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801: How to Find the Upside amid Uncertainty with Nathan Furr

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Nathan Furr discusses how to reframe your relationship with uncertainty to open up to new possibilities.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to turn the fear of the unknown into an excitement for possibilities
  2. The six types of risk and how to manage them
  3. How to deal with the frustrations of failure 

About Nathan

Nathan Furr is a professor of strategy and innovation at INSEAD in Paris and an expert in the fields of innovation and technology strategy. His bestselling books include The Innovator’s Method and Innovation Capital. Published regularly in Harvard Business ReviewMIT Sloan Management ReviewForbes and Inc., he is an Innosight Fellow, has been nominated for the Thinkers50 Innovation Award, and works with leading companies including Google, Microsoft, Citi, ING, and Philips.

 Resources Mentioned

Nathan Furr Interview Transcript

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

Nathan Furr
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to chat about your book The Upside of Uncertainty: A Guide to Finding Possibility in the Unknown. But, first, I was a bit intrigued about you’ve got a Master’s in Later British Literature, you’ve written some novels and some screenplays, and you’re a professor of innovation and technology strategy. That’s a fun combo and I’m just curious how your love of literature fuels insights into uncertainty and innovation.

Nathan Furr
Interesting. Well, first off, I think it’s a great example that, of uncertainty itself, that life is full of curveballs because there’s other things in there. I worked in strategy consulting, I went and did a PhD at Stanford in strategy in entrepreneurship, so very different than literature. But I think, really, what is literature about? It’s really about big ideas that teach us how to live.

And so, maybe, in a way, nobody’s asked me that question before. Not many people know that part of my history. But, really, I think what you put your finger on is my interest in big questions.

And, for me, uncertainty is like the biggest question of all because, in the field that I’m currently in, I’ve been in for more than two decades, yeah, we talk about management. Where did management come from? What problem was it built to solve? It was really something we created during the industrial revolution when the landscape shifted from this ecosystem of tiny firms, craftspeople doing their work, to this landscape of giant firms, textiles, and automobiles, and oil, and steel, and suddenly you needed somebody to coordinate and organize all that.

And so, management, really, has been so focused on this question of, “How do we coordinate, organize, and control, and optimize?” It really hasn’t spent very much time on this other equally important question, which is, “Well, what about when the world changes? What about when we need to create? What about when something disrupts? And what are the tools for a world of uncertainty?” And so, that’s kind of like really the question I’ve been obsessed with in my management and academic careers, has been, “What are the theories, tools, and frameworks for a world of uncertainty?”

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, I’d love to dig into a few of those in particular. I’m thinking about the book, The Upside of Uncertainty. What’s sort of behind the title there? There’s some upside we should be enjoying?

Nathan Furr
Yeah. Listen, we’re all wired to be afraid of uncertainty. So, for example, my co-authors, who are neuroscientists, will point you to these studies that show how our brains light up in the face of uncertainty. So, that’s an evolutionary wiring we can’t help. But, as I mentioned, I’ve been studying these kinds of questions for a while and, in particular, I’ve gotten to interview innovators. So, over the last 20 plus years, some of the biggest names that you’ve heard of and some of the most interesting people who you haven’t heard of.

But what I noticed in interviewing those innovators is that to do anything new, they all had to go through uncertainty first. And I was so curious about that because I wouldn’t say that I’m like naturally good at that, that that’s where I’m oriented, so I wanted to learn from them, “So, wait, how did you get the courage to do that? How did you get the courage to leave your job? How did you go through the obstacles when it looked like everything was going to fall apart?” So, really, the genesis of this book was that question.

I’ve been interviewing people for about 10 years on this topic, about, “Well, so, how did you fit and learn to face uncertainty? And what are you doing? How do you navigate it? How do you manage it? And what happens when something goes wrong?”

And so, really, what we did is compiled those interviews and the existing research to come up with some practical things that can help.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’m excited to dig into some of this how. But, first, I’d love to touch upon a why. What’s really at stake for professionals looking to be awesome at their job if they maintain their current level of skill and discomfort with uncertainty versus gain as much mastery as we humans with our brain hardware and biochemistry can do?

Nathan Furr
Yeah, that’s a great question because here’s the dilemma. Whether you try to avoid uncertainty or not, it’s going to happen to you. So, by many, many measures, it appears that the world is becoming more dynamic and more uncertain. So, a very rough proxy, the World Uncertainty Index put together by some economists at Stanford and IMF shows steady increase of uncertainty over the last several decades. And, yeah, there are many other measures of this that point to greater dynamism and greater change, and I think it’s best summarized by the former CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Jostein Solheim.

He, basically, said, “The world is ambiguity and paradox, it’s everywhere. The world is getting harder and harder for people who like the linear route forward in any field.” And what I think he’s putting his finger on is what I was feeling, which is, yeah, maybe they had better parents and schools than I did, but I certainly wasn’t taught, “How do I deal with uncertainty?”

And here’s the thing, when we have low skills, we tend to fall into these maladaptive behaviors, which are also, by the way, well-documented in the literature, like threat rigidity and rumination and so forth. So, if we have tools, then we can approach it with greater calm, greater courage and resolve, but I’d say the stake is even bigger than that. Because the thing I learned in kind of going through this, I was so obsessed with uncertainty, but what really became clear to me is that, again, like those innovators I told you about, they only got to new and different things, to the possibilities, by going through the uncertainty.

And so, uncertainty and possibility are really two sides of the same coin. And so, if we’re to spend our lives avoiding uncertainty or dealing with it poorly, what we’re really doing is shortchanging ourselves on possibility. Now, some of you might be saying, “Oh, that’s real nice, Nathan, but I just lived through the pandemic, and that stunk. And I didn’t choose that.” Well, you’re right, so I want to separate.

There’s planned uncertainty. When you, say, go start a new job or make a geographic move. There’s also unplanned uncertainty that happens to you. But my thesis, my proposal would be that is if we had better tools, even that unplanned uncertainty, we can make more out of it, we can suffer less in the situation, and we can discover, or at least unpack, the possibilities that might still be there, acknowledging, of course, there’s downsides. I want to acknowledge that but we tend to get focused on that and not on the upside.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now, before we delve into those skill-builders, we’re saying the word uncertainty a lot, and I have a view of what that might mean and it’s broad and inclusive of much. What is your definition and some places where you think the everyday professional sees a lot of uncertainty?

Nathan Furr
So, yeah, there’s a lot of definitions out there. So, most folks probably have heard of VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. So, yeah, if you allow me a nerdy moment, complexity is where you have many nodes and many connections between those nodes. And so, the complexity is because if you changed one variable, you don’t know how it’s going to affect other variables.

And risk is more…there was an economist in the 20th century, very important economist, Frank Knight, who described risk as when you know the variables and you know the probability distribution, you just don’t know the outcome. So, think about like rolling dice. But uncertainty is where you maybe don’t know the variables, you don’t know the probability distribution, for sure, and if you want to get even a little bit higher-stakes uncertainty, what we might call ambiguity, it’s where you don’t even maybe have the mental model to make sense of it.

And so, here’s the thing about uncertainty and ambiguity, it requires different tools. Frank Knight, the economist, was very clear about that, but it happens to us a lot more than we realize. So, think about people talking about disruption all the time, disruptive technologies. Well, that is not risk, friends. That is total uncertainty. There are so many things we don’t understand about that, so many variables we don’t know, so much lack of information, new mental models, how to think about it.

Or, we don’t know what’s coming down the pipe in terms of recession, or rebound, or what’s next. All of those things are uncertain. And so, the challenge, I think, is that we’re wired almost because it’s frightening to us and we haven’t been given the tools to kind of avoid the uncertainty, but I kind of feel like if you tried to make your life as certain as possible, what you would certainly discover is how boring it is.

And, in fact, one of my favorite interviews was with the head of a big gambling organization, and he said, “What we do is we call it among ourselves reverse insurance because it’s for people whose lives have gotten so predictable and they want to actually introduce some uncertainty back into their lives.” So, for me, uncertainty is really a lack of information or think of it like fog in the landscape. You can’t see what’s ahead, so what do you do? Do you stay safe and wait?

And what I would encourage people to think about, I think about it for myself, think about the things you’re proud of, that you’ve done in your life. It could be a career move you made, it could be a relationship, it could be that you went away to school when nobody else was doing that, whatever it is. Think of what you’re proud of and look back, and I am sure there was a great deal of uncertainty in that journey to that possibility.

So, for me, it’s just if those are the things we’re proud of, and they took on uncertainty, we had to go through uncertainty, then I want to get better at it so I can get more of those things.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I’m sold. So, Nathan, tell us, how do we get better at it?

Nathan Furr
Oh, man, so that’s a big question because we interviewed so many fun people, we interviewed entrepreneurs, scientists, people who won the Nobel Prize, but also many professions have a lot of uncertainty in them, like, say, for example, paramedics and so forth. But to be fair, we came up with 30 plus tools. Now, that’s a lot to remember.

So, what we decided to do was to organize these tools, kind of grouped them roughly around a metaphor of a First Aid cross, but a First Aid cross for uncertainty, so you can get help. And the First Aid cross has four arms or four categories of things to remember. Number one, to reframe the uncertainty from something that is going to cause you a loss to looking at the possibility instead.

Number two, there’s ways you can prime, like, think prime the wall so that the paint sticks to it or prime the pumps so the water comes out. There are things you can do to prime or prepare so that when uncertainty happens, you’re calmer and you’re ready for it. Number three, there’s ways to do or to take action. The number one thing to resolve uncertainty is to take action. But we learn from a robust body of literature and innovation entrepreneurship, there’s ways to take action that are better than others in circumstances of the unknown.

And then, lastly, the fourth category is to sustain, this idea that we will face setbacks, there will be anxiety that’s part of uncertainty, so how do we sustain ourselves through that so we can get to the possibility?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, then, let’s hear some tools. Like, maybe let’s perhaps drop into a scenario that professionals might find themselves faced with, like, “Hey, do I take on a new job?” “Do I take on a new project, or role, or responsibility?” So, in the midst of that, there’s some uncertainty, there’s some discomfort. How do we, say, use some reframing tools to get better?

Nathan Furr
So, reframing really sounds simple. It really is this idea that the way we describe something changes how we think, decide, and act. Now, it sounds kind of fluffy but there’s actually a very robust body of research in psychology and behavioral economics that shows that we have different reactions. So, there’s a very famous study by Kahneman and Tversky, won the Nobel Prize, which showed that.. in the experiment there was a disease and they offered people two treatments. I’m simplifying it but it basically was one treatment has a 5% chance of failure and the other treatment has a 95% chance of success.

And what they find, people vastly prefer the 95% chance of success, even though they’re statistically identical. Why? Well, because we are wired to be loss averse and gain seeking, so we’re afraid of losses, and that’s a real problem with uncertainty because, for most of us, uncertainty feels like, “Ooh, I might lose something.” And so, if we can reframe it in terms of the possibility, then it’s much easier to take action to face the unknown.

So, you asked, facing a new job. I faced this myself. I was at a university in the US and I was on track for what we call tenure, which is the job for life. So, you heard professors “Publish or perish.” This is the moment where you perish, or you publish enough and you survive. So, I was kind of making it, we’re living in the US, we’re comfortable, and everything was good, and then we got invited to do this visiting professor thing in France, and we just fell in love with it.

Anyway, over a course of years, eventually, the university I’m at made me an offer, but it was a hard offer to take because I had kids in high school, I was making a good living, everything was stable and safe, we had in-laws up the street, five houses, I was going to get tenure for sure versus going to France, where, oh, my gosh, the standard was like about double my current university, so I might perish. I was going to actually make less money, my kids were going to have to go to a different culture, a different language. One of them at a high school, actually, so there was a lot of uncertainties there.

And I found that when I compared the knowns of my current situation, all the good things of my current situation, to the unknowns of this other situation, this big move, it was very scary, but that was totally unfair because I was comparing my gains to my potential losses. When, instead, I compared my gains to my gains. So, yes, I have these good things here at home now, but what about what could happen, what could be the gains of taking the risk of this new situation?

And when I did that, it became much clearer, in fact, the greatest moment of clarity was when I shared it with my grandmother, who said to me very simply, she said, “Nathan, parents teach their children to live their dreams by living their own dreams.” And, for me, that really clicked. Now, if none of that resonates for you, I guess I’ll just share with you one of the interviews we did with Jeff Bezos way back in the era when he was not one of the wealthiest people on the planet, and he was kind of reflecting on Amazon.com, which was a modest success at that time. It wasn’t what it was now.

But he was reflecting on how he made the decision back in the 1990s, a time when the internet was the wild west, we would never put our credit cards in on an online site back in 1995. And he had this idea for selling books online but it was just such a crazy and different thing, and people were like, “Oh, that seems really scary.”

And at the time, Bezos was working on Wall Street at DE Shaw, like one of the best, most prestigious jobs you could ever have, if he left his job, he was going to leave his bonus on the table. He went to his boss and told his boss about the idea. And after like a two-hour discussion and walking around Central Park, the boss said, “Jeff, this could be a good idea but it’s probably a better idea for somebody who doesn’t already have a really good job, so why don’t you think about it.”

And what Jeff Bezos told us at the end of that, he said he thought for a while and then the framework he came up with was he called it a regret-minimization framework, which was, “I want to project myself out to age 80 and look back on my life and ask ‘What would I regret?’” And he said, “I wouldn’t regret trying this thing, participating in this thing called the internet, and failing. But the one thing I would regret is never having tried.” And so, I think that’s another lens.

So, in summary, what I’ve said is two tools here, is one is to compare the gains to the gains, or the opportunities to the opportunities. We tend to compare the uncertainties of the new thing to the known of the existing thing. And then, number two, to ask ourselves about regret, “What will we regret when we’re age 80?” And, to be totally fair, there are times in our life when we would regret trying and failing, and then that’s a good answer, that’s just as legitimate of an answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And that provides a fresh perspective when you zoom out at that level and it’s really handy. And I like what you said right there at the end, is there could be times where it’s like, “Oh, yes, I do regret removing my children from, I don’t know, their best friends, an excellent environment, family, whatever.”

Like, that could, when considering a move to a totally new continent, that could be something that pops up when you take that lens, or it could be just the opposite, “I regret not exposing my children to this really cool new different culture and way of life and perspective and language that can broaden their horizons and views in so many healthy ways.” You could fairly come out on either side of that question and they’re both valid.

Nathan Furr
Yeah, Pete. And I want to be clear, it was hard. Like, we got to France, the kids at school were total bullies. I mean, it was awful. We had to move the kids, like there were all kinds of hard things, but we are so grateful we did it. Why? Because part of it was we saw the education here isn’t just what they learn in math class. The education is what you learn from doing something different and persisting. And the biggest education, which, now it’s been long enough.

The biggest education point was, “Go live your dreams.” And now when I say it’s been long enough, the kids are starting to come back and show that they can be bold, and that they do want to live their dreams. And so, for me, if they walk away with that experience, then maybe I’ve given them the best lesson I can.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, let’s talk about the prime set of tools now.

Nathan Furr
Yeah, and especially with keeping in mind, people who want to be awesome at their job, maybe I could tell another…I didn’t mean to tell a lot of personal stories here, but maybe I could tell another personal story, which was when I was doing my PhD at Stanford, remember I’d worked before and so I felt a little bit uncomfortable sometimes not working for several years to go do a PhD.

Anyway, I was in Silicon Valley, and in Silicon Valley, the heroes are not us nerdy professors, they are the entrepreneurs who create things. So, I started to feel bad about myself, like, “Wow, if I had any courage, I would go become an entrepreneur. I would quit the program and just jump out and do something.” And, finally, it was just boiling over and I remember reaching out to one of my mentors there, Professor Tina Seelig.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, she’s been on the show.

Nathan Furr
Oh, yeah. Okay, great. Yeah, Tina is amazing. I love Tina. Okay. So, Tina, yeah, you can look her up. She’s a really lovely person. So, we went to lunch together, and I confessed to Tina, like, “Tina, if I had any courage, I’d quit this program and go be an entrepreneur, but I’m just not a risk-taker.” And she said to me, “What do you mean you’re not a risk-taker?” I said, “Yeah, just I don’t have the courage to just jump off the cliff.”

And she said, “Do you really think there’s only one kind of risk?” And I was like, “Well, what do you mean, Tina?” She said, “In my mind, there’s financial risk, there’s intellectual risk, there’s social risk, there’s emotional risk, we can go on and on. You seem like somebody who is comfortable taking on intellectual risk, let’s say, talk about something like uncertainty, but you have four kids.” At the time, my wife and co-author was starting a clothing line so it wasn’t generating any money. We’re just living off the student loans, basically.

She said, “You have four kids, you’re living off on student loans so you don’t want to take a financial risk. Well, that makes a lot of sense.” And what she was trying to teach me is that we can actually do a little bit of self-reflection to ask, “What are the risks we’re comfortable with and we have an aversion with? And where you have an affinity, you want to play to your strengths. And where you have an aversion, you just want to be aware.”

So, for me, being a professor, actually made an immense amount of sense because I could kind of pad down that financial risk but I could take intellectual and social risks. And so, again, number one lesson, “Where do you have an affinity? Where do you have an aversion?” But the second lesson I learned from another mentor at Stanford, Professor Bob Sutton, and what he taught me was, “Be careful that you don’t let your risk aversions hold you back from the things you most want.”

And the story was, at the time again, things are super tight, we’re packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from home just to save a couple bucks on lunch. And I’m in class with him and a bunch of other PhD students, and he just tells us, “Oh, yeah, when I was a PhD, I borrowed the equivalent of $30,000 to get my research done.” And I’m like the top of my head blew off, I was like, “While I’m packing this peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you like dropped 30 grand. Like, what? Why would you do that?”

And he just said, “It was simple. I knew that the most important thing for me getting a good job and keeping it, in that context, was the quality of my research, so why not put some money into it?” And it was one of those moments where I had this aha of like, “Oh, so if you just let your aversions be aversions, it can hold you back from the things you most care about. And the good news is you can actually build up your risk tolerances by taking smaller risks, little small risks, and that will get you more comfortable so you can take bigger and bigger risks.” And so, I’ve done that around financial risk aversion.

Another way to think about it, one of my favorite interviews was with a guy, David Heinemeier Hansson. He’s like the guy behind Ruby on Rails and Basecamp. He’s a startup legend. He is very clear – he hates financial risk. So, how do you hate financial risk and be an eight-time serial entrepreneur? Well, he always has something on the side that’s paying the bills. First, it was a consulting gig, and then later when he had some software that was selling, it was that. But he always had something to pay the bills on the side and then he can do a project and not feel so stressed about the financial risk he’s taking.

So, I would say it can do a lot of good for an individual. And, by the way, I sometimes coach organizations through this as well because their risk affinities and aversions hold them back as well. But know your risks, map them out, ask, “Where am I strong? Where am I weak? Where is maybe an aversion holding me back? And how could I kind of build up some comfort with that so I can act well when that moment comes, where I have to face some uncertainty? And where are my strengths and how do I play to those?”

It’s a very practical thing. Maybe you’re somebody who thinks up a lot of ideas and you just don’t speak up about it in, say, a meeting or somewhere. This might be a moment of reflection to say, “Hey, maybe I should step out there a little bit and speak up about these things,” or whatever it may be. Anyway, that would be one of the ideas we drew from the book is to know your risks.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. And I’m thinking now, so Tina highlighted a number of categories of risk there: financial, intellectual, relational. Can you maybe name a few more to prime the pump of ideas for listeners?

Nathan Furr
Yeah, for sure. And let me give a little brief explanation. So, obviously, there are many kinds, so I would encourage you to do what makes sense to you. But the ones we used are intellectual, so your willingness to kind of come up with new ideas. Obviously, financial is your willingness to take a financial risk. Social risk is, say, with acquaintances, so you go to a party or a networking event, your willingness to go out and speak to people, or, say, stand up in front of a crowd and talk.

Emotional risk would be for your more intimate relationships, so that may be like being willing to say the thing that needs to be said.

Physical risks, so maybe like it’s getting out, doing action sports. One of my executive students said, “I hated physical risks but then when I was kind of entering the executive ranks, my job was shifting from kind of tamping down risks and uncertainty, to actually having to take some uncertainty and risk, and so I knew I needed to get better at it but I didn’t know how. But I knew I really was scared of physical risks, so I said, ‘I’m going to take a kickboxing class, which is a super physical confrontational sport.’” So, he takes a kickboxing course, and he said, “It was fun, it was energizing, and it made me more comfortable taking other kinds of risks.” So, that would be physical.

And then I would maybe just add political, which is your willingness to stand up for change, speak up for change, whether that be in an organizational setting, or, say, in a citizenship setting. So, it’s financial, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and political.

Nathan Furr
You could, of course, substitute something else, but, yeah, it’s up to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, consultants love their categorization systems and arguing over them, so I’ll just roll with yours.

Nathan Furr
So do academics. It turns out so do academics, so, yeah, just having those arguments.

Pete Mockaitis
So, let’s talk about some of the tools within the do category.

Nathan Furr
Yes. So, the do category is very interesting because it’s really one of the sections that draws most heavily on the research in the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship. And if I were to summarize it very briefly, it would be taking action is one of the best ways to resolve uncertainty. And one of the best ways to take action is to break the thing down into small steps and run a series of experiments.

And we see that over and over in the entrepreneurship literature, “How do you learn quickly under uncertainty?” So, for example, if you look at the research on startup accelerators, so startup accelerator, essentially, accepts in a class of entrepreneurs for three months and they coach them into, hopefully, a successful startup. So, what are the best practices of the best startup accelerators?

Well, let me pose it to you as a puzzle. Let me turn it over to you. How would you make a great startup accelerator? So, for example, you know that in the startup accelerator that you want your entrepreneurs to talk to people. So, should you force them to talk to as many people as fast as possible up front, like just drink out of the fire hydrant? Or, should you spread out those interactions with customers, mentors, investors, executives, over the space of the three months that they have time to absorb all that information?

And, oh, by the way, these startups, some of them might be doing slightly competitive things. So, should you allow the startups to keep what they’re doing secret or should you force them to talk to each other and present to each other? Oh, and then, finally, these startups are doing different things. And so, should you customize the schedule of who they talk to, like what they’re doing, “They should only talk to people who seem to be relevant to them”? Or, should you make them talk to people who maybe seem irrelevant to them? Those are some interesting puzzles, right? Well, what does the research suggest?

What it suggests, and I’m going to draw the parallel to everyone who’s listening about uncertainty, is it’s better actually to talk to as many people as fast as possible. In fact, the great startup accelerators sometimes make people talk to 100, 200 people in the first month. Why? Because the major trap that they fall into is what we call premature certainty, which is they settle on what they think is the right way to do it too early, and talking to all those folks as fast as possible shakes them out of that and makes them realize, “Oh, I could make progress but I kind of need to change it a little bit.”

Oh, and, by the way, it’s also good to make those folks who seem competitive talk to each other because, it turns out, they can share how they solve similar problems. So, if you and I were both publishing a book tomorrow, even though we might feel competitive, it’s better for us to share information with each other and learn from each other. Oh, and then, lastly, even though I might think I should only talk to people who are like me, it’s actually incredibly useful to not customize. In other words, talk to everybody because sometimes your most valuable insights come from a place you wouldn’t think it would come from.

And one of the funniest stories was an entrepreneur who was creating this kind of funding platform, really for social initiatives and even like churches, and on his schedule was like the worst thing he could imagine, it was the VP of marketing from Playboy, and he was like, “Oh, this is like everything I hate. I’m not going to talk to this person.” But they forced him to talk to this person, and it turns out, like one of his best conversations. The VP was like, “Yeah, I want to get out of here, too. I’m actually a churchgoer, too. Like, here’s what you could do,” and gave him all these ideas, and this entrepreneur walked out, saying, “This was the best meeting I’d had.”

And so, how do I translate that for you? When you’re under uncertainty, it’s like you’re in a landscape with fog, and your task is to blow away that fog. And what we learned from startup accelerators is, A, talk to as many people as you can; B, talk to people who you even think are your competitors because they will reveal new ways of doing things and how to solve familiar problems; and number three, talk to people who are actually kind of a little bit different. You may not think they have much to offer because they might have something to offer.

And one of my favorites of this is the woman who was the founder behind GoldieBlox. This is engineering toys for girls, and she was being nice to this guy at the restaurant who was her waiter and was kind of telling this waiter about engineering toys for girls, “Why would this waiter care?” And the waiter was like, “Oh, that’s really cool. You know what, my aunt is actually one of the editors at,” I think it was like The Atlantic or The New York Times or something, “and she would really love this. Let me introduce you to her.” So, that, to me, is, again, as we think about taking action, one of the many tools about kind of learning quickly through the unknown.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Now, many of these actions that we talked about are talking to people and/or running small experiments. Can you share with us, beyond talking to folks, what are some great actions that help us gather wisdom in a jiffy?

Nathan Furr
So, maybe I’ll go a little bit different direction and share something a little more counterintuitive. So, before I do that, I’ll say some of the other tools are things like a term we use called bricolage, which is make do with what you have. And one of my favorite interviews with the gentleman who was responsible for turning around the city of Melbourne in Australia from being one of the most decrepit downtown courses, really, like zombie apocalypse-looking to being one of the most livable cities in the world. In fact, voted that way seven years in a row, even though he was given no budget and, essentially, no resources. So, how do you turn around such a dire situation?

And one of the things he did is say, “Well, what do I have a lot of that nobody’s valuing because we have so much of it?” And Melbourne, just because how it was laid out in the gold rush, had all these little they call them laneways, they’re like little alleys that end in a dead end, and they’re usually used for parking during the day, trash and social problems at night.

And he said, “Well, we’ve got so many of these laneways. What if I just put a pile on there so cars can’t go in there and tell the restaurants that are nearby, ‘You can use this space, put up some lights, keep it clean, but you can double the square footage of your restaurant if you keep this space clean’?” And he tried it on one laneway first, and it worked. People kind of ended up staying around at night and the laneway became a place where people wanted to be. And, by the way, today, Melbourne’s laneways are one of its major tourist attractions. But he kept doing, like making do with very little.

For example, there was a big property collapse, and he saw that as an opportunity. He said, “Great. Now, all these buildings downtown, the space I’m trying to revitalize, have no value, so I’m going to go to one of the owners of one of these old kinds of Victorian buildings and I’m going to make him a proposition. Your building, essentially, has no value to you. Let me renovate it into a mixed-use space, so businesses on the bottom, residents up above.”

Well, the owner of the building had no other alternative, and so he said, “Okay.” And it worked. Like, people moved into the apartments, he paid it off in half the time he expected, and then he rolled and did that to the next apartment, and the next building, and the next building. At the start of Rob Adam’s tenure, he’s the gentleman who renovated Melbourne, there were 650 occupied apartments in downtown Melbourne, 650, that’s it. By the end of his tenure, I think there was over 40,000 occupied apartments in downtown Melbourne.

And so, the whole principle there was often we say, “I don’t have the resources I need to get started,” but it’s really about asking sometimes, “What can I do with what I have? Or, what do I have so much of that nobody is really, maybe not even I am, realizing that it’s valuable?” If that feels too common sense to you, do we have time for me to tell you about one of the other tools from do?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Nathan Furr
Yeah, okay. So, how do you set yourself up so you can’t fail? That’s an interesting one. You’re going into uncertainty. You don’t know what you’re going to face. Is it possible to set yourself up so you can’t fail? Well, one of the ideas that was really counterintuitive to me, at least, because I was raised on the dogma of goals, like, you set a goal and you go do it.

But, remember, I told you about David Heinemeier Hansson, he’s a real contrarian. I loved that he was like, “Listen, if you’re doing something new, something doesn’t happen because you set a goal. The goal is total bull crap. Under uncertainty, you really don’t have control over whether that’s going to happen or not. Sure, set a goal. Sure, work hard and all that, but whether the market accepts what you’re doing or not is really not in your control directly. So, instead, act upon your values rather than your goals because that’s what you have control over.”

So, for example, for him, his value is, “I want to write great software, I want to treat my employees well, and I want to act ethically with the marketplace,” and he’s very clear. He just launched his big email platform Hey.com. he’s like, “At the end of that two years, if it failed, if that was a success in the market or not, sure, I’d do the growth hacking, I’d do all that stuff, but, really, whether the market accepts it or not, it’s not truly in my control. So, if that fails, but I have lived true to my values then I’ll be happy. I wrote great software. I learned tons of stuff. I treated people well, and I was ethical. I feel good about it.”

It sounds really soft and fluffy but, again, personal experience. So, think of me, I’m an academic, I’ve been working on this for like a decade, nobody’s talking about uncertainty, a pandemic happens. Suddenly, every thought leader in the universe is grounded, has nowhere to go, and all they’re talking about was uncertainty. I was freaking out, I’m like, “I’m going to get totally scooped here.” And my co-author said to me, “Well, what’s your values? Operate on your values because the world needs lots of perspectives but go out there, act according to your values, write the very best thing you can possibly write, and that you have control over. You don’t have control over if guru X or guru Y comes out and says what you already said.”

My co-author said, “If you really do that, according to your values, then what you say will be different and unique and a contribution.” And she was absolutely right, and I felt much, much calmer in that uncertainty of somebody’s going to beat me to it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. And how about some sustain tools?

Nathan Furr
Yeah, sustain is a good one it’s really important because whether you choose uncertainty or uncertainty happens to you, it is going to make you anxious, nervous. There’s nothing wrong with you. That’s called being a human being. You’re wired to be that way, so you need to sustain yourself when there’s a setback.

So, we talked about a couple important ideas in there. One of them is known as emotional hygiene. So, it sounds sort of soft and fluffy but we forget that physical hygiene is a 20th century revolution. If you grew up before the 20th century, you would not know naturally that it made sense when you got a cut, you need to wash it up and keep it clean. And when we figured that stuff out that you’ve got to do physical hygiene for your body, it increased the life expectancy 50%.

And I think we’re in the midst of a similar revolution where we realize that our emotions are real, too, and we have an emotional body. The problem is that when many of us try something new, and then there’s a setback, which, by the way, was inevitable – it was going to be different than you expected – then we beat ourselves up, and that’s like the worst kind of sustaining. So, you’ve got to sustain yourself, you’ve got to treat yourself with kindness, and also there’s ways you can be rational about it.

So, I did an interview with Ben Faringa. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016. He won it for this idea called molecular machines. So, if you’ve read those sci-fi articles about little robots running around your blood, curing diseases and things, it would be based on his invention. So, I asked him, “On the way to this breakthrough of this fundamentally new discovery, did you face uncertainty?” And he like laughed at my face as if that was like the silliest question I could ask. He’s like, “Of course.” And I said, “So, how did you deal with it?” And he said, “Listen, if you deal with uncertainty, you will have setbacks, you will fail. You just have to get good at it.”

And he said, “Allow yourself to feel the frustration for a few days, and then ask yourself, ‘What can I learn from it?’” And it turns out that “What can I learn from it?” question is just one in a set of different ways to approach a setback, “What can I learn from it?” is one, another is to focus on what you still have rather than what you’ve lost. Maybe one of my other personal favorites came from a gentleman named Ben Gilmore, who is a paramedic in Australia but he also writes books and makes films. So, that’s a full-time job, paramedic, and, by the way, has a lot of uncertainty. You never know when you break down the door, what you’re going to find on the other side.

But I think the story he told me that really inspired me is he wanted his life to be interesting and adventurous, and he’d always dreamed of riding his motorcycle through the Khyber Pass. And so, he saves up his money, and he goes out there, and he’s got his motorcycle, and while he’s like staying in the hotel, his motorcycle gets impounded, and he’s like, “What do I do now?” And he says, “Well, I’m going to go on foot. I’m going to go anyway.”

So, he was walking on foot through the Khyber Pass, and he meets this family, they’re residents of the region and they’ve had this generational business of making weapons, so guns. But the son, he doesn’t want to grow up to be a weapons maker. He wants to go to school. He wants to be a poet but he doesn’t have the money to go to school. So, Ben Gilmore goes back, and he said, “I want to make a film about this family,” and he goes back and he makes a film about this family, called Son of a Lion, which is, by the way, featured in the Cannes Film Festival, and does generate the funds to allow their son to go to school and follow his dream of being a poet.

But Ben faced so many obstacles on this journey, including the motorcycle getting impounded, but he went on to make other films, and he had experiences like he’d be in country with the film crew, and the budget would get pulled, and everybody flies home except the lead actor, and they’d rewrote the script and filmed that, and that became Australia’s entry into the Oscars.

And I asked Ben, “How do you keep going through these obstacles when you face these setbacks?” And he said, “Listen, my father read to me as a boy every night growing up. I love stories. I love to hear them.” He said, “Everybody loves the hero but the only way to become the hero is to go through the obstacles.” So, that’s what I always remember.

So, anyway, again, just to summarize. Feeling anxiety, feeling frustration, having setbacks is totally normal. So, there’s a way you can actually frame them so that you respond differently. Ben Faringa, the guy who was the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he gets frustrated but he says, “What can I learn from it?” Ben Gilmore, this kind of wild and interesting character says, “Hey, the only way to become the hero is to go through the obstacles,” so many ways to address that and sustain yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s beautiful. Thank you, Nathan. I remember when I was in the early stages of my business and times were lean. I remember thinking, ‘Hopefully, years from now, when I’m rolling in it, I’ll look back and say, ‘Ah, yes, that was the heroic struggle period.’”

Nathan Furr
So, what happened? Did you make it through?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I did make it through. Yes, I have sufficient revenue to provide for the family, so mission accomplished.

Nathan Furr
And you know what, yeah, and even when we don’t make it through. Listen, hey, I try to tell my kids because my kids see me, they’re like, “Oh, dad got a PhD at Stanford. Now, he’s a professor at one of the top five strategy schools, and blah, blah, blah.” And I tell them, “What? Are you kidding me? Like, I got rejected from every graduate school I applied to at one time,” and I tell them about all of my failures along the way.

And I think when you dig into people’s stories, what you really discover is that there’s actually a lot of failure and setback and self-doubt. It’s just incredible. We discovered some really moving and interesting stories of self-doubt of people who are very, very successful and just to normalize that. That’s part of the journey.

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

Nathan Furr
I think the one big takeaway I hope people have is that when they face uncertainty, whether it’s happened to them or they’ve chosen it, but something is going a little different than expected, is to ask the question, “How could this make me stronger? How could I turn this or flip this so that it can make me stronger?”

I think that’s a question I try to ask myself because, again, I get stuck, too, friends. I get stuck, too. But when I can do that, I actually wrote about it. We use this old term from the technology strategy literature called transilience, which is this kind of leaping from one state to another. And that, to me, is like the image, when like boiling water gets set free as steam in this moment of like you’re feeling stressed, you’re feeling anxious, and you say, “How do I turn this?” and you are able to see the possibility and be transilient, kind of leap to that state. That would be my hope. I think it’s a real powerful question to ask yourself.

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

Nathan Furr
One of my favorite books in the world is by Henry Miller, it’s called The Colossus of Maroussi, and he said something really strange. He said, “Magic can never be destroyed.” Well, what do you mean magic? Come on, I’m an empiricist, I’m a rationalist, what do you mean magic?

But we actually wrote in the book about magic. And what we mean by that is those leaps of insight, those moments of connection, that serendipity that you just can’t quite explain, and we saw so many of those as well. And so, what I would encourage people to do is to make some room for that. Put yourself in positions where you could have that. You don’t know in advance. But if you don’t get out there, you don’t talk, you don’t try, you don’t talk to the waiter, you won’t have those magical moments.

But I like that magic can never be destroyed because it’s there. We don’t understand how everything in the universe works but things can happen at just the right time.

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

Nathan Furr
So, one of my favorite studies or papers is called “Drop Your Tools.” It’s by a very famous organization theorist called Karl Weick. And what he looked at is the Mann Gulch fire disaster, which happened in Montana in 1949.

So, they established this program where smoke jumpers would jump out of the plane to where a big fire was and put it out. And it was a very successful program, and everything was going great when this fire starts in Mann Gulch in August, it’s really hot. And when the smoke jumpers land, they’re like, “Oh, we’ll put this fire out by 10:00 a.m. the next morning.” They’re so calm and assured, they stop and have dinner, and the fire is on one side of the ridge and kind of start heading downhill towards where there’s a river in the valley, so they have an escape route when the wind kicks up.

And this fire suddenly becomes really intense. It leaps the ridge and blocks their escape exits, so the trees by the river are on fire, and they start to run back up the hill. It’s this incredibly 70-degree slope. It’s incredibly steep and they’re racing and the fire is chasing them, 30-foot-high flames moving at this incredible speed. And the head of the fire crew does something that, today we understand, but that time didn’t make any sense. He said, “Drop your tools.” Now, they’d all been told, “Don’t ever drop your tools. That’s your lifeline,” and he said, “Drop your tools.” And he lights this escape fire, so he lights the grass around them on fire, and says, “Lay down here.”

Well, that didn’t make sense to them, so they kept running, and the foreman lies down the fire, covers himself up in a blanket, fire just rushes over him, and it goes on and it kills the rest of the team. And it became this moment, this kind of symbolic moment because it was this idea that we go around acting as if the world was stable and certain and makes lots of sense, when, in reality, it’s actually changing all the time. It’s very uncertain. It’s only these kinds of distinctive moments, like this fire crisis, where we really recognize it.

And what Karl Weick recommended coming out of that was that we need in life, and this is true on uncertainty, to adapt to what he calls an attitude of wisdom. What that means is you have just enough trust in yourself, in the idea, in your instinct that, “I should do something about this,” to take a step forward, and you doubt yourself just enough to listen to the voices that signal when it’s time to change course. Not every voice is the right voice but some of them signal that, “Yeah, you should change course when you hear that chorus enough times.”

And I think that’s a good metaphor for leaders under uncertainty because where leaders get themselves in trouble is they just doggedly pursue a path, try to plan their way to success and execute it, rather than what’s the attitude of wisdom in getting there.

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

Nathan Furr
So, one of the tools we wrote about is called finite versus infinite games. So, James Carse was a modern philosopher at NYU, and in his book, he argued there’s really two ways of looking at life. There’s the finite view, which is we look at the game of life as the goal is to win, and the rules, the roles, the boundaries are all fixed, but we’re trying to win, we’re trying to be the best.

And infinite players, what do they do instead? They look at, instead, the joy of playing the game and they view the roles and rules and boundaries as being flexible or we can play with that. And maybe my favorite example of that comes from the Tour de France, which is happening right now where I live. And a very famous race between Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor. Jacque Anquetil was the favorite, he’d already won four Tour de Frances. Raymond Poulidor is kind of this…they call him the wholehearted son of the soil, and he didn’t really win much at all. In fact, he hadn’t won any races so far.

But there was this moment in this very rough, rugged terrain called The Puy de Dome. People described it like the teeth of a saw, just 10 kilometers of up and down. And instead of doing that thing where they draft behind each other, they raced neck and neck, shoulders, literally, like smash into each other, neither of them wanting to give an inch to the other one for 10 kilometers. And, finally, at the end, Pullidor, the wholehearted son of the soil, pulls ahead, and he wins that leg but he loses the race.

In fact, he races 14 times and he never wins, but everybody loved Pullidor. In fact, no racer was more beloved than Pullidor, and people tried to figure it out, they wrote dissertations about it, but I think the best way to summarize it is he was an infinite player. And at the end of his career, he reflected, somebody had said to him, “Raymond, you always had your head in the clouds. You didn’t take it seriously enough.”

And he said, “Maybe I didn’t because I never got up in the morning thinking, ‘How do I win?’ I’ve always thought, ‘This is so fun that I get to race. I can’t wait to race. How do I have fun racing?’” And so, for me, the tool I use is when I approach a situation that’s hard, and I have hard things, things I don’t want to do, tough things. I say, “What’s the infinite game I can play here? How could I play a little bit with the goal, with the rules, with the roles, with the boundaries?” That makes me curious.

Yeah, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t, but I’d say I have a much more interesting career than I might have because I’ve tried to play that infinite game.

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

Nathan Furr
Well, we wanted to make the tools in the book The Upside of Uncertainty available to everybody, so we made a website called UncertaintyPossibility.com. So, remember my thesis, uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin. So, you just type that out, dot com. And we actually described all the tools there so that they’re available and accessible.

Of course, I’d be super grateful if people went and bought the book or left a review, like on Amazon or something like that, because it is tough as an author getting the word out there. Writing a book is a little bit like a tree falling in the forest for nobody to hear unless people take action. So, thank you, though, for asking.

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

Nathan Furr
Well, I would say this, there is no doubt that we live in a world of increasing uncertainty, and I think if you can develop that ability early on, you’re going to have a huge leg up. And we talked about reframing at the beginning. Reframe any challenge in terms of the possibility. Even when we looked at empirical studies of a company facing disruption, the ones that succeed are the ones who, instead of focusing on the loss or the threat, they’re the ones who focused on the possibility.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Nathan, this has been a treat. Thank you. I wish you much fun and adventure and possibility.

Nathan Furr
Yeah, thank you so much. It was fun.

743: How to Achieve and Flourish in the New World of Work with Keith Ferrazzi

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Keith Ferrazzi reveals fresh best practices for working and leading in the post-COVID world of work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four critical shifts teams need to make
  2. Two tiny tweaks that vastly improve team morale
  3. Time-saving alternatives to time-wasting meetings

About Keith

Keith Ferrazzi is a bestselling author, speaker, investor, philanthropist, and executive team coach who helps teams transform enterprises. As Founder and Chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight, its applied research institute, he coaches executive teams in top organizations to achieve extraordinary outcomes. He formerly served as CMO of Deloitte and Starwood Hotels. He is the author of the new book, COMPETING IN THE NEW WORLD OF WORK: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest.

Resources Mentioned

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Keith Ferrazzi Interview Transcript

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

Keith Ferrazzi
Pete, this is an extraordinary time because your name reminds me of my father, and time together always reminds me of best practices and clear action. You’re one of those individuals that I really enjoy these conversations with.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, thank you, Keith. I enjoy chatting with you, and it’s fun to be speaking to you live after I’ve read your books before I had a podcast. And you got some more coming and a big research project. What’s the scoop here?

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah, so the peak of the pandemic, I saw this not only as a horrible disruption of the world, but I saw it as an inflection point; an opportunity. And what I want anybody listening to think about is “Have you really captured this pandemic and this disruption as an opportunity for your career and for your team and for your organization?”

We benchmarked 2,000 executives and entrepreneurs, and asked the question, “How do we leverage this pandemic to leap forward to work, not go back to work? How do we change the ways we’re leading? How do we change our business models? How do we really think about workforce redesign during this incredible disruption time?” And we’ve been chosen as the number one pick of Harvard coming out of the pandemic in terms of books, and this has been a massive research project that I’m excited to share with your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, we’re excited to hear it. So, you interviewed all these folks, and you asked them specifically, “Which work innovations from the pandemic had the highest return and ought to be kept, held on to?” So, can you share what are the top one, two, three themes that folks are relatively unanimous about?

Keith Ferrazzi
I’ll give you three themes, which you’ve asked for. The first one that I’ll give you is how much collaboration transformed during the pandemic, and I’ll give you a number of very distinct practices. Because we were in crisis, org charts and positional authority, they went out the window. Anybody who could lead change was given the opportunity to lead change. If you had an idea, if you had a way of working around a crisis situation, you could step into the void and you could fix it.

Now, that was extraordinary. We saw people emerge without titled leadership into significant leaders. And I want to make sure that we keep that going. I’ve never been a particular advocate for managing org charts or thinking about your team as who reports to you. When I was a kid at Deloitte, I had a vision that Deloitte could be a great marketing organization, and I started leading toward that end, and I became the chief marketing officer at Deloitte before I was 30. Before they even made me partner, I was the chief marketing officer of the company.

So, the opportunity for all of us to step into the void and see a vision for improvement or opportunity, that was afforded to us. Now, the second piece that we saw was, because of hybrid work, we could think of our teams as an unbounded way. We didn’t have to think about geolocation. We didn’t have to think about anything. We could think of “Who do we want to collaborate with to really achieve this vision?” And that’s one of the big tips I want to leave everybody here with.

Your team is whoever you need to get your job done. Now, if you imagine that, who do you need to get your job done is your team. Then the next question is, “How do I let them know that they’re on my team if they don’t report to me? And how do I invite them in to really co-create extraordinary new advances?” And the answer is just that. You reach out to individuals that you want to collaborate with, and you say, “Here’s a vision I have for how things could be better.”

And then with that, you say to them, “But I could never get there myself,” humbly speaking, “Maybe we could work together and achieve that together. We could co-create a solution. We could take that hill together.” The next thing you know, you’re now a leader of another individual who, working together, is going to achieve something that you couldn’t have achieved on your own.

We saw that happening all over the pandemic. And in the chapter that we have in the book around collaboration, we saw that hybrid work put all of that on steroids. We could really be unbounded in our collaboration and there’s a ton of things in there also on best practices on how to start rebooting the way we think about work in a hybrid work environment, which most of us aren’t thinking of today.

So, for instance, we think of the way to collaborate is through meetings. Well, the best organizations were collaborating asynchronously. They were collaborating in Google Docs and other things so that we didn’t have all of these droning meetings one after another. So, we started using the tools in a more effective way to reboot the way we were collaborating, and that was very powerful as well.

So, all of that, I would say comes under the theme that you were asking for, one of the themes, which is, “How do we really fundamentally re-imagine the way we collaborate?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And I’d love it if you could share a fun favorite story or two that shows that in action.

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah, sure. It’s a big company one, it’s the first one that I think of. So, Unilever has always done business planning in very traditional ways. They cascaded business planning down from the CFO and the CEO, figure out the budgets, then they work with the executive teams, then they give everybody their budgets and they’d trickle it down.

Well, what happened was one individual, an HR person in North America, so here’s an HR person in North America had an idea, which is “Why aren’t we crowdsourcing innovations and growth opportunities for next year 2021 that I guarantee we wouldn’t have seen at the executive team, at the central headquarters in London?”

So, Mike Clementi came up with the idea that we should be crowdsourcing among the top 300 leaders in the world, not the executive team only where the growth opportunities were. And he ushered that process into being, and they literally ground-up the business-planning process instead of top-down. Another example is a learning executive inside of Federal Express was asked to host these townhalls on behalf of their chief operating officer and chairman.

Well, typically, these townhalls were one-way broadcast conversations, but this person said, humbly speaking, “Why are we, when we’ve got the technology, we’ve got breakout rooms, why aren’t we asking people questions of what risks they’re seeing in the Federal Express platform, what opportunities they’re seeing to serve customers differently?”

So, instead of a one-way townhall, they started inventing two-way dialogues, once again, breakout rooms, opening Google Docs, having people give their ideas, and they created a very two-way collaborative engagement with thousands and thousands and thousands of people. So, those are two very small examples of massive companies that fundamentally rebooted real important processes in their business because a single individual saw hybrid and collaboration and crowdsourcing and innovation as something that didn’t have to be limited to a small group of people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Another theme in your book I want to dig into is you say that there are six decision dials that can impact the way we work. What are we achieving with this framework? And what are the dials?

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah. So the book was divided into two sections. The first half of the book focuses on how all of us need to change the way we work and lead, and there are four components to that. One of them is agility, the other one is foresight and, really, how do we look around corners and run an agile operation. And then the one we just talked about, collaboration. And then the next one, which is really a hot issue today, which is the subject of resilience and mental wellbeing.

And then what we did is we said, “Once you begin to lead in these four fundamentally different ways, where do you apply this philosophy to?” You apply it to reinventing your business model, reinventing the way your workforce works, and to, whether or not, we, as organizations, are led by the north star purpose, which became a very important aspect of a lot of businesses.

So, what you’re referring to in terms of these dials is inside of a chapter called “Workforce Redesign.” One of the things that really happened was we started to realize that the old ways we thought about work needed to be rebooted. So, of course, we’re all now thinking about “Are we physically proximate or are we remote?” So, that’s a dial going one way or the other.

Now, when we really dug into it, we realized it was a spectrum. It wasn’t just an and or or. The hybrid spectrum of how we work together actually includes a dimension that isn’t even on that dial which is called asynchronous. How do we work asynchronously? How do we work in a way that doesn’t even require meetings? How do we work in a way that collaborates in the cloud where I don’t give a damn if you’re physical or if you’re remote? It doesn’t really matter.

The other thing is whether or not you’re domestic or global. Now, on my personal organization, and this, Pete, could be something you’d be interested in, I designed an entire marketing function at Ferrazzi Greenlight. Now, we coach executive teams. I designed an entire marketing function out of the Philippines. I used to have marketing executives in my company that were about 85,000 in their base salary and their job was what I called high-touch marketing, curating relationships with executives that could ultimately buy our services. High-touch marketing, very high touch.

But there was a lot that I wanted to do around search engine optimization, there’s a lot that I wanted to do around content marketing, email marketing, etc. that I never really put as a primary because I didn’t see the return on investment for it from the kind of money that I’d dispend in the United States on marketing executives.

I ended up hiring folks out of the Philippines, an entire marketing team at, on average, $25,000 a head, who are every bit as good as the professionals I was hiring at $85,000. They work on my time zone, they’re incredibly English literate, and driven, and ambitious, and thoughtful. And so, I really, this outsourcing conversation, many organizations are now totally rethinking the boundaries of where they’re hiring. And I’m sure you’ve read a lot about that in the marketplace, but we can live anywhere and work anywhere.

And so, why doesn’t an individual like yourself, Pete, even, anybody who’s a solopreneur, whatever, you can be thinking about building a team that you were never able to think about before, both from a global perspective, gig workers. Now, we’re dealing with a choice. Do we even want to hire a full-time employee or do we want to hire an individual who’s an expert on an hourly basis that can really change the game in our strategy?

So, all of those are workforce dials that we look at in the chapter of re-engineering the workforce. I guess the one tip I would say is if you can start thinking about hiring globally, you can get incredible value for some of the employees that you hire. Anybody listening should consider that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yeah. I have had great results myself by pursuing that approach. Okay. And we got some extra dials here, huh?

Keith Ferrazzi
Well, look, what I really want to make sure we have time for is to get to some that which really starts in the book. There were many organizations that were fundamentally caught on their heels during the pandemic. On March 13th, I sat on a March 11th in a room with an executive team that had major presence in China, and this topic of the pandemic was only a mention at one point during the discussion, and that was just a few days before the shutdown.

Yet, the question that we looked for is, “What organizations foresaw the pandemic and were able to react to that risk whereas others did not?” We found an organization called Lockheed Space. Now, Lockheed, interestingly enough, didn’t even have operations in China, yet they had a simple process I highly recommend for all of your listeners whether, again, you’re a team leader, a company leader, or a solopreneur. They brought together, on a monthly basis, a group of individuals that would look at the marketplace from different vantage points.

“So, Pete, you’re going to handle the customer vantage point. What’s changing from the perspective of the customer? Dave, you’re going to look at competition. Jane, you’ve got technology innovations. Sue, you’ve got the focus on macroeconomic policies and finance.” And then, once a month, as a part of a natural meeting, they would spend five minutes, and everybody on the call reported if they had a major risk that they saw from their vantage point, or if they saw a major opportunity that should be pursued from their vantage point.

Now, sometimes, they would go beyond that five-minute meeting and nobody would have anything to say. Fine. Or, somebody would say, “Hey, I just read this blog about some virus in China. Maybe it’s worth us taking a look at in terms of a disruptive force.” At that point, they wouldn’t even gut-dive into it to disrupt the meeting. They would say, “Let’s have an assessment meeting to determine whether or not we move into some form of planning or watch and observe.”

Well, Lockheed Space saw this in December of 2019, they had their assessment meeting in January, and went into planning and went fully virtual in February. Fully virtual in February. And how many of us, if we had had that insight and wisdom, we would’ve shorted so many stocks, we would have invested in other stocks. As individuals, we’ve got to leave some space and time in our lives as individuals, as leaders, to assess risk and opportunity that are from different vantage points that we may not be seeing every day.

That was one of the biggest takeaways that I saw which is us realizing and, interestingly enough, it moves interestingly into the agile question. We practiced crisis agility during the pandemic. Now, I was working with Delta Airlines, coaching that executive team moving into the pandemic, and we were going to reinvent the travel industry and we’re doing a great job of it, and, all of a sudden, they lost 90% of their revenue in a day.

Now, they went into daily agile sprints. They assessed the situation from all different vantage points, “Where are the risks? Where are the opportunities?” They planned for a day. They went and did it. At the end of the day, they did a standup, and said, “Okay, what did we achieve? Where did we stumble? What are we going to do the next day?” Every single day, they went on an agile sprint willing to assess what was going on from the external marketplace.

Now, the power of that is that model of agility is well-practiced in technology companies while they’re programming and designing software. It’s well-practiced among any organization doing strong project management, but it’s not practiced in many executive teams. It’s not practiced by most of us leading our work, running our work in small agile sprints.

I believe what we saw in the pandemic was this crisis agile that is going to become the new operating system for any organization. We are living in volatility. We’ve got to lead in agile where we’re constantly assessing and re-assessing pivots and movement and readjustments, and we can’t just be planning on a quarterly basis anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so powerful that the five minutes assignment was all it took to be like, “Oh, okay.” And then to have it on the radar and then go deep. And so, I’m curious, for folks looking to implement something along those lines, do you have any favorite ways that you think about breaking up the world of stuff to be on the lookout for?

Keith Ferrazzi
Of vantage points, yeah. In the chapter called “Foresight,” we actually have a list of the vantage points. But the reality is every company is going to be a little different. The ones I gave you make the most sense, which is by functional area, you know, sales is dealing with competition, marketing is dealing with customers, your IT folks are dealing with technology advancements, your CFO, your accountants are dealing with… etc. Those are natural.

But in any given business, you’re going to have your own nuances. And I would say one of the things you should do as you start this process is ask your team, what vantage points they think we should be looking at on a constant basis. Now, I’d mentioned this to you, Pete, that we created an entire video series around the book that helps any team move through each chapter, and anybody who buys the book gets that free video series.

So, if you go to RadicallyAdapt.com, and you purchase the book wherever you want to purchase it, just let us know that you bought the book and we’ll send you the video series. It’s all on trust. But the power of that is that in the section of “Foresight” we actually walk you through all the details of how you can set that up for yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, very cool. All right. Well, so we talked a bit about agility, foresight, and collaboration. How about resilience and wellbeing?

Keith Ferrazzi
So, that was one of the more exciting ones to me personally for a number of reasons. I have felt for a very long time that teams needed to build a greater relational competency inside of their teams because you know me, the guy who wrote Never Eat Alone cares a lot about relationships. And as I came along with subsequent books, we have double-clicked on how important those relationships are to functional teams and organizations.

And what I saw happened during the pandemic was what I know brings greater relationships among people and brings greater empathy among people is the willingness to be authentic and vulnerable. This got dialed up during the pandemic significantly. I saw grizzled white shoe-type old leaders being vulnerable, crying in fact, on townhalls where they were talking about the fear that they had for their parents’ health who were in a nursing home, or a spouse that was diagnosed with COVID early on in the process before we knew what that meant.

And I saw that vulnerability and that shared sense of openness, and I was proud of that, and I knew that that was something that I think we had opened a door that we’d never be able to shut again, thank goodness. Now, the question then is, “What do we do with that vulnerability? How do we resolve it? And how do we help people have greater resilience?”

Of the teams that I saw be most successful, they were the ones that had a different social contract. They owned each other’s energy. They lifted each other up. They asked how people were doing openly, and then when people were hurting, the team rallied around that person. Now, I feel like there was an old myth associated with work of the past, which is your resilience, your mental wellbeing, that’s your responsibility. And it’s not even your responsibility; it’s your private affair, and we’ll leave you to it.

Whereas, what happened in the pandemic was there was much more transparency around all of this. And some teams did a very simple practice, they called an energy check, which I love and I advocate, which is in your meetings, just every once in a while, ask, “What is everyone’s energy level?” And I’m not just talking about in the afternoon. I mean, going into a meeting, you say, “What is your energy level these days? Put in the chatroom from zero to five what your energy level is.”

Now, anytime somebody puts a two or below, then you pause, and you say, “Pete, tell me, you put a two. Are you okay?” Now, Pete might respond, “Well, my kids had a restless night, and I was just up all late last night with my kids.” “Great. Sorry to hear that and hope they’re okay.” But they might say, “Jane, why did you put a two or why did you put a one?” “Well, my spouse has just been diagnosed with needing a kidney transplant.” Now, I heard that in teams, and the person who particularly said that had been sitting on that information without sharing it with the team for two weeks.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, because nobody asked, like it doesn’t live anywhere. It’s nothing like, “Hey, anyone’s family need an organ transplant?” Like, that just doesn’t pop up.

Keith Ferrazzi
It’s not part of the vernacular. But where it used to happen organically, and this is what we found across the board, where it used to happen was in the casual walk down the hallway, or the lunchroom conversation, or the coffee-break conversation. Now, that’s where these kinds of conversations happen, but in the remote or hybrid world, they don’t happen organically. And if you make it a purposeful process, it actually happens.

What was most interesting is that we found that…we’d been coaching teams for 20 years. We had a diagnostic tool that we used in coaching teams, and what we found was that teams that made a…one of the areas is relationships. Teams that didn’t pay attention to relationships purposefully eroded their relationship score on this test.

So, one of the tests is “I am deeply committed and connected to my team.” That’s a scale of zero to five. Well, those that didn’t have purposeful processes around it went down on the score. But, interestingly enough, those that decided to have these kinds of energy check-ins, or they hosted a meeting…one of the things we recommend is a personal/professional check-in meeting where the whole meeting’s intention is “What’s going on in your life personally and professionally?” so people just share what’s going on with them.

And those teams that had these purposeful processes, actually, their scores rose above what they were when they were in physical meetings together. So, people claim that remote work eroded things like innovation and relationships. It only eroded work if you didn’t do the things you needed to do more purposefully. If you did them, it actually improved the qualities.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful in terms of it’s like, “Well, yeah, if you’re just kind of going with flow, yup, that’s what’s going to happen. It’s not going to be so rosy.”

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah, it’s lazy. It’s lazy and you’re going to suffer lazy results. Now, we spend a lot more time on this, “When is a wellbeing and resilience question?” We had major partners like Headspace and Weight Watchers all working with us to create innovations, and we found a number of things. Number one, as I sort of mentioned, just the awareness and the collectivism gained around “We own each other’s energy. We’re going to serve each other. We’re going to take care of each other,” that was the highest lift in scores and mental wellbeing.

But there was no question that we needed to make sure that people were aware that they had to take a more proactive responsibility for their own wellbeing, their own mental and physical wellbeing. There were people who just sat down in the morning and they didn’t leave all day. They didn’t get their workouts, they didn’t take a break, they didn’t take a moment for themselves. And, by the way, because they didn’t leave any time for email or anything else, that time got squeezed into their evenings and weekends. They were just one meeting after another.

So, what we learned is that there are a set of personal routines that you need to adopt, and the most important thing is, if you’re a leader, you adopt those personally. Like, block your workout time, block your walk with the kid time, make sure that small breaks that you’re taking, you actually put them on your calendar so you’re signaling to the organization that they need to have those routines for themselves as well. Very powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, so you mentioned a few personal routines, and we love that sort of thing here. Anything that came up again and again as being super powerful and restorative or good bang for the buck in terms of rejuvenation per minute?

Keith Ferrazzi
One that was really funny that nobody did until, all of a sudden, somebody cracked the code, one of them was end meetings five to ten minutes early.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that does feel great for everybody. No rushing.

Keith Ferrazzi
Right, it does, but guess what? Nobody ever does it because you’re in the flow of the conversation then we don’t end the meetings five or ten minutes early. So, what one group, I remember who this was, I think it might’ve been FedEx, they did something brilliant. They started meetings ten minutes late so it’s easier. Everyone is used to ending on the hour but if you start meetings ten minutes late, then that’s where the break is, and so I love that simple idea. And once companies started adopting that, that was kind of breakthrough. It’s so important that ten minutes to walk into the other room and give a hug to your significant other, or go check on the kids, or whatever it is, so powerful.

The other thing is blocking out time for you to think, do emails, and do asynchronous work. So, for instance, if you’re doing asynchronous collaboration where you’re working on a Google Doc with a group of people, block a half of an hour to do that as if it’s a meeting and protect it as if it’s a meeting. “That’s my half of an hour time to do that work,” and you tell the world that, “That’s my time, and, no, you can’t take that time just because it looks available. It’s not available. That’s my time to do my asynchronous work,” because, otherwise, as we said earlier, it’s just going to get squeezed into nights and weekends, but blocking that time is really precious and important.

So, that was another really important routine. Those are the things. What we found was that the stuff around meditation, etc., it was all very powerful but, at the end of the day, if we don’t change the way we work, none of that stuff can keep up with us.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. All right. Well, Keith, tell me, any final top do’s, don’ts, implications from this stuff, particularly from the vantage point of either a frontline manager or an individual contributor?

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah, I feel that one of the greatest things we can all start to do is start to shift our meeting time out of meetings. We need to make meetings the enemy. And if we imagine saying, “Okay, how can I not make somebody of a meeting with me on this but, actually, free up time?” So, I tell you, like one of my employees who does work for me, actually she’s the individual that helps manage my speaking business, individual contributor.

And we used to have a weekly meeting just to get an update, “How’s the speaking business doing?” and she would go over all the things she was doing and I’d banter back and forth, etc.

And now what she does is she sends me a five-minute recording that I can listen to at my leisure with a quick update. And then if I have any response or feedback, etc., I just shoot her another recording back. It is the easiest thing in the world for me and it has freed up a half of an hour block of time that my administrative assistant is so grateful that he doesn’t have to have as a weekly meeting.

So, start asking yourself, how can you take meeting time off of the people around you off of their agenda. Let’s say you’re going to throw a meeting with your team, and you’re going to talk about X, Y, and Z, give you a piece of information. What we found was that during the pandemic, if you have 12 people in a meeting, only four people feel that they’re fully heard in that meeting. The average is only about four people of 12 feel that they’re fully heard in that meeting.

If, on the other hand, you send, we call it a decision board, out to folks, and say, “Listen, we’re not going to have a meeting on this topic. I’m going to say we’ve got a problem. The problem is we’re falling behind on inventory right now. And I think the solution is X and some of the struggles or challenges I know we’re going to have is this,” and send that out to everybody, and ask everybody at your leisure, “Add to the document.”

Now, you want to do a document that’s a SharePoint document or a Google Doc where everybody can see each other’s answers, and say, “You put your point of view in there.” So, now in a meeting, which you might’ve called a meeting with six people, all six people are going to get a chance to see each other’s point of view. Everybody will be fully heard.

Then you look at it, and then you decide if you even need a meeting. Maybe the problem has already been answered. And if you do need a meeting, you’ll be able to see that, really, we’re only two people that really had an opinion that mattered, so I’m going to have the meeting with these two people and let everybody else off the hook.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot.

Keith Ferrazzi
It’s powerful. Also, some of these people will say, “Well, listen, I think the better person who should be weighing in is so and so.” So, now, originally, you might’ve invited six people but maybe eight people get a chance to weigh in. These other people wouldn’t have even been invited. So, the biggest thing that I can say as a takeaway is start thinking about how you rethink some of the fundamentals of how you work personally. And one of the great evils of wasted time is meetings, so make sure that you work hard to eliminate as many of them as you can, move to asynchronous as best as you can.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And for your speaking business manager, with your quick video recordings, I love Loom myself. Is there a tool you’re using and digging?

Keith Ferrazzi
We’re really simple here on this, and that’s the other thing I found out, Pete, which is it didn’t matter what technology people used. We could jerry-rig anything. It was more about, “How do you rethink the way work is?” The fact that she could literally just send me an audio message in Slack so that if I wanted to, they’re all housed there. Or, if we wanted to get lazy, she could send me a voice text right on her iPhone. But the point was it’s not about the technology. It’s about the mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Perfect. Well, now, let’s hear about some of your favorite things. Can you give us a favorite quote?

Keith Ferrazzi
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’ve always been a thoughtful curious agile person. I want more information and I love changing my mind. It means I learned something.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. That’s good. Sorry, I’m just thinking of…

Keith Ferrazzi
Hobgoblins

Pete Mockaitis
Spiderman and Green Goblin and my kids.

Keith Ferrazzi
Exactly. Exactly.

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

Keith Ferrazzi
I would say that my favorite research is the Gallup organizations research on employee engagement, when they really cracked the code and realized how fundamental relationships were. One friend at work was the greatest predictor of an employee’s engagement. And it’s interesting, so many organizations just dismissed that as a critical element of what they focused on, engineering for their employees’ happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Keith Ferrazzi
I would say The Great Gatsby, and that has nothing to do with business. It just has to do with the plight of a man who was deeply insecure, trying to aspire into a society that he didn’t think welcomed him. And that feels a lot like my life as a young man when I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, a poor Pittsburgh kid trying to do better than my family history had been.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Keith Ferrazzi
I love this new tool called MURAL. It’s a whiteboarding tool. And I love getting on and whiteboarding things and collaborating. But I love it when it’s virtual and I love it when I can pass around between members of meetings, live asynchronously, grow. So, these days, I’ve really started to love this whiteboarding technology called MURAL.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Keith Ferrazzi
Ten minutes every morning. So, snooze to me isn’t go back to sleep. Alarm awakes, I push snooze and I do two things. I spend just a bit of time being grateful and I think about why I’m so grateful. And I happen to be, in my household, not to get too private, in my household, I need my space when I’m sleeping, so my significant other stays on that side of the bed. But that last ten minutes is my cuddle time, just time to be warm and intimate, and excited about the day, and so gratitude and connection to me to start the day couldn’t be used for anything better.

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

Keith Ferrazzi
Oh, yeah. It is that, “We can’t get there alone and, therefore, people are so important. And the currency for deeper relationships is generosity. Find the folks that matter to you and be of service.”

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

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah, RadicallyAdapt.com is where we’re engaging with folks and will be for a while around this particular book. RadicallyAdapt.com. You will get all the information that you need to get the video series for free, which we’re really excited to put in your hands. Obviously, if you want to get the book there, you can do that as well. RadicallyAdapt.com. Thanks.

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

Keith Ferrazzi
Yeah, it might be broader than we want for this time, but I would say, going back to my core roots, every single one of us have to recognize that your opportunities in this world will come to you not only because of your competency but because of your relationships, so build a relationship action plan. After today, literally just pick the five people who are most important to your progress and success, and be of service to those individuals.

And I would say, measure the current relationship status you have with them. Zero means you don’t know them; they don’t know you. A five means you could call them up on the weekend and cry about something that you’re disturbed by, so it’s that end of the extreme. A three is what we normally call a friend at work, just an acquaintance. I want you to try to move those five people into being fours and fives, not twos and threes where they usually reside. So, build a relationship action plan.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Keith, this has been a treat once again. I wish you much luck in the new world of work.

Keith Ferrazzi
Thank you, Pete. And thanks so much for your generosity of this amazing audience.

720: Navigating the Great Resignation with Dr. David Rock

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Dr. David Rock shares strategies to help both employees and employers come out of the Great Resignation feeling more satisfied.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why so many professionals are now quitting 
  2. The small shifts that drastically improve satisfaction and productivity
  3. The telltale signs it’s time to quit your job 

About David

Dr. David Rock coined the term neuroleadership, and is the Co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI). The Institute is a 23-year-old cognitive science consultancy that has advised over 50% of the Fortune 100. With operations in 24 countries, the institute brings neuroscientists and leadership experts together to make organizations better for humans through science.

Dr. Rock has authored four successful books including Your Brain at Work, a business best-seller, and has written for and been quoted in hundreds of articles about leadership, organizational effectiveness, and the brain which can be found in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., USA Today, BBC, The Boston Globe and more.

Dr Rock is originally Australian, though based in the US since 2010. He holds a professional doctorate in the Neuroscience of Leadership from Middlesex University in the UK.

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

  • Blinkist. Read or listen to summarized wisdom from thousands of nonfiction books! Free trial available at blinkist.com/awesome
  • University of California Irvine. Chart your course to career success at ce.uci.edu/learnnow

Dr. David Rock Interview Transcript

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

David Rock
It’s a pleasure. Good to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I’m excited to be with you and I’m hoping you can give us some insight beyond the headlines. We’re hearing this term Great Resignation a lot. First, can you define it for us? And tell us, is this a really a big deal or is this overhyped?

David Rock
It’s a bit of both. Statistically, when you really look at the data, and I’m a scientist, I like data, it’s definitely bigger than other times but it’s also part of an ongoing trend where we’ve seen increasing numbers of people changing jobs every year. So, it’s definitely a bump but it’s really hard to say whether it’s a function of sort of no one quit last year, because we were so uncertain, and then kind of, suddenly, there was this big bump now making up for that. Statistically, it looks a little bit more than just that big bump but it feels bigger. And certainly, it is bigger, and you may notice it around you in certain industries, but it’s not kind of enormous thing necessarily from a statistic point of view.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, but is there something noteworthy and bigger there that’s worth exploring and digging into?

David Rock
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a really very specific experience that millions, if not billions, of people have had. It’s very unusual. The Great Depression, a hundred years ago, is probably the only thing in all and parallel that really left a mark on people. People who grew up through the Great Depression had certain habits, the horrors of their life till the end of their life. And I think, in a similar way, the folks who’ve lived through this pandemic are going to be affected by it for a long, long time.

And there’s a number of things that happened. Huge parts of the economy are built on devices to distract us from ourselves, whether it’s movies, books, television, apps, everything else. And for a lot of people, Netflix kind of ran out, and there was nothing left to distract them.

Pete Mockaitis
They finished it.

David Rock
They finished it, right? And so, they’re left having all this time with themselves, and sometimes what they saw they didn’t really like. So, there’s a percentage of the population who’s interested in self-reflection and kind of thinking about life, but there’s a lot of people who go through life, probably a majority, without much time really thinking about themselves. We don’t have 90% of people in therapy.

And so, a lot of people were kind of forced to take a good honest look at their life because there wasn’t much else to focus on, and they saw that they didn’t really love their job, that maybe they didn’t love their partner, maybe didn’t love where they lived, and those three things changed a lot when the pandemic finished. And the job is the easier one to change than a house or a partner. You’re probably more likely to trade up in the job, but the other two, it depends. So, a lot of people kind of coming out of this say, “I want to make big changes.”

And, also, there’s this really big lack of control that we all have experienced and are still experiencing. There’s a really big lack of control, so think of autonomy. And so, by kind of changing jobs, in particular, you’re reasserting your feeling of control in your life, in a way that’s probably the least disruptive as well. So, I think that’s another reason. In summary, people kind of had time to think and got to see a lot of their life wasn’t great. And then they found a way to regain control, which is the easiest way is changing jobs.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, autonomy, status, control, things that folks want or maybe not getting as much as they’d like in their jobs, and so a switch is one way to accomplish that. Do you have any interesting research insights on can we get more of that while staying where we are?

David Rock
Yeah, absolutely. So, autonomy is this really interesting construct in the brain. It’s a feeling of being in control or having choices. The two are quite similar. When you press a button to cross the street, you expect it to change in a certain amount of time. If nothing happens after a few minutes, you get frustrated. You thought you had control over crossing the road and you discover it’s broken and now you feel better. You’ve regained control and you cross another way. But our feeling of kind of being in control is something that goes up and down through the day but, generally, within a certain limit. And the pandemic really drops that sense. We felt completely out of control. We just didn’t know what to do in a huge way. And it’s such an interesting phenomenon – control.

In animal studies, it’s the difference between life and death. So, in animal studies, essentially, you can give animals a certain stress, and some will have this perception of being in control of it and some will feel out of control, and it literally is the difference between life and death. There are studies with humans, in retirement homes, in aged homes, where they give a control group no change, and another group, they give them three choices. This was done in about the ‘70s. But they give them three choices of like a plant, or an art, or where to put the bed. It actually halved the death rate for people who were given control.

And then a third study that always blows my head off, people given the control over how they laid out their cubicle. So, same job, same company, same cubicle, still had the same computer, but they were allowed to bring in like personal things in their cubicle versus not. And the people allowed to bring in personal things, who felt in control of their cubicle, are 25% more productive. It’s like a day a week more productive. It’s crazy.

So, autonomy has this outsized effect on many, many functions in the brain. And, essentially, it puts us in more of an approach state or towards state when we have a sense of control. And when we reduce that sense of control, it activates more of a threat state or avoidance state. And, generally, we’re far more creative in an approach state. We literally have greater cognitive resources for holding big ideas in mind. We collaborate better. Just about everything is better in more of an approach state, what happens when we feel like we’re in control.

A little bit of an avoidance or threat state is okay for focusing for short bursts but you won’t be very creative but you’ll be able to execute well. So, there’s a whole lot of science to this but, essentially, the pandemic kind of reduced our feeling of control but a lot of clever people worked out hacks to that, and said, “Actually, you know what, I can control my diet now better than any other time in my life,” and decided to really monitor their diet and track it, do experiments, and people said, “You know what, I can control my sleep properly for the first time ever. I can even control the people I meet.” And the introvert, germophobes, had a field day. But we could suddenly control a lot more things because we were in a home environment.

And so, while you can sort of focus on being out of control, there were other ways that you could focus on. Actually, your control had increased in a local way. And we even had more control over when we worked versus when we had breaks and all of this stuff. And that was one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we had this increased sense of control about kind of workflow because our manager wasn’t standing over us. So, it gives you a clue to sort of what we can do. But the science of this is really fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. And what a powerful impact there by having even minor amounts of control. You’re allowed to decorate your cubicle as you see fit. And so, boy, that just gets me thinking, there’s probably so much autonomy that, we guess, we just sort of leave on the table, if you will. It’s like we don’t even consider that we have that control in order to exercise it and enjoy the benefits of controlling our work, break time, or our food choices, or our sleep. Any other categories you think are just sort of like overlooked, like, “Hey, this is in your control. Seize it and reap the benefits”?

David Rock
Yeah, absolutely. If you’re at home a lot of the time, you’re in control of who you socialize with. And now you don’t have to socialize with people who are in a 20-mile radius. You can socialize with people anywhere in the world. And I’ve been part of a poker school, or poker club, for over a decade, and most of my buddies I played with are in Australia where I’m originally from, and I kind of miss them.

And what I found is that there was a great app where we could literally play poker online and see each other and hear each other perfectly. It was just like being there. And we started playing monthly and enjoyed it so much, we started playing weekly. And now I’m getting together with some of my favorite humans literally every week for a couple of hours and just hanging out. It’s a wonderful thing.

So, you gain this control over who you interact with, and whether it’s family or friends or people you really want to learn from, that’s another upside to this time. And I think the people’s willingness to sort of try things on platforms is always going to be with us. We’ve all learned that there are things we can do on platforms, like Zoom, that we never imagined were possible, and actually they can work. And so, I think that’s going to stay with us for some time.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Okay. Well, so then what are some other ways you recommend folks can upgrade their satisfaction with where they are? They can look for opportunities to exercise their autonomy. What else?

David Rock
Another thing that you want to play with is your sense of certainty.

So, we have this drive for our feeling of control that’s always relative, so you have a little more, a little less than where you were. But we also have this drive for a sense of certainty, and they’re similar but quite different things. And a sense of certainty is literally, “How much do you feel you’re able to predict what’s about to happen?”

Let me give you an example. Normal times, you’re at work, you’re at the office, and you live a little far away, and your partner borrows your car. And during the day, they say, “Hey, I think I’m going to be back in time but I’m not sure, and if not, you’ll need to get public transport.” You know that’s like an extra hour and a hassle. The whole afternoon, your brain is going to go back and forward, back and forward between, “Do I have to leave at 5:00? Do I need to leave at 4:00? Am I going to have to deal with that?”

While that ambiguity is there, a big piece of your brain is trying to solve for two different realities, and it’s trying to do all the sort of what-if questions about if you have to take the subway and the bus, or if you’re going to have the car, and it’s debilitating. You’re actually using some of your limited working memory. So, that’s a small bit of uncertainty where you just got, “Do I take transport or am I having a car?”

And so, your brain is constantly mapping out into the future trying to kind of plan ahead unconsciously. When the world is really certain, as it sort of was before the pandemic, things were kind of in a flow and you knew how you’re getting home, and what you’re doing next week, and where you’re going for vacation, and when you would next see your parents, and all of these kinds of things. Then certainty plummeted during the pandemic. And one of the interesting phenomena was our temporal focus, or how far out we could think, really shrank.

Normally, we think like, it’s not uncommon to think a year out and plan a vacation in a year, or some education in a year, or two years, you’re working towards, or be saving for something a few years out. We went from a year to not a quarter or even a month, and not even a week. Many of us, during the pandemic, could barely think a few days ahead. We were very much in the now. And it was because of the amount of uncertainty, there were so many variables that were uncertain that it just hurt to think even a week out at some points. There was just so much that was changing all the time.

And so, we became much more focused kind of in the moment. And part of it is that uncertainty, like a lack of control, increases the threat response in the brain, which literally reduces resources for prefrontal or working memory. And so, you had this issue where lack of control actually made it harder to just hold things in your mind, and so you just focus on the now. Then there was this whole kind of complexity of just trying to calculate further out and how exhausting that was, and we just kind of gave up.

And so, that issue happened. And interestingly, again, this is one of those situations where you can kind of hack your perception of control just like you can autonomy. And the interesting thing about the brain is things that are local are valued more highly than things that are farther away. So, feeling certain about your office where you spend a lot of time will actually give you a whole lot of benefits because it’s right in front of you all the time.

And so, you can hack your brain’s need for certainty by…and a lot of people did this, like organizing your office like crazy, organizing your bookshelf, organizing your filing, re-setting up your systems, getting your computer better than ever, getting the stand you’ve always wanted, and the camera and eyesight. Just getting super organized, so literally you didn’t have to use working memory for lots of little things anymore.

Steve Jobs was famous for this, always wearing the same things where he didn’t have to make decisions in the morning, and could focus on other things. It’s a bit like that. You just create this huge amount of certainty, and your brain has to make fewer decisions, and it’s less taxed overall. So, there’s a local effect with things that are physically close to you and also things that are close in time, and that’s one of the ways of hacking this.

So, you end up organizing your calendar, your schedule. You end up just kind of getting really disciplined and structured, and that hacks your sense of certainty even if the outside world is completely crazy. And so, there’s always kind of hacks like this, particularly around autonomy and certainty you can do even when the world is really crazy, to locally feel a lot better and be able to think well.

Pete Mockaitis
That really resonates and what’s coming to mind for me is I’ve got a buddy, Ronnie, and he said to me, boy, decades ago, he said, “Laundry is power.” I said, “What are you even saying?” And then, sure enough, this was before I was doing my laundry regularly, we’re like teenagers. And then when I got in the groove and I understood, it’s like, “Ah, yes, when you have a drawer of perfectly folded and organized and clean and ready-to-go laundry, that is power.” Because whatever tiny bit of your RAM was spent wondering, “Do I have clean underwear or shirt or dress, socks?” whatever item you might need or want. It’s like the answer is, “Yes. Why, I’m certain my clothing is handled.”

Likewise, I’ve got a bunch of high-protein snacks on my shelf, and that feels great in terms of like, “I don’t need to worry. If a schedule gets all choppy or weird, I’m not going to go hungry. there’s reassurance there that feels good.” So, organizing in terms of, “I know I’ve got my pens or my stand or whatever, my apps,” lay it on us, what are some other ways we can remove uncertainty from our lives and reap those psychological benefits?

David Rock
I have to tell you a funny relevant story before we go into some other ones. I just had a birthday recently, and my partner said, “What do you really want?” And I said, “I want to never think about socks again.” Like, I work out every single day. I’m just spending like five minutes pointlessly searching for socks and pairing them and stuff. I said, “I want you to really care about the perfect socks, and go test them, find out and see if you can work out. I like XYZ, and then that’s the thing I most want for my birthday.”

And they did it, they went out and she like worked out the exact one and threw out all my other socks, and gave me just dozens and dozens and dozens of the exact same socks, so I just never have to think about matching socks ever again. And it’s kind of something I’ve always wanted. I always felt too indulgent. But it’s like that stuff adds up because it’s attention you can’t put elsewhere in all those little places.

Pete Mockaitis
David, I love that so much. And the problem with socks is that they have all these different styles. Like, if you get pack of five, it might be five different designs, like, “That doesn’t help me because if I lose one, then the pair ends, whereas I’ve got redundancies, they could replace each other.” And so, it’s harder to match and pair. So, I’ve actually had the same fantasy but I, too, have not taken the time to realize it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. All right. So, socks, that’s one thing you cannot think about ever again.

David Rock
Well, it’s a good metaphor. And then if you take that and say, “Look, what else do you regularly, like at least once a week, find you waste attention on?” Because attention is actually a limited resource. If you’re having to pair socks, that’s attention you can’t put onto something else. So, what else do you regularly, like at least weekly, maybe daily, put attention on so that you really don’t need to, you really shouldn’t have to? And how can you replace those things so that you really don’t have to actually give that any focus anymore?

You’ll start to see a lot of things where you could create a lot more certainty in these areas, whether it’s bulk buying food so that you know you’ve always got three months’ worth of things that you never have to worry, or shop four times a year, or it could be around planning your exercise routine a month out at a time, or planning your diet a whole way out. So, there’s different ways to think about it. It’s kind of whatever you’re interested in but, essentially, the fewer decisions you have to make that are kind of pointless, the better off you’ll be. That’s the tip overall.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so, it’s not so much, “Oh, I’m at the gym. What am I going to do here now?” but rather, “I’ve taken some time, I’ve done some research in advance based on my goals and the equipment that’s available and the time I have, this is what I’m doing.” And so, you’ve made one decision to rule dozens or hundreds of subsequent things.

David Rock
Right. One of the things I did is I realized I was terrible at going to the gym, and it just was the time sucked till I get there and deal with things, and get back, and I didn’t like the environment at the gym, and I needed to work out fairly regularly. I felt there were benefits. The research was really saying there were benefits.

And as I looked into the research, it became clear that actually a small amount of exercise, if you do it every day, is fantastic. And by small amount, I mean like five minutes, even five to ten minutes. And I realized I’m overcomplicating this thing. What if I could do something that I could do absolutely anywhere, it doesn’t matter what hotel I’m in, what part of the world I’m in, what mental state I’m in, I can just, anywhere, do some exercises and do them absolutely daily?

When I simplified it down to that, I had all this certainty, and now I could just weave in exercise into part of my day. And so, pushups and sit-ups go a long way plus some stretching. If you could do that regularly, daily, you’ve got an amazing set of health benefits and strength and confidence. And add some cardio from most days from a walking meeting so that you’re getting that cardio in as well while you’re in a meeting, and you’ve got a fantastic exercise routine without ever going to the gym. So, again, you’re kind of creating, I guess, it’s not just certainty. Also, you’re just creating more ease with your attention and with having to achieve your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Like, “Oh, when and where and how am I going to get this workout in?” It’s like, “Oh, that’s just five minutes. It can be anywhere. And for the time being, I’ve chosen to schedule it at this time recurring, and now there it is.” Cool. All right. Well, so then let’s talk about if we do want to make a change in the job, how do we know it’s time and how do you go about thinking through and deciding that?

David Rock
Companies are really good at trying to keep people, and I think that it’s really good, and I speak as an employer as well, I guess, in this, but it’s really good to explore the options because sometimes we just think that the job we’re in is the only opportunity, but a lot of companies are good at being flexible, and you might find there’s a completely different career path in the same company.

I remember we did a lot of work with Intel for quite some years, the chip maker, and I remember a dinner a few years ago with maybe a dozen of the Intel executives, and they were introducing themselves, and I said, “How long have you been here? And what do you do?” to a person. Everyone had been there 20 plus years. And they weren’t necessarily that senior, they were mid-career, I was like, “How does the company keep you so long?”

And everyone just laughed and said, “Well, every two or three years, I get a knock on my door, and someone offers me a ridiculously big job that I could never imagine I would ever be chosen for and throws me in the deep end in this incredibly challenging opportunity that I get to really sink my teeth into. And they just keep doing that every few years. I’ve never gone more than five years without that happening.” And everyone to a person agreed.

So, Intel, in the background, who worked that out, and kept really, really good people by stretching them a lot. And so, a lot of clever organizations want to give you different kinds of roles, and I think the first step is to explore, “Is it the company or is it the role?” If you’re an extrovert and you’re stuck in accounting filling in forms, you may find that joining the sales team might make you intrinsically happier. That’s an obvious one.

So, I think the first thing is, “Is it the company, or is it the role, or is it the team?” Maybe you’re in a team where the chemistry isn’t right. And I’ve got a team of 200 plus people, and magic happens sometimes when you move someone to a different team. Someone can be an underperformer and not happy. You put them in a whole different team, they do incredible work. So, there’s a definite chemistry thing. So, I think it depends. Is it the company? Is it the team? Is it the work? It’s good to think about those things and explore ideas.

If it’s all three, you might want to consider your options. And sometimes people just want to really shake things up. They want to really, really shake up their kind of whole world and kind of challenge themselves to learn new things, especially if they’re maybe mid-career, they’ve done a few years kind of in their first five to ten years of working. They’ve kind of really learned a lot of skills in one environment, they’re like, “I want to challenge myself and learn something completely different.”

I was talking to a colleague who’s been in pharma for a long, long time, and she’s like, “You know what, I want to go and be in media now. Pharma has been great but I want an entirely different ecosystem. I want to learn entirely different things about the world, and that’s something I’m passionate about.” So, that’s a person that probably will leave because it’s the entire industry they want to shift, so getting a new job in there won’t be helpful.

So, I think you got to think about also the industry, the company, the team, and the job itself. What really is it? And if it is time to leave, it’s always really great, and I guess I say this as an employer, but it’s always really great to let people know really early and minimize the surprise elements so your colleagues, not just your managers, but your colleagues also have time to set things up so they’re not drowning.

I know in many organizations right at the moment, everyone is struggling for talent. I don’t know how the math of that works but I think just a lot of people are not working. And it’s not just restaurants and bars. Like, everyone, everywhere is really short staffed somehow. Just about every industry I talk to, people are saying, “We just don’t have enough people for the work.” So, I’m a fan of giving folks lots of warnings so you’re not throwing anyone in the deep end.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we’ve talked about some tiny interventions in terms of just like your own mindset and what’s in your sphere of control, what you can do there. We talked about some big changes in terms of, “I’m out of here.” And so, maybe about some in-between size changes, do you have any pro tips on how we go about communicating with managers, leaders, others in terms of, “Hey, you know what, this job isn’t working for me,” or, “Hey, I really appreciate if we can make this shift or accommodation”? Any magical scripts or words or phrases or approaches that really work well here?

David Rock
Yeah, there’s no magic in that stuff. It creates a lot of anxiety for people, so I think being clear is really helpful, being really clear about whether you’ve made a decision or not, whether you’re talking to other organizations already or not, where you are in your process. If you’re really early in your thinking, let people know you’re early in your thinking and you’re not planning to do anything for a few months. If you’ve kind of already decided to leave and you’ve already done interviews, you got to be kind of upfront about that.

So, I think there’s a lack of transparency in both directions, employer and employee in these things, and I think everyone wins when there’s more transparency around this stuff. So, I think just be really clear about where you are in your process and it’s just really nice to give people a little bit of a time to find that replacement as well, especially in this environment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Flipping the perspective a little bit, when you are the employer and you are looking to retain the talent, you mentioned some of the best practices of Intel, what are some of the other things that you find are really great things to do to help get people to stick around?

David Rock
One of the biggest motivators is feeling you’re making progress. There’s a whole book on that called The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile. But it’s this feeling like you’re actually able to really do your best work, not just make progress but you’re able to really be proud of the work that you do, and know it really is your best work. There’s sort of nothing worse than getting home and saying, “I tried my best but, really, there are all these roadblocks in the way, and I did half the job I could’ve done,” or, “If only my colleagues had my back,” or, “If only I had this technology,” or, “I just didn’t get to look as good or hit it out of the park.” It’s frustrating.

So, I think helping people do their best work is really important. And the challenge with that is it’s very individual so managers will have to learn to ask questions about it. So, some really interesting data out recently, like there’s a whole conundrum about, “Where do you let people work now that the offices are opening up a bit?” But it turns out, there’s no one answer to that. About a third of people are saying there are productive places at home full time. It’s not just that they want to goof off. It’s actually where they work hardest to get the most done.

Now, some of them might also appreciate having more time with their kids and less pointless time driving and all sorts of things. But, literally, a third of people say they’re more productive working at home than anything else. About a third of people say they’re actually more productive working in the office, and that’s where they get the most done. Now, they might be extroverts, or they might not have conditions at home that are good, or they just might not have the discipline that they just end up distracted too much at home. So, you’ve got really different polarities there.

And so, as a manager, you want to help people work out where they do their best work but even when they do their best work. Some people, like their routine is such whether they have kids maybe, but they just do amazing work if they can start at 5:00 a.m., work through 8:00, take four hours off, and then do three hours in the afternoon. And they’ll do stellar work if they do that, and be healthy, and a good parent, and all these other things.

Other people, they’ll do stellar work if they start at lunchtime and go straight through till 8:00 p.m., That’s just how they work. They’re night owls. So, there’s the where you work, there’s the when you work, there’s, our research show, that who you work with and what you work on is even more important, even more motivating. Like, you can give people, this is back to autonomy, give people a little more control than they thought they might have over what they work on and who they work with, you actually get an even greater sense of engagement.

So, we’re coming back to autonomy a lot, but giving people more control over where they work, and when they work, and what they work on, and who they work with, these things are very intrinsically motivating. And, at the same time, how can you, as a manager, kind of remove roadblocks and give people the tools they need to really feel like they can do their best work? Those are a couple of the really big things we think.

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

David Rock
I think this is an incredible time to make big changes in how we work individually and for organizations. I think it’s a really interesting time because all our systems kind of that were very frozen forever are being kind of unfrozen, everything is sort of bit in flux. And as we start to open offices again and go back, before we fall on bad habits again, I think it’s a great time for companies and individuals to think about the habits they want to have, think about the kind of culture they want to have, think about the kind of team they want to be part of, all of this.

So, I think it’s a great time to be really intentional as we kind of transition into 2022. Let’s be really intentional about the kind of life we want to live as individuals, or the kind of culture we want to have as a company. And, for me, it’s really important to say this. Follow the science because the science is often different to our gut instinct. Follow the science and then experiment, and then follow the data. Follow the science, experiment, and follow the data, are three really important things as we move forward. Don’t just follow gut instinct.

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

David Rock
Theodore Zeldin, a philosopher at Oxford, one of my favorite authors, he often said, “When will we make the same breakthroughs in the way we relate to each other as we’ve made in technology?” So, that’s something that inspires me really often.

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

David Rock
I really like the study by Dan Gilbert. Dan is a professor at Harvard. He wrote the book Stumbling on Happiness, which is about the way we mis-predict what will make us happy in the future. We think that a big car, an hour in the suburbs will make us happy than a small apartment in the city. And it turns out, the ten hours a week of driving makes us miserable much more so than the space makes us happy.

So, anyway, he wrote this great book Stumbling on Happiness and he did this study a few years back, looking at kind of, “What are the different activities that make people happy?” And what he discovered was really surprising, was that about half the time people are literally not there mentally. The lights are on but no one’s home. They’re like in a meeting but they’re mentally in lunch tomorrow. Or, they’re supposedly working on a document but their mind is off on something else altogether.

So, about half, it’s about 48% of our waking hours, we are literally not present in what we’re doing. It’s such a fascinating finding and tells you why we need to kind of be reminded to have more of a growth mindset and kind of experiment a lot more because we’re just not present a lot of the time.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

David Rock
A book that kind of changed my life a lot and sort of set me down the neuroscience path a lot was John Ratey’s book. It’s an old book now but it’s called A User’s Guide to the Brain. And I read that and read that and read that, and thumbed through that, for years and years and years. And it gave me like the first kind of really good dose of language about what was happening inside my head. And at some point, I said, “You know what, I really wish there was a version of this for doing work.” And there wasn’t, and I kind of ended up writing that book. That’s my book Your Brain at Work.

And, as self-serving as this is, I just re-read it and re-edited it, and ten years later, after I kind of originally read it, I actually got a lot out of it. So, that’s my second most favorite book, it’s my own book. It really helped me understand my brain, writing it. And even ten years later, even if it’s very late, I had to do it to kind of improve it. So, anything that sort of gives you language for what’s going on moment to moment in your brain, gives you an ability to be more mindful in a way because you’re paying attention to internal experiences and states so you’re literally more full of your mind. Your attention is on your mental process.

And these kinds of things end up having a similar effect as actual mindfulness training in that it reduces stress and gives you greater cognitive control and all these other things. So, I’m a big fan of learning about your brain as a way of being more adaptive in life and more effective in your career or as a manager.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

David Rock
I think my favorite tool is the hot tub, the jacuzzi. It’s a communication tool, and I’ve probably had one consistently for the last 20 years in everywhere that I’ve lived. I’ve made sure of it. And what I find is you get this unusual window of time where you’re super comfortable, super relaxed, where you can really have long deeper conversations, usually with my partner or with a close friend. It’s this kind of non-obvious conversation tool for having really good quality downtime. And I find, when I don’t have a hot tub around, we just don’t spend that kind of time really going deeper on things, whereas with the hot tub, you do. So, there you go, an unexpected tool.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that people seem to quote back to you often?

David Rock
“We tend to think about what’s easiest to think about rather than what’s right to think about.” Something I said in Your Brain at Work, and a lot of people quote that. We tend to think about whatever is easy to think about rather than what we actually should be focused on. And so, a lot of the intangible things don’t get enough attention over things that are just more tangible by kind of accident.

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

David Rock
A couple of places of work that I do with organizations, NeuroLeadership.com. Personally, DavidRock.net. My book, my most recent book is Your Brain at Work. You just look that up. You’ll find it everywhere. And easy to find me through DavidRock.net if you’re interested in all the different things I’m involved with.

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

David Rock
I think this is a great time to think about the next decade or so for yourself. The decisions you make right now about your career will last you five to ten years. So, I think this is a good time to think deeply about what inspires you, what motivates you, what you want to really spend your time and your attention on. A bit like the socks. Do you want to spend your attention on something that annoys you or do you want to spend your attention on something that really inspires you? So, I think it’s a great time to be thoughtful about how you want to spend the next decade or so.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. David, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you much luck and fun in your adventures.

David Rock
Thank you so much. Appreciate the opportunity.

709: The Eight Superpowers You Need to Thrive in Change with April Rinne

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April Rinne reveals eight key skills that prepare us to thrive in a world of constant, relentless change.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key mindset shift that helps us thrive in flux 
  2. How to escape the trap of a more mentality
  3. How to re-script your mind to prepare for change 

About April

A World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and ranked one of the “50 Leading Female Futurists” in the world by Forbes, April Rinne is a change navigator: she helps individuals and organizations rethink and reshape their relationship with change, uncertainty, and a world in flux. She is a trusted advisor to well-known startups, companies, financial institutions, nonprofits, and think tanks worldwide, including Airbnb, Nike, Intuit, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, NESTA, Trōv, AnyRoad, and Unsettled, as well as governments ranging from Singapore to South Africa, Canada to Colombia, Italy to India. April is the author of Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors!

  • University of California Irvine. Chart your course to career success at ce.uci.edu/learnnow 
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April Rinne Interview Transcript

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

April Rinne
Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear about the wisdom you have to share about flux. But, first, I want to hear about your notorious handstands. What is the story here?

April Rinne
Oh, I’ve been outed. So, I have been doing handstands for most of my life. Learned to do them as a child, as a gymnast, and then kept doing them. And then, at a certain point in my life, realized that none of my friends that I was doing them with as a child were doing them anymore, and it became a bit of a, like, signature, I suppose. So, I travel a lot, I work internationally, and back in my 20s, actually, some family members challenged me to take a photo of myself doing handstands when I would go to interesting places. They did not realize how seriously I would take them on that challenge.

And so, here we are years later, have visited more than a hundred countries and have handstands in the most random but also most interesting of places. And so, my goal is to keep doing them when I’m hopefully in triple digits. We’ll see.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. I sort of imagine you, I don’t know, you’re at the Taj Mahal or something doing handstands, and then like you’re gathering a crowd, and so that you are also the tourist attraction. Has that happened?

April Rinne
It’s funny you bring that up. Yes, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, the Coliseum in Rome, take your pick of well-known but also really off the beaten path places as well. And what I love is that the vast majority of my handstands over the years have been done when I’ve been traveling on my own. Now, my husband does travel with me and he knows the drill. He’s a wonderful photographer. But most of the time, I actually have to find somebody to take this picture, which means introducing myself to a stranger and trying to explain to them, and often their native language is not English.

So, I’m trying to explain to them in a foreign language that I’m going to stand on my hands and they need to take a picture. And, of course, you get this look of like, “I don’t think I understand what you’re saying at all. And if I do understand what you’re saying, you’re crazy.” And then we sort of go through the paces and they get it, and then, oftentimes, yes, a small crowd gathers, which is just fun in terms of meeting locals. But kids start tumbling and joining in, people start laughing and shouting, it becomes a bit of just like a little celebration, I suppose.

And, for me, it’s not, at that point, about the handstand. It’s about immediately getting to break the ice with people I wouldn’t otherwise get to meet. And it has often led to cups of coffee or tea afterwards, or like, “Tell us about your family,” or, usually, “Where is your husband? Why are you travelling alone?” those sorts of things as well. So, thanks for asking. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s just cool. Well, I don’t have a clever segue but maybe there is one.

April Rinne
Upside-down perspective on the world is what I call it, which leads into how we navigate change.

Pete Mockaitis
You do the work for me. This is perfect. Well, yeah, let’s hear about your book, Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change. What is the big idea behind this book?

April Rinne
Yeah, the big idea is that in a world and a future that is full of change and constant relentless change, that we, as humans, need to radically reshape our relationship to uncertainty to have a healthy and productive outlook.

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said. So, radically reshape our relationship to uncertainty, I’m sure there’s variability and variation quite a bit from person to person. But if you had to generalize, what would you say is the “typical” relationship to uncertainty? And what is an optimal transformation of it to where are we now and where “should” it be?

April Rinne
Yeah, great question. Well, let’s just pause for a minute and think about change, which includes uncertainty, but just a sense of something what is or was something is becoming something else. Change is messy, it’s complicated. Humans tend to love change we opt into. So, a new relationship, a new job, a new adventure, a new haircut. We tend to really resist change we can’t control. So, the kind of change that blindsides you on a Tuesday afternoon, it goes against your expectations, it disrupts your plans, and it creates an environment of uncertainty.

Now, a change that’s easy for you might be really, really hard for me, and vice versa. We know that more change and uncertainty is around the corner, yet knowing this often freaks us out. So, you sort of get these layers of like it’s complicated and it’s really messy. But when it comes to uncertainty, there’s also this piece, like humans really want to be able to know what’s going to happen. We want things to go our way. We want to command, predict, control, engineer the future. And the last 18 months, but we can come back to this, I didn’t write the book about the last 18 months. The last 18 months, however, have been an incredible kind of wakeup to just how unfit, how outdated that way of seeing the world and our place in it is.

And so, this radical reshaping is like, wow, we have structured, and we can come back to this, part of it is neurobiology, neuroscience, part of it is psychology, part of it is just the human condition, we have in many ways, I think, deluded ourselves into believing that we can predict and control and command the future, and that we can have certainty, and that we can, yeah, predict things and know what’s going to happen. And nothing could be farther from the truth.

And in a world in flux, and when we think about flux as constant relentless change, and before you’ve responded to one change, something else has happened, the list goes on and on and on. And that’s actually what the future looks like. More of that, not less, that there is this kind of, “Oh, this isn’t just a wakeup call. This is also a kind of warmup for what’s ahead. And how can we get ahead of that? Instead of constantly reacting to change that something happens and you’re trying to triage it? How can we reshape our relationship to change from the inside out to be fit for this world in flux which is very different than the kind of world many of us were taught to believe we lived in?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is quite a question, and part of me wonders, “Is that even possible?” I take it you think the answer is yes. Could you share with us an inspiring example or case study of someone who’s just a flux master?

April Rinne
Well, I love that you bring this up because, by and large, humans are really pretty bad at this, and that’s part of why I wrote the book. I like to say that I’ve been working on this book since 2018, so it’s been the better part of three years, like in the writing, but it’s really been more like three decades in the making, in the seeding of these ideas. And a big chunk of that time was spent both as a futurist and a strategist, also just as a human and observing that, on the whole, humans, we can adapt to change pretty well when we’re forced to, when our back is against the wall.

But as a proactive, kind of, “I’m going to lean into change because it’s good for me, or I’m actually going to see a change I don’t want to have happen, I’m going to see that nonetheless as an opportunity for growth and learning and improvement,” we don’t do that naturally. And what was making me and, candidly, continuous to make me very concerned about humans moving forward, both individually and collectively as humanity, is that we are, in many cases, stuck in mindsets and with what I call scripts that are not fit for a world in flux, and we need help.

And so, I can point to individuals that are good at certain of the flux superpowers, let’s say. But on the whole, and at the risk of generalizing, are we really fit? Are our mindsets grooved for a future of constant relentless change? I reckon they are not. But in that is an enormous opportunity for each and every one of us to level up. So, we can come back to some of the examples, but I want to put that out there. Now, you might prove me wrong here, Pete, but I’ve never met anybody who’s like, “Change. Tick that box. I’m good.”

Everyone struggles with some part of it, but we’ve all developed our own unique ways of dealing with it, talking about it, feeling about it, etc. There’s a lot we can learn from one another, but I believe we are very early into this journey into a future full of flux but, as such, we will all have homework to do but we’ve all also been given, I look at it, almost like this gift of growth and improvement by upgrading our mental muscles about change.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, sure. Could we hear an example of someone who has got at least a couple of the superpowers of flux going for them that seems to be doing pretty good when it comes to constant relentless change in their world?

April Rinne
Yeah. An example that I often talk about in regards to flux, and again it’s not all eight superpowers, it’s a couple of them, but it is Airbnb and founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. And if you go back, and here I’ll tease out a few of the flux superpowers, they built this company that’s home-sharing.

They saw value in empty space in people’s homes that hotels wrote them off as crazy and foolish, said, “This is never going to go anywhere.” Lo and behold, one of the eight flux superpowers is to see what’s invisible. They saw value in what other people couldn’t see. They saw invisible value, basically, and tapped into that and unlocked it, and created a company that is more valuable than the five largest hotel chains combined. That’s a very flux-y way of seeing one’s business model, if you will, to see what’s invisible, find what other people can’t see, and unlock the value that’s in that.

But, at the same time, another one of the flux superpowers is called “Start with trust.” Again, go back to Airbnb, what were people telling them? “This is crazy. People will never stay in other people’s homes. Why would we trust other humans?” And I’m looking at this always against the backdrop of, “How do we navigate change?” and think about who you turn to when change really hits. You turn to your trusted relationships. And if you don’t have many, you’re in a world of hurt far greater than if you do.

And Airbnb, early on, signaled, “We actually think humans are trustworthy. This isn’t blind trust or naïve trust, but we actually think that we can build a business around humans trusting one another.” Lo and behold, they have. And that, too, I’m looking at this from the perspective of, “How do we navigate change together? How do we navigate change better?”

So, I’ll pause there but those are some of the superpowers start kind of surfacing as we dig deeper.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, maybe let’s have a quick overview of the eight superpowers and maybe have your definition and a sentence or two for what that means, and then we’ll see where to dig deeper.

April Rinne
Yeah, sure. So, there are eight flux superpowers, and I always like to say they’re a menu, not a syllabus so you do not have to do one before two, or two before three, but they stand on their own and they also enhance one another. So, the first flux superpower is to “Run slower,” which says that in a world with an ever-faster pace of change, your key to success is to slow your own pace. And I’ll put in a quick caveat here too. Each and every one of these is counterintuitive in some way. It goes against what, oftentimes, society teaches us. We can circle back to this if you’d like.

The second flux superpower is one that I was just talking about, which is, “See what’s invisible.” And this says that when the future feels uncertainty or blurry, rather than focusing on what’s visible and what’s straight in front of you, we need to focus on what’s invisible. Now this includes both identifying your blind spots but also uncovering new forms of value, new forms of talent, new ideas, new forms of inspiration.

The third flux superpower is “Get lost,” which is all about going beyond your comfort zone and your relationship with the unknown. The fourth flux superpower is “Start with trust,” that says when trust seems broken, assume good intent. And this is all about, as I was mentioning, how we navigate change better together.

The fifth flux superpower is, “Know your enough.” And this gets at our quest for happiness and satisfaction, and really the tension between our obsession with more, kind of more, more, more everything, and how that’s mostly making people miserable, in my experience. The way I like to put it is when you’re always after more, you will never ever find enough. And, yet, when you know you’re enough, you’ll immediately begin to see abundance. And, again, more, we can think of as more income, more power, more prestige, more love, more likes, more clicks, more everything.

So, what does it mean to “Know your enough”? And that’s Y-O-U-R. People often ask me if that’s a typo, and I say no. Knowing your enough includes knowing that you are enough just as you are without doing anything more. So, we can come back to that if you’d like.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s funny when I read that, I guess I didn’t even think about the apostrophe, and I was like, “Know your enough. Like, your number, your level. And what is the level at which it is enough?” which could be different for you versus me versus another. But, yeah, layers. Thank you. Okay, what’s next?

April Rinne
So, the sixth flux superpower is “Create your portfolio career.” This is about designing your professional development and identity in ways that are fit for a future of work in flux. And the punchline here is that I firmly believe that the career of the future looks far less like a singular path to pursue and much more like your portfolio that you create and curate as an artist or an investor would.

The seventh superpower is “Be all the more human,” which gets at our relationship to technology and the tension that we have in spending ever more time with our devices, yet ever less time with one another. And last, but not least, the eighth flux superpower is “Let go of the future,” which is all about our relationship to control, something I have found is tricky for most everyone today, and I always put a caveat on this one as well.

Letting go of the future does not mean giving up. It does not mean failure. It does not mean doomsday-ing. It actually means quite the opposite. So, again, going back to this counterintuitive-ness, even this contrarian-ness, that pervades much of the thesis of flux.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Ooh, so much fun there. So, tell us then, when it comes to professionals seeking to be awesome at their jobs, what’s your take on what is the most important yet also most rare of these superpowers that we should really zero in on cultivating?

April Rinne
Well, I’m not sure that I would put the most important and the most rare…

Pete Mockaitis
We could take two. We’ll take two.

April Rinne
Yeah, I think we’ll do two because I can definitely tell you which ones are most popular. Let me do this, I’m going to put out a few because they’re all very, very sticky for professionals in the workplace of how to be awesome at your job. No question.

So, no doubt, no question, or perhaps no surprise, the first superpower “Run slower” absolutely popular and difficult because this is burnout, this is exhaustion, this is anxiety, this is “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I constantly…? Why am I in this rat race? Why am I on this hamster wheel? How did I end up here? This is not what I had planned for my profession, for my livelihood, etc.” So, “Run slower” for sure.

Interestingly, as soon as you start getting into “Run slower” you do end up often over at “Know your enough,” and that’s sort of, “How do we define what is valuable and important? And what metrics are you using not just to judge how you show up at work and what you ‘do’ but also how you show up in life?” And so, it really starts to unpack some of our values and whether or not those values are reflected at our organization, so on and so forth.

And then the third one, which, not surprisingly, it is the one superpower that is related to work and the workplace, and that is “Create your portfolio career.” So, any of those would be ones I would start with.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, when we talk about “Knowing your enough,” Y-O-U-R, no apostrophe, tells us, how do we arrive at that knowledge?

April Rinne
Arriving at that knowledge, I think there’s a process of kind of peeling back the layers of your unique onion around this. And I like to ask people, and this does relate to every one of the superpowers in some way, kind of getting your flux baseline is what I call it. And most people haven’t really thought a lot about their relationship to change as a whole. We’re busy reacting to change, “Something happened and I need to do something about it.”

But we’re not really thinking about, “What are the things, what are the emotions, and the feelings, and the experiences, that are driving me to react in the way that I am? And what is…” what I call in the book, “What is my script about change? What are the stories and the narratives and the norms that I’ve been taught about how the world is supposed to work, and what my role in it is supposed to be?”

And I share this because a lot of our scripts, really, it’s directly related to knowing your enough, a lot of our scripts are increasingly being shown to be not that fit for a world in flux. They’re quite good for worlds that we can command and control, and sort of tie up in a neat tidy bow, but they’re not that good for when the future you thought you were going to have just sort of melts or falls apart or doesn’t work out like you thought it would be, like you thought it would, which I think many of us had experienced in different ways over the last 18 months.

So, back to knowing your enough. For a lot of people, and here I would include myself, we were taught that more is better, and like inherently better, and that the more you had, the more important you were, the more valuable you were to society. And I think, for a lot of people, that’s more money but also more power, more prestige, more love, more choices, more clothes, more clicks. Like, I was saying, it’s more everything.

And, yet, look around and ask yourself, “What is that getting me? Is more actually…?” and here I would say in the workplace, the more meetings you have, the more productive you are. The more productive you are, we can come back and question, meetings are not a good metric for productivity, but the more hours I work.

Pete Mockaitis
The more emails you get, the more important you are. The more emails you send, the more productive you are.

April Rinne
Yes. Yes. And, yet, and again, we can put this on a financial metric, an emotional metric, a workplace metric, take your pick, more is mostly making us miserable. It’s not necessarily leading to greater happiness or satisfaction. It’s not necessarily…it might be making us feel more productive if you’re measuring your life in how many emails you send, but not if you’re measuring it necessarily in outputs, impacts, ways, number of people that you’re able to serve and better, and the quality of your own life that you’re living.

And so, what I like to ask people, the punchline, the metric for this superpower is, “What is your enough-ness? Have you thought about your point of enough?” Because what I find a lot of times, and I’m generalizing a bit here, but we are, particularly in Western culture, we are really over-indexed on stuff. We have more. A lot of people have more than they need in terms of stuff, and whether that’s cars or clothes or physical possessions. But we’re kind of under-indexed on a lot of the humanity stuff. We actually don’t have enough human connection. We don’t have enough dignity. We don’t have enough tolerance. We don’t have enough integrity. So, we’ve got this kind of too much and not enough but not really a sense of what’s in the middle.

And so, I ask people, “What do you have too much of and what do you have too little of?” And too little can include, “I have too few hours in the day,” “I have too little time to spend with my family,” “I have too little…” and you get into this sense of where we have a culture of insufficiency. And so, finding your enough requires getting clear on, “What are you over- and under-indexed on?” And, partly, I’m not giving one specific answer here because everyone’s equation, everyone’s relationship is different because each of us has a different lived-experienced and different things that we’re strong at, weak at, etc.

And so, it’s interesting because even on the enough factor, “Did you grow up with enough love in your household?” I know it sounds a little bit woo-woo but, in fact, not enough love and care as a child will show up in all kinds of ways as an adult but don’t actually get you closer to your enough. You start to compensate for love with money, etc. And so, all of this, I throw out to get people to start peeling back the layers of their own onion around enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s really thought-provoking in terms of what you have too much of and not enough of. And it’s funny, when it comes to money, maybe nobody would say they have too much money but they might say that they have more than enough money, so you can just change the words around a little bit.

April Rinne
Well, what’s interesting, can I…? Oh, sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
Go take it away, yeah.

April Rinne
So, this cycle of more. And, again, to be really clear on all of these things, I am not saying that more is bad or anything. I’m just saying let’s get clear on what’s really what here. I’m not saying that for any of the superpowers, I’m not saying like the counter is not good or bad. It’s more like, “Have you thought about this that there are more options on the table than you might realize?”

Here’s the thing about more though, how many people do you know that say, “I will be happy when…” “I will be successful when…” “I will be…” fill in the blanks, when? When implies that you don’t have something you need. You need more. And, yet, when you get to that point, so let’s just say more money, “When I have more money…” then what do you need? You need more money. It’s no longer enough. You need more.

And you get on this kind of vicious cycle that feeds on itself and that never allows you to acknowledge and rest and be easy with enough. And that’s the part we get stuck, call it a hamster wheel, call it our own monkey brain that’s kind of running laps around our minds, but it keeps people from realizing that, actually, a decision to be happy, it actually can happen right now. And when you realize that you might already have enough, and that’s kind of that’s your point of sufficiency, satisfaction, again not too little, not too much, that’s the kind of contentedness. And we can talk about the difference between happiness and contentedness, but that sense of kind of peace and comfort as opposed to this drive for ever more.

Now, I’m not saying don’t strive, don’t try to do things, and I’m not saying…What’s interesting too is if you want more and more and more, okay, what’s that more going to get you? And this is where it gets super interesting because of the belief that if you want more, let’s just use money, you want more money so that you can hoard it or keep it for yourself, okay, I’m not sure how much better that’s going to make the world.

But if you want more in order that you can share it with others, in order that you can gift it, be generous, help better the lives of others, that’s actually a pretty good more but you’re not keeping that for yourself. So, you start getting into issues around ego and generosity as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I guess if we talk about hoarding it, like you probably won’t feel much impact in terms of, “I want more money because, I don’t know, going in an unsafe neighborhood with my children, and I’m worried that they’ll be shot.” Okay. Well, if you have more money and you get to a different neighborhood, you’ll probably feel that as an upgrade in the happiness and peace and contentment parts of your life versus, “You know, I’ve got one million in my mutual fund account, and two is just so much cooler,” then you probably won’t even feel that impact at all except when you refresh the page and go, “Oh, two. Nice. Now it should be three.” There you are.

April Rinne
Yeah. And it’s interesting and, if I may, I’m going to share a personal story here because it factors in exactly into what we’re talking about. And it is interesting because a lot of times people are like, “Oh, I want more money because it’s actually a hedge against uncertainty.” And I totally get that. It is kind of the more money you have, the more options you have, the more ways that you can potentially navigate uncertainty and change. That’s somewhat true.

I also would say that that way of thinking can blind you to what’s really needed when we navigate change. And the story I have to tell, it relates to why I ended up writing the book as well, and I sort of mentioned that I bring the lens of a futurist to change, I bring the lens of a global traveler and global citizen, if you will, to change, but I also bring other human and lived-experience with change and uncertainty. And I often say that my journey or my baptism entry into flux began more than 25 years ago when I was in college and both of my parents died in a car accident.

And I share this because I was 20, and speaking of careers and jobs and all of that, 20 is a really interesting age because I was old enough to be living on my own. I was at college. I could take care of myself day to day, but I was young enough, I really did not know how the world worked or my role in it, all of that. And it had a profound effect on how I thought about my career and how I thought about more versus enough.

Now, back then, I never would’ve expected that I’d read a book about this kind of thing. That wasn’t in the plan at all. But I started asking questions at the age of 20 that I now see, many years later, people going through some kind of a mid-life crisis or some kind of real-life, “What is my purpose on earth?” kind of thing. And the question that I would ask myself every day was, “If I were to die tomorrow…” because look what just happened. No one knows how long we have, “If I were to die tomorrow, what would the world need me to do today?”

And it wasn’t about me, like, “What do I need?” my ego. It was, “What does the world need?” because we all have finite time, and we all have a lot we want to contribute and can contribute to others. So, I keep asking myself this question, and then the answer was never “Get more money.” It wasn’t. It was this sense of, “Yes, I need enough money, for sure.” At that point, I was 20, I became, overnight, self-sufficient. There was no back stop. There was no house to go home to, so to speak, when my parents died. It was like, “Okay, I’ve got to figure out a way to move forward.”

And so, it was very clear to me that I needed enough money to be able to take care of myself, but anything over that became like this, “Is that what the world needs from me today?” And it’s interesting because I spend a lot of time talking to people about grief and loss and this kind of change and uncertainty, and, “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” as well. And never, never has the answer been, on someone’s deathbed, that, “Oh, I wish I’d earned more money.” It has definitely been, “I wish I’d prioritized my family more. I wish I’d gone after that job that spoke to my heart, but maybe I would’ve earned a little bit less,” kind of thing.

And so, it’s interesting because even when it comes to how to become awesome at your job, these are the kinds of value judgments and value assessments that we’re doing all the time. And I think one of the best ways to be awesome at your job is to make sure that you’ve got a job that aligns with some of these bigger even existential questions, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, thank you. That’s powerful and a lot there. And so, it sounds like you’ve worked through some powerful questions that really get you places. Can you maybe give us a rundown of some of the most insight-provoking questions and how you recommend sitting with them effectively?

April Rinne
What a great question. So, I don’t mean for this to be a pitch for the book but it’s going to sound that way, and that is simply that, at the end of each chapter, I wrote the books because I wanted to help people ask these questions. And these questions that don’t…they don’t have easy answers, and the point is not to come up with the answer. The point is to actually sit with them and think about, “Wow, I’ve been so focused on metrics A, B, C, I hadn’t even paused to consider what might be behind that or this other set of questions.”

So, at the end of each chapter, there are a series of five questions for each chapter that are designed to provoke exactly this kind of thing, and, again, each one tailored to the superpower. So, I’m wondering which one you want start with. What’s interesting is the “Know your enough” is kind of the questions that we were just going after. Like, “What do you have too much of? What do you have too little of? Have you ever thought of that before?” And, also, “Could you draw what enough looks like to you? Don’t write it. Could you draw a picture?”

That gets really interesting because if you have somebody who’s drawing a bunch of houses and cars and stuff, that’s one view of what is more. But then, actually, if you see somebody who draws a kind of Earth where humans are connected and it’s sort of peaceful, that’s still enough but it’s a different worldview. So, that’s “Know your enough.” But let’s just take another one, “Start with trust.” It gets really interesting.

So, generally speaking, are you quick to trust or to mistrust? Just your default, like, if you don’t know otherwise, do you trust or mistrust? And why? Where does that come from? Most people, our tendency and the script that society has taught us is that humans should not trust one another. That, candidly, Pete, I shouldn’t trust you right now and you should not trust me. That’s what society says. And, yet, where did that come from? Like, really? Because we’re in the midst of a trust crisis and trust is the way forward and yet we’re doing everything we can to undermine it.

And so, you start unpacking questions around trust and you start realizing how often, without our even noticing it, we have a narrative in our mind that humans, on average, are not trustworthy. And what’s worse, very few people actually trust themselves. I mean, we learn to. But, like, how does it feel, do you trust yourself? How does it feel when others don’t trust you? Oh, it turns out, you don’t actually generally trust other people.

So, we’re trying to reset our relationship to trust because, as I was saying earlier, trust is the path forward. If we don’t figure out that one thing, there is not a future in which any of us actually can have a lot of hope. But when we learn to start with trust, and what I call design from trust, a whole new universe of opportunities and goodness of others shows up.

So, those kinds of very essential questions. Back to “Run slower” do you feel like you’re running faster today? Why? Where did that come from? When did it start? Is it something you’re driving yourself to do or others are driving you to do it? You got to get this baseline and then you can start saying, “Okay, how do I need to kind of bring the pendulum back, bring more balance, harmony into my life?” And then, in the book, the superpowers are kind of the how-to and what are the practices and disciplines and exercises that you go through to improve that part of your relationship to change.

Pete Mockaitis
And on that trust stuff, it gets me thinking of Dan Ariely’s work, and it’s not bad. Yeah, people do cheat but humans are pretty good. It depends on the context and all kinds of variables that you modify but it could be a lot worse.

April Rinne
Right. Well, I love that you bring that up because I am not saying there aren’t bad apples out there. I’m not saying blind trust, or naïve trust, or just like willy-nilly trust but don’t verify kind of thing. But what’s fascinating to me is that we have designed so many of our structures, institutions, systems, from the basic premise that the average individual cannot be trusted, and that’s the key. Because when we design that if we don’t know, we do not trust.

A minor flip of the switch that, again, you need to account for bad things happening and some people not being trustworthy, but if you treat that as the exception not the rule, you design a different system. And that’s where it gets fascinating because what happens when we design from a premise of mistrust, we throw out so much goodness in people. When I think about, “Would I rather assume that people are good and have an abundance of goodness and generosity show up, and, yeah, I may have to pay a price every now and again, bad calculation, didn’t work out,” versus, “I’m going to live my life assuming that no one is trustworthy, and live in a system that is designed for untrustworthiness?” you’re basically sucking the life out of you and the people around you. So, you do have to be willing that you won’t always get it right, but that price you’re going to pay is worth its weight 10,000-fold over for all the goodness and generosity that you’re going to see instead.

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

April Rinne
Oh, goodness. FluxMindset.com? No, it’s a joy to join you today. I’m really just happy to be able to share more about it. And, yeah, the way I like to put it is when everything is in flux, everything can benefit from a flux mindset. So, there you have it.

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

April Rinne
One of my favorite quotes is inspired by the last superpower, “Let go of the future,” and it’s by Lao Tzu who wrote the Tao Te Ching, and it is, “When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.” So, I love that. Lots of good quotes from Lao Tzu.

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

April Rinne
I think one of the books that shows up in Flux, and I continue to refer to time and again, is called The Body Keeps the Score and it’s about the relationship between mind and body, particularly around trauma, but there’s a lot around just anxiety and mental health. And the body of research that’s in this book around how our body holds what our minds and hearts and souls are feeling, but without necessarily words, the ways that shows up and how much we need to pay attention to our bodies, and the kinds of things that we’re holding that we’re often burying, absolutely cannot recommend that book enough.

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

April Rinne
I was thinking about this because it’s so basic and yet so powerful. I use Post-its. I use Post-its for absolutely everything. I have a wall that’s covered in Post-its on any given day. If you ask my husband, when I travel, what’s the first thing I pack on a business trip, it’s actually Post-its. So, it’s simple but it has been my super tool over the years.

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

April Rinne
There are increasingly ones about flux but I actually kind of want to come full circle on this one, back to the handstands. And it does show up a little bit in the superpower “See what’s invisible,” but this whole notion of the upside-down perspective on the world. So, I do have people often quoting some aspects of my handstands and upside-down perspective. Why bring this up is that we are trained to see things, literally, figuratively right-side up. There’s one way that you look at something.

And, yet, this goes beyond change. When we flip our perspective, and here I’ll say literally and figuratively, when we look at something upside-down, we see it completely differently. And what I can tell you is sometimes it looks even better. So, I love this like flip your perspective, go upside-down, see something you’ve been struggling with in a fresh light, you might not only see it better but you might find your solution in your path forward.

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

April Rinne
FlexMindset.com is for all things Flux and book related. AprilRinne.com is my personal site where you will find the handstands.

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

April Rinne
I’m going to show my bias but it is all about think about get clear on your flux baseline, groove a flux mindset, open a flux mindset, harness your flux superpowers, and reshape your relationship to change from the inside out from here on forward.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. April, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in your fluxing.

April Rinne
Thank you very much, Pete. And may the flux be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

680: Becoming Unstoppable in the Face of Chaos, Crisis, and Change with Gina Osborn

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Gina Osborn says: "The more you tolerate, the more chaos you're going to have in your life."

Former FBI Special Agent Gina Osborn reveals her top tips for masterfully dealing with the difficulties of chaos, crises, and changes.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to find your footing as a new leader
  2. How to stay cool and calm in the face of a crisis
  3. How to convince others to embrace change

About Gina

Having spent over 28 years in law enforcement, chasing Cold War spies in the Army and terrorists and hackers as an FBI Agent, Gina L. Osborn knows about dealing with chaos, crisis and change.  Through it all, she learned that crises can be managed, chaos can be controlled and change is inevitable.  Gina is a leadership consultant and International Speaker.  She hosts Lead Like a Lady – a Real Life Podcast – featuring inspiring women who have made it to the top in male dominated industries.

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Gina Osborn Interview Transcript

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

Gina Osborn
My pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we need to start with an exciting FBI story, Gina. Can you give us a riveting tale that tees us up for talking about calm and crises and managing our emotions?

Gina Osborn
I’ve dealt with cyber crises, I led the team that investigated the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack. I dealt with terrorism in Southeast Asia, so, gosh, a specific story. There are so many.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, how about the Sony one if you’re open to suggestion, let’s hear it.

Gina Osborn
Sure. Okay, yeah. So, the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2014, we got a call from Sony Pictures Entertainment who had a very menacing screenshot on all of the computers for Sony Pictures Entertainment, and it said that the Guardians of Peace had taken over their systems and some menacing language about “We told you…” blah, blah, blah.

And, essentially, what the whole thing was about was that North Korea was very unhappy with the way their supreme leader was being depicted in a Seth Rogan-James Franco movie, and they had sent their displeasure to Sony as well as, I think, the State Department. And so, one day, the Monday before Thanksgiving, they pretty much shut everything down. And then, over the course of a couple of weeks, they were putting it out on Pastebin, all the information, emails between the executives, embarrassing emails, content, scripts, things like that. So, yeah, it was pretty devastating.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And how did you resolve it?

Gina Osborn
So, I had a crack team of cyber people that I’m very, very proud of. And they went to work and, within a very short amount of time, they identified North Korea as the culprit. And the investigation continued, and it turned out that North Korea was also behind the WannaCry ransomware that was out that caused, I think, a billion dollars’ worth of loss as well as a hack into the Bank of Bangladesh where they stole, I think, about 81 million dollars. So, my folks wound up indicting some folks over in North Korea, and it was just a very, very interesting insight into how they’re basically funding their nuclear weapons program.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s wild. That’s wild. And so, I understand that when you started that you took over the FBI cyber and computer forensics program, you didn’t have much technical knowledge. Can you tell us how that came to be and how you managed?

Gina Osborn
Yes, I’d like to say that I was a very good leader, but when you don’t have technical credibility with your team, it’s kind of hard to lead. So, I was on the FBI inspection staff. In order for us to get promoted into the executive ranks, we have to do about 18 months on the mothership. So, I went back to Washington, D.C., I was on the inspection staff, and I was a team leader, and none of the other team leaders volunteered to inspect cyber programs because cyber back then, this was like in 2005, it was relatively new, and not a lot of people had the technical expertise to really inspect a cyber program within a field office.

And so, I didn’t learn in the Army not to volunteer for things, which is something I should’ve learned, but I’m glad that I didn’t learn it because I volunteered to go and look at the Chicago office, and they had a very large cyber program. And then I just sort of became the cyber programmatic expert within the inspection staff. And then, right when I was going back to Los Angeles, they had created the first Cyber Assistant Special Agent in Charge position, so I put my hat in the ring, and I wound up getting that.

And, yeah, I definitely had to change my leadership style because I would always lead from the front leader, but when you can’t lead from the front when you don’t have technical knowledge when you’re cyber person, so I became a servant leader, and I got my cyber geniuses, everything they needed to do their jobs, and they were wildly successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then, I’m curious, in terms of just your own, the chatter in your own head and your mindset, when you find yourself in that place, are you like, “Oh, shoot. I’m going to screw up. I’m going to fail. I’m not equipped for this,” like how does your brain go and how do you manage those sorts of thoughts?

Gina Osborn
Well, when I went into the military, I think fewer than 10% of the soldiers were women, and that was in ’87. When I went into the FBI in 1996, there were only 14% of all of the agents were women, so I think I kind of, in the beginning, I had the negative thoughts in my head. I had gone from a cocktail waitress to a counterintelligence agent in the Army pretty much overnight, like within a six-month period.

So, I had experienced those things back in the day but I think, at that point, after I’d been in for about 15 years in law enforcement, I think, really, all of the skill, the leadership traits that I had taken on up until that point had been very masculine leadership traits that didn’t really suit me because I was a very good communicator, a good problem-solver. I was very empathetic. I like to build teams and create relationships and things like that.

So, when I could no longer lead like a man in a male-dominated environment, because my cyber folks kind of forced me into a whole another leadership style, I really began to shine as a leader because I was leading authentically, because I was using the skills that I was authentically good at, as opposed to taking on leadership traits from the men around me. And I was able to build an empire with my team in cyber and computer forensics because everybody had ownership in the mission.

My job was to keep the race horses on the reservation and, like I said, get them everything they needed to do their jobs. So, I became more and more confident in that position because I was leading from the right place.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, can you give us some examples of what are some things that maybe race horses don’t get, or they find frustrating, or where you specifically add value and make their lives great?

Gina Osborn
Well, I would say the communication was a big thing because although I didn’t speak their language, I learned enough about their language to be able to dumb it down to share it with my bosses so I can get them funding and approvals for operations that they wanted to do. So, that was one thing. And we would go to these presentations, and whenever they started to speak over everybody’s head, I was the one where I was kind of saying, “Hey, we need to dumb this down just a little bit so the common person can understand what’s going on.”

I had been at headquarters so I knew where all the money trees at headquarters were, so the way to a cyber person’s heart is through their equipment. And so, they gave me a list, a huge list of equipment that I wanted, and I was able to procure that for them, and really building relationships. I had been in the Los Angeles division for pretty much all of my career, other than my time at headquarters, and I had really good relationships with chiefs of police because I had worked with them when I was a working agent.

So, when my folks needed additional resources because they wanted to build task forces, I could go out to the chiefs, and say, “Hey, can you give us a detective or two so we can have them participate in this upcoming threat, and teach them how to do these cyber investigations,” and that worked really well. And we were able to build a $6 million, or a $7 million state-of-the-art computer forensics lab as a result of relationships that I had, and my team had. And so, really, when I built trust with them by finding how I could contribute, and although it wasn’t technically, I had other things that they really needed, and so that’s how we wound up being a really good team.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so your book Becoming Unstoppable, I’d love to hear more about that. If we’re not already unstoppable, how do we become unstoppable?

Gina Osborn
So, we’re still working on the book. However, I’m an executive coach, and I coach people on how to lead through chaos, crises, and change, because so many times, when we’re looking at, say, chaos, for example. And, really, what is that? That’s the nagging little things that are coming up all the time, and we just are on overload because we’re looking at so many emails, and we’re getting so many phone calls, and COVID, and you’ve got family problems, you’ve got all of these things.

And so, when I talk to people about chaos, the first thing I say is, “What are you tolerating?” Because the more you tolerate, the more chaos you’re going to have in your life. So, when I’m working with my clients, I have them make a list of all of the little nagging things. These aren’t the monumental relationship problems because we can work on those a little bit later, but if you just identify the little, the energy zappers, the annoying things, the things that are keeping you from getting to where you want to be.

And then, just for example, you have boxes in the garage, and you know they need to be unpacked, so every time you pull into the garage, you’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to unpack those boxes,” or the leaky faucet in the kitchen. That’s another thing that every time you walk into the kitchen, you’re confronted with this leaky faucet. Well, take a couple of hours on a Saturday, have the kids unpack the boxes, call a plumber to fix the kitchen, and then every time you go into the garage, in the kitchen, you’re going to feel that sense of relief, right?

So, if you do that and you start really eliminating these tolerations, you’d be so surprised at how much space that you have to deal with your priorities and getting down the road to where you want to be.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really interesting. So, things like unpack boxes and dripping faucets can, indeed, impede our ability to move forward on what matters. So, you’re saying the best move isn’t just try to ignore them and hunker down on your priorities, but rather, first, address them.

Gina Osborn
Yes. And when you address enough of them, and you find that you’ve got this extra space, you’re going to be able to see chaos coming from around the corner, and then you’re going to be able to prevent it before it gets into your life.

I can’t stand it when I’m not getting the ball down the field. That’s my place where it just drives me nuts when things come up and I have to deal with other things. And then, all of a sudden, I’m dealing with so many things that I’m not even thinking about getting the ball down the field. But that, if we actively just eliminate the things that we’re tolerating.

And these can also be relationships that we have, they can be arguments that we have with our friends, or our family members, or our significant others that are never going to be won, so why are we even bringing up someone leaving milk glasses around or someone not picking up their dirty laundry or something like that? It’s like why are we having these arguments that we know that are never going to be resolved?

So, I think there’s so much room for us to get rid of that clutter. And once we get rid of that clutter, that’s when we get closer to becoming unstoppable because it’s not the little things that are going to trip us up. We’re going to be prepared for when the big things come down the pike that we’re going to get over or around or under that wall, but no matter what, we’re going to get through that wall.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say it’s not going to be resolved, so let’s not just have this argument, what does that look like in practice?

Gina Osborn
It’s about setting boundaries, and that’s another thing that we need to do in our relationships. Because when you set boundaries, that means we’re going to create a safe place around us to work and live. And, also, it teaches people how to treat us. So, if we know that every time we decide to go down this road, that’s a trigger for an argument, let’s not go down that road. Let’s just agree that this is never going to be resolved. Otherwise, we’re just going to be wasting our time.

So, really, it’s about time management and really recognizing what’s going to get fixed and what if it doesn’t get fixed. Okay, so you leave the milk glasses out. All right. Well, maybe I’m doing something that’s bothering you, and then you can clean up after me in other places. But I think if we just let these unresolved issues just continue to grow, it’s just going to, again, zap our energy and not allow us to get the ball down the field.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I guess with the milk glass example, you’re freeing yourself from the burden of having that argument repeatedly, and so that mental energy is liberated there. Now, if the milk glasses remain there, and so you’ve got some mental energy drain from seeing them repeatedly. So, is there also sort of an internal mindset shift that occurs there? Or, it seems like, in a way, you’ve eliminated one problem but you still got another.

Gina Osborn
Right. So, you have to make a decision. Either you’re going to pick up the milk glasses and put them in the kitchen or you’re going to argue it, or argue with it. And you have to evaluate, “Is this relationship worth me having to pick these milk glasses up and put them in the kitchen, because this person refuses to do it?”

I mean, maybe it’s just a symptom of a bigger issue. And as we clear out the things that we’re tolerating, we need to evaluate relationships, “Are they working or are they not working? Does it work for you when you see your neighbor, and you’re getting ready to go to work and you’re going to be late because you’re always kind of running late, and then you’ve got a neighbor who wants to talk to you for 20 minutes before they let you out of your driveway?”

So, we just have to set the boundaries so we can choose, “Okay, is this going to be part of my priorities? Is this relationship going to be part of my priorities?” Because if the relationship isn’t going to be part of the priorities, then you don’t have time to spend that 20 minutes with the neighbor. You’re going to have to create some sort of boundary to let them know that this isn’t working for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And so then, that’s interesting because you may decide, “I’m okay having no relationship with my neighbor ever.”

Gina Osborn
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And if it goes to the darkest place in terms of, like, “I’m willing to take that risk when they say, ‘Bob, I’m done with the morning conversations.’”

Pete Mockaitis
So, you start with that intent of clarity in terms of “What’s at stake? What’s the risk? Can I live with that?” and then that gives you some power. But, yes, it sounds like that’s where we’re going to go next is how you have those conversations about setting boundaries effectively.

Gina Osborn
Yes. Well, everything can’t be a priority. So, if you want to have time with your family, you want to get a promotion, you want to spend time with your elderly parents and take care of an elderly parent, where does the neighbor come in on the priority list? And everything can’t be a priority. So, if the neighbor has got to go, then, like I said, you can’t do everything right. And that, again, brings chaos into our lives when we don’t have priorities set and everything is a priority, and so all we’re doing is juggling all day, and that doesn’t make for a good quality of life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. So, we’ve set up some things here such that your overall mental peace and space is in a better place for when crisis does happen. So, when the crisis happens, maybe first can you define that for us, a crisis? How do you recommend we navigate through it?

Gina Osborn
So, before we go there, just remember that if we don’t deal with chaos, it could very well turn into a crisis so we definitely want to know that the importance of getting rid of the chaos before it becomes a crisis, that’s going to help you in the long run. But what is a crisis? So, a crisis can be anything from a death of a family member, illness, it could be a divorce, it could be any major change, anything that happens at work. If we’re watching the news, there are so many cyber attacks that are happening. That would be considered a crisis as well.

And I’ve had to deal with a lot of these crises between my time in the military as well as my time in the FBI. And so, whenever something major would happen, the first thing I would do is set priorities. First, I want to hear about everything, of course, what’s happening, everything that everybody has, give it to me as the leader. But then I need to set priorities.

And those priorities can change but at least there’s got to be some sort of roadmap out there that, “This is what we’re going to follow until there’s a change.” Now, as new information comes in, you need to be flexible and you need to be able to change with that. It’s also important to have a great team with you. Whenever I would have a crisis, the last person that I would want on my team is somebody who is going to be zapping us of our energy, somebody who would be complaining, somebody who wouldn’t be working as hard as everybody else. So, you definitely want to choose a good team around you to deal with the crisis and eliminate anything that’s getting in your way of going down the road to getting your priorities checked.

And then it’s just working every day and keeping your eye on the ball and getting through it. I think a lot of time, people maybe give up before the crisis is dealt with but, sometimes, we don’t have that luxury. But a lot of times, people will grieve for a very, very long time because they choose not to deal with the crisis. So, I think when there’s a crisis, or I know when there’s a crisis, setting priorities, having a good team, having a roadmap to get to the end of dealing with a crisis, and also knowing what success looks like so that there can be an end to what this crisis is.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so then, when it comes to the setting of priorities, how do you recommend we arrive at them? Like, are there some key questions or a thought process that you go through?

Gina Osborn
Well, my crisis would be different than other people’s crisis, but if you look at what the crisis is and, really, identify, “Okay, again, what does success look like? Where are we going with this? Are we going to be mired in the crisis until it chews it up and spits it out? Or, how do we get out of it or evolve out of what’s happening now?” So, really, that’s where the priorities come in, and setting those priorities of, “Okay, we’re going to do X, Y, and Z. And this is what we’re going to do until this time.” It’s very important to know where you’re going as opposed to just being stuck into an undertow of a crisis.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I guess what’s tricky about a crisis is that there could be very well be dozens of directions that feel kind of urgent all at once. So, maybe could you walk us through an example of, hey, crisis appeared, and here’s how you arrived at the priorities, and what they were?

Gina Osborn
Sure. So, with Sony Pictures Entertainment, looking at, “Okay, we have this crisis because we’ve got a company that’s on American soil that has been attacked by an adversary, a nation state. That is a problem. Okay, what do we know? So, send people out, get the team together, identify who’s going to be on this team, who has the skills to be able to identify who did it,” because that’s what the FBI does is they conduct the investigation.

Also, we had to be mindful as to what was going on with the victim company because, I think, 47,000 – someone will have to check my math – employees and former employees, all their information, their Social Security numbers, privately owned everything was out there in the wind. So, now you have a workforce that’s been victimized so we had to address that by giving presentations about identity theft, and also having great…there is a huge media push, wanting to know what was going on, what happened to Sony, all of this information was coming out about every three days, it was posted to Pastebin by the adversary, so that was going on. So, really, understanding what success looked like as far as helping the victim get through it. And then working every day to conduct the investigation so that we can identify who did it and bring those people to justice.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you’re in the midst of things and if you find yourself freaking out, how do you return to calm and collected and wise?

Gina Osborn
Well, as a leader, you can’t really freak out because the biggest way to lose trust with your team is through unpredictable behavior. So, if you are going to be leading a crisis, it is very important for you to maintain your people’s trust and confidence by keeping a cool and level head, and really leading. But there are times, in the middle of a crisis, that people are going to get tired, and that’s why it’s so important to have a good team around you.

If you’re going through a divorce, if you’re dealing with an illness, different things can happen within a family, making sure you have that team. A lot of people are fearful or they’re embarrassed or they’re ashamed in reaching out to other people to ask for help. I don’t know about you, Pete, but whenever somebody is going through a problem and they ask me for my help, I am honored to help them out with the problem. And I think a lot of people feel that way, so people shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help because if you’re going through something very, very difficult, you don’t have to do it alone. Get a team around you that’s going to help you through that crisis, and that’s very, very important.

So, whenever I would get tired, I mean, I had other leaders that I work with, and they were doing a great job, so, really, that’s why you have a great team around you because sometimes you can’t throw the punches every day. Sometimes you got to sit down and rest for a minute, and that’s why you have a good team around you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we talked about the chaos, we talked about the crisis. Now, how about change?

Gina Osborn
Change is inevitable. Change is going to happen. And I’ve worked with some clients who have a very, very strong culture and tradition, and their workforce is resistant to change. In fact, I dealt with it myself when I was with the FBI, especially after 9/11. How do you go from being a criminal investigative organization to a national security intelligence gathering organization? We went from investigators to intelligence collectors almost overnight. And so, how do you take a workforce that were working gangs and drugs and organized crime and bank robberies, and tell them that they’re going to work terrorism now?

So, I definitely got an education because I was counterterrorism coordinator in Los Angeles after 9/11, and we had to create 15 terrorism squads within like an 18-month period. And so, really trying to enlist people and giving them ownership and being part of the change, that’s going to break down the resistance as opposed to saying, “This is how we’re going to do it,” and then do it. I don’t think…it has to come from the top down. I think it has to be very collaborative when you’re trying to turn the ship, do a U-turn on a great big ship, and it doesn’t come overnight.

But people are going to be resistant to change and, again, it comes with communication, “How can I communicate this change? How can I get people involved? How can we give them ownership in having this change take place?” And I think the more people who are involved, the more it’s going to be an easier change for people. But, yeah, when you’re steep in culture and tradition, it’s very difficult to change, but it can happen.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you’re having some of those communications in one-on-one or in small groups, and trying to bring about some additional ownership, do you have any favorite approaches or phrases? What do those conversations look, sound, feel like?

Gina Osborn
Oh, boy, my favorite military phrases. “This isn’t a volunteer army,” sometimes. It just depends on what situation you’re in. But I think it’s really important as a leader to understand why there’s resistance because sometimes resistance, I mean, most of the time resistance is going to be fear-based. So, they don’t understand it, maybe they don’t think it needs to happen, maybe they’re afraid that with the change comes other responsibilities that the employee may not feel that they’re going to be able to do.

So, I think really understanding where the resistance is coming from and addressing those issues. Okay, so perhaps it’s a training issue, so bring training in and talk about it. Talk about what the change is going to look like, and talk about the reason for the change. If that’s communicated, I think people, “Okay, I understand that so maybe I’ll get on board.” But it is a process. If you’re in a resistant workforce to make change, but change can happen but you have to be consistent with it.

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

Gina Osborn
If anybody is looking to eliminate chaos from their life, for your audience, Pete, I have a free e-book called 7 Key Ways to Eliminate Chaos From Your Life and From Your Business. And if they go to GinaLOsborn.com, they can
download that e-book for free.

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

Gina Osborn
Okay, I’m going to modify it a little bit, “She who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.” And that’s a modified quote from Albert Einstein.

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

Gina Osborn
I’m learning patience. I’m still a work in progress but I think I’m a big believer in embracing your weaknesses because your imperfections are what make you extraordinary. So, yes, these days I’m kind of working on patience a little bit.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Gina Osborn
I like to play. I definitely like to play. I like to write. I like to fly kites. Any playful things, I just really enjoy doing. Letting the little Gina inside me go out and have fun. That’s always good.

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

Gina Osborn
You know, it’s funny, yes. My dream when I went into the military was to work for the CIA, and I didn’t get into the CIA, and it was devastating to me. But I had to figure something else out, so I like to say that even if your ship comes in, if your port is not built, your ship is not going to come in to where you need to be. So, you definitely need to work on your port to make sure that you’re prepared for when your ship comes in. So, yeah, I’m a big believer in that.

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

Gina Osborn
I would say you can listen to me on my podcast. It’s called Lead Like a Lady. And it features remarkable women who have made it to the top in male-dominated fields. And I also have another podcast called Behind the Crime Scene, which is a true crime podcast. You can find those on your favorite podcast provider. And I’m also an executive coach. And for more information about that, you can go to GinaLOsborn.com.

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

Gina Osborn
I would say lead authentically. Be who you are. Embrace whatever things that you’re really good at and don’t take on the leadership characteristics of other people just because you want to lead like they do. It’s so important to really embrace who you are and to lead authentically because you really can’t fake it to make it when you’re in a leadership position because people will notice that right off the bat. You’re not going to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.

But when you lead authentically and you really rely on the things that you’re really good at, no matter what it is, do an assessment and find out what your strengths are, if you rely on those things and make it your contribution using your leadership skills, and lead like an authentic leader, I think you’re going to be much better down the road.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Gina, thanks for this, and I wish you lots of luck in the crises to come.

Gina Osborn
Thank you very much, Pete.