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KF #29. Demonstrates Self-Awareness Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

715: How to Find and Stay in Your Genius Zone with Laura Garnett

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Laura Garnett reveals her simple methodology for tapping into your genius and making any job more fulfilling.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two key questions that unlock your genius zone 
  2. How to uncover what truly motivates you
  3. A handy tool to help turn genius into a habit  

About Laura

Laura Garnett is a performance strategist, mother, TEDx speaker, and author of, The Genius Habit and Find Your Zone of Genius. She guides CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and teams to new heights of success by shining a light on their unique purpose, values, and abilities, transforming the way they work and freeing them to make decisions with confidence and clarity. 

She has consulted with organizations including Google, Pandora, LinkedIn, and Splunk. Prior to launching her own company, New York City-based Garnett Consulting, she honed her marketing, strategy, and career-refining skills at companies like Capital One, American Express, IAC, and Google. 

Resources Mentioned

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Laura Garnett Interview Transcript

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

Laura Garnett
Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to be talking about The Genius Habit, Find Your Zone of Genius. And I want to hear a little bit about some of your experiences.

Laura Garnett
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Judging dairy at Virginia State and doing it well. Apparently, you’re a genius at judging dairy. You’re a champion when 13. What’s the story and does this fit into any of your current endeavors?

Laura Garnett
That’s a great question. Yeah, I grew up on a dairy farm, and my dad was an actual farmer. And one of the things that he did…I was a member of 4H, and I don’t know, for those listening that maybe grew up on a farm, 4H was kind of the thing farm children do. But my dad was the coach for dairy judging so it was something that I definitely was involved in and it’s competitive.

You go to competitions, and, essentially, what you’re doing is that you’re taking a group of four cows, and you’re placing them in order of best to worst, and you do that about 20 different times. There’s like 20 different classes. And then you submit your scores, and then they’re calculated. And whoever scores the cows in the right place the most wins. And I tended to win a lot, which was interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so meta because you’re judging the cows and you’re being judged at how well you’re judging.

Laura Garnett
Well, there’s a lot of judging going on and, of course, that’s something that I talk a lot about that you want to avoid. But, yeah, I think the part of it that I was good at was that, at the end of the day, they would pick one of those 20 classes, or maybe it was 10, I can’t remember, randomly, and then you would have to stand up and give a speech to a judge by memory, and tell them why you selected one cow over the other. So, you would create this speech and then give it to them. And so, they were called reasons. And I, at the time, I was like wanting to be an actress, loved to be on stage, so the reasons were a lot of fun for me, and that made it interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Well, kudos. And so, let’s talk about judgments a little bit, or this is a forced segue into let’s talk about The Genius Habit, finding your zone of genius. Can you maybe open us up with a story in terms of what’s really at stake here with regard to this body of work and what can it do for people?

Laura Garnett
Well, this was really borne from my own story of my life and my journey towards creating a career and work experience that I loved. And it started, and I talk about this in the book, but it started with just this massive career crisis that I had at all places Google. And it was one of those very complex situations where the world was telling me I was in the best company to work for, and inside, I was miserable and had one of the worst jobs that I’d ever had.

And prior to that, I’d been in the corporate world for seven years and had really only experienced promotions or success, lots of positive feedbacks. So, to be in a job where I didn’t feel good and I was also getting feedback that I wasn’t performing was devastating for me. And that situation just prompted this journey of inquiry, of starting to ask questions of myself and of the world in ways that I’d never asked before.

And I started thinking, “What is my purpose? Is it possible for me to experience fulfillment at work? And how can I…?” I’ve always been really driven, “How can I create the kind of success I want but experience something that’s nothing like this horrible feeling that I have in this moment?” Because in that moment of having this horrible job, I had no idea how to fix it. I was helpless.

And so, I went seeking answers, and when I really couldn’t come up with anything substantial, that’s when the journey started at solving it on my own. And that’s kind of where The Genius Habit was borne.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then I’d love to get your view. I guess we’re going to zoom out shortly in terms of talking about the process and methodology, and how we can all find our zone of genius. But, I guess, in your particular case and instance, you went out seeking answers. And what was the answer? Why was it that this, allegedly, amazing job at Google wasn’t doing it for you?

Laura Garnett
Yeah. So, I started reading a lot of books. At the time, that was What Color Is Your Parachute? It’s a pretty famous book to read in the moment of career despair, and I also hired coaches. And the answers that I got was a lot of data and information on myself, which, at the time, was really interesting. And at one point, I think it was…

I don’t know if you’re familiar, another book I read, called The Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore. I loved that book. And what they said was, “If this book has resonated with you, you can take a test.” And I was thinking that the answer was just learn everything about myself. And I took their test, it took like…this was back, oh, my goodness, 14, 15 years ago. So, they sent me the test in the mail on paper, and I went to a café in New York City and was filling out the dots with a pencil, and then mailed back my test, and then they called me to say, “All right. Here are the results,” and they coached me to kind of help me understand the data.

It was fascinating because the coach told me, “Oh, well, you’re meant to be a rockstar or a professor.” And I thought, “Okay, that is overwhelming,” and it was kind of this weird feeling of, “Okay, I feel like maybe I’m learning more about myself but I don’t know what to do with this information,” and that’s exactly what the problem was. Too much information and not a plan or a way of changing the way I was operating to get a different result because what I did was in the midst of all of that data on myself, and I was pretty clear at that point I wasn’t going to be a rockstar and a professor.

Pete Mockaitis
Literally, a performer of rock and roll music, a musician. That’s what they mean by a rockstar?

Laura Garnett
It is. And I remember telling them, I said, “I played flute. I played the flute, like, eight years ago. I don’t think this is going to be my path.” It felt a little out of reach, let’s say. It felt a little out of reach. So, I started a job search, and I did something that pretty much all of my clients do in that moment of lacking clarity and understanding. I just took the first job offer that came my way because it looked good. It was a startup. It was at this Frank Gehry building in Chelsea, Manhattan that was actually walking distance from the Google offices that I’d been eyeing, like, “Oh, I want to work in that building.”

And all of the things that don’t matter at all were coming forth, and I said, “Oh, this is great. This is my next job,” and I went to that job and realized within a month that it was another…it was better than the worst job I had at Google, but it was still not a great fit, especially since I had all this information on myself, I was like, “This isn’t the right fit.” So, once again, I just didn’t know what to do.

And then I got laid off. The 2009 financial crisis hit when I was at that new job. And within nine months, the startup went down the drain and I got laid off. And I think, for me, and I’ve seen this with other people, that was like the line in the sand, where I said, “Enough is enough. I’m going to solve this on my own.”

And what I soon realized was that this information was overwhelming. When people read these books and they’re trying to figure out, “What do I do differently?” information overload doesn’t help. It kind of adds to the confusion. And what I saw that was missing was a way of operating, a habit, behavior habits that I didn’t have I needed to create, and what were those. And that was kind of what I started to see and distill in my research on the science, psychology, and neuroscience of success and performance, and I dove into that.

And then the methodology of The Genius Habit kind of came forth, but that was also a result of me committing to only doing work that was energizing and engaging, which was me using my genius. And that’s how it started.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Only doing work that’s energizing and engaging.

Laura Garnett
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s a clear, you said, line in the sand. That’s a clear direct principal guideline. I think most listeners right now think, “Oh, yeah, that’d be nice.”

Laura Garnett
And that’s, honestly, like that’s step one. And, of course, I left the corporate world and woke up the next day, and said, “Okay, I’m going to create my dream job.” And the first step to doing that was to only do what I wanted to do. And that slowly led me, again, it took time before I got to doing what I’m doing right now, but that journey of starting to when things were boring or not exciting, I pivoted and I turned.

And, also, probably a couple years into that spaghetti-throwing process of, “I’m only going to do what I want do, and I’m going to solve this problem of creating my dream job and helping others do the same,” the methodology started to crystallize. And the first real structure of the methodology was the zone of genius framework, which essentially solves the very problem I had at Google, which was, “How can you get very clear very quickly about who you are?”

And once I saw my zone of genius, then things started to really explode for me. And in terms of getting more clarity and confidence, as well as the methodology and the business and the work experience, shifting completely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then it sounds like, in your own story, only doing what’s energizing and engaging kind of got things in motion for the discovery. It’s probably fair to say one ought not to tell their boss, immediately after listening to this episode, “Hey, update. I’m only going to do energizing and engaging, so find somebody else to do this.” Although, there’s job crafting can be done diplomatically and prudently.

Laura Garnett
That’s the genius habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Laura Garnett
That’s the genius habit. Diplomatically and strategically figuring out how to do only what excites you and motivates you. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. Well, before we get there to diplomatically articulate that request, what is this methodology by which we can discover, “Aha, this is my zone of genius”?

Laura Garnett
Yes. Well, lucky you, because when The Genius Habit came out this wasn’t available. But for all of your listeners, it is absolutely something they can go to right now, because I know everyone is multitasking, you can go to ZoneOfGeniusQuiz.com and take the Zone of Genius Quiz so you can figure out your zone of genius in probably 10 or 15 minutes.

And, essentially, what the Zone of Genius framework is meant to do is to be a cheat sheet for understanding very quickly who you are and, specifically, what will keep you engaged intellectually, and what will keep you intrinsically motivated at work. So, if you take all of the science and psychology of performance, and you distill it, these are the two datapoints that have to be present in order for you to experience peak performance. Two datapoints.

That, to me, was extremely liberating because, again, going back to my experience at Google, I was experiencing data overload. So much information on myself, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. And when you boil it down to these two datapoints, again, making decisions and navigating moments that are directing towards excitement and motivational work becomes easier because you can easily say, “Okay, am I able to use my genius?” which is the thinking or problem-solving that I’m best at. That checks the intellectual engagement box.

And, “Does the impact I’m doing provide my purpose?” which is the second datapoint, your purpose. And your purpose is connected to your psychology. It’s connected to a core emotional challenge that you’ve had in your life, which we can dig into because that’s kind of a deep topic as well. But the zone of genius framework is just those two simple datapoints – your genius and your purpose.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. Let’s dig into each of these. So, how do we discover our genius? So, we got this quiz.

Laura Garnett
Yes, you’ve got the quiz.

Pete Mockaitis
So, go do that. And maybe, could you tell us any other kind of means of gathering clues or what the typology kind of looks like on the other side of that?

Laura Garnett
Yeah. Well, essentially, at its basic form, it’s the thinking or problem-solving that you’re best at. So, it is hard to be objective about yourself because you are not on the receiving end of your thinking and problem-solving. So, that’s what makes it more difficult to see sometimes, which is where the quiz can come in handy. But the easiest way to see it is to think of moments where you were super highly engaged and energized by the thinking or problem-solving that you were doing, and just be present. Be really deeply thoughtful about it and start to notice what exactly was the thinking or problem-solving that created that excitement and engagement. And that begins kind of those are the breadcrumbs of your genius.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you’ve identified just a few key different types or flavors of genius. Could you share with us the names and just maybe a quick what does it kind of look, sound, feel like in practice?

Laura Garnett
Yeah. So, another way that the work has evolved since the printing of the books is that I’ve identified four main categories of genius types. Now, this is really helpful to know when you’re in a team, “What is the category?” but each genius name is unique. So, the categories are Maximizer, that means that you like to take something that already exists, and make it better; there’s Visionary. A Visionary person, and this speaks to with the end result of your genius. A Visionary can easily see what is possible.

A Driver is someone who, the end result of their genius is a goal is accomplished, a solution is solved. Their whole genius process is focused on the art of accomplishing something, finishing something. And then the last one, the fourth one, is a Builder, meaning that you’d like to take something where nothing exists before, and you like to build it, and you create something that has never existed before. And the quiz will actually slot you into the category that’s right for you, but give you a unique name for your genius.

So, my genius is a Visionary Insight Excavator. And, essentially, what that means is that the end result of my genius is that I can see what is possible, but the way that I see that possibility is by seeing patterns in data and getting insights. And those insights then inform the possible, what is possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. So, we’ve got the categories, and within the categories we’ve got some sub-facets. I don’t know what you want to call it.

Laura Garnett
Yeah. And here’s a way to think about it. Because if you’re working in a team of people, it’s really helpful. It’s kind of harder to know all the specific names of the geniuses. It’s kind of like learning everyone’s first name. You can do it. But the categories are you’re able to easily see themes, and it’s also easier to think of this is a tool for efficiency and prioritization because, again, that’s another way of moving towards exciting work and moving away from boring work. It’s just to reprioritize and to collaborate with others, or figure out, “What is the right work for the right person?”

And when you know these categories of your teammates, then it’s easier to diagnose or be able to pinpoint, “Okay, this project involves building something from scratch? Are there any Builders here?” And that can really make that process a lot easier.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. Well, then let’s hear the second part, the impact that provides your purpose, and that often connects to some personal history. Walk us through this part.

Laura Garnett
Yeah. So, this datapoint is all about intrinsic motivation. So, at the heart, and this, again, I’m pulling from the science of peak performance and success in the sense that the only way for you to have positive energy at work is to be intrinsically motivated. And for those of you who don’t know that means, it means that motivation comes from within. It’s not that you’re doing something for the paycheck. Extrinsic motivation is when you are driven to do something for the reward, and you can Google all of this. There’s so much research on the fact and the downside of extrinsic motivation versus intrinsic motivation.

The problem is that most people just don’t know what is it that’s going to intrinsically motivate because everyone would probably sit here and say, “I want to be purpose-driven. I want intrinsic motivation,” but don’t have any understanding of how to create that because it has to come from within yourself, which is why it’s connected to your psychology which is, again, when I saw this in people, it was astounding. It was fascinating because we never really associate our psychology with work performance and, yet, it’s integral.

And so, that’s the purpose datapoint, which is it is the impact on others or in the world that is most motivating to you, but in order to get to that, you need to understand what your own core emotional challenge has been throughout your life. And when you understand and label and put language to that core emotional challenge, and then you flip it, that becomes your purpose.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, please, give us some examples of some core emotional challenges and how they got flipped into purpose on the other side.

Laura Garnett
Of course. So, my core emotional challenge is not being seen or understood. So, for me, what is endlessly intrinsically motivating is helping other people see and understand themselves. And it’s fascinating because even the most subtle example of me helping someone understand themselves lights me up. It gives me endless energy. And I have seen this be the case with almost everyone once they accurately see that core emotional challenge, that the reverse of it is endlessly motivating because the reason for this is because that core emotional challenge is so painful.

When I think of it, I could cry. There are so many instances, it makes me emotional just to think of it. And so, you are unconsciously helping others to avoid having that same pain. And I’ve seen people are doing this and not even aware that they’re doing it, which is what’s so amazing about putting language to it is that you see it. It was happening before but now you see it, and you get the added bonus of you’re tapping into motivation that’s there for you. You just didn’t know it was there. It’s free.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Laura Garnett
It’s super cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Free motivation sounds great.

Laura Garnett
Yeah, you just have to buy the book and then it’s free.

Pete Mockaitis
So, with the core emotional challenge, likewise, are these sorts of a few categories that they fall into, or is it everyone is completely unique, emotional challenge happening?

Laura Garnett
There are definitely similar. I have not bucketed that one into a series of four parcels because I find that when it comes to one psychology, that while we are all similar, in the same way that there are these categories of geniuses, that the nuances of our psychological experiences are infinite. And, therefore, it is actually really important, and this is something that I’ve gotten clear on, it’s really important to find the right language that speaks to that unique psychological pain that you experienced, so there should be infinite. There’s infinite possibility with that.

Like, in the quiz, I’ve taken all of the core emotional challenges that I’ve seen, and I think what you can do is try to find one that is similar to yours. But I always encourage people that getting kind of the genius and purpose language to begin with is a starting point. And we’ll talk about what the genius habit is because that’s the next step. But the second step is for you to feel free to refine the language as you learn more and more about yourself so that it is correct.

I’ve kind of rethought myself for the core emotional challenge. What, for me, feels very powerful is the word understood. That resonates with me to my core. But, again, as I continue to grow and evolve and learn, I’m always asking myself, “Is it that word?” And so, there’s always kind of an opportunity to refine that to make sure that it’s the right language.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us a couple other core emotional challenges?

Laura Garnett
Sure. There are infinite ones. I could give you some examples of other clients. I think what’s interesting about it though is that most people think they know what motivates them. I’m always surprised that people will say, and we tend to be over-generalized what gives us purpose. So, for example, and this is why this work, and The Genius Habit, and knowing your zone of genius, is a habit of awareness. It’s an invitation to go deeper and understand even more details of yourself, and the power that that then brings.

But some people will say, “Well, I love helping people,” or, “I like managing people. That’s what intrinsically motivates me.” And then I’ll say after I work with them and I understand their core emotional challenge, the precise language might be, “Being a catalyst for someone’s exponential growth.” And that language is then connected to a specific story or a specific series of events in their childhood where they were actually seeking support and could never find it, and always felt a loss of someone just helping them catapult.

And so, for this person, that language catalyzing someone’s potential is meaningful for them to the bone. Another one that I’ve seen recently is not feeling alone. And to that person, before kind of creating the more refined language, they would’ve said, “I really love motivating people.” That is what they would’ve said is their purpose, motivating them. But what this person really did was make them not feel alone.

Now, what’s interesting is that when you ask other people, this was a very senior leader, when you would ask their team for feedback, that purpose would come out. When I would see it in this person and then I would then look for it in feedback, it’s there. They would say, “Oh, he’s always there for me. He’s always present.” And so, then as a leader to know, “Wait a second. This is the precise way that I impact people in a positive way,” it’s really powerful in terms of knowing what kind of leader they are. And this particular leader, for example, is exceptional at helping people not feel alone.

And when you think about that for a while, there are a lot of people in the business world who feel alone in terms of from their manager. A lot of people I meet would say, “I see my manager once a month, once every three months. They don’t know what I’m doing. I feel very disconnected.” So, to be working with someone where they never feel alone is really powerful. And that’s something that this person, he never would’ve articulated his purpose in that way before.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Well, Laura, maybe to help readers get a bit more flavor for what this journey of self-discovery might look like for them, can we spend a few minutes on me?

Laura Garnett
Of course.

Pete Mockaitis
Because I think with core emotional challenge, what I think…I’ve heard some call it the idol of performance, or how it feels to me is like, “I really like feeling like a winner, and I really hate feeling like a loser.” And so, it’s funny. I guess I’m kind of competitive but not like…and I’m not super athletic so I guess I’m not that competitive like I’m going to scream at someone on a soccer field, but I guess it’s sort of like I really like seeing my podcast numbers go up and I really don’t like seeing them go down.

I remember one time I had a not-so great review at work, and I remember I said, which was really odd as I look back at it, I said, “That’s not who I am.” And the right response for the review would’ve been, “Of course, it’s not you. It’s one review for one work period.” It wasn’t that horrible. It’s not your identity. So, that’s kind of my first guess as to a core emotional challenge. But how might you lead me?

Laura Garnett
Well, tell me a little bit more about that. What do you mean? So, how would you phrase that core emotional challenge?

Pete Mockaitis
I guess my core emotional challenge is like I like…

Laura Garnett
Don’t like to fail.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no, that’s true. I don’t like to fail. Although, it’s not disastrous. I’ve had a few businesses that had zero revenue, and it wasn’t like soul-crushing, I was just like, “Oh, bummer.” But I guess it’s when it gets a little bit more personal in terms of it’s like, “Ooh, I am winning,” or, “I am losing.” And when I’m winning, I feel like very rejuvenated, like, “Oh, yes, yes, yes,” and when I’m losing, it’s like, “Ah.”

Laura Garnett
Well, that’s an interesting topic that you’re bringing up because what you’re referring to is what I call, there’s a chapter in The Genius Habit about this called The Achievement Junkie. And so, when you’re looking at the science of performance, and this is pretty typical in the sense that, first off, we are an achievement-based society. So, that’s one of the big themes of my work is to dismantle a lot of the rules that we’ve been taught about success from society, and this is one of them, which is achievements equal success.

We’re also dealing with our brains. So, when you achieve something, you get a hit of dopamine in your brain. It feels good. So, in many ways, it’s very easy to think of achievement as actually happiness at work. But I, and, again, I call that kind of like the sugar version of happiness at work. It’s very short-lived and it’s just not sustainable. You’ll crash very soon afterwards. And everyone can relate to that feeling of you win something, and you’re like, “Woohoo, this is great. This is awesome.” And the next day you’re like, “Wait. It’s all gone. I don’t feel any different,” which is why things like this is extrinsic motivation at work, which is why then you have to go get another achievement. You have to win something else to get a little shot of that good feeling.

So, what I would want to help you understand and unravel is that you have an achievement junkie tendency, which everyone has, and if you kind of peel that layer back, your core emotional challenge is underneath that. It’s deep in your psyche and it’s unconscious. So, one question I would say to you is, or ask is, “When was the last time you felt exceptionally fulfilled or intrinsically motivated by an impact you had?” Like, you felt…and I don’t know your personality type, if you’re a feeler or a thinker, and if you actually feel things in your body or it’s all mental. But it’s an example of just feeling, like in that moment, “This is the impact I want to have in the world. This feels right.” Do you have a moment?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s hard to identify like an exceptional peak because, in many ways, it’s sort of doing my daily work. There’s a lot of that in terms of I think it’s really awesome to talk to you and discover some things, and then share it with the world. And it feels very edifying when there’s a very genuine compliment, an email, a comment, on the blogpost or whatnot. Like, that listener picked up some real stuff of value, and they have been positively transformed as a result. I think that’s awesome.

Laura Garnett
So, is it that transformation? If someone says, “Pete, I was just transformed from that podcast,” does that do anything for you?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. That’s awesome.

Laura Garnett
So, what about that is awesome? Why is it…is it “transformation” in particular?

Pete Mockaitis
I think so. What are the alternatives?

Laura Garnett
Well, if I said to you, “I was energized,” does that…?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess that’s nice but it’s not as good.

Laura Garnett
Okay. There you go. See, the language, you’re having a different reaction. So, honestly, the core emotional challenge can take some time to dig into. I don’t know if we have time to do that today, but some people, it’s really on the surface, and for others, it’s very deep because it’s often with our psychology, something we’re not aware of, or we’re not paying attention to it, and it does require kind of going into a painful place, which some people are more comfortable with than others.

And you can think of, and when I work with my clients, we go through their whole life story in about an hour and a half. And there are invariably, and maybe this will kind of spark some thoughts, but invariably, people, everyone has these moments of pain, or moments that they…because we don’t…I don’t know how old you are, but at a certain point you forget a lot of your childhood. But everyone has these very specific memories that are really precise, like, “Oh, when I was in third grade, and this teacher did XYZ, I’ll never forget that.” Do you have any stories like that that come to mind?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s funny. You got me all over the place here. I remember one time, I think I was talking about, I don’t know, chess or something with my dad, and were like ratings because I thought that was an interesting concept, “Oh, chess ratings to see who is the best mathematically.” And it’s like, “So, dad, do you think my rating might be this or this?” And he was like, “Why is it always with the winning with you?” I was like, “Oh, okay.” Kind of startled.

And then another time, I think I was really putting some pressure on myself to get straight A’s in high school, and my mom was like, “Hey, just so you know, we don’t need that from you and we don’t expect that from you, and we will love you, and it’s completely okay if you get some B’s and C’s.” But I guess I was like, “Well, my brother was a valedictorian, therefore, I have to be a valedictorian.” So, in a way, it’s kind of funny. I’m thinking about sort of like the cautionary bits as opposed to like a particular wounding. And then as we think about impact, I guess I’m thinking about times I felt really…

Laura Garnett
Well, wait a second. Those are two very juicy stories.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Laura Garnett
Those are really good because what that tells me is that you were on this path of achievement, “I’m going to win at all costs.”It’s interesting you just did a reaction. You said, when your dad was like, “What’s with the winning?” and you’re just like, “Ah,” there was this frustration there. And at the root of frustration is disconnection. And in both of those scenarios, there’s kind of, I feel like from both of your parents, there’s this questioning, as you just said it too. Questioning. Why?

Pete Mockaitis
And I think it was well-intentioned questioning.

Laura Garnett
Right, of course.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of they really wanted me to like, “Hey, man, don’t give yourself a panic attack. You’re great. You don’t need to overdo it.”

Laura Garnett
Well, here’s another question. When someone questions you, does it trigger you? Meaning, do you get frustrated very easily?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s funny. And sometimes, yes, Most of the time, no. And I don’t know the difference. But, Laura, I love what…I think we’ve got enough of a sample, and not that I’m chickening out. We can do this again later.

Laura Garnett
Well, you know, what I would say, just to tie a bow on that, here’s what I would say to you is that this idea of someone questioning you is something to inquire upon, think about it. Think about it and I would say start looking, and that’s where The Genius Habit comes in because you can get a tracker and start to pay attention of the moments where you are questioned. And that might be a breadcrumb to your core emotional challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, now the conversation we just had there, it sounds like within your books and the quizzes, folks can have a bit of that conversation internally. And, of course, folks can hire you, always an option.

Laura Garnett
Of course.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, how else might you recommend folks engage in these sorts of discovery conversations?

Laura Garnett
I would say this is really at the heart of all of this, is it’s an invitation for individuals, especially highly driven people that want to do a lot with their lives, to do it in a way that feels good. I think one of the biggest areas of opportunity that I’ve seen is that success that looks one way, looks good but it doesn’t feel good. And what I would welcome people to do is buy the book, learn The Genius Habit, but see it as a way of getting more powerful in terms of leveraging one of the greatest powers you have, which is being who you are, and then being able to advocate in your existing role or in a new role for work that, going back to what we said before, is energizing and exciting, and that that opportunity is always available to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, that is a nice little bow, indeed. And, Laura, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things?

Laura Garnett
The last thing I would say is we didn’t really get to talk about the tracker, and I would say that is just a very fundamental component of The Genius Habit so I would encourage everyone, that’s basically what I said to you, which is go deeper with this thing of questioning. Anyone here listening can go to my website and download a performance tracker, the zone of genius tracker. And with that alone, you can begin to get more connected to yourself and understand your own zone of genius, and be able to create work and advocate for work that feels as good as it looks. So, that’s available to you all.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now, Laura, can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Laura Garnett
Joseph Campbell, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” And I feel like that quote is just kind of a beautiful articulation of everything that I’m all about.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And can you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Laura Garnett
There is so much research that I cite in “The Genius Habit” and “Find Your Zone of Genius.” I would say, you know what, at the heart of all this, especially because we talked about where this all began, is that my love for Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the book Flow, and all of the research that he did on peak performance. And one of the things that he said that came through his research, which has fueled me, is that, “We are happiest when we’re working, but only when that work creates flow, or you are in the zone.” So, that’s a favorite one.

Pete Mockaitis
And any other favorite books?

Laura Garnett
About a million, but I would say Flow is on the top of my list. I love that book. I’m also a big Adam Grant fan, so anything Adam Grant writes I think is fantastic. He’s gotten really popular these days. Anything based on any new research on performance or happiness or success, I’m all over. Oh, and Dan Gilbert. He’s another favorite author of mine. Stumbling on Happiness is a fantastic one because, speaking of research, we think we know what will make us happy, and Dan Gilbert’s book really help you understand that what we think has no real validity when it comes to what really will make us happy. So, that’s a good one.

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

Laura Garnett
Well, I’m going to talk about my tracker. I just love it. I also have, I love tracking. And for those listeners who are trackers, the tracker is like a Fitbit for your work experience. So, I use it every week and I have done so for 10 years, so that’s my favorite tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Laura Garnett
Other than the fact I do have an Oura Ring, which is one of my all-time favorite tools that I use. I don’t know if you’re familiar with an Oura Ring.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’ve heard of it, and they’ve almost sponsored the show. I don’t know what the holdup was, guys. Just, if anyone’s listening, because I was excited.

Laura Garnett
Come on. One of your favorite customers is here. This is great. I’m a huge fan of the Oura Ring. I’ve been using it for like four or five. I’ve probably used it longer than most. I’m an early adopter when it comes to tracking things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we can dork out about that for a long time, but maybe for just one minute. Okay. If we already have a Fitbit, is the Oura Ring going to do anything above and beyond what the Fitbit is doing for me?

Laura Garnett
I went from a Fitbit to an Oura Ring, and I have to say, again, as someone who…I didn’t like having it on my wrist. I preferred it on my finger.

Pete Mockaitis
So, form factor preference.

Laura Garnett
But from a data perspective, I would say Fitbit has also evolved tremendously. I would say they’re all amazing. I think, for me, what makes the Oura Ring so great is just the fact that it’s just a ring versus anything on my wrist.

Pete Mockaitis
And it looks cool.

Laura Garnett
And because you can wear it with a dress, not that we’ve worn dresses, not in the pandemic, but I hope to in the near future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you a lot?

Laura Garnett
Well, this was a quote I shared in the pandemic, and I think that resonated, which was, “When everything is uncertain, the one thing that’s certain is being who you are.” And it’s actually something I said in an interview, and I ended up putting it on a mug right here, and I think about it a lot myself. I think it’s very grounding to think about that when at a time in our world where there’s a lot of uncertainty.

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

Laura Garnett
To my website, to LauraGarnett.com where you can download the tracker, you can certainly go and purchase Find Your Zone of Genius” and The Genius Habit, and, of course, go take the Zone of Genius Quiz, that’s at the ZoneOfGeniusQuiz.com. Go check it out. And please let me know. And, of course, I also, if you go to the website, I have a newsletter. I send out free advice and thoughts, and I’m always talking about kind of what’s new and present for me in my newsletter that comes out every three weeks, and it’s called The Fast Track.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have any final challenges or call to actions for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Laura Garnett
I’m going to kind of build off of what you said. I think I just want to help people understand that having work that is energizing, fun, fulfilling, that that actually is not a fantasy, and it is all readily available to you, and it starts with knowing who you are, and building new habits. So, I would just say, if that is a dream you have that you haven’t achieved, there is a way. And I would certainly love to help you with this work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Laura, thank you. This has been a treat. And I wish you much fun and genius moments.

Laura Garnett
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. This has been so fun.

703: How to Find the Work that Sparks You and Makes You Come Alive with Jonathan Fields (Host of Good Life Project Podcast)

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Jonathan Fields says: "I think we always have to be guided by our own inner wisdom, by our own intelligence."

Jonathan Fields discusses how to spark meaning, fulfillment, and joy in your work by aligning with your Sparketype.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A (free!) assessment that identifies what makes you come alive 
  2. The ten impulses that describe how we work
  3. The fundamental questions that create career fit 

About Jonathan

Jonathan Fields hosts one of the top-ranked podcasts in the world, Good Life Project®, where he shares powerful stories, conversations, and resources, on a mission to help listeners live more meaningful and inspired lives. Fields is also the founder and CEO of Spark Endeavors, a research initiative focused on helping individuals and organizations reclaim work as a source of purpose, energy, meaning, and possibility. His new book, SPARKED: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work That Makes You Come Alive delivers an important message in a time when many people are emerging from the pandemic and seeking out new work that will both challenge and fulfill them. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors!

Jonathan Fields Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jonathan, thanks for joining us on How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Jonathan Fields
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom here. And, first, let’s talk, boy, with the Good Life Project, you’ve been at it for a good long time. So, kudos. My hat is off to you. Can you tell me about one or two of the most fascinatingly useful discoveries you’ve made along the way as you’ve hosted the podcast?

Jonathan Fields
There’s one that I’ve been really thinking on for a while now but it’s not from a recent conversation. It’s from a conversation that is probably six or seven years old. So, we’ve been producing since 2012. And I had the opportunity to sit down with a guy named Milton Glaser. Milton died two years ago at the age of 91 on his birthday.

He kind of had a magical life. He was one of the most iconic designers in history. A lot of people outside of the design world wouldn’t know his name but everybody actually knows at least some of his work. For example, the most ripped off logo in the history of iconography iHeartNY, that was Milton. He sketched it out on a napkin in the back of a taxi in the ‘70s as a way to try and give something back to the city that he loved, which was then on the verge of bankruptcy, and rally people to a place of hope and aspiration.

And I sat down in a conversation with him, and as we were talking, he shared with me that he knew what he was there to do since the age he was six, which was to make things, and I kind of lit up because I thought to myself, “Me, too.” I’ve known from the earliest days I’m obsessed with the process of creation. I just see things that don’t exist, that need to exist all around me. But then he dropped this other bit of wisdom further into the conversation, and this is what I’ve been circling back to lately.

And he said to me, “The impulse to make and the impulse to create beauty are related but not the same.” And what I’ve realized later in life is that I’m not just driven by the impulse to make and to create. There’s something around the impulse to create beauty, which is deeply compelling to me as well. So, when I make something, I don’t want to just create something that’s cool or interesting or different or valuable. Something inside me says, “I want it to be beautiful.”

And, granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there’s an impulse in me towards beauty, towards the creative process that births in some way, shape, or form where it moves people emotionally, there’s an elegance to it. I don’t often hit my metric for that aspiration but I’d realized that it actually matters to me on a level that’s super important that I started to center it more in my work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I like that definition of beauty then. So, it need not necessarily be a visual aesthetic beauty but say it again in terms of what it does. Beauty is beauty when it does what again?

Jonathan Fields
To me, beauty is something that, in some way, shape, or form, it bypasses your cognitive processes, your filters, and lands in a deeply emotional way and moves you. It evokes something in you. Now, granted, a lot of things can evoke something emotionally, but it evokes a sense of awe in you, and it evokes a sense of wonder, it evokes a sense of appreciation in elegance. It just makes you feel good, like things are as they should be. Not everything in life, but for that moment, when you interact with whatever this thing is, you have that feeling. And, to me, to be on the receiving end of that feeling is so powerful. It’s why I’ve been a fan of art for my entire life. But, also, I’ve realized that I want to be on the creation end of that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, that’s how to do a powerful conversation. That’s really resonated for quite some time. That’s awesome. I want to hear about your book Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work that Makes You Come Alive. That sounds fantastic. How does one go about doing just that?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah. Well, there are probably a lot of contributors. For probably my entire adult life, I’ve been fascinated with the question of, “How do we find a work that gives us this feeling like we’re doing the thing we’re here to do?” Like, we’re filled with meaning, a sense of purpose. We’re excited and engaged to wake up in the morning and do this thing. We feel like our fullest potential is being leveraged and we got a bigger sense of purpose.

And I started to dig into the question of whether there are some set of identifiable, mappable impulses for work or for effort that would give us this feeling. Could we tease them out from all the tens of thousands of jobs, roles, titles, and distill them down to a simple set of things? And then help people figure out what those are.

Because if we could, then that would give a pretty important nugget of insight to somebody and help them understand what to say yes or no to, whether that’s a project, a role, a position on a team, a job, an industry, an organization, and spend a lot more time in that state – I call it spark or coming alive – rather than fumbling and wondering why they never had the feeling that they want to feel.

So, I spend a lot of time doing the research to map out these 10 different impulses or imprints. I call them sparketypes. And they are the source that then around them we build entire archetypes. So, there’s an impulse for work, and then around each of these impulses, there are certain tendencies, preferences, and behaviors that are pretty common across a lot of different people. And then we built a tool to help us validate the research or invalidate it, equally validate it, and then for people to use and interact with so they could discover theirs. And those are the sparketypes and the spark assessment.

And that is now been completed by over 500,000 people generating over 25 million datapoints that have been just astonishingly insightful and helpful in helping people understand what to say yes and no to. And that became the sort of source fuel for the book that has now become Sparked.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I would like to hear a bit of a rundown of the 10 different sparketypes and then sort of like the core impulse and preference and behavior that illuminates or exemplifies that sparketype. I suppose, maybe before we get into that, let’s hear about the research and the validation just because if someone is about to give me, you name it, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Big Five, StrengthsFinder, any assessment. It’s sort of like, if they say, “Hey, there’s four key preferences or there are seven key types,” it’s like, “Says who based on what and why?” Like, my skeptic gets fired up.

So, for those in the audience, before they take your word for it that these are, in fact, a pretty good way to slice up the universe of different flavors of unique imprints that makes you come alive, can you satisfy the skeptic and say, “What research and how do I know you didn’t just make this up as opposed to it has genuine validity as to what is in the hearts of humanity?”

Jonathan Fields
Yeah, I love that question. So, a couple of things. One, don’t take my word for it. Please don’t take my word for it. Use your own experience to validate whether it is the sparketypes, whether it’s any number of other tools or assessments that are out there right now. I agree with you. I think we always have to be guided by our own inner wisdom, by our own intelligence. Like, use the tool, see what it tells you, see if it lands as valid or not. What we know is not that 500,000 people have done this and thousands more doing it every day, is we’ve done our follow-on study that showed us that 93% of the people who complete this tell us that it’s anywhere from very true to extremely accurate. But we’ve also gone beyond that.

In that same study, we wanted to know. So, first threshold is accuracy, “Do people feel this is accurate?” And the only way to actually know whether something like this is accurate, there’s no objective measure. If I ask you…there’s no objective measure of meaningfulness for every person on the planet. It’s completely individual and subjective. So, I’ve got to ask you, “When you do this particular thing, does it give you the sense that it’s meaningful to you, that it matters?”

And so, we will ask those questions, we’re like, “Do you have a sense of purpose when you’re doing it? Are you able to easily lose yourself in a state of absorption where time seems to pass in the blink of an eye and you vanish into the experience?” And when we ask these questions, what we actually find is really strong statistical correlation.

So, for people who are literally wrapped in the data, the R value, or the correlation coefficients between doing the work of your sparketype and saying that you feel a sense of meaningfulness, that you are easily able to access flow, that you’re excited and energized by your work, that you’re able to access the fullest amount of your potential and perform at your highest level, and that you have a sense of purpose in life. There are really strong correlations that we see in the data.

But, again, I can give you numbers, I can give you R values, I can give you correlations. Why would you listen to me? We’ve got a tool that is out there and available in the form of assessment. You can take it. One of the reasons that we actually have it publicly available for anyone to take for free is because I want you to actually interact with the tool yourself and see how valid it feels for you. So, the skeptic in me, because I have that same skeptic, I look at everything that comes out there, and I’m like, “Well, how do I know that matters to me?”

So, I also wanted to make sure that whatever we created was brought to market in a way where anyone could interact with a fundamental tool, and get the basic wisdom from it, and decide from their own whether it actually was valid for them or not without having to actually invest anything beyond a little bit of their time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And just to triple confirm, because I think we have had some guests who have had some really cool tools, but as a listener, if it’s sort of like, “I don’t know if I’m going to spend 20, 30, 40 bucks on that, and this conversation is boring to me if I’m not,” so it doesn’t go perfectly well even though I think the tool is really cool. So, that’s awesome. So, for the record, this is not a temporary book promotion. This is free for the world forever. Hooray! Is that what’s up here?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Jonathan Fields
So, this is not a sort of marketing quiz that was put together for a marketing campaign. This has been…took about a year to develop it through beta. We rolled it out publicly at the end of 2018. We’ve since continued to develop it and refine the algorithm. We rolled out a 2.0 version of the assessment that added one particular metric to it, I believe it was earlier this year. In the entire time, it has been freely available to anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. All right. Well, so then the benefits sound pretty handy in terms of meaningfulness, flow, energy, so that’s a nice lineup of goodies that happen when we’re doing work that is in alignment with the sparketype. Any other key benefits that you’d highlight front and center for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah, there’s something that I didn’t see coming, which is so we tend to hear two things when people interact with the body of work. One is that there’s something inside of them that feels validated. So, very rarely do we hear someone say, “Oh, this was so surprising to me. I never knew or realized that.” What we hear people say is, “There’s something in me that I’ve known that this impulse is in there. I have always felt this way about when I do this particular type of thing. It gives me this feeling. But, for a variety of reasons, maybe I didn’t think I could earn a living doing it, maybe I didn’t think I could figure out how to build a career, or maybe I was socially told that it’s not an appropriate pursuit for me. I’ve stepped away from it, or I’ve stifled it.”

And what this does is it sort of reflects back to someone, “Oh, this is real, and this matters.” So, that’s one thing. But there’s a second thing that we’ve really started to see, which is that people start to realize that they’re feeling seen on a level that they hadn’t before, that they feel like the language when we describe what these types are and how they tend to interact with people around them in the world, they feel understood, they feel seen, and they now have language to then turn around and tell other people, “This is me. Like, now you can see and understand me on a deeper level.” And that other person may be a partner in life, it may be a family member, or it may be a leader on a team or a teammate in the context of work. But it helps them understand themselves, feel seen by themselves, to themselves, and also give them language to help others see them more clearly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. Well, so lay it on us here. We got 10 different sparketypes and we have like a key impulse or call, and then some preferences and behaviors that go with it. Could you maybe give us the 20- to 60-second rundown on each of the ten? I’m a maven, if you wanted to start there, or maybe there’s a sequence that makes good sense that you’d like to run through.

Jonathan Fields
So, the maven is actually a great starting place. The maven is the most process-fulfilled of all of these impulses, all of these sparketypes. The fundamental impulse for the maven is learning. It’s all about knowledge acquisition. This can show up in a really narrow and deep way. So, you may find a topic there where you just, for some reason, you probably don’t even understand why. Maybe it’s 15th century history and something particular about it and there’s something about it that just fascinates you, and you have to know absolutely everything about it, and you would literally devote all of your energy. You’ll spend money, if you need to, to gain access to people or classes or resources, to know everything you can about this one topic.

It also shows up broadly on almost more of a trait level where you open your eyes in the morning, and all you want to do is learn anything you can about everything and everyone. A friend of mine basically never takes a cab ride without knowing the entire life story of the person who is driving them. He’s just absolutely fascinated by people, anybody, all walks of life, and what their stories are. So, the fundamental impulse there is knowledge acquisition.

You may actually gain knowledge that is incredibly valuable to other people, but that’s not actually why you do it. You do it simply because of the feeling that it gives you. So, that’s the maven. The maven also can get lost in a bit of a learning dark hole. So, you can become so obsessed with learning something. And if it is a big and vast complex deep body of knowledge, then you can essentially just stop all of your relationships, stop exercising, stop eating well, and just completely devote yourself to the pursuit of knowledge. So, there’s a bit of a risk there to become obsessive about the quest for learning.

Next up, we have what I call the maker. So, the maker’s fundamental impulse is creation. That also happens to be my impulse. I wake up in the morning and it’s all about the process of creation. I look around and I’m like, “What can I make today?” That has been my impulse from the earliest days in my life.

When I was a kid, I used to create pretty much anything that you could imagine creatable. I would cobble together old bike parts to create Frankenbikes. I would draw album covers on jean jackets. I would renovate houses. As an adult, that’s more of into building companies, creating books, brands, experiences, media, anything you can imagine. It’s the process of creation that completely lights me up. Because the maker is also very process-fulfilled, similar to the maven, there’s a risk of really losing yourself in the black hole of creation and ignoring all the other amazing things in your life by doing that.

So, next up, we have what I call the scientist. The fundamental impulse for the scientist is to figure things out. It’s all about problem-solving, figuring out pieces of a puzzle and burning questions. You wake up in the morning, you say, “What can I figure out?” This impulse tends to really be highly valued in industry. There’s literally a job called scientist or researcher where you can spend your entire life researching big, broad, complex, deep questions.
One of the interesting quirks about the scientist is that you could devote, say, five years and figure out the answer to something. Maybe you figure out something in the context of medicine or cancer that has a profound impact on millions of people’s lives. You really like that. You appreciate it. You enjoy it. But the interesting thing about the scientist is it’s not actually the reason you do it. The reason you do it is because of the feeling that it gives you. It’s because the quest for an answer makes you feel alive. So, when you finally find that answer, as happy as you may be that you’ve discovered something incredibly valuable to others, it’s not unusual for you to wake up the next day with a sense of melancholy because, now, you’re not waking up with a burning question anymore, and it becomes your job to go and find the next one.

So, behind that, we have the impulse that I would call the performer. Now, when you hear performer, a lot of people immediately think performing arts, “Well, it’s a singer, it’s a dancer, it’s the theater.” And, in fact, oftentimes that impulse does get channeled into those things because it’s kind of the logical place for it to go. But what we see in adulthood is this impulse which is always to enliven, energize, and activate an experience or interaction or moment. This impulse has incredible value in nearly every domain. You could exercise that in a meeting, in a boardroom, in a sales interaction, behind a bar, as a parent with children, in local community organizing. It has really, really broad and amazing applicability.

Behind the performer, we have what I call the essentialist. Now, the impulse for the essentialist is to create order out of chaos. You see complex things, you see mess, you see all sorts of chaotic things around you, and all you want to do is create clarity and utility from it. What we’ve discovered about this is that this tends to show up really early in life also. The producer for our podcast, for Good Life Project, is actually an essentialist. And when she was a little kid, she used to line up her stuffed animals in height and order, or height and color in her bedroom. So, this tends to show up really early in life, and be praised because parents like when kids are orderly.

Later in life, what you start to see is it is an indispensable trait because so many people who are not the essentialist not only are not interested in doing that work, they outright loath doing that work. So, when they find somebody who is an essentialist, they will happily hand that work off to them, and that essentialist very often, in an organization, becomes really quickly overloaded once they become discovered because everybody wants to give them that work, and they’re good at it and they like it but, at some point, you have to create boundaries in the work.

There’s another interesting part around the essentialist, which is if you’re really getting more nuance, it goes beyond creating order, clarity, and utility. Essentialists tend to see a certain amount of elegance and beauty in order and clarity, and so there’s almost an artistic aesthetic to the work that they do.

After the essentialist, we have what I would call the warrior. Now, the fundamental impulse for the warrior is to gather, organize, and lead. And many people would look at that, and say, “Well, leadership, sure. Well, that’s a skill.” And I would say, “Yes, there are skills for leadership the same way,” but there are skills for all of these different impulses that I’ve talked about that we can acquire. But leadership in particular tends to be treated exclusively just as a set of skills that you can acquire. What we’ve seen is that, in fact, there is an underlying impulse that some people have.

They wake up in the morning and all they want to do is bring people together and take them on an adventure, a journey, from point A to point B. This often shows up early in life as a kid on the playground, who’s like, “Hey, everybody, let’s go gather around. Let’s go on an adventure in the woods,” or the team captain in school. It shows up in literally every domain of life. The warrior is a really, really powerful impulse. It can also be lonely.

So, you tend to be somebody who leads the way and you’re not always the person where people want to step alongside of you and go with you. And sometimes, bringing people together, especially disparate groups of people with different intentions, different personalities, can be a really frenetic and chaotic social dynamic. So, part of what you do is have to learn how to be really good managing social dynamics with people.

So, next after the warrior, we have what I would call the sage, the fundamental impulse of the sage is to awaken an insight. It’s about illumination. So, you know something and all you want to do is tell other people what you know. You want to share it with them. And seeing the lights of insight go on in their minds is a thing that is kind of magical to you. So, the maven devours information purely for the sake of knowing. The sage may also devour information but for them, the impulse is not just to learn. It’s to turn around and have something really powerful and new and valuable to share with other people.

So, next behind that, we have the advisor. The advisor is all about guiding others, it can be an individual, a group, a team, an organization, through a process of growth. So, they tend to walk alongside someone, whereas a warrior very often is one of the people that they organize and lead, they’re among those. The advisor most often is somebody who is not within the group. They walk alongside that individual or group, and they create a container of safety and trust, and it’s a very relational impulse.

A big part of the reward for the advisor is the depth and quality and the sustained nature of the relationship that happens with other people as they guide them through a process of growth. It may not necessarily be, “I’m going to get you from point A to point B,” but it’s some sort of evolutionary process that person or group goes through.

And that leaves us with two remaining sparketypes. We have the advocate. So, the fundamental impulse of the advocate is to champion, it’s to shine the light on an idea, ideal, individual or community. And this isn’t so much giving voice to other people, because with individuals, as a general, I don’t believe that you give anybody else voice. You may give voice to nature, or to an ecosystem, or to animals.

But with other people, it’s generally, it’s championing them. It is you see something that, in some way, shape, or form, lands with you as unfair, inequitable, unjust, and the impulse is, “I need to, in some way, shape, or form, shine the light on what’s going on here. I need to advocate for, or on behalf of, or alongside of, or with, so that we can create some sort of change.”

The final impulse is what I call the nurturer. The nurturer is all about elevation. It’s all about lifting others up. It’s about giving care and taking care. The nurturer impulse, the person then, and one of the primary tendencies around that is, usually, has a very strong sense of empathy. So, that is the empath, that is the person who walks into a room and very likely feels other people’s emotions, feels their states, feels other people’s suffering, struggle, and pain, and they’re compelled to do something about it. They move to that person and they will do anything they can to lift them up.

One of the challenges of the nurturer is that they tend to feel so much of other people’s experiences and emotions that it can leave them pretty empty and gutted themselves. So, there’s a deep need for self-care if you’re one of those people. So, those are the ten different sparketypes and the ten, sort of on a very basic level, the fundamental impulses that drive them to actually take action.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And can we contrast the sage with the advisor? The sage shares the knowledge. They want folks to have the light of insight. And the advisor, make that a clearer distinction for me.

Jonathan Fields
Yup. The sage basically says, “I know something. I want you to know it. Once you know it, I’m out.” The advisor says, “I have ideas, frameworks, and experience. You want to move through some sort of process, and I’m going to walk alongside of you and be a sounding board, be a mentor, be a confidant, as you move through this process.” And so, it’s less about, “Hey, I’m going to tell you something really cool or valuable,” and then tap out. It’s more about, “I’m going to walk alongside of you. I’m going to be with you in a relational way, in a safe way, and help you navigate this particular moment or experience or process.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, to recap, we got the maven, all about knowledge acquisition; we got the maker, about creation; the scientist, about figuring things out; the performer, likes to sing, dance, or put it out there; the essentialist, finding order out of chaos; the warrior, gathering, organizing, leading folks; the sage, sharing knowledge; the advisor, mentoring alongside for the duration; the advocate, championing something; and the nurturer, providing care.

And so, there we go, there’s ten. We did it. Hooray! And so, the idea is when you’re doing work that fits into one of those that is yours, you are feeling that meaningfulness, that flow, that purpose, that energy, the good stuff. And when you’re working on something that is not it, you feel the opposite of that. Is that the short hand there?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah. Fundamentally, the more that you can align what you do with this basic impulse, the more you have those feelings, the more likely you are to access them, and the more intense those feelings can become, and the more sustained they can become. And the more what you do conflicts with those impulses, the less likely you are to feel them. You may still feel the glow of accomplishment. You may still revel in the sense of camaraderie with people who you just really enjoy being around.

So, this is not the only thing that gives us a feeling that we want to feel in the context of work but it’s really important. And I think a lot of us look at the external things, and we say, “Let’s look at culture, let’s look at team dynamics, let’s look at the motivational things, let’s look at the carrot and the stick, let’s look at leadership and growth opportunities.” All of those things matter but none of them does a whole lot if the fundamental nature of what you do when you show up and spend your seven to 12 hours a day working is misaligned with the impulse for work that makes you come alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I’d love to get your perspective in terms of once you know this, what are some of the top things you recommend people do or not do in terms of they’re kind of like, “Okay, I took the quiz. It was cool. I got my sparketype. That sounds about right. Thank you, Jonathan. Now what?”

Jonathan Fields
Let’s start with what not to do because this tends to be a really big impulse for people. Once they discover this thing, they’ll immediately tend to look at the work that they’re doing and say, “Huh, like, am I doing, like is this impulse that is so central to me? Am I actually expressing this in the work that I’m currently doing?” And if they’re not, there’s very often this impulse to say, “Oh, wow, I need to just blow everything up. I need to walk away. I need to start over. I need to find something entirely different.” And what I’m going to invite you to do is not do that.

There may be people for whom that is an intelligent, that is a reasoned step, but, generally, that’s the last step that you want to take, not the first, especially once you’re a little bit further into life and you’ve got responsibilities, and there are a lot of things hanging on the fact that your job may be sustaining a family in a particular way. It’s not so easy to do that.

We tend to dramatically overestimate the giddiness and the joy, the elation, that we’ll feel when we blow things up and we have this freedom, and then we dive into something that we absolutely are drawn to, and we underestimate the time that it will take to actually get there, and the pain of the disruption that will be caused through that process. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for everyone but it means that, in my mind, it’s the last thing that you consider doing, not the first.

What I would consider doing as the first part of the exploration, to say, “Okay, let me look at the work that I’m doing right now,” and then do that same analysis, “How aligned is what I’m doing with this fundamental impulse forever?” If I’m a maker, “How much of my time, how much opportunity do I have to actually immerse myself in a process of creation?”

And then if you start to see, “Well, actually, there’s a whole bunch of this that is really well-aligned but there’s 30% of the work that’s completely misaligned,” or maybe there’s 50% where you just have no opportunity to express this. Then you start to ask the question, “How can I reimagine what I’m doing now? How can I do it in different ways? How can I look for ways to try different tasks, use different tools, dip into different processes, that may allow me to express this impulse without having to make these really big disruptive changes?”

And then start to run little experiments, “Well, what if I do a little more of this and a little less of this?” And what you’ll find over time, for most people, is that you have a lot more ability to do that. And as you start to do that, the way that you feel in your work starts to change. You start to show up differently and people actually start to respond to you differently because your state is essentially different and better and improved and more energized and more alive.

And a lot of people can actually get a lot closer to the feeling that they imagined by reimagining what they’re doing, even doing things that were not squarely within your job description but they’re available to you to actually start doing, simply because of the way that it makes you feel.

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

Jonathan Fields
Just, I think we’re in a moment right now where really big questioning has become normalized in a way that has not in generations. There’s a lot of judgment if you’re sort of working in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, “You know what, I want to think about what got me here and is it the thing that’s going to get me there? And maybe I’m going to do some really big reimagining.” That kind of questioning was sort of not welcomed socially in a lot of contexts.

What’s happening in the world right now has shaken people so much and on a scale that that kind of questioning has actually been normalized now. So, we have this rare window of opportunity to step into it, to really examine, and to not hide it, to be public, to have conversations and discourse and seek help, in a way that would’ve been a lot more difficult just a few years ago. And what I would invite people to do is to not waste this window.

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

Jonathan Fields
There’s a classic script or book or poem, really, called the Bhagavadgita, and it’s not written in English. It’s written in Sanskrit. But one of the translations, there’s a line in it that translates roughly to, “Far better to live your life imperfectly than to live another’s life perfectly.” And that has always landed really powerfully with me.

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

Jonathan Fields
I think I was fascinated for a long time with a bunch of the research around self-regulation and that positioned it as a depletable resource. And what I’ve been probably equally fascinated by recently is that the sort of emerging, the follow-on research around that shows that actually whether willpower or self-regulation is a depletable resource or not, is largely determined by whether you believe it is or not, and that the original research wasn’t entirely correct, which means that we have a lot more control over our self-control.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And a favorite book?

Jonathan Fields
One that comes to mind is an oldie but a goodie. It was originally published as a short story in Life magazine in 1951, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I’m a huge fan of Hemingway’s writing because of how much he can convey, how much he can leave you with so few words. His efficiency in language is astounding, and then the story of this old man, Santiago, it starts as what you would think on the surface is a battle between him and this great fish. But what he’s really doing is a deep meditation on how we interact with the things that we see as struggle and how we reframe them as partnership in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with listeners and others, and say, “Wow, that was good,” and they say, “Jonathan, I love it when you said this”?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah, there’s something that I’ve been talking about recently, and I haven’t shared it with a lot but I’ll share it here with you. It’s what I call the principle of maximum sustainable generosity. It’s the way that I look at building businesses but it’s also the way I look at building relationships, just the way that I look at moving into life, which is basically asking the question, “How can I be as generous as humanly possible in the way that I move into the world, in the way that I offer things to others, in the way that I build relationships, and do it in a way that is sustainable over time, financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m going to chew on that. Thank you. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jonathan Fields
I would point them either to the Good Life Project Podcast. And if you want to learn more about the sparketypes, at Sparketype.com, and the book Sparked is just available at booksellers everywhere.

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

Jonathan Fields
Yeah. My call to action really bridges off of what I shared earlier about this being a unique moment in time. A lot of people, I think, have not been entirely satisfied with the way that they work. It may be taking care of them financially, it may be giving them a certain amount of security, but life is short. I think we’ve been all reminded how tender it can be most recently. I got a huge wakeup call around that during 9/11 when I was in New York City, and that shifted the way that I look at the world, the way that I look at work.

I think we’re in a moment right now where there’s a similar disruption happening. And my invitation would be to not take this feeling, not take this questioning, and just bury it, just stifle it, and just kind of keep on keeping on, and keep your head down. Whether you make a bigger change or not, it doesn’t really matter. But take this window as an invitation to discover more about who you are, about what fills you up, about what empties you out, and then use that information to try and make better decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jonathan, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best as you keep on putting your imprint on cool stuff that makes you come alive.

Jonathan Fields
Thanks so much. Appreciate you having me.

699: Redefining Success for More Fulfilling Days with Brad Stulberg

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Brad Stulberg says: "There is hardly, if any, correlation between more money and more fulfillment, more happiness, more health."

Brad Stulberg discusses the fundamental mindset shift that helps us feel more fulfilled every day.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The deeply-rooted belief that explains why we’re often dissatisfied 
  2. The simple secret to feeling more fulfilled every day
  3. The hidden costs of efficiency 

About Brad

Brad Stulberg is an internationally known expert on human performance, well-being, and sustainable success. He is coauthor of the bestselling Peak Performance and The Passion Paradox. His work has appeared in the New York TimesWall Street JournalLos Angeles TimesWiredForbes, and more, and he is a contributing editor to Outside Magazine. In his coaching practice, Brad works with executives and entrepreneurs on their performance and well-being, and he regularly speaks to large organizations on these topics as well.

Resources Mentioned

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Brad Stulberg Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Brad, thanks for joining us again on How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Brad Stulberg
Hey, Pete, it’s great to be talking with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Well, I’m looking forward to digging into your latest, your book, The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds—Not Crushes—Your Soul.” I just get a kick out of that subtitle Feeds—Not Crushes. That’s fun. So, yeah, I want to get there. But, first, it’s funny, I am prepping for a camping trip actually and you are a contributing editor to Outside Magazine, which I have looked at several times.

And it seems like you guys always get cool gear sent to you to check out, to test, to review. I’d like to hear if there’s been any just straight up, silly, ridiculous, noteworthily, hilarious devices that have been sent your way in the years you’ve been doing this.

Brad Stulberg
Oh, my gosh, the list is infinite, particularly around so-called wellness products. Most of my writing for Outside is around health and wellbeing, and the amounts of products with such broad claims, all containing CBD, is just outrageous. You’ve got CBD for your sore knees, CBD for your anxiety, CBD for your dog’s sore knees, CBD for your dog’s anxiety, CBD for your child. So, I think we’re in like peak CBD wave.

Now, whether or not CBD does any of those things, I can’t say. I’m quite skeptical. But, perhaps, more helpful for your camping pursuits, the one device that I find so helpful that so many people often overlook is just a really good light that you can strap onto your head, so like a headlamp for reading at night without keeping everyone else up, for navigating the camp ground when it is late or pitch black, and for just getting around. You don’t have to find a flashlight, it’s just there on your head. So, that is my recommendation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. I sprang for a fancy one, I think it was a Black Diamond, and, yes, it has served me well. I have fond memories of everyone having their little headlamps on playing cards at night on the campsite, and it’s a fun little picture. Cool.

Well, so let’s talk about groundedness what’s the big idea behind this latest book?

Brad Stulberg
Right. So, the big idea is this. If you look at charts showing the performance of the stock market or the national GDP in America but also in most Western countries, you see a trajectory that looks very good. It is a pretty consistent rise. But then if you look at charts of depression, anxiety, loneliness, burnout, you see the exact opposite. You see a pretty steep and consistent decrease.

So, the book asks, “How do we reconcile these two things?” The measures that we have show that people are doing really well in terms of GDP and stock market, but these other measures show that we’re not. And I call this problem, or at the least the problem is a function of something that I call heroic individualism, which is this notion that the only arbiter of success is external measurement and it’s a constant race for the next thing, to constantly one up yourself, one up others, and it’s like this never-ending game that is very much fueled by consumer marketing to be better, have more, do better, succeed, and it’s leaving people feeling pretty miserable.

And the solution that I proposed is this framework of groundedness which is based on modern science, ancient wisdom, and concrete practices from individuals who have done well but, more importantly, felt low along the way and had fulfilling lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds lovely. I’d like that. And so then, it’s intriguing, you’re right. So, one would think that in a world in which folks, individuals, are wealthier, we ought to be happier and better off. And I guess there’s been a host of research on that which seems to suggest that there’s really kind of a cutoff point. Like, once your needs are pretty well met and you’re not like worried about, I don’t know, housing or food, or you can buy the basics that you need to be fine and not be freaked out, it seems like right around that point, you don’t get much benefit from being wealthier. Does that tie into some of this as well?

Brad Stulberg
It does, yeah. There are some research that shows just that, that once your basic needs are met, I’ll throw healthcare in there as well, but shelter, food, healthcare, that, generally speaking, more money is not tied to more health or more happiness. I think if you’re a double-minimum wage worker that’s working those jobs so that you can meet those basic needs then, yeah, more money would help. But for the average knowledge worker or business professional, there is hardly, if any, correlation between more money and more fulfillment, more happiness, more health.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, with that established, then we’re going to talk about groundedness a lot. Could you give us a definition for what is groundedness? What is the opposite of groundedness? What does that kind of look like?

Brad Stulberg
Sure. So, the opposite of groundedness is to be pushed and pulled by the frenetic energy and fast-paced-ness of the culture of your life. So, it constantly feels like you’re falling behind, you’re all over the place, you’re treading water, you’re seeking some kind of contentment, you’re not sure where to find it, so you don’t feel firmly rooted where you are.

And, as a result, even if you’re striving and even if you’re successful by conventional standards, you probably don’t feel very good. Lots of people find themselves in this position. Unfortunately, this was true before COVID, certainly true during COVID, and I think a lot of people are now evaluating, “Hey, as we emerge from this pandemic, how can I craft a life that perhaps feels more wholesome and more fulfilling?”

So, the opposite of that being pushed and pulled around is being grounded. And being grounded is about being firmly rooted where you are. It is not a lack of ambition or a lack of striving, but it is doing so from a place of having a very solid foundation in place. And what tends to happen to pushers, high-achieving people, successful professionals, is that once they start to have some success, they often focus on the overstory of the metaphorical tree, so the bright and shiny objects, the next thing, and they neglect the foundation, the core, the trunk, the root system that holds it to the ground, and that whenever rough weather comes, the whole tree is at risk of toppling.

So, this book says, “Hey, here’s how you build that solid foundation that will support you and hold you through highs and lows, and an outcome of that is not only setting yourself up for success but also finding some more fulfillment in life and some contentment and not constantly needing to be chasing the next thing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds excellent. Can you share with us an example of that in practice, like someone who made the shift, they got extra-grounded and good things came from it?

Brad Stulberg
Yeah. So, there’s five principles that are really key, I think, to talk about that help take this from something that sounds really good to something that is concrete and achievable for so many people. And I’m going to pair each of these principles against the current ethos.

So, the first principle is to accept where you are to get where you want to go. And the current culture very much encourages magical thinking, delusional thinking, things don’t go your way, you’re not happy with your circumstance. And instead of face it, well, what do you do? You buy something, you numb it with a substance, maybe you go on social media and you post and you tweet, but you’re never really fully confronting what’s in front of you. And whether things are going well or going not, you have to be where you are, accept what’s happening, and confront what’s in front of you because, otherwise, you’re never working on the thing that needs to be worked on.

The second big principle is cultivating presence so that you can own your energy and attention instead of have it be all over the place. So, what is the current ethos all about? It’s about distraction, busyness, overscheduling, being everything to everyone everywhere all the time. Groundedness asks to say, “Hey, my presence, my attention, my time is actually my life. That’s all that I have so I need to take ownership of it. I need to be more intentional about how I use it.”

The third principle is this notion of being patient to get where you’re going faster. Again, let’s compare this to heroic individualism and the current ethos, which says that you should move fast and break things, you should strive for hacks, for silver bullets, for overnight breakthroughs. What I argue in the book and what the research shows is that all of that tends not to work, and, if anything, it sets you back. If you move fast and break things, what tends to happen is you end up broken. So, groundedness calls for patience, for giving things time and space to unfold, and for really committing to staying on a path and not getting off and on it and off and on it as the next bad comes out.

The fourth principle is vulnerability to build genuine strength and confidence. Particularly with men but with women as well, the current ethos is very much about invincibility. I think there’s a bestselling book by a guy whose last name is, ironically, Asprey, and the book is called Bulletproof, and there’s this whole notion about becoming bulletproof. But humans aren’t robots. We’re not machines that are hardwired. We’re actually quite soft. And the more vulnerable that we can be with ourselves and with others, the stronger and more confident we become because we’re no longer hiding anything. When you’re not hiding something, then you can really own your strength.

And then the fifth, and perhaps the most important, principle is to build deep community. So, the temptation is to prioritize optimization, the hustle culture, road efficiency, more, more, more, and what often gets cannibalized is the time spent forging a true sense of belonging and community, yet we know what makes us happy, what helps ground us when we soar, and what also provides a safety net when things aren’t going well is a sense of belonging to something that’s beyond ourselves, to a community, to strong relationships.

So, those are the five principles that yield the sense of endurance, unwavering strength, ability to be where you are, find fulfillment and still strive for success.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, there’s a lot to dig into in each of these. What are some practices associated with accepting where you are while also not being sort of resigned, like, “Well, that’s who I am. That’s the way it is”? Like, what is that practice of accepting where you are in an excellent way look, sound, and feel like?

Brad Stulberg
I love that you asked that question. So, thank you for asking that, Pete, because so many people hear about acceptance, and they immediately think passive resignation, and the truth couldn’t be farther from that. The best way to move forward and to excel, to pursue excellence, to get better, is to start from a place of fully accepting where you are. And the reason for this is twofold.

The first, as I mentioned earlier, is if you don’t accurately appraise your situation, whatever steps you take to improve are not going to be the best steps because you’re not working on reality. The second is you actually want to be pretty confident and content to get better. If you feel the need to get better, the compulsion to get better, “If I don’t get better, everything is going to go to crap,” for most people, that leads to tightness, constriction, fear. If you feel okay where you are, you don’t even have to like it but you just have to be okay with what’s happening, then you can drop your shoulders, you can perform from a place of openness, from a place of love, and most people perform better from a place of openness than from a place of tightness and constriction.

Something else that I think is really important to talk about here is this notion of acceptance and commitment therapy, which is a huge part of the book. And acceptance and commitment ask you to do two things. The first, accept where you are, be clearheaded about it. The second is to know your core values, the things that define you, that make you who you are, and really commit to practicing them day in and day out. And by merging an acceptance of the current situation with the ability to practice your core values, that’s how you get where you want to go.

The final story that I’ll tell, it’s an old ancient Eastern parable about the second arrow, and this is so applicable to so many people today. So, the first arrow, you often can’t control. This can be an illness, it can be being laid off at work, it can be a global pandemic. The second arrow, your judgments about that situation, your denial of that situation, your fear of that situation, your resistance of that situation. The second arrow often hurts worse than the first arrow.

So, what acceptance asks you to do is not be all rosy and deny that there aren’t plenty of first arrows, but instead of wasting the time and energy judging it and resisting it and deluding yourself about it, to say, “Hey, this is what’s happening right now. Here’s what I need to do to improve the situation.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. So, that’s the acceptance piece. And when it comes to cultivating presence, yeah, I think that just about all of us are feeling it in terms of in ourselves and in others, folks don’t seem as present. There’s a boatload of distractions, and we can wax poetically about the doubling of information and omnipresent devices and social media, yadda, yadda. But what are the best ways to get more present?

Brad Stulberg
All right. So, here we go. There’s a study that I wrote in the book by some researchers from Harvard, and they, very ironically, had people download an app on their phones that allowed the researchers to ping them throughout the day. And what the researchers found is that, excuse me, they pinged them and asked them what they were doing and their level of concentration and their level of happiness.

And what the researchers found is it wasn’t so much the activity that someone was doing that made them happy or not, it was their level of presence. So, if someone was fixing their car or mowing their lawn, but reported being quite present while they were doing it, versus someone that might’ve been having sex but not present, the person that was mowing the lawn actually reports being happier in that moment.

So, we often think that we need to be doing the right activity to be fulfilled to be happy, but often we actually just need to be present for what’s in front of us. So, then the question, of course, becomes, “Well, how do you cultivate presence?” And I like to use an analogy of brown rice and M&Ms. So, if you’re ever faced with a bowl of brown rice and a bowl of M&Ms and you’re quite hungry, if you’re anything like me, and like just about everyone I’ve ever asked this question to, you’re going to go for the M&Ms, especially if they’re peanut M&Ms. And the M&Ms are always going to taste really good on that first bite, much better than the brown rice.

Ten minutes later, if you’ve just been eating M&Ms, it might still be pretty good, you might be happy with your decision. But if you choose M&Ms for hours, days, weeks, months, eventually you’re going to start feel gross and sick. And M&Ms are like all the things that encroach upon our attention when we’re doing stuff that matters.

So, the stuff that matters is the brown rice. Working on a big report, writing a book, creating a song, trying to do deep focus brainstorming with colleagues, that stuff is brown rice. M&Ms, social media, refreshing emails, CNN.com, the list goes on and on. All those things feel better in the moment because we’re getting some dopamine hits, some thrill, some excitement but, over time, you get on this huge bender of distraction.

So, much like with real M&Ms, with distraction M&Ms, the best thing that you can do is try to keep them out of the house. So, you design your environment to avoid distractions. And then, also, have this mindset shift that realizes that, “Hey, the deep focus, fully present work that I’m doing might not feel as good at first as engaging in distractions, but I know if I just stick with it, I’ll feel much better.”

And then what happens is you get enough positive feedback and enough reinforcement that, eventually, you start to prefer brown rice to the M&Ms, you prefer presence to distraction because you know how much better it makes you feel.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that sounds sensible in terms of, yup, that checks out in terms of those being the consequences of going there, and so keep them out of the house is great. So, just think about shaping your environment such that the enticing distractions aren’t as available. I guess what I’m finding in my own distracted life is a lot of the distractions, they come from within. It’s like I’m really curious. I got a lot of curiosity. It’s good for a podcaster.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’ve got some curiosity and so I’m doing something, it’s like, “Well, what about this?” And so, the personal practice, when it’s really firing hard, like I find my favorite notebook for this purpose and I write down, “I am doing this.” And then for all the distractions that pop up, it’s like, “Okay, I’m very curious about that. I’m just going to write it down. It’s there so I’m not going to forget about it.”

And then it’s almost like it kind of feels like a workout in terms of, “Well, hey,” actually I got this from you and I think about it all the time, “stress plus rest equals growth,” in terms of like, “I’m focusing. I’m focusing. I am getting kind of tired in focusing and I’m getting all the more tempted but I’m going to hold out for my 30, 60, 90 minutes, whatever,” it’s like, “Ah.” So, it’s like the end of a workout, I get to have a beverage, get in the shower, or whatever.

So, anyway, that’s one thing I figured out but you got the book. Tell me, when distraction comes from within, how do you recommend we cultivate all the more presence?

Brad Stulberg
So, writing it down was the first thing I was going to say, and you beat me to it, so you’re already on track, Pete. The only thing I’ll add to what you said is when you write that thing down, you’re actually offloading it from your brain, so not only do you give yourself permission to stop thinking about it but you also don’t have to worry about forgetting it, because we want to remember our really interesting insights and curious ideas. Someone like who’s a creative, it’s core to your work, to your identity.

What you also just described is almost like a working meditation. So, mindfulness meditation is the practice that always comes up with training presence. And why is that? Because meditation is doing exactly what you just said. Instead of the paying attention to whatever you’re working on, you’re paying attention to your breath, you have thoughts and feelings that arise from within, they distract you, you notice them, non-judgmentally you say, “Oh, interesting distraction. Back to my breath.” In your case, “Oh, interesting thought. I’m going to write it down. Back to what’s in front of me.” Practice that over and over again, and it should get much easier to pay attention.

Something else that helps a here is to schedule blocks of deep focus work. So, oftentimes, what I find people will do is they’ll say, “Oh, this sounds great. I’m going to have an entirely deep-focus present day.” And unless you are a motorcycle mechanic in a room with no digital devices at all, it is extremely hard for people in the 21st century to be distraction-free. What ends up happening is you cave in. You check your email, you check your social media, blah, blah, blah. And negative; you fail.

So, rather than try to avoid distractions all day, what I like to do, and what I tell my clients to do, what I write about in the book, is just to schedule times for deep work, for full present work, and then whatever happens, the rest of the day happens. If you schedule two 90-minute blocks to be present and direct your energy to something that really matters to you, only three hours, you would be amazed at how much you get gone and how good you feel.

I have some entrepreneur coaching clients who are in companies, a stage, where there’s a ton of operational work to do, constant fire drills; keeping the doors open and closed is really hard work. And a common issue that they’ll come to me is they feel empty at the end of the day. They feel like they didn’t really accomplish anything. And for these really busy operators, even just one hour of deep-focus work where they can take something that is at point A, exert energy and presence and get it to point B, leaves them feeling so much more satiated at the end of the day.

So, that’s why I think scheduling, it can be really important. I want to get in the weeds because I know that your audience tend to be business professionals that really enjoy the concrete. In addition to scheduling deep-focus work and fully present work, you want to know what you’re doing ahead of time. Because if you don’t, and that free hour or 90 minutes pops up on your calendar, you have a greater likelihood of filling it with email or with scrolling.

Whereas, if you know ahead of time that, “Hey, today, during my deep-focus work, I’m going to read Brad’s book,” or, “I’m going to work on the PowerPoint deck for this client,” or, “I need to draft this memo,” or, “I really need to write these three important emails.” Well, then you’ll actually do that thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. And it’s funny, I used to resist that in terms of it’s like, “Oh, no, something really important might come up.” But I find that when I schedule the thing, and then I say, “Okay, that’s the thing,” then I actually know I can trust myself. It’s like, “Well, no, Pete, that was the most important thing when you scheduled it. And now there is a thing that has greater impact. It’s not just urgent. It straight out has greater impact that’s true.”

And so then, I can, in good conscience, say, “Well, this deep-work time was scheduled for important thing A, but in the last four days, important thing B is now clearly way more important than important thing A, and so I’m going to do that instead.” And I can do that as opposed to, it’s like, “Well, no, I feel like catching up on the news instead.” It’s a different substitution and I know it.

Brad Stulberg
But you’re pausing and you’re deliberately making that decision, and I would argue that that’s the value of the pause. And the pushback is always to my coaching clients, “Is it really more important or impactful or is it just something that you happen to be more excited about now?” Because, I’m not saying this is happening with you, but what can happen in really high-achieving professionals is that the long projects where you don’t see immediate results that take a lot of time tend to not get worked on for that very reason.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true, yes. And so, I think it’s so great to have some clear metrics. And for business, I think about expected profit created per hour invested, or wealth generated if we’re going broader in terms of thinking, “I really do need to get a financial planner.”

Brad Stulberg
And then what I would also say, back to measuring what actually matters, is some level of fulfillment. And if you spend an hour doing X or an hour doing Y, there’s also a question of, “Hey, when you get home and you’re with your partner or you’re with your kids, what’s going to make you feel like you’re satiated, like you had a good day at work?” And something that I talk about a lot in the book is so many people that are frenetic and all over the place, and don’t own their energy and attention, they come home from work and they’re super short with their kids or their spouse, and they don’t know why.

And it’s because they feel guilty that they weren’t productive during the day, and they were pushed and pulled, and they had no time, and, “Now, I’m at home and now I can’t even own my time because my partner needs it and that my kid needs it.” Whereas, if you just set aside an hour to do something important that fills up your cup, the rest of the day you can release from that need. And, ideally, you go from an hour to an hour and a half, to two, to three, to four. And some people can do five hours of deep work in a day. They have the capacity to do it, and they have a job that lets them.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, so let’s talk about fulfillment in terms of values, clarity, what do you really want. What’s your top perspectives in terms of arriving at that clarity, of determining the answers to that, and what one’s values truly are?

Brad Stulberg
So, fulfillment is an inside game, that’s the first thing. There’s a concept in the book that I write about called the arrival fallacy, which basically says that so many individuals will say, “I’ll just be content, I’ll just be fulfilled, I’ll just be happy when I get X, Y, Z; that promotion, that car, that beautiful partner, my book sells this many copies, my podcast is number one and its category, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s a fallacy because we never really arrive. The goalpost is always 10 yards down the field, “Oh, your podcast is number one in personal growth or in learning. Well, why isn’t it number one overall?” “Your book sold a thousand copies. Why not two?” “You got promoted to be VP. Well, now, I want to be the CEO.” You never really arrive so you cannot find fulfillment from chasing something outside of yourself.

Brad Stulberg
And it’s a very human thing to do.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so true. When those numbers, they resonate. And that’s sort of my joke whenever I catch a download milestone, it’s like, “Ooh, I’m at 15 million downloads but, you know what, I’ll truly be happy when I’m at 16 million downloads.” It’s an absurdity and I just sort of check myself with that little joke every time we hit the next million.

Brad Stulberg
And I catch myself doing the same thing. Like, none of this is bad. This is human nature. I write books for myself as much as anyone, so that’s why the practice of groundedness is in the title. This stuff is an ongoing practice. So, yes, very human to catch yourself saying, “If then, then I’ll be content. Then I’ll be able to just sit down in the easy chair and be happy,” but that doesn’t happen. Research shows it, all the ancient wisdom traditions point toward it, and stories of people like me and you say the same.

So, rather than try to achieve fulfillment externally, if you can shift the focus internally, then you’ll have a much better chance of doing it. And this is where core values become so important and why they’re such a big part of the book. So, I think about core values as the qualities that you most want to embody, that make you who you are, and if you’re not sure of what those are, you look at people that you really respect, and you say, “What do I respect about this person?” And it’s rarely, “Oh, they sold three million books.” It might be that they are a hard worker, or they’re kind, or they’re compassionate, or they’re present. Those are core values.

So, I think it’s good to come up with between three and five. You don’t want to have a laundry list because then you end up not really doing any. You don’t want to just have one because that’s not very specific. Then for each value, again, things like creativity, family, reputation, grit, determination, persistence, love, kindness, you want to individualize it and define it. So, what does something as broad as love mean to you? What does reputation mean to you? What does grit mean to you?

Then here’s where the rubber really hits the road. For each of those things, in addition to a definition, you want to come up with three daily practices, or weekly practices, monthly practices, where your day-to-day concrete actions align with those core values. In that way, regardless of what’s happening externally, if you can show up and live, in alignment with your core values, then you can feel really good about yourself, not just because “succeeded at the game,” but because, again, these are the things that make you who you are, that you want to embody. When you’re living in alignment with these things, you tend to feel good.

So, an example of this is someone might have the core value love. Okay. Well, this is super esoteric. And let’s say that they define love as “Caring deeply and paying close attention to people and pursuits that matter to me.” Okay, that’s getting a little bit better. Now let’s get to daily practice. “Well, one of those people and pursuits is my relationship with my partner. And this might mean that every night during dinner, I’m going to turn my phone off and put it in another room so I’ll have a better chance of being present for her.” Boom! That’s a practice. It might mean that, “Hey, I’m a creative person, and when I write music, I want to bring all of my loving energy to that. So, I’m going to schedule three-by-one hour blocks a week of distraction-free time to write music.” Now you’re practicing love.

Let’s say the core value is grit. The daily practice might be, “Every time I’m really tempted to stop something and quit what I’m doing, I’m going to say, ‘What’s the cost of just giving it 10 more days to play out and see if it can’t work out?’” That’s the practice that embodies grit. So, you go from these very noble, high-level, lofty, ambitious qualities, down to the minutiae of day-to-day, and that is ultimately how you become more grounded and how you achieve fulfillment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. And I like that extra level of the practices, and you’re right.

Brad Stulberg
I’ve heard people call it an internal dashboard.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like it.

Brad Stulberg
So, it’s like, okay, if your end goal is profit, well, in a business sense, where you have all these steps to execute on to get there. So, here, if your end goal is groundedness or fulfillment, well, here are the three to five things that ladder up to it, and then here are the process measures that are going to get you there.

Pete Mockaitis
And what I like so much is that you can, I don’t know, for better or for worse, I don’t know. Brad, maybe you’ll coach me. I really like feeling like a winner and I really hate feeling like a loser. And so, there’s some little bit of growth mindset, fixed mindset, precariousness there associated with doing things that I’m not good at. I seem to have a heck of a time navigating the medical landscape in the United States, it’s like, “What? My appointment was cancelled. Why? I didn’t do that thing. Well, what?” Whatever. So, that makes me feel like a loser.

And so, what’s cool about this notion of the internal dashboard and fulfillment being an inside game is that you can be a winner no matter what the external results are, “I got dozens of medical appointments cancelled.” It’s like, “But you know what, I still nailed those daily practices associated with the values of who I want to be. So, I’m probably not going to feel all that down about it. It’s like, yeah, that’s annoying and that’s a bummer, and I guess I’m going to have to do it again. But, hey, I’m being who I want to be, and that’s pretty awesome.”

Brad Stulberg
Yes. It’s the ultimate F-U to all the voices in your head that are like, “Oh, you didn’t do good enough. You’re not enough. This isn’t…” And it gets back to what we’re saying. The more you practice those values, that actually, the paradox is the better chance you’ll have of conventional success because you’ll be doing it for the right reasons from a place of strength and confidence.

It also gets back to that practice around presence and scheduling time for very focused presence. Because if you just say, “I’m going to be present all the time,” well, you’re going to be a loser because you’re a human being in the 21st century where distractions are everywhere. Whereas, if you say, “Actually, just for three 90-minute blocks a week I’m going to be present,” well, that’s a game that you can win at. And winning feeling is good. So, you win then maybe you say, “Four by 90-minutes,” and you keep the ball rolling.

So, so much of this is shifting from the more traditional self-help, hustle culture, crush it, be bulletproof, be great always, never be content, to more of a research-backed look, that actually says, “Hey, contentment and achievement go hand-in-hand. The more that you can live on your values, even if they have nothing to do with career success, the more successful you’ll be in your career.” The less you need to buy something outside of yourself to feel good or to numb what’s happening, the better you’ll feel and the more effective you’ll be in addressing whatever it is that’s happening.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you. Well, Brad, tell me, any other huge things you want to make sure we don’t skip before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Brad Stulberg
Yeah, I think that we didn’t talk as much, really at all, about community, and I think that that’s a really important practice as well. And I’ll just say that what happens to just about everyone, myself included, is that we can get into a really good groove with whatever it is that we’re working on. And when we’re in those grooves, we want to be efficient. And it’s so easy, easier than ever in today’s day and age, to go from meeting up with friends in person to a Zoom, to go from Zoom to a call, to go from a call to a text, to reschedule it because I can just send you a new calendar link. And we tend to do all this stuff because it makes us “more efficient” with what we’re doing.

And, sure, day to day, like schlepping in the car to go meet up with your friends in person, or joining an actual physical book club, or going to the gym instead of working out at home, that takes time and it will make you less efficient. But when you look back over the course of a year, or a decade, or a lifetime, those relationships and those communities that you’ve built and belong to, that’s the stuff that gives your life meaning, and that will help you find fulfillment. And when you’re experiencing a bout of anxiety or depression, no amount of efficient work is going to help you get out of it but your community will.

Or, if you crush it and you go from 15 million downloads to 40 million downloads, guess who’s going to be there to be like, “Hey, Pete, don’t get drunk off your own success”? Your community. So, it’s this thing that is so foundational to being grounded that’s so often gets overlooked when we’re doing well because it takes time and energy and effort, but it always pays back.

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

Brad Stulberg
“You don’t have to feel good to get going. You need to get going to give yourself a chance to feel good.” And so often, people think that you need to be really motivated or inspired to get started, but then good luck getting started because most people don’t wake up super motivated and inspired every single day of their life. But if you can just get going on the stuff that matters to you and the stuff that’s in alignment with your values, often motivation and inspiration follows.

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

Brad Stulberg
So, I think from this book certainly, and maybe just now in my life, I find the convergence of ancient wisdom tradition thinking and modern science to be just absolutely fascinating. So, for instance, for this book, talking about deep presence and flow, being absorbed in something, losing your sense of self, ego-lessness, everything that the modern scientists describe about these great flow states that we chase, the Buddha described as nirvana, the Tao Te Ching described as the way, and the ancient Greeks described as arete.

So, you could put like a scientific description of a flow state next to what the Buddha called nirvana and they’re the same thing. And I think that, particularly with more of these Eastern wisdom traditions, we’re seeing so much modern science just empirically proving what these thinkers have been pointing to for thousands of years.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Brad Stulberg
I forgot what I said the last time I was on your show, so I don’t want to repeat myself. I will say Middlemarch, which is a novel by George Eliot. It’s a big book. It’s like a door stopper, probably about a thousand pages. But if you’ve got a month or two of your life where you really have a good time to read and you just want to get completely lost in a story about a community and characters and people’s struggles, I highly recommend it.

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

Brad Stulberg
It’s going to sound crazy but a barbell.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Brad Stulberg
So, I’m a writer and a coach. I use my brain to do my work, but my physical practice is just so integral to my being able to sit still, focus, think creatively, solve problems, so, yeah, for me it’s probably a barbell. I’m not really any good at lifting weights, but I firmly believe that movement is a part of my job even though I’m not a pro athlete.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Brad Stulberg
Reading. I just freaking love reading. I can never read enough. It’s a big part of my life. It fuels my own writing. And my wife is constantly probably telling me to stop chattering about whatever book I’m reading but I can’t help myself.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you a lot?

Brad Stulberg
Yeah, I think, particularly in most of my coaching clients, it’s just this identification or language of heroic individualism, “So, I need to be productive. I need to be efficient. I need to keep striving. If I just get this thing then I’ll finally be fulfilled,” and realizing that that’s not your fault, that doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you weak. That is just the water that we swim in in the 21st century here in America and the Western world.

And realizing that that game is ultimately not going to lead to fulfillment, so kind of flipping it on its head and saying, “Hey, what are these principles that will lead to fulfillment? What are my values? How can I live them? How can I accept where I am? How can I be present? How can I be patient?” and so on. So, it’s catching yourself playing the game. And I catch myself playing the game at least weekly. We all do. Realize when you’re playing it and then try to go back to living in alignment with your values to being more grounded.

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

Brad Stulberg
Well, first thing I’d say is please consider the book if you find this interesting. The book goes super deep into all of this. And my website is www.BradStulberg.com, just like my name. And the only social media that I’m really active on is Twitter where my handle is @BStulberg.

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

Brad Stulberg
I do. I think that it would be pretty simple, and it is to be honest with yourself right now if you’re listening, and saying, “Hey, how much am I playing the game of heroic individualism?” And if it feels like hardly at all, great. But if it feels like more than you’d like, try to identify some of your values that are the inside game, define what practices work in alignment with them, and then start building your life around those values. It can be very gradual. This is not about quitting your job. It’s about still being awesome at your job but also making sure that you’re doing it in a way where you’re living in alignment with your values that will, hopefully, leave you not only a high-performer but also fulfilled.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Brad, this has been a treat. Thank you. And good luck in all of your groundedness.

Brad Stulberg
Yeah, thank you, Pete. I hope you stay grounded as well.

689: How Introverts Win at Work with Jennifer Kahnweiler

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Jennifer Kahnweiler debunks pervasive myths about introversion and explains how introverts can flourish at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The core strengths of introverts 
  2. How to get the most out of the introverts in your team
  3. The ABCDs of excellent extrovert/introvert collaboration 

 

About Jennifer

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler is a bestselling author and one of the leading speakers on introverts in the workplace. Her pioneering books, The Introverted LeaderQuiet InfluenceThe Genius of Opposites, and Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces have been translated into 18 languages. The Introverted Leader was named one of the top 5 business books by The Shanghai Daily. 

Jennifer has partnered with leading organizations like Amazon, Merck, Kimberly Clark, NASA, Bosch, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. She has delivered her signature presentations from Singapore to Spain. 

She holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation, awarded to a small percentage of speakers, and serves as a mentor to many professional women. 

A native New Yorker, Jennifer calls Atlanta, GA home. 

Resources Mentioned

Jennifer Kahnweiler Interview Transcript

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
It is my pleasure, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom and I’m also excited to hear your story. This morning, in the gym, there was a lot of Beatles playing, and you actually had an encounter with Paul McCartney. What’s the story here?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Oh, my gosh, this story pops up in family lore time and again. We were vacationing out on Eastern Long Island where I grew up on in the New York area, and the kids were little then, probably your kids’ ages, and we were just having a casual Sunday stroll, and there was nobody on the street in the little town called Amagansett. And my daughter was turning to talk to me and she was knocked down by a bicycle, by a kid on a bike.

And, of course, as a parent, you jump up. She was fine. She was okay. She just was a little bit startled. And we heard, and I’m not going to try to imitate the British accent but Bill and I, my husband, we looked at each other in one second as we were looking at our daughter, and we realized that it was…I was looking right into the eyes of my favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney. And he couldn’t have been nicer and made his son apologize for being careless, so I was impressed by that. And I got to have my Beatles encounter.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is memorable and extra…

Jennifer Kahnweiler
It was.

Pete Mockaitis
…not just, “Oh, there he is in the airport,” but…

Jennifer Kahnweiler
There you go. And I listened to the Beatles channel, too, on the radio so I always think about him. Interesting thinking about personalities, the Beatles have been so analyzed to death, but people talk about the opposite personalities of him and John, and who is the introvert, who is the extrovert, heard that question come up. I’m not quite sure, but I think Paul is pretty introverted. I’ll ask him the next time I see him.

Pete Mockaitis
Next time, yeah. Well, yeah, so we’re going to talk about introversion here. And, boy, you’ve spent quite a boatload of time studying this topic and writing multiple books, The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces. So, wow! Tell us, from all of this work, any particularly surprising or fascinating discoveries that you’ve made along the way?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Well, I tell you what, I came into this work 12 years ago, I started writing, but I think the greatest discovery is, oh, if there’s a great one, is that the definition of introversion and the awareness of introversion, the definition has kind of morphed, and the awareness is basically worldwide now. So, that’s been a surprise.

I didn’t realize, it wasn’t just for my work, believe me, but there was a whole cadre of us in the beginning, including Susan Cain and others, who started dipping into this topic because it had made such a difference in, I’ll speak for myself and my own life as a person married to an introvert for 48 years now, that personally helped me navigate my marriage as one lens. It’s not the only one for sure. But as I started working in organizations, that was a really, really helpful lens to look through.

And I realized a lot of people didn’t realize, A, that they were possibly introverted and that’s why they were having a challenge in our type A organizations, and, B, others didn’t understand introversion. So, that’s probably the biggest kind of nice surprise as the journey has gone on, Pete, really.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so now I’m intrigued. The definition has morphed. I mean, I am a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner. It’s been a while since I’ve done a workshop.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Nice. Nice.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if I’m still in good standing with the organization.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I don’t think it matters. No, I think you’ll be fine.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I have a definition in my mind about what introversion is. So, tell us, how has it evolved?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I think the biggest change that has occurred is that it’s not as discreet as we once might’ve thought. We said, and just to kind of backtrack a little bit, introversion is about energy, and extroversion is about energy, and introverts, the typical understanding of that is introverts get their energy from within. They’re in their heads, they’re thoughtful, they kind of think before they speak, etc. Extroverts tend to get energized by other people. But that’s really pretty simplistic, really, if you think about it.

And so, we’ve come to, now, morphed into, it’s more of a spectrum. Like, a lot of areas that we talk about, including different kinds of autism. All kinds of things are now more of it’s not either/or, it’s not binary.

And so, it’s about what you identify with. There are people, as you know, that most of us are really sort of more towards the middle of the Bell curve anyway, right? I don’t know about yourself, and I have morphed more over to the introvert side even though my friends don’t always believe me about that. My editor even told me that on my last book, before our last meeting, he said, “Jennifer, I think you’ve become more introvert. I think you are an introvert.” I said, “No, I haven’t gone that far.” But he goes, “You’re prepared for meetings. You listen really well.” He was ticking off all the strengths of an introvert.

So, I think people do flex over time, Pete, really. And so, I think that’s where there’s been some more forgiveness and openness to some people say they’re ambiverts. Have you heard that term?

[06:05]

Pete Mockaitis
I have, yeah.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Ambiverts, people identify that. Not as many, there hasn’t been much research on that, but people who go back and forth. And as you know from Myers-Briggs’ work, Carl Jung said we develop over time. So, we do tap into those other sides of ourselves. So, I’m very happy about the fact that we’re not just kind of defining it in one structured way, that there is more flexibility according to the person.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, given that, you mentioned some strengths of introverts. Can you share maybe a cool story? So, your book is The Introverted Leader, and more, could you share with us a cool story about an introvert who just saw some phenomenal results in their career and some of the strengths that they brought to the table that are pretty typical of introverts?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
One that I would think about is a woman named Jill Chang approached me

This woman, Jill Chang, was in Taiwan and Jill reached out to me, she said, “I just wrote a book. I was inspired by you and some others to really tap into and own my introversion. And it made such a huge difference in my life to see my strengths not as weaknesses but the fact that I spend the time preparing, the fact that I’m such a really great listener…”

And this happens a lot, Pete, with folks. They will get more confident because then you start to realize it’s not a liability, this is actually a differentiator that you have from extroverts. So, she did, she named all these things and she wrote me this long email and said, “Would you endorse a book?” And, of course, I was happy to. she went on then to write the book. It became like the number one bestseller in Taiwan, multiple weeks. We were able to introduce her to our publisher here and the book has come a few months ago in English. It came out in Taiwanese. And she became a superstar in her country, I should say.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Quiet Is a Superpower. And so, there’d been many people around the world now, I had a chance to speak in a number of countries, and it was really cool to see the awakening there, so that would be an additional thing I would say. The whole awareness, globally now, has legs and people like Jill are making such a difference in their world. And what’s been also cool is all we’ve been able to collaborate on multiple webinars and presentations with people around the world, too, who are introvert authors, introvert coaches.

I got to tell you, when I started out in this, people like you took the Myers-Briggs so you knew about it, but many people were like, “What? How could you be an introvert and be a leader?” It was a lot of selling, a lot of educating and awareness, so that’s been so gratifying.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, so let’s hear about some of these, the “Quiet Is a Superpower,” and some of these strengths. Can you enumerate a few of them for us?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Sure. Sure. Well, one of them is thinking and not just saying what’s on the top of your mind. So, it’s giving deep reflection, and depth versus breadth is oftentimes what we say, depth with relationships too. Introverts don’t have any patience for small talk often but they have a lot of really great relationships with people – depth versus breadth. Observation.

I mentioned preparation, that’s one of the things that comes up a lot of the time. It’s being able to spend the time ahead of the interview to really think about, “What are the points you want to make? What’s the agenda for the meeting?” All of the aspects of being successful in an organization where you’re not just winging it, where you’re really giving really deep thought, and that really contributes to innovation, to creativity, and all of those great things.

And then, really, I would say the other real strength that I think we saw this come out more in the pandemic is the quiet, being able to take quiet time, being able to embrace silence because that is really when the beautiful inspiration occurs.

I remember one day coming home from work and seeing my 6-year-old in the driveway doing some of her fantasy, just twirling around. We had gotten her a tape of Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. She was pretending that she was like dancing and in her world. Then she caught my eye, and that moment was kind of gone. She ran into the house, threw her umbrella down, where she was doing “Singing in the Rain.” That was the end of that moment. And I always remember that scene because that is what happens so much. We have that interruption from outside forces but also from ourselves where we don’t take the time to really sit.

And I will say for myself, one of the real beauties, and I’ve heard this from other extroverts, is that we were forced in lockdown to do that, to go within. Did you notice that as well? I mean, it was really a change this past year.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. It’s like you just had fewer options available. And so, you had to find something good there, for sure.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Right. So, exactly. So, I would say those are…there were so many more. Writing is another one, how introverts express themselves is so beautiful. A lot of writers are introverted. And so, those are some of the key ones. There are so many more, of course.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s funny, that story with introversion, extroversion, I tend to prefer extroversion. And I remember when I was little, I was also kind of doing my own thing, and I believe I was Captain America or some superhero fighting bad guys, and I was like punching the air and making noises, all that stuff.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
That sounds great on your mic.

Pete Mockaitis
And then my mom came in, and I, too, was kind of embarrassed, like, “Ahh,” like, “What are you doing?” But it was funny, my reaction was I felt a little sheepish but I just kind of said, “Well, you see, mom, I was being Captain America, and there were some guys who needed…”

Jennifer Kahnweiler
You had to explain yourself, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
But, yeah, that’s what I did. And she said, “Oh, okay, that’s great. Well, carry on.”

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Well, no, that’s great that your mom allowed you to do that because it’s one thing I will say is that, and I’m really starting to explore this with some research with a woman who’s doing more work with children and youth and teachers, because I really think that’s where the opportunity is now. Where we really need to start is working with young people to give them permission to do that, whether they be introverts or extroverts. Having that time in your head, it’s precious, but there’s so much external force, and, “He doesn’t talk up enough in class,” and you get graded down for that, all of this bias in our society.

And it really hit me when I was doing career coaching for a number of years. Before I wrote my book, I had a career coaching practice, and I would see lawyer after lawyer come in or professionals who felt they had really poor self-esteem. And a number of them, when I traced back to what was going on, they were more introverted and they had internalized that perception of themselves as not being sociable and not having the interpersonal skills to be successful in the work world. And so, I had to do a lot of sort of unpacking of that with them.

We need to give everybody a chance to reflect. So, all of these qualities, whether it be at school or in the workplace, are positive for all of us. It’s going to create better results.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jennifer, let’s take this moment for listeners to maybe have some of those aha moments, some of those liberations. You said that the lawyers were feeling stressed and inadequate or inferior or troubled because they had internalized messaging that was kind of, I guess, anti-introvert, if that’s a fair characterization.

And so, can you lay it on us in terms of like what are some of those epiphanies, those revelations, that folks tend to have, it’s like, “Oh, that’s not a problem or a bad thing, but just the way I prefer to run my brain and totally okay and, in fact, often advantageous”? Can you share that with us?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah. Well, it’s not always immediate that you turn around that negative thinking because it’s been years that it’s been ingrained in you, whether consciously or not consciously by others. And I don’t think parents or teachers ever meant to give us those messages. It’s also the systems that we’re in to not encourage that. But I will say I do have an image in my head of you do speaking as well, Pete.

When I do this, I’ll do a talk about introvert strengths, or that’s a piece of the talk where we’ll talk about strengths, we talk about challenges. And when I ask the audience to just say for me…I’ll get them started, “Well, what’s an introvert strength that you think?” And people will, one by one, kind of warm up, “They’re great observers,” or, “They’re great deep thinkers,” things we talked about.

You will, literally, when you’re in a live audience, I will literally see people sit up in their chairs even like higher. I mean, I don’t think I’m just visualizing that. And the comments that I get after talks and after training sessions, and what people write in the chats, is that they feel grateful to know this. It’s like, “Aha!” It’s like the first time. I don’t know if you felt this way. The first time I took a Myers-Briggs, I was like I was kind of relieved that I was an extrovert because I didn’t really understand my husband and I were having these issues.

We were early young married just coming home from parties, and he would just go into his cave, and I was like, “What did I do wrong? Well, it was immaturity too but it was also like I needed to process the evening and he needed to get away. And just knowing that, learning that, was huge. It was tremendous. And so, I think once you see teams do this, when I worked with organizations when teams start to talk about these differences, it makes such a difference in how they operate.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a lot of great stuff here, so let’s hear it. So, if someone is an introvert, prefers extroversion, leans introvert, however you want to articulate it…

Jennifer Kahnweiler
If they identify as an introvert.

Pete Mockaitis
Identify as an introvert. What are some of the top suggestions you have that can help make them all the more awesome at their jobs?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Right. And I like what you said, help make them more awesome, not change into an extrovert. That is the key, right? when you stop trying to be an extrovert, that’s probably the big idea here. And I found that when I researched leadership, when I researched influence, that that’s when introverts are most successful.

So, what do they do? The four P’s is what I usually go back to when that question is asked, and that came from the questions I asked of introverted leaders, I said, “So, how did you become successful?” And we define success in different ways, in different industries, but they were seen as successful. And I interviewed all kind of people. And they said, first of all, the first P is prepare, so back to their strength. Introverts prepare. They prepare questions. The kind of examples I gave earlier.

And that’s been a great lesson for me because I prepare a lot and I see that you do because you prepare your guests. I’ve never seen, I’ve never gotten a slide deck before. I’ve been on a hundred podcasts; I’ve never gotten a slide deck.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for reading it.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
So, you’ve learned that, right? You learned how effective preparation can be. Anyway, that’s one thing they do and that’s within all leadership scenario, whether it be networking, and they’re scared to go to a live networking reception, and they’re like, “How am I going to get ready for this?” I remember interviewing this one guy, a Martin, and he said, “I found out at our local, I had to do business development. I was really scared to do it, but I researched who was going to be there.”

And he found out that one of the guys was in this nonprofit that he was interested in so he did the research. That got him the deal. It was so many examples like that where he took the time. He didn’t just like, “Oh, I’m a great schmoozer. I’m going to go come.” Preparation.

Second thing is presence. So, what impressed me so much in my own working life was coming across introverted leaders, and I kind of sensed when they were introverted. They were with me when they with me. They were listening. They had their feet on the ground. They were tuned in. If they were doing a meeting, they weren’t worrying about, “Well, I didn’t prepare enough,” or, “What’s going to happen in the outcome?” They were truly tuned in to what was happening. And if things change, they were able to flex because they weren’t thinking about the past or the future. Presence is a huge strength.

Third area was pushing. So, what I meant by that was stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s what they told me, again the leaders said, “I push myself. I stretch myself.” And we know this with people who are high performers that they’re constantly setting the bar higher, not so much that they’re going to pull a muscle but that they’re going to feel it a little bit the next day, that they pushed themselves.

And then the fourth area is practice, and that’s like all the virtuosos do, and I always use the examples of comedians, people like Jerry Seinfeld who you wouldn’t think has to go out on the road but he does it because he talks about his comedic muscle like a fiber optic cable that will shrivel up if it’s not used. And so, all the virtuosos practice all the time. So, they look for opportunities to practice. And what happens is interesting because, when I do these programs with senior leaders, we do a lot now on virtual fireside chats.

So, I’ll do sort of a presentation and then I’ll ask for somebody at the C level or that area who’s coming out as an introverted leader. And, by the way, we used to have a lot of trouble getting those people to admit it or to understand it. And they come and we do a really vibrant conversation about that and they talk about how they push themselves and how they stretch. And for a number of them, I’ve had some recently who’ve been so nervous to do that, to do the fireside chat on Zoom, that they’ve actually written out everything and practiced. We’ve done a session with it. It’s very interesting.

So, then they practice and are good at doing what they do. But many of them are told by their teams and by others that they’re not introverts, they’ll say, “There’s no way you’re an introvert.” So, they’d have to educate people.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, so these four P’s, that’s an interesting maybe blend that we’ve got here because some of these things, it sounds like, come very naturally to introverts and so it’s sort of like, “Hey, lean into those strengths. You’re going to wow them if you do this thing that introverts tend to often be good at anyway.” And others are more of, “Yeah, and also try to do some things that they might be a little uncomfortable with.”

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah, because we still live in a very extroverted world, don’t we, where people, you are required to be in front of people. It’s just the way it is. People judge you if you don’t speak. You have to, in meetings, let’s say you’re with your peers and you’re not speaking up, you got to learn some tricks to do that. And whether it’s preparation or part of that preparation might be to have somebody tee the ball to you when you want to make a comment.

But I will say, Pete, too, that model has been around since my first book. People really resonate with that and I think it’s not just introverts. I think extroverts need to use it too because what I like to see is have people like us go to the other side. In other words, they can say to me all the time, “What can I do to bring out the introverts in my team? How can I bring out their talent?” It’s like, “Why don’t you try listening and be quiet? Just be quiet for a few minutes.”

And nature abhors a vacuum. You asked about a quote earlier. I think it was Thoreau that said that. Nature abhors a vacuum. Something will fill that space.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I like that. And you mentioned tricks, so, yeah, let’s hear them.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Tips and tricks, huh?

Pete Mockaitis
So, preparation, I guess, is a trick in so far as, “Oh, I feel more comfortable being in this environment now that I know some things,” although I think that’s probably universal. I think there’s a Daniel the Tiger jingle about this.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah, what is it? You’re immersed in that now with your littles, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
think it’s, “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do” is the jingle. So, that’s for toddlers who feel uncomfortable, like, “Oh, I’m going to a scary new place.” It’s like, “Well, hey, one means of conquering that is by, hey, we’re just going to have. We’re going to go to the doctor, okay? There’s going to be a sliding door, okay? You’re going to take off your shoes and get on the…” whatever. And they say, “Okay, this is what we talked about. All right, this is what’s happening right now.” Well, anyway.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
No, no, that’s a lot of analogies. That’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely true.

Pete Mockaitis
So, tricks. Tips and tricks.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear some of your faves.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Well, my head is parked more now in, “What can the organization do? What can we do as leaders and as a system?” And I know I can tell you tricks about introverts. But I think we’ve been putting a lot of pressure on introverts, just as you’re sort of alluding to, it’s like, “Well, they need to step out of their comfort zone. They need to do this, blah, blah, blah.” But what about if we were to frame this as, “You know what, why do they have to keep changing? Why can’t we look at the structures of our organizations so that we…?”

And that’s what I looked at in the last book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces. I tried to find pockets of introvert inclusion, “How can we have meetings that are inclusive, not just for introverts, for everyone?” So, examples. Okay, like on Zoom call. Zoom is on everybody’s mind, or virtual. Do we always have to have our cameras on? It’s exhausting. Being intentional about how we structure our meetings.

One thing I’m looking at now, I’m preparing a program for SHRM on hiring and talent development, and taking a look at, “As we’re in our hiring practices, are we being thoughtful about the kinds of competencies we’re looking for in people?” Or, are we putting our list of what our requirements and then the person comes in to interview, and they’re not necessarily the kind of person? The feedback comes back, “Well, they’re not really the kind I want to have a beer with. I don’t think I can have a beer with this person.” Is that really essential to getting the job done?

And I heard many conversations with my clients and what I call introvert advocates in organizations where they’d be sitting around promotional meetings, and somebody’s name comes up, they say, “Well, they don’t really speak up a lot at meetings.” And the person who’s their advocate said, “They’re brilliant, and they’ll talk to you one on one, and they’re really great with that, so we can’t pass over them. Don’t forget about this person.”

So, yeah, those are some of the things we can do. And, actually, structured advocacy, is a term I just came up with now as we’re talking.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Innovation right now. I’m listening.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Where we have allies, people that are actually saying, speaking up for people. But part of that advocacy has been the emergence, too, of what we call employee resource groups, which really comes under kind of diversity and inclusion and equity agenda where now it’s not just an add-on to say, “Oh, we need to recognize introverts,” but now I’m getting asked to come in and speak under the auspices of diversity and inclusion because it’s important to consider introversion as another aspect of that, that we need to educate people, make them aware.

So, in some of those examples I gave about hiring and about meetings, it doesn’t take a lot to change those. Those can be steps people can take and they can become aware. In the book, I lay out like five steps, I believe, to help, called Anyone Can Be a Change Agent, that you could be a voice for the quiet, you could speak up when you see that, raising the issues when you’re seeing that we’re maybe going too quickly.

I was in a retreat last year where everything was happening really fast and that people were supposed to answer questions. It was sort of an exercise we were doing, and some lady, one of the participants raised her hand, and she goes, “You know what, I’m an introvert and I’m already lost and overwhelmed, and I see that my colleagues here are the same way.” But it took courage for her to say that. So, being a person that speaks up for the quiet, intentionally addressing the needs as I talked about, encouraging teams to bring up introversion.

And one of the other tips I’ll share is that senior leadership, like in anything else, Edgar Schein talked about senior leadership, really, leading the way. It’s what they say and they do that changes the culture. So, that’s why I’m so gratified about all these fireside chats I’ve been doing because what people write in the chat is like, “Oh, I didn’t know that Jane was introverted. It’s incredible.” And these individual leaders become very vulnerable, so it’s cool.

And when people see that in their organization, that says more than just like, “Oh, we need to embrace everybody,” because they’re actually modeling that it’s okay and it’s celebrated to be introverted. I really love that part of it. That, to me, that’s another evolution that we’ve come to now. We couldn’t have done it years ago. We couldn’t have included. People wouldn’t have been willing to get up there and talk about it.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I think we’ve pretty much covered it all. One book that I think you might not have mentioned that I try to just bring attention to, some, because people ask about it, is about how introverts and extroverts can get along, and it’s called The Genius of Opposites. So, it’s the whole idea that we are exponentially better when we’re together. We really create something that’s better. Like, circling back to our earlier, way early conversation, John and Paul, right? Exponential.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so now I can’t just let that alone. Can you give us maybe a top one, two, or three things that extroverts and introverts can do well to harness these synergies between them?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yes. Number one, accept the alien, know that you’re not going to change the person. When you remember that, you will be in for a lot less stress. Bring on the battles. In other words, don’t be afraid to have conflict because that’s when you get the breakthroughs. And, let’s see, you could see I’m going in A, B, C order. C is cast the character but the person in the right role and not try to take credit on due credit, that you’re in this together. And I’ll throw one, but can I throw a fourth then?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Destroy the dislike. So, you don’t have to be best friends but you can try to get along or respect each other. So, yeah, there are some really great examples of pairs in there that people might enjoy reading, The Genius of Opposites. So, thanks.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. All right. Well, now, well, you gave us one. Is that the favorite quote you want to share with us or do you have another favorite quote to put forward?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
This is from Malcolm X of all people, he said, “In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I’m trying to manage with my time this week so that was inspirational to me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Inspired.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Inspired, right. Inspired, Pete.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I think my last study on remote work is my favorite. We had 200 introverts, 85% of them said they prefer staying home at least part of the time remotely, and how it really speaks to their productivity and their satisfaction. And so, I hope companies will take a look at that study because it really does come out strong. I don’t think there’d been any studies just on introverts, so I’ve got that available on my website, so it’s free download. So, thanks for asking.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
My favorite book, I just finished a book by one of my favorite women summer beach reads, or author, is Jennifer Weiner, not just because her name is Jennifer. And it’s something with summer in the title. It’s very relaxing to read her – Jennifer Weiner.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
A favorite tool for me now, is as an app, I would say, would be – and I probably check it 20 times a day – Dashlane. It sounds very mundane but it keeps all my passwords.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
To get up early and sit on my deck and do 30 minutes of, or wherever I am, 30 minutes of free writing, which is just sort of starting with a prompt and writing. And I’ve produced a lot of writing through the pandemic that way so I’m going to keep doing it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you frequently?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
You know, Pete, I say a lot so I think you’d have to ask my husband. Oh, I’ll tell you a quote that he says because he’s very funny and we live together. So, oftentimes if I’m going on as an extrovert does, he will hold up the book, and say, “Read the book.” That’s his quote. No, I think that’s fine. I think that’s probably the one I’ll leave with for now.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I would love people to come to my website, and I’m probably most active on LinkedIn and Instagram, so they can just look up my name on there. I’m JenniferKahnweiler.com so you’ll probably have that in the show notes, Pete, I imagine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right, yeah.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Great.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah, I think the challenge I would have is to schedule some time with somebody that is on your team that perhaps you don’t know as well or you feel maybe just a different personality type than you, and schedule a 20-minute, half-hour call, just to get to know them a little bit and learn more about what they do. I think the challenge right now with so many of us being remote is that we are getting disconnected.

And that did come out strongly in the study I just referenced. We had 45% of our attendees say that they felt disconnected, so I think that’s pretty significant. So, I’d like to encourage all of us to get that weekly on our calendar to reach out to somebody we don’t know as well in our worlds, in our teams, or outside our teams.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jennifer, thank you. This has been a treat and I wish you all the best.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I love interviews that challenge me and you definitely are at the top of that list, Pete. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

688: How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence with Robin Hills

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Robin Hills says: "Without emotions, we cannot make decisions."

Robin Hills provides expert tips for enhancing your emotional intelligence for better results at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to build the five domains of emotional intelligence 
  2. A handy question for getting helpful feedback
  3. How selfishness can help us be more selfless 

About Robin

Robin is the director of Ei4Change, a company specializing in educational training, coaching and personal development focused around emotional intelligence, positive psychology and neuroscience. He has taught over 250,000 people in 185 countries how to build resilience, increased self-awareness and understanding of others. His educational programs on resilience and emotional intelligence cover the most comprehensive and detailed education of any emotional intelligence organization and are today used in educational establishments in South Africa and India.  

Robin is also the author of 2 books and has through his work developed the experiential coaching methodology Images of Resilience to support cathartic conversations around resilience. He has delivered key-note speeches at conferences across the world including at Harvard University and sits on the North West Committee of the Association of Business Psychology. 

Resources Mentioned

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Robin Hills Interview Transcript

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

Robin Hills
Yeah, it’s my pleasure to be with you, Pete. Thanks very much to invite me along to speak to your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve had some exciting occurrences in your career and I want to hear a little bit about how your experience as a door-to-door cosmetics salesperson impacted you to study emotional intelligence.

Robin Hills
Oh, well, let me wind back the clock to this stuff in my career. I had a degree in biology that I just completed and I wanted to get a job in medical selling. This was an opportunity for me to utilize my biology degree, my knowledge, but at the same time, I wanted to get some more skills, some interesting insights into utilizing my biology degree in a different way.

And so, I applied for a number of jobs to become a medical salesperson. Unfortunately, after interview after interview after interview, I kept getting the feedback, “Well, you’re okay but we want you to get some experience. You haven’t had any selling experience.” So, I thought, “Well, where can I get my selling experience from?”

And I found in the local paper a job advertisement for a company called Avon, which sold cosmetics door to door, so I thought, “Okay. Well, I might as well apply for that and see what happens.” So, interestingly, I got offered the opportunity. I think they were desperate. But it gave me the chance to knock on doors and effectively sell.

But the interesting thing is I had a degree of success with it. So, I went along to one of the sales meetings at the end of this particular campaign, thinking, “Okay. Well, I sold £40, equivalent to about $60,” and the room was filled with must’ve been about 25-30 middle-aged women who are all good, successful Avon ladies and there was a little old me 20-year-old.

And they went through the recent campaign, the successes, and they said, “All right. Well, let’s have a look who sold the most this month.” And there was me having sold £40, so I was the top salesperson for that particular region for that particular quarter.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, a whole quarter of sales. Oh, my.

Robin Hills
That was a whole quarter of sales. So, I was really, really pleased with it. I was actually awarded as a prize six new brochures to help me to promote the next campaign.

Pete Mockaitis
I see. And did you develop some emotional intelligence insights along the way in your sales career that boosted your performance?

Robin Hills
This was about the time that Peter Salovey and Jack Meyer at Yale University were starting to write their academic papers about emotional intelligence into the world.

But during that time, I had a very successful sales career in medical selling, selling into the London teaching hospitals, and I recognized, whilst I was doing that, that there were certain doctors that I was selling to who I had really good engaging conversations with and I could develop deep relationships with them. And that came about through something I didn’t know and I didn’t understand, and I don’t think anybody else really knew or understood at the time.

Here we had groups of intelligent, cognitively intelligent people, and some of them were very easy to engage with and some weren’t. And it was only until I’d read Daniel Goleman’s book that I suddenly realized, “Ah, that’s the answer.” Those doctors that were good at engaging and good at developing relationships and communicating well had, what we now know, as emotional intelligence. They had an ability to work with their thinking, their cognitive intelligence, and work with their emotions to build up authentic relationships, communicate, and make good decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that all sounds like great stuff and we’d like to have more of it. I’d love to get your take then. Can you offer – it sounds like you maybe just did – with how you define emotional intelligence, as just that?

Robin Hills
That was just it. Let me repeat it. It is very simple. It’s quite a complex construct but emotional intelligence is being smart with your thinking in order to utilize the way in which you’re feeling about situations to make good-quality decisions and build authentic relationships. And by so doing, you improve your wellbeing. And by so doing, you’re able to manage your stress and motivate yourself and motivate other people. I’ve expanded on the definition a little bit there. Basically, emotional intelligence is being smart with your thinking to utilize your emotions effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. Well, that sounds handy. I suppose there are those who…I guess let’s talk about the emotional intelligence skeptics who’d say, “You know what? That sounds soft. It’s not like a hard skill like finance or Python or something. And it kind of sounds like a catchall for sort of everything in terms of, hey, when we’re thinking and we’re interacting with people.” So, do you have a message for the skeptics in terms of just what kind of an impact, quantitatively speaking, might we expect this to make for professionals? And to what extent is it learnable versus, “Oh, you’re just a natural with people. You just have a calm temperament, Robin”?

Robin Hills
Well, the interesting thing is, this has come out through the research, is that cognitive intelligence is fixed about the age of 18, so by the time you’ve gone through your teens, your cognitive intelligence is a fixed quantity. It won’t change. However, your emotional intelligence can change and will change with learning up to about and beyond the age of 70. So, we both still got plenty of time to become more emotionally intelligent.

Now, emotional intelligence is not an easy thing to work with, so the skeptics, more often than not, they’ll diss emotional intelligence and, more often than not, they’re the ones that don’t have a lot of emotional intelligence. They don’t have this open mind to be able to embrace something that is outside of their comfort zone. Cognitive intelligence is something that you can quantify. The finance side, the technical side, the Python part that you were talking about, all of that is very easy to learn. It’s quantifiable.

Emotional intelligence tends to be a lot more nebulous. So, to the skeptics, I would actually just say to them, “Well, you actually take your emotions to work with you whether you like them or not. You don’t leave them in the trunk,” using the American terminology, You don’t leave it in your car. You don’t leave it at home. You take your emotions with you and you need your emotions because your emotions will actually help you to make the decisions that you need to make. Without emotions, we cannot make decisions.

And this is being proven time and time again, that in order to make decisions, just a simple decision, “Shall I have a cup of tea or shall I have a cup of coffee?” requires an emotion. It requires you to have a preference for one over the other. So, once you actually understand the basics behind emotions driving decisions, you can actually then start to think and work with emotions more effectively by saying, “Well what is it that I need to do to utilize my emotions well in order to make better decisions?”

And to put it into some kind of quantitative context, and I do not want anybody to quote me on this because this is not confined to memory, but I believe it’s been said that people who have one or two points of emotional intelligence that they have improved upon and they’ve learnt can increase their salary by about $30,000, so this is something well worth considering. I mean, whether the figures are right or not, it doesn’t matter. The important thing behind what has been said is that you can actually increase and improve your career prospects by improving your emotional intelligence.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, could you perhaps walk us through a story of a person who had lower moderate emotional intelligence on either overall or on a particular sub-dimension of emotional intelligence, what they did to improve it, and then the cool benefits they reaped as a result of having done so?

Robin Hills
Yeah, I’ve actually worked as an emotional intelligence coach for a number of years, helping people in terms of working with their emotional intelligence. The first aspect of that is to look at defining their emotional intelligence, quantifying it, using a robust scientifically validated emotional intelligence assessment. And the one that I prefer to use is the EQI 2.0, which was developed by Reuven Bar-On back in the ‘90s. He’s an Israeli psychologist and his work has been repeated time and again in terms of looking at this assessment.

And the beauty of the Bar-On assessment is that it can actually help to increase self-awareness around what a person’s call strengths are, what their gifts are, what their qualities are, that they can actually then take into the workplace, and say, “This is what I’m good at. So, if I do a role which is helping me to support these talents, these gifts, these capabilities, I will be able to do my best work.”

Now, what we will also then look at is how those are balanced, again, things which get in the way, and sometimes people will have components of emotional intelligence that are not low. They’re actually moderate to quite high, but the blend of all the other elements of emotional intelligence means that they get in the way and it causes some issues. It causes them to have liabilities.

Somebody, for example, might be too empathetic. They might be too good at understanding things from people’s perspectives so that they can’t help or make a rational decision to support that person because they think, “Oh, I know that by doing this, it’s going to upset them.” So, we look at something like empathy, and say, “Right. How can you take that bit and drop a little bit down on the empathy?” And it might be a case of moving up their assertiveness or moving up something around their emotional intelligence, whatever it is, and looking at ways in which we can take the person as a whole and move them from a point of, “I’m actually doing really well here,” to, “I’m actually doing excellently here.”

Robin Hills
The beauty of this is that, through coaching, through a period of three to six months, and working on various parameters, we can actually see improvements.

I was working with somebody who had lost their job not through any fault of their own. Their role was made redundant and, through that, they found themselves looking for another job. So, they got in touch with me, and we sat down and we had some conversation around what it was that he was wanting to do and we put together a plan, and I said to him, “Well, I think what we ought to be doing is looking at building your self-awareness through an emotional intelligence assessment, through the EQI 2.0, so you’ve actually got something to talk about at the interview, you’ve actually got something to work on.”

So, we agreed, we did the assessments, and we actually utilized some of the information that came out of the assessment to reconstruct his resume. Around what it was that he was good at and how he applied his emotional intelligence in the workplace so that he had some really good stories to answer questions around the interview.

He went through three or four interviews before he actually got a job that he was really pleased with and was an absolute perfect fit.

And, off the top of my head, I can’t remember how long he’s been there as the CEO, the managing director of this company, but I think it’s probably in the region of about five or six years.

And I spoke to him during the lockdowns that we have in the United Kingdom here during the pandemic, and he was saying that he has still managed to keep the company afloat, going well, and he’s got some brilliant plans for the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then by engaging in some of that stuff, we got some self-awareness by which you’re able to have some compelling resume or CV content and interview stuff which made a great impression so as to make opportunities come about. So, that’s cool. Well, then so tell us, this EQI version 2.0, I don’t remember if this is the one I did. This was so long ago. But I guess what I found a little tricky is that, you tell me, does this rely on me saying that I do things frequently, or not frequently, or some of the time, or most of the time? Or, how does the assessment work?

Robin Hills
Yes, it’s very much as you described there, Pete. There are 153 questions which are measured on what’s known as a Likert Scale. So, you strongly disagree at one end of the scale with a statement, and you strongly agree with a statement at the other end of the scale. And through the statements that you are agreeing or disagreeing with, the actual results are constructed from the answers that you give. Now, within the EQI 2.0, it’s 153 questions because three of those questions are what we would call red herrings. They’re in there to test whether you’re actually trying to game the system. So, there are little tests in there just to check and double-check.

But, to go back to what I was hearing with your point, it is a self-assessed assessment so it’s going on the answers that you give yourself. Now, with there being so many and quite a few of these statements are double negatives, it’s very difficult to try and come out favorably and to work the system in a favorable way towards yourself unless you know what to do. Most people don’t.

But then to help and to build upon it and to create a more robust way of looking at a person’s emotional intelligence, and because emotional intelligence involves relationships, the great thing about the EQI 2.0 is that it’s got a 360 so you can go out to various people, both inside and outside of work, in order to get their views around how you’re working with them, how you’re utilizing your emotional intelligence.

So, you’ve got your own assessment, and then you can actually look at, “Well, this is what your manager is thinking of you. And this is what your colleagues, who are at the same level as you within the organization, are thinking about you. And this is how the people that report into you are thinking about how you’re using your emotional intelligence. This is what your family and friends are saying.”

Now, somebody who is very good at emotional intelligence along all the levels will have consistency, but most people don’t. They might be very good at influencing their leader or their manager, very good at influencing their colleagues, but they have a particular behavior when they’re trying to communicate and influence people who report into them, and they might be a completely different person outside of work, so it really does give a lot more robustness to the assessment, a lot more depth, a lot more dimension to it, and it allows for some really cathartic coaching conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, so we got 153 questions, and you mentioned a number of these parameters or dimensions, like empathy and assertiveness. How many dimensions are there and can you name them?

Robin Hills
So, within the EQI, there are five facets so let’s have a look at each of the facets in turn. The first one is self-perception. So, that’s how you perceive yourself in the world, so it’s what goes on in the world of thought and feelings. And that then leads into self-expression. So, this is looking at how you are expressing yourself. So, it’s looking at some of the components which include the assertiveness component, but it’s also looking at emotional expression.

And that then links into interpersonal relationships. And it’s within the interpersonal relationships that you will be looking at how you’re engaging with other people, so we’ll pull in the facets of empathy. It’ll also pull in other facets such as your social corporate responsibility. That then links into decision-making. So, this is looking at how you are going about making decisions. So, it’s looking about how you go about solving problems, how you are going about working with reality. So, these are some of the components of the decision-making facet.

And the decision-making facet then feeds into stress management. And within stress management, you’ve got things like stress tolerance, resilience, you’ve got optimism, and you’ve got things like perfectionism in there. And all of those are measures, they’re measured within the EQI 2.0. The stress management facet then links back into self-perception. And overarching all of that is wellbeing and how you’re feeling about how things are going within the world and your contribution towards that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I’d love to get your take then. So, we’ve got these five facets: self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, decision-making, and stress management. What is your favorite, let’s say, exercise, assignment, tool, thingy people can do, if you will, if that’s the scientific term, that makes a big impact in each of these five facets?

Robin Hills
Yeah. Well, this is a very interesting little exercise that I’ve ran in my live workshops when we’re able to run live workshops. I’d say, “Right. Get your mobile phone out. What I would like you to do is to text three to six people, three to six of your friends,” “I’m in a training workshop and I’d like you to feed back to me some of my key strengths on what it is that you like about me.”

And quite a few people are a little bit reluctant to do that in the first instance but they do it, and then they’re sitting there with the phone in front of them, and the phone keeps pinging, it’s all these messages come in, and people will look at them, and they will read these messages, and I can feel the positive climate rising within the room as people are getting feedback in a very affirmative way around what their friends and family like about them.

And, more often than not, people will come up to me, and say, “Ooh, this is what somebody has said about me,” and what I say to them is, “Well, how do you feel about that? What are your thoughts around what you’ve just been told?” “Well, I thought that’s what I did well but I’ve never been told before,” or, “I didn’t know that they valued that in me.” And that’s a very simple little exercise that people can do. Look out for good feedback from family and friends. So, when people say to you, “You’re good at doing this,” our automatic reactions are kind of dismissive as if, “Well, everybody does that.” Well, no, they don’t.

What are your core strengths? What is it that people see in you? What is it that people value in you? If you don’t know, ask them. If you’re embarrassed to ask them, send them a text, “I’m in a training session.” Give them an excuse, whatever, but get the feedback. And you’re not asking for any negativity there. You’re asking for positive feedback around what people value as your qualities. And people are very, very generous because they like their friends but we don’t often tell our friends why we like them because it just doesn’t sound right, or it sounds trite, or it doesn’t come across the right way, or we do but people don’t listen to the compliment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Okay. So, that’s quick, it just takes a couple minutes, and you could get a nice upgrade, like you might be surprised in terms of, “Huh, three out of the six people said this, and I didn’t even think that was anything special.” As you said, with strengths, we tend to think, “Oh, everybody does that,” but they don’t.

Robin Hills
They don’t, no. And if I want to know what my weaknesses are, I just have to go and ask my wife. She’ll give me half a dozen I’ve not even thought about, so don’t go there. Don’t go there. “Look, I’m going into an appraisal tomorrow with my manager, can you give me some feedback around what I’ve done well over the last three months that you really value.” “I’m going for an interview tomorrow. I’d like to know what it is that you really value in me as a mentor.” Three to six people. Wait for it to come through. Enjoy it. Build yourself up. Go into your interview. Go into your appraisal with some good evidence, and you can look the person straight in the eye, and say, “This is what I’m good at because this is what people tell me I’m good at.”

Pete Mockaitis
And then how about for self-expression? What’s the quick prescription for a boost there?

Robin Hills
Well, in terms of self-expression, how are you expressing your emotions? Are you expressing them in an effective way? So, if you’re feeling annoyed with somebody, what do you do? How do you express that annoyance? Are you angry with them? If you are angry, really angry with them, do you go home and kick the cat? Do you go home and take it out on the wife? Or, do you have a way of actually managing that anger and working with it in the most appropriate way?

Now, anger is a very easy emotion for us to talk about because there’s a high level of intensity around it. But how about if you’re feeling anxious? How are you working with anxiety? We’re not trying to get rid of anxiety or feelings of anxiousness because they actually serve a purpose, indeed, as does anger, but let’s look at anxiety.

Prior to me coming on to speak with you, Pete, I was feeling mildly anxious. Good. Because I need that emotion to physiologically put me in the right place and mentally put me in the right place so we can have an engaging conversation. Without that, I wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind to be able to come along and be interviewed by you. So, let’s not try and get rid of anxiety. Let’s recognize the quality that that emotion will provide in me, in the way in which I’m engaging with the world, and work with it and embrace it. No, I don’t like feeling anxious any more like any other person does, but it’s an important emotion.

So, how do you express your happiness? How do you express your pride? How do you express your fear? And how do you express your concerns and frustrations? I’ve mentioned, what, half a dozen emotions there. There are probably between about 3,000 and 27,000, depending on which research paper that you read. Well, we’re not going to go through all of those tonight, but let’s have a look at a kind of myth out there.

And I think in terms of emotional intelligence and in terms of psychology, there are psychologists and emotional intelligence practitioners that fall into the trap of labeling emotions as positive and negative. Well, emotions are emotions. They’re not good or bad, black or white, valuable or invaluable. They are emotions, and it’s what we do with them, how we behave, that is positive or negative. Not the emotion itself.

Anger, for example, is usually labeled as a negative emotion. Well, if people don’t get angry, what are they going to do to right a wrong? How are they going to use it to motivate themselves to overcome an injustice? So, that’s an appropriate use of anger. That is anger being positive.

Happiness, “Oh, that’s a positive emotion.” Have you tried communicating with somebody who’s deliriously happy? “Hello, trees. Hello, flowers. Hello, grass. Don’t worry. Be happy.” They take far more risks. So, we really want to be able to work with and blend our emotions and express them in the right way. Get away from positive or negative emotions, “This is the way in which I am feeling at the moment. These are the reasons. Let me express myself in the most appropriate way.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And then for interpersonal relationships? Is there a top suggestion you recommend to upgrade that?

Robin Hills
Well, I think, one of the key components there is empathy. How do you see people’s viewpoints from different angles? And the best way is to ask them how they are feeling, how they are thinking. I think the other core component of empathy that most people completely overlook is this ability to listen, to really truly listen to what the person is saying. So, it’s going beyond the words they’re using and picking up on subtle cues in terms of body language, facial expressions, gestures, the way in which they’re utilizing their voice.

So, empathy is something that I would encourage people just to try and get better at. And the way to do that is to, when you’re watching a movie or when you’re watching television, just watch how the actor is actually expressing their emotion through the way in which they’re using their body, they’re using their voice, they’re using their gestures. They’re using the words, just watch out for it, and think, “Am I actually understanding this emotion?”

And that’s an easy way to actually look at ways of developing empathy so that when you see it in some of the people you’re working with and you’re leading with, you can actually then think, “Ah, this is the emotion I am perceiving. Am I correct?” and it will help you in terms of asking the right question in order to test your hypothesis.

I think what we do tend to do in empathy, “Oh, I can see that person is angry so I’ll go and interact with them in a way that helps me to deal with the anger that I’m perceiving.” And it might be that the person is not angry. They just happen to be frustrated or they just have a certain intensity and wanting to communicate to that particular moment in time. So, I think the important thing is to take our judgments as hypotheses, go out and test them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And when it comes to decision-making?

Robin Hills
Decision-making is another interesting one. How do you go about making decisions? How do you utilize your creativity to solve problems? Often, we talk about brainstorming as a way of going and getting ideas, new ideas about doing things. And I’m quite a fan of the SCAMPER technique which is well-used in creativity to help people to look at problems, to look at situations from a different perspective.

So, without going into too much detail about all the components of SCAMPER, it’s taking something and blowing it up to a very large size. It’s taking something and it’s minimizing it down to a very tiny size. It’s reversing it. It’s actually looking at it from a number of different ways in order that you can actually then say, “Hmm, if I was to do it this way, I would get a completely different solution.”

A very good example is the ballpoint pen. If you actually magnify that and increase it up, it actually then becomes a bigger unit with the ball on the end, and that was the impetus for people to develop the roll-on deodorant. And that came from looking at the SCAMPER technique.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Rearrange.

Robin Hills
Brilliant.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you’re thinking about something, you can just kind of, “Hey, how do I modify this? How do I substitute this?” and sort of new things come up. So, that’s cool. And then how about for stress management? What’s your top tip there?

Robin Hills
Well, for stress management, it’s actually recognizing what it is that causes you stress, because what causes you stress, Pete, is going to be completely different from what causes me stress. And what causes me stress on a Monday morning might be completely different to what causes me stress on a Friday afternoon. So, it’s having this self-knowledge, this is why it links back into self-awareness.

But in terms of stress management, it’s knowing how you can manage your stress in the most appropriate way. What is it that is right for you? Now, some people might go and do some shadow boxing, do some boxing, hit a punchbag, and utilize their energy that way, and they may do it in a competitive environment.

Some people go and play squash. Some people go for a jog. Some people will just like to sit and watch the television. Some people will read a book. Some people will play with their kids. Some people will take their dog out for a walk. Some people will sit and listen to a piece of music. What is it that you need to do on a very regular basis to actually reinvigorate and reenergize yourself, and to actually take some time out of your daily working life just to take that moment of looking after yourself, and just taking some time out to reenergize yourself?

I’m a great advocate of people being selfish.  And what I mean by that is not being selfish, “Me, me, me, me, me,” all the time, “This is what I want. This is how it’s going to be.” That is selfish. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is that people should be self-ish. They should actually look after themselves because by doing that, they’re then in a better position to be able to help other people.

And when we fly, the cabin crew, in the case of a decompression, are suggesting that if the oxygen masks come down, you put your oxygen mask on yourself first before you help another person. And it’s exactly the same way in terms of working to be self-ish. What is it that you need to reenergize yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually in terms of getting to a point where you feel that you’re at one with yourself and being the best that you can be?

Another example is we may be very good as leaders at delegating and putting responsibility onto other people to help them in terms of their development, but there are certain things that other people could not do for us. And one of those is nobody else can go and have a cup of coffee on my behalf, nobody else can go to the toilet for me. So, those are opportunities to just take a break just to refresh and get it back into a point where you can engage with the world in an appropriate way.

We all go to sleep at night. Now, I don’t know, Pete, I’ve never come across anybody who’s capable of putting their head straight on a pillow and zonk-o, they’re gone. There’s that period when we get into bed and we just lie there on the pillow, and waiting for sleep to come. In that time, you can actually then start to think, “What are some really good things that have happened to me today? What is it that’s gone well? What have I contributed towards?” Then you can concentrate on your breathing, your breath, and you can build in kind of meditative mindfulness techniques if you haven’t got time to do them any other time during the day.

So, these are all little hints and tips just thrown out to the four winds just to help you in terms of looking at stress management.

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

Robin Hills
by Aristotle, “Anyone can become angry but to be angry with the right person to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose and in the right way, that’s not easy.”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Robin Hills
I keep going back to the work of Stephen Covey which I read at the turn of the century and got introduced with then. And a lot of his work is really around his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And I think to actually practice all of those habits, to the way in which Stephen Covey defines, is incredibly difficult, so it’s something that I aspire towards.

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

Robin Hills
I’m actually producing a lot of online courses, and I found that, as technology has improved, the tools have just got better and better and better. There are some brilliant pieces of software out there that I use in my work, Filmora, Audacity. And utilizing these tools helps me to get the message of emotional intelligence out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; you get them quoted back to you often?

Robin Hills
I think the quote that resonates with me and is quoted back to me often is going back to the Aristotle quote. People get a lot from that, and they will say that they really find that there’s a lot of power and a lot of strength within that. So, just bringing that into people’s awareness helps them to understand that, hey, we’re all human. We get it wrong. Sometimes we get it right.

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

Robin Hills
Come along and have a look at the EI4Change website – EI4Change.com, or you can go to Courses.EI4Change.info to have a look at our emotional intelligence courses. Get in touch with me. I’m more than happy to engage with people through social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or get in touch with me direct Robin@EI4Change.com.

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

Robin Hills
If they’re looking for a job, the call to action is look inwardly, look at your strengths, recognize them. Go out, live and breathe them. Don’t worry about your weaknesses. Don’t worry about trying to take something that is bad and make it not bad. Look at things that you are excellent at and excel at, and master them. Become capable of doing them in the way that only you can do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Robin, thank you. This has been a treat. And I wish you all the best in your emotional intelligent adventures.

Robin Hills
Thank you, Pete. It’s been a pleasure.