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

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.

654: How to Tap Into Your Genius Zone with 34 Strong’s Darren Virassammy

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Darren says: "Be confident in where you sine and where you're blind."

Darren Virassammy shares his expert tips on how to make the strengths work best for you and your team.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How strengths can both be an asset and a liability
  2. The surprising sign of genius
  3. The trick to turn your blind spots into strengths

About Darren

Darren Virassammy is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of 34 Strong, comprised of a team that believes everyone deserves a great place to work and that any workplace can be great. A leading expert in the global employee engagement community, the 34 Strong team leverages the Strengths-Based approach to human development to create massive shifts within organizations, both culturally and on the bottom line. He and his team have created sustainable change in small microbusinesses, all the way up to large organizational teams at the FDA, Bank of America, and The California Department of Public Health. Darren is the co-host of the Leading Strong podcast and the host of The Nature Advantage podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Darren Virassammy Interview Transcript

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

Darren Virassammy
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. What an honor to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear about so much of your wisdom. And, first, I want to hear, I understand you recently moved to Barbados. From where? What’s the story?

Darren Virassammy
Okay. So, yes, I am talking to you right now from Barbados. I moved from California, from Sacramento. I am a business owner. I’m the co-founder of a company called 34 Strong. That didn’t dissipate. We’re in a virtual world now so I have relocated here to Barbados. A big part of that story, Pete, was the fact that we wanted to give our kids a chance to live abroad. My family is originally from the Caribbean, from British Guiana, my parents and whatnot.

Barbados had a program called the Welcome Home Stamp, the Welcome Home visa, and that opened up over the course of 2020. Now, the interesting part, Pete, was we made the decision to make a move to the Caribbean in the summer of 2019 before COVID or any of that hit. So, 2020 was going to be the year that we planned on making that move to give the kids a chance to get a different experience, living overseas, looking into the United States, and really appreciating some of the things that we had there, and then getting a different appreciation from a global perspective.

One final piece I will say about that is a big part of that impetus as well was, for me, personally, outside for my family, was I really wanted to step into just leveling up into my strengths as a dad, and stepping into that place. I was personally ready to just shift into an environment like here that was going to force some of that because of some of the connections I had seen with my kids when we had been together on past trips to the West Indies, different islands.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like a cool adventure, and so, kudos. You did it and you’re living it and you’re loving it. So, that’s cool. We’re going to talk a lot about strengths here. Can you orient us quickly, your company, 34 Strong, what is it?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah, we actually do a lot of work in the space of organizational development and wellbeing. One of the tools that we’ve become very known for is our work with the CliftonStrengths Assessment. We’re helping to define what’s right with team members instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them. And then we really focused on focusing on moving the needle on employee engagement and wellbeing. There’s a loop connection between people’s overall wellbeing in their life, and employee engagement and their engagement in their work. So, we actually work in both those spaces, and we use strengths as a foundational. Foundation is kind of an anchor to build from.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, so we’ve talked about strengths a couple of times on the show and the difference it can make. Maybe, could you paint a picture perhaps by telling a story of just one professional who they were living their career life pre-strengths awareness, and then they came to getting an understanding of their strengths in a profound way, and then saw things take off as a result?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, when we think of playing to our strengths, let me start by giving this caveat. There’s this great question that Dr. Donald Clifton asked. He’s known as the father of the whole strengths-based movement and that perspective and this type of thinking. And he asked this question that ended up guiding his life, Pete, and it was simply, “What happens when we focus on what’s right with people instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them?” And that guided his whole life’s work.

So, getting to your specific question about how did that create a shift, I’ll never forget early on in 34 Strong’s life cycle, in our career as a company, when we were building it, there was a scenario where there was somebody that was in kind of a managerial role. And they were managing a team, and what started happening, there was these two managers. There was a manager effectively and an assistant manager, and they had to work together. But here’s what had happened.

They got to the place where they were not speaking and hadn’t actually spoken for 18 months. They’d be in meetings together and they literally wouldn’t speak to each other. Talk about toxicity, right? What ended up happening was they both went through the StrengthsFinder process, and the manager went through it. And the reason I started with the question of “What happens when we focus on what’s right with people instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them?” when you talk about strengths, it’s easy to think of, “Oh, let’s just focus on our strengths and ignore our weaknesses.” That actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

We actually become highly aware of where we are strong so we own those elements, and we have to own where our weaknesses show up. And here’s the key caveat. Our strengths can be our greatest assets and our greatest liabilities. This particular manager, Pete, had an awakening. She came to understand that there were things that she was doing that were contributing to how her counterpart was showing up, that was triggering her strengths.

So, it went from this lens of self-awareness to team awareness in terms of how they worked through. She came to an understanding of her own strengths and realized how that might be completely out of alignment with somebody else’s strengths on the team. And then that rippled well beyond just this assistant manager but to other team members as to how she was showing up.

So, a big piece of the puzzle that came here was this awakening of self-awareness in understanding, “How do I show up as I want to so I can be confident in where I shine? And how can I be confident around the areas where I’m blind where I might be stepping into it and not even understanding that?”

Long story short, that relationship synced up and that whole division synced up in the time that took place after that. And there was moving in the direction where it could’ve ended up very, very ugly from an HR perspective. All of that went down by the wayside and actually completely improved the overall performance of that whole division as a result of those two’s relationship falling out.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that is really cool. And so, I remember I’ve got Dodie Gomer, she was a guest on the podcast, and she told a story about she went through some strengths work and one of her top strengths was Positivity. And then she was working with someone who had another strength, I don’t even remember what it was, it might’ve something that was like Skepticism but that’s not one of them. I don’t know.

Darren Virassammy
Maybe Deliberative or Restorative where there’s a natural tendency to ask a lot of questions, like, “We need to prove first,” and going through looking at things from a very risk perspective, or seeing very, very solutions-focused but to get to solutions, have to identify the problem first. But go on.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, the facilitator said, “Oh, so you see the problem with this?” And Dodie said, “Not at all,” which is like, “Your manager thinks you’re full of it. He just doesn’t believe you with that Positivity that’s not kind of vibing or natural for them.” And, sure enough, that was on the money. So, that’s what I think is kind of interesting here is that I think many of us have taken CliftonStrengths or a tool that goes after it. And, listeners, if you haven’t, I just recommend every human do it. It’s great and fun and quick and you learn some things. But so, then once we’ve got sort of our report, “Okay, these are my top five strengths or…”

I went with the whole enchilada, one to 34 all ranked, so I’ve got all of mine. It’s kind of like, “Now what?” I think a lot of people say, “Okay, so my top strengths are Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, Input. Okay, cool, cool, cool.” And then I read a bit about what those words mean and I feel good and I say, “Yeah, I guess that’s kind of right. Okay, that kind of rings true.” So, I’m wondering, how do I go from, “Okay, I’ve got my report,” to, “I am going to build an exceptional career with this as my rock and foundation”?

Darren Virassammy
So, I think that’s a great question. That’s often the question that we come against here, and it’s, “So, what? Now, what?” and that’s a really important question to ask here because we have to switch the lens towards looking at it from, “How do I apply this?” So, some very practical techniques to go through.

There’s an exercise that we utilize at 34 Strong, it’s part of our series that we actually train our managers on, but we actually train staff on it. In fact, as a company, we’re going through this right now for Q1. So, this is how much we believe in it, and that’s everybody in the company. Myself as one of the founders and part of the leadership team, all the way through to every single member of our staff, and it’s a very simple exercise. We call it the triple G. And it’s called grind, greatness, and genius.

So, when we think of our grind, our greatness, and our genius, we have to think these in terms of the respective zones that we show up in here. So, grind, greatness, genius, when we’re thinking about our grind zones, Pete, these are the things that when you think of in your work, in your career just the thought of thinking about these things causes your stomach to go in knots. You get pits in your stomach just thinking about these things, “Oh, my gosh, I have to do these elements,” right?

Now, here’s an important caveat as you’re going through this. Everybody is going to have grind in your work. It’s called work. There’s going to be grind. The goal here is evaluating where your grind zone is, where your greatness, and your genius zones are, and then thinking of ways that we can shift towards spending more time in our greatness and our genius zone. And I speak of this a little bit more wider. If you’ve taken the CliftonStrengths Assessment, your knowledge from that will further deepen by going through this exercise. If you haven’t taken it, this is still a very applicable exercise. And this can, again, for all levels of your career.

The greatness zone, Pete, this is things that you do well. You enjoy doing them. There are some level of enjoyment and you feel pretty strong in it. You can do them really, really well. Now, here’s an important part to understand, and this is, again, whether you’re a leader or whether you’re an employee. You might have strengths that will allow you to get into the greatness zone to where you’re actually really good at doing something that’s actually in your grind zone. So, you’re grinding to do it but when others are looking in, they’ll say, “Pete, but you do such a good job at this,” but you do not love doing it. So, make sure you actually segment those things out. It’s really important for us to do that.

I’ll give you an example of this. For me, personally, in my old job that I had before I started 34 Strong, Pete, I was a senior project manager at a commercial construction company, and I would often get pulled into the fire drill projects where a project had gone sideways. And my thought process was constantly, to the owners of the company, “Hey, instead of having me parachute in and be the firefighter on these jobs to repair client relations and going through, why don’t we spend a little more time training the other project managers on this? I can spend the time doing that.”

And that never became an area of focus. It was constant firefighting that didn’t need to happen. So, I got really good at doing something that I didn’t love. I felt like I would’ve been much better in training and developing people. And then, lo and behold, I started the company that focuses on training and developing people. So, that’s an important distinction to make.

And then, finally, we get to the genius zone. So, when we step into the genius zone, these are the things that you do so well, Pete, and that people can do so well. Oftentimes, you personally might overlook them or be frustrated. This is a very important “or.” Or, be frustrated if somebody can’t do these things. Maybe you’re a person that very naturally, like you were talking about with your strengths, with Strategic, Ideation, you can very rapidly see where things are going.

Oftentimes, for those strengths, they’re sitting in a meeting, they’re sitting in a program, and they’re like, “Okay, I see where this going. Let’s move. Let’s get onto that place.” And many others need to actually catch up in going through. That’s a sign of genius and sometimes our frustrations can be a sign of our genius and the brilliance that we bring.

So, that can be something that we do so well that others come to us, and these are things that we often overlook and say, “Yeah, it’s no big deal. Anybody could do that.” If you ever catch yourself making that statement in any point in your career, I encourage you to pause because you’re overlooking a key area of value that comes to you so naturally that others see it as a huge gift that you’re providing and you’re just overlooking at it as no big deal. That’s a sign of your genius that you have to give.

So, again, grind, greatness, genius, spend some time over the course of a month, make a list of three columns. I think we have a resource on our website as well, 34Strong.com, where you can actually grab one of those, or message us for those and we can send you one of those links to be able to get that. And it’s an exercise that you can actually go through to take some inventory of that and think of that. And that can serve as a framework to start moving and asking yourself, “How can I spend more time in my greatness and my genius zones?” And we can think of ways that we can partner with others who might be in their greatness or genius zone when we’re in our grind zone.

Pete Mockaitis
And can you share some other telltale signs for our genius zone? I think the frustration is great in terms of that can tell you something. What are some other indicators that are like, “Aha, this is genius territory”?

Darren Virassammy
So, genius territory is when you feel very energized by doing these things. And, again, it feels like second nature. You’re stepping into doing something, it felt like you have known how to do this your whole life. That’s one of the clues to talent. And there’s a level of not only energy but enthusiasm. After you’ve gotten through it, you want to do it again. You might be tired. At the end of the day, you might be exhausted, and you see this surge that can be rising to do it. You find yourself in positions where there’s third-party validation of excellence. This is not me saying, “Hey, I’m a great singer,” when I’m singing in the shower. It’s like I’m actually singing out where other people are validating that for you when you’re getting that validation.

Here’s another piece, Pete, that I will share. Think of the reasons that people seek you out as a complementary partner. And if you haven’t thought of, “Why is it that people come to you?” ask that question, “What is the value that I do bring?” because oftentimes, again, it’s staring us right in the face. We’re looking at each other right now through a camera, but if we were in person, I wouldn’t be able to see my face, so if I had a big giant mark on my face, I’d hope, Pete, that you’d say, “Hey, you might want to remove that blemish. You’ve got a leaf or something sitting on your face.”

Pete, my point here is, oftentimes, our talent, similarly that genius zone, lies so close to us we cannot see it. So, it’s when we actually seek that out and find out, “What is it that we bring? What is unique about the perspective that we bring?” You talk about your strength of Ideation. Oftentimes, people will come to somebody with the strength of Ideation, and really enjoy digging into things with them because they’re constantly and quickly able to see many, many different ideas, and bring out very, very fresh perspective, and not get stuck in the, “Well, we’ve always done this the same way, so we need to keep doing it that way.” That can be a huge tell for us to really grow in our career and in our job. Again, wherever you’re at in that cycle.

Pete Mockaitis
And let’s talk about, I don’t know if you want to call them weaknesses or lesser strengths or what’s number 33 and 34 on the CliftonStrengths report. For me, it’s consistency and adaptability.

Darren Virassammy
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Fun fact. So, what should we do with those?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, our bottom five, we like to look at, if you do go through the CliftonStrengths process and you take a look at your full 34 report, you really want to get to a place where you own your top ten and spend the time to understand not how they only exist individually but how they exist collectively. The reason for that is the likelihood of somebody having their top ten in the same order as you is one in six billion.

So, even though, Pete, you and I share Activator, you have Activator, you have Input, you have Ideation much higher. We share Activator and Learner in our top ten, you have those as your top five. But that Ideation that you share, that you have there, that’s a little bit lower for me. That’s not quite as high. I appreciate Ideation but what I’m getting at is the way that Activator and Ideation will pair versus the way that Activator and Self-Assurance might pair, the way that I have those. That’s going to be a slightly different brand of the way that that Activator goes.

So, we want to start in that top ten and understanding that. And that pivots right down to the next phase of understanding, getting into exactly what you talked about, the bottom five. So, we want to explore our bottom five, and here’s the reason why. It’s not to step into the place of deficit thinking. A lot of times, and when I say deficit thinking, we think that our greatest opportunity for growth and excellence lies in focusing in our areas of weakness. That’s not true.

What we’re getting at here is our greatest opportunities for growth and human excellence lie in those top ten. But when we look at the bottom five, what are we inevitably going to have? People that have those in their top ten, those are our blind spots. So, getting to a place where we can understand those strengths, we can also come up with an awareness of, “How do those strengths provide benefit? How can they give rise to the best ideas? How will they balance out my very own gaps of where I’m at to actually create a much stronger outcome overall for the team, for the organization and going through?”

And understanding them is not, again, to the lens to become them but spending the time to dig into that so we can figure out what those needs are, so we can figure out how those can play into a greater good, and, really, bring out the fact that, on teams, our differences can be our greatest advantage that we have.

The analogy I like to give with this is the Golden Gate Bridge. I mentioned to you at the top of our time together is the Golden Gate Bridge, we’ve all seen it, it’s absolutely beautiful, but the cables that keep those two towers standing are pulling in different directions. There’s a little bit of tension that’s there. And the healthy amount of tension is actually what gives rise to the strength of the bridge in and of itself. Much the same way, Pete, that’s what gives rise to the strength of teams where we go from self-awareness, and, “How do I grow in my career?” to, “How I then ripple that to my coworkers that we need to flow, work together, and give the rise to the best ideas?”

And we come to that understanding as opposed to just saying, “This person is difficult.” We start to understand where they’re coming from, what they bring that’s very unique, and that can be an advantage to getting to exactly where we’re collectively trying to go as our outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you share some of those tactical specific adjustments you’d make in your environment and with others to pull that off so more of us are spending more time in the genius zone?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, I love what you said with your bottom one, your 34 is Consistency. Let’s just use that. So, somebody that’s really strong in the strength of Consistency, they’re going to thrive oftentimes in creating and establishing systems and routines that we can rinse and repeat and then going through, and they’re naturally going to think in that sort of capacity.

So, for you, for instance, if you were working with somebody that was very strong in the Consistency strength, and your Ideation, your Strategic, your Activator might move in very different directions, but I might understand, if I’m in your shoes, you might understand, if I’m working with somebody that’s very strong in Consistency and then understanding that, they might have needs that are different than mine.

So, I’ll give you an example of this. Your Ideation might naturally go to a place where it’s going to communicate different ideas. And what we’re searching for is to give rise to the best ideas. We might throw six, seven, eight, ten different ideas on the board, and somebody with Consistency might be listening and saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, which one of these are we doing?” because their brain is not naturally thinking in the context of, “We’re throwing seven, eight ideas on the board to kind of wrestle with them and then see if we could push together and come up with a best idea out of that and maybe it’s not one of those ten. Maybe it’s one that merges together.”

So, when we’re communicating with somebody that might have Consistency high, when we’re looking at potentially disrupting that pattern, we give acknowledgement to the fact that, “Hey, consistency is going to bring the system.” I want a message to you so if I’m you, Pete, I might tell somebody with Consistency, just letting them know, “Right now, I’m in the process of ideating.” I might be very intentional in communicating that up front. So, “We have not landed a consistent place. In fact, the work that we’re doing now is to come up with the idea of what that could look like,” and leading the conversation with that.

Because if not, the way that they’re receiving that information might be through the lens of, “Let’s establish the system right now,” and where you might be at is working through defining what even the relevant ideas might be for the system. In a nutshell, you’re both working towards the same goal but you’re in different places as to where you might show up.

So, in spending the time to be curious not only about just reading the report but if you have somebody on your team that’s strong with that, get curious about them. Ask them, “Tell me more about Consistency. That’s one of my bottom ones. That’s in my bottom five. How does that show up for you? What does that mean to you?”

And learning about that and asking them if they have any specific needs that they feel like they have to be successful. What are the needs that they have to be successful? That might be very different than your need, and that will help you to grow your connection with direct teammates, with people that you manage, or if you’re managing up the chain with understanding what success looks like for them. And that will help you to nurture and strengthen those relationships, and, again, advance in your career as you’re continuing to grow in those techniques.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You know, Shane Metcalf, a recent guest, brought up those perspectives associated with the strengthen and the associated need. Can you say more about that and give us some examples? So, Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, those are some strengths. You say there are some particular needs that are often tied to them. And what might be some examples of those?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. Shane is a great guy. I’ve worked extensively with 15Five and with Shane since 15Five was like a nine-person company, so outstanding human being. Great friends with him. When we think of some of the needs, so you mentioned Activator, I’m going to talk about that particular strength and how it kind of falls into place here.

A need that some strengths might have, and some of these are known as our influencing strengths here, Pete, they might need to verbally process. They might need to, when I say verbally process, for verbal processors, some of our strengths, like Activator, like Communication, like Command, Self-Assurance, Maximizer, those are some of them, they might need to verbally process where they think by talking. So, the talking process is thinking.

Now, here’s the thing that’s fascinating. When we’re listening to somebody that has these strengths, when they’re thinking out loud and going through that process, because those strengths bring with them a certain level of presence to be able to influence others, one of the things that we have to be mindful of, if we have those strengths or if we’re working with somebody with those strengths, is when they’re verbally processing, they might be influencing us. We might be feeling like an Activator creates some urgency, “Gosh, we got to get going. We got to get started on this.” And an Activator might unintentionally be getting things started and getting people going on things when they’re still in the verbal processing phase.

So, if you understand the needs of somebody that might be a verbal processor, my business partner, Brandon Miller, for instance, he is very much a verbal processor. And when we first started 34 Strong, I was very much an Executor so I would hear a story that made sense, I would say, “Hey, we could get this done, we could get this done, we could get that done.”

So, I’d hear what he might’ve been verbal processing, and what did I do, Pete? I went right forward to the task and three days later we’d have a chat, I’d say, “Hey, I got this done, I got this started. We’re moving forward with this,” and he might say, “Why did you get all that started? Why did you do that?” And I’m thinking, “Well, we talked about it,” because in my brain the only reason you talk about something is if you’re going to do it, and that’s where we were missing. And, thankfully, that didn’t cause us to disconnect. We weren’t eating our own cooking and it came to the place of understanding, for him, he’d signal to me, “Hey, Darren, I’m just verbally processing.” So, that was my signal to just allow that to go, allow that process to flow.

And then, for me, if I wasn’t sure if, “Hey, do we need to be moving to task on this?” I could easily ask, and say, “Are you just verbally processing right now or are we getting ready to land the plane right now? Do we want to move to task on this?” That’s just one example there, but those little nuances in understanding those of different team members can be the difference between frustration and acceleration as opposed to having to do things one, two, three, four times and we’re just missing how we actually connect and how people best learn and go forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And that’s one huge win right there in terms of, “Is this a commitment or is this just sort of kind of thinking about some things?” And, folks, their feelings can be hurt, “Hey, I planned my whole day around this thing that we talked about.” It’s like, “Oh, sorry. It was just sort of one option among many.” So, great to zero in on that.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah, I think these are really powerful tools to be able to take advantage of in thinking through in framing our thinking. And I want to let everybody know as well, you can go beyond this in just your work environments. You can take this sort of thinking home. Think of if you do have children or if you have a spouse.

What was really revealing for me, Pete, early on was when my wife and I both got our 34 reports unlocked, and I realized that three of her top five alone were in my bottom five. Everything that I’m talking about of understanding where people are coming from, that made our relationship make so much more sense.

And we’ve even applied this into the vein of parenting with our kids, and there’s a whole platform and push forward for going through that as well and digging into that great book called Incredible Parent. It was released earlier in January, and there’s actually a parenting assessment on strengths as well. And that was written by my business partner Brandon and Analyn Miller. And our whole Barbados story is actually featured in that book as well.

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

Darren Virassammy
So, a favorite quote of mine that I have lived by for a long time, I have so many, but the one that really stands out that’s at the core of the life that we live within 34 Strong is this African proverb, Pete, “If you want to fast, go alone. And if you want to go far, go with others.”

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

Darren Virassammy
So, my good friend, Joseph McClendon, III…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’ve seen him speak with Tony Robbins.

Darren Virassammy
He’s Tony Robbins’ business partner.

Pete Mockaitis
We did some power moves together.

Darren Virassammy
You did some power moves.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if he’d remember me. I was one of thousands.

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, Joseph is actually a dear friend of mine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Darren Virassammy
We share the space of bass playing, and we facilitated some workshops together on future-vision thinking and whatnot with the iconic bass player Victor Wooten, so him and I share that. But the story that he has shared, a study that he talked about was simply this. When he was doing his doctorate of neural science. When he was going through his doctorate in that, there was this stretch of highway in this two-lane road in southern California. And on one side of the road, Pete, there was light poles, telephone poles every hundred yards or 200 yards, whatever it was.

So, what was fascinating to Joseph was accidents would happen on that highway, and frequently over 50% of those accidents would end up with at least one vehicle hitting a telephone pole, which made no sense to Joseph because it didn’t just divot off and there was like these divots that went down. It was flat open dirt and fields.

So, what ended up happening for Joseph was he started doing studies, and he interviewed everybody that survived these, and there was a common theme that emerged, Pete, and it was simply this. Everybody said, “You know, Joseph, the last thing I saw coming at me was a light pole,” and that was it for him.

What happened for him, as he realized, people are what they focus on. They were so focused on not hitting the light pole, they never saw the wide-open fields that were there for them to go through. And that is at the core of a lot of what Joseph has gotten into his teaching as an ultimate performance specialist, and I love that story because you cannot hit what you’re not focusing on. How can you become strengths-based if you’re focusing on your weaknesses?

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite book?

Darren Virassammy
Favorite book of mine, there’s many to mention. I love Think and Grow Rich, the classic version by Napoleon Hill. I read it at least once a year and it seems to constantly teach me something new on a personal level, on a life level, and on a business work level each time as well.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Darren Virassammy
I love the CliftonStrengths Assessment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Darren Virassammy
It’s pretty powerful. That’s an obvious one.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Darren Virassammy
One of my favorite habits right now is collaborating with nature. So, I believe that as we become more technologically connected, we become more nature disconnected. And nature has always been a catalyst for human excellence, human innovation, and so much of what we do is tied up in that place. So, I actually talk about that as I explore people just like Joseph McClendon. He was one of my first guests and I interviewed him on my show The Nature Advantage and he shared a lot of his takeaways of how he’s actually used nature to step into his own genius.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, one of the ones that comes back to me a lot is “Be confidently vulnerable.” And by that, I mean be confident in where you shine and where you’re blind. When we step into the place of being confidently vulnerable, we own who we are and we own who we’re not, and that allows for our self-awareness to grow and our team awareness to grow. That’s at the core of being strengths-based.

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

Darren Virassammy
I would tell them to check out 34Strong.com. You can find me as well on LinkedIn and you can find me at NatureAdvantageShow.com as well, and check out the Leading Strong podcast as well through 34 Strong.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. I say go visit 34Strong.com and there’s a free download that’s right there on the power of setting clear expectations. This can be a valuable tool if you’re in a managerial role. I know with Shane, you talked about the importance of identifying recognition, what are the forms of recognition that people like. It’s just ten simple questions that you can ask of somebody that you’re managing or of a partner that you’re working with to understand their learning styles better, understand how they liked to be recognized, and what success will look like for them. That’s something that you can use immediately and put into work, so take advantage of that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Darren, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you and 34Strong lots of luck.

Darren Virassammy
Thanks a lot, Pete. Really appreciate being on here today. Thanks for the work you’re doing.

633: How to Get Unstuck, and Find Your Perfect Career Fit with Ashley Stahl

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Ashley Stahl says: "Clarity comes from engagement an it's never going to be from thought. You really can't think your way into clarity."

Ashley Stahl discusses how to find your dream career by getting clear on your core skills, values, and motivators.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The #1 reason why people end up exhausted in their careers
  2. How to identify your 3 core skillsets
  3. How to turn a bland job into a grand job

PLUS, we’re giving away copies of Ashley’s book to celebrate the new year! We’ll send copies to the first 24 listeners who share a link to this post on LinkedIn, along with their favorite nugget of wisdom from the episode. Don’t forget to tag both Pete and Ashley in your post!

About Ashley

Ashley Stahl is counter-terrorism professional turned career coach and author of the book You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career, and she’s on a mission to help you step into a career you’re excited about and aligned with. Through her two viral TEDx speeches, her online courses, her email list of 500,000 and her show, You Turn Podcast, she’s been able to support clients in 31 countries in discovering their best career path, upgrading their confidence and landing more job offers. 

She maintains a monthly career column in Forbes, and her work has been also featured in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, CBS, SELF, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and more.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

Ashley Stahl Interview Transcript

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

Ashley Stahl
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to spend this time with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. Well, I’m excited to get into what you’ve got to say but, first, I want to hear a smidge about your background. Now, I noticed in your LinkedIn that you have experiences both working for the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California, as well as fighting terrorism, although separately. It’s not fighting terrorism with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which I’m sure he’s done in a number of movies. I couldn’t list them. So, do you have any pretty wild stories from either of these encounters?

Ashley Stahl
Oh, my gosh. I’m so excited you asked me this. Nobody’s ever asked me about this.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it when people say that.

Ashley Stahl
Well, first of all, I used to answer Arnold Schwarzenegger’s government phone calls and so I would always be that intern that’s like, “Office of the Governor,” and then you would get all sorts of people across the rainbow that would be calling in. And one of my most common calls were people who would kind of sound normal at the beginning, “Hi, I’m looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger,” I’m like, “Oh, I’m his intern. I can help you.” And then suddenly they would go straight into emulating him, and they go, “Get down, we have to get out of here.”

And I was in charge of the FBI logs to basically report people who are going crazy to make sure that they weren’t an actual threat to national security. So, I was constantly having to fill out my little log every day, like, “Irene called again from Florida, David from Venice Beach,” so I was reporting all sorts of people, and that was a crazy job.

As far as counterterrorism goes, working at the Pentagon at Washington, D.C., I wouldn’t say that I had funny experiences. I feel like the experience even getting into the Pentagon was a lot of failure for me, learning how to job hunt, which informed my entire career path, mastering the job hunt. But I think that was more of a serious time. And I came into the Pentagon when NATO was trying in Afghanistan in 2011, so it was much more of a tense environment at that time and a lot of heaviness.

Ashley Stahl
Even though the Pentagon was very serious, I will say that I was caught sitting at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk asking another intern to take a picture of me to send to my mom, and I got in trouble by the head of the office and a couple of political appointees walked in right as I was doing that, so I definitely learned my lesson on respecting the situation at a young age.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, they haven’t done it.

Ashley Stahl
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I mean, I couldn’t resist myself. I would, first, maybe. Okay. So, then these people who were just quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger, they had to be logged as threats, like, “Get down,” because that is…

Ashley Stahl
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Wow. So, by that standard he might have more threats than any other governor around because nobody else is going to call the governor of Illinois and say, “Get down.”

Ashley Stahl
Oh, look. Listen, one thing I’ve learned working in the government is that there will always be something else weird. Everybody is a special little snowflake working in government offices and they will get their share of weird constituent phone calls. I also went down to the bottom of the California building, downtown L.A., during my internship, and I would answer all of the protester grievances, so that was where I learned how to handle a lot of angry energy and kind of neutralized it and keep my people skills at bay, and those are just a couple of things.

Also, I used to get his mail, and that was the time when anthrax was a full-on trend, and so people would put baby powder in his mail to pretend that it was anthrax, which was terrifying. So, I was like the sacrificial lamb on the frontlines of the baby powder wanna-be-anthrax situation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man. Well, that’s a wild cross section of experience, so that just sort of sets the stage for you know a thing or two about careers, discovering direction, designing your dream career, and more. So, I was intrigued, so as we were emailing back and forth, you said, “I’ve got some stuff that your people have never heard before,” so, I’m intrigued.

Lay it on us. How do you think about career, strategy, job hunting, getting unstuck stuff differently than other career coaches out there?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I’m pretty unconventional. There’s so much content out around how to get a job, and how to master an interview, but there’s not a lot of people out there who are going against the grain.

Like, for example, one of the things I learned early on in my career in my 20s was don’t follow your passion. Passion is interesting. It’s valuable. It’s something to consider, but it will never be as important for your career path as your core skillset. Really taking a look at what are your natural talents, what are your natural gifts, and how does that inform your career. So, that belief system is just the basis of what I write about in my book or what I do on my podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Well, then you talk about some core pieces in terms of core nature, core skillsets, core values, core motivations. How about we start with skillset? You’ve got a nice little listing. Tell us about it.

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I have a list of 10 core skillsets because I think the answer for anybody who is feeling stuck, or unsure of what their next move is, or something is missing at work, is coming back home to who you really are. That’s the concept of making a you turn is reconnecting to yourself. And that comes back down to noticing where you’re innately talented.

And one of the things about your core skillset that can be kind of challenging is that it’s so obvious to you, it’s so natural to you, that it’s almost hard to notice that you have whatever that thing is as a skillset. So, one question I tell people to ask the people in their life, whether it’s their parents or their close friends or their colleagues…

So, when you ask somebody, “When have you see me at my best?” and I always tell people that it’s not going to be easy to tell that for yourself. It’s so much more helpful when you can collect that information from someone else so you can really take that in. And so that’s why I ask people to write their responses so that I can read them. And instead of asking them in a verbal conversation, I’ll have them text me back or something like that so I can have that information.

And then the question from there to ask yourself is, “What skillset am I using when people see me at my best?” Because here’s the truth of the matter, according to research both in dating and also with job hunting, oftentimes other people have a better sense of who you are than you do. And it’s not because we don’t know ourselves. It’s because it’s easy for someone else to neutrally see where we stand out. That might be obvious for us and not so obvious to the rest of the world, and we might not even realize that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s powerful. I think it really rings true in terms of when I’ve been amazed at the work of others, and I’ve said, “Oh, my gosh, this is so great.” They’ll say, “Well, it’s not a big deal. I just kind of cranked this out in like 20 minutes.” Often, it’s sort of like a design task because I’m not great at that, it’s like, “Oh, this is amazing. This is so gorgeous. How did you do it? It must’ve taken you forever.” They’re like, “No, just 20 minutes. I mean, it’s really no big deal.”

And so, I think that’s really true and that it comes so naturally to you that it doesn’t seem…you don’t feel victorious because it wasn’t hard, and so it doesn’t register and trigger like, “Oh, wow, I’m so proud of that thing I just did. I’m awesome at this,” because it was just that easy.

Ashley Stahl
Oh, yes. And I also think a lot of people kind of get stuck on this idea of clarity. Like, if I had a penny for everybody that said, “I need clarity,” you and I would just be on a private jet with your family right now living on an island or something, because the ultimate truth for me is that you don’t need clarity. You just need to reconnect to yourself. Hence, this concept of making a you turn.

So, the 10-core skillset—I’ll go through these for any of our note-takers—I think, really kind of bring you back to the question at the root of “Who are you really?” and then the realization that there are so many different versions and ways for you to truly harness that core skillset and use it in the world. So for example, right now on this podcast, if you notice, my core skillset is words.

And what’s really interesting to consider, as you look at your core skillset, is how many different ways there are to express your core skillset. So, in my case, words can look like many things. It can look like me being a speaker, an author. It could also look like me being a salesperson or a business development professional in the workforce. It could look like me being a real estate agent, a talent agent, because it’s all about I am turning words into money.

Another thing to really look through when you’re considering these 10 core skillsets, words just being one out of the 10, is asking yourself, “Am I introverted or am I extroverted?” because if you take at take a look at the words skillset alone, there are many different ways or versions to express that. The internal way of expressing it is as a writer, or a content creator, I mean, there are so many different ways, as an editorial strategist, whatever have you. But the external way of expressing the words core skillset is more of a speaker, a spokesperson. So I saddle both sides of the fence as a writer and also as a speaker, a podcaster with my own show, all of those things.

And so, it’s really key through that people ask themselves, first and foremost, as they’re looking at the core skillsets, “Am I an introvert or am I an extrovert?” And I know there’s a lot of research on being an ambivert, but I do think people tend to lean one way or the other.

So, would it be helpful for me to go through all 10?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes let’s do that.

Ashley Stahl
So, I can kind of just go through them for anybody who’s taking notes, kind of think about where they fit, and really start asking themselves, “Am I an introvert? Am I an extrovert? How do I want to express this?” So, the first one, other than words, which I already gave you, guys, is innovation. And you kind of want to think about this as an energy, not just a tactical skillset.

So, the innovation person is the intrapreneur, it’s the entrepreneur, it’s the creative self-starter, it’s the person who maybe maintains their own book of business throughout a company. It is somebody who is coming up with solutions for different problems. So, it’s really important if you think about innovation, you are probably the entrepreneur at heart or the highly-creative person.

The second core skillset is building. This one is very much so on energy. So, one way it can look is being a mechanic, a construction worker, a little bit more tactical. Another way it could look is a little bit more conceptual and concrete like a web developer or somebody who’s building out a website. So, there’s many different ways that you can harness these skills.

The third one is words, which was mine, and I talked to you guys about that one. And then the fourth one is motion. Motion, as a core skillset, is all about using your body, using your physical energy throughout the day. So, this could be as literal as a fitness professional, this could be like a masseuse, a tour guide, anybody who’s using their energy and their body throughout the day and being in a state of movement is the motion core skillset.

And then the fifth one is service. And there’s a lot that I have to say about this core skillset. The service core skillset is the humanitarian, the helper, the social worker, but the big challenge that I have with the service core skillset is a lot of people have different childhood wounds or upbringing challenges that kind of result in them thinking that they have a core skillset, when really all it is is a coping mechanism that they developed throughout their life.

And so, anybody who’s a service person, I always kind of pause and say, “Are you really a helper or is that just something you’ve learned? Are you just a people pleaser? Is this a coping mechanism?” So, it’s important with that particular one to ask yourself, and even any of them, to say, “Does this skillset come from a wounded place or an inspired place in my career?”

And the sixth one is coordination. God knows the world needs these people. These are the detail-oriented operations people, project managers, event coordinators. They make the world go around, make sure that we’re not dropping the ball. And then the seventh one is analysis. These are the people who have a gift for research, academia, the economists, even intelligence analysts, anything that involves you going deep and having that natural affinity to do that.

And then number eight is numbers. So, holler out to my number crunchers. This is kind of what it sounds, the bookkeeper, the accountant, the investment banker, the financial modeler. And then number nine is technology. This is the IT genius, the artificial intelligence visionary. And then the tenth one is beauty, and I love this one. These are the people who make art of the world around them whether they’re an interior designer, a jewelry designer. They have an eye for aesthetics and they have a capability of creating that.

So, like I said, all of these are expressed differently if you’re introverted or extroverted, and they also are just their own energy fields, and it really helps to kind of look at these when you ask, “When have you seen me at my best?” so that you can kind of take a look and say, “Oh, wow, everybody who’s seen me at my best is noticing that I’m in service when I’m at my best.” And kind of asking yourself, “Is that a default setting for you? Is that a natural place for you? Is that where you have a gift?” and not taking your gifts for granted because, far too often, we think where we’re great is just easy for everybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. As I run through this, I think I see three contenders for me. It could be innovation, it could be words, it could be analysis but I’m pretty sure it’s not any of the others.

Ashley Stahl
Yes. Well, you’re hitting on a really good point. Everybody tends to identify with three. Like, three is the magic number.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, all right. How about that?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, anytime I’ve done this, the client, or somebody, the courses, or whatever have you, I hear somebody saying, “Oh, I think a few of these feel like me.” So, here’s a thing to know, your primary core skillset is what matters the most. That’s what you’re building your career off of. And this becomes really relevant when people say, “Should I stay? Should I go? Am I in the right job?” What I always say to that is, “Are you honing the core skillset that you want to carry with you throughout your career? Or, have you exhausted opportunity to grow?”

That’s the top consideration because you’re really carrying a skillset with you for your life. And you might express it in different ways and you use it in different ways, but when you really get that, you’re able to make career pivots or changes, and make sense of them when you go back to your skillset and really sync in to the next move you’re making, whether you’re talking to job interviews or hiring managers, being able to talk about how your core skillset relates to the next job you want, for example.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I really love that that’s a very clear acid test in terms of, “Am I continuing to grow this or am I not?” And I think it’s kind of like the Golden Goose in terms of the long arch of a career, that’s what you go to have going. Otherwise, if your skills are atrophying then you may very well be less valuable three, five years from now than when you started, which is not the direction you want to go in. Ideally, you’ll be increasingly super valuable, indispensable with the associated compensation and fun responsibilities growing all the way until your retirement part.

Ashley Stahl
You know what’s so amazing about what you’re sharing is I recently read some data that was saying every five years, one of your skills becomes completely obsolete in the workforce. And I’m aware that by 2025, about 16% of job titles don’t even exist yet. So, that’s been really relevant especially for Generation Z who’s transitioning into the workforce now to know that there’s a lot of jobs that are about to become available that we haven’t even heard of, and it’s so important to stay aware of that. And, yet, our core skillset has many different ways of expressing itself when you know what that is.

And kind of going back to you saying you have three core skillsets, it’s about deciding which one are you uniquely brilliant in, how do you want to lead with it. And I will say that they all kind of do come up with this cocktail where it’s like let’s say motion and innovation are your core skillset, you can kind of think, “Okay, innovation and motion, maybe we’re going to get a fitness influencer, somebody who creates a business and kind of honors motion throughout the business with their fitness side of thing.”

So, it is kind of fun to play with that and do the combinations with yourself, but it’s still important to know. And that’s one of the number one reasons people are exhausted in their work is because they’re not working within their core skillset or most of their days in a different skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m curious, if you’re frequently working with clients, folks identify three, how do you push forward to zero in on the one?

Ashley Stahl
I think intuition is a really big deal and just your body, like, really tuning into your body. So, for example. I gave a TED Talk recently. I was talking about how there’s 200 million, if not more, neurons in your gut, which is why it’s called the second brain right now. And when you think about that, that’s the size of a cat or dog’s brain. And so, there’s an intelligence to you having a sinking feeling in your stomach. There’s an intelligence to having butterflies in your stomach.

So, one thing that I really ask people is about what experiences they’ve had at work even if they hate their job that they didn’t mind or that they kind of likes, and I pay attention to their body language and how their energy frees up or their voice to see where they’re getting energy. Because one of the slippery slopes I think people take in their career is they work in a zone of goodness and not in their zone of genius. And when they do that, maybe they’re working in their secondary or third core skillset, they’re really missing that juice of who they really can be in their work.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s handy as I think about it. For me, innovation is leaping forward because I just think about the podcast, you know. The analysis and research is a means to an end of we’re evaluating you, Ashley, and seeing, “Okay, does she have good stuff?” and so we’re using deep research in terms of like the verdicts, “Do we invite Ashley and do we pass?” And then the words, in terms of, “How do we…? What’s the title? What’s the teaser?” I mean, that just sort of we need to do that to make it kind of compelling. But what I’m loving most is the discovery, like, “Holy crap, what you say is true and I didn’t know it before. I love this,” and it lights me up, and the research and the words are kind of a means to that end.

Ashley Stahl
Yeah. Well, you know what’s so amazing about the truth is I don’t necessarily think the truth is something that people learn. I think it’s something you kind of recognize. Like, how many times has somebody said something, and all of you is like, “Yes.” It’s almost like they put words to what you knew and you couldn’t express.

And I think that’s what so powerful for me about being an author is that it’s kind of like that person that has an autoimmune condition and they’re shopping for doctors trying to get an answer, and they have this illness, and they just want to know what it is, and even if they finally get the news and it’s horrible news, there’s still such a relief to knowing what it is and knowing what you’re working with. And I think that’s the gift that we, as authors or podcast hosts, get to give the world, if words are our core skillset, as we get to put words to things that people haven’t been able to vocalize, and there’s such a healing and a harmony that we can create for people with that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s true. Yeah. You know, I remember, what’s coming to mind is there’s I think it’s an audiobook publisher, Sounds True, and it’s like, “That’s just the best brand.” If I will start an audiobook publishing house, that’s the name I would’ve wanted but they already took it, because it sounds true. And that’s often how it feels when you’re engaged in a conversation. It’s like something lights up inside you, it’s like, “I don’t have the hard data but that sounds very right and true and, yes, internally.”

Ashley Stahl
Yeah. And, you know, what you’re sharing, also it’s really important for anybody listening to realize, like some of us are kind of cut off from our bodies. We don’t feel our feelings. We don’t feel what feels good. And so, anybody who’s kind of going through that as they’re listening to you and I talk about the truth, it’s like your only assignment, if you can’t feel where you’re expanding or contracting inside and where you’re feeling pulled to in those breadcrumb moments where you’re getting little nudges is just to start paying attention to what feels good. Start paying attention to where your energy is good. Start asking people where they’ve noticed your energy get really good. I think that’s just a starting point is leaning on the people around you that you can count on to educate you on when they’re noticing you really shine because it’s tough.

And, yet, one of the biggest barriers to figuring out what you want to do is listening to everybody and not even listening to yourself anymore. So, I think walking that line is a big deal.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, hey, that’s awesome. We talk about core skillsets. We’ve also got core nature, core values, core motivations. Can you give us just maybe your favorite tactic to get a good kernel of insight into each of these?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I would say your core nature is really about the energy you bring to the room. And I actually talk about this in the first chapter of my book before I get to core skillset because I think it’s the foundation. So, one question to ask people who know you is, “How does the room change when I walk in? How would you describe my presence in the room?” When you’re able to ask that question and start to kind of collect the adjectives that you get from people around you, you’ll start to see a trend.

For anybody who knows me really well, they’re going to say the room gets lighter because I have a sense of humor and I’m a joker, and so people start to kind of laugh when I walk in because I’m kind of a goofball, stuff like that. And when you start to notice that, you can ask yourself, “Okay, here’s the top three, or four, or five adjectives I’m seeing people describe me as. This is my essence. This is my nature. This is me when I’m me.” And when you look at that, it’s like, “Who do you know in your life that has a similar nature or energy to you?” And from there, you can kind of look at different career paths that people in your life have or that you’re aware of, and you can start to say, “Okay, these are my different career options. Now, let me get clear on what my core skillset so I don’t go into a career that demands my energy but isn’t using my core skill.” So, I think your skillset is really a filter for your options.

And, from there, I would say your core values are a really big deal, and that’s something I wrote about in another chapter because there’s two dynamics in people’s career at any given moment. The first dynamic is the what of what they’re doing. That comes down to their core skillset, their job title, how they’re bringing their energy into work and what their responsibilities look like. The other side is the how of how your job looks. Given that 50% of people leave their job because they don’t like their boss, the research is in, how your job looks matters just as much as what your job is, and that comes back to your core values.

So, I think everybody has maybe five core values. And I try to tell people don’t go for much more than that, don’t choose many more than that because it’s hard to juggle that in your career. But I hold core values as foundational, fundamental, non-negotiable principles by which you live your life. And when you can start to tune into what your core values are, you can see those as a filter for what companies or people that you want to work with.

You know, I had a client who was a lawyer, and a lot of her core skillset and core nature pointed to being a lawyer, and there are many options that I pointed to but lawyer made sense. And when we got down to it, we realized that it was really a core values issue because balance was one of her core values, and she was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer, which means that when there’s a deal that’s live, you don’t go to bed, and she doesn’t see her kid or her family. And so, we ended up making the decision for her to change over to family law, and that completely changed her life. There’s a process for her to do that. Now, she’s very 9:00 to 5:00. She loves being a lawyer again and she has that balance.

And so, I think for anybody who feels like something is missing in their career, often what’s missing is a core value or you’re not working within your core skillset. Those are two things to consider. And when people are radically unhappy in their career, viscerally unhappy, usually what’s happening is a core value is not just missing but it’s being violated or trespassed upon. So, getting clear on those core values and your core nature, your core skillsets, those are three steps in my 11-step roadmap to making a you turn.

And I could go on about this stuff forever but, hopefully, everybody listening can kind of take that time to look at their core values. And those are words like family, balance, authenticity, love, connection, self-expression. These are all core values as possibilities.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, core values have come up a few times on the show. And what’s your pro tip in terms of if folks kind of have an idea, like, “Ah, this is probably one and that’s probably another. But then, beyond that, who knows?” How do you recommend you go get those clear?

Ashley Stahl
We get this advice in dating. Pick somebody that has…and I love comparing job hunting to dating because there’s so many parallels it’s crazy. But we get the advice of pick somebody who shares the same values as you. But here’s the truth of the matter. Everybody’s value can look different.

I had a client who told me that her core value was adventure. And I had another client, he told me it was adventure. When I asked the woman, who lived in New York City, I said, “What does adventure look like for you?” she said, “It means trying new restaurants in New York.” Okay, great. That’s adventure for her. When I asked the other guy, “What does adventure mean for you?” he said, “Skydiving.” So, we’ve got completely different ways of expressing the core values. So, I think that’s really important, not just to write down a word that means something for you but asking yourself, “How am I showing up in this word? What does it look like for me?”

And I think one of the most slippery slopes of core values is people are too aspirational when they’re choosing their core values. So, you’re saying that this comes up a lot on the show, but I think one thing that I don’t hear often is the phenomenon that people think that something is a core value when, really, it’s just something they want more of in their life, and that’s really valuable to know what you want more of but it’s not a core value. A core value is what is the non-negotiable ingredient to who you are, and you know you have a core value when if you remove that word, you’re not you.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yes, core value, non-negotiable. So, we reflect on it. And what else in terms of arriving at it? It’s not just something you want more of, but it’s something that is a non-negotiable must-have.

Ashley Stahl
Yes. So, the thing about core values is that, far too often, people are picking words that they want to be more of and not words that they are. You know something is a core value where if you take away that word, you’re not you anymore. So, humor is a core value for me. If you remove humor, I’m not here anymore. I’m not me. That’s when you know you’ve hit a core value.

I had a client who wrote peace as one of her core values, and I’m like, “Hmm, you’re not the most peaceful. I don’t know if this is a core value for you.” And she ended up totally agreeing with me. So, I think it’s important to be really honest with yourself when you’re choosing your words. Look at what they actually mean for you. Get curious for the opportunities in your life, how those core values are manifesting for the other person or for a company, let’s say, if you’re not. Maybe in your love life, you look at what it means for your partner. Maybe in your career, you look at what that looks like for the company you’re at and how your job is going to play a role in that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I guess to distinguish, core value is a fundamental non-negotiable thing that you got to have in life or a thing. And your core nature is just sort of like your essence, your you-ness, your “What do I feel when you enter the room?”

Ashley Stahl
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Any further distinction?

Ashley Stahl
No, I think you’ve got it. Your core nature is your vibes, how the vibe is you bring to the room. Your core values are your principles, and your core skillset is your gift. And if you can really take a look at those three things, you are so much further ahead than so many people in your career. And I think a lot of people are in careers right now that maybe aren’t working for them. And if that’s the case, there’s this really cool field called job crafting, and it’s all about taking a bland job and turning it into a grand job. I love saying that because it’s so ridiculous.

[33:28]

But, really, that’s what it is. It’s taking a look at your core skillset, and saying, “How do I ask my manager…?” or if you’re a business owner, “How do I carry this into my business and initiate a project that allows me to kind of morph what I’m doing in that direction?” So, let’s say you’re working in tech but you want to be a writer. How can you ask your boss for the permission to take initiative on a project that allows you to be a little bit more of a writer but still provide extraordinary value to your company? So, I think job crafting is a really big deal if you’re not currently working in your core skillset. And I do think that people who aren’t working in their core skillset, or honoring their core values, is an explanation for why so many people are unhappy at work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, you got one more. Core motivations. What’s the story here?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, there is so much to core motivator. And one of the things that I’ve learned as I was writing the book is that everybody, obviously, is motivated by something else. So, one way to kind of tune in to your core motivator is in your job interviews, really asking yourself, “How does this manifest for me?” So, I’ll go through, there’s ten just like the core skillset, if it’s helpful for me to go through all ten.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Ashley Stahl
Okay, cool. So, number one is meaning. This is about people doing work that really aligns with a spiritual purpose. So, this could look like aligning your core skillset and your core values with a very deep sense of personal mission. Number two is about optimal health. So, this is about work that supports your health or your physical wellness. This is why you see certain people who are probably the motion core skillset. They’re motivated by doing something every day that comes with their health. The third core motivator is time. So, this is work that allows you time freedom or flexibility. This is a career that gives you a sense of control over how you’re spending your time, and it’s a huge motivator for people whether you’re in a job interview. You want to take these motivators and ask questions that allow you to get insight on whether that need will be met.

Number four is impact. This is work you know is changing the world or making a difference. I think what’s really interesting about the impact people is that impact might not show up in how their day-to-day job looks. It’s a conceptual backdrop to their job. And what’s so important about that is that their responsibilities and what they’re doing might not be tied to the actual impact it’s having, but just knowing that they’re doing something that’s making the world better, they’re a little tiny cog in a much bigger important wheel, is enough for them. That’s what motivates them.

And the fifth one is visibility. So, in the influencer space, I’m sure you’ve interviewed plenty of us where it’s work that grants you prestige or recognition. This is a career that gives you validation. And, obviously, if you’re not checking yourself, it’s really a wounded motivator unless you kind of take care of yourself and just know this about yourself.

And then the sixth one is accomplishment. So, this is for the people who are very motivated by checking things off a list. They like to feel a sense of completion. This is the career person that loves deadlines, they love that dopamine hit when they get an achievement. It gives them a sense of motion and completion and gratification.

And then number seven is training. So, this is work that actually allows you to learn as you do it. I would say that you’re probably somewhat motivated by that just being a podcast host, and same with me with my podcast. I love to learn. And then number eight is ease. And, actually, I love the ease people, like they crack me up because the person who can own that as a motivator, there’s something very refreshing about how honest they are that they want work that allows them comfort, which means it helps them avoid shame, or fear, or failure, anxiety, whatever it is. It’s a career based on simplicity. Doing work that you feel competent doing without much challenge to your growth. So, this is for the person who’s very motivated by easy times and just getting by without much thought on their career.

And then number nine is spending. So, this is work that you’re motivated to spend money in your work or save it or keep it. Some people are literally just motivated by the pursuit of money, and I think there’s a lot of judgment on those people, but I think there’s something really amazing and inspiring about someone that can say, “I just want to make a lot of money, and that’s what I’m motivated to do.”

In personal development, I think there’s a lot of challenges to that statement that there’s something below the desire for money and what is that really about. But I actually have found in my work as a career expert the past decade, and that’s really what I’ve put into the book that I wrote was just all of the interviews and surveys I’ve done. Some people naturally just enjoy what money brings to their life to a level where they’re not needing much else. This is what motivates them.

And then number ten is self-expression. So, this is work that grants you the freedom to channel your emotions and ideas, and bring them to light. So, this is a career that really leads with creating through your feelings and through your ideas. This is definitely something that motivates me.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, can you contrast, for me, meaning versus impact?

Ashley Stahl
Yes. So, meaning, when you really look at that one, what’s different about it from impact is that it’s something that is more aligned with a spiritual purpose. It’s your own sense of mission. It’s more self-focused. So, somebody who’s seeking meaning, it’s about them. Somebody who’s seeking impact, it’s about the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And what’s interesting about ease is I was thinking about David Allen, Getting Things Done. He’s been on the show a couple of times and he said, “If you ever had a crank widget job in which you got a bunch that needed cranking, a widget crank, a widget cranker, that’s a job, is you just do that and then you’re done.” It’s like, “At the end of the workday, you’re not at all thinking about the widgets and the cranking. It’s just like not there.”

And so, ease, in some ways it doesn’t mean like you’re lazy or you’re a bum. It just means like I’m thinking about farmers and some of them have very long, very demanding workdays, but in a way there’s some ease in terms of, “I don’t need to think or worry about what I need to do, which is very clear. Those cows need to be milked, that field needs to be plowed, and so I’m just going to do that and roll with it. I don’t have to agonize over the political stakeholders and how I’m going to appease all of them and their complex interrelationship struggles and conflicts. I’m just going to do the thing that really needs to be done now,” and so that’s a variety of ease.

Ashley Stahl
Exactly. And I’m really inspired by these people because I find that we live in a world where it’s really easy to be complicated. It’s actually so much harder to be simple, and these people have it down. And a lot of the work that they do in this category is very meditative, it flows, it’s easy. They’re not the people who are wanting to necessarily grow in their work. Maybe they’re growing in some other area of their life, and they’re just not motivated by that in their job.

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

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I would say the final thing that we didn’t cover because there’s just so much, I mean, having written a 300-page book on it, is people’s interest. I think a lot of people get lost on how to figure out where to put their interest in their career. And if there’s any advice I could give to anybody listening, your interest is really your backdrop.

So, for example, I love cupcakes, and that doesn’t mean that I am going to be a baker of cupcakes. There’s a difference between loving to consume something and being meant to produce something. And so, if you have an interest and you want to bring it into your career, first think about your core skillset, how you’re spending your time and doing your day, then think about your interest more as the backdrop that you’re doing it in. So, if you love travel, maybe you’re going to work at a five-star hotel, but what’s more important is how you use your skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that adds up in terms of, “I think I’m passionate about coffee.” It’s like, “Well, I mean, drinking coffee is very different from…”

Ashley Stahl
That doesn’t mean you need to be a coffee-maker.

Pete Mockaitis
“…making coffee, selling coffee, consulting coffees shops.”

Ashley Stahl
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
You might hate those things, and then just enjoy drinking coffee when you’re there, and that’s all.

Ashley Stahl
Exactly.

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

Ashley Stahl
A favorite quote. I love Rumi’s quote, “Act or live as if the universe is rigged in your favor.” I have found that that quote has given me so much peace at times where whatever is happening for me in my career or my life, I can’t make sense of it, I always trust that there’s something working in my favor, and it just hasn’t been revealed to me yet.

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

Ashley Stahl
I found a bit of research from Stanford, and I’ve struggled to find it ever since. I think I read it in a scholarly journal or something like that. But, recently, I read that 84% of your best ideas don’t come at work. That was by Stanford, and I love that because it’s such a reminder of how important it is for us, I mean, all of us are innately creative beings to create white space outside of our work and stop getting into that addictive pattern of booking ourselves back-to-back-to-back not allowing for that genius to come through in our day-to-day lives.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I like that. When I slack off at work and I feel guilty, I just tell myself, “This is part of my creative process.”

Ashley Stahl
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And there’s the hard data to back it up. So, thank you. More of that. And how about a favorite book?

Ashley Stahl
I mean, obviously, I have to say my own book You Turn, but if that is not self-serving enough, I could say my favorite book and the person that motivated me to be a writer in the first place and really influenced the way that I write is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

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

Ashley Stahl
I absolutely love Insight Timer app. There are some meditations. There’s a woman on there, named Sarah Blondin, and she has free meditations, and I always put my noise-cancelling earphones on, and I completely turn off the world for 10 minutes, and her meditations get me so grounded in my work. I always do it before a really, really big meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ashley Stahl
My favorite habit is probably fitness, and that’s something that’s brand new. I hate that I’m saying it because it feels really trite but it was really hard for me to get into fitness. I hired a personal trainer. It’s kind of forced me to exercise a few times a week, and I’m really proud of that because it’s given me such a level of new focus and energy in my day, and I’m so glad I’m doing that.

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

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, one thing I’ve said often is clarity comes from engagement, and it’s never going to come from thought. You really can’t think your way into clarity. So many people are sitting there, marinating, and engagement can look like so many things. It can look like as simple as reading my book or anybody’s book or listening to this podcast. It can also look like taking another job and trying it on.

Far too often, people hold their careers too heavily and they slow themselves down for making decisions. And what I think with this is I walked into the Pixar offices a while back, and I saw a big sign on the wall that said, “Fail faster.” And what I loved about that was that, to me, is the sign of a good career. If somebody who’s willing to be experimental to lighten their energy towards their career and engage in some way even if it means taking something that feels pretty big.

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

Ashley Stahl
I would say, right now, we have a bundle of courses and you can order my book at YouTurnBook.com or else you could hit me up on Instagram @ashleystahl.

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

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I’d shamelessly have to say I hope that they read the book. I mean, it’s everything I’ve collected over a decade of work with thousands of job seekers in my courses. And it has been such a labor of love and soul. And if they don’t read the book, I would say at least re-listen to this podcast episode and take some notes on your core skillsets so that you can carry that with you into your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ashely, this has been fun. I wish you lots of luck and many unstuck moments.

Ashley Stahl
Thank you so much.

627: Breaking Through Your Mental Limitations to Grow Faster with Matt Norman

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Matt Norman discusses how to break the mental patterns that hinder our growth—and encourage healthier patterns.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The thinking pattern that saps our energy 
  2. Two questions to keep your thoughts from overwhelming you 
  3. How to keep criticism from fazing you 

 

About Matt

Matt Norman is President & CEO of Norman & Associates, which offers Dale Carnegie programs in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Through Norman & Associates, he helps people think and work together more effectively. Matt’s mentorship has helped Fortune 100 corporations, non-profits, and entrepreneurs change the way they engage with their employees and clients. 

Matt has been named to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal 40 Under Forty list and the Minnesota Business (Real) Power 50. 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

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Matt Norman Interview Transcript

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

Matt Norman
Thanks, Pete. Really excited to be here with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. And, first, I want to hear about your fondness for Latin dancing. Now, people who can’t see you, you don’t look Latin to my eye, but you never know actually. What’s the backstory here?

Matt Norman
Thanks for asking me, Pete. When I was in college, I spent a year in Ecuador and I had to choose from elective courses, including Latin American dance, and at the time I had no dancing background. Being of Nordic Minnesotan background, I thought that that might be a helpful cultural experience, so I ended up taking the class and loving it, and actually spent a lot of my time down there doing as much dancing as I could. And few people know that one of my email addresses is Bailando Norman which is Dancing Norman. I’m not that great at it but I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, is that for the VIPs who know that one and others don’t? Or how does that work?

Matt Norman
It’s actually for the spam emails.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’ve got that too. Mine is PeteMJunk@gmail.com. Now everybody knows but I probably won’t see the message if you email it. But then when I give it to people, I don’t want them to know I’m giving them a junk email address so I try to space it out like, “Oh, yeah, it’s P-E-T-E-M-J-U-N-K@gmail.com.”

Matt Norman
That’s right. Yeah, talking about having those long ones you have to spell out. I know, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. Well, so that sounds like a healthy habit right there, is keeping your inbox clean. But you’ve got some broader speaking patterns you’ve identified of healthy people, four in particular, in your book the Four Patterns of Healthy People: How to Grow Past Your Rooted Behaviors, Discover a Deeper Connection with Others, and Reach Your Full Potential in Life and Business. We like all of those things. So, lay it on us, what do you mean by healthy person and how did we determine that there are four patterns of them?

Matt Norman
Yeah, thanks, Pete. By the way, when you say that “We love those things,” I can say, as a frequent listener of your podcast, I really appreciate the ways in which you and your guests helped me and others develop healthier patterns. And when we say healthier patterns, we mean not just physically healthier but mentally and emotionally healthier.

And through my coaching and life experiences, I’ve realized that at some point in life we develop ways of thinking and behaving, usually as an adaption to our circumstances and it typically works well for a while, therefore we repeat those ways of thinking and behaving. And at some point, many of us realize that those ways of thinking and behaving don’t work anymore because of a relationship that we’re in, a job that we’re in, or realize that we’re overusing some of those ways of thinking and behaving, and so we get stuck.

And so, because of that, we have a choice. We can either remain stuck and surround ourselves with people that don’t challenge us and don’t cause us to self-confront and grow, or we can grow. And because of that, I wrote the books to help individuals and organizations go to live with more joy and impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yeah, all that sounds swell – joy, impact. So, let’s talk about these ways of thinking and being just to make that really clear. Can you give us an example of a very common pattern that, let’s say, wait, let’s do a contrast…So, let’s hear a common pattern of thinking and operating that is found in healthy people but not so often in…well, I don’t know what we want to call it. Do we call them unhealthy people or pre-healthy people? What’s the term we’re using?

Matt Norman
Less functional, less optimal. Yeah, absolutely. And so, before I give that example, I can just put into context of there are four pattern areas, as you alluded to, how we think, how we relate to others, how we view ourselves, and how we operate, or make choices of our lives. And so, to use a common example, in terms of how we think, many of us ruminate on things that drain us of energy rather than releasing things that drain us of energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Matt Norman
And in the book, that’s one example where we talk about the value of metacognition or thinking about our thinking so that we realize that when there are thoughts, in the book we use the metaphor of leaves falling in a river, and to think of our thoughts as a stream or river of everything that’s going through our mind. And the green leaves that are falling in the river are thoughts that energize us and red leaves are thoughts that drain us, and many of us will fixate on red leaves because they worry us, we think that by fixating on them we’re going to change them, we’re going to improve the situation.

But we find is that the healthiest people, top performers, will allows those red leaves, they won’t ignore them, they’ll acknowledge the red leaf is there, but then they’ll let it float down the river, and they’ll choose to fixate on the green leaves, those leaves that are energizing us. And so, it’s a very common pattern to ruminate rather than release.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s huge right there in terms of, boy, just the energy that can liberate in terms of you think about being awesome at your job, that could very well make the difference between, “Do you have two good energized hours to do great work or do you have six in the course of a day based upon just how much of this you’re doing?” And I’ve lived both of those. So, yeah, let’s go right there right now.

So, the best approach if there’s an energy-draining situation, and maybe let’s make this all the more real in terms of maybe someone said something you found offensive at work, like you felt unappreciated by what they said, like, “Hey, Matt, how about we just do one more pass at this and I think we’ll be ready to go,” and you’re like, “Excuse me? We’ve already done six passes, that’s just pretty darn good and I’m tired of this, and I thought it was excellent and your critiques aren’t very useful and they’re frankly annoying.”

I’m not talking about anyone in particular. If you’re listening to this and I’m collaborating with you on something, this is purely fiction, for the record, but these things do come up. And so, let’s just say that’s the situation. You’re ruminating on it, and so you say the healthy approach is to not push it away or ignore it or run from it but rather to allow it to pass through. What are we doing in practice when that happens?

Matt Norman
That’s right, yeah. So, we’re acknowledging that it’s there, we may interrogate that thought briefly, not ruminate, but we may interrogate and be curious about that thought rather than defensive. We’re starting to get into the relationship pattern in the book which has to do with how we respond to criticism and also how much we internalize what people think of us or whether people approve of us. And so, there may be a moment where we want to be curious and interrogate, “Well, why did that bother me so much?” or, “What truth is there that’s there?”

But then we would let it go. We would let it pass. And metacognition and neuroscience would suggest that sometimes it’s actually valuable to physically release it, you know, write it down in a journal or a piece of paper and crumple it up and throw it in the trash. Or sometimes, literally, what I’ll do is kind of toss my hands up in the air, it’s like I’m releasing them or like I’m dropping the mic, you know, to physically send a message to my mind that, “I’m now releasing you.” And sometimes it may just be as simple as just saying, “I choose in my mind, I choose to release that thought,” and then perhaps focus on thoughts that are also true and perhaps more fulfilling than that draining thought.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I like that. So, I guess the answer is probably it varies, but lay it on us. I mean, just how much time do we care to be curious, to interrogate, to investigate versus…? Because at some point I guess we might fall into the ruminating zone there. So, how do you think about that in terms of how much time is not enough time and how much time is too much time?

Matt Norman
Yeah. I think two litmus tests, one would be, “Am I repeating the same thing over and over again?” “Am I sawing sawdust?” As Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, I don’t saw sawdust. And the other thought is, “Is this bringing me consolation or desolation?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, so Ignatian of you, Matt.

Matt Norman
Yes, exactly. Good pickup. I was just going to make that reference, yeah. So, this idea that, as Ignatius of Loyola says, many of the thoughts that we may have, or experiences, bring a sense of…it consoles our spirit even though it may be hard or difficult or problematic, there’s still the sense that it’s constructive, it’s connecting to where I should be at this moment. Whereas, there are desolate feelings, that’s where we literally feel empty, we feel we’re losing our self, or that we’re losing our spirit or our energy around this particular topic. It sounds like you have experienced or thought about that reference also.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I have a book about the discernment of spirits that’s taking me a long time to finish because it’s dense. I gnaw upon it and think about it. So, that is some handy litmus test distinctions there. So, then in this example we’ve used, it might sound like…well, you tell me, I’m going to take a crack at the acknowledging and interrogating and being curious and letting it pass.

I might say, “Boy, I feel frustrated that we’ve already been through many revisions on this document and yet this guy wants to do even more. I kind of feel like I am stupid or a loser or inadequate, at least in his eyes, and relative to what I’m producing here. And that feels disappointing to me because I thought I had created something awesome that I had spent a lot of time and effort already in doing. And the subsequent set of recommendations, I think, frankly, could make it worse, and I don’t feel like doing that.”

Okay, so that’s me acknowledging. That’s exactly how I feel about the situation. So, then interrogating and being curious might sound like, “Why do you suppose he feels he needs to go through so many revisions?” or, “Why would I feel like a loser based upon the input of one person who’s not that important to me?” And then maybe follow those threads, like, “Oh, maybe he’s new and he’s raw. He’s worried about making a good impression with his boss. Maybe it’s because I really like things to be optimal, at their peak-performing levels, and it just sort of demotivates me when I think we’re moving away from that, and that’s kind of what’s up.”

So, well, you tell me. I’ve tried to acknowledge and to interrogate and be curious. Would you recommend I do that any differently or in more depth, less depth?

Matt Norman
Pete, that was really powerful. I thought that you did two things there that were really strong, and then one thing that you didn’t do. So, I think one thing that you did that was really strong was that you weren’t blaming in that thought pattern.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, like, “That jerk face. Where does he get off doing…?” Okay.

Matt Norman
Yeah, exactly. “I get so much disrespect in this culture. I’d say he’s always after me. Why does he have to make me…?” All of that is pointing at the other person as opposed to looking at your own thoughts, which is the second thing I think that you did really well there is that you were processing your authentic feelings. You were saying, “I feel disappointed. I feel…” and even thinking about some of the identity translations of those feelings, like, “I feel stupid. I feel like I’m missing the mark on this.” And so, that seems really authentic to be saying those things, so processing those ideas.

So, not blaming and then having authentic expression of your emotion is really powerful. And then the thing that you didn’t on that was you weren’t repeating yourself. Once you process the thought, you move to a level of deeper interrogation, or you moved onto a subsequent thought, but you weren’t circling back to say, “Yeah, you know, I am stupid. I must be…Who else thinks…? What other evidences there that I’m doing stupid things around here? Why would he say that? Why would he say that?”

And so, those are kind of the repetitive thoughts that we’ll often have that are less helpful. So, the fact that you were making forward progress and that you were not blaming, that you’re authentically expressing your emotions, I think, was all the way powerful there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Well, thank you. Well, hey, it doesn’t always work out that healthily in my brain. And so, let’s go there next. So, let’s say you do find yourself circling, you do find yourself blaming, you did the acknowledging, the interrogating, the being curious, and then it’s looping on back, what do we do?

Matt Norman
So, one consideration is, “What might I be attached to from an identity standpoint?” And this gets into some of the psychology around the false self versus the true self. Typically, we have this false self that psychologists will say is the self, the image that we want projected to the world, the image of what we want other people to see us, “I want people to see me as highly competent here. I want people to see me as not making mistakes, etc.” And we say it’s false because no one’s perfect.

And so, to cast this kind of image of perfection out to the world or that we think the world expects of us has a degree of falseness to it versus authenticity. And so, for us to think about, “What are the parts of my false self that I’m holding onto too tightly? What are the parts of my identity? In other words, do I think that I need to be accepted in order to be okay? Do I think that I need to be viewed as competent in order to be okay? Do I think that I need the approval of this particular group? Or do I think do I need there to be harmony in the environment for me to be okay?”

So, there’s a number of questions as we interrogate that we can start to realize about how we’ve maybe overidentified with this particular situation. Therefore, we may need to consider if we’re holding onto too tightly to parts of my false self that I’m trying so hard to project to the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, there’s a lot of good stuff there. So, the pattern, I heard you say, is, “Do I need blank to be okay?” associated with what you’re attached to and your identity. And so, I guess, ideally, I would like for there to be nothing in that zone, like, “I don’t need anything to be okay. I’m okay just by being alive.” And you can draw – we’re getting deep here – you can draw, like your fundamental worth or value whether it’s the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights or like a faith or wisdom tradition, like, “I’m made in the image and likeness of God,” or something, like you believe, “I have intrinsic value, worth, dignity just because I am or I am a human.” That seems like the ideal place to be but often we’re not there. And there are some other things attached to it such as, “I do need to be perceived as,” whatever, or, “I need to look like a winner or make $125,000 annually,” or fill the blank.

So, if we’ve identified some of those attachments, what do we do with that?

Matt Norman
Yeah. Well, it may be a process of revisiting where our true value comes from. To your point, revisiting what tradition or source we look to for our true value. The Harvard School of Negotiation says that, often, when we’re really thrown off balance, they call it an identity quake.

Pete Mockaitis
Quick?

Matt Norman
A quake.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, like an earthquake. Okay.

Matt Norman
Like, the ground under us is shaking. Often, we can feel this most when we just are really upset about something, or maybe we are triggered in a way that other people might not be triggered by. We just get more upset or more reactive than someone else might get. It may be a sign that we have to look at, “What is it about this that may be questioning something that I think is central to my identity? And does it really need to be central to my identity?”

So, I had this earlier in my career, I was in an operational role where I was responsible for getting deliverables out on certain timelines, and because of a number of factors, we were behind schedule, and we had customers calling and complaining. And I remember that our head of sales came to me, and not just me, to our executive team, and said that our team was not performing and, frankly, the message was that I had to be fired.

Pete Mockaitis
Right there in front of everyone. Okay.

Matt Norman
Yeah. Basically, he was going through channels of communication that came around back to me or I knew that this was the message that he was communicating. And at that time, I remember being so upset at him and at the situation, far more upset than I think many people might be when they were missing deadlines. I was so upset. And the reason is because I’ve developed a strong desire throughout my life for approval from other people, particularly people that I viewed as key stakeholders for my work. And I viewed this vice president of sales as a key stakeholder of mine.

And so, it literally was an identity quake for me, for me to get this feedback that I ought to be fired, that our group ought to be reorganized because of our inability to make these deliverables. And so, as opposed to having a productive reaction at that time in my career, I remember sitting in meetings and just constantly wondering whether I was saying the right thing, whether I was doing the right thing. And as a result, in one meeting in particular, I had a panic attack where I couldn’t continue speaking and I had to leave the meeting because I became so physically taken down by this identity quake that I’d turned into a series of unhealthy rumination.

So, all that goes back to, again, not just the realization of those red leaves or those draining leaves that are falling in the river but the source of those leaves often has to do with the way I view          relationships and the need for me to project this idealized image onto those relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And that’s a huge insight in terms of understanding that. And I suppose, can we dig into some detail in terms of, “How does one divest one’s self of these attachments and return to the source and…?” Because it’s tricky, like, I think once we can get to a place where it’s sort of like, “Okay, I know I feel the need to…” fill in the blank, you know, “…look productive, be competent, be rich…”

Matt Norman
Get a promotion, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
“And I don’t like that. It’s true but it is.” What’s my step-by-step to freedom there?

Matt Norman
Yeah. So, the book really goes through a number of exercises that we can do to make progress in that area. And, again, one of them would be this thought process of realizing that, “Okay, when I have identity quakes on that, or when that need triggers me, rather than ruminating I can release those thoughts,” that’s number one. And then number two is, “I can decide in this relationship that I’m going to differentiate myself.” In other words, this is another, your concept in psychology that, “Rather than absorbing the anxiety around me, that I would separate my emotions from how other people may be feeling, I would decide that I’m going to own my emotions and not let other people control my emotions.”

And so, we may need to, in our relationships, decide that, “I’m going to create some emotional separation here with my boss, or with this VP of sales who’s really anxious and really challenging me. I may need to decide, just take a deep breath and decide, say to myself I’m not going to let him control my emotions. I’m not going to let him control how I feel about myself. And then, finally, start to reestablish where my value comes from and operate in patterns that will affirm my worth or affirm my source of value.”

And we can get into a little bit more of what those operating patterns might be, but I think there are exercises that we can do. We’ve probably experienced it. Spending time with people that reaffirm that, that whisper verdicts in our ear about who we really are and why we really matter, or doing, reading certain types of books, or whatever we do that these practices around us can really affirm for us where our value comes from and who we really are.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, let’s talk about some of those patterns here. I’d also love to zero in on, say, “Hey, I’m not going to let him control or dictate my emotions.” So, I think that’s a good bit of awareness and conviction to hold. Nonetheless, I think it’s quite possible that, sure enough, that VP of sales comes a-huffing and puffing again. You may feel some stuff again. So, what do you do kind of in the heat of battle?

Matt Norman
Yeah. Well, so it may require a few things. One is naming what we’re feeling. I thought, Pete, you did a great job earlier in the conversation of naming, “Okay, I’m feeling this way right now. Because of this conversation, I’m feeling disappointed which is causing me to feel stupid. Are those true thoughts?” So, part of it is that naming of the emotion, of the thoughts that we’re experiencing, I’d say point number one.

Then, point number two, we may need to create some space, just separate from the situation somehow and breathe through that situation, and just, frankly, calm our amygdala, you know, that part of our brain that’s often wanting to hijack our thought process. And once we can sort of move to a more prefrontal cortex kind of thoughtful intentional thought process away from that, kind of emotional reactive state, we can start to think more clearly about, “What else is true here? What is true about my identity? What are other verdicts I’m getting? What are other data points?”

You see, we have these cognitive biases, economists tell us that we have heuristics, these mental shortcuts that cause us to draw conclusions about things that may or may not be true about our environment. And I’m sure many of your podcast guests have, in various ways, talked about many of those cognitive biases and mental shortcuts that we have, and we need to challenge those and say, “What are other data points that we have, that I have, that I can look at? Who else is appreciative of the work that I’m doing? What is good about the work that I’m doing? Is the only datapoint this VP of sales?”

So, there’s a number of steps that we can do from, as I said, naming the thought of the emotion, to separating and breathing through to try to move from the amygdala to a more thoughtful response, and then challenging those cognitive biases to try to look at, “What else is true? What else can I pay attention to here?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a great phrase, “What else is true?” My realtor used to use that a lot in conversation. I wonder where he got that. I thought, “That’s an interesting turn of a phrase you keep using.” But it is handy in that it really…I think often our brains are kind of like question-answering machines at times, and so that’s a powerful question when you’re in it, and that could seem to be all there is to really point your brain elsewhere in a really helpful correct way.

And then when you talk about the releasing and the shifting away from the amygdala, we had another guest talk about like writing something down on paper and lighting on fire or throwing in the trash. And I think, for me, it’s I guess I often think about releasing something as in, “That thing is going to stay in one geography and I’m moving to another.” So, it’s sort of like, “I’m going to go into the bathroom, I‘m going to deal with that thing, and then I’m going to leave that thing in the bathroom.” Or, “I want to go for a run and I’m going to leave it on the treadmill or on the trail.” Or, “In the shower, I’m going to have a deep refreshing shower, and then it’s like I’m a new man from pre-shower to post-shower.”

And so, that’s kind of how I think about releasing and shifting, and it’s quite handy. Any other pro tips on the releasing? You said you just sort of mic drop or throw it in the air?

Matt Norman
Well, I love the ideas that you just gave. And the other piece that I think is important to bring into the conversation is community, healthy community that surrounds us, where we’re with other people we can release. And I think there’s something very powerful about meeting with a therapist, a counselor, or a dear friend, who’s willing to let us share authentically and share perhaps a deeper level of the emotions that we’re experiencing and even some of these more challenging thoughts around how that confronts our identity attachments.

And as we share those things, for someone else to say, “I hear you,” and not try to fix us, not try to rescue us, not try to minimize the situation, but someone who’s willing to just say, “I hear you. That’s really hard.” Somehow, I think there’s this therapeutic process that occurs where we’re able to more easily release those thoughts.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for talking about the community and the people side of things. You’ve also got some perspective on managing our own schedules and energy patterns. How do we do that?

Matt Norman
Well, I think this is the foundational pattern for all the other ones because when we’re drained or tired, it’s much harder for us to think productively. It’s more tempting to ruminate, it’s more tempting to, as you said earlier, make our identity about, “Not just about my intrinsic value but my intrinsic value plus whether I get approved from my boss,” or whatever else it might be.

So, we find it’s particularly important through the coaching that I’m doing and the research, that we manage, first of all, our sleep and our nutrition, and there’s been a lot of research on this. Recently, and I’m sure a lot of listeners have read or listened to some of this research from, for example, the Stanford School of Sleep where they talk about the fact that 99% of human beings need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep. And quality, suggesting that we need to manage screen time, chemicals, you know, caffeine, alcohol, and find ways to put ourselves in a position to optimize our sleep. As we’re going to bed to make things like routine, like stretching and things like that.

So, starting with just the consideration of, “How much quality sleep am I getting? And then how am I managing my energy throughout the day?” Realizing, Daniel Pink, in his book When talks about the science of perfect timing, that there are certain times of the day, too, when we need to do things, where we’re more vigilant. And, actually, while we’re mentioning books, I would also suggest to listeners that, if they’re interesting in this, I think David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work is perhaps my favorite book when it comes to these topics because David Rock talks about what’s going on in our brain when our energy is down and how much less vigilant we’re able to be about managing our thoughts, managing our responses and relationships, etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m a big believer in this energy stuff, and I remember the first couple of years of the podcast, my two longest interviews were both with sleep doctors, so it’s like, “Oh, I guess that tells you something.” I was like, “I’ve got one more question, and one more question, and one more question.”

Matt Norman
I think I listened to one of them.

Pete Mockaitis
So, sleep is huge and I’m a big believer. Any other particular best practices in bringing more good energy to work and life?

Matt Norman
Well, we talked earlier about reinforcing and reminding the true verdicts about your worth and, frankly, what’s true about the data that’s coming at us. In other words, we get all this data and we’re getting feedback from our boss, and we’re getting feedback from our coworkers, and from our partner, and all these different people are giving us feedback in various ways in which they’re responding to us. And, as we mentioned earlier, we can have all these cognitive biases about what’s true, and, “Do I ruminate or focus on some of those, some of that feedback?”

And so, to reinforce through a podcast we’re listening to, what we’re reading, the journaling that we’re doing. And part of that, as a best practice, I think, is blocking time to make that happen. I think right now, in particular, it can be challenging in the environment in which we’re operating where a lot of us are working from home and everything sort of blending in. All the parts of our lives sometimes feel like they’re blending into one another. But to be able to compartmentalize the parts of our lives to say, “Now, I need to go into 30 minutes of reading,” or, “I need to go into 30 minutes of listening to this podcast that’s going to reinforce what’s true. It’s going to cause me to be more curious in a helpful way. It’s also going to reinforce who I am and why I matter.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you know, I like that a lot and I think I’ve gotten better with that lately in terms of just like in the middle of a workday I’m just going to do some not-work, and my work is actually better for it in terms of quality and quantity. It took me a while, I think, to break through the barrier of, “No, I need to be a good productive worker and not sleeping on the job, like napping or whatever.”

And so, now I say this a little bit tongue in cheek but it really is true. I call goofing around, whether it’s playing a game or whatever, while at work, “Part of my creative process.” And I try to say it in an artistic way like I’m wearing a beret. And that helps me sort of push through past my resistance of, “No, I need to be a diligent worker now. It’s work time, therefore, it is time for work.”

So, lay it on us, if folks feel either, “I got too much to do, Matt. That’s crazy. I couldn’t possibly do not-work during work hours,” or they say, “No, no, I just need to be a productive high-output person,” how do you help push past those bits of resistance?

Matt Norman
Yeah. You know, I came home recently and my wife said, “How was your day?” and I said, “Oh, it’s a great day.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because I got a ton done.” And she said, “Is that how you measure your day?” It just stopped me in my tracks, I felt, “Oh, my gosh.” You know, I think part of it is that, going back to what we value when we get into the whirlwind of our work as we think that checking boxes or like the game of Whack-A-Mole, where it’s like knocking the moles down, or responding to emails, we think that that’s what’s most important. And several great thinkers have illuminated, like Clay Christensen in his book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m listening to that right now, How Will You Measure Your Life?

Matt Norman
Are you? How Will You Measure Your Life? Yeah. It’s just this realization that perhaps I need to distinguish between what I want now and what I want most. And the realization that sometimes what I want now is the immediate gratification of responding to an email, or the gratification of shipping something, or finishing a project.

Now that may require a discussion with our leader, it may require a discussion with other stakeholders in our lives to say, “You know, what I often want now is the immediate gratification of responding to an email or whatever the case may be. But what I want most is to create this value for the organization, and what I want most is for this to happen in our relationship, or what I want most is for me to become this in my career. Can we, together, agree that that’s not just what I want most but that you’re willing to endorse that or come alongside me in that? So, at times, I may need to appropriately say no. I may need to turn off email. I may need to…”

In fact, a couple of years ago, I took email off my phone because I realized that often what I wanted now is to respond to that email, whereas what I wanted most was to spend time with people that were most important to me or have quality time for myself. So, I think it’s the question of, “What do I want now, which is often that immediate gratification, versus what do I really want the most and getting other people around me to support me in that?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great distinction. Thank you. Ooh, boy, there’s lot to chew on here. But, Matt, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Matt Norman
Well, I think the only thing I’ll add is that all of this requires a growth mindset. And I know, Pete, that you’re all about growth mindset. And when we talk about growth mindset, we’re thinking of Carol Dweck’s research at Stanford published in the book Mindset, where she talks about the continuum from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And it really, for us to change the way that we’re thinking and behaving, unless there’s a complete crisis and we absolutely cannot move forward, it usually requires some level of self-confrontation.

And that’s incredibly difficult because we’re all wired to self-protect, we’re all wired to survive. And in many cases, these patterns are so ingrained in us. So, I think we have to each ask ourselves the question, “How willing am I to self-confront and grow? And what’s a vision I might have of myself if I were willing and able to self-confront and grow?” And that’s the starting point.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, excellent. Thank you. Well, now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Matt Norman
Well, this concept of growth is, really, resonates with me, and so, yeah, a quote that I’ve often repeated around this book is that, “Patterns are inevitable. Growth is optional.”

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

Matt Norman
Certainly, the research around growth mindset, I think, is probably have been my favorite study over the last several years. As with you, Pete, I also am really into studies and research around the brain, in particular, how the brain operates under pressure and fatigue. And in David Rock’s book, Your Brain At Work, I really appreciate that the study really talked about the ability to say no or inhibit our response. It’s sort of like the ability to say, “No, I’m not going to check email,” or, “No, I’m not going to eat that cookie.” And they talk about the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex which sits right above our temple or our ear and it’s responsible for breaking, you know, like the breaks on a car.

And the study suggested that the more we use the break, the more it reduces its effectiveness. And so, that’s why kids will often realize with adults that if they ask five or six times for something, by the five or sixth time, the adult will relent and say, “Okay, fine.” Or if we keep asking ourselves, “Should I eat that cookie? Should I eat that cookie? Oh, it looks really good. Should I eat it?” by the fifth or sixth time, we’ll relent. And what the study showed was that we really have to veto quickly and immediately when we’re trying to be vigilant about something, like not checking email or saying no to a request that someone has, because the more we ruminate on it and question it, the more we’re going to tire that ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the harder it’s going to be to say no.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, thank you. That’s big. So, I’m just imagining if it’s like, “Oh, maybe I should check Facebook or the news.” It sounds like the right answer there is to say, “No!”

Matt Norman
“Darn it. Stop.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Just cut off. The boat is burnt.” Okay.

Matt Norman
I’m taking out my phone.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Matt Norman
You know, I really like this tool blocking time, like we talked about earlier. Now that’s not an actual tangible tool. The other tool, Pete, that I really appreciate is I just really appreciate the Notes apps on my phone. David Allen, in the art of Getting Things Done talks about having your mind like water, and just whenever we have a thought, getting the thought out of our brain so that we’re not thinking of it. And that goes back to what we talked about in today’s podcast.

So, a tool that I love to use is a simple tool that pretty much all of us have handy, and that’s the Notes app on our phone. And that’s every time we have a thought, “Well, I wonder if I should do this?” that we would just put it in a category of notes, or Evernote or whatever note tool someone might use, and just get it out of our head, get it onto a note so that our mind can remain like water.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, thank you. And a favorite habit?

Matt Norman
Getting up early. Now I know this differs based on physiology, and Daniel Pink talks about this in his book When, and not everyone is an early riser. But, increasingly, throughout my life and when I analyze the most successful people who have the most successful habits, I find that they get up early, and as a leading indicator of that, they manage their bedtime. And they manage their bedtime well, a we talked about earlier so that they’re managing screens and alcohol or caffeine or whatever else is going on in their mind so that they can go to bed on time, get enough sleep to wake up early because for most people, the earlier parts of the day is when we’re most vigilant and most productive.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, well, lay it on us, what is your bedtime, your wakeup time, and your bedtime process?

Matt Norman
Yeah. So, I wake up at 4:40 a.m. every morning, and to back that up, I just have to get seven hours of sleep, on an average. So, I really work hard on going to bed between 9:30 and 10:00, typically the 9:40 is the seven-hour mark so I’m really fixated on that 9:40. So, that means backing up further. I take about 20 minutes to stretch and read something that’s calming before bed. So, I’ll sit on the floor next to me, and I’ll stretch for 10 minutes. I have a phone ruler that I’ll use and I also make sure that I’m reading something that’s going to be productive but calming.

And then I’ll also make sure that there’s no screens within 30 minutes of going to bed, that I’m avoiding it at all costs, basically these screens, except the alarm on my phone. And then I try to stop eating by 8:00 p.m. and try to do as much digestion as possible earlier in the evening. And then I’m an intermittent fasting person so then I’ll continue to fast until noon which is kind of a whole another topic, but I just like to not put anything in my body in the morning so that I can be totally vigilant and focused when I wake up.

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

Matt Norman
This idea around growth and being willing and able to self-confront, I think, is the most common idea in conversations around. And then, second to that is having authentic conversations, as we talked about earlier. It’s the ability to really share honestly about how we’re feeling. So, to grow, confront, and share honestly about how we’re feeling.

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

Matt Norman
MattNorman.com is a great place to go or you can learn more about the book at FourPatterns.com, that’s the word four, FourPatterns.com. And people can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

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

Matt Norman
My challenge for all of us is that we would self-reflect on a regular basis, really look at our patterns, the ways in which we’re thinking, relating to others, viewing ourselves, and operating our lives, and not just resign ourselves to a fixed mindset to say, “Well, this is just the way I am. Well, Matt, you don’t know my job, or you don’t know my family, or you don’t know my personality,” but rather to really continue to challenge ourselves to say, “Yeah, I do have some patterns that are pretty ingrained in me but maybe I could change.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Matt, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and health with your people and your patterns.

Matt Norman
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s an absolute honor to be with you.