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KF #29. Demonstrates Self-Awareness Archives - Page 2 of 22 - How to be Awesome at Your Job

910: Mastering the Four Conversations that Transform all Your Interactions with Chuck Wisner

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Chuck Wisner reveals the four universal types of conversation—and shares advice on how to maximize the effectiveness of each.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four universal types of conversations—and why they matter
  2. How to stop your stories from limiting you
  3. The fundamental pattern for better collaboration

About Chuck

Chuck Wisner is president of Wisner Consulting. His client list includes companies such as Google, Rivian, Apple, Tesla, Harvard Business School, Ford, and Chrysler. Wisner was a senior affiliated mediator with the Harvard Mediation Program and was among the first to be certified through the Mastering the Art of Professional Coaching program at the Newfield Institute. He was also a specialist in organizational learning and leadership as an affiliate with MIT’s Center for Organizational Learning.

Resources Mentioned

Chuck Wisner Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Chuck, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Chuck Wisner
Oh, it’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into your wisdom, hearing some tidbits you’ve collected in your book, The Art of Conscious Conversations: Transforming How We Talk, Listen, and Interact. But first, I need to hear about you and rock and roll. What’s the story here?

Chuck Wisner
Oh, boy. Well, when I was very young, I think I was very fidgety and probably a bit of ADD, and my mother took me to school when I was seven, and said, “This boy needs drum lessons,” because I was always (finger drum sound) sitting around doing that sort of thing. So, literally, I was trained professionally, classically, as a percussionist from seven years old.

And then I played all through high school. I was in jazz bands, rock and roll bands. I ended up being in the Air Force National Guard Band because I played timpani, and so that was my first career. And to this day, I still play in a rock and roll band, maybe better categorized as a garage band but four or five of us have been playing together for over 30 years, so we have a great, great time together.

Pete Mockaitis
That is impressive. I’m curious, with this rock and roll band or garage band, any noteworthy performances or encounters you had in your gigs and such?

Chuck Wisner
Well, I had fun when I was a lot younger when I was 18, 19 because the rock and roll band I was in, we cut records and we were on national TV, some small little thing in Ohio. But now, the fun that we have is once or twice a year, we invite hundreds of our best friends and we just have a big dance party.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome.

Chuck Wisner
Yeah. So, that’s how we do it now.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. That’s fun.

Chuck Wisner
Yeah, fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m curious to hear your book, The Art of Conscious Conversations. Boy, you talked to a lot of people about this sort of thing and collected a lot of wisdom. I’m curious, any particularly surprising, or extra-fascinating, or counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about us humans and conversation and being conscious over your years?

Chuck Wisner
Well, there are several important facets that show up everywhere, whether I’m with a family, a couple, a leadership, a team. And the biggest one that often pops up – there’s two – one is authority issues, and we live in hierarchies, whether we like it or not, families have a hierarchy which is just natural hierarchy, and business has a sort of man-structured, man-made hierarchy, and the issues of power just resonate in every conversation from leadership to parenting. And so, that is something we have to pay special attention to.

And the other piece is that we grow up adopting standards. Now standards is a catchall phrase to mean our morals, what’s right or wrong, what we like, what we don’t like, what’s good, what’s bad, what’s fair, what’s unfair, but we grow up adopting standards from our families and our cultures, and believe that they are the truth, or believe that they’re the right thing, and that gets us in a lot of trouble because, often, our quarrels are because, “I think I measure success this way and you should measure success that way.” So, those two are really big.

And then the other big one is the first conversation in my book is the storytelling conversation. And if we just look at the state of the world right now, we live in stories, and like Yuval Harari’s book, A Brief History of Humankind, we evolved learning to tell stories and we adopt stories, and that’s how we create our culture and our society. The trouble is that when we’re attached to our stories, we believe them as the truth and we’ll do anything to defend them. And that’s a very common theme.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that feels like a, I think, big master key to humanity and life itself. Chuck, not to overhype it, but gives us an example of that in practice.

Chuck Wisner
Okay. Well, let’s say in business, I have situations, I have two actually very similar situations from different companies where the legal department and the finance department weren’t even talking to one another, and two departments that probably should be working hand in hand. They had different stories about what was going on in the company, and they were applying different standards to what was going on in the company, and they were so attached to their story that the other side was the enemy.

And it took bringing them into a room, and just putting, deconstructing these stories so that the finance department could see how the legal guys and gals were thinking, and vice versa. And within a couple days of working hard and playing hard together, those stories started to not be held so hard. And I think if we have a story that we really believe in, and that we think is the truth, it’s like having a story, like having a fist, like we’re telling our story, like, “This is the truth. This is the way it has to be.”

So, anyway, in that situation, deconstruct stories, get them to hear each other, and things start changing rapidly, we start building bridges. And not in business life, but in personal life, even with friends, we have stories and we judge people based on our stories. And if we believe our story is the only one, then our criticisms and our judgments really sting, and they hurt us, and they hurt the other person. So, stories abound everywhere and they cause a lot of the friction and stress that we experience.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you give us an example of an articulation of a story, maybe if it’s not too intricately detailed with the finance and legal, just so we can see how that plays out, like, “Hey, here’s the finance story and here’s the legal story. See how these implications unfold trickly?”

Chuck Wisner
Yeah, I can do that and then I would give you a very personal example, too, of how powerful it is, which might resonate a little more. I grew up with a very redneck grandfather in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, and I had three older sisters. And when I showed emotion, or when I didn’t want to skin the deer because I didn’t like it because it made me sick, or when I got hurt and cried, the message that I always got was, “You’re not a big-enough man. Be a bigger man. Stop that.”

Now, that’s not a new story. A lot of men my age have experienced that but what I realized was that story I adopted as a child because my grandfather, to some degree my father, but my grandfather, I gave his voice authority, I gave his voice power so I believe I wasn’t a big-enough man. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I was able to bust that story.

And when I busted that story, it was like such a dramatic change because, up to that point, I was a successful architect, I have a family, but I would walk into a room of men and feel smaller than, or not as competent as, or whatever, however, I’m not a big-enough man would show up. And when I busted that story, it was like transformational.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, that’s when you entered those rooms, you experienced those feelings, which are not pleasant, which I guess, in turn, likely reduced your confidence, your willingness to take risks, take on projects and initiatives. What are some of the other implications of that story going on for you?

Chuck Wisner
Well, I think back then was, whether we know it or not, that kind of self-limiting belief, other people read that so it affects how other people see you and then how other people treat you, and, in turn, the story they know about you. So, it does have an effect where it’s literally how you’re showing up in the world. And you may think you’re hiding it but it’s actually quite obvious to people that are paying attention. They noticed it and that affects our interaction.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how did you break free, bust loose of that story?

Chuck Wisner
All right. Well, I left architecture to study the ontology of language, which is a story of why that happened, but once I was in those studies, inside of there, in the world of philosophy of language and the study of language, there’s a term called master assessments. And so, if you’re looking at, “What master assessments do you have of yourself? Good, bad, ones that serve you, ones that don’t serve you.” This happened to be a master assessment I had in my brain, in my mind, that didn’t serve me.

So, using the ideas around language and the five speech acts in deconstructing language, I was able to sort of take it apart. And when I say deconstruct, it’s like, “Wait a minute. What are the facts here?” Well, I’m six feet tall. I’m happily married, I have two young kids, I’m an architect, and all those facts didn’t line up with the story. And so, as I keep looking into it, and saying, “So, what were the standards that my grandfather was applying?” Well, he was a redneck and that was his story about what a man was, and I happen to be the recipient of that standard that I adopted unconsciously.

And so, that’s what I did. I just sort of took it apart piece by piece until I was, “Aha, this isn’t true. This isn’t who I am.” And the next morning when I went in to have coffee with the president of the firm I was working at, we’re good buddies, it was the first time I was able to stand there, have a coffee, and I said to myself, “Holy mackerel, I am taller than Bill.” And, literally, that was like a moment that I was shocked. I was like, “All this time, I saw myself smaller then.” That’s how sort of like embodied this stuff gets.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. Wow! Okay story. Well, we’ll probably talk more about that but maybe we could zoom out a smidge. In terms of The Art of Conscious Conversations, it sounds like we’ve got one major thread in terms of story there. Could you maybe zoom out and tell us what’s sort of the big idea, main message, core thesis? And what do we mean by a conscious conversation?

Chuck Wisner
The core idea is we grow up learning to converse, talk, listen, interact through our culture, through our family, through our education, and we adopt all the norms from those different domains but we’re never really taught to understand how conversations work with the DNA of conversations. And so, through my work and my consulting and my teaching in the last 30 years, I kept seeing clients’ eyes light up or have aha moments when they realized that their stories weren’t the truth, or they didn’t know how to collaborate, or they were abusing power, or whatever, or they adopted standards that don’t serve them.

And then they would say, “Well, where can I read about this?” And there’s amazing information out there but it’s all scattered. And so, I decided to try to take some esoteric work and some work that’s been done by people like Peter Senge and Fred Kaufman, but I decided to sort of compile it into a book, that said, “Look, here’s the fundamentals of conversations. And instead of being unconscious of how they work, let’s have some distinctions so we can become much more aware and make much better decisions about the conversations we’re in and how we want to participate in them.”

And so, one metaphor I like is, like, fish in water. There’s fish swimming, and this old fish swims by two young fish, and he says to them, “Hey, fellas, how’s the water today?” and they just ignore him and they keep swimming. And they stopped, and one of the young fish says to other, “Hey, what’s water?” And so, it’s like they aren’t even aware they’re in water. We, a lot of the times, aren’t aware that we’re in conversations, or aware or conscious of our words and our interactions, in the way as much as we could be.

So, the book presents some distinctions that says, “Okay, let’s think about it. Let’s have some new ways to look at it and see it and experience it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, when you talked about having an awareness that we’re in a conversation, you have, in fact, segmented the conversations into four universal types. Can you share what those are? We’ll just start there. Can you share, definitionally, what are these four types?

Chuck Wisner
Yes. So, I’ll do a very high level. So, storytelling, and the byline with storytelling is your stories are not the truth. The second conversation is collaboration, and the byline there is seek to understand, and ask questions to understand, and absorb other perspectives. And absorb being the keyword there. The third one is a creative conversation which is about trusting your intuition and learning to balance your left brain and your right brain, and co-create with others.

And the last conversation is commitment conversations. And that conversation is the action conversation. That’s when you and I agree to do a podcast together. That’s when my wife and I agree who’s going to pick up the kids. That’s when a team decides who’s going to lay the strategy for the board meeting. So, that action conversation is everywhere, and we don’t understand it, and we do it in a very sloppy way. Those are the four.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so we talked a bit about storytelling. Is there more you want to say there in terms of how do we get to become consciously aware of our stories and the actual truth?

Chuck Wisner
So, in conversations, we all come to every conversation with a story, with our story about what’s happening, there might be some facts, there might be all of our opinions, it might just be a bunch of assessments or judgments. We, humans, all have patterns of interacting. And I like to use the word patterns because it allows us a little bit to step away from, say, a behavior or a habit that we have, and look at it neutrally, say, “Wow, what’s my pattern around storytelling? What’s my pattern of when I enter a meeting, how I’m telling my story or what energy I’m bringing to that?”

And so, the first thing is becoming aware that your story is not the truth, and then, secondly, how you are presenting yourself and how you’re presenting your stories because we all have patterns around judging, around being perfectionists, around being critical of other people’s ways of doing things. And so, becoming aware means we can have a look, and, instead of maybe a reaction or a pattern of defensiveness, we can change that.

So, I mentioned earlier about a fist. One analogy I like is if we have a story and we believe it’s absolutely true, and it’s a really important topic that we care about, it could be business, it could be out of business, it could be political, it could be not political, but if we believe that we have the answer and we are right, we are basically telling our story with a closed fist. And under every story, there are emotions, and facts, and standards, and power issues, and desires that are really what’s the root of our story.

So, when we can change our fist from closed to open, we can be more humble, more vulnerable, and reveal our thinking under our story. Does that ring?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Yeah. Let’s talk about standards, in particular. How is a standard articulated in our minds?

Chuck Wisner
So, example, I work with women groups sometimes and, just for fun, and this isn’t anything about dissing women or anything, but, for fun, I would say, “So, how many people in the room, when they leave the house, if the beds aren’t all made, they feel like they’re not a good mom or a good housewife?” And, generally, a large proportion, the majority of people in the room, raise their hands.

And I simply ask, “So, that’s a standard. You have that standard. Where did you adopt that?” So, they adopted that standard from their mother, from their grandmother, from their aunty, or a lesson they learned in school. Who knows? But they adopted that, and I’m not judging that standard, but I’m saying to have the standard, and to investigate it, and to decide consciously, whether you want to keep it or not, is that’s where freedom comes from, that’s where I can say, “You know what? I don’t have to feel bad when I go to work because the beds aren’t made.”

And so, the standards for men, we actually are probably taught not to show our emotions. That, too, is a standard. And so, if we investigate that, we can see the benefits of finding ways to be emotionally intelligent, and to productively and effectively share our emotions. We can shift out of that sort of unconscious standard that we hold that might keep us back.

Pete Mockaitis
So, in the example of the beds not being made, I suppose, can you walk us through a little bit more of the detail of how do we look at it because I imagine that’s not a two-minute operation, “Hey, you know what, that’s silly. The beds don’t need to be made, and I’m still a great mom, huh. Well, I looked at that and that’s now behind me”? I imagine there’s a little bit more depth to it. What’s happening there, Chuck?

Chuck Wisner
Yeah. So, I mean, it can happen like that. There are people that go, “Whoa, that’s a standard I didn’t even know I had,” because, literally, I don’t know, some large number, 90% of our standards, we did not consciously choose. We adopted them from our culture and family. So, it can happen where someone goes, “Whoa, that standard, hmm, I don’t need that.”

Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to switch overnight because it’s like we’re messing around with neuro networks in our brain, and there’s no switch to make it happen overnight. But, slowly, with awareness, maybe the next time this happens, the woman thinks to herself, “Yeah, I feel a little guilty, but you know what, I’ll make them when I get home.” And then two weeks later, she does it again, she goes, “Oh, screw that. I’m fine.” And three weeks later, she goes, “I’m going to make the beds today because I have time.”

And so, she has a totally different relationship with the standard. She can be conscious of, or choose, when she wants to apply it or not apply it. And I often say every time my clients say, “Well, I don’t want to do this habit,” or, “I want to change that standard,” and I say, “Well, if I had a magic pill and you never did that again, would you pay me $10,000?” And most people say, “Sure,” and I’d be a rich man. But there’s no magic pill.

So, it’s beginning to increase our awareness of what our patterns are, whether it’s standards or some kind of ways that we emotionally react to things, pay attention in a new way, and then begin a process of being consciously choosing how you want to shift that pattern.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a really good question there with regard to the magic pill, which reminds me, I’m thinking about the book Feeling Great by David Burns, the sequel to Feeling Good. And they asked a similar question about if I had a magic button where you’d never worry about this again if you press it, usually, often they say, “Well, no, I don’t want to press it. Like, there are times and places in which this reaction, standard, belief, story is a value to me. And just sort of severing it entirely is not ideal.”

And so, that question in and of itself, it kind of segments or puts you down a different fork path of potentially insightful exploration, like, “Huh, there’s just no place for this at all,” versus, “Wow, under these circumstances or with these nuances, it’s great.”

Chuck Wisner
Yeah, actually, and that’s being aware of and understanding the underbelly of the standard or the underbelly of the assumption or judgment so you can make a more wise choice about how to apply or how not to apply. There are times when this gets into a little bit of the power issues. At times, you can be in business and someone might say to you, “You did a terrible job.” Depending on the hierarchy, depending on your relationship with that person, you might not give a damn about what they said.

But the next day, someone else with more power, or hierarchy, or higher in the hierarchy, says something, and you trust them and you give their voice a lot of power, you care a lot about what they said. And that, too, is a choice point, but being aware of those differences makes us be able to be much smarter and wise choices.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right, so we talked about story bits. Anything that you really want to make sure to put out there about collaborative conversations and how those can go better?

Chuck Wisner
Yes. Now, if you think about storytelling, that’s the primary because that’s where the book starts, and it’s a good 50 pages at the beginning of the book because we have to start with our own stuff. We have to become more aware of our stories and where we are and how we show up in the world with them. Now, we walk into a room, and there’s two people, you and I, or five people, or a meeting of 10 or 20 people, now we have 20 people, 20 stories around the room, 20 different perspectives around the room.

And when we are entering there with a semi-closed fist, or closed fist, there’s a lot of friction and a lot of stress that’s created because everyone is trying to up the other person. And I think the fundamental pattern that we have is to, we’re educated to have the answer, we raise our hands to have the answer, and get the gold star, but the fundamental pattern is that when we enter into collaboration, or let’s just say we enter into conversations, we’re not even aware whether we’re collaborating or not, we enter conversations, we generally can enter in defensively because we want our answer to be right.

And so, the real art of the collaborative conversation is learning to not give up your position, but hold your position with an open hand and reveal the thinking underneath. Are there power issues? What are the desires you have? What are the concerns you have? What are the standards you’re holding? And when we can be a little more vulnerable and open our hands that way, we are also inviting other people to do the same thing.

So, the collaborative conversation is the art of open advocacy and open inquiry. And open advocacy means open hand. An open inquiry means asking questions that you really want to understand, better understand the other person’s perspective, versus inquiry, where you’re asking questions to prove them wrong so you can be right.

And so, there’s a dance there, and there’s no, “I can’t say do this first, do this second,” there’s a dance with paying attention, and there’s a motion, and there’s body language, and it’s this dance of opening and opening and learning together, I call it mutual learning, where multiple perspectives can surface up. And because of that, there’s space for ideas to bubble up, there’s ways that I can say to you, “Oh, gosh, I never thought of it that way.” So, that changes how I’m thinking about the problem.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, if you’re not in the headspace of feeling curious – curious, not being curious – you’re not curious and you do think someone is wrong, do you have any pro tips on how to just do a mental emotional redirect to into a better head space, groove, flow, to have a higher-quality conversation?

Chuck Wisner
Well, let’s say the best place to start is compare, state what you know is to be real, to be true, to be factual, and see if you can find a bridge with the other person about, “This is what happened,” or, “This is what’s happening,” because the facts are the safest ground we have to stand on in a collaborative conversation.

Now, we know from politics that when that ground is shaky, it’s just a freaking nightmare. So, if you can sort of calm yourself to go, “Okay, we don’t agree, and before we actually start sharing our standards and things like that, what are the facts we agree on? We agree that the…” going back to the legal and financing, “…that the company last quarter, the last four quarters had been pretty miserable, and we have to change things, and we have to push our product in a different way, or be more creative.” We agree on the state of things, and that’s a solid ground to work from.

And then, from there, we can start asking questions, like, “Well, how do you think about X? And what you think about the market share?” And so, that inquiry is how we learn what the underbelly of your judgment is or your disagreement is. It’s always going underneath to find out more, to think about your thinking, or to reveal your thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I’m curious, in the course of having these conversations, are there any favorite or least favorite words or phrases that you think really open up cool things or shut it down real quick?

Chuck Wisner
Well, I think that most of the time, what shuts things down is judgment. So, someone will maybe put something out there, and another person will rise up right away with, “Well, that will never work.” And that’s why I shy away from the term brainstorming because we all know what that means, but the downside of brainstorming is someone comes up with a crazy idea and someone else in the room goes, “Well, we tried that five years ago, it never worked,” and that closes down the conversation.

So, this sort of gets us into the creative conversation because if you and I are in a mutual learning conversation where I’m saying, “Wow, I never thought of it that way,” and we’re sort of coming to a way of having a mutual understanding, what happens is there’s space in that conversation, there’s space in our minds, and ideas start bubbling up. And together, we might come up with, an idea might bubble up that you didn’t think of, or I didn’t think of, independently, and we both go, “Whoa, yeah, that’s the answer. Wow!”

And that’s how the creative conversation functions. It only functions when all parties are willing to be in that open space, open mind, open heart space.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, “We did that last year” is not a great phrase in a creative conversation. Any other phrases you love and phrases you don’t?

Chuck Wisner
So, a phrase that’s really useful is “Help me understand your position. Please help me understand your thinking. What’s your thinking under your thinking?” That’s a very inviting sort of phrase that tells the other person you’re open to not criticizing but to truly understanding. And your other question was what some that aren’t so helpful.

So, the unhelpful are instead of asking questions, to stay in advocacy, what I call closed advocacy, where no matter what they say, your response is, “Yes, but I think…” blah, blah, blah. And so, that’s a closed advocacy where we still can’t undo that need to be right, and so that’s a real trap. And the distinction that I’ve learned from my teachers is the distinction of being a knower versus a learner.

And so, the bad side of the advocacy and inquiry and the collaborative conversation is to be stuck as a knower, and no matter what the other person does, even if they ask you a good question, you don’t want to reveal your thinking, you don’t want to open your hand, you just go, “No, this is the way it is because this is my experience,” and you’re just stuck. You’re sort of like a solid rock.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay. And can you tell us what are mindful agreements and how do we get there?

Chuck Wisner
So, there’s a phrase that I have in the book, a little chapter around commitment conversations, that I called the conversational bypass. And what I mean by that is we have storytelling, and we have commitment conversations. Those are our favorite conversations. We like to tell our stories and we like to take action.

The middle two conversations – collaborative and creative – take more effort, take a little more time, take a change in how we’re showing up, and so what I’d say is because we love our stories, and we’re addicted to action, we leap from storytelling to action, and we do a bypass. So, an example might be we’re in a meeting, there’s a couple people, let’s say, someone saying, “Here’s what we’re trying to solve, here’s the problem,” a couple voices speak up, the loud extrovert speak up, the boss might say what his is, and then someone in the room, or the boss, or someone says, “Okay, what are we going to do?”

And so, we make a leap to action and decision, and often those decisions aren’t as vetted as they could be because we haven’t listened to opposing perspectives, we haven’t taken the time to come up with other possibilities. The creative conversation is about possibilities, what’s possible. And so, that bypass makes us make bad decisions.

A good commitment conversation, a good promise, means both sides understand what’s being asked, what’s being promised, and what success looks like. So, that conversation actually involves every time someone makes a request, we do X, Y, and Z, our tendency, our pattern as a culture is to default to yes. And when we default to yes, we miss, we don’t take the time to get clarity, and go, “Wait a minute. What am I really promising here? What’s the timing? What’s the condition to satisfaction? Who’s it for? What format do you want?” Whatever the questions are, we miss that because we are sort of addicted to, “Sure, no problem. I can do that.”

And an example is someone runs by your desk, and says, “Can you put some numbers together for me for Monday morning?” You say, “Sure.” You and your team spend the weekend putting a 30-page report together. Monday morning, the boss takes it, looks at the back page which is a summary, rips the back page off, “Perfect. This is just what I need for my meeting.” And how many manhours were spent because they didn’t take an extra five minutes to ask the question, “Listen, to help you with your meeting, I really want to understand what you really need.”

And now, with the rip of the last page, the boss goes off happy, unaware that 300 manhours were spent, and they’re all frustrated, and they all now have a story about the boss, and so we’re back to stories. So, we can do commitment conversations, just slow the process down a bit. Any request, make sure you have an understanding of what you’re making a promise.

And the other thing is to avoid the yes. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I can be asked to do something, and maybe I’m not competent to do it, and I have to be willing to say, “You know, I need a week to learn how to do that,” or, “I need help how to do that.” So, there’s all kinds of ways, if we slow down the process, we might discover how we can make them a sloppy promise but a better promise.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Chuck, any final thoughts before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Chuck Wisner
Yeah, I think, for me, this is a practice. I think learning about how conversations work, there’s no switch, there’s no magic pill, but as we look at the distinctions, it gives us a new lens, and be gentle on yourself. Don’t judge yourself. Be curious about, “Well, what is my pattern and how can I change that pattern?” And that change is sort of a slow process. It’s like it might change overnight but it might take you a week, it might take you two weeks. But if you stay paying attention and patient with yourself and nonjudgmental, you can change those patterns.

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

Chuck Wisner
Well, one of my favorite spiritual teachers is Hafiz who was pre-Rumi. And I love this quote, he says, “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.”

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

Chuck Wisner
Right now, I’m liking neuroscience, and I’m not a neuroscientist, so I don’t go too deeply, but I think we’re just on the brink of learning how the brain works and how the chemicals interact and the electrical impulses, this incredible complex set of neurons, billions of neurons. And I think what it’s doing is giving us a window into why we humans act the way we do, which takes a little bit of the sting out on some of our habits so we can look at them more neutrally and with a little more compassion.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you share a favorite book?

Chuck Wisner
It’s a few years old but I love Yuval Harari’s book called Sapiens. And I like it because he tells a different story about humans, how we evolved, and how our brains and our thinking evolved. Again, it’s a fresh look at how mythology got created in concert with how our brains developed, and so we learned to tell myths so we can have bigger societies, and then we attach ourselves to those myths. Even money is a story, and law is a story. And so, it’s a way of looking at the world so we aren’t so attached to our particular perspective but we learn a little more tolerance. And the world could use a fair amount of that right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you elaborate on how money and law is a story? Because I think, to many, they think, “Well, those things are just ironclad.”

Chuck Wisner
Yeah. Well, over time, money has evolved from a point where at some time in history, shells could be a form of trade. And metals, or precious metals, even tulips, at one point, were the trade for the way that we did trade, and what had value. And so, money is a story because we all agree that this piece of paper has value. The piece of paper is nothing. The value and the power only is in our agreement of its value. And that agreement is a story that we all adopt and live by.

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

Chuck Wisner
Well, I say meditation is a really important tool for self-awareness and learning to understand our minds. And, at my age, yoga is really important, so I think mental and physical things like that, that help keep us awake and aware and able, are really important things to pay attention to.

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

Chuck Wisner
I think the visual in my book of a spiral, it’s like V-shaped and think of a funnel like you put a quarter in a funnel at a museum of science. And by the time the quarter gets to the bottom, it’s spinning so fast you don’t recognize it as a quarter. I use that visual to help people understand that when something triggers them, emotional trigger, an upsetting event, that, generally, what we do is we spiral down, and it’s usually fear-based. There’s some fear we have that has us spiraling down. And the opposite of fear is love at the top.

And I bring that up because that visual helps people, when they do catch themselves triggered or spiraling, they go, “Okay, where am I on the funnel?” And that stops the spin, and then we can do some investigation into our thinking and into our emotions, and stop spiraling down, and maybe move ourselves up through that awareness.

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

Chuck Wisner
My website is ChuckWisner.com. I believe they can download a free PDF of the introduction. My Instagram, chuck_wisner, and LinkedIn, and I think Facebook is the same.

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

Chuck Wisner
Yes. I’d say investigate your thinking, be kind to yourself, be tolerant, try to be less judgmental, and really practice opening your hand so you can have an open hand and an open heart, and also being aware that you have to protect yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Chuck, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you many lovely conscious conversations.

Chuck Wisner
Same to you. Hope it resonates.

909: How to Stay Engaged and Accomplish Your Hardest Tasks with Tracy Maylett and Tim Vandehey

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Tracy Maylett and Tim Vandehey reveal the reasons why we often end up quitting before achieving our goals.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we often fail to finish things–and how to fix it
  2. The two things that will help you get through any task
  3. How to break the cycle of failure with MAGIC

About Tracy and Tim

Tracy Maylett, Ed.D, is a CEO, organizational psychologist, researcher, and professor. He advises leaders throughout the world in employee engagement and organizational effectiveness. Dr. Maylett is an internationally recognized, bestselling author who travels the globe exploring culture, motivation, and how people and organizations think. He has published numerous articles in the field of organizational psychology and employee engagement, and has authored three previous award-winning books, including bestsellers The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results and ENGAGEMENT MAGIC: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations.

Tim Vandehey is a journalist, columnist, and New York Times bestselling ghostwriter of more than 65 nonfiction books in such genres as business, finance, advice, outdoor adventure, religion, memoir, parenting, and health. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Inc., Forbes and Entrepreneur, and his ghostwritten books have been published by major houses including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Wiley & Sons, St. Martin’s Press, and The MIT Press. Tim’s work has also garnered numerous awards, including multiple Axiom Business Book medals and Independent Publisher Book awards. Tim is also a singer of a cappella jazz and Renaissance music, a sailor and a world traveler, and the father of two amazing daughters. He’s a California native, but currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

Resources Mentioned

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Tracy Maylett and Tim Vandehey Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Tracy and Tim, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Tracy Maylett
Thank you. A pleasure, Pete. Thank you.

Tim Vandehey
Thanks. Thanks very much.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into the wisdom of your book, Swipe: The Science Behind Why We Don’t Finish What We Start. I am guilty of starting a lot of things that are unfinished, so I’m particularly jazzed to get into this. So, maybe, for starters, could you share, was there a particularly surprising or counterintuitive discovery you made while researching and putting together Swipe?

Tracy Maylett
This was interesting. We didn’t set out to start writing a personal book about finishing what I, as an individual, start. We originally set out to think about why people are leaving organizations or disengaging in organizations. So, to answer your question, I think the big aha for me, as we went through this, was this is not just about the workplace. This desire or inability to continue what we start is actually something that’s applicable to ourselves as individuals, not just only in the workplace.

Tim Vandehey
Tracy and I have done two other books prior to this together, with me as a ghost writer. And we got together at the very beginning of 2020, really before the world shut down, and talked about, “Okay, what’s our third book going to be?” It was intended to be the same kind of collaboration. And we came up with this idea about kind of the metaphor of swiping your smartphone as a shorthand for the distract-ability of, in this case, the employee. We’d done two books on the employer’s responsibility for getting people to engage.

And so, we had this idea, and we liked it. We went away to our own little personal writing caves, and started making notes, and working on things. And, at some point in the summer, the COVID summer of 2020, we connected and we said, “This is a bigger book than just about employee engagement. This is something everyone does.”

And coming from the world of writing, I’ve been a freelance writer for almost 29 years now. My life is filled with people who have tried to start books and never been able to finish them. So, it immediately resonated that, “This is a universal thing.” I remember our conversation, I was sitting in my backyard, I said, “This is a bigger book, isn’t it?” And Tracy agreed, and we realized it was this was universal.

And so, that’s what we discovered not long after we came up with the concept, was this was something applies to just about everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, the ghost comes out of hiding. It makes sense.

Tim Vandehey
Yes. I don’t show up on film, which is a problem.

Pete Mockaitis
Anyways, your whole career is built on this principle of people not being able to finish what they have started.

Tim Vandehey
That is very true. Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s a fun perspective there. So, lay it on us in terms of the idea, what do we mean precisely by swiping? And can you paint a real clear picture for all of us there?

Tim Vandehey
Well, the idea behind the Swipe, again, we started off borrowing from the analogy of swiping on a smartphone. The swipe, as we call it, and swiping, the verb…

Pete Mockaitis
Swipe, swept, has or has swepened.

Tim Vandehey
Yes. Well, we haven’t really gotten into swept, haven’t really gotten into the past participle and so on. Nice to meet a bigger grammar nerd than myself. This idea that when we are confronted with an uncomfortable situation, or with discomfort, particularly, in this case, as it pertains to attempting things that we have not been able to do yet.

So, when we find ourselves disillusioned, embarrassed, doubting our abilities, etc., rather than stick with it, we take a cue from the smartphone, let’s say, where it’s very easy to change your experience, sort of change your reality, just with the tap of an app symbol or the swipe of a finger. Boom, you’re immediately onto something else.

So, the swipe, that reflexive, what I like to call hitting the eject button, from whatever it is you’re doing that’s making you uncomfortable. And in the case of what we’re talking about, it’s attempting something that you may not have done before, and you reached that point where you’ve written 50 pages of your novel, and suddenly you have no idea where to go, and you say, “Ah, to heck with it. I’ll try this again later.” That’s what swiping is, it’s that reflex of, “I’m not comfortable where I am. I’m going to immediately, reflexively change my reality so I don’t have to deal with that discomfort.”

Tracy Maylett
And we started in the workplace here. This is all about, this was pre-Great Resignation. This was, as we’re starting to look at what’s causing people to disengage in their jobs. It was based on a 50 million survey, employee survey responses, so this is not a small dataset, saying, “Why are people leaving their jobs when these were once wonderful jobs, and these are great people?”

We don’t show up to work thinking, “I sure hope today is awful. I hope the life gets sucked out of me in my job today.” That’s not natural human nature. The same thing when we’re at home. Also, we don’t begin projects with the idea that, “I’m going to not finish this project.” So, as Tim mentioned, it’s very reflexive. The swipe is reflexive. We don’t take this time to stop and think about it. And this book is really focused on that reflex and how to avoid that reflex.

Pete Mockaitis
And I feel that in terms of it’s like procrastinating except broader. I think it’s how I’m hearing and receiving that, in that I might be doing a thing, it’s kind of hard, it’s kind of unpleasant, it’s like, “Well, let’s just maybe process some emails instead. That’s easier.” So, I have shifted my reality. If it were on the smartphone, I would swipe. On a Mac, I would Command Tab. It’s like we’re just going to move away from that window, and onto another window of experience, which feels a little bit more manageable here.

So, I’m imagining that is not optimal for human wellbeing and thriving. Could you paint a picture of just what are the consequences when this is a habitual reflexive lifestyle for folks?

Tracy Maylett
Let’s talk about the neuroscience piece here for just a moment. Swipe actually changes the way our brain functions. When you think about it, what’s happened with technology over the last while, it’s even changed the way we read. We read differently. We don’t read left to right. We read top to bottom. And what causes us to do is move through pieces very, very quickly.

Also, we’ve come to an age where we’re making very, very quick decisions in the things that we do. We don’t take the time to stop and think something through. That’s the nature of the swipe. It’s very reflexive. It’s something that we have become natural at, something that’s new to us. And because of that, that changes our entire thought patterns and the things that we do. One of the reasons that we decided to go down this route was Tim was looking to this and started talking about the pain and the regret that this causes.

We find some interesting statistics in the workplace, for example. Right now, there are a number of statistics to show when somebody does leave that job, when they swipe past that job. We’re seeing that as many as 30% of those individuals, within the first 90 days, quit the next job or regret that next job. So, we develop patterns in our own lives. Those patterns become a part of who we are.

Tim Vandehey
The other thing, I think, to continue Tracy’s neuroscience track, is that what we also found is when there’s the idea of mastery. The more you do something, the better you get at it. I’m not going to cite the whole Gladwell 10,000 hours thing. That’s been debunked. But the idea is if you follow through on something, you get better at it.

What we found is that that really only applies when you get past a certain point, when you finished, when you’ve finished something to completion, typically, because you have to get all the way through that awful first draft of your novel. To know what you’re doing, you have to get through that workout program to understand how your body has been changing, and how to do it, how to work out in the future.

And what we found is that when people swipe repeatedly, because this is a repeated phenomenon. That’s one of the things that distinguishes it from procrastination is most people, they don’t quit something, they don’t swipe on a goal once. They go back and try it again and again and again, usually, from the same strategy. They don’t really make changes, and think, “This time I’ll do better.” And they end up doing the same thing.

And over time, what happens is we don’t become good at the task we keep attempting and failing at. We become good at swiping. We become good at bailing out of the boat when a couple of holes get poked in it because that’s what we’ve done repeatedly, is we’ve jumped out and away from that task because we felt some sort of emotional response that made us uncomfortable.

Tracy Maylett
We even end one of the chapters by saying when we continue to swipe, we practice, and we practice, we become good at it, and the only thing that we actually master is the swipe itself.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, can you share with us perhaps an inspiring story of someone who was habitual swiper, and then had a turn around?

Tim Vandehey
That’s a good question.

Tracy Maylett
One of the things that really impressed me as we were starting to write this book is Tim brought up this concept of National Writers Month. And the concept that we have an opportunity here for people to actually finish something, finish what they actually started. And the numbers, to me, was just staggering. Tim, it was just amazing to see the number of authors that really get in.

Tim Vandehey
That’s actually a great example. That’s a great example. That was probably the thing, the idea that inspired the book. I don’t know if you’re familiar with National Novel Writing Month.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve heard of it. So, you write a novel in a month?

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, if you can suss that out pretty easily but, yeah. So, I think they came up with it, God, back in the early ‘90s, I think. But, basically, the gist of it is you sign up to write a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days in November. It happens every November. You have to write the book within the 30 days. Quality is not an issue. The idea is to finish something, which tells you how compelling the idea, at least in the world of writing, in my world, the idea of finishing a book is, and how much of a Holy Grail it is.

So, 250,000 people have managed to not swipe during that month of November and finished something. Now, most of the books, from what I understood, I’ve read a couple, they’re dreadful as you would expect. Now, there had been a few, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants was one that was written that as that was a National Novel Writing Month book, and I think that was not only a New York Times bestseller but I think it became a movie. I think.

But that’s the best example I know because that’s a lot of people who have managed to do that, something that they’ve struggled with, in some cases, for decades. And that points to something, if I can transition, because that’s a logical transition, to some of the preventive issues that we have figured out in writing this book that can keep people from swiping. They are on display during National Novel Writing Month in spades.

Pete Mockaitis
Lay it on us.

Tim Vandehey
There are really two issues. One is expectation management. The other is motivation management. So, what we have found is that people who go into a task, and it could be their tenth time, it doesn’t matter. If they have erroneous expectations, false expectations, expectations that’s not based in reality, they are far more likely to swipe, to quit, because, of course, they go into it naïve, possibly.

I remember when I tried to write my first book, I can’t remember how long ago it was, I had no idea how hard it would be past the burst of energy. And it was gut-wrenching after maybe 35 or 40 pages. We actually use a term, page-one energy, to talk about this enthusiasm. The enthusiasm of the naïve before they realize what they got themselves into.

So, with National Novel Writing Month, again, to go back to that example, the whole culture of the things is, “This is going to be hard.” And people lean into how hard it is. They have the last week, the whole country is dotted with National Novel Writing Month sort of sleepovers where people get together for a week and just write, and write, and write, and get little snatches of sleep, and sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. And it becomes kind of like camp for crazy people.

So, the expectations are managed. You go into it knowing “This is going to suck,” or, “These are the results I’m going to get.” The analogy I like to use is working out. You go into a workout program, and you think, “I’m going to be jacked after a month.” And then you look in the mirror after a month, and you’re not jacked, you might’ve lost a little bit of weight, but you don’t look like The Rock.

If you actually had an expectation, you’re likely to say, “Forget it,” throw up your hands, “I’m done. This is stupid.” So, expectation management is incredibly important. The second part is about motivation. Why are you doing this? Are you doing it because you’re envious of someone else who did? Or, you think you’re supposed to? Or, your family expects you to do this? Or, what’s the reason? Because the motivation is what you need when you hit those roadblocks to keep you going.

And National Novel Writing Month, the motivation is, “I’ve told a whole bunch of other people in my community…” because the organization has little chapters all over the country, “…all these other writers that I’m going to do this, so they’re going to hold me to it. And I really want to do this but, more importantly, I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all the other people who are going to keep going and keep doing it if I slack off, then I look like a loser and they don’t.” So, motivation matters.

And when people get both of those things right, it’s not to say they won’t swipe, they still might but they’re much less likely to.

Tracy Maylett
As we were looking to writing this book, and Tim corrected me on this as we were doing it, which was wonderful because, through my work, working with people at tops of organizations and Tim’s opportunity to meet lots of really cool people through his authoring, one of the things we started to do, or I started to do, is throw in examples of really high-profile people, these individuals who everyone knows are three-time Olympians, etc.

And we started looking at this, and saying, “That’s fantastic,” and people are setting their sights on that, and they’re seeing these wonderful powerhouses. But the reality is every single one of us still witnesses this at some point in their lives and multiple times in our life. This is not written for that, “How do you go win the bobsled race in the Olympics?” This is really written to that individual who is trying to complete something who’s not been able to do that, and is now suffering those negative effects because of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. So, this notion of the expectation and the motivation making all the difference seems quite resonant. And I’m thinking about, are you familiar with Andrew Huberman with the Huberman Lab?

Tracy Maylett
No.

Pete Mockaitis
I feel like I talk about him nonstop. Well, he’s a neurobiologist out of Stanford who’s got a huge podcast, so he’ll just multi-hour conversations about different topics in biology or science and science-based tools for everyday life is his thing.

And so, he has millions upon millions of downloads and views and all that, but he mentioned, I think it’s intriguing that what he calls the Holy Grail of motivation is if you can find motivation in a form of enjoyment in the pain and suffering and challenge of the things, and he holds up David Goggins as archetypical example here, super ultra marathon, Navy Seal, like hardcore pain experiences over and over again, and to find a sort of a fuel and enjoyment and motivation within that.

And what you described here in the writing context, as opposed to like the physical ultra marathon context, is that, “Hey, this is going to be hard. At times, it is going to suck that may require sleepovers to actually pull it off.” And rather than that turning people off, like, “Ugh, no, thanks. I don’t want it. I don’t care to deal with all that hassle,” it’s kind of like, “Ooh, heck, yeah. Aargh, let’s get after it.”

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, it’s a shared experience. Well, it’s funny because I’d done a lot of writing in the endurance sports world, not recently, but in the past, and one of the mottos of marathoners, and ultra marathoners, and triathletes, and ultra triathletes is that, “The winner is the one who can out-suffer everybody else.” And, in fact, I did a book for Chris McCormack who was the Australian, one of the best triathletes of all time. And he used to say his motto was “Embrace the suck.”

So, it’s going to suck, accept it, get into it, make it part of the experience, is that you’re going to give yourself over to that, and part of the satisfaction is knowing that, “That really sucked and I got through it.”

Tracy Maylett
Well, you look at that in the workplace also, and as soon as we receive a difficult assignment, or don’t get that promotion that we’re after, the tendency now is to just say, “Okay, I’ll go down the street.” And the reality is it’s the journey that’s the valuable piece here. It’s not just the end state. It’s the suck. It’s the part that was really, really difficult that made those individuals who they are today.

And when they confront that again, now they’ve learned to confront that. If I am in a workplace, and after two months I have a project that I don’t necessarily enjoy, well, yeah, that’s part of life, that’s what we deal with. But it’s those pieces that are difficult that make us who we are. And this is really about to value those pieces, embrace those pieces that may be more difficult because that’s what really builds the character and builds that individual.

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, one of the things that we probably, if we had more time and more pages, we would’ve looked at what happens to someone after they don’t swipe, after they actually finish something that they have been trying to do for a long time. And, again, going back to National Novel Writing Month, one of the things that they found is success in that area becomes kind of addictive. You did it once, you’re going to go back and do it again and again.

There are people who have written 20 novels through that program. I have no idea if any of them were any good, but once they know they can do it, it becomes kind of intoxicating. I have no data on this, and we didn’t look at it, but my guess would be that’s probably true for a lot of people in a huge range of endeavors, that once you actually able to get…especially if you’ve failed a lot, if you’ve swiped repeatedly, and you finally hit the finish line.

I’ve been at the finish line of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and watched people who managed to finish their first Ironman. The age groupers have to finish in under 17 hours, and they finished at 16:55 the first they’ve been able to do it after multiple failures. All the pain goes away. They could not care. Their bodies could be falling apart. It’s absolute exultation because they finally made it. It’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, you also have a bit of an acronym to help us cure swipe – MAGIC. Can you walk us through this?

Tracy Maylett
Yeah, MAGIC was based on our work with employee engagement, what causes someone to engage in their job. So, looking in the opposite side of this, we know what causes people to swipe, what causes people to stay. Now, this isn’t just specifically towards employment. This is any relationship. This could be with my children. This could be in my community. It could be in a workplace, but the idea here is when these five elements, and MAGIC is an acronym, when these five elements are present, I will tend to engage.

And the degree to which these are important to me, some may be more important than others, and the degree to which these are fulfilled will cause me to choose whether or not I’m engaged and will continue forward. So, that acronym is MAGIC, M-A-G-I-C. The first of those is meaning, so the M is meaning. When I find purpose beyond just the job itself, or when I find a reason why I choose to learn the piano, etc., there’s something that’s valuable to me, a purpose, I will stay and I will continue to do what I’m doing.

The second piece is the A, which is autonomy. Autonomy is not anarchy. That’s not our A. Autonomy is to be able to use our abilities in the best way possible, have the freedom to do so. So, in the workplace, it does not necessarily mean I have free rein of anything I want to do but I’m able to channel my skills and abilities to make that happen. That happens in a marriage, that could happen in any relationship that we have.

When I use my abilities, then the next piece happens, which is G, growth. The opposite of growth is stagnation. If I’m stagnating in a community, if I’m stagnating in a workplace, I will disengage, I’ll swipe, I’ll move forward. The I stands for impact. Impact is seeing the results of your effort. So, if I continue to work out day after day after day, and I’m not seeing a result of my effort, the likelihood of me swiping is going to be pretty high. So, we measure that, we gain tiny successes along the way.

And the final piece of that is C. The C which is connection. Connection is a sense of belonging to something beyond just yourself. That could be a social connection. One of the reasons why the National Novel Writing Month is successful is not just I’m buckling down. It’s that I’m commiserating with other people. Other people are doing this with me at the same time, that ability to establish those connections, connection to the workplace, connection to the environment that I’m in.

When those five elements are present – meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection – that’s kind of the anti-swipe. It keeps me from moving forward. This was based, again, on we started with 14 million employee survey responses, and moved actually to 50 million employee survey responses, but we found that that’s not just the workplace phenomenon. It happens in our lives as well. And so, that’s kind of what we saw as one of the areas for anti-swipe.

Tim Vandehey
Speaking of the anti-swipe, and related to what Tracy said about the workplace, the sort of counter-phenomenon that we defined in the book, as opposed to the swipe, was something we called tapping out. And that is especially relevant when it comes to the workplace. It’s relevant in other areas as well. But where a swipe is a reflex that comes from discomfort, from fear, embarrassment, disillusionment, etc., and usually leads to regret because the things we swipe from are generally things that are good for us and that we want to do.

We really want to finish that book. We really want to get in shape. We really want to save money, etc. A tapping out is an affirmative act. Tapping out is not reflexive. We’re choosing to walk away from a situation that is bad for us.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re in a chokehold, you’re starting to black out, I think now would be a good time to stop.

Tim Vandehey
So, now the example I like to use is not a workplace example but it’s perfectly illustrative of this, is the gymnast Simone Biles back in 2020. She chose to walk away from the team Olympic gold in the 2020 Olympics because she was having what they called the twisties, where she was unable to perceive her position in space while she was doing vaults and things, which, of course, for a gymnast can be incredibly dangerous.

And she made an affirmative choice to walk away and choose her own physical and mental health over competing in the events. And there was a little bit of pushback but most people praised her for it. They praised her for putting herself first, and it was, obviously, a decision that she felt good about. That is the polar opposite of a swipe. Tapping out is an affirmative act, you feel good about it, it is not something you regret. It is something when you say, “This is not a good situation for me,” probably most commonly in a job.

Now, the Great Resignation we talked about, a lot of those people probably disengaged in ways that had nothing with to do with anything healthy. Some people probably tapped out because they said, “Look, I’m not being valued here, I’m not being compensated properly, I’m not being listened to, I’m not given opportunities to grow,” and so they chose to go elsewhere, and that is a tap-out, and it’s important to distinguish that from a swipe.

Tracy Maylett
The key difference here is a swipe is, Tim, would you agree with this, it’s purely reflexive.

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, it’s system one. It’s system-one stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get your views then, zooming right into the heat of battle in terms of you’re feeling some discomfort, you’d like to quit or change a channel, any pro tips for right there in the here and now, what do we do to persist?

Tracy Maylett
Tim just mentioned something that’s important, which is system one. This is by the work of Daniel Kahneman. It was really interesting. He said our brain is, really, our mind, is divided into two systems, system one and system two. System one is very reflexive. I don’t stop. It’s a reflex. So, it’s something that I do out of habit, something I do just as a reflex rather than something I have to stop and think about.

System two, the acts that takes place in system two is very reflective. It is something I stop and I think about, I pay attention to, I have to evaluate, I have to take thought that’s in this. So, the reason I’m mentioning these two systems is because swipe is truly a system one reflex. It is, “I don’t stop and think about it. I don’t consider the consequences. I don’t consider my motivations. I don’t consider what really is involved in here, the expectations.”

System two requires that you stop and think about that stuff, “Why am I doing this? What’s important? What would be the end result of this?” So, in the book, we give a series of steps that you can actually go through to distinguish between the two of these, and one of those is to play it through to the end, “If I make this decision right now, and it were recorded on a VCR, how would this movie end?” Do we even do VCRs anymore? “If this were part of a film, how would this film end if I were to make this step right now?”

So, that’s one of the things to consider, “What will be the end result of this action, not just this temporary relief of discomfort? What will be the final result of this?”

Tim Vandehey
And it’s very easy to say that people should do what Tracy just described. Tracy described it perfectly. But we all know that’s a lot more difficult to actually do that in real time. So, a big part, and I think the power of what we did in the book was to simply call out the fact that this phenomenon exists. It’s knowable. It’s somewhat predictable and it’s understandable. And I think the key to being able to do what Tracy described, to play it through to the end in real time is to go into the next attempt at whatever it is that people have swiped from multiple times in the past.

Knowing that this happens, knowing that, “Okay, after I get to page X, I am prone to swiping, I’m prone to panicking, becoming embarrassed, doubting my abilities as a writer, and saying, ‘To heck with it. I’m going to delete this file and I’ll try again in five years or something.’” And to say, “Okay, I’m watching out for when those impulse strikes, and instead of just blindly blundering in, thinking, ‘Well, maybe this time it’ll be different.” The four of the worst words are, “This time it’s different.” They say that in finance a lot.

Instead, saying to yourself, “I’m going to be watching for those signs that I’m feeling that panic reflex,” and instead catching yourself be mindful enough to say, “Okay, hold on. Hold on. What will happen? What am I going to feel if I walk away for the sixth time?” As opposed to, “What if I actually get through this? And what if I do like all the people doing National Novel Writing Month, and I finish this?” or, “I finish this workout,” or, “I train for the marathon and actually run it.” It doesn’t matter.

One of the keys here, that’s why National Novel Writing Month, I keep referring to it, it’s so brilliant, is it’s not about the quality. It’s about finishing. It’s about finally breaking the tape, “And how will I feel when I actually do that?” Odds are people are going to feel pride and tremendous sense of accomplishment.

So, projecting into the future that way, that’s the ultimate preventer, really, and the expectation and motivation things we talked about before help, but, ultimately, you have to be able to catch yourself in real time, and say, “Whoa, okay. Take a deep breath. Let’s keep going because I know if I do, I’m going to be glad I did.”

Because what we see is that overwhelming regret. We talked to someone who’s quit something time and time again, who swiped over and over again. I always hear the same thing from writers, “God, if I had only kept going. If I’d kept going back then two years ago, I’d have two other books written by now.” I hear that all the time, and we all do that, “If I kept working out, I’d be in like the P90X guy kind of shape right now,” etc.

And so, if we can catch ourselves, if we can be mindful that the swipe is a thing, that’s what makes it possible to catch ourselves in real time and make that choice.

Pete Mockaitis
What really comes to mind here, we talked about the reflexive actions versus remembering to stop and think about the consequences, what will happen, projecting into the future, is I had a buddy who wanted to stop vaping. And so, I don’t know if this is a very clever idea, he had a bunch of index cards, and he wrote on each one of them a reason why to stop vaping or how life would be better if he were not addicted to this anymore.

And he placed them on top of his giant vape stick, and so whenever he wanted to reach for it, he had all these reasons, and that was sort of his rule, it’s like, “Oh, well, you’re free to vape, just you have to read all of these first.” And it worked for him.

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, that’s great. There’s a great thing by a comedian Jim Jeffries who talks about gun control. He talks about, “Everybody should have a gun. That’s fine. But everybody should have a musket because the great thing about a musket is it gives you a lot of time to calm down.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Tim Vandehey
You’re pouring in the powder before you get a shot.

Pete Mockaitis
I saw a musket in Boy Scout Camp. That was my first firearm shot.

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, the example was a good one. I mean, giving yourself time to let that impulse fade, giving yourself something else to focus on to let that impulse to quit, because you’re always glad you didn’t. You’re always glad, if you keep going, you’re like, “Oh, thank God, I didn’t mess that up.” It’s that moment of panic and fear. A lot of what I see in the writing world, when it comes to not finishing, is self-doubt or embarrassment.

People are embarrassed to let people read what they’ve written or they just get to a certain point, they think, “I’m not a real writer because I can’t get past page 55.” Well, unless you have an outline and a bunch of character studies mapped out, neither can I. I’ve got to have a whole plan before I can do that. I’ve been writing for 30 plus years. So, yeah, that’s very well-taken is finding a way to slow that impulse down and give yourself a chance to say, “Woo, I don’t want to mess this up. I’ve come this far.”

And there also is a sunk-cost aspect to this. The farther you get into something, I think it is harder to swipe because you have more invested. If you’re on page 250, it’s probably a lot harder to swipe than if you’re on page 45, so.

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

Tim Vandehey
I think we covered the high points.

Tracy Maylett
I think so but I do want to talk about some of our favorite things here, if we can.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Can I hear a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Tracy Maylett
I’ll start on this one because it’s one that kind of, as we started writing the book, this came to mind, and then all through the book, we used it a number of different times. And we credit a couple of different authors for this one. Just the simple quote that, “Wherever you go, there you are.” And that has a couple of different meanings behind it.

The first one, when it comes to swipe, is if I am the person who swipes at this, and then I swipe at the next thing, and the next thing, that’s who I am. That’s what I do. I swipe. Just moving situations, moving jobs, I’m still the same person moving to a different job, and nothing has changed about me. Swipe doesn’t allow us to change. Swipe causes us to be the same person who we are, and then we expect to be somewhat different in a different environment. It just doesn’t happen. So, that was the first part of the swipe that I had to really understand for myself, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

The second part of that says is when you think mentally here, supposed I’m sitting on the couch with my granddaughter, she’s four years of age, and she’s just fantastic, and she talks and talks. And I may be thinking of something else, and I may be answering texts, and I may be thinking about my workplace. Well, I’m not actually, although my body is physically with my granddaughter, my mind is 2,000 miles away, my mind is on the East Coast, my mind is somewhere else. And that happens a lot.

Swipe can happen mentally also. It’s not just physical doing. I can swipe out of something mentally. I can swipe out of relationships. So, the idea that I might as well be sitting on a couch somewhere in Boston versus Salt Lake City, Utah, that’s what happens when my mind swipes and goes to a different place as well. So, that’s one of the biggest pieces of learning for myself, personally, as we went through here, “Wherever I go, there I am,” the most do context.

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

Tracy Maylett
One of the things that I teach, I teach at universities, and it’s been very interesting to work with students, particularly rising generations of students. Some of these are extremely bright individuals. A lot of times we’ll have them do a change project, “Change something about yourself.”

And what’s interesting is that about half of those change projects come back, saying, “I feel like I’d become something different because of social media. Maybe I feel like I’m feel less self-aware. I pay attention to some things that are as important.” Some people were spending as much as five to six hours a day wasting their lives on social media.

Well, social media is not necessarily a bad thing. And this is not a bash on technology but the idea here is that if I’m spending all of my time on a very small screen, I might as well be somewhere else doing the things that are on that screen. And so, some of these real success stories that have come from this is the ability to recognize that, and say, “That’s not who I am. That’s not what I want to be. I want to be in the moment. I want to pay attention to this rather than swiping and going somewhere else.”

So, one of the big successes here is it’s been really interesting to see some of these very, very bright students made changes in habits because they realized that fact that, “That’s where I actually am. My mind is somewhere else rather than here in front of people having a good conversation.”

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Tracy Maylett
A lot of some of the research that we’ve done is based on the work of Daniel Kahneman, and really some interesting studies as he’s put out regarding the mind and the brain.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And is there a resonant nugget, a key thing you share that really seems to connect with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Tracy Maylett
No, just the idea of the swipe, in general. It’s something that people can immediately identify with in their own lives, they say, “Oh, yeah, okay. I get it.” And we’ll give credit to Tim on this title here, the idea that a swipe is something that we’re all familiar with, and that they start to identify, “Yeah, that’s the reason why I don’t finish what I start is because the swiping,” I think it’s just intuitive, and it’s really resonated with people.

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

Tim Vandehey
SwipeTheBook.com. It has information about the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Shall I steal it?

Tim Vandehey
Yeah, swipe it. Exactly. It’s a command. It’s an imperative. Yeah, SwipeTheBook.com is where you can find reviews. Obviously, the book is on Amazon and so on. Actually, we will be launching a new site here once I finish it, sometime, hopefully, October. So, that’ll have some more goodies on it, I think, a survey and hopefully some videos and some more content.

Tracy Maylett
It has been fun to see the people come up to us, and say, “This was me. This is me. And this has helped.”

Tim Vandehey
Oh, yeah. Everyone I’ve told about this book says, “Oh, I need that,” because I know a lot of writers and musicians, so they’re all artistic flakes to a degree, so.

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

Tim Vandehey
Well, I would say look at your expectations and look at your motivations. Getting those two things dialed in is critically important, especially expectations. I think people at a job feel motivated by the fact that they don’t do the job, they’ll get fired. But, of course, that just makes someone work just hard enough not to get fired. They don’t necessarily engage. I don’t think people take a good look at their expectations.

By the way, do I get to share my favorite stuff?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear a favorite quote and book, please.

Tim Vandehey
The quote is actually a quote about writing from Stephen King from his book on writing, which is a wonderful treat, it’s on the art of writing. And he says, “Writing talent is like a knife. Some writers are born with God-awful big knives but no writer is born with a sharp knife.” And that’s his way, of course, of saying that talent is one thing, but you don’t get anywhere without a lot of hard work.

Did you ask me about a book?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, please.

Tim Vandehey
It’s Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. I’ve always thought that’s one of the most brilliant books ever written in the English language. I’m a huge Tom Wolfe fan.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Tracy, Tim, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and very few swipes.

Tracy Maylett
Many thanks.

Tim Vandehey
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

907: Building Unwavering Confidence with Paul Epstein

By | Podcasts | One Comment

 

Paul Epstein reveals master keys to building confidence and making better decisions faster.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The fundamental key to feeling more confident every day
  2. How to improve your decision outcomes in just two minutes
  3. The head-heart-hands equation for making better decisions faster

About Paul

PAUL EPSTEIN is a former high-level executive for multiple NFL and NBA teams and the bestselling author of The Power of Playing Offense.

In 2022, he was named one of SUCCESS magazine’s top thought leaders who get results and his work has been featured on ESPN, NBC, Fox Business, and in USA Today.

In fifteen years as a leader in the world of pro sports, Paul helped take NBA teams from the bottom of the league in revenue to the top two, broke every premium sales revenue metric in Super Bowl history, opened a billion-dollar stadium, and founded the San Francisco 49ers Talent Academy.

As an award-winning keynote speaker, Paul’s impact continues offstage, providing leadership development and culture transformation programs for companies and teams including Amazon, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, NASA, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Dallas Cowboys.

He’s also the founder of the Win Monday Community and host of the Win Monday podcast, where he interviews high-profile guests who reveal their secrets of confidence and work-life mastery.

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

Paul Epstein Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Paul, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Paul Epstein
Yeah, Pete, fired up to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. I’m excited to get into some of the wisdom of your book, Better Decisions Faster: Unshakable Confidence When You Need It Most. But, first, I think we need to hear a fun story involving you and a famous athlete. How would you kick us off?

Paul Epstein
Ah, me and a famous athlete. Actually, you know what, let me give this a little spin, but if you want to talk athlete, let’s keep it in the NFL. Let’s go to one of the more powerful and influential people in the entire sports business, none other than the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. So, can I dive down this story of me and Roger?

Pete Mockaitis
Take it away.

Paul Epstein
Okay, good. All right. So, I’m in the NFL League office, 345 Park Ave. I’m in New York, running a national sales campaign for Super Bowl 48, which was over a handful of years ago, and it was a mega, mega Super Bowl. It was the biggest ever because it was the first time that it was in New York. So, you had these massive expectations, massive pressures, massive everything, and my boss, who’s the head of revenue for the NFL, he always served as kind of the buffer. It’s like NFL Commission, Roger’s down the hall, and Paul, “I got this.”

So, whenever Roger was close, my boss’ name is Brian, he now runs business for the LA Olympics, wonderful, wonderful guy, but he always kind of serves as that buffer. So, anyways, one day Brian is not around, he’s in a meeting. Commish walks down the hall, and he sees this pinboard that has all of the inventory for the Super Bowl mapped out, and there’s three colors of pins – green, yellow, and red. So, green is sold, yellow is in conversation with a prospect, and red is no action.

Well, this is really early in the campaign, we’re in like month two out of ten, so let’s just say the board had a lot of red pins. So, Commish comes over, and he says, “Tell me about the board.” And I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, where the hell is Brian when I need him?” But needless to say, it was just me and the Commish. And I said, “All right. Roger, yes, green is sold, yellow is in conversations,” so far so true, and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, I can’t practically reveal what the red is.”

I’m like, “Red is red hot prospect.” And he made eye contact, and he says, “Well, looks like we’ve got a pretty hot market,” and went off. And so, my career was saved. Thankfully, I’m around to tell this story with a smile on my face, but you want to talk about thinking on your feet in a high-stakes situation. You talk about unshakeable confidence when you need it most, well, let’s just say I wish I had a book like Better Decisions Faster before that moment because I was just kind of winging it on impulse, but there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is it your perception that had you say, “Oh, well, Roger, those are the seats that are unsold, and no action have yet been taken,” that he would lose it?

Paul Epstein
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Paul Epstein
Yeah, look, NFL, it’s a high-pressure, people get what they want. There’s no mistake that it’s one of the more powerful businesses in the world, and I loved every moment of it, but, yeah, I’m just happy that I didn’t quite have to reveal what the reds truly were.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so let’s talk about Better Decisions Faster. Any particularly surprising or counterintuitive   discoveries you made about decision-making and confidence when researching and putting this together?

Paul Epstein
Yeah, it was massive. Well, there’s a huge statistic that just blew me away. To this day, it’s almost hard for me to even fathom, even though I fact-checked it and we do the research on the research on the research. You really make sure that everything checks out, and here is the stat. The average adult makes 35,000 decisions in a day. So, think about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’ve heard something like that.

Paul Epstein
If you’re listening to this right now, 35,000 decisions, which is absolutely, it’s part mind-blowing, it’s part mind-numbing, I don’t even know which one it is, but that’s a lot. And so, of course, I think a lot of them are going to be on autopilot – turn left in the driveway, brush your teeth – but then there’s those critical few that can really make or break quality of life, quality of business, quality of career, quality of health, quality of relationships.

So, I wrote the book more for those. I call them MVDs, so the sports metaphor. MVP is the most valuable player. I wrote it for our most valuable decisions but still, to know that we have the expectation and the weight of 35,000 of anything in a day, I don’t know about you, but that kind of scared the crap out of me the first time I heard it. And, thankfully, I figured, “Hey, might as well write a playbook on how we can navigate and conquer those decisions with more confidence.”

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And, Paul, I love that you were shaken and wanted to triple-check what is up with this huge number. So, let’s get your hot take. So, if we’re awake for, like, a thousand-ish minutes in a day, and there’s 35,000 decisions, we’re talking about 35 decisions a minute, or a decision every one or two seconds. So, I’m imagining the weight or gravity of most of these decisions might be along the lines of, “Should I have another sip of water?”

Paul Epstein
Oh, no, you’re so right.

Pete Mockaitis
“And I will.”

Paul Epstein
Like, “Should I look this person in the eye?” “Oh, hey, I got to scratch the itch.” Like, whatever it is. Yeah, most of them are kind of in this autopilot inconsequential, but, still, that’s kind of a crazy thing. It’s almost like taking a breath. Is that a decision? Like, you think about kind of those moment-to-moment things.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and you’re right. That would be fun just because I am similarly curious in such a way. I guess that there are some things that, like taking a breath, I think that’s right on the border because it can be automatic or not, versus your heart beating, it just does, decided. Heart beat now or heart beat faster or slower.

Well, before we get into the particulars of how we make these most valuable decisions most excellently, could you share with us a story of someone who started kind of unconfident and indecisive, and then did some things to make the leap, the transformation to confident and decisive?

Paul Epstein
Yeah, so part of this is really, I’ll look in the mirror when I tell you this story. This was what turns out to be this Jerry Maguire leap from sports, and I’ll tell you that I had a coaching conversation along the way that, fundamentally, changed my life. Her name is Sue Ann, and I’ll share this story of Sue Ann in a second, but Sue Ann gave me this gift of unshakeable confidence when I needed it most.

Because before that, and maybe this resonates with everyone listening in, my life, I could describe in two chapters: pre-confidence and post-confidence. And by pre-confidence, I don’t mean that I didn’t have confidence but it was inconsistent at best. I had moments where I did show up with unshakeable confidence, but I had others where I played pretty small.

And that was a byproduct of stress, or anxiety, or maybe I wasn’t happy or fulfilled, or whatever the case was, but it was just this weight of decision fatigue, decision overwhelm, and then you get paralyzed, and then you make the worst decision of them all, which is indecision. So, I suffered just like the majority of us. I think we all suffer from those things.

Now, a decade later, you write a playbook on it, and that’s kind of the happy ending of this story, and it’s going to be a lifelong journey. But I’ll tell you the story where prior, and I think this connects with a lot of folks out there, the way that we’re raised, and I don’t just mean by parents, I mean more in society, especially here in the US, it’s so success-driven, it’s so goals and metrics and outcomes, and we chase these things, and, “Where did you go to school?” and “What’s the first company you worked for?” and “What does the resume look like?” “What does your LinkedIn profile look like?” and it’s all this external stuff.

And when you’re in the NFL and NBA, and you’re achieving all these things, and you’re supposedly getting all the things that matter in life, but then you don’t always feel like you’re winning on the inside. So, you’re winning on the outside but not winning on the inside. And what’s that gap about? And I would’ve told you that my entire career, I was going to hang out in the sports industry because it was a total dream come true. It was a kid in the candy store type of experience.

But then when I realized that you consistently reach these peaks, and these summits, and these places that are supposed to feel so amazing, and sometimes they do, but then it expires really quick. Like, within a day or two you kind of have this crash because I think there’s this reality check of, “Is this it?” Like, I spent months or years or the better part of the decade to get to this summit and this peak, and then, poof, it’s gone in like a day or two.

And that’s where I found myself, I’m heading up revenue for the San Francisco 49ers, and I go to this retreat where I started to tap into my why, and my values, a lot of personal discovery work. I started to figure out who I am. But then I was this crazy guy in the retreat that wasn’t happy with leaving those things as a distant north star. So, I got obsessed with, “How do I apply them on Monday morning? How do I connect these things that feel like a distant north star, like your why and values? How do I connect them to my decisions, to my actions, to the way I show up?”

And that process is what leads me to make big decisions, like doing things I said I would never do, “I’m never going to go back to school.” Well, growth mindset, growth is one of my core values, so I go back to school. I meet this wonderful woman named Sue Ann, my executive coach, first time I ever had an executive coach. And, Pete, what was really cool about this is this was the first time in my entire life, professionally speaking, that I felt comfortable going there, meaning, like, 100 out of 100, raw truth, vulnerability, authenticity.

Because before Sue Ann, I had mentors in the sports industry. The problem was they probably knew my boss better than they knew me. So, put yourself in this scenario if you’re listening in here. Have you ever been asked, “How’s it going? How’s it going?” and your default answer is, “Great. Great” even if you’re not great?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Paul Epstein
And I think a lot of us have been there where you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, like it’s totally great.” And you say that because you don’t want to reveal if you’re 60% good, you don’t want to talk about the 40%, or you don’t know how this person is going to react, you don’t know if a negative domino follows. So, that was my mindset for a lot of my career as I’m growing and climbing and succeeding and winning on the outside. But then I talked to Sue Ann, and this was the conversation that changed my life.

She said, “Paul, I know what you do. You’re head of sales for an NFL team. What do you love about it? What do you hate about it? And what do you tolerate?” So, love, hate, tolerate. Great questions for all of us to evaluate – love, hate, tolerate. And I answered all three, and then she said, “Go deeper on the love bucket.” I’m like, “Okay, Sue Ann. Well, I love the people side of business, I love the culture side, I love being a coach just like you.”

And she said, “Awesome. On a good day, what percentage of your time do you do that?” So, now I’m slouching down in my chair, kind of the embarrassed at the answers, so I plopped it up a little bit. I said, “Sue Ann, 20%.” The truth is probably five or ten, but I’m like, “Sue Ann, 20%.” “All right. Paul, I wave a wand, you become your boss tomorrow. Does that number 20% go up, down, or sideways?”

And I thought about my boss, they were almost all strategy and nothing coaching people, so I said, “You know, Sue Ann, it’d probably go down.” And this was it, Pete. This was the question she asked, “So, what are you after?” Such a simple question but it has such profound meaning because I hadn’t asked myself that question in a very long time. I was just busy climbing, and winning, and succeeding what I thought was growing, but I forgot what I was after. And then she made me realize I don’t even want what’s next. I’m climbing this ladder, and I don’t even want what’s next.

So, to put this all together, when you want to talk about decision-making, when you want to talk about playing from a place of confidence, here’s why she gave me the gift of confidence, here’s how it went down. She cemented this belief that if I can connect my values to my decisions and actions, then I will become the most confident version of myself, beaming with strength and authenticity and purpose. So, the next decision I made after I talked to her, I asked myself, “What’s my strongest core value?” And its impact.

And I define impact as making a difference and leaving people in places better than I found them. That’s it. So, I then go back to the drawing board, and I asked myself, “Can I create more impact inside of the walls of the sports industry or beyond the walls?” And that, Pete, was the question that leads to the moment, and the aha, and eventual transformation, and eventual Jerry Macguire leap. That’s the moment I knew I was going to leave sports after 15 years of thinking that everything was perfect, and Sue Ann shining a light on this gap that I had, why I was showing up as a work Paul and a personal Paul.

And, really, you want to talk about making better decisions faster and being confident, I think that it is simply the consistency by which we act on our values, and that’s the backstory of how I came upon that transformation. And ever since then, I’ve been coaching others, and I implement it in my speaking, in my training, in my consulting, all of that, but that’s how decision-making became my competitive advantage.

Pete Mockaitis
That makes a lot of sense in terms of when you’re connected with the values, and those are guiding your decisions, you’re not wishy-washy waffly, like, “Hey, sorry to bother you. I hope this isn’t too inconvenient but I was…” as opposed to, like, “Yeah, this is just sort of how it is, and I believe that in my inner core that this is what is optimal, what needs to happen, what is good, proper, right, and just. And, thus, I’m going to feel like I can go forth and march on that.”

So, Paul, I’m imagining the hard part is getting that crystal clarity on “What are your values? And how can those connect to the decision or action that’s right in front of you in the next moment, the next hour?” So, any pro tips on how you illuminate these things?

Paul Epstein
Yup. So, I’ve got an old-school and a new-school way, and I’ll give you the fast pass because here we are in a podcast, so I want to give folks something they can do immediately. So, I’m talking to everybody out there. To find a value, the old-school way is, hey, you bring in a guy like me, and you go through some life-reflection exercises, and we unpack the peaks and the valleys, and we look for themes. And then those themes become your values. That takes time and energy and process. Let me give you the fast-pass way, and this works ten out of ten times. It’s just not as deep of a process.

You can, literally, Google top core values personally. And if you look at a list of 50 or 100, ask yourself, “Which one jumps off the page? Which one resonates?” I love this perspective. The Latin definition of inspire, which your value should inspire you, the Latin definition of inspire is to breathe life into. When you look at a list of 20, 50, 100 words, which one breathes life into you? And then just pick that value.

And then here’s the process that you do on the backend. So, now let’s say you lock in. Like, my core five: growth, belief, impact, courage, authenticity. Those are my five. Everyone has their own. There’s no better/worse, there’s no right/wrong. It’s just you do you. But here’s where we go. There’s a journaling exercise that I introduce to all of my coaching clients, and it works ten out of ten times if you do the work. And here is the process.

Now that you picked your value, once a week, this takes two minutes, so busyness cannot be an excuse, we all have two minutes in a week. We sit down, and we say, “For the week ahead, I will live my value of blank by blank.” The first blank is the value you chose. The second blank is an action, a single action that you connect to that value. So, I’ll give you two examples.

Let’s say that you choose the value of joy. Awesome. Okay. So, sit down, you journal, “For the week ahead, I will live my value of joy by cooking my favorite meal.” Cool. Super simple, super accessible, very easy, like joy. Hey, for me, I’m cooking bacon, I’m a happy camper. All good. That would be me. What is your favorite meal that brings you joy? That’s your one action.

Okay, let’s pivot. Instead of joy, what if your core value is courage? So, we’re raising the stakes. We’re getting a little feistier here. All right, journal, “For the week ahead, I will live my value of courage by having that challenging conversation that I’ve been putting off.” You’re not having that conversation because Paul said. You’re having that conversation because courage is a core value. So, those are just two quick-hit examples.

And then the last piece that I’ll say is, if that was your first journaling sit down, the reason why this works, and the reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t is a couple of things that are pitfalls that I’m about to coach through. So, the reason New Year’s resolutions don’t work, a couple things. One is we lack process and system. So, if we had a journaling exercise, or some sort of process and system, we would be much better at achieving our New Year’s resolutions.

The other reason why a lot of New Year’s resolutions, for myself included, don’t work is because we don’t stick with them long enough. We think we’re going to do something once or twice, and we’re like, “Oh, voila.” That’s just not how we’re wired. So, if you study habit formation, what the average research will tell you is that habit formation takes between three and four weeks. So, if you have a consistent process or system, and you do it for, in this case, I’m going to advise, do it for four weeks so you pass the threshold of habit formation, so you know where I’m going with this.

Do this journaling exercise four consecutive weeks. Two minutes a week, less than 10 minutes in a month, you can develop muscle memory, and you can internalize for four journaling sit-downs, do joy. For four journaling sit-downs, do courage. Do whatever your core value is. And here’s the beauty, and I want to share a gift with everyone listening in as well, if you were to go to my website, PaulEpsteinSpeaks.com, and take the confidence quiz, which, in less than five minutes, it gives you a confidence score of one to 100.

In the resource that you’ll be emailed after, I have a template for this values journal, so it’s just a free gift from me to everybody listening in because I believe, like this is something I implement with pro athletes, with Olympians, with high-growth founders, with Fortune 100 CEOs. It works ten out of ten times for those that do it for four consecutive weeks. So, that’s the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very cool. And I dug how, when you mentioned impact, you had a particular Paul-definition of it, “This is what I mean by impact.” Likewise, could you give us some examples of courage or joy? And do you recommend that in the process of you find the value that breathes life into you, and then you expand upon it with some specific definitional verbiage?

Paul Epstein
Yeah, I love where you’re bringing this, Pete. So, when I was introduced to this back in 2016 when I had that life-changing retreat, the process that was shared with me, I did not have that journaling exercise as teed up as the way I just described it. But what the facilitator did tell me to do, and I followed it to a tee, they said, “Screw what the Webster Dictionary thinks. What’s your definition of your core values?”

And so, I was like, “Okay, cool. Like, that’s an interesting exercise. Let me totally go down this rabbit hole.” So, I’ll give you my five, and I’ll give you my five quick definitions, this is all muscle memory at this point. So, growth was my first value. Growth is the mindset that I’ll attack each day with. That’s it. That’s Paul’s definition.

Then I had courage. You mentioned courage a few moments ago. Courage is standing tallest when fear and risks are highest. That’s my definition. I already talked about impact. Making a difference. Leaving people in places better than you found them. Let’s go authenticity. This was an interesting one. Never sell out because I have and it sucked, and I’ll never do it again.

So, you could see how you can kind of dance with these. I don’t really care what the dictionary says. I hit a rock-bottom moment professionally a year or two before this when I went against my authenticity, and it served the company well but it didn’t serve me well, and my heart and all of these things. So, that pain point turned out to trigger my definition of one of my core values.

So, those are just some quick hits on how you can look at a word, and you should intentionally not look up what Google says, or what Webster says. You shouldn’t do it. What does it mean to you? Because if you struggle to find a unique definition, then it might not be a core value.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you talk about sort of the emotional resonance, it breathes life into, I imagine that can have different subtleties or flavors or nuances. Sometimes the ‘breathe life into’ feels like, “Yes, that’s awesome.” And other times it’s like, “Ahh, yes,” there’s a deep peace associated with it. And so, can you give us a few of the different styles of being inspired by the stuff?

Paul Epstein
Yeah, I love this so much. Yeah, let me pick on one of my core values, which is courage. And this is not going to be the, “Rah, take the hill and let’s go conquer.” Like, a lot of people would think of courage or bravery as this very much like we’re going to battle. And, for me, it’s not about that at all. I actually, emotionally, I tie it back to one of the worst days of my life, which is I lost my hero, my dad, at 19 years old, and I’m an only child.

And when I went home after I got that phone call that nobody wants to get, and I saw my mom, and she’s crying on the floor, and as we hugged, and I still feel the tears on my shoulder, and I saw how she showed up that day as a parent, as a concealer, as a consoler, I should say, as a healer, then as a planner, and then all these things, she breathed courage into me, and it never left.

I am convinced that courage would not be a core value had I not been through that horrible experience, had I not lost my hero, had I not seen how my parent grew into a partner, how my mom turned into a best friend. Like, it was this pain, this tragedy, that really helped color it for me. So, yeah, Pete, I agree, man. I don’t think of inspire purely as the blue skies.

One of my buddies, he has a great way of thinking about the pain that you’ve experienced in life can be tied to your purpose once you heal. So, pain can tie to purpose once you heal, and I think that quick story I just shared is an example of that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. Thank you. I also lost my father as a teenager, and, yeah, it is tough and things sink in in that context, for sure. Well, thank you. I appreciate the depth and the heart here when talking about values and making it real. So, now, I guess I want to shift gears a little bit in terms of, let’s say you’ve done a lot of that good, reflective, soul-searching work, whether you’re Googling a list of values, and journaling, or going full bore with some assessments and some consultant coaches.

Now, I’m curious about in the heat of the moment when you’re feeling nervous, some pressure right then and there, how do you recommend we go about keeping cool and finding that unshakeable confidence right in those moments?

Paul Epstein
This is, literally, the entire playbook and the application that’s inside of the covers of Better Decisions Faster. So, I’ll give you the 60-second masterclass here. How we make better decisions faster, the application, I call it the head-heart-hands equation. So, the equation is head plus heart equals hands. To define each: head is your mindset, heart is your authenticity, and hands are action.

So, with head plus heart equals hands, another way to think about this is when deciding whether to use your hands, whether to take action, there’s two checkpoints: head and heart. The questions are, head. “Do I think it’s a good idea?” Heart. “Do I feel it’s a good idea?” And just like when you and I, when we’re driving up to an intersection, we know exactly what to do. Green is go, red is stop, yellow is assess. And that’s exactly how the head-heart-hands equation works.

So, when your head and your heart are both on board, it is a green freaking light. Ten out of ten times, go. Take action. Your head and your heart are ignited toward that action. Now, when there’s no head and no heart, that’s a red light. And so, we don’t want to run red lights. We now have the awareness and the consciousness to not run them. No head, no heart. When one of the two, either head or heart, is on board, that’s a yellow light.

So, if you ask me in simple terms, why write a book like Better Decisions Faster? Why apply the head-heart-hands equation? It’s because when the fear, and the stress, and the anxiety, and the pressures of day-to-day life, which are real, when they strike, we need a faster way to understand where we are with that decision in that moment.

So, while green, yellow, and red, it doesn’t get you to the finish line, the outcome, after the action within seconds but the equation does. So, now as I’m sometimes feeling stuck, or lost, or paralyzed at this fork in the road, I can now apply the head-heart-hands equation, and, boom, like the snap of fingers, I do a head check, I do a heart check, and almost instantly, I know, “Is this is a green? Is it a yellow? Is it a red?”

So, I write a book to attract more greens into our life. I write the book to raise awareness to stop running reds. And I write the book because yellow is the messy middle, and we need to have a playbook for how to navigate and conquer that messy middle. That’s Better Decisions Faster.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. That’s cool in terms of so we can eliminate a lot of second guessing in terms of the clear reds, clear greens. Like, head yes, heart yes, like, “Hey, that seems like a good idea, a good price. Heart, yeah, I really freaking want it, so, all right, let’s get it. There we go. I want to buy that thing,” or, “I want to take that course or do whatever.”

So, yeah, yellow is, indeed, the messy middle because I think a lot of times, it’s like, “Well, that sort of seems like a good idea but I’m not really sure. I’ve never done anything like this.” Heart. “I’m pretty excited about it but also kind of worried, like, this might turn out really bad.” So, when we’re in that messy middle, what do we do next?

Paul Epstein
It’s so funny, Pete. As soon as you started describing, in this case, greens and reds, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I hope he goes to the yellow,” because that really is the meat of the conversation. Now, that everybody heard this, hey, head and heart on board, greens. No head, no heart, reds. You don’t need a book for that. Like, that’s just a matter of being aware and doing the head check and heart check, and you’re good to go. Like, you can do the green and red thing.

Here’s the interesting part about yellows. Not all yellows are created equal. I actually have a very different recommendation for when only the head is on board versus when only the heart is on board, and I actually believe that one of the two is more deadly than a red, so let’s unpack that. Pete, I’ll ask you this question. This is a good segue into it. If I asked you, Pete, which one is more likely to be able to change over the weeks, over the months, over the years? Do you think your head can change or your heart changes?

Pete Mockaitis
I think the head changes faster, easier. It’s like, “Oh, here’s a new fact I didn’t know. Cool.”

Paul Epstein
Yup, exactly. Yeah, and I think most people would agree and subscribe to that. So, you’re not going to wake up with a new heart tomorrow. Your heart is probably not going to change over the weeks, months, maybe years. But even then, there’s just no guarantee, versus a head block, sometimes there’s a self-limiting belief that we need to untangle, sometimes it’s coached, sometimes it’s our partner, sometimes it’s a therapy, sometimes it’s like…whatever it is, there’s ways to untangle pollution in our mindset. No doubt about it. Like, I am a firm, firm believer in that.

So, if we’re not going to wake up with a new heart, the bad yellow, the hard yellow, the one that can be more deadly than red is when only our head is on board because our heart is never going to join for the party. So, that’s a yellow light that’s never going to be a green. Think about that. A yellow that’s never going to be a green.

At least with a red, it’s done. You decide to stop doing it or not do it, but this bad yellow, it lingers. And so, a quick example, and this could apply to a relationship as well. I’ll use a professional example right now, but this applies to any person. All right, work context. I used to lead really big sales enterprises and sales teams. And the person that often was the top performer or top producer, so they sold a lot of widgets.

Your head, of course, loves the production, loves the performance. It made you look good to your boss. It helped you achieve your goals. So, your head said, “Keep them.” But let’s say they were a pain in the you-know-what, bad in the locker room, sometimes toxic, so your head might’ve said, “Keep them,” but your heart knew that they weren’t a keeper. Think about all these people that we might be surrounded by, that we have a head reason for them to stick around, but our heart knows that they’re not a long-term play.

And so, if you think about it from that lens, you’re like, “Man, now, all of a sudden, as a sales leader, my culture, three, four years here, it’s all wonky and screwed up. And now I’ve got engagement problems, and, oh, I’m losing some of my better people. So, now I’ve got retention problems. And maybe the marketplace heard a little bit about my culture, so I’ve got recruiting problems. I don’t have an engagement or recruiting or a retention problem. I had a yellow light problem. I hung onto the wrong yellow lights.” And that yellow light can be more deadly than a red.

So, my advice there, as difficult as it is, if your heart is never going to join for the party, short term, sure, you could survive a couple of these bad yellows, but, long term, you’re going to bleed out. So, the head-heart-hands equation gets you to quickly identify, like, “Dang, this is not a long-term play. Yeah, I need the paycheck but this job is soul-sucking to me.” That would be another example. I’m not telling you to bounce tomorrow. We have families. Be responsible. But if you know that’s never going to be a green, then we’ve got to make some decisions here.

And that decision, you might not pull a job trigger for 12 more months, but are you doing the work, nights and weekends? Are you doing the research? Are you doing the informational coffee meetings? Are you taking those positive steps to create potential future green lights because this yellow is never going to be a green?

And in the flip, and I won’t be as long with this one, the flip is a beautiful yellow. When your heart is on board because it’s so rare that your heart is a, “Hell, yes” for something, that yellow, you want to stay in the fight. You want to untangle whatever cobwebs or pollution you got from the neck up because, I’m telling you right now, there are so few opportunities in life that your heart is a “Hell, yes” so we don’t want to screw those up. We don’t want to waste those.

We got to figure out how to potentially transform that good yellow of the heart being on board, and if our head can eventually join for the party, that yellow to green transformation is as big of a payoff as you could ever imagine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful and thought-provoking. Thank you. It’s really juicy. My thoughts are jumping all over in so many places.

Paul Epstein
Yeah, yellow is juicy, my friend. Yellow is very juicy.

Pete Mockaitis
I think sometimes, call it intuition, but you know your head or your heart isn’t on board, or is on board, but you don’t even know why. To what extent is that important? And how do we solve for that?

Paul Epstein
So, this is the classic gut or impulse, which, by the way, off-camera, what I’m asked all the time by a lot of folks is, “Okay, Paul, cool. I love this. All right, head, heart, hands, fully understand it. I’m going to apply it. Where does the gut fall into this?” Like, I get asked that all the time, and it’s a great question. So, my piece here is when you think about the origin of your gut, the origin of your impulse, that’s kind of you without much reaction time, just saying, “This is naturally how I’m feeling. Like, my gut feel.”

You often hear that, “My gut feel.” Okay, head is a thinking, heart is a feel game, hands are a do game. And so, while they’re not exactly alike, if I had to connect the dots, your gut and your impulse is closest to your heart.

Pete Mockaitis
True.

Paul Epstein
So, a big part of me writing Better Decisions Faster and being around these 12 green lights, which are 12 values, which I shared earlier, when we have our values in action, those are when we’re most confident. And the more confidence we have, then we can make better decisions faster. This is all one connected conversation but I share all these with you because I think we live in a world where we go, go, go, and we do, do, do. I don’t really need to convince folks to think more or to do more.

Now, are we thinking in the right way? That’s a fair conversation. Are we doing all the right things? That’s a fair conversation. But we think so much and we do so much. I think the gap in the world is the heart. And to no fault of anybody’s, I just think it’s so complex, and fast-paced, and up-tempo, and the pressure, and the stress, and the anxiety, sometimes we’re not checking in with our heart.

But when we do, and that’s the beauty of this head-plus-heart-equals-hands equation, Pete, because, like, let me just ask you, Pete, a quick question. If you had to choose a side, are you hardwired, as your default setting, more logic or emotion?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny that you asked. We’ll say more logic, although it’s close.

Paul Epstein
Okay, cool. Yeah, and, again, I don’t care if it’s a 51/49 but the only answer you cannot give is 50/50. So, let’s say you were to lean towards the logic. I’m quite the opposite, so I am hardwired to just be emotional. And so, here’s the beauty. It’s not head or heart equals hands. It’s not head minus heart. It’s head plus heart.

So, what that tells me is if Pete is on one side, if he leans logic, and if Paul leans emotion, well, this equation is going to force Pete to check in with his emotion. This equation is going to force Paul to check in with his logic. It’s head plus heart. So, it un-exposes our blind spots. I might not always do the head check, that’s just not how I’m always wired but now this process forces me to.

And, on the flipside, Pete, whether you’re a 51/49, or whether you’re a 90/10 on the logic side, either way it works. Now you’re going to have to do the heart check, and you’re going to have to make sure that, emotionally, you’re feeling it as well. So, that’s the beauty. It can take two opposite folks that are wired in very different ways, and it takes us through the same funnel, the same process. That’s why I’m such a massive believer in it because it’s not about how you’re wired. It is literally about getting to the best decision possible in a faster amount of time.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful. Thanks, Paul. Anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Paul Epstein
No, no, we’re good to go, man.

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

Paul Epstein
Based on what changed my life, from Mark Twain, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

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

Paul Epstein
Yeah, here’s one. This is a real-life example from one of my first sports jobs. It was a survey. I think this is very, very applicable for a lot of us. So, the question was, “One day, do you want to be the team president?” There were two sample sizes. Two groups of folks. One was frontlines and entry-level workers, the next was vice presidents.

And here’s what the study showed. Practically, 100% of entry-level folks wanted to be the team president. Of course, right, first job in sports. Of course, I want to be at the top.

The number was drastically different for the vice presidents. It dipped just below 50%. So, think about that. When you’re just starting, 100% want to get to the top of the mountain of an org chart. But 50%, once you’ve climbed five rungs up the ladder, and now you understand what it means to be at the top.

And I just think it’s a beautiful insight that, over time, different things matter, and you evolve, and you change, and you start to appreciate not just winning the outside game but also what’s the inside game that makes you happy and fulfilled, and what’s the lifestyle you want to build and have. And so, I think that’s a really cool survey that the meaning of that survey has carried my spirit ever since.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Paul Epstein
Well, aside from The Power of Playing Offense and Better Decisions Faster, of course, I will tell you, man, there are so many, there are so many, but I’ll tell you the book that’s made the most impactful…that’s had the most impact on my life recently, Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I read it last December, I started to apply it immediately, and by any measure or metric that is important to me, by mid-April, I had already surpassed all the things I was measuring from the year before, and it’s because I truly locked in on what’s essential. And I have Greg McKeown to thank for that.

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

Paul Epstein
A microphone. But a microphone as a metaphor. I happen to use it physically as a speaker. I believe that everybody in the world deserves to have a voice. So, when I see a microphone, or speak into a microphone, I believe that everybody should feel like they deserve a seat at the table with a microphone.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit, something you do that helps you be awesome at your job?

Paul Epstein
Fill my life with green lights. No joke, the head-heart-hands equation has fundamentally changed my life. I feel privileged and honored and humbled to be able to share it with the world. But when you get your head and your heart on board, and it tells you it’s a green light, that’s a life that I believe in, and that’s a life worth living.

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

Paul Epstein
“Actions over outcomes.” “Actions over outcomes” is one. Another one that’s really resonating, “Standards over goals.” That might actually be the more impactful one. “Standards over goals.” The whole world tells you to care about goals. I believe that standards are more closely aligned with who you are at your core, and things that are meaningful and that matter to you. So, I’m a big subscriber of standards over goals.

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

Paul Epstein
PaulEpsteinSpeaks.com, that’s the treasure trove, all things speaking, the confidence quiz gets you to one to a hundred within five minutes. Everything that you need is all at PaulEpsteinSpeaks.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?

Paul Epstein
Use the head-heart-hands equation. I’m just going to be very blunt about this. You don’t know what the impact of your work is until people actually start to use it. So, I can write a book all day long, and if nobody ever used it, there’s no impact. What I have seen in the earliest chapter of launching “Better Decisions Faster,” a lot of people bought it because of their work. They said, “Well, I want to make better decisions in work.”

But almost every single DM that I’m getting on social, almost every text message, almost every private email, some of them are work-related, 70% are not, “You’ve helped me make better decisions in my relationship, in my health, as a parent, how I manage my time, how I set my priorities.” It’s just been a really cool holistic life play. And I believe that that’s what the head-heart-hands equation can do for everybody listening in.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Paul, this has been a treat. Thank you. I wish you much luck and fun and many great green lights.

Paul Epstein
Yeah, likewise, buddy.

905: How to Achieve Your Biggest Goals in One Year with Lisa McCarthy

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Lisa McCarthy reveals five principles that help turn your boldest ambitions into reality.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to manage your inner critic
  2. The benefits of sharing your goals with others
  3. Three words to avoid using

About Lisa

Lisa McCarthy is Fast Forward’s CEO and co-founder. Prior to launching Fast Forward, she spent 25 years at prominent media companies Univision, Viacom, and CBS leading sales organizations that were responsible for billions in revenue. Recognized as a people-first leader and change agent, Lisa was named a “Woman to Watch” by Advertising Age and was included in Crain’s New York Business “40 Under 40” list. She experienced the costs of an always-on workplace where people end up simply surviving, putting out fires, and often putting their happiness and health on hold. Together, she and Wendy designed a simple and immediately actionable system of Power Principles to help people achieve success and fulfillment in their whole lives.

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

Lisa McCarthy Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Lisa, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Lisa McCarthy
Thank you. Great to be here, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into the wisdom you’ve got for us in your book Fast Forward: 5 Power Principles to Create the Life You Want in Just One Year. Can you share with us any particularly surprising counterintuitive discoveries you made along the way putting this together?

Lisa McCarthy
Well, we had to use our five-power principles because we’re in year 11 of our business, and I guess, as of year one, people kept asking us, “When is the book coming out? When are you going to write the book?” and we’d say, “We’re not doing that yet.” And, finally, two years ago, we threw our hat over the wall, which is one of the expressions we used in the book and in our programs, and we just committed to it even though we didn’t know how, and even though it felt like a mountain.

And just like we share our system in the book, we created a vision and then we just said, “What’s the next step? What’s the next step after that? What’s the next step after that?” and getting to every rung in the mountain, we did it. And what makes the book is the interviews. We interviewed 30 people, 30 graduates, and asked them, “How have the power principles in our system made a difference in your life?” and the stories knocked us out. They just knocked us out and really inspired us about the difference the system has made in so many careers and lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Okay, so then, tell us, what sort of the big idea or main message behind Fast Forward?

Lisa McCarthy
The main message is there is a lot of things that you can’t control. People can’t control the economy, politics. We can’t control other people, even though we’ll continue to try. We can’t control the weather but there are so many things we can control. And this book is all about taking ownership of your future, taking ownership of your career, your business, your life, and what’s important to you.

And most years, we run, and we run, and we run, and we run, and we run, and we run, and then we pass out, and then we go on vacation, and then we do it again. So, this book is all about how do you live your life by envisioning a future that really lights you up. And even if you don’t know how to get there, by getting it on paper and sharing it with other people, anything is possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, you have five power principles here. What exactly do we mean by a power principle?

Lisa McCarthy
A power principle is a tangible actionable step to take so that you can create the life you want in one year. And at the end of the book, we talk about Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and Glinda says, “You have the power all along,” and that’s what we believe. So, it’s all about harnessing that power and getting intentional about where you want to apply it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And could you give us an example of someone who was not working in accordance with the power principles, and then adopted one, and saw some really cool results?

Lisa McCarthy
Well, the majority of the people that do our program, and really the book is based on a program that we’ve done with over 100,000 people, what all of the companies share in common, whether they’re small, medium, large, whether they’re in the United States or whatever industry they may be in, is that they’re fast-paced, high pressure, and dealing with uncertainty and change. So, that’s what all these companies have in common.

So, when you’re in that kind of workplace, people are reactive, people are focused on, “What do I need to get done by Friday in order to keep my job, get some healthy meals on the table, maybe go to the gym?” And so, that’s where most people are when they get to our program. And they may be crushing it at work and often sacrificing what’s important to them at home. They may be kind of calling it in at work because they feel that that’s what they need to do to keep things all the balls in the air.

And so, the majority of the people we’ve worked with will share that this gave them a system to believe an action on that it is possible to design your whole life, to succeed professionally and personally, and not only in terms of outcomes but also your relationships, the quality of your relationships, how you feel when you go to sleep at night, what you’re known for as friend, and a leader, and a parent.

And so, that happens again and again and again every single week. And when you’re a person that’s in the blender or on the treadmill, as we like to say, this is freedom. This is really believing that you now have the power, and people have gotten promoted, changed their career, gotten married, gotten divorced, had a baby, ran a marathon. Like, that’s what’s possible because when you believe it, you then confidently go in that direction to make it happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Can we zoom into one story of a particular person and what they did and what they saw?

Lisa McCarthy
Sure. I recently had an executive in the program that is working in Italy. Here’s one example where she felt that she needed to stay in Italy for her husband’s business. And so, her limiting belief was, “This is it for me. I’m going to manage Italy but I’m not going to be able to move up at my organization.”

And one of the things she got in her bold vision, and working using the structure, was that was a barrier she created for herself, that, particularly, after COVID, there’s different ways to lead, and you don’t have to physically move in many situations. So, she wrote in her bold vision, “One year from today, I’m managing an additional country. My scope has expanded. My people have expanded. I’m making more money.”

And then she read her vision to her manager, and, obviously, that requires vulnerability, but it’s putting it out there, it’s saying, like, “This is what success looks like for me.” And then six months later, when that country manager moved on in Spain, she’s now running Italy and Spain. And she actually said, we’re getting testimonials every week, but she actually said, “My marriage is also so improved, but I’m not going to get into those details in this email.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood.

Lisa McCarthy
That’s one example.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so what are these five power principles? Can you give us the overview of them?

Lisa McCarthy
Sure. So, the five power principles are in the areas of vision, planning, mindset, and communication because all of those things are things that you can control. So, that’s the focus of the system. The first one is to declare bold vision, which we support people to go a year out. Like, Pete, imagine December of 2024, write down what extraordinary success looks like. And we give people a very tangible actionable seven-question exercise with samples of what a bold vision looks like.

And this is not about fantasy. It’s about committing to things that you would feel so proud and elated to have them be true. And you may not know how to get there, and you could fail, but they’re worth planning for. So, that’s power principle number one. Power principle number two is all about mindset. So, it’s “Choose a new perspective.” And we help you identify disempowering perspectives or stories that we all have, stories about ourselves, stories about other people, stories about your circumstances, your company.

And then if they’re empowering, keep going. Like, “I crushed in that presentation. I’m going to get promoted. I love working with that partnership, the marketing team or the sales team.” But most of the time, people have negative disempowering stories, or often. I don’t want to say most of the time. So, we have people identify the story, then look at the costs. What’s the cost to you of that story? And we have a model that helps you choose a new perspective.

Power principle number three is “Plan the work, and work the plan.” How do we evolve this old vision into an incremental action plan over the next 90 days, where, “If I have a really bad habit, how do I replace it with a good one? What’s going to be different?” Power principle number four is to use language of action. How do you elevate your influence? How do you run a meeting that actually produces an outcome? Because meetings are such a giant pain point. And then, finally, power principle number five is to stop talking, and get curious, which is really game-changing for relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
And then when it comes to choosing a new perspective, can you give us some examples of common perspectives many people have that aren’t serving them very well?

Lisa McCarthy
Sure. So, people say things about themselves, like, “I’m not as smart as my peers.” And what is the cost of that? Because 80% of the universe has impostor syndrome. So, we have this disempowering perspective, “I’m not as smart as these other people.” And there is a high cost to that because you are less inclined to make a recommendation, offer another point of view, so there’s a cost to your self-worth, there’s a cost to your productivity, there’s a cost to your confidence, there’s a cost to your impact.

And you’re busy collecting evidence for, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe what he said. I can’t believe what she said. Like, I can’t articulate an idea in that way.” And when you see the cost of the story, then using our model, can brainstorm other perspectives, such as, like, I’ve seen time and time again, people choose a perspective such as, “I have significant value to contribute,” “I am a very strong asset,” “This team needs me.”

And then you start practicing that and collecting evidence for that, and when you write it down, and you share it out loud with someone else, it makes a meaningful difference. And it’s very important what you say to yourself and what you say to others. So, sometimes people keep disempowering perspectives to ourselves because we’re sabotaging ourselves or we have impostor syndrome as we move up. But other times, there are things, like you have a negative perspective about – this happens often – like the marketing team has a perspective on the sales team, “They don’t get what we do. They don’t appreciate what we do.”

Or, “That executive is incompetent and should be fired.” And you’re collecting evidence for why they should be fired, and the reality is they’re not getting fired. So, there’s a high cost to you, you’re the one that’s going home frustrated. Now you’re complaining to people that can’t make a difference versus taking on a new perspective that, “We need each other to produce the results. It’s up to me to improve this relationship. I really value what they do, and we need it to achieve success.”

So, you’re trying on new stories. And then one about the circumstances, Pete, is most or many people say things like, “There’s not enough hours in the day.” Well, guess what. If you say there’s not enough hours in the day, every day you’re going to feel overwhelmed, and you’re going to be reactive, and you’re going to go to sleep at night exhausted.

However, if you were to choose the perspective, which I do, and we’re always encouraging people in our programs and our company to do, and it’s easier said than done, but just to give you an example since you asked for it, “I have enough time to do what’s important to me.” Now, if I’m looking through that lens, I am going to have to delegate more often at work and at home, I am going to have to say no to things that don’t line up with my vision, and this is possible, I am going to have to decline meetings because I’m going to get thoughtful on Sunday night, “What are the meetings that are really going to be important for me to attend?”

So, those are some of the examples. Choose a new perspective is a game-changing power principle for so many people because we have disempowering perspectives, especially about people, professionally and personally. And many people, and I know you have a slightly younger audience, but as we move up, and we take on more responsibility, and we start families, a lot of people, especially women, have a negative perspective that moving up requires too much sacrifice.

And so, sometimes we’ll choose to stagnate and put a lid on ourselves versus, my own perspective throughout my career, which was, “I’m going to have pressure at every level. I’m going to keep on moving up so I can make more money and delegate.”

Pete Mockaitis

And can you give us some examples of what does this problematic self-talk sound like at times?

Lisa McCarthy
Oh, I’d love to give you an example because everyone has it. So, here we go. “I am so overwhelmed. I can’t believe I said that in a meeting. I’m probably getting fired. Like, I didn’t prepare. I procrastinated. I stayed up till 11:00 o’clock last night watching Netflix, scrolling through Instagram, not doing what I should’ve been doing, and then I said I was going to go to the gym. And, of course, I didn’t go to the gym because I pressed news, and I didn’t have the motivation. This always happens. And I ate all those carbs for breakfast. And I need to call my mother. I’m just such a bad daughter.”

“And I say I want to meet someone but then I don’t even go out on a Friday or Saturday night. And I just lost my temper with my wife, and I have to be more patient. I have to be more patient, and I have to work on my LinkedIn. I have no story. I have to work on my branding but I hate branding, I hate merchandising myself, and I really don’t like networking. And I’m just exhausted.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so now when you talk about impostor syndrome, or inner critic-type issues, when we hear these words or phrases or dialogue inside our own heads, how do you recommend we manage that?

Lisa McCarthy
I recommend, so we have a whole piece in the book, focus on managing your inner critic. And, ultimately, this is how human beings are wired, so we’re not going to get rid of this. And we’ve had so many people in the program say, “But, wait, my inner critic drives me. This is how I’ve come as far as I have.”

And we actually created a distinction that above the line is productive feedback. Like, if you just did a meeting, or you just did a call, or you just did a presentation, like really looking at what worked, what didn’t work, and, “How could I improve?” That’s productive constructive rationale. But then below the line is this ranting, critical, harsh voice that says things to yourself that you would never say to other people.

And we actually recommend writing it down because when you write it down, you actually see it’s not true. It’s just what you’re saying to yourself over and over and over again. If you have the courage, you would share it with one person that you feel safe with out loud. And their job is not to convince you otherwise. Their job is just to listen because when you say it out loud, it’s like it mitigates the weight of it, the significance. It mitigates the significance.

And a lot of times, sometimes people get emotional, like, “How can I treat myself in this way? Like, that’s not okay.” And then other times, I’ve seen people laugh, like, “This is ridiculous. I would never speak to anyone that I respect in this way, and I’m going to stop speaking to myself.” So, that’s step one. Then we give people other recommendations in the book, like focus on your strengths because, a lot of times, people are not.

And if I were to interview every reader of this book, I know that if they were putting together their LinkedIn, there would be two or three strengths that they could identify. And simple things, and this has been so useful, there are so many people that do our program, is to every night, write down three things that you’re proud of and did well, because most of the times, people go to sleep and they feel exhausted. They’re just, like, scrolling through Instagram or watching episode seven on Netflix, passing out, and thinking about the mountain of work, and everything that they didn’t do.

So, take a moment to really fuel yourself, write down three things that you’re proud of or did well in the last 24 hours, not for your six-month review, but in the last 24 hours because we find what we’re looking for. So, that’s one of your practices every day, like going to the gym, or drinking eight glasses of water. Start looking for what you did well. And if you share it out loud, “For a full year, I would call my sister every night and say, ‘Here’s what I’m really proud of. Here’s where I really crushed it today.’”

And, obviously, if you had a crappy day, like you’re not going to fake it, but if you’re taking on that practice, and I recommend every single listener does that, immediate shift.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And I’m also curious, when it comes to working with other people, you recommend we share our goals with others. Can you expand upon that, sort of like the benefits and how we can go about doing that well?

Lisa McCarthy
Yeah. Well, first off, research shows that when you write things down, I think the number is 60% more likely to happen based on one of the studies we used. And then if you share it out loud, that number goes up by 25%. So, most people are goal-setting in a very safe, vague way because their manager told them to.

So, you have to put X number of goals in the system. Sometimes people never look at them again, but there are some companies that are very rigorous about, “Put your goals in the system. We’re going to evaluate you twice a year. We’re going to do calibrations to see who gets promoted.” Companies differ in their approach.

But let’s hope that people are putting down a few goals every year, professionally and personally. We recommend a much more rigorous approach because, instead of setting safe, predictable goals that you know how to achieve so that you look good, we’re actually proposing that you throw your hat over the wall. You could get to a big wall, and you say, “Okay, I’m just going for this, and I could fail, and I may not get all the way there, but I’m going to get further because I went for it, and I dreamed big.”

And instead of keeping your ambitions and your dreams to yourself, and then under-promising and over-delivering, or not saying out loud what you, “I’d love to be in a meaningful relationship,” or, “I’d love to be healthy and lose 10 pounds,” or, “Really, I want to get promoted. I want to get a new job in my company,” or, “Leave my company.”

If you write it down, as if it’s already happened, even if you don’t know how, that’s the whole game. And then if you share it out loud, like, pretend, “Pete, 12 months from now, I’m sitting at lunch with you, this year was awesome. This year was awesome. Let me share what happened and what is happening, what I achieved and how I feel, and the quality of my relationships,” and that’s the whole game.

That’s what I recommend that people write down a bold vision that’s specific, that’s measurable, that’s vivid, that has you feel inspired and uncomfortable, and then you share it with at least one other person, which is going to require vulnerability and courage and it’s worth it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And in this language that we’re using, internally and with others, and in meetings, and in sharing our goals, I’m curious, are there any particular keywords or phrases you recommend folks use, you love, or words and phrases you recommend folks lose, like they’re problematic and no good for us?

Lisa McCarthy
Well, one of the biggest mantras that’s come out, I don’t know if it’s a mantra, but the first question our bold vision exercise is, “What are you known for?” And most people that are doing, doing, doing, doing, doing are not focused on who they’re being. So, I tell a story that’s true for me, that people, when I was in my 30s especially, I was known for being busy. And the reason I was known for being really busy is people said, “How are you?” I would say, “I’m really busy” in an intense way.

And as a result of that, you can imagine, like, nobody was coming to me with the big idea, nobody was inviting me to things, and I was not accessible, and not present. So, when I did my own personal/professional development work way back in my 30s, and I’m now 56, I realized that that was not okay with me. So, I said, “I am no longer using the busy word.” And guess what? I’m not using the stressed word, and I’m not using the tired word.

So, we have a big sticker in our program that says, “BTS” with a line through it, and it’s not “Back to school,” and it’s not the Asian pop band. It’s “Stop using the words busy, tired, stressed.” And now, if you were to say to me, “Lisa, I know you’re really busy,” I’d say, “I’m not busy. I have enough time to do what’s important to me.” I would say, “I’m in demand or overly fulfilled.” I have my new language to replace that old language.

So, thousands of people are no longer using the B word, and you get to choose your language. Again, back to what you can’t control and what you can control, and there’s days when there’s disappointment. So, I’m not saying, “Don’t feel disappointment. Don’t feel sad,” and all of us, at certain points in our career and in our life, have situations that we really wish were different. But even then, you can choose your outlook. You can say things to yourself, like, “I’m going to be stronger from this challenge or situation, and the future, like everything is going to be okay.”

So, I just think the mantras really make a difference. You can fuel yourself, and so that’s one example of no longer using the B word. And I think in terms of mantras of what people can do, throw your hat over the wall. And that means, when you get to, like, a big wall, which means any challenge or any ambition and dream that you don’t know how to accomplish, throw your hat over, say, “This is happening. This already happened,” because human beings are creative and resourceful, and we will find other people and the strength and creativity within ourselves to make it happen.

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

Lisa McCarthy
I want to tell people to go get our book and get the system. And write a bold vision and not procrastinate, like get their bold vision on paper, follow, it’s a very simple actionable exercise. Read it out loud, and then use the other four power principles to make it happen, to really create the life you want, not the life that you should have, or other people think you should have, but the life that you would really feel so proud and happy to say it’s yours a year from today.

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

Lisa McCarthy
I love Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “It’s not the years in your life,” in the end, it’s not the years in your life, “It’s the life in your years.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

Lisa McCarthy
I love autobiographies, so my favorite two, even though you asked for one, but my favorite two in the last year were All In by Billie Jean King, an icon in our country. And I love Open which is by Andre Agassi.

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

Lisa McCarthy
Besides Fast Forward, which I use the power principles often, particularly for my own challenges, there is a model I use, which the Harvard Business School share, I have an article from 2015, which is all about debriefing. It’s from the military but we can apply it in any business, and it’s about constantly looking at what actually happened and taking your emotion out of it, and what did we wanted it to look like, what did it look like, and how can we use that learning to have the future be different than the past.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Lisa McCarthy
Yoga.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often, they re-tweet it, they Kindle book highlight it?

Lisa McCarthy
Language creates reality.

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

Lisa McCarthy
Our website, FastForwardGroup.net, and my email, which I don’t always go out, but always happy to hear from people that want to create the life they want, lisa@fastforwardgroup.net.

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

Lisa McCarthy
I absolutely do. Do not settle. You have one life to live. Create your bold vision. Share it out loud. And make it happen.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lisa, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck in fast-forwarding.

Lisa McCarthy
Thank you. Great to be here, Pete. It was awesome.

902: How to Ensure Great Career Fit with André Martin

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André Martin discusses how to avoid wrong career fit and ensure your career aligns with your needs.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What right fit and wrong fit look like in practice
  2. Four powerful questions to know if a job is the right fit
  3. Why it’s OK to have a boring job

About André

Dr. André Martin is an organizational psychologist and author of the book Wrong Fit, Right Fit – Why How We Work Matters More Than Ever. He has spent 20+ years as the Chief Talent Officer of iconic brands such as Mars, Nike, Google, and Target. Now, acting as an operating advisor, coach, and consultant, André continues to counsel leaders and founders to peak performance. When André isn’t working, he can be found with his wife and two English labs on the rain-soaked trails around Portland, Oregon.

Resources Mentioned

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André Martin Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
André, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

André Martin
Hey, thanks, Pete. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. I’m fired up to get into some wisdom from your book Wrong Fit, Right Fit: Why How We Work Matters More Than Ever. But, first, I think we need to hear a little bit about your mushroom farm. What’s the story here? You do that on top of everything else?

André Martin
I do it on top of everything else, although I’m not in the day-to-day operations of it. So, the farm was a passion project by some buddies of mine that grew up in southern Missouri, and the concept behind the farm is we actually grow mushrooms in empty grain silos to the tune of about 20,000 pounds a week.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow! How many grain silos does it take for that volume of mushrooms?

André Martin
That’s one grain silo.

Pete Mockaitis
One grain silo?

André Martin
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow! One of my first jobs, actually, was I audited, like, local municipalities and farms. I was a little auditor intern for an accounting company. And I had the privilege of getting to climb up grain silos to drop a measuring tape to assess the inventory value of the grain in the silos on the balance sheets of these farms. So, I’m quite familiar with grain silos. And I’m thinking that sounds somewhat lucrative based on the price point of mushrooms and the cost point of a grain silo. Am I overlooking something, André?

André Martin
I think you’re overlooking the length of time it takes to get it right consistently when it’s the first time it’s been done. So, the team has been at this for about four and a half years, and we’re still trying to make it consistent enough that we can guarantee that we can continue to make that kind of production month over month over month. So, we’re getting close. Hopefully, someday it’s lucrative and, even more importantly, I hope it helps us get rid of food deserts around the world someday. That’s the goal.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s so clever. And so then, do I have multiple, like, layer cake inside that grain silo? Like, how many stories, I guess, of mushrooms am I looking at?

André Martin
Think of it more like a helix.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

André Martin
It’s gravity-based. And so, what we’re really trying to do is remove a lot of barriers to mushroom farming, one of which is the cost to do indoor farming is significant but the cool thing about mushrooms is they thrive in dark and humid environments. So, these grain silos provide a really great sort of architecture to do some cool work off of. And, again, the team has been at it for a while and we’re learning every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m curious to hear, what is, in your opinion, the most delicious species of mushroom and recipe for that mushroom to be in?

André Martin
Oh, that’s a great question. So, I grew up in southern Missouri, and I remember one of my best friend’s mom, Ruth Lorman, made beef stroganoff, and that was your basic button mushroom done up with a lot of cream, a lot of goodness, and a lot of heart. So, that’s my best memory of a mushroom dish. What about yourself, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. I’m thinking about my buddy, Father Jim Herbert, and we went to get some morel mushrooms, and they were just very simple. We just grilled them up and had them as like a side dish in the middle of the rest of the meal, and there’s life for you.

André Martin
Oh, that’s great. I love them. They’re super good and great for you, so we hope they’re around and an even bigger food in the future.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I’m glad we covered that, André. We got it now.

André Martin
Yes, sir.

Pete Mockaitis
We set the record straight on mushrooms and grain silos. Now, let’s hear about Wrong Fit, Right Fit. Any particularly surprising or counterintuitive discoveries you guys made when researching and putting this together?

André Martin
Quite a few. I think I’d start with the first one, is that, hey, when we looked at the issues around employee engagement today, we know that Gallup tells us there’s an estimated $7.9 trillion of lost productivity due to disengagement. A lot of the time, we like to think that it’s good or bad culture. It’s a toxic environment or it’s an engaging environment.

And the truth is it’s a lot more nuanced than that. So, when we talked to the hundred or so interviewees that we interviewed for the book, one of the things that came out really quickly is this idea that every company starts off wanting to create a great experience for their employees. They want to be a great place to work. It’d be counterintuitive to create anything other than that.

And so, if you start with that truth, the thing that we found that’s most surprising is that, for about 60% of people in the company, they’re pretty happy. Maybe not totally engaged but they’re content. And then for the other 40% who have the same skill set, the same background, the same affinities, they struggle, it’s like they’re slogging through mud.

And so, really one surprising idea is that there’s probably not a single best practice because every company has a different way of getting work done day to day.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, then when it comes to fit, there’s multiple styles, approaches that can work. How do we think about fit in terms of which one is good for me or not so good for me?

André Martin
Yeah, Pete, it comes down to a couple of things. The obvious things that align us to an organization are things like purpose, values and mission, the team I’m working on, the manager, the job that I have. But one of the things that came up in the book, too, was there’s this whole piece of information below the surface, which is how the company works day to day. How do we solve problems? How do we make decisions? How do we manage conflict? How do we develop people and give feedback? How do we gather and convene? What’s our relationship with time? How does information flow?

And those were the things that when we talked to talent, they were saying when the company works like you like to work in those areas, it’s easy. It’s like writing with your dominant hand every day. When it doesn’t, it can feel hard, it can be stressful, your quality goes down, you lose confidence and competence, and you end up in a place that’s really hard to go to work every day. It’s sort of the origin of the Sunday Scaries in many ways.

Pete Mockaitis
So, could you share with us an inspiring story of someone who went from feeling like their job was the wrong fit to the right fit? And what did they do? And what did they discover?

André Martin
Well, I’ll start with a story that’ll answer that question sort of in the other direction, so someone who was looking from a wrong fit experience back at what actually was right fit for them. And this was a creative marketer, and one of the places that this person started their career had very standard and consistent ways of working, so those things we mentioned: how they collaborate, how they socialize ideas, how they solve problems.

And early in their career, this person felt like that was constraining. And one of the insights from this story that was really interesting is, looking back now, what they said is, “Because I didn’t have to worry about how to present an idea, back then and that right fit experience, it was actually a pure execution or experience of my craft. That is, I was being able to do what I do best every day because all my creative energy was flowing to the thing that I do really well, as opposed to how work gets done.”

And that was sort of the big insight from the story, is this idea that your creative energy is always flowing. But for many people in wrong fit experiences, it’s flowing to how work gets done as opposed to what they’re really gifted at in this world.

Pete Mockaitis
So, can you give us some examples of some of this “how work gets done” stuff?

André Martin
Yes. So, think about it this way. There are some organizations that socialize ideas via beautiful decks. You create PowerPoint slides with wonderful images and pithy poetry. And then there’s other companies that do that via two-page memos. Amazon is one of the most popular examples of that. And then there’s others that expect really deep research papers, which is something we saw a lot at Google when you’re working in technology and machine-learning. And so, if the way that ideas get socialized don’t match the ways that you prefer to do work, it just feels harder than it should.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. Well, so then, I’m curious, how do we go about clearly identifying what an organization does on these dimensions? And what is our preference to really determine: do we have a wrong fit or a right fit and making some adjustments where we can?

André Martin
Yeah, Pete, this is one of the most interesting parts of the book. And, again, through the interviews, one thing that became really clear is that work decisions are one of the most high-value decisions we make in our lifetime. Think about it this way. We spend about 13.5 years of our adult lives at work. That’s every second, every minute, every year. It’s a huge chunk of our lives. It’s actually second only to sleeping if you think about the distribution of our time as adults. And yet we tend to make those decisions about where we work on very little information.

The interview processes, if you think about it, they’re more like first dates than they are really getting under the hood to understand what the reality is going to feel like. And if you’ve ever had a first date, I know I had many before I met my wife, although you feel that excitement on the first date, by the second, third, fourth, or fifth date, things change as you get to know the person.

And what we’re finding in companies today is that’s happening more and more regularly to talent. They get recruited with this idea of what the company is going to feel like, what the job is going to be like, and then when we get into the company on the first day, it feels radically different. And it’s in that sort of discrepancy that we’re seeing a lot of engagements start to suffer.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. So, what is your recommendation for a prudent, practical research approach by which we can learn the stuff before it’s too late, and we go, “Uh-oh, wrong choice”?

André Martin
I think there’s a few things I’d say, and as a psychologist, I’ll start with some of the cognitive things. First, you have to understand that there’s a few things that are at play as you’re making a big decision. And that could be the cereal you’re going to buy in the grocery store, to the house you’re going to buy, to the job you’re going to take.

First and foremost is we tend to be very influenced by successful brands and successful companies. And there’s a phenomenon in social science called BIRGing. It’s called basking in reflected glory. It’s this idea that we are going to buy into things that have had past success. And so, one of the first things I’d say to talent is just watch that. The biggest coolest brands might not be the best place for you to work.

The second thing that happens is, once you open up a job description, and you get in a recruiting process, you have to realize you’re in a marketing effort. Think about it. Every talent that is showing up for an interview, we show up on our best behavior. We’re first-date ready. We have scripted answers. We’re dressed in our best outfits. We’ve thought about what we’re going to say and how we want to present ourselves. And the same is true for the company.

And so, instead of getting a realistic idea of who each other is going to be like on a random Tuesday morning, we actually are seeing us at our best, which we know isn’t necessarily who we are day-to-day. And the third thing, from just a cognitive standpoint, is this idea of confirmation bias. Because talent is so motivated to find a job, to get the job, to work at a great brand, we tend to pay attention to only a small sliver of the available information given to us, and most of that’s subjective and from the internal source of the company, career sites, recruiters, the interviewees.

And so, the first thing I tell talent is, “Make sure you’re using a broad set of information. Pay attention to what happens in the interview. Pay attention to what’s on the website, but go and find videos. Talk to people who have recently left the company. Look at annual reports. Find all the public information on the company to sort of round out what you’re seeing.” And my rule of thumb is if it doesn’t show up in three sources, really ask yourself if it’s likely going to be true day-to-day.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so could you perhaps walk us through a research process by which someone is assessing what’s up with their prospective employer, and they have a few specific questions they want answered, and how they might get after them via these different sources of information?

André Martin
That’s great, Pete. The first thing I would tell any talent at the start of a process is the first thing you should do is not open a job description and apply for a job. The first thing you should do is take some time to really understand who you are, how you work, what you’re solving for right now, the kind of life you’re trying to build, what kind of leader or manager you work really well for.

And in the book, we have this set of excursions that really helps talent to do that. When we were talking in the interviews, one of the things that talent told me when we asked them, “When did you know it wasn’t a right fit?” And they said, “If I’m being totally honest, I knew it in the interview but I chose not to pay attention to those things.” And so, the first step is make sure you know who you are, how you work, and what you’re solving for.

The second step is to really do a lot of external research on the company. So, before the interview happens, don’t just depend on what the company sends you. Look at all those assets we talked about: annual reports, and videos of leaders, and past folks that have worked there, and really get a good sense on, “What does this company look like day-to-day?”

And then when you’re in the interviews, there’s a few key questions that will help you sort of discern a little bit more about what it’s going to be like to work there, and it’s hard because these are first dates. So, a few of the questions I really like, the first one is, “What’s the profile of the person that’s really successful here?” That gives you a sense on… and ask the follow-up question, “How do they show up for work? What does it look like when they’re in a team meeting?” And really get at, “What’s the success profile? Who’s really successful?” And ask yourself if that’s you.

The second thing I like to have people do is have someone walk you through a-day-in-the-life. So, in an interview, have them pull up their calendar and walk you through what’s on their calendar for the day. This gives you a sense on what’s important, what they’ll be working on, how they think about time, what’s their meeting cadence, all those kinds of things.

And then I also love to ask the question, “What’s the reputation of the team? And what’s the reputation of the leader?” because, again, that tells you where the team is going to be and what you can expect of some of the work that you’re going to have to do upon arriving there. And we have, again, about 10 or so questions in the book that help talent get a little bit deeper into how the company works.

Pete Mockaitis
And is the timing for these questions, is it your recommendation that it’s sort of right there in the interview, “Do you have any questions for me, André?” Like, right there?

André Martin
You know what, it’s really funny, Pete, I love the way that you bring that up because we often feel, in an interview process, like we’re being interviewed. And the truth is that you have to be at your best as an investigative journalist inside an interview process. And so, in those last five minutes, which we all get to, “Hey, André, do you have any questions for me?” often we don’t take advantage of those.

We ask a layup question, something that makes us look good or sound good. And this is your moment to really dig in and get to know the company at a deep level. So, I always would say have two or three really strong questions, and use that time. And then if you don’t get them answered, ask for more time because, again, this is one of the highest-value decisions you’re going to make in your life, and you don’t want to just be dependent on the small bit of narrowed information that you get from the company through the process.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And I’m curious, do you recommend, from a timing perspective, we’ve got the “Do you have any questions for me?” right there, first interview or second interview or third interview, and then there’s a whole another zone of time in which, ideally, you have the offer, and you’ve not yet said yes to the offer.

And it’s funny because, as I’m imagining this, I sort of think about, like, “Ooh, that’s the time when I can really just get after it in terms of my investigations and talking to people and all of that.” And so, how do you think about the timing and the sequencing? Does one line of investigation work better at one time versus another? Or, can we just do all the investigating all the time and it’s all good?

André Martin
Well, here’s what I would say, is those early questions you ask in an interview, you absolutely want to be able to convey that you’re both highly interested in the role, and also that you’re a very curious person. And so, I think it’s okay to ask some very pointed, very high-impact and meaningful questions during the interview. It can actually make you look like a better candidate.

The other thing I would say to you, and you mentioned it, Pete, there’s that moment after you get the offer and before you take it, and then there’s also a moment after you take the offer and before you start, where often we just sit and breathe, we just sort of go, “God, I got the job. I’m so happy and my job is over.” I would tell any candidate that that’s the time when you really start increasing your efforts, both so you can be really ready to onboard and get to high productivity quickly.

But the second reason is because this is your time to really find out more and more about the truth of the company. And a couple places I like to look is I almost always reach out to my LinkedIn network, and look for people that I know that have recently worked at that company but might’ve just left because they’re going to be willing to sort of tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the experience and being there.

And because they’re in your network, or second in your network, they’ll usually pick up the phone, and most people want to talk about their past experiences. So, that’s a really good place to do some digging if you don’t feel comfortable about doing it in the interview process itself.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And these high-impact questions, we talked about a couple, like a-day-in-the-life, let’s see the calendar. Can you just give us bullet after bullet after bullet of some of your favorite high-impact questions you like to ask?

André Martin
Yeah. So, I talk about the person, what’s the profile of success, that’s a big one. A-day-in-the-life I do love. The reputation question is really important. And often, if you’re doing interviews with people outside of your function or your team, they’ll tell you sort of what the reputation is. I like to also get after, “What are going to be the two or three most important pieces of work I’ll do in the first 12 months?”

Because here’s the deal, Pete, as we know that job descriptions, they are a litany of bullet points about all the possible things you could do in a job really for the rest of your life. And that’s very different than what you’re going to be asked to do in the first 90 to 120 days of being there. Often, what we find is if this is the job description, this big long list of all the things you could do, often the job that you get is going to be a very narrow set of those things plus a lot of additional duties that never showed up in the job description.

So, I like to ask that question for two reasons. One, it’s important to really get out, “What is this role in reality day-to-day?” The second reason is that you want to make sure that the near-term deliverables fit areas where you’re best in class because the easiest way to be a success in a company early on is to be given deliverables that are in your wheelhouse or they’re something you’re really good at.

And when I’m looking at a job, if I look at the near-term deliverables, and I say, “Yeah, I can do those things,” but I’m not best in class at it, I might sort of think twice about taking that job because you’re transitioning into a new company, you’re building a brand-new reputation, a brand-new network, and people are going to start looking at you to say, “What kind of talent do we have?”

And if you’re doing work that you’re not great at, it can sort of cause you to create maybe a less impactful reputation than you could’ve otherwise.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. Well, let’s fast-forward in time, and so we’re in a job right now. As we think about fit, are there any telltale signs that it’s just like, “Yes, this fit is fantastic” versus “Oh, no, this fit isn’t quite right” that maybe is escaping our immediate conscious awareness at the moment?

André Martin
There’s a few. And so, one of the parts of the book that resonates, at least for me, personally, is the metaphor of what it feels like to be in a wrong fit experience. One of my favorite quotes from the book is someone mentioned they’re in the wrong fit when it felt like everyone else had a secret decoder ring for success except for them.

They were seeing people in the company that looked like them, acted like them, had the same experiences as them, had the same job, and they were excelling, when this person go, “Something just doesn’t feel right.” And so, one of the ways I think about it is if you’ve ever tried to write with your non-dominant hand, that’s what it feels like to be in a wrong fit situation.

It’s harder than it should be. You’re frustrated. You’re stressed. Your quality of work isn’t where it used to be. You start questioning whether or not you’re good enough. And I think your first instincts in that is if work feels hard, you might want to think about whether or not, long term, this is going to be a fit for you.

Some of the telltale signs are things like, “I tend to work harder. I’m putting in more and more hours because I’m trying to be impressive.” That can be a sign many of the interviews talked about, “When I didn’t have a right fit, when it was a wrong fit, I tried harder. I spent more time.” And that’s because you’re trying to make up for fit in effort, and it just doesn’t work out that well.

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

André Martin
The only other thing I would say is one of the aspects of fit that I find really important is this idea that sometimes we mistake the excitement for something new with the comfort that comes from a committed relationship. And so, again, the analogy that’s really great is if you compare a first date to being married or being in a long-term relationship, a first date is all dopamine. It’s excitement. It gets your blood flowing. It’s the unknown. All those things produce dopamine which is this really powerful neurotransmitter that causes us to react in a certain way.

There’s a very different neurotransmitter that’s activated in long-term committed relationships, and that’s oxytocin. And what oxytocin feels like is it feels like more like a deep hug, like this really warm pleasant feeling. And what I worry about is, since we’re in this world where everybody’s infinitely browsing, we’re all looking for greener grass, we can sometimes mistake comfort for boredom, for lack of momentum, and we will jump ship from right fit experiences in search of dopamine or excitement when we really had maybe a place we were thriving at and we just mistook the feeling we had for something other than what it was.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, André, that’s powerful stuff. It’s funny, as we speak, just yesterday, I started listening to Anna Lembke’s Dopamine Nation, which I’m digging. I recommend it. And you’re right, that idea, especially if we’ve become so acclimated to stimulation nonstop in every format from social media to games or alcohol, you name it, that you think, “My job is boring. I got to go find something more exciting.” And yet if our job is boring, as opposed to horrific, like, that might be a good thing.

André Martin
Pete, it’s a great thing. If you think about where creativity comes from, where inspiration comes from, having a firm grounding, a sense of comfort to explore, that’s the basis of what Amy Edmondson talks about in terms of psychological safety. That is the feeling of comfort that we often are like, “I’m bored. I got to go do something else.”

And I looked at some of the stats data that are out there, 29% of employees leave their company after their first promotion. That’s stats from ADP. And 70% of Gen Z cited that they were potentially thinking about leaving their current job inside of 2023. And so, you just get this feeling that everybody has sort of mistaken this idea of comfort for boredom, and we’re jumping way too fast.

And transitions take effort, right, Pete? Like, the thing that we know psychologically is every time you move companies, every time you hop jobs, you are having to rebuild your understanding of how a company works, you’re having to rebuild the understanding of the products and services that are offered to customers, you’re having to rebuild your social network, you’re having to rebuild your reputation.

And, therefore, if you think about, in every transition you go through, your creative energy in that first year, it goes to rebuilding those things, not to your craft so you’re probably getting better at transitions but you’re not actually getting better at the thing that you’re trying to do as your craft, day to day in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. Well, André, this is probably a whole other conversation but how do we get better at being okay with being bored in our careers or, I guess, anything?

André Martin
One of my strategies, Pete, is I do a lot of self-reflection about what I’m solving for. And so, I go back, not to make this about the book, but those excursions in the book are personally made, because the one thing we don’t do enough in this high-information, high-excitement, high-dopamine world is we don’t stop, take a deep breath, take three steps back, and open our eyes really wide, and ask the question, like, “What am I solving for? What am I trying to build in terms of my life? What do I want out of my job? What kind of career am I building?”

There’s three different types of careers, for instance. Like, you can build a career around craft, company, or cause, but you can’t do all three of those things. What kind of person do I want to work for? What do I want my life to be 10 years from now? And what’s really interesting is, if you do that work, you can sort of start to see the signal in the noise, and you will, I guarantee it, look at your current experience very different, and you will look at every experience that comes after very different as well.

But we have to do that work a lot more often than we used to because there’s just an onslaught of greener grass coming at us every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you expand upon this notion of craft, company, and cause? You say we can’t have all three.

André Martin
Well, that’s the unicorn. I’m not saying you can’t but it’s really difficult. What I try to tell people is each of those careers has a very different trajectory and a very different choice you make around the types of jobs you take. So, I’ll give you, for instance, let’s say you’re of company. I don’t know what your favorite consumer brand is but let’s say you’re working for this company that you just believe in your heart and soul in what it stands for, and the products it brings to bear.

You want to be at this company for the next 25 years because you love it so much. I would tell you that your career then needs to have as many different jobs and as many different functions as possible because the strength of being part of a company as a career is that you know the system and the people in the system better than anybody else.

Right now, very different than craft. If you think about craft, craft is about this question of saying, “I want a career that ensures that I will be the best in class in a very narrow and specific area.” To be the best in craft in any specific area, let’s say my area. I was a chief talent and learning officer, and started my career in leadership development.

To be one of the best in leadership development, it’s really hard to do that and stay at a single company, because if I stayed at a single company, I see one approach to those things. If I’m at multiple companies over a career, I see five, six, or seven different ways of doing it, and, therefore, I have a lot more tools to use as I develop those assets. So, if you’re doing a career around craft, it’s really important that you think about having as many different systems as you can, within reason, to see how to do this in many different industries, in types of companies, and even sizes of companies.

And then cause, cause is the ultimate. Cause is all about, “I have this really big injustice, opportunity, or thing I’m trying to solve for in the world.” And when you have a career around cause, you really want to be at the middle of whatever is happening in that space. So, again, if you’re wanting to solve for the environment, get to a place where the environment is at risk. You want to save the oceans on the coast of California, you want to save the rainforest, but you need to be in the middle of where the action, where the thought leaders are, where all the discussions are happening. And that’ll take you wherever that movement is sort of in the world.

And so, my younger brother spent a lot of time in the Peace Corps, and he was of cause, and he went to Kazakhstan for a longer part of a year and a half because he wanted to help drive education in developing countries, and so he was definitely of cause. But I would say this, it’s not impossible to have all three, but you create very different experiences and design very different careers based on what you’re really making primary.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s a very helpful framework there. And it’s nice how it seems like, “Oh, those are the opposite in some instances,” in terms of, like, craft and company, and I know folks who have gone both ways. I’m thinking about web design or systems architecture, it’s like, yeah, they probably know that better than, I don’t know, 99.99% of humans on the planet because they’d gone deep into it. And then once they’ve exhausted the learning that organization can give to them, it’s like, “If craft is your thing, then it’s time to move on.”

And, likewise, I’ve got buddies at Nike, that was their dream, and they’re still there from college to now because they think it’s just the coolest thing ever, in terms of, like, the shoes and the sports and the athletes. It’s so cool, and, likewise, he has been in a lot of different roles, and that makes you all the more valuable and hard to fire in terms of, “This guy is the glue who knows about the manufacturing, and about marketing, and about the new product design, and then the athlete partnerships.”

It’s, like, you think twice before, your next cost-cutting endeavor, you slash that guy because you’re going to miss a lot of the good connectivity that makes a behemoth of an organization function smoothly.

André Martin
Pete, I couldn’t say it better myself. And what I love about your description and your story there is, often people who are of company, they’re not maximizing their ability to be invaluable because they’re not thinking about their job progression as, “Wow, I need to broaden my network. I need to broaden my experience. I need to know every corner of this company.” And that’s the way you protect yourself and allow yourself to be invaluable over time if you truly are in love with the place, like Nike, which many are.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you’re in Oregon. So, you’ve seen that before, I bet.

André Martin
That’s right, I have.

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

André Martin
One of my favorite quotes is “Joy cometh in the morning.”

Pete Mockaitis
That is hopeful on those days.

André Martin
I’m a hopeful person, Pete, 100%.

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

André Martin
It’s a new one. So, there’s a recent study by MIT, it just came out with a company called Culture 500, and they did this really cool study on culture. And what they did is they took the espoused values of all these companies that are high on culture, and they grabbed those from annual reports, and videos, and communication with the company, and then they weighted them.

And then what they did is they took those espoused values, what companies said they were about, and they compared those with the felt experience of employees on the employee review sites. And the net of the study was there’s zero correlation between the two, that what companies are espousing they stand for isn’t necessarily what’s showing up in what the felt experiences for the employees that are part of their company.

Now, that study is fraught with a little bit of a hardship because we know that the employee review sites aren’t necessarily all the employees but it gives you a good indication that, “Hey, often what we’re talking about that’s important isn’t necessarily what’s showing up in the day-to-day lives of our employees as they work for us.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I hope there’s at least a few companies that have a good match up, but, across the board, they weren’t seeing it.

André Martin
They weren’t seeing it. And I find that really fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. And a favorite book?

André Martin
Dedicated by Pete Davis. He has written a book on how to get through this crisis of commitment that we’re living in the world. And I really like his perspective that it’s not a loss cause. We can still be committed to things. We just have to stop infinitely browsing as much as we currently are.

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

André Martin
Favorite tool, I have been recently using Arist.co. It’s a text-based learning platform that allows the small micro doses of learning to hit you every morning via your phone, and then you can have the option to go deep or wait until the next day’s lesson. And it just allows learning to be spread over a long time, and it’s with me every day in the flow of work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit, something you do to be awesome at your job?

André Martin
Favorite habit, this is more of something I did to be awesome as a husband and a father. We practice no-text Sundays. So, from the moment all of us got out of bed until 3:00 o’clock, we would turn off our phones and our technology, and make sure that we were eye-to-eye, knee-to-knee, elbow-to-elbow out in the world. And that was a pretty fun way to put technology aside just for a little while, and have some fun as a family.

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?

André Martin
Yeah, this nugget that resonates for me is that “Opportunity is infinite, and human energy is not.” So, really try to spend every day at your highest and best use because we just don’t have enough time.

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

André Martin
I’d point them to www.WrongFitRightFit.com and also to a newsletter that I run called Monday Matters. It’s meant to be practical tips to make your week better, and that’s at MondayMatters.substack.com.

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

André Martin
I do. I think my final challenge is back to what we talked about, because it’s one that is core to why I wrote the book, which is just be careful not to mistake comfort for boredom. The grass is inherently often not greener, and comfort is something that allows us to be at our best, and so cherish it if you have it. If you don’t, I believe it’s out there, and you can find it if you keep looking.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. André, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and many good fits.

André Martin
Hey, thank you much, Pete. Thanks for having me.