search supply chain.  And more recently he has developed multiple courses in business and stats for LinkedIn Learning.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Eddie Davila Interview Transcript

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

Eddie Davila
Thank you, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could we start off by hearing a little bit about your theater background?

Eddie Davila
Okay. So, I’m a person that gets bored pretty easily. I was in engineering and I started off I liked it and got kind of bored, and I went to work for a little while. I got my Masters in Business. And by the time I got to my second year I was starting to get bored again. I really started to worry like, “What am I going to do with my life? What’s going to happen?”

And one of my friends was having sort of the same ridiculous existential crisis at 25 or whatever, and we started thinking like, “What would you be good at?” We’re kind of playing this off each other. And then somehow maybe we had one too many beers, we started playing the, “Well, what would you not be good at?”

And then my friend said to me, “Oh, one thing you’d be horrible at is you’d be really bad at theater.” And I said, “Really?” And it actually made sense. In general, I was a very quiet, a very shy person, very introverted. And so my friend said, “Yeah, you’d be horrible at that.” And something about the way he said it, and something inside of me said, “Would I be horrible at that? Is this something I could actually do?”

And, again, I was going back from my second year of graduate school and so I went and asked somebody, “Can I actually take classes with undergrads, an intro to theater class?” And they’re like, “Well, nobody has ever done that but I think you can. You paid your tuitions so you can take any additional classes you want.”

All right, I showed up, I looked relatively young for my age, and everybody just thought I was sort of a freshman or a sophomore. First of all, I realized, “Oh, I’m shy but I’m shy because it’s much more difficult for me to talk to one person at a time than it is to talk to lots of people.” And I didn’t really know that, I just thought, “Well, if you’re shy, you’re shy.”

And the theater training made me realized, “Oh, I’m actually okay with lots of people because it’s easier for me to just sort of concentrate on what I’m doing in that moment.” And the teacher actually came up to me after a couple of weeks and said, “You’re pretty good at this. You should consider making this your major.”

I remember telling her that because she looked at me in kind of horror. Well, I replied to her, “Look, I can’t. I’m not a freshman or a sophomore. I’m actually in graduate school and I’m getting a business degree.” And she said, “Oh, why are you doing that? You’re wasting your life.” She’s like, “You should be here with us.”

It was so kind of nice but extremely nice because she really felt like I might be able to do something in that area. Anyway, I kind of listened to her and I said, “I’m going to try out for a play.” I’d never tried out for a play. Never. Ever, ever. And I tried out and I actually got into a play on campus, actually two in that final semester, that I was here for my graduate degree.

And I learned a lot about myself, and I mean that plays very well into what we’re talking about here today, the high pressure, because I was really scared and I didn’t know if I was going to be any good, I didn’t know if I was going to be embarrassed, I didn’t know what my colleagues, my fellow students were going to say. I think I actually kept it from a number of them for a while. But that’s one of the most formative things I’ve ever done in my life.

When I look back at my life I realize, “So I have an engineering degree, I have a business degree, I have some theater training,” and I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a weird combination.” And, in a way, I felt like I was never going to use all three of them, and now I lecture in front of students on supply chain management.

And what I realized, it’s like, “Holy cow, I’m using the business, the engineering, the problem-solving techniques and the theater every single day.” So it’s one of those things where you try things and you never know what’s going to be important and you never know how it’s going to sort of transform you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. That’s cool. Thank you for sharing that. And I do want to get into it when we talk about high-pressure situations. And so, maybe to orient us a little bit, what do you mean by a high-pressure situation? And I think you have a useful distinction between stress and pressure to orient us here.

Eddie Davila
Okay. So, first thing is what is pressure? Again, sort of the engineer in me sort of looks at this and says, “Well, in physics what is pressure?” Pressure is when a force is applied on some object for some period of time. And very often there’s these connections between the physical world and the sort of the more intangible and abstract world, and that’s exactly sort of what’s happening in high-pressure situations.

There is pressure being applied, there is force being applied, and in this case, it’s a high-pressure situation. First of all, just a pressure situation is when there’s a desired outcome or some expected outcome and it’s actually applying pressure. It’s sitting on top of you. It’s asking, “Do you have enough time to do this? Do you have the resources to do this? Do you have the skills to do this?”

And if the expectations are extremely high, if the project’s desired outcomes are extremely difficult, well, then you know that you have a high-pressure situation. One thing that I do try and tell people at times is high-pressure situations are very often seen as sort of a negative thing. Pressure is a gift. Pressure is something. You don’t give pressure to somebody unless you trust them, unless they have a history of success, unless you see something very special in them.

So, when this pressure is being applied on you, it means that there’s something special about you, somebody believes in you, or you yourself believe in yourself enough to take something you on. So, I think, for me, that’s the very first part of this, the idea that, “What is a pressure situation?” A pressure situation is outcomes and desires pushing against you.

And the difference between pressure and stress, well, pressure is when, again, you have the situation of somebody else has outcomes that they want from you. Stress is internal pressure. It’s all of the outcomes and all the expectations but then you start to have fear and anger start coming in.

Job security, “Oh, if I don’t do this well I’m going to lose my job.” Confusion, “If I don’t get this done right, I don’t know what might happen. I don’t know if I can…” So, it’s when all the emotions start to creep in, that’s stress. And those things, a lot of that isn’t real, and if it is real then it’s a bigger situation and one that some of that stuff is just not manageable.

One of the kind of interesting things I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is I was lucky enough to get to teach a freshman class. Usually I teach big giant classes of juniors and seniors, but they let me teach a freshman class. And in that freshman class it was a group of honor students, so these were the top student coming out of high school, there was really nobody better than the ones taking this class, and the class was on competition.

So, the first day of class I bring them in. By the way, one thing I learned about these people is that they are the highest performers, the very best people that are coming to our university. I’ve never met so many people that are so afraid. I’ve never met people that are so fragile. These are supposed to be our best students, and they just couldn’t take it.

And the reason why was because they’d actually probably circumvented pressure situations. What I did in that class the very first day, I sit them down, and there’s only 10 or 15 of them, so I said, “Wait, wait, wait. We’re going to go around in a circle here. And what we usually do in a class, tell us who you are, tell us a little about yourself. You got 45 seconds or a minute to talk about these things.”

And they were all kind of a little bit bored, like, “Oh, we do this in every class.” And I said, “Well, we’re going to change the rules here. What we’re going to do is at the end of class we’re going to rank every person who introduced themselves from first to last.” And the look on their face was just, “Uh-oh, we’re in trouble.”

Pete Mockaitis
What about criteria? What makes you first versus last?

Eddie Davila
That’s the thing. They had to learn that there is no criteria, that every single person gets to make up their mind. Maybe somebody finds you friendly, somebody finds you cheery, somebody finds you intelligent. There is no way to figure this out. And, to me, the crazy thing about this was, “What were the stakes here?” Nothing.

I wasn’t giving them a grade. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? People are going to find out that you were 15 out of 15, and people are going to walk out of this room and nobody is going to care, and yet they were so broken and stressed by this. By the way, I did this every week. So, every week there was a new competition.

“Next week, bring me a resume, and we’re going to rank the resumes from first to last.” “Next week we’re going to interview the students in front of their peers and pick out which of the four people that day we were going to hire.” So, again, throwing them into high-pressure situations, or what they thought were high-pressure situations every day, the thing that they learned, believe me, the first time I did it, I didn’t know if it was going to be Lord of the Flies in there or if it was going to be something transformative.

Pete Mockaitis
“The chancellor gets a letter about you.”

Eddie Davila
Yes, believe me, I thought, I’m like in today’s environment, the way that parents are, I’m like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here but let me make this my little experiment.” And so I did that. After like three weeks they were fine. They were fine. First of all, they realized, like, “Oh, losing is not a big deal.”

And actually nobody really focuses on the bottom end. People focus on the people that are good. So many time we think of everyone like, “People are stupid. People are stupid.” They start to realize, “Oh, people are smart.” “She’s really good at writing.” “He’s really good in front of the camera.” It was so nice for them to realize that these pressure situations were a gift, an opportunity for them to sort of get over themselves and maybe even learn something from other people.

So, I think, to me, again, the more often you can do something like that the better you’re going to be able to assess a high-pressure situation, figure out what’s real and not real, and then from there sort of prosper in that situation and maybe in situations that come afterwards.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love that – what’s real, what’s not real – because I think that, in some ways the illusion or the myth, the phantom, really causes a lot of damage because, I guess, I’m thinking some people put unnecessary pressure on themselves maybe to answer emails like immediately. And then there’s a cost associated with your ability to focus and get in a good flow state and do some great, clever, creative deep work, and you sort of compromise it if that’s kind of how you’re rocking and rolling with your email inbox.

And so, then, you’re saying that you want to make that distinction by getting really clear on, “What are the stakes? Who are the stakeholders? The consequences, what really happens if we win or if we lose.” And so, then, I’m wondering, it sounds like one way to better make the distinction is just to have a few experiments and experiences of fake pressure and real pressure to draw the distinction. But if you find yourself kind of freaking out unnecessarily and stressing in a low-pressure situation, what are some pro tips to getting your head right?

Eddie Davila
First of all, it sounds so silly and so stupid, but take stock. Think it through, “What happens if I fail?” Really, like just think it out, “If this email doesn’t get sent right now, what’s going to happen?” When you think about it, you’re like, “Wow, my boss will probably be happy that they had one fewer email today,” or, “My boss is going to see me in the hall and say, ‘Hey, did you get that email out?’ ‘Oh, no, I’ll do that later today.’”

Unfortunately, we feel as though everybody thinks that we’re the most important part of everyone else’s life. And when you think about it, you go, “You know what? When somebody doesn’t send me an email, most of the time I don’t really care. When they make a little mistake in their email, it’s not a big deal. If they here five minutes late, well, you know, I wish they were here on time, but we move on.”

When we start to avoid even the smallest inconveniences, the things that maybe make us feel a little uncomfortable, we’re really weakening ourselves and we’re not allowing ourselves to sort of be the best versions of ourselves. The other thing is, and this isn’t easy for everybody. This idea of taking stock, sometimes the things that are so simple and they sound so common sense, it takes practice.

It takes practice because, first of all, you have to every single time you get into that situation you have to go, “Okay, time to take stock.” Second, you have to be available to give the obvious and maybe not so-obvious answers. And for some folks they might say, “Well, are we diminishing everything?” And I go, “You know what? Not caring is sometimes an important skill that you need to have. You can’t care about everything all the time in every moment.”

I really like what you said earlier that this begins to take away our focus from being the best versions of ourselves. It takes away the focus of, “What am I supposed to be doing in this moment and why am I doing it?” The other thing, one of my friends long ago, he said, “Think about your past failures.” So many of us, we stress about failing, and when we think about it, at the end of the day most of us haven’t experience any significant failures.

It’s often very hard to come up with a list of your two to five biggest failures. We move on from those things and so does everybody else. So, again, the more used you are to getting into high-pressure situations the more you’re going to sort of say, “Oh, this is just another little failure. I can move on.”

Another thing, though, to sort of deal with this, those are for simple things. Sometimes you’re on a bigger project, and how can you sort of begin to manage pressure for yourself? Sometimes you have to manage your manager. Remember, the pressure is coming from outcomes, desired outcomes and expectations. So, if you talk this out with your manager, and say, “These are the things that are causing me stress,” or, “Do you think if this doesn’t go well, how is this going to happen?”

So often, I think, we miscalculate the amount of pressure that’s actually on us. So, verbalizing these things, having a discussion with your manager, having a discussion with the people on your team, you start to go, “Oh, wait. I can do this,” or, “I was totally projecting expectations and desires that they weren’t even thinking about.” And it allows you to sort of scope your projects or you’re better able to handle it.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well, so then, I’m curious, you have some of those perspectives when it comes to scoping things out and taking stock, so I’d like to get some of your pro tips on sort of when you have zeroed in, “Okay, we got a high-pressure situation unambiguously, legitimately, authentically it’s there.” What are some of the top things that we should do, and particularly when it comes to managing the expectations and setting your plans and those kinds of things?

Eddie Davila
A few things that I think are important to do. I think everything in business starts out with stakeholders and goals. So, even before we start doing any planning, I think sometimes we jump to planning even too early. Planning is vital. It’s maybe the most important thing that you’re going to do in tackling this. But before we even get there we have to know what we’re planning for.

So, identifying the stakeholders, identifying your goals for each stakeholder, that’s going to ground you. So, I think in one example that I’ve used before is let’s say that all of a sudden – and this is not a significantly high-pressure situation but for some people it might be – your spouse calls you up, and they say, “I’m bringing home five people for dinner tonight, and you have three or four hours to get the whole thing ready.”

We feel an immense amount of pressure because we don’t want to disappoint people, we want to make sure that things are done well. But you got to stop and say, “Alright. So, who are the stakeholders? There’s my spouse, there are the people that I’m bringing over, and, of course, I’m a stakeholder as well because I’m going to be part of this event.”

And then you say to yourself, “Well, what does each stakeholder want?” Again, sometimes we project too much. Everything needs to be perfect. Everything needs to be done. And you go, “You know what? When I go to somebody’s house, I just want to sit down, have a reasonable meal and have a good time.

I’m happy. Again, though, you have your spouse, they’re bringing people over, and they just want them to have a good time. Maybe your spouse is going to have their own things that they’re trying to accomplish, so you simply making that atmosphere positive is going to be a great thing.

And, for you, again, this is your spouse’s work friends, colleagues, and you’re not necessarily the most important person in that situation so just creating an atmosphere is important. And once you do that, you say, “All right. So, I understand my role, I understand my spouse’s role, I understand the guests who are coming over. And it seems, as though, the theme for tonight is relax, have reasonable food. If I can do those two things, then I’m a success.”

Not only have you sort of scoped your project, made it more reasonable and it doesn’t have to be perfect, you now have what I like to use as these comfort words. You have these words that allow you to sort of focus all the time. When things get tough in any project – projects are always looking for more resources, more time, more money, more people – and there’s going to come a point in a project, in a high-pressure situation where you say to yourself, “Okay, should I do A or should I do B? Should I go out and buy more ingredients, better ingredients? Should I stay at home and figure out what we have here?”

And in those moments, those comfort words, those words of focus are getting you to say, “You know what? If I go out, I’m just trying to create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere this evening.” That’ll guide you to making the right decision in those pressure moments. Again, so often we blow this whole thing up, making it so big, unmanageable, “Oh, it’s all about comfort. It’s all about relaxing. It’s all about fun. I now know what to do.”

And I think the other thing that you want to do, that’s for something that some high-pressure situations just fall upon you in the moment and you’ve got to get them done in minutes or hours. When you have a long-term project, something that’s not going to happen for – you’re giving a big presentation in a few weeks, in a few months, you’re putting together a project, I think one thing that you need to do for those is practice with stress. And by stress, I mean give yourself some outline, “I got to do this presentation and I have to do it as fast as I can. I have to do it as slow as I can.”

What would happen if the technology stopped working on that day? What happens if the president of the company shows up that day? Playing through all those scenarios and your ability to cope with pressure, that goes right back to this idea of, “How much strength do you have to cope with the pressure?”

The more things you can do that are out of the ordinary that are difficult for you, it’s building up your strength. And by the time you get there, the day of the pressure situation will, hopefully, be the easiest day you had because you’ve practiced going slow, going fast, doing it with technology, with more people than you thought would show up, with fewer people, you’ve pretty much exhausted everything. And, hopefully, at that point you go, “You know what? This wasn’t too bad. I had a lot harder time on this a few weeks ago. Today was the easiest and the best day I’ve had so far.”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that when you say comfort words, and I really do feel comforted. And then I think that when you’re talking about perfection in the dinner gathering example, like I think there’s all sorts of pressure can come about just in terms of like cleaning, like everything must be spotless everywhere, that’s a way to drive yourself nuts.

But, really, I guess the standard for clean is way, way lower when you’ve got your comfort words associated with a comfortable calm, relaxing, fun evening. It’s like, “Well, as long as nothing is just disgustingly unsettlingly filthy we’re going to be okay.”

Eddie Davila
Yeah, and who wants to go to a house where the person that’s supposed to be entertaining you is so focused on these tiny details. You really take yourself out of the moment. You’re no longer in the moment, you’re now focused. You’re still preparing for the event while the event is actually taking place.

Again, all the preparations, everything should’ve been done before, now you’re just managing things and making sure that they go to completion. And, again, having those comfort words says, “Oh, what am I supposed to be doing right now? I’m supposed to be having fun. I’m supposed to be relaxed. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, you’re bringing me back to some fond memories of just a few years I had some three awesome roommates at a place we called The Strat because it was on Stratford Place, and we had a nice run of doing some New Year’s Eve parties. And they were so much work in putting this together. We might like have a hundred people show up and it’s a three-bedroom, three-bathroom spacious. Good times, Chicago living.

And I remember it would often happen that folks, when they would start showing up, and it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, not everything is ready yet.” And then over after maybe three years of this, I just decided, “Okay. Well, my rule is as soon as I’m aware that a couple of my favorite people are going to appear, I’m going to take a shower like 20 minutes before that, and that’s when I’m done. I’m no longer a worker. I am now a party-er, and that’s that.”

Eddie Davila
Yeah, and I’m sure how many of those people right now are going, “You know what? I still remember that party, and there was that thing on the floor in the corner. Oh, it was horrible.” Nobody. Nobody cares. Again, we inflate the importance of everything so often, and sometimes you can be a little too casual and go, “Well, nothing really matters.” But at the end of the day there are not that many things that matter in the moment.

And so, if you can identify those one or two things and go, “This is about me having fun at my New Year’s Eve party,” then you’ve made life so much more relaxing for you, and actually you’re now a guide for all the people that are partaking. It’s like, “Oh, he’s the leader, he’s doing that, that’s what I should be doing at this moment as well.”

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Okay, so, excellent. Well, I’m glad we really spent the time there, thank you, in terms of zeroing in on stakeholders and goals, and what really, really matters, and just kind of chilling out about a lot of the rest. So, once that global worldview has been established, what’s sort of the next thing that we should be thinking through?

Eddie Davila
I think, for me, it’s about this idea of, one example I like to use when I talk about managing pressure situations is, “Who are some people that are in a pressure situation all the time?” And a surgeon, that’s high pressure. You have somebody’s life on the line every day, or you have their health on the line to a certain degree.

Let’s say that you’re the person getting operated on. Are you hoping that that surgeon comes in very stiff, very overcome with what’s going on at home? Are you hoping that they’ve practiced this so many times that they’re just going to be on autopilot? Well, no, we want that person to be, again, in the moment, happy, confident. We want to make sure that they’re ready to not just do this the way they’ve done it every time but to make sure that they understand that every situation is different and they’re open to things changing along the way.

So, I always tell people, “When you’re entering a high-pressure situation, you need to be the surgeon in the moment. Confident, happy, in the moment, ready to take on whatever is going to happen in that moment.” And the other thing I think that’s so important, as the high-pressure situation begins to come on, own it. Just own that moment.

Remember, high-pressure situations, they are a gift. Not everybody gets the opportunity to actually do this difficult thing that you’ve been asked to do so you got to wear this as an honor, and you have to say to yourself, especially if it’s a presentation, if it’s a big giant interview that everybody would want, you got to say to yourself, “You know what? I owe this to myself, and I owe this to all of my friends, and I owe this to everybody to be excited about this. To look excited about this. I want to make sure that years from now I will think back on this and go, ‘That was a great moment in my life.’”

And it could be a great moment because you succeeded, but it could be a great moment because, again, a lot of us if we think back in our lives, the best things that happened to us were those moments of catastrophic failure where we said, “Oh, I need to change my ways, I need to change my behavior, I need to learn something.” So, take this as the honor that it is.

And another thing I think that folks need to think about in high-pressure situations, because everybody is different. You’ve got to know who you are. And different people are motivated by different things. Some people are motivated by money, some people are motivated by power. I’m not necessarily too ashamed to say this, I’m motivated by fear and shame. And I think a lot of people are. Fear and shame are the things that make you shower every day, dress well, be prepared for work.

I think owning a little bit of that and putting yourself in a situation where you’re scared, and putting yourself in a situation where you could be shamed, you’re a fighter, we’re humans, we want to survive. You’re going to find parts of yourself that you’ve never even knew existed when you open yourself up to taking on situations where you could have, where you could be really embarrassed. I think we should all be looking for opportunities to be a little embarrassed every once in a while because, again, you’re going to find parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man. I love that perspective, and you’re bringing me back to, man, I’m thinking about high school. I participated in a club called Future Problem Solvers, and we put together a presentation to unveil the solution we had generated for the problem. And I remember it was just so lame, the presentation. Because, I mean, I don’t even know.

It was very uncomfortable and I think we were so red afterwards, but it didn’t really matter much, and I just had that sense even in high school. It’s like, “You know, that was pretty terrible of a performance and just kind of goofy and embarrassing and did not really land at all well like we had it hoped and imagined and thought of for the judges and the audience.” But even then, I had the sense that, “This is somehow good for us.”

And so I’m reassured that you have affirmed that because it creates, on the one hand, I guess humility being part of the same root word – humiliation – and as well as more kind of context associated with what is high pressure and what’s not, as well as resilience, I survived that and nothing terrible happened, as well as lessons learned like, “Oops, make sure to do this differently.” It’s win, win, win,

Eddie Davila
You know, I’ll give you an example. Here at work, we have an annual, and it’s crazy that we do this, we have an annual lip synch contest here in the College of Business at ASU. And one year, and this was in the weeks or months after Hamilton, the musical, came out, I decided I was going to do a Hamilton song. Now, at this point, nobody had heard of Hamilton, and nobody had heard of any of the songs. I’ve decided to do one.

And so, this is me, faculty member, most of the people who were doing this weren’t faculty. I decided to do it, and first of all it was terrifying and I knew I could be shamed because people are going to see me in a different way afterwards if I screwed this up. And it went well but not perfectly, and it was somewhat shameful and embarrassing.

But you know what? Here’s another thing that happens. People looked at me the next day like I had a superpower because they were looking at me like, “I can’t believe you actually decided to do this song that nobody had ever heard of, to go up there to make a fool of yourself, and to sort of survive it on the other end.” People didn’t care about the stupid things I did and how well or how poorly it went, they just sort of saw me in this completely different way.

It’s actually one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in the last few years where I just remember that and going, every time I walk into an office for the next two months people looked at me in a way I’d never seen before, and they were happier and they were excited. And I just thought, “Wow, that was a great experience and everything that came after was even better.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is powerful. Thank you. Eddie, tell me, is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things real quick?

Eddie Davila
Just I’d say if you got to kind of sum it up here very quickly, every time you get into a pressure situation, see it as an opportunity. Don’t look at it as a burden. Make sure that you assess the situation because very often we miscalculate all the things that are, “Is this actually a lot of pressure on me? Or is it a little bit less than I thought?”

I think another thing I want to tell people is have a physical escape. When you’re in the middle of a pressure situation, what sometimes happens is – I always like to think that our brain has a big giant hand, and sometimes that hand grabs our entire body, makes it stiff, takes away our energy, takes away our breath.

And having some physical escape, something that in the days, in the moments, in the hours before your high-pressure situation do something extremely strenuous. It basically will exhaust the brain, it’ll release the body and you’ll be able to relax. And I guess the other thing is be a pressure junkie. So, I think those are my big things. Seek it out.

Pete Mockaitis
Now when you say strenuous, can you give us a couple examples?

Eddie Davila
Strenuous? Well, for me, I’m a yoga freak. I do the hardest yoga I can do, and the reason why is because, first of all, I was horrible at it, I’m still not great at it, and by going in there it pushes me to do things that my body really can handle sometimes and there’s something that’s kind of exciting about that, something frustrating.

Again, just I understand that I am a fear and shame, I’m motivated by those things. So, I’m looking for the hardest classes with the best people in them, and I always go to the front of the class because somewhere in my brain I’m thinking, and this is false, “Everybody is looking at me. When I screw up, everybody is going to laugh at me.”

And all of that, all the work, physical, all the mental work, it drains my brain of the 55 things that are supposed to be running through it in the moments before a big presentation or in the moments that I’m trying to make a big sale to some organization. It makes my brain stop and go, “Wait a second. You should be breathing right now. You shouldn’t be thinking about the 50 things that are going on in this brain. Let it go. Relax. You’re going to be fine.”

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

Eddie Davila
All right. So, I’m the kind of person that likes to walk into a room and say the odd thing, again, even if it’s a little embarrassing. So, I always think back to General George Patton, “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.” So, the more I walk into a room and everybody is agreeing with something, the more it forces me. And sometimes even if I agree with it, it forces me to think, “Well, what are we not thinking about? It can’t be this simple. We must be missing something.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite book?

Eddie Davila
Favorite book. I love Complications. It’s a book by Atul Gawande. It’s actually called Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. And Gawande is a writer for The New Yorker. He’s also a surgeon himself, and he’s taught surgery, and he has a bunch of great stories in there about, “How do you train a surgeon?”

And some of the basic ideas of when a surgeon says that they’re practicing medicine and they’re practicing it on you, which is a little scary. I actually tell this to people all the time, I highly recommend this book to everyone unless you’re going to the hospital in the next month, then definitely don’t read this book because it’s about how science and medicine are imperfect.

How do you train somebody to do something that they’re not very good at and where lives are at stake? Again, when I read that book it makes me think, “You know what? You just got to keep moving along, trying new things. Some of them are going to work and some of them aren’t.” And the stakes of my life are significantly lower than they are for some other people.

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

Eddie Davila
I think, for me, it’s kind of a silly one, and you probably had other people mention it before, or you may have heard of it before. It’s the Dunning-Krueger effect. There’s this study that said, “Unskilled and unaware of it. How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.”

Again, for me, this is all about the less we know the smarter we think we are, well, and that’s what sort the study were saying. The less we know the more we don’t know what we don’t know. The smartest people I meet are the ones that are confident enough to tell us what they know, what they don’t know, and even the things they know they’re a little bit sort of like, “You know what? This may not be right. There’s a lot more knowledge out there, and I have a little bit of it. that’s my strength, but my weakness is that there’s so much more out there.”

Pete Mockaitis
And as I recall with the Dunning-Krueger effect, like not knowing that you don’t know things can cause you to act with more confidence and assertiveness and, thus, actually get better results than someone who knows more. Is that correct?

Eddie Davila
That is correct.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s frustrating to the hard workers out there.

Eddie Davila
Like the world is a crazy place. And we try so hard to make sense of it, and sometimes the things that should work don’t, and sometimes the things – they do. It’s just we’re in this random experiment every single day.

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

Eddie Davila
Oh, my favorite thing to use in life, when I’m in the car, when I’m walking around campus, when I’m in my office, I am addicted to podcasts. I’m addicted to them. I love them because I can hear things that are entertaining, enlightening, funny, silly. There sometimes people that are just telling stories. I’m in a job where I teach supply chain management primarily, and I always think, “How can I make something that’s, to most people so, so boring, entertaining?”

And that’s the thing I love about podcasts. We’re hearing people talk about the things that they love, hearing people talk about the things that they’re passionate about, there’s nothing better than that. It gets you excited. Sometimes I hear people talk about things I don’t even like, but if they love it they make it sound interesting, and I can see why they love it.

And that’s kind of what I try to do when I’m in front of a crowd and when I’m speaking to an audience is, “How can I show them that I really care about this? I love it and I think about it and I live it.” And podcasts give you that sort of path into everybody’s brain.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, Eddie, how many podcasts have you appeared on?

Eddie Davila
Not many. Like maybe two or three, but I love, I’m a junkie when it comes to podcasts. I listen to them all the time to the point where my wife goes, “Did you hear that in a podcast? Did you hear that in a podcast?” I got started on it probably seven or eight years ago, and ever since I just consume them every moment I can.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we appreciate that, the podcasters out there. And how about a favorite, well, I guess it’s kind of tool and a habit. But any additional habits that you have that help you in excellence?

Eddie Davila
Yeah, for me, it’s yoga. Yoga is my big giant habit. Again, it’s demoralizing, it stresses my body, it freezes brain. There’s this older guy in one my classes, and he said, he’s talking about how stiff and like out of shape he was. And he said, “Every time I do yoga,” he’d been doing it for years, “it feels like the first time because your body is changing all the time and there’s so many things to…”

It really allows you to both get better and to also realize there’s so much more work to do. Again, I like tying the idea of the similarities between our physical world and our sort of mental abstract world, and yoga seems to sort of tie those together very well for me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget or sort of Eddie quotable original that you share that seems to really connect or resonate with folks getting them taking notes vigorously and quoting yourself back to you?

Eddie Davila
This came from a yoga class. As I started getting better at yoga, I started taking higher and higher-level classes. And I remember there was this one class I used to take, and don’t ask me how I had time for this. I guess I didn’t have kids at the time. I used to take a three-hour class, two days a week, and the people in that class were some of the most gifted yoga enthusiasts I’ve ever taken classes with, and I was always the worst one in there.

And then I realized, so I used this, again, in the work now, being the dumbest person in the room is a gift. I never got better at yoga. I never got better at just understanding myself than when I was in this room with practitioners who were significantly better than me. It made me focus. It made me nervous. It made me reach for things that I didn’t even know were possible.

So, again, one thing I tell my students, and I’ve had more than a few say, “That was my favorite thing that you said in class.” Being the dumbest person in the room is a gift. We should seek out those opportunities all the time.

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

Eddie Davila
I’d say LinkedIn is the best way to get me. Email, I have 1100 students presently in my class, so you’re probably not going to make it through that wall, there’s too many emails. But LinkedIn, connect with me there and I’m happy to add you onto the team and talk back to you there.

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

Eddie Davila
I’ve said it a couple of times already, but my biggest thing, and this goes back to my class with my freshmen where they weren’t used to pressure situations and they were running from themselves and they were running from fear. You’ve got to become a pressure junkie. Look for every opportunity to be embarrassed. Look for every opportunity to fail. Try things that you know you might not like.

You’re going to find parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed. And the more and more you get used to it, you become this adrenaline junkie, this pressure junkie where everything… first of all, stress will start to leave your life. You’ll be better able to calibrate every situation or understand, calculate each situation in terms of how much pressure is actually happening in that moment.

And the other thing is you’ll actually start to look around at work and say, “You know what? Things are a little boring. I want to try something new. I want something with more pressure.” Believe it or not, I know for a lot of you right now, you might say, “No, I don’t need anymore pressure in my life.” The more and more you put the stronger you’re going to get, and the more you’ll realize you’re living the exciting life right now. And the more you get of it the more you’ll want it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Eddie, thank you so much for taking this time and sharing your perspective. Super helpful. And I have a feeling we’ll have listeners returning to this when they’re freaked out time and time again.

Eddie Davila
Hopefully, they’re not too freaked out again. Just stop, think, you’re going to be alright. You’re going to be fine.