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Mindset

402: How Overachievers can Reclaim Their Joy with Christine Hassler

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Christine Hassler reveals how overachievers can lose and regain their joy.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The joylessness of overachieving
  2. How to stop the constant doing through exploring your why
  3. Four questions to re-evaluate your limiting beliefs

About Christine

Christine Hassler is the best-selling author of three books, most recently Expectation Hangover: Free Yourself From Your Past, Change your Present and Get What you Really Want. She left her successful job as a Hollywood agent to pursue a life she could be passionate about. For over a decade, as a keynote speaker, retreat facilitator, life coach, and host of the top-rated podcast “Over it and On With It”, she has been teaching and inspiring people around the world. She’s appeared on: The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style, and The New York Times. Christine believes once we get out of our own way, we can show up to make the meaningful impact we are here to make. Visit her online at www.christinehassler.com

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Christine Hassler Interview Transcript

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

Christine E. Hassler
Well, I’m happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. Well, could you tell us the story about how you became a hand model?

Christine E. Hassler
I’m so glad you didn’t ask me, can you tell the story of how you’re doing what you’re doing because that’s what every podcast interviewer asks ….

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes, I’m already distinctive.

Christine E. Hassler
You’re winning already. I’m just thrilled. I loved that you asked me that. You did your research. Yes, I was a hand model. Everybody’s probably thinking – well, everybody old enough is probably thinking of the Seinfeld episode when George was a hand model.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Christine E. Hassler
But how I became is because I would constantly get compliments on my hands. I was in a period of time where I had left my corporate job and was working on building my own business. I was in a lot of debt. People kept saying to me, “You have beautiful hands. You should be a hand model.” I heard it like five to seven times. I thought well, I live in Los Angeles. If there’s any place where one could do that, it would probably be Los Angeles.

This was a good 15 years ago before computers are what they are today. I went into – there was like a modeling agency – it wasn’t called this, but it was literally a body parts modeling agency.

Pete Mockaitis
Hands, toes, feet, knees.

Christine E. Hassler
Hands toes, and butt. Butts were a big one. They said, “All right, great. We’ll take your hands.” I didn’t have that many shoots, maybe like seven to ten of them. I’d go in and I’d either be a model’s hands if she bit her nails or didn’t have the best looking hands or I did Aveeno kind of things, where I was putting moisturizer on my hands. It was anything from print to commercials. But it was an interesting gig.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s funny. Now, Aveeno, that’s a pretty big name I’d imagine when it comes to hand modeling. Was that your star showing?

Christine E. Hassler
That was my biggest gig. Jennifer Anniston is the face of Aveeno. I guess for a brief period of time, I was the hands.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good company on the pecking order, I suppose, so well done.

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah, we never shot together.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. You’ve got some really cool perspectives when it comes to overachievers. We’ve got plenty of them listen to the show. I think it’s important to get into your wisdom. You say that overachievers often live secret lives. Can you paint a picture, what are some common fixtures or what are these secret lives often look like sort of underneath the surface?

Christine E. Hassler
We’re not born overachievers usually. The keyword in overachiever is ‘over.’ There’s something where it’s out of balance. I’ll tell my story about how I became an overachiever and then can discuss some other ways that people do.

Growing up I had a pretty good childhood and then in fourth grade things got a little harder for me when I started being bullied and teased. Some girls, four, passed around a note and told people not to talk to me. I became very isolated and felt like I didn’t belong.

Because of that, I formed a belief system that I wasn’t likeable and I wasn’t enough in some way and that I didn’t belong. Because in life, things happen and then there’s what we make those things mean. The meaning we give things creates our belief system. Then our behavior is motivated by our belief systems.

What happened, happened. Girls started a club, I wasn’t a member, said bad things about me. I made that mean I don’t belong, something must be wrong with me. That created a belief system that I’m separate, I’m different, I have to prove myself.

Whenever something happens to us that we make mean we’re less than in some way, we have to come up with some way where we feel “more than.” That’s something that I call a compensatory strategy. Overachieving is an example of a compensatory strategy. We feel less than in some way. We want to come up with a way to feel more than.

I thought, well, if I don’t belong, if people don’t like me, if something’s wrong with me, then I’m just going to become really good at school. If my social life is something that isn’t working, I better be the smartest girl in the class.

I put tons of pressure on myself to get straight A’s. My parents would beg me to get a B just so I could put less stress on myself, but I wouldn’t because my whole kind of identity was tied to overachieving. That’s where I thought I got my worth and where I thought I got my value.

I was rewarded for it. Teachers praised me. My parents were proud of me. I graduated at the top of my class. I went to a great college. Then I continued overachieving all the way out to Hollywood, where I had a job there.

The thing about overachieving is because it creates a cycle of constantly trying to prove oneself, enough is never enough. We become human doings rather than human beings.

Other things that can create overachievers is if your parents or a parent only gave you attention or validation when you did something. Or if you grew up in a household where everybody was doing, doing, doing, achieving, achieving, so you thought that was what you had to do. That’s how overachievers get created.

The secret life of overachievers that I have found in my own life in working with so many overachievers is that we’re very, very, very, very hard on ourselves. Although we’re checking all these things off a list, most overachievers struggle with feeling fulfilled. They have a hard time celebrating any kind of win because they check one thing off the list and then it’s on to the next. Enough never feels like enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then what are some of the implications then? If you’re hard on yourself, not only are you sort of enjoying your life less, but there’s some research that suggests that that is actually counterproductive even when it comes to getting the achievements.

Christine E. Hassler
Well, it’s productive and it’s effective. Let’s not say it’s productive. It’s effective in that it gets people to get things done, but it’s like putting bad gas in your car; it’s not sustainable. It ends up depleting you, so you’re more stressed out, you’re putting more pressure on yourself.

Whenever we’re in a state where we feel more pressure on our self, where we feel more self-conscious, where we feel really stressed out, we don’t perform at our best. We’re not coming from a place of really enjoying what we’re doing.

Research also shows that people that really enjoy what they do are better at it. I was successful as a Hollywood agent. I worked my way up the ladder and I was effective, but I wasn’t as successful as I could have been because I didn’t enjoy it. I think that’s a big stumbling block that overachievers find is they’re doing, doing, doing and they’re stressed out and they’re not enjoying it in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Then in working with yourself and others, what are you seeing are some particular strategies that are really helpful in terms of getting things back in alignment?

Christine E. Hassler
Well, I don’t know if it’s necessarily so much strategies as it is remembering the truth of who we are and doing some what we would call personal growth/personal development work. My work as a life coach and a spiritual psychologist is to help people stop living according to the story and the limiting beliefs they’ve created about themselves and their life and start living more in alignment with who they really are and the truth of who they are.

The thing about overachieving is because one is so focused on doing, doing, doing their whole life, a lot of times overachievers don’t stop to ask, “Do I really like this? Am I really enjoying this? Is this really what I want to do with my life? Is this really the story I want to keep telling myself?”

The first – if we want to call it a strategy – the first thing to do is to really stop and take an honest look at is what you’re attempting to achieve at even what you want and why are you doing it.

I ask a lot of overachievers, “Why are you working so hard? Why are you doing, doing, doing?” Most of them don’t have that inspiring of an answer. It’s usually something like, “Well, I have to. I have to pay the bills,” or “This is what my job requires,” or “This is just what I do,” or “I don’t know what else I would do.”

Most people aren’t going, going, going, doing, doing, doing and saying, “Oh, because it brings me job and I feel like I’m making an impact and I’m so happy.” Usually the overachieving treadmill that so many people are on, like I said, is not leading to that kind of fulfillment.

The first thing is to get really honest about yourself of what is your why and are you really enjoying it? Then start to take a look back on your life, kind of like what I did when I told my story, of how this overachieving pattern ever began in the first place.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get your take there in terms of you said you get some uninspired answers, not so much the “This is my purpose and I love it. It energizes me,” but rather it’s kind of like, “In order to,” this kind of something else, like, “I’ve got to pay the bills,” or “This is just kind of how I operate.”

How do you think about the—I don’t know if you want to call it a balance or a tango when it comes to doing the stuff that you love in the moment because you love it and then doing the stuff in order to achieve a result that’s meaningful to you even if the present experience of doing the stuff isn’t so fun?

Christine E. Hassler
Well, so what’s the question?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, how do you think about that game in terms of there’s stuff I love doing and there’s stuff I don’t love doing, but it produces a result that I value, so shall I continue doing that thing that I don’t enjoy doing?

Christine E. Hassler
Well, okay, I don’t think that’s a black and white kind of thing. I think you have to break that down. If it produces a value, is it truly a value or is it a value like it makes me money. What is the value that it produces?

Yes, there are things – I love my work. I really love it. It’s incredibly fulfilling. I’m not driven by an overachiever anymore. I’m more inspired by my vision. Are there some things in my job that I don’t love doing? Yes, but even in the process of them because I’m so committed to my why and I’m so committed to my vision, the process is never awful. The process is never something that “Oh my God, I just can’t wait to get to the finish line.”

Because usually when we exhaust ourselves so we don’t enjoy the process at all, by the time we get to the result, we’re so tired and depleted anyway that it kind of goes back to what I was saying before. You celebrate it for a second and then, it’s like, “Okay, what’s the next thing?”

I believe in hard work. I believe that sometimes we have to pace ourselves a little faster and there are seasons in life, but the process should still be somewhat enlivening. It should still bring some inspiration, some joy because you’re so connected to your why and you’re so connected to your vision. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, yeah. I really like the way you articulated that. I guess I’m thinking about getting everything together for taxes, which I’m not a real fan of, but sure enough because I am connected to the why and the purpose and what I’m about, even though it’s not my top favorite thing to do, I can find a morsel of satisfaction in terms of “Ah, all those figures are lined up just right and beautifully. How about that?”

Christine E. Hassler
Let me ask you this, why do you do your own taxes?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, I have an accountant. I’m getting my stuff ready for my accountant to do his magic in terms of all the financial statements.

Christine E. Hassler
Uh-huh. See, this is kind of another one of my personal viewpoints is anything that – it’s like I don’t know if you’re familiar with that book. It’s super popular. There’s a TV show. It’s a book about tidying up, like the Magic of Tidying Up or whatever.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, I saw an episode recently. Uh-huh.

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah. She’s like if an object doesn’t bring you joy, ditch it. It’s kind of extreme, but it really resonates with people.

I recently was living nomadically for nine months and had my stuff in storage and moved into a new place now with my fiancé and just got rid of so much stuff and used this process ‘does it bring me joy?’

I really have applied that to work as well. Even something like I have an accountant too, but I also have a bookkeeper, so I basically don’t have to do anything. They just do it because that drains me.

You don’t have to be a wealthy person to kind of do these sort of things. It’s more looking at your life and looking at the things you’re doing and looking what truly is an opportunity cost for you, like what drains you and zaps you of your energy? Because anything that we’re doing that drains us and zaps of our energy, I feel, is an opportunity cost.

One of the reasons that I was willing to work hard for a few years to really build my business, I knew I was in a season, is because I wanted to get to a point where if anything was draining, if anything was an opportunity cost, I had two choices. I could one choose to shift my energy and connect to the why. Or two, I could delegate or hire someone where it was there zone of genius, so I could really focus on my why, what lights me up, and eventually what is more profitable.

I think whether we’re an entrepreneur or we work for a company or any of those things, it’s looking at everything we do and go, “Does this bring me joy? Does this bring me fulfillment? Does this stress me out?”

It’s okay to feel neutral about things. It’s not like you’re going to jump for joy when you’re cleaning your toilet or something like that, but can you at least connect to the why of it and why you’re doing it and shift your energy around it. If you can’t, are you willing perhaps to hire someone else to help you out with it?

I think that’s an important part of living a more fulfilling, well-balanced life is not thinking we have to do everything on our own, because that’s another thing overachievers do. Overachievers are a little bit – we’re a little bit controlling. We take great pride in doing everything on our own. We even kind of take pride in doing something that’s hard or feels like there’s some self-sacrifice in it.

I just invite you if you kind of fall into that – not you personally, but just you, the listener – I invite you if you fall into that, like “I’ve got to do it on my own,” and “No one’s there to help me,” and “I have so much on my plate,” to really challenge that belief and ask yourself is this belief and this identity of doing it all on my own and having so much on my plate, is that really serving you?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so glad you went there next because I was going to ask, you mentioned these limiting beliefs. That’s a great question right there. Is this belief really serving me? When you catch yourself and you’re thinking, “Hm, I have a hunch that there’s a belief here that is not serving me, that is causing some trickiness, some trouble for me,” what’s the process by which you remove the power of that limiting belief upon you?

Christine E. Hassler
I’m going to actually reference someone else’s work because why reinvent the wheel when someone else has such a great system for it? Have you heard of Byron Katie?

Pete Mockaitis
That is ringing a bell.

Christine E. Hassler
Okay, Byron Katie has a website called The Work. I think it’s TheWork.com. Let me see. I’m here on the computer. Let’s just find this out right now. The great thing about our age is we get instant gratification. Yes, TheWork.com.

She has a worksheet where you can download it for free and it’s about busting your beliefs and forming new ones. She asks four questions. I can’t remember them off the top of my head, but you can find it easily on her site. The first question is something like – let me see if I can pull it up because this is really, really valuable.

Okay, this is from the work of Byron Katie. The first thing to ask the belief is, is it true? Pete, give me an example of a belief that you or maybe one of your listeners would like to shift.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I need to produce amazing results every day.

Christine E. Hassler
Okay, great. Is that true?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess answering from the perspective of my listeners like, “Well, yeah, I mean halfway. It’s like generally I should, but hey, everyone can have an off day and that’s fine. That’s normal. That’s okay.”

Christine E. Hassler
Okay. Do you 100% without a shadow of a doubt absolutely know it’s true?

Pete Mockaitis
No.

Christine E. Hassler
Like you’d bet your life on it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly not.

Christine E. Hassler
Great. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought, when you believe it’s true?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I get stressed. It’s like I’m not doing enough and I’ve got to kick it into gear. It’s like the clock is ticking and I’m nervous about it.

Christine E. Hassler
Okay, who would you be without that thought or belief?

Pete Mockaitis
I’d be a lot more chill. I’d feel like I could breathe and could hang out a little bit.

Christine E. Hassler
Do you think – then now this is just me asking the questions – and do you think you would be more effective that way?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah. Yeah. Can you see how we just turned that belief around?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah.

Christine E. Hassler
And found a more true belief that makes you feel better, like “When I’m relaxed, when I’m not so stressed out, when I don’t put so much pressure on myself, I’m actually-“ and I’m putting words in your mouth here – “I’m actually more in a flow state. I’m more peaceful and I can be even more effective.”

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah, so simple. Four questions. People can take themselves through the process on their own.

When we connect, when we really – because a lot of times our beliefs are just programmed. We have these neural nets in our brain, these basically grooved paths in our brain the same way if you drove a car down the same path day after day after day, there’d be groves in the land the car would naturally go down. That’s how it is with belief systems and thoughts. They’re habitual.

How we change beliefs is we literally – like if you were driving that car down that path, you’d have to turn the steering wheel severely to start to go down a different path so it gets off those grooves that it naturally goes down. In breaking through belief systems, that’s what we have to do. We have to catch the belief, challenge it, and choose a different belief.

If we can attach the belief to feelings, like if we can become really aware of how that belief makes us feel, then we can connect to how important it is to shift it and how much better it would feel to have a different belief. It connects the thoughts and the feelings.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that because you’re getting both the logic and the emotional there because the first one is ‘is it true.’ I like it because there are some schools of thought that I guess don’t even care.

Christine E. Hassler
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s important that it be true. You hit that as well as the emotional resonance so that it’s I guess forming deeply within yourself as a reality.

Christine E. Hassler
Right, right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, I also want to make sure that we get to talk a bit about your book Expectation Hangover. What’s the main idea here?

Christine E. Hassler
Well, there’s several ideas. Basically it’s a book on how to leverage disappointment and heal things from your past.

First of all, define what an expectation hangover is because I made up the term. It’s when one of three things happen. Either life doesn’t go according to plan, which happens to us all. We work really hard toward something. We don’t achieve a result or a goal.

Or something does go according to plan. We achieve that goal. We achieve that result. We finally get the promotion that we’ve been working so hard for, but we don’t feel like we thought we would, like we thought that promotion was going to make us more competent or we thought it was going to make our boss nicer to us or we thought we were going to like our job better and it didn’t change the feeling.

Third kind of expectation hangover is life just throws us an unexpected curve ball like getting laid off or getting broken up with or something like that.

The thing about expectation hangovers is even though they’re hard to go through, they can create massive transformation in our life because most disappointment is recycled disappointment. What I mean by that is anything you’re disappointed about now or any kind of curveball that’s thrown at you that’s made you feel a certain way or a result didn’t turn out like you thought and you feel a certain way, it’s not the first time you felt that.

Let’s use the example of getting laid off. You get laid off. It’s not the first time you’ve felt rejected or unheard or like you were treated unfairly. The book teaches you how to look at these expectation hangovers, how to not just get over them, because a lot of times when people experience expectation hangovers, they just want to get over it. They just want to move on to the next thing. “All right, I got laid off from that job. I’m just going to get a new job.”

They cope with it poorly. They overeat, they over drink, they over work. They just try to positive talk their way out of it. They try to hard to control the situation. They try to just be strong and basically suppress all their feelings about it and just plow forward.

But when we use these kind of coping strategies that aren’t effective, we just keep experiencing the same kind of expectation hangovers over and over and over again. That’s why so many people face the same obstacles in their career or in their romantic life or with their health or with their money is because they’re kind of just repeating the same disappointment.

The book teaches you how to actually heal that disappointment to learn the lessons, to transform it so you don’t have to keep attracting the same expectation hangovers in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, could you walk us through an example of someone who experienced this kind of disappointment and then how they tackled it and how they ended up on the other side?

Christine E. Hassler
Me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Christine E. Hassler
I’m most expert on myself. I worked my way up in Hollywood, like I said. I reached kind of the pinnacle at a very young age. I thought that the money and the title and all those things was going to finally make me like myself and like my job. I still was stressed out, full of anxiety, struggling with depression, and just wasn’t happy, didn’t like it.

I thought if I changed my external circumstances, I could change my internal circumstances, but it works the other way. I subsequently learned you have to change the inside. The outside doesn’t change the inside.

I ended up quitting my job and in a period of six months I also got dumped by my fiancé, I was estranged from my family, I went into tons of debt, and I dealt with other house challenges as well. I could have gone into a real victim story about that. That was a pretty severe expectation hangover.

I had the insight that perhaps since I was the common denominator in all these things that were quote/unquote bad, maybe I could be the common denominator in changing them. I stopped asking the question “Why is this happening to me?” and started asking instead, “Why is this happening for me and what am I learning?”

I was able to start to learn more about myself and learn that so much of my job had been created – so much of my career was created from a bad compensatory strategy of overachieving, of thinking a job is what gave me meaning, a job is what gave me value, a job is what gave me worth. That really illuminated my unhealthy relationship with myself. I was looking at how hard I was on myself, my inner critic was ferocious.

Having that massive expectation hangover and kind of losing everything that I identified with, was the inspiration for me finally kind of taking a look at me and going “Who am I? What do I truly, truly want and how do I get it in a way that doesn’t burn me out and deplete me?”

Using the tools that I share in the book, I was able to go back to those situations like in fourth grade and update that belief system and tell that little fourth-grade girl that it wasn’t her fault and nothing’s wrong with her, and she belongs, and she doesn’t have to prove herself. I started to create a new identity and a new story about myself. Our life changes the moment we start to see ourselves and our life differently.

I had so many clients and people that have come through to workshops and two people could be going through the exact same thing – like two people could have just gotten laid off and they have the exact same situation, but how they look at it, how they perceive it, what they make it mean really dictates how well they’ll navigate through it.

The person who is angry and sees themselves as a victim and sees themselves as being wronged or sees themselves as massively messing up and being a failure, is going to have a much harder time than the person who goes, “All right, I honor the fact that I’m a little sad right now. I feel a little rejected, but I’m going to look at what can I learn. What can I learn from this? I’m going to trust that even though I’m in uncertainty now, something even better is around the corner.”

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that question shift from ‘why is this happening to me’ to ‘why is this happening for me.’ I’m curious, once you ask yourself that question, what kind of answers bubble up?

Christine E. Hassler
That’s a beautiful time to get a coach or a book or a guide or a course, someone that can help you through that because a lot of times no answers may come up because you may be so in the disappointment and so in the ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ Because uncertainty is one of the scariest things for humans to experience. We don’t like uncertainty at all.

But if you’re really willing to lean into faith a little bit and lean into the fact that the universe really does have your back and ask that question from a place of curiosity and not from a place of urgency.

Because if you ask that question from a place of urgency, it’s going to be hard to get super clear answers because the part of your brain that’s going to attempt to answer it is the reptilian part of your brain, they amygdala part of your brain, the part of your brain that is attached to fight or flight and to fixing things, and to finding solutions right away.

But if you reassure yourself that you’re okay and you can ponder the question and you can be reflective, then you get in a state of curiosity. That opens up a different part of your brain, which is connected to your intuition, your emotions and your unconscious. Your unconscious is basically all the memories that you have filed away that aren’t in your conscious awareness.

Asking that question is important, but how we ask that question or come from that tone of curiosity is really what is going to guide you to the best answers.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that a lot because urgency, it totally feels different in your brain. “I want it now. Give it to me now.”

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said, well said. Good contrast there and it even almost kind of rhymes. Curiosity not urgency.

Christine E. Hassler
I like that.

Pete Mockaitis
I appreciate that. Well, so could you maybe give us an example in your life, so you said you were estranged from your family for a bit, what did you come up with your guides and coaches, etcetera, with regard to why was that happening for you?

Christine E. Hassler
Well, kind of what I was sharing before. It was to help me finally look at and deal with a lot of the pain from my childhood that I hadn’t quite dealt with and a lot of the belief systems that I created from what I went through because there wasn’t just that. There was some abuse. There was being diagnosed with depression at 11 and being put on medication. There was some other physical problems that happened.

There was a lot, like most of us. We all have things in our childhood that aren’t necessarily easy. Some people have it way, way, way harder than I did. Most of us don’t have the kind of parents and teachers and guides, even if they love us and even if they’re great, around us to really teach us how to deal with the pain so that it doesn’t get stuck in us and so that we don’t create limiting beliefs that perpetuate the pain.

The biggest thing for me was to go back and start to look at some of those things, look at those painful points, give myself permission to finally feel those feelings that I kept suppressed for so long.

That’s another thing I teach in Expectation Hangover is actually how to feel and release your feelings, not from the place that you have to sit, relive them or talk about your childhood for like five years, but just give yourself – feelings basically get lodged in our body and in our nervous system because we didn’t feel safe to express them as children.

Really releasing feelings is as easy as giving yourself permission to feel with no judgment, giving yourself permission to have a good cry or to write a mean letter or to hit a pillow and scream and not feel like you have to justify it, explain it or psychoanalyze yourself, but just really give yourself that compassion.

That was a big piece for me, like finally feeling my feelings, starting to create a new story and a new belief system, looking at my relationship with myself and starting to be way kinder to myself, being more vulnerable. I was really good at being fine, feelings inside not expressed, and I was really good at presenting to the world and to others that I was fine, but inside I wasn’t fine.

I started to be more honest and more vulnerable with what I was really feeling and what I was really going through. I started to let people into my life in a more vulnerable, honest way.

It was not an overnight thing. It’s a process to go back and look at the pain from our past and rewire out belief systems. But it doesn’t have to be incredibly grueling. It doesn’t have to take years. It really just takes a willingness, a willingness to look and a willingness to break some patterns, and a willingness to change the way we perceive some things.

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

Christine E. Hassler
Let’s see here. I would say I think it’s important to mention to everybody listening that almost every human being – I’d love to say every, but I just don’t think I can say every single human being, I don’t think I’m qualified to say that – but almost every human being, and I have worked with thousands, tens of thousands of people at this point, has a deep fear that on some level they’re not enough or on some level they don’t fit in or on some level they’re not loveable or not deserving in some way. It’s kind of a human epidemic.

But I found it’s one of the things that we as humans are all here to evolve out of. We’re all here to understand that that belief that we’re not enough and we need to prove our self or we’re not deserving, we’re not lovable or something’s wrong with us or everybody fits in, but we don’t, is just a bunch of BS.

I want you to know if you feel that belief or have that fear in any way, know you’re not alone and also know it’s 100% not true. It is your birthright to be enough, to be loveable, to belong. There’s nothing you have to do to earn that.

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

Christine E. Hassler
My favorite quote is from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite study or experiment or piece of research?

Christine E. Hassler
I love The Marshmallow Test. You know that test with the kids?

Pete Mockaitis
Walter Mischel, yeah.

Christine E. Hassler
Yes, yes, where, just in case your listeners don’t know, they put kids – I don’t know, how old would you say they are, Pete? Like four – five, something like that?

Pete Mockaitis
I think they’re in that zone, three, four, five, six-ish.

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah. It’s all about delaying gratification. They tell the kid, “All right.” They put a marshmallow in front of the kid. It’s a big, juicy marshmallow. They tell the kid, “All right, if you wait, if you don’t eat this marshmallow until I come back then you’ll get even a better treat,” or something like that.

The research basically showed is that those that had self-control and were able to delay gratification, that instant gratification, were more successful as adults.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Christine E. Hassler
I always go back to the first book that really opened my eyes to things that I read in my 20s, The Power of Now.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. How about a favorite tool, something that you use that helps you be awesome at your job?

Christine E. Hassler
My eyelash curler. No, that’s not PC. I would say one of my favorite tools is the one I shared of the busting the beliefs.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. Is there a particular habit that is helpful for you being awesome at your job?

Christine E. Hassler
Yes, daily rituals and practices. During the work week, I give myself more flexibility on the weekend, but work week, TVs and phones and everything off by nine PM. We have an hour in bed to read and relax. We turn on salt lamps so that the blue lights is coming off.

We’re falling asleep between ten and ten-thirty and waking up between six and six-thirty, so we’re getting a nice eight hours of sleep. I don’t believe you can catch up on sleep. I think consistent sleep is incredibly important.

Then taking that time in the morning before one turns on your phone, even if it’s just a few minutes, to hydrate, number one, have a glass of water; breathe, which can be meditation or just breath work; and move, any kind of movement to get the body just going. Whether you spend an hour doing that or five minutes doing that, I think that’s a really, really important ritual.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely agreed. I am a big believer in that as Hal Elrod was on our show and as is he. I want to dig into a salt lamp. What’s this mean?

Christine E. Hassler
A salt lamp. Do you know those salt lamps? They’re basically – you can get them on Amazon. They look like kind of like a salmon-colored rock.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, okay.

Christine E. Hassler
And they glow. They create – have you noticed that like those kind of computer glasses are that orange tint, that kind of red-orange tint, a salt lamp lights a room with that same tint.

Those of you that work at a desk or work at a cubicle, I would highly suggest getting a little salt lamp. With other lights on, they wouldn’t be super noticeable, but it’s a great thing to put in your home space or your office space.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Thank you. Is there a particular nugget you share with clients or listeners that really seems to connect and resonate and they retweet it and they quote it back to you?

Christine E. Hassler
Well, I don’t know if it’s something about retweeting, but one thing that really resonates with people that I think is so powerful is really understanding – well, there’s two things I’d love to share if that’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Christine E. Hassler
The first is that forgiveness is not about condoning what happened; forgiveness is about removing the charge you’re holding so that you can be free.

A lot of people don’t forgive. They hold on to blame, anger, resentment, especially if something really awful happened. They don’t want to forgive because they think that means that the behavior was okay. That’s not what forgiveness means. Forgiveness means releasing the judgments you have, releasing the anger, releasing the blame, understanding that it happened to help you learn and grow. You don’t have to talk to the other person and say, “I forgive you,” to forgive someone. It’s an inside job.

If anyone out there listening is holding onto blame, resentment, all those kinds of things, I’d highly suggest you move into a process of forgiveness so that you don’t have to carry that around. We hold on to traumatic or hard or difficult events. Even though they’re in the past, we carry them around like extra weight, extra baggage by not forgiving. Forgiving really lightens us up.

I’d say that. Then the other thing that I’d say that is tweetable is that people-pleasing is selfish. People think that being a people pleaser is like this selfless thing and it makes you a quote/unquote good person, but really people pleasing is all because you want other people to like you. You don’t want to deal with conflict. You don’t want to have to say no because other people may be upset. It really is about protecting yourself.

I would make a more self-honoring choice and instead of being a people pleaser, speak your truth with love.

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

Christine E. Hassler
Well, I have a free gift I’d love to give your listeners if that’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Christine E. Hassler
If they just text the digits 444999 to – or no, they text my name, Christine, to the number 444999, so C-H-R-I-S-T-I-N-E to the number 444999, they get an e-book from me that’s just a daily thing you can read to uplift your mind and heart, kind of a good way to feel inspired and shift your perception on things. I tell lots of stories, I give lots of tools in that e-book.

Then they also get my six practical steps to making intuitive decision making, which sounds counterintuitive because why do you need practical steps to make an intuitive decision, but I found so many people are like, “How do I connect to my intuition?” so it’s a very practical, experiential way to learn how to really connect to your intuition. And that gift you get – I guide you through a process of how to actually do it. It’s very, very tangible.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Boy, texting to 444999, it sounds like Textiful.com. Is that your provider there?

Christine E. Hassler
Maybe. I didn’t set this up.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got your bookkeeper doing your books. You’ve got your tech people doing the texting. That’s awesome.

Christine E. Hassler
Well, this wasn’t always the way. I used to believe that I would save if I did everything on my own. Then I realized wait a second, actually it’s smarter to gradually build a team of people around so that you can stay in your zone of genius.

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

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah, I would say see if you can become more of a miracle worker at your job because a lot of times we can have a colleague or a boss or a situation that’s upsetting us or that we don’t like or we get the Sunday night blues of like, “Uh, got to go back to work.”

To be a miracle maker, the definition of a miracle from more the kind of a spiritual perspective is a change in perception. Just challenge yourself to see if you could look at something that’s bothering you about your job or work or somebody there, see if you can look at it through a different lens, see if you can change your perception of it such that you feel differently about something because the minute we change our perception, the second we change our perception and the way we look at something, we feel differently.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Christine, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you all the best of luck with your retreats and keynotes and coaching and podcast, Over it & On with it.

Christine E. Hassler
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
And all that you’re up to. It’s been a lot of fun.

Christine E. Hassler
Oh, thank you so much for having me.

396: Insights into Embracing Emotions at Work with Liz Fosslien

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Writer and illustrator Liz Fosslien shares why we should listen to our emotions instead of suppressing them at work. She also reveals how to be considerate of others’ emotions while protecting our own.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we should inspect instead of suppress our emotions
  2. Two ways to protect yourself from emotional contagion
  3. How to decode the wisdom your emotions are pointing to

About Liz

Liz is an author and illustrator whose projects have been featured by NPR, Freakonomics, The Economist, and CNN Money. Liz spent the past three years designing and facilitating workshops that empowered executives at LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, BlackRock, and Nike to build cultures of belonging. Previously, she led product and community projects at Genius and ran statistical analyses at the aptly named Analysis Group.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Liz Fosslien Interview Transcript

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

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, I’m really excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. Well, I’m excited to dig into this. First I want to hear the backstory behind you have been eating the same breakfast every day for seven years. What’s the story here?

Liz Fosslien
I have. Yes. The breakfast is seven mini-scoops of non-fat plain Greek yogurts and then a granola bar that I crush into it.

It started as morning is my most productive time and so I just wanted to remove as much decision making from my morning routine. I just wanted to be able to know what I was going to do and then immediately sit down and kind of let all the ideas that had been going around in my brain out onto the computer page. But now it’s a really nice source of emotional support too when I’m travelling or just when life is getting really hectic; it’s just nice to always have the same breakfast.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s review. What’s the brand of Greek yogurt?

Liz Fosslien
Trader Joe’s. I’ve done-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes.

Liz Fosslien
I’ve done a blind taste test because people have questioned my loyalty and I get a perfect score every time, so it’s – I think it’s by far the best.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I agree that it is excellent and it’s a good price. Which amount of fat? Is it the zero and then there’s the two and then there’s the full.

Liz Fosslien
Yes, I do zero. I tried the two and the full, but I thought it just tasted so good that I ended up eating a lot for breakfast, so yeah, I go non-fat.

Pete Mockaitis
How about the granola bar?

Liz Fosslien
It’s LUNA Bar.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, I love them.

Pete Mockaitis
I got into this weird debate with someone about whether LUNA bars were made for women.

Liz Fosslien
I think they are, but I don’t really know beyond that being somewhere on the labeling why they’re made for women.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, they’re delicious and I’m a man and so-

Liz Fosslien
They’re definitely delicious. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular LUNA Bar flavor that you’re working with?

Liz Fosslien
It was the Nuts over Chocolate and then Trader Joe’s discontinued stocking that flavor, so since then I’ve been doing the lemon.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve also learned that Trader Joe’s is your go-to shopping location or grocery spot.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, it’s there. It’s convenient. They have samples. I’m not being paid by Trader Joe’s.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no, I love Trader Joe’s and I just wish they could deliver to us because we get most of them delivered.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess we’re too far away from the nearest Trader Joe’s, but when we go we end up stocking up and it’s usually in the frozen section like their chicken tikka masala and their chana masala.

Liz Fosslien
Oh, so good. Yeah. Yeah. So easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, I ask the hard-hitting questions here on How to be Awesome at Your Job, so I’m glad we’ve got that settled. Now tell us, you’ve got a book, No Hard Feelings, coming out. What’s the story here?

Liz Fosslien
The story is the book’s central idea is just that emotions are inevitable, so we should probably learn how to deal with them. It doesn’t sound that revolutionary on the surface, but I think there is a long-standing tradition in the workplace, this idea that you should check your feelings at the door. That is biologically impossible. We’re emotional creatures regardless of the circumstances.

By suppressing our emotions, we actually miss out on what could be really useful signals. The idea between No Hard Feelings is that you – take for example envy.

With envy, which is one of my favorite examples of something that might be thought of as a hard feeling, is actually really useful information that’s contained within that. I think there is some stigma around if you’re jealous of someone, people might worry that that turns into bitterness and it often does.

But if you just let yourself sit with that, you might realize that you’re envious of a certain person because they have something that you really desire. Then that can help you figure out how to channel your energy and where you might want to go with your career.

We talked to Gretchen Rubin, who’s lovely and she wrote The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies. She said when she was a lawyer and kind of thinking about what she wanted her next career move to be, she was reading about alumni from her school.

When she read about someone who had an amazing law career, she found it interesting. But when she read about people who had amazing writing careers, she said became like sick with envy. That to her was this really clear signal that maybe she should try pursuing a career in writing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. It’s funny, when you say envy I think of it in like a sinful context, like, “They don’t deserve that. Why them?”

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, I think a lot of emotions have this stigma around them. Again, I’m not endorsing that if you’re envious you should walk up to someone like, “I’m envious of you.” It’s more just if you hold these emotions that we think of as bad and that should be always thrown in the trash, if you instead hold them up to the light and inspect them, you might find something really useful in there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Then this notion that we’ve all got emotions and they can’t go away even if it’s quote/unquote unprofessional or whatnot.

Boy what do we do with that in a context or culture, environment where you’re sort of not supposed to express that you’re angry at your boss for doing something that inconvenienced you or made your life difficult or you are sad that this thing that you poured your heart and soul and so much time into is getting scrapped and going nowhere. What should we do?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. I think something that might be a relief to people who are uncomfortable expressing emotions or in offices where maybe it isn’t as accepted to express emotions, is that there’s a lot you can do internally first. I think the very first thing when you’re experiencing a hard feeling is to try and understand the need driving that emotion.

Last year I was managing a design project and I found myself a few days ahead of the deadline just getting irritated with everyone I was working with. When I kind of went to my office and closed the door and sat by myself and thought about it, no one was doing anything that was super irritating. I really liked the people I was working with.

I realized that I was just irritable because I was extremely anxious about meeting that deadline. The need driving that anxiety was that I just wanted to make sure that we had the structures in place to meet the deadline.

We had a team meeting and kind of went over what the plan was over the next few days and ended up cutting a few things because we just wanted to make sure the core product was impeccable. I felt so much better and suddenly I wasn’t irritable anymore. I think a lot of the work is just what is the need driving this hard feeling.

Then I’ll say the second thing that’s really useful is in some cases to flag hard feelings in a way where you’re talking about your emotions without getting emotional about it. There are days when you’re going to have just a bad day and there maybe isn’t anything you can do about the need driving it. Maybe you’re just generally blue that day or it’s a personal issue that you can’t fix immediately.

In that case, people are going to pick up on the fact that you’re having a bad day, especially a leader, like your emotions have an outside impact on the people around you. If you don’t say anything, you’re just going to cause all this unnecessary anxiety.

Imagine we work together, I walk into an office. I just seem a little subdued. I’m not really responding that quickly or my responses are really short and curt. It’s super likely that you imagine that I’m upset with you or that you’ve done something bad or even worse case, you’re going to get fired. But if I instead say to you, “Hey, I’m having a bad day. It has nothing to do with you, but just want to let you know if I seem a little off, it’s fine. It’s just I have some stuff going on.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Liz Fosslien
I’m not going into detail, but you now get it. I think it also gives you the opportunity to treat me with a little more empathy, so we’ve really done a lot for our relationship without me breaking down, saying that much, oversharing. It’s just that little flag that is so crucial.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so helpful. I remember once I was consulting and there was a partner. We were talking about I don’t even know what, but he said something about his anxiety and that he gets it from his mother. I thought, “Ahh.” I was just so relieved, just like, “Man, whenever I’m around you I just feel like we’re screwing something up.” It’s like, “No, you just tend to be anxious and that’s sort of been that way your whole life and I can chill out a little bit.” It was like, “Ahh, what a relief.”

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, it doesn’t require crazy teambuilding thing. It wasn’t like a retreat. It was just one comment.

I think putting structures into place when you’re working with people, where you maybe just go around at the beginning of a team project and everyone answers really quickly what are some things you should know about me, what are some things that have come up in the past that people felt when I was on a team with them, what do sometimes people misunderstand about me. Just quickly answering those and having everyone do it, maybe half an hour, can save so much grief and avoid so much strife.

Pete Mockaitis
I also want to dig into what you said about the spreading of emotions. We had a previous guest, Michelle Gielan, and her book Broadcasting Happiness talked about it’s not so much the person who has the most intensely positive or most intensely negative emotion, so much as the one who is most expressive in terms of what’s showing up in that kind of spread.

How should we think about our spreading of emotions and maybe defending ourselves from the spread of something we’d rather not catch?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. The spreading of emotions psychologists call emotional contagion. It happens when we’re in person. I think like you said, this person you worked with was really anxious. I’m sure that you fed on that anxiety and found yourself often becoming anxious around that person. It also happens over text messages. If you’ve ever been in an argument with someone and they suddenly just start responding like, “Sure period,” “Kay, period,” you become stressed.

Humans we just pick up on these signals and start to mirror each other’s emotions. If someone is really stressed or anxious or even they are expressing that and they’re coming to you and they’re venting a lot, I think one of the easiest things to do if you can is just to keep physical distance.

MIT professor Thomas Alan found that people are four times more likely to communicate regularly with a coworker who sits 6 feet away as opposed to one who sits 60 feet away. If you’re in an open office space or if you have some flexibility to move around and someone just seems to be in a really difficult position, it’s okay to kind of separate yourself a little bit to preserve your emotional state.

Another tip that we give in the book that I really like is if someone’s consistently coming to you with the same problem, try and push them towards action. Something you can say is like, “Well, what could you have done differently?” or “What can we do to fix this situation?”

Just one question kind of forces them to – one it helps them because maybe they just have been so bogged in venting that they’re not thinking proactively anymore and two, it really does a nice job of gently shutting down the negativity. I think it’s really about putting a stop on the negativity and then also forming a little bubble in whatever way you can.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. I want to dig now a bit into you mentioned different emotions can be providing us with sort of signal information. I remember, boy, back in the day I read – it was a Tony Robbins book, Awaken the Giant Within. What a title. He even had a whole chapter where he was like this emotion can mean this, like guilt means you have violated one of your core values.

It’s like, in a way it seemed kind of elementary, but at the same time when you’re in the heat of your emotions, it can be nice to just make it real simple. Okay, what can be going on here? Can you give us a little bit of the ‘if this, then that’ recipe book in terms of how we might go about decoding the signal from different emotions?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, so two that I really like. One is if you think about – let’s say you’re making a decision and not doing or choosing one option over the other fills you with regret. I think this is also not groundbreaking. But you should maybe think about why you feel so much regret or why it hurts so much to give up one option.

I say this because I think when it comes to decision making, especially around work, there is again this idea of – I think people come down really strongly, either always listen to your gut or never listen to your gut. There’s some useful emotions and some emotions that aren’t useful, but regret is usually very useful. That’s an important one to listen to.

When I was thinking about taking a new job or staying at my existing job, when I thought about not taking the new job, I felt a lot of regret, so I realized that I was excited at the challenge and I didn’t want to give that up.

The other thing I felt was fear. I think fear can often be a really important signal around maybe you just really want this. I’m often the most fearful when I’m emailing someone that I admire. When we were writing the book, we interviewed a lot of people. I found that writing emails to people whose books I love, like I would put Gretchen Rubin in this camp or Daniel Pink, who wrote Drive and then just came out with the book When. It was – I was so afraid of emailing them.

I realized that I shouldn’t put off those emails because I was afraid. It was just I thought it would be so amazing if these people – if I could speak to them and learn more about them and kind of get to know them. The fear there was just a signal that this was really important to me. Instead of avoiding it, I should just put some more thought into how I went forward.

Pete Mockaitis
So both the fear and regret are pointing to what’s important to you. On the regret side, you’re sort of imagining a scenario in which you have chosen one thing or forsaken another and sort of observing the emotional response.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. I think it can be incredibly illuminating into kind of how you’re feeling because your brain is doing all this calculation and then sometimes what it spits out is a feeling.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. I think about that fear in terms of emailing folks who have a real impact perhaps on your fate and then there’s fear and then that fear sometimes knee-jerk reaction is just to oh, do something else instead of maybe asking a better question might be “What could I put in this email that would make it all the more compelling and engaging and answerable?” as opposed to “What else am I going to do?”

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. I’ve actually started using fear as a way to prioritize my to-do list in the morning. When I think about – I have just a running list with everything I need to do. In the past I found that I kept falling into this trap of just going to the easiest stuff first. Sometimes that was organize my desk. Organizing your desk is important, but it’s not going to move your career forward in a meaningful way, unless you’re a very, very disorganized person.

What I would do is look at this list and then I would identify the three things that I was most afraid of doing or just had the most emotional resistance around. It usually meant it was because they were hard or they were important. Those are the things that I would do first if it did seem to bear out that these are really important things to me. Then I would leave kind of the little stuff for later in the day when research shows that our productivity starts to wane, we’re less able to focus.

Really, again, I think it’s just a great example of you’re afraid of sending that email, maybe that’s the thing you should spend your morning focusing on doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really good. Since you have been there, done that many a time when it comes to “I’m afraid of this email. It’s high stakes. I want to send it out. I’ve got to make sure it’s right.” What have you found to be some of the best practices particularly in sending emails that you fear that get them responded to?

Liz Fosslien
I think one is just to write like a human being. I think that especially earlier in my career I definitely did this, put people off and get into business mode, which is like, “To whom it may concern, I am deeply passionate about,” whatever. That might be true, but just I think having some personality show through makes it – it reads more naturally. It doesn’t feel so much like a form letter, like someone is pitching you on something.

I’d say that’s one of the most important things, which also ties into a nice piece of advice that we have in the book, which is just always emotionally proofreading your emails, so trying to put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.

Something that I have done before with really important emails is I think so often when we find a typo or we find something we could have fixed immediately after we hit send. A way to avoid that is to write an email and then send it to yourself. That forces you to actually click on it and open it and read it.

I think that helps literally put yourself into the recipient’s shoes. Then it becomes clear as you do that, “Okay, what could be better? Where could I put in more specific example? What information is missing? How am I coming across?” I think really just having – putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes goes a long way.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s really cool. I’m sort of imagining myself doing that and trying to get some even extra distance, like I’ll take a little walk and then return to it. It’s like, “Oh, what do you know? I’ve got an email from Pete. Let me take a look. What do you know?”

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, yeah. I love that. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. I actually – this idea for sending it to myself came from – Mollie is my coauthor. We wrote the book together. There are eight chapters and we split them up into four chapters each and each did the initial draft and then we swapped the draft.

Mollie called me after a while and she told me that my emails were making her feel really bad. I was surprised because I thought that I had been responding in a really fast manner. I was giving her great tips on what we needed to change, what should be edited, what wasn’t working. But then she said, “Why don’t you just read one of the emails you’ve written to me from my perspective.”

I did that and basically what I was sending her were just long bullet point lists of all the things I thought needed to be better in the chapter. Nowhere in that email was like, “Thanks for taking a stab at this. Here’s what I really liked.” That emotional proofing, all of that was in my head, but I had never put it in the email. Mollie has no idea what’s in my head, so she was just getting these walls of critical feedback.

I think that really helped me understand, “Oh, I need to take some of the stuff that’s in my head and put it in the email because it is relevant, it is important and she’s not a mind reader. I can’t – I need to step away from only focusing on efficiency.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s very well said. I think sometimes it’s impressive just how fast it came. That’s a quick thing you can say is like, “Wow, great job on a quick turnaround. You’re really cranking through some words this morning,” and then that makes me feel good, like, “Well, yes, thank you. I was cranking on some words this morning. I appreciate that.”

Liz Fosslien
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk about the feedback point there. Feedback is boy, emotionally rife or rich, shall we say, in terms of both on the giving side and the receiving side. If you talk to managers behind closed doors, they’ll admit they’re sometimes terrified to give feedback to their direct reports. Certainly on the receiving side, feedback can make you defensive or angry. How do you think about feedback and what are some of the best practices for giving and receiving it well?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, so I’ll start with giving feedback. I think really the way to come at it is to consider how do I give feedback that doesn’t pack a really painful punch. Great feedback allows the recipient to more quickly move past this inevitable defensive reaction and move on to determination and action. To that end we really encourage people to do three things.

The first is just focus on specific behavior. When we give vague feedback, it’s so easy for the recipient – first of all, they don’t know what to do with it. It’s much easier for them to ruminate on it and just think and think and then it becomes this big issue that more and more seems like an attack on their entire sense of self.

As an example, if I say to you, let’s say you send me an email and I give you feedback. The first is, “This email just could have been better. I think it missed the mark,” versus “The second sentence in your email was a little repetitive. I think it’s unnecessary and you should delete it to be a little more succinct.”

It’s so easy. You just delete the second sentence and go about your day. Whereas the first when I say, “It just missed the mark. It wasn’t good,” it’s much easier to go home and be like, “Oh my God, it wasn’t good. What do I do? I don’t know how to improve, so what else isn’t good.” Again, it’s about reducing unnecessary anxiety.

The second tip that I really love is present feedback in a way where it’s about building the person up. A great way to communicate that is just to start with saying, “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations of you and I’m confident that you can reach them.” That immediately puts them on “I’m here to help. This is advice. I’m not here to tear you down. I’m not here to make you feel bad.”

Then the last thing is just really trying to understand. I think this goes back to the earlier point about taking the time to figure out how do people like to work with each other and how to they like to receive feedback. I love feedback. I love it in the moment. I just always want people to be telling me how I can improve.

Mollie, for example, that makes her really uncomfortable. She would always rather receive it over email and then have some time to think through it and also process her initial emotional reaction. If I’m just spitting feedback at her, I’m going to make her feel bad because I’m operating around how I want to be treated as opposed to how Mollie wants to be treated.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really good. I like that actionable piece. I think about reviews in particular. How sometimes it’s just so vague, like, “Be more professional.” That’s one thing I loved about consulting at Bain was that the reviews, well, boy, they were extensive like five pages single spaced like every three to six months.

My ‘be more professional’ would be like, “Pete would sometimes use language such as ‘cool beans’ or ‘word’ in front of the clients and these word choices don’t convey as much of a professional demeanor.” It’s like, fair enough. I can see where you’re coming from there. That’s way more actionable, “Don’t say ‘word’ or ‘cool beans’ to a client until you’re really chummy,” than “Be more professional.” What does that even mean ‘be more professional?’

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, just thinking about what can you do to really help this person and ‘be more professional’ is just not that helpful.

Pete Mockaitis
Then how about on the receiving side of things?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, we like to say that you need feedback to improve. If no one is ever criticizing you, if no one’s telling you what you’re doing wrong, you’re never really going to set yourself up for success because everyone has areas that they could be improving on. You want to make it awesome for people to come to you with hard feedback. I think the best way to do that is to be able to regulate your initial defensive reaction.

One thing is just keep reminding yourself that you need critical feedback to improve. Again, from the other side see it as this person trying to help you. A friend is going to tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. A non-friend is not going to tell you because it’s uncomfortable. It might hurt your feelings. There’s going to be this awkward moment. Really try and see it as this person is here to help me.

Another thing is to use the word ‘what’ instead of ‘any.’ People, I find, often say like, “Do you have any feedback for me? Is there anything I could be doing differently?” It’s really easy for people to respond to that with, “No, I thought it was good.” But if I instead say, “What are two things I could have done better?” it’s hard to say, “Ah, nothing.” People usually can come up with one or two things. Phrasing the question can invite feedback in a different way.

Then my final piece of advice I’ll give here that I really love is keeping, we call it a smile file, but it’s essentially a folder, that can be digital or physical, where you just keep – it can be a folder in your inbox, where when you get feedback or someone thanks you for doing something or says something really nice about you, you save all of that to a folder.

Then when you receive critical feedback, you can go back to that folder and remind yourself of all the things you do well. Then you’re better able to see the criticism as one data point in the entire picture of who you are. It’s like, “I need to work on this, but it’s not devastating because there’s all these other things that I am doing well.”

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that. That reminds me of when I was in college and I was feeling a little shaken in my confidence because I think I was rejected from all these clubs I tried to get into as a freshman. It was like, “What the heck? I was Mr. High Achiever in high school. What’s the deal here?”

I made a little notebook in terms of all the things that I sort of achieved or sort of gotten great feedback on. Sure enough, you make a big list of 100 plus things, you’re like, “Well, damn. These are minor setbacks. I’m going to find my place real soon here. It’s all good.”

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, I think it’s so nice to have that to go back to. Again, whatever works for you. I have a folder in my inbox, where I’ll just put a nice email in there. Then even when I’m not receiving critical feedback sometimes it’s still nice to just go back and be like, “Oh, I did some cool things.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m going to put you on the spot Liz. Can you share a favorite bit of feedback or accomplishment that consistently brings a smile to your face and gets you in a good place?

Liz Fosslien
Yes. The book is also illustrated and I drew the illustrations, so they’re-

Pete Mockaitis
They’re really fun.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. Some of them kind of show the research or communicate an idea and then some are just meant to be light-hearted.

It’s not specific, but I think when people email me, I also have them on our website and then on Instagram. I’ll get comments from time to time especially around illustrations about anxiety and feeling stressed about work or feeling overwhelmed at times and normalizing that and saying everybody feels like this.

I’ve gotten comments from people saying, “I struggle with anxiety especially in the workplace and just knowing that you feel the same has made me feel so much better.” That is really meaningful to me I think connecting with people on that level and realizing that a little stick figure can have a profound impact on someone’s mood is incredibly motivating and lovely to hear.

Pete Mockaitis
That is very lovely. You’re bringing back memories for me. I think my favorite from a listener was “Every day an episode comes out, I make sure to wake up early so I can listen to it twice.”

Liz Fosslien
Oh, that’s so nice. I feel like I just got a warm glow from that ….

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, thank you listener.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, that’s ….

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Now we’re both smiling. That’s good. Well speaking of smileys and emojis, how’s that for a segue?

Liz Fosslien
Beautiful.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to communicating digitally, that’s tricky because you don’t have the facial expressions, the tone and all that. If we’re texting and emailing and Slacking – not skipping work, but using Slack as a communication channel – then how do we communicate in these digital ways with regard to this emotional piece of things?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. The first thing I would say is when you’re first getting to know someone, don’t just rely on digital communication. If I get a short email from my mom, whatever. We have a good relationship. We’ve know each other for 30 plus years. It’s fine. I’m not going to read into it.

If I’m working with someone new, that’s kind of all the information I’m going on, so I’m going to read a lot more into that email. That’s generally bad because digital communication is lacking in so many non-verbal cues that are really important in communicating actually your meaning and your feelings.

I would just always advise, start with video calls. Even just get on the phone if you can so you can hear tone of voice, cadence, how fast someone is speaking. These are all really important emotional signals.

Then the second is again, it just goes back to really trying to be as explicit as possible to avoid unnecessary anxiety. Let’s say that I’m a manager and I email one of my reports because I’m in a rush, I just say, “Hey, got your email. Let’s talk tomorrow.” That’s horrifying to receive as a report. If my manager sent me that, I’d be really anxious.

By I might have just meant, “Hey, I thought this was really good. There’s a few minor edits, but I can give them to you tomorrow,” but that does such a different thing for the recipient, so really being explicit.

Then the last thing I’ll say is that just typos communicate a lot of emotion. We liken them to just emotional amplifiers. Let’s say I send an email and I’m just slightly upset about something, but it’s filled with typos. Let’s say I send this to Mollie, my coauthor.

When she reads it, she’s going to see the typos and she’s going to imagine me banging away at my computer in a blind rage and not even caring about typos whatsoever. She’s going to perceive it as really angry when maybe I just meant it as “Hey, here’s this small thing that kind of upset me a little bit.” Just paying attention to these really small things that have big effects on how people perceive your email.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing when you call it an emotional amplifier. I guess can it work in a positive way if you think something is excellent and you’ve got some typos, like “Wow, he was so overwhelmed with joy and enthusiasm for my work product that he is blurting it out all over the keyboard.”

Liz Fosslien
Definitely. I think – immediately comes to mind is text messages when you share really exciting information. Then you get back like a ‘OMGQ exclamation point.’ The Q, it does convey you were just so excited to respond to me that you didn’t care about the typo.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Well, now I’m tempted to do it deliberately, but then I’m like oh, is that inauthentic? Is that deceitful?

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, you have to use this information for good, not for evil.

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

Liz Fosslien
I would say one last thing is just I really am a fan of the concept of selective vulnerability. I think more and more people are asked to be authentic, to be vulnerable around each other and it can be confusing to understand what does that even mean. How vulnerable can I be? If I am going through something and I’m really stressed about it, how much of that should I share?

We encourage people share, again, talk about your emotions without getting emotional, but then in a work context, it’s still important, especially if you’re a leader, to follow that up by painting the most realistic but optimistic picture of something.

Again, let’s say that there’s a round of layoffs. If you as a leader don’t show any emotion, people are going to think you’re a robot. Obviously, this is affecting you in some way. But you also don’t want to be standing in front of your employees having a panic attack.

One thing you would do is “I know this is a stressful time. I am feeling it as well, but we are making changes on our end to make sure that we’re going to be in a good position and that we won’t go through this again. We’re also working with people who are laid off to do X, Y, Z.” Just sharing information that provides some hope for people, but also not making them feel alone in their emotional state.

Things are going to be hard at work. It’s normal to be affected by them. I think if we don’t acknowledge that, we risk – we’d lose trust. There’s no trust anymore.

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

Liz Fosslien
Yeah, I really like it’s a small mindset shift, but it’s “Any time you find yourself saying ‘I have to do something,’ instead try saying, ‘I get to do something.’”

I am sometimes nervous about public speaking events or about just giving a presentation in front of people. I will often the night before find myself just thinking, “Why did I do this to myself? I’m so scared. I have to do this presentation tomorrow.”

And taking a movement and just saying, “I get to do this presentation. This is a cool opportunity for me. I get to share what I’ve been working on. Maybe someone will respond to it in a way that makes me feel good. Maybe someone will be so interested in it that we have fascinating conversation that deepens our bond also on a personal level.”

A lot of things that we’re afraid of, again, are opportunities. We fear them because there’s a big potential upside, so always reminding ourselves of that. I think that ‘I have to’ switching to ‘I get to’ is a really simple way of doing that.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Liz Fosslien
Yes. My favorite study is out of Baylor University. They found that emotions can go viral. Earlier I mentioned that concept of emotional contagion, where we catch each other’s emotional emotions. They found that emotions can spread from one office to another. It works like this.

I come home from work and I’ve had a really bad day because I’ve just been sitting next to someone who is incredibly stressed and I have not successfully wrapped a little nice bubble around myself. I come home and I’m really grumpy towards my partner. We get in a fight and then we go to bed angry. He wakes up the next morning and he’s irritated. He goes into his office and now he spreads that among all his coworkers. This happens.

I think that’s just a fascinating look at how important it is to have some kind of emotional flak jacket and to learn the skills to protect yourself but also to create a great environment for the people around you.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Liz Fosslien
Oh, I’m going to go with Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock, who led HR at Google for ten years. I think their people analytics department is fascinating. They do a really interesting and fun job of quantifying a lot of things around emotions, so what makes a manager good, what makes a good team good, and putting numbers and real experiments behind that I think.

It’s also useful for skeptics around emotions to say, no, here’s quantitative data showing why it is important to make people feel safe throwing out ideas or taking risks.

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

Liz Fosslien
Favorite tool. Is this an emotional tool or an app tool?

Pete Mockaitis
It could be either or both. I’m intrigued. I mean just something that you use regularly.

Liz Fosslien
Yeah. I would say just flagging how I’m feeling. I know I mentioned this before, but it’s just so useful. Also, I actually use this a lot in my personal life too. I think just any interpersonal thing, just flagging for someone, “I’m a little grumpy.” I done a lot like, “Hey, traffic was really bad today. I need half an hour to get over it,” or like, “I haven’t had coffee. I didn’t sleep well. Feeling a little grumpy right now. Maybe let’s talk in 20 minutes.” It’s just so, so useful, so I’m just going to bring it up twice in this interview.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite habit?

Liz Fosslien
Besides breakfast, I think taking photographs of things. I do a lot of design work, so taking photographs of things I find inspiring.

I will broaden that to say if you just see someone setting an example or doing something really well and you want to emulate it, writing it down in some kind of file or a journal. I think you can screenshot. If someone writes an email that makes you feel really good or you think was really well done, screenshot it and save it somewhere. Just always being aware of the lessons that are out there and keeping them in a file so that you can refer back to them.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Liz Fosslien
Just that we all have feelings. I definitely experienced this. My parents are stoic, academic immigrants, so I grew up in a pretty emotionally unexpressive household, so just this concept around permission. You are going to have feelings. It’s okay. It’s not a weakness. It’s not a flaw. I think that – which maybe is a little sad – but I think it’s really useful to hear that. It can make people feel a lot less isolated wherever they are.

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

Liz Fosslien
I’m going to point them to our website, LizAndMollie.com. Mollie is spelled M-O-L-L-I-E not M-O-L-L-Y. They can preorder the book, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, at your local independent book seller, wherever books are sold.

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

Liz Fosslien
Acknowledge your emotion. Next time you feel strongly, sit down, maybe journal about it, and really think about why you might be feeling that way.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Liz, thanks so much for sharing the good word and good luck with the book, No Hard Feelings, and all you’re up to.

Liz Fosslien
Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

394: De-Stressing Work with Better Language and Requests with Andrea Goeglein

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Workplace psychologist Andrea Goeglein shares how language impacts workplace stress and how to successfully ask for help from others.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key causes of workplace stress
  2. Two verbal habits that exacerbate workplace stress
  3. How to ask for help optimally

About Andrea

Often called a “Success Sherpa,” Andrea prides herself on carrying the information that nourishes her clients careers and personal success. She’s the Creator of the trademarked “Don’t Die” book series, which is licensed to the renowned publisher Hay House and served as Chairperson of Speaker Selection for TEDxUNLV.

Not only does Andrea Goeglein have the scientific knowledge that helps business leaders thrive, she has owned and operated several successful companies herself, including Evening Star Holdings, a hospitality operating business with $4 million in revenue and 60+ employees. Andrea also Founded the CEO Forum in Las Vegas, a senior executive think tank and boutique consulting practice.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Andrea Goeglein Interview Transcript

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

Andrea Goeglein
Thank you. I’m pleased to be here today.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to hear the story first of all about you were working in a Wall Street brokerage when you were 14 years old. How did that happen and what was it like for you?

Andrea Goeglein
Well, how it happened was a friend of one of my brothers called to offer him a few-day job during an Easter break. My brother wasn’t available. I said, “I can come in.” He said, “Well, just don’t tell them that you’re 14. Tell them that you’re 18,” so I did.

At the end of the few days everybody else was let go, but they asked me if I was interested in staying and working the rest of the break. Then offered me a summer job to which I said yes, except I had to tell them the truth. They said to me if I could get working papers, they would allow me to do the job because it was filing for a brokerage firm. I went and got working papers, which hang in my office today. I am as proud of that piece of paper as I am any master’s degrees or PhD that I have.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I wasn’t aware the process associated with the 14-year-old acquiring working papers. How does that happen?

Andrea Goeglein
I was born and raised in Queens, New York. At the time, now remember this is 1970, as you went to – in order to get a social security card, they would give you a social security card, but for you to actually be employable, you could only work in certain categories. You couldn’t work with dangerous machinery and things of that nature. Filing punch cards at a brokerage firm wasn’t in the category of dangerous jobs, so I got to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, that’s cool.

Andrea Goeglein
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve been working hard ever since.

Andrea Goeglein
And liking it. Everyone has their thing that becomes the thing that allows them to propel forward and to overcome various life adversities. For me it has always been being involved in business or working for a company, working with people. It has always been my joy.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. I also want to talk about some things that may not be as joyful that is the stress that shows up at work. You’ve done quite a bit of research and writing on this subject. I’d love to get your take when it comes to stress, first of all, what are sort of like the top causes, the top culprits to pinpoint that make stress appear?

Andrea Goeglein
Well, if you ask those in workplaces, they will always give you a name of someone. What’s causing stress? There’s always a name associated with it.

But generally what it is, is a combination of the expectations we put on ourselves, what we think about those expectations, and then how we respond to the people that we are working for and with in our organizations. You put that whole little pile together and add commutes and family responsibilities and community responsibilities.

If you’re the owner of the business, the financial burden whether or not you will have a successful business but the fact that all of these people who are feeling stressed are actually your responsibility to make sure that their lives and their financial lives are in order. There’s a combination, but it really has to do with how we think and how we speak about the situation that really starts the ball of stress rolling.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you give us some examples of ways we think of and speak of stress that make it proliferate versus keep it under control?

Andrea Goeglein
Sure. I call certain things talking in overwhelm. There’s a terminology that I stay away from known as crazy busy. You’ll meet someone and they are so proud of how crazy busy they are. Eh, not the best way to identify how you’re spending your days.

Why can’t you be happy busy? Why can’t you associate the fact that you are actually progressing and have lots of involvement to do with a word that is positive versus something that may be not so – that you may be seeing as a negative, that I’m crazy. If you speak overwhelm, you will be overwhelmed.

One of the very quick things to catch about the people around you is how they like to dramatize how many hours they’re working.

There was a time in my career where I worked for telecom companies and they were actually proud of the fact that they had maxed out their 100 message voice mail systems. I would go into meetings and people would be announcing the fact that – someone would say to someone, “Oh, I went to leave you a voice message and your voice box was full.” Then they would proceed to be really proud of how full that voice message was.

Pete Mockaitis
You just never clear it and you’ll fill it up no problem.

Andrea Goeglein
Thank you. And but it is also, it speaks to the culture of the organization and all of these little things that seem totally unrelated build a culture of mental stress because stress actually doesn’t exist until we put a name to it. It’s a response. It doesn’t exist until we create it. We create it with how we speak.

When you think about all the different ways that an organization and people within the organization do it, it starts with trying to stand out.

In a construction firm I was once associated with, people were proud of – there was like – I used to call it a game, but who made the coffee. They would start saying “Well, I was here at 4:30,” or “I was here at 5 o’clock.” Then I would have to put the damn towel and say “Did you achieve the goals? Did you meet the customer’s needs? Was the project brought in on time? That’s what you’re actually supposed to be measuring, not who makes the coffee first.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. That’s intriguing view then. You’re saying that stress is not sort of an intrinsic reality. It’s like I’ve got a lot of expectations and responsibilities and I don’t know if I have the resources to accomplish them. You’re saying that’s not what produces stress, but it’s how we respond to that state of affairs.

Andrea Goeglein
I would clarify that a bit. Those things exist. The things that we mentally speak about as causing us stress do exist. We are asked to do a lot more with a lot less. When you go into an organization, when you are creating a company – it happens across the board.

I just heard Elon Musk talk about how when the company within the last year was at a point when no one believed they could make the production of their lower-end Tesla, their engineers thought of creating a tent-like system and set up a production line under this huge tent.

During that period of time when the environment has turned against you and you still have a problem to solve, it is real. You are losing sleep. How you respond to that either allows you to be highly creative or crash and burn.

Pete Mockaitis
So one piece is language, that you’re not crazy busy or happy busy or thrilled busy, excited busy. How else do you think and speak about it in a way that will put you in a better place?

Andrea Goeglein
Okay. One of the things – when things aren’t going well, taking the drama out of whatever trauma has occurred within the company.

A company that I admire their product was Chipotle, a fast-food restaurant that I have observed. I’ve only been an observer of this company in the media for the last few years because I feel that as a corporation external things have happened to them.

I don’t know what the impact of romaine lettuce was on their production, but I know they used romaine lettuce and that was after a whole series. Well, when they come together in that organization, if the conversation is about how everything and everyone is against them – now I don’t know that to be true, but let’s just play it out – they’re actually not going to get to solve the problem.

They have to take the drama of what has occurred out of the conversation so that when they go in meetings, the frontal lobe kicks in and they can make the clearest conversations. That becomes very critical. Language keeps touching and correcting, pivoting how you make decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
How does one take the drama out?

Andrea Goeglein
It’s a pausing. It’s that taking the breath and catching – hearing what you’re saying. It really is amazing how many times we will dramatize a situation in order to get attention without even knowing it.

How many times have you sat in a meeting and someone arrives late and instead of quietly sitting down and joining the meeting and contributing at the appropriate moment, the next amount of X minutes is why they’re late. It’s a discipline to manage that for yourself.

All the things I speak about are disciplines that as an individual, if you contribute them to your workplace, you will not only be reducing stress for yourself, but also for those around you because if you are not the person who overdramatizes, if you are not the person who comes into the meeting and then has to have all the attention put on you, which when you think about it, do I really want to reinforce with everyone and cement in everyone’s mind that I was late or do I want to quietly sit down and contribute when it is productive?

Pete Mockaitis
Very good.

Andrea Goeglein
Okay. These are the things that we – I work very much at the individual level. That is the greatest point of control. When everything is out of control in your workplace, the one thing you can still control is how you speak and how you think.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed, indeed. All right. Then we’re controlling how you think and how you speak. You also have some perspective on asking for help and conquering the fear and resistance associated with doing that. When is the best time to ask and how should you do it?

Andrea Goeglein
I’m going to put that actually ahead of the other two things. I want to put that in intentional relationship building because I work in the area of positive psychology where everything is about PERMA and how do you flourish, how do you actually go from place to place wherever you go and actually be able to flourish no matter what is going on in the external.

One of the components is relationship building. Well, relationship building should actually start long before you need the help on that project that crashed and burned on you. That happens by you paying attention to the people around you.

See who actually has a more emotionally mature way of explaining situations. Befriend people who you admire what they contribute to the organization. Enter into the conversations before you need the help and it is amazing what will happen when you do need the help.

Pete Mockaitis
How do you recommend going about doing that befriending in a great way?

Andrea Goeglein
Okay. One of the things in the workplace is always to offer help before it’s needed. When you hear someone explaining a situation of something they’re working on and if you truly believe you can be a contributor, offer that. Do something that allows the person to know that there is a resource if they want it because that allows you to stay at their front of their mind. I’m talking whether this is a peer, whether this is a superior.

You want to be the person who in fact observes what others is happening and then be able to offer if it’s appropriate. I stress that a lot. Make sure you are not – this is the difference between – I know what the slang term is, but you don’t want to kiss someone’s butt. This is not what I’m teaching. I knew what the slang term for that was, but I needed the podcast version of that.

You don’t want to be seen as the person that’s kind of kissing up. What you do want to be seen is a person who is a resource and a level-headed resource so that as in these rapidly changing environments that we all live in across all organizational structures that we participate in, that in fact you can be a contributor and someone to come to, sometimes is just that calm sea. Someone may just want to come because they know you will not overreact if they tell you what they’re facing.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Andrea Goeglein
That’s a resource. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then you’ve built up some good relationships, you’ve proactively offered help, got some reciprocity working for you. Then when it comes to making the actual request, how do you recommend we go about doing that?

Andrea Goeglein
Okay, again, watch your words. People don’t like to help victims, especially in the work place. If you need help, if you realize that doing it alone or you’ve really done it alone and realized you’re not getting the best result, be really clear when you approach someone. Actually use the words, “I need some assistance,” or “I need your knowledge. Are you willing to work with me on this?”

Actually acknowledge that the person has something that in fact could be helpful and you’re making a request. Human beings like to help other human beings contrary to a lot of – as long as you stay off Twitter, you’ll believe that’s true. There’s only certain things I can control. That’s one of them.

Use language that shows that you are not a victim, but attempting to really be a victor and you’d like to take others with you. Also make sure that others know that if it’s appropriate they will be acknowledged. Acknowledging others is a way of showing your appreciation, but you have to do it very specifically. When I got stuck on this project, I went to them and just having this conversation helped me to think clearer.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so acknowledge their particular expertise or knowledge or value or perspective that’s valuable. Then you say the words, “I need the help.” What else?

Andrea Goeglein
Well, it depends on the situation. I want to take the opposite side. When not – how not to ask because that’s actually something that as humans we fall into, especially if we’re upset. The same way we’re crazy busy.

If you were in a meeting and someone inappropriately – and I will say inappropriately – decided to call you out on how bad the report you did was. You leave that meeting and the first thing you do is find people to complain about how bad a manager that human being is. You have to remember that if you’re talking to that person about the other one, they’re going to know that someday you may talk about them that way too.

You want to take responsibility as quickly as possible. People look for that very quickly. It is the thing that people unknowingly – are you talking about someone else or are you taking responsibility?

If you leave a meeting and say – and be very honest, “Gosh, I did not think that that was that bad. I wish he had not responded that way, but I hear clearly that I didn’t give her what she wanted. Can you help me think through this better?”

That allows the person to really step up and not get into a conversation – If you come at them and say, “Can you believe what that woman did? No manager should be allowed to speak to anyone that way.” The whole conversation will be about her behavior, the executive’s behavior. What you really need in that moment is a better report and a better outcome.

I would put, again, that ahead, checking how you – what happens when something goes wrong and how you speak about it because that adds to your stress in the moment. You have to actually build your own courage back up.

That’s the whole thing about this asking for help and the stress. It has a lot to do with feeling incredibly vulnerable. Our jobs also dictate whether or not we eat most of the time. It dictates whether or not we have homes and our children get educated. It’s just not a job. It’s just not a report. There is a lot behind how all that goes down and why it feels stressful.

Cleaning up your language and being very careful if you have bad habits today, how to clean that up, will help you move forward in an easier way. I can’t stop how fast everything’s changing. I can’t stop organizations doing really well or really poorly and causing stress. I just can’t do it. I can help you guide your language.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really interesting when you mention that the job is more than just the job. It’s sort of like the livelihood. There’s kind of high stakes there, which can naturally give rise to some stress. That makes me wonder in terms of the stress alleviating impact of just having a real clear set of what are your options. If the worst case scenario goes down, they can, you are fired, that you know you’re going to be just fine.

Andrea Goeglein
Yes, you know Pete, any time I work with someone literally within the first meeting we have a conversation of what I call the low water mark. I ask them – and it’s very interesting as a business coach that this is one of the first things I do.

I need to know what your financial situation is. One, to know whether or not you’re aware of it and two, to make sure that as we talk about options – if you want to tell me how bad the organization is and that you’re putting up with all of this horrible conduct, there has – there’s reasons why you’re doing it. Some of them may be behavioral. Some of them may be financial and we need to know that fast.

That is one of the things that I ask. No one has to give me absolute numbers. I can deal in percentages. Do you know what your monthly nut is? How close to that do you get in income? How much are you over? How much are you over? We speak in percentages. Once we have built trust, we speak in absolute numbers.

But I need you to focus on that so you can’t use it as an excuse as to why you’re staying in a place that is actually not one that you’re able to rebound from because that’s – a stressful situation is only stressful through my eyes. It may not be stressful through your eyes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting with regard to the numbers. I guess with that still I think some people feel a sense of stress even if they say, “Hey, I’ve got ten years of assets. Ten years of living expenses stashed away in assets no problem.” They’re still worried about the impact of losing a job.

Andrea Goeglein
There’s a lot of different pieces of PERMA. One of them is achievement. We have different things that drive us at different times. There’s combinations of them.

Achievement, sometimes you’re so devoted to why you joined the organization and the project you were involved in, that you don’t want to walk away from it until you see it to a completion because you have certain attributes, whether they be behavioral or through character strengths, that in fact go against you walking away. There’s actually more stress if you walk away because of the lack of completeness.

That’s all the kinds of things you find out at an individual level. When we talk globally, the things that cause stress within organizations, I would say language, language, language. How you speak about the place you are and the people you are with, start your day and end your day, you better make a good decision.

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

Andrea Goeglein
Okay. I would say that’s the most important thing. Wake up and know that in fact from the first thought you have, words are coming out of your mouth, put a check on them. If they are not positive, begin the recrafting process as you’re brushing your teeth. It will matter and it will change your day.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andrea Goeglein
One of my most favorite quotes has – I just in fact it was so funny that I looked at it because I like to – being trained academically, one of the things that I was always required to do was attribute. You must attribute very clearly where a work comes from. I’m going to tell you the quote and tell you where it was attributed, but know that there’s many.

The quote is this, “Watch your thoughts for they become your words. Watch your words for they become your actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become.”

That version I just read was attributed to Margaret Thatcher. In fact, it has been attributed to so many different people.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study?

Andrea Goeglein
Oh, the marshmallow study. It’s the one about self-control. Because one, I believe I would have failed it if I was one of the children and two, delaying gratification is so important to success.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. How about a favorite book?

Andrea Goeglein
So many, but the one that I use the most is Return to Love.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Andrea Goeglein
It’s three in one: reading, writing, and reflection. Every day and every way, if you start that way, everything in your life will be different.

Pete Mockaitis
Are there particular questions you ask with the reflection?

Andrea Goeglein
It changes, but one of the things – one of the fun ones is “If today was to be extraordinary, what would happen?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is fun. Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Andrea Goeglein
Again, I’m a little anal. Of the reading, writing, and reflection, daily writing is my favorite.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you write at a particular time of day?

Andrea Goeglein
Yes, I write every morning. Well, I write for my work. There’s that portion of it. But I write every morning. I use one of the main things of positive psychology, which is gratitude. I start each day listing five things from the day before that I was grateful for. Some of them can be negative, such as “I am grateful that I lost that client. It helped me to look at what I need to improve in my work.”

But I find that using that helps put those things on paper and you put it away. It’s one of the reasons why we tell people to write down goals and aspirations because it stops the mind from wandering, looping back to them. I use that within the gratitude process because gratitude is the one human strength that we teach that if you do not have it, you should learn it because it builds on your resilience to keep moving forward, so things like stress are easier to handle.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Andrea Goeglein
If you believed and truly lived that you had a choice of every thought that you had, your life would be the best it could ever be.

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

Andrea Goeglein
I would point them to my website at ServingSuccess.com. That’s S-E-R-V-I-N-G-S-U-C-C-E-S-S.com. There is a whole list of videos. There is actually the reading, writing, reflection videos are there under the free courses. I would love to have that be a gift to all of your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Andrea Goeglein
First thing tomorrow when you walk into work, make eye contact with someone, smile and say, “Today is going to be a great day.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Andrea, thanks so much for sharing the goods and good luck in all your adventures.

Andrea Goeglein
Thank you so much Pete. I appreciated the opportunity.

387: Becoming Comfortable with Uncertainty with Julie Benezet

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Julie Benezet discusses the importance of taking risks and being comfortable with the discomfort of outcome uncertainty—and how you can achieve that comfort.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How discomfort brings out your best game
  2. The four steps to becoming comfortable with discomfort
  3. Four self-sabotaging behaviors and how to stop them in their tracks

About Julie

Julie Benezet has devoted her professional life to exploring the new, building businesses and helping others do the same. She currently works as an executive consultant, coach and teacher, following 25 years in business and law. She is the founder of The Journey of Not Knowing®, a leadership development program that teaches its executives how to navigate the new.

Julie spent four years as a member of the Amazon.com leadership team that brought the company from the early steep ramp up phase to its emergence as an established business. As its Vice President, Corporate Resources and Director of Global Real Estate, she is credited with leading the delivery of over 7,000,000 square feet worldwide with the supporting corporate infrastructure in just two years.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Julie Benezet Interview Transcript

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

Julie Benezet
Nice to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’re going to have a lot of interesting discussions, but I want to start by hearing some fun tales from your time working at Amazon.com way back in 1999.

Julie Benezet
I think I could any story and it would be deemed insane. Amazon was a complete adventure. Here it was a new company, new industry, new organization, reorg by the hour and no strategy, no capital budget. We were supposed to roll out the worldwide platform of real estate somehow.

The first big pursuit we went on was the pursuit of finding a distribution center in Nevada. We had to work by dark of night. In 1998 when the initiative first started, everybody wanted to know what Amazon was up to because they figured every move they made was going to be a great indicator of its strategy from which they could learn and compete.

I had to travel into Reno, Nevada with a fake name, which when you fly in and meet a broker there, you think that having a fake name is a nothing, but you have to come into a part of the airport so they can’t tell what plane you got off. When they ask you, “Oh, what time did you leave this morning,” you have to make up the numbers so that they can’t back into where you might have flown out of. It goes from there.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Julie Benezet
We looked around. I thought that was tensest part of the journey. We looked around and 500,000 square foot distribution centers aren’t just lying around waiting for you, but we finally came up one that was an occupied on in a place called Fernley, Nevada. It was about to be emptied of a large corporation there that wasn’t doing so well, so we were going to take it over.

We proceeded to negotiate it with a developer who was going to buy it and then rent it back to us, but the key to the thing was we couldn’t disclose to them who we really were. They knew who the broker was, so she had credibility. That allowed them to talk to us, but beyond that they had no idea who we were. Somehow we had to convince them and they had to convince their banker that this is going to be a deal worth doing. Everything was done, again, under cloak of darkness.

We go through this and we get to the point where we’ve got all the deal points made. We’re standing out at the distribution center and my boss, who was the chief logistics officer – he was formally at Wal-Mart – he had a large retinue of people who could come in and figure out how to create a throughput system that was the first of its kind, that could process four million SKUs of product to individual customers. Never been done before.

He invited 24 of his closest friends, who were all the rock stars of the logistics community. But the deal was, again, nobody could know who we were. Anybody was in logistics, including the people who were the managers of that plant, absolutely would have recognized these people. We had to separate them out from our guys, who came in without the benefit of a lease, to sit down and have a day of brainstorming to figure out how to create a throughput system.

My job was to make sure the workers stayed at a distance from the room so they couldn’t overhear names and disclose them to their bosses and keep the bosses out of the building. This is not what I went to college to do. We sweated our way through this.

The last minute the big boss decided he was going to fly into Reno to come out and say hi. We said, “No, you can’t do that,” because he definitely would have known these people. We had to dash into Reno, meet him there, because he wouldn’t have known me, dash back, arrive back, and finally we got our final deal point and it’s time for the big reveal.

The big reveal is when we’re going to send a non-disclosure fax to this developer to say who we were so they could turn around and tell their bank and everybody could decide if they were going to do this deal or not. We get the fax ready, walk over to this fax machine and all of the connectivity in the building went down. Everything. This state of the art place that we’re supposed to be leasing has no connectivity.

I’m sitting there thinking, “Oh my, oh my.” I’m staring at across this 7,000 person town, which is a farming community and there’s not a lot of fax machines hanging around there much less anything else. I finally spot a Best Western Motel. I thought, well, they’ve got those ugly old fax machines, the things with the thick piece of paper that puts out about a page a minute.

I grabbed the broker and said, “We’re going to the Best Western.” We fly down half a mile to the Best Western and sure enough they have a fax machine with the thick paper and one page per minute. The woman was nodding and smiling. She says, “Well, of course, of course.” We’re sitting there and eight pages, each takes a minute to go, so you kind of do the math there or each page took eight minutes to process.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow, eight minutes per one page.

Julie Benezet
Yeah and we have an eight-page fax. I’m sitting there thinking about what I can do in my next life. I’m watching the hotel manager humming. She’s this woman and she’s putting up Christmas decorations and she’s offering – her friends would wander in and she’d offer them blueberry muffins. I’m watching her thinking, “Oh wow, that looks so nice, so calm.”

Meantime, the eight pages get through and the broker goes outside to talk to the developer. She gives the name of who it is. They said, “Oh, okay,” and that was it. I’m a puddle by this time. She comes back and says, “We’re good.” I’ve just had my first heart attack.

I go up to pay for the fax and all this time I’ve been thinking, “Where did I go wrong? How did I choose a life that’s insane like this, that challenges my heart rate, that has all this craziness?” I’m watching this woman decorating her lobby and feeding her friends with blueberry muffins and she seems so calm and happy. Where did I go wrong?

I’m paying for the fax and I’m just chitchatting with her, asking where she’s from. Well, she’s from Claremont, California. In fact, she and I went to junior high school together.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Julie Benezet
I’m looking at this and thinking, “Oh, it’s a small world.” But it was very much consistent with the journey of not knowing. You never knew what you were going to come up against. It was a challenge every step of the way, but you had to know that you loved doing this stuff because the insanity was liberally applied.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is quite a story.  Thank you for really taking us there and painting a picture. Yeah, let’s talk about this book and the accompanying journal. We’ve got The Journey of Not Knowing and The Journal of Not Knowing. It sounds like you learned a thing or two about not knowing and into that. How would you articulate sort of the main point of the book?

Julie Benezet
The Journey of Not Knowing is about pursuing what it is you don’t know, which is a scary place, in order to put in motion something better, a bigger idea. That we lived in the 21st century, where change is the order of the day, that we have to constantly come up with new ideas, whether it is for our team, our community, our family, our career, something that has to meet the needs of an evolving market around us.

The Journey of Not Knowing is how you deal with the fact that you have to be comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing what’s going to happen and accept that discomfort as part of the deal of getting to something better.

We spend a lot of time running away from scariness and say it’s a bad thing and trying to de-stress and say that there’s no value, but in fact what I discovered – and Amazon was very much an example of this – is when you go towards things you don’t know to try something new, it brings up your best game and you really pay attention to what the possibilities are. If you stay with it, you can get to new places that can be pretty compelling.

Pete Mockaitis
What I like the way you’re describing this because it sounds so fun and adventurous and exciting as opposed to just terrifying and nerve racking.

Julie Benezet
Well, it is terrifying and nerve racking, but that’s okay. When I came upon the concept was when I was at Amazon and that I’ve always had an affection for the new. Even as a kid who was afraid of other people, I was always trying to turn things upside down and go a different place. Amazon was this whole concept grown large.

But when we finished that Fernley deal, I came back and literally the next night I’m sitting in my office trying to enjoy – in corporate America the amount of time between ‘Job well done,’ and ‘What have you done for me lately?’ is about a nanosecond.

I’m sitting there enjoying my nanosecond and I get this phone call saying, “Julie,” this was the right hand of the chief logistics officer, basically he says, “Julie, we need you to go to Germany and get another 500,000 square foot warehouse.” I’ll spare you that story, but the key to that was as I’m thinking about this is okay. Of course there’s no parameters. Of course they want it in three months. Of course these things are not just lying around.

I thought of all the impossibilities that we attach to it. Treasury is going to tell me, “No, you can’t get last minute travel.” HR is going to say, “You can’t move your people more than 30 miles from where they are now,” because then we’d have to do a social plan and they’re expensive. Legal is going to say, “Oh, those German lawyers are a nightmare.” IT is going to say, “No way we can get the right infrastructure.” Etcetera, etcetera.

I’m just ticking off in my mind all these totally frightening things and wondering how I’m going to do this, but that’s when it hit me. That’s when I realized that no matter how scary it was and how impossible this could be, no part of me didn’t believe we wouldn’t pull it off.

That’s when I came up with the concept of the journey of not knowing is being comfortable with discomfort of not knowing and realizing that that just goes with the territory, but it will challenge you and it will challenge other people, but it’s worth the adventure, again, whether it’s your career, your home life, your community, your team, whatever.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like a pretty cool place to be in terms of “Boy, there’s going to be a bunch of challenges. Have no idea how we’re going to resolve them all, but I’m certain that we will.” That’s a pretty cool spot. I’m wondering for those who don’t have that level of confidence and certainty when they’re entering into such endeavors, how do you get to that place?

Julie Benezet
Well, I talk about something in the book called the core four. The core four are four ways of milepost to get you on the way through the journey through the unknown.

The first one is to first of all know what your dreams are. What is it you want to achieve? If it’s a career ambition, you want to change disciplines or you want to move up and be a senior vice president, you want to do something different with your life, then it’s important first to label what your dream is and say okay. Often your dream is something that you’ve been avoiding because it’s too scary to you, but that is the one that probably has the most power.

You want to create a different system of team selection, where the teams choose their own members rather than the manager doing it and giving much more power to the team members and you don’t know what that’s going to look like, but you think that could be pretty compelling for people and a great recruiting tool.

The first is your dream. Once you have a dream within that, then you have to say, “Who is this going to benefit?” In the journey of not knowing, your job is to work through the uncertainty to find out what you can learn about what you don’t know.

In anything there are things we know, like I know your name is Pete and I know that you’re on the other end of a phone. I know you have a show. But I don’t know what you’re wearing, but I could ask you. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I can ask you and you can tell me or you won’t.

Then there are things that you can’t know either because the other person doesn’t want to tell me. I may sound like a girlfriend you had ten years ago and you just hate even hearing my voice and you certainly don’t want to share that or it’s something that you’re not aware of and I have to be comfortable with that.

When you’re trying to figure out your dream and learning about the people who would benefit, then you have to go after those things that you don’t know, but you can find out. One of the things you need to find out is what are those people, like if it’s your team now, what do you need to learn about them to pull this thing off because you’ve got to get their buy in?

That’s step one. That will also inform more about what that dream is going to look like.

Step two is to get comfortable with the scariness of risk, you’ve heard me talk about this, and accept it as part of the game. The thing that scariness can do for you is it doesn’t have to disable, but it can raise your attention. It says, “Okay, I’m nervous because I don’t know what was going to happen. I don’t know the consequences. I don’t know if people are going to like it or hate it. But I really would like to try this. I have to be okay with that worry.”

That’s an important thing. In fact there’s research coming out now in the area of mindfulness that mindfulness is very good for applying yourself to a task you already know, but it’s not so good when you apply it to something that’s new, that you don’t have enough edge going for you. That certainly is what I’ve witnessed in my career and the careers of others.

Pete Mockaitis
You don’t have enough edge going for you, you said?

Julie Benezet
Yeah, you don’t have enough – are you going to reach and stretch into a place that makes you a little nervous, but you’re willing to try. Because if it’s something that you feel really calm about, you’ve probably done it before and so have other people, so it’s probably not a new enough idea. It’s maybe not fixing the problem.

There’s a lot of these things, these new ideas are to fix old problems that people don’t want to talk about, don’t want to face or there’s some person standing in the way that nobody wants to stare down. But that allows you to go into those places where it’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. That’s why it’s important to go towards not away from discomfort and recognize that is an empowering thing rather than a disempowering thing.

The third is to watch out for self-sabotaging behaviors. These things are your defensive behaviors that I call hooks. Everybody has defensive behaviors.

Defenses are just to take away discomfort, that if I’m in a situation where I find the people are condescending and make me feel little and upset and yet they might be people that I really need to help me with my project, but if I find that I’m reacting that way, one defensive behavior is just to disengage, just check out or tell myself I don’t need them. I’ll figure it out some other way. I’ll walk away from it.

A very common one is micromanagement, that micromanagement is about trying to take control of things. Instead of waiting to see how something or whether something is going to turn out, instead you want that instant feedback.

When you micromanage, “Well, Pete, can you move your paper over three inches? Could you please call so-and-so and tell them thus-and-thus? Would you put the stapler to the side?” I do this micromanagement role play with people and they just love it because everybody – if you don’t know what micromanagement is, you’ve never worked.

But what it does is when you get into it, it gives you near-term comfort and gives you this sense of control, but it takes you off the pathway to something bigger.

Personalizing is a big one. Personalizing is if I hear someone has criticized an event as a reflection on me, instead of hearing what the value is to the broader picture, it will get me. I will spend my time worrying about my own self-esteem rather than what’s going to be valuable to the organization.

For example, if somebody says, “Julie, that was a horrible presentation,” if I have a personalizing thing, I’ll go into unknown territory saying, “Oh, I’m just a screw-up. I’m terrible. I know I should have, would have, could have.”

Instead of stepping back and saying, “Well, let’s see. What went wrong there? Maybe they have already heard that topic before or maybe it’s hitting a nerve ending that they’ve tried to address before and it didn’t go so well and they’d rather not think about it or maybe they just heard that there are going to be layoffs and they weren’t even paying attention.”

What I need to do is get past that hook of personalizing, worrying about how I look and look at how the situation looks. Again, you have to go and figure out what it is you don’t know. Personalizing is particular common among women, but men do it too. It’s very common as I said, but it is one to catch yourself, “Uh oh, get over yourself. Let look out here and see what’s going on.”

The final thing, and this is where the juice is, you need to find drivers to fuel your way through the unknown and the discomfort of finding out new ideas.

Drivers are anything from, “I so dislike the guy who I’m competing against for this bid that there’s no way on this earth that I’m going to let him win. I am going to go deal with the scary analytics department, who always make me feel like a moron because I know they can put together a bid that will be winning so that will help me push through all the discomfort that’s going to take to get me there.”

Or more important are core drivers. Core drivers are about who you are, what are your values, what do you care about, what are your dreams, and what are your life stories. There are a lot of them. Did anybody doubt that when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream,” did they ever doubt that he really meant it? That gave him a lot of fuel to go through a lot of scary places in the name of civil rights.

In my coaching practice I run up against this depressingly often, particularly women whose mother when they were children told them they would fail, which is incredible. You and I could probably talk for a long time about the dynamics of mothers and daughters and woman and mothers with their own issues.

But it’s a very powerful motivator when I’ve seen woman after woman go out there and say “I am going to go after that promotion as terrified as I am about what it’s going to take to get there, all the speeches I’m going to have to make, all the reports I’m going to have to write, all the people I’m going to have to prove myself to, so I can show my mother that I will not fail.” That’s a core driver and it’s very powerful.

Those are the four steps that get you on the journey through that discomfort towards something bigger.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, thank you. Well, there’s much I’d love to dig into here. I’ll go in reverse order. These drivers, it’s interesting in that the notion that “I’m going to prove to my mother that I can do it and I’m awesome,” or “I want to stick it to this competitor because I don’t like them at all.”

Julie Benezet
It doesn’t have to be laudable, Pete. It just has to .

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well that’s what I was intrigued is that – I guess I’ve been there too with regard to sort of quote/unquote noble drivers and maybe less so. Is there any downside to tapping into a less laudable driver?

Julie Benezet
That’s a good question. A downside. Well, you don’t use it as your press clips.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Julie Benezet
You don’t say, “Okay, we’re going to go get the guys.” Although Ford made a whole – its whole vision for a long time was “We want to beat Chevy,” and that did rather well for them, so it’s not always a bad thing to do.

I don’t think so. Unless you let it consume you in a negative way. If you just say, “This is what I’m using for,” and then use it for the positive of the endpoint you want, then I think it’s very useful. If you use to basically revisit and wallow in past slights from somebody, that’s not so good.

All of these involve leadership in some way, whether it’s for your personal career, for your team. Leadership is simply about having an idea to make things better and bringing other people along to help support you in it.

When you want to get help with your idea, you want to be able – it’s really a sales job. You need to motivate other people to come into the tent to join you here. Having a negative driver is not something, as I say, you translate into your motivational speech. A different way is what if you win this bid, the group will win for itself and how life will be better as a result of this.

You need to make a division between what inside is making you go versus what it is that you need to use on the outside to socialize it and get all those people to help you come along on it.

Pete Mockaitis
Now you also mentioned back to the self-sabotaging behaviors that you’ll note that these are just sort of responses to natural defensiveness that’s popping up. You offered a couple kind of particular prescriptions, like if you start the personalizing, here’s what to do instead.

I’d love to get your take on are there any sort of universal tips that you’d suggest in terms of if you find defensiveness is bubbling up and you’re starting to go down whatever your particular unique self-sabotaging flavor may be, are there any kind of universal things that can help get you back on track.

Julie Benezet
Yeah, there’s something I call the hook cycle. The hook cycle begins with you being triggered by something. I’ll give you a quick story to demonstrate it so you get the pieces.

Cheryl was a senior project manager at a company. She really wanted to be promoted to director. She made a point of really going the extra mile with the client to dazzle them, so she would do well with them, then finally get promoted.

Well, one day Cheryl heard via the grapevine that Michael, who worked for her, had told her boss that the client was unhappy about their services. Well, this was the first Cheryl had heard about that. She went into this great angry place and she tended to personalize. She had parents who were shamers and blamers because we all carry our life history with us. You have to pay attention to that.

But she went into this place of, “Oh no, this should never have happened.” Instead of thinking about what the client really was saying and why Michael spoke to her boss, she went into this reactive mode. She was hooked by personalizing. The first part of the hook cycle is when you are hooked by something that triggers you.

What can happen in a negative hook cycle is if you don’t catch yourself, then you go into this reactive place, which she did. She went into this reactive place and what she did was she goes storming to her boss and says, “I can’t believe Michael came and said that to you. How dare he? He’s just playing the male chauvinist pig card.”

Her manager is listening to this. He reacts to her reaction. He’s thinking, “Whoa, she can’t manage her people. I couldn’t possibly promote her.” The result is that she is not promoted.

Well, the trick of getting to a better place is to catch yourself when you catch yourself being hooked and stop and to form a new cycle. The new cycle is when you catch yourself – and it can occur in different ways. You suddenly get almost a stabbing feeling, you get really nervous, sometimes if it’s like micromanagement, you get dead calm. Something tips you off that you’re going into a defensive place.

At that point, literally stop and shift to what I call pause and reflect. Even if you are quiet for 30 whole seconds, it will stop the speeding train of reactivity. What it does is it allows you to start to detach from all that emotionalizing and start to shift to a place of looking at it differently.

Then the second part and you build a new cycle and a more productive one. In that new cycle first thing is to give yourself compassion. We all are human. We all have things that cause us to react. That’s okay. We can forgive ourselves for that and acknowledge it. But then say, “But this isn’t going to work. Me going storming into my boss’s office and complaining about Michael, not so hot. I need to come up with a new strategy.”

Then in looking at a new strategy, that’s when it’s like opening the aperture of a camera. As the more you detach and breathe deep or whatever helps to bring in some calm, you literally can see more what’s happening. You look around and say, “Okay, what do I need to learn here.” It goes back to that not knowing thing. “What is it do I not know?”

One of the things that Cheryl did not know was why Michael talked to her boss first. Well, it turns out, so she went and talked to Michael. She learned that well, it wasn’t a planned event. He just happened to be standing in the coffee room next to the boss and he had just heard this information. He just thought he was being helpful as they’re both pouring their coffee.

But he had also worked for himself for 17 years and this chain of command thing was brand new. He had never heard of anything like that. The last thing that had occurred to him was to be undercutting her. She realized that she needed to understand Michael a whole lot better to get a more constructive working relationship. The next step is to work on that relationship.

Another piece of it obviously, they have to go solve for the client problem, which they did. This actually comes from a real life event. I happened to have been the coach for both the big boss and Cheryl, so these are not their real names. But they did go and rehabilitate it, both with Michael and Cheryl. They also had to rehabilitate the issue with the client. Six months later she was promoted to director.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. That’s nice to see how that unfolds there and makes it all the more real. Along with making it real, you mentioned a couple of those behaviors. I’d love to hear a few more so that listeners might recognize themselves in them.

I think one of my defensive behaviors is I just sort of – I start the argument without the other person. I’m like, “I can’t believe he would say that. After this and this and this. Well, he might thing this, but I’d say that. Then he might say this and I’d say that.”

It’s like I’ve already got the whole script. The whole script is playing out before me and I’m getting kind of riled up about an argument that has not happened and very well probably won’t happen. I sort of notice that in myself, so I try to take a breath in those situations. What are some other patterns that show up again and again there?

Julie Benezet
Look at our political environment right now. Nobody is listening to anybody because everybody is going around basically … each other because it’s a very anxious, anxiety provoked thing. It’s not terrible. It’s very human. But what it does is, again, it’s like something that person said to you, you took off – triggered you. How could you recognize that in yourself and then be able to pull up long enough to say, “Well, how do you get there?”

Most of my experience has been and I’ve watched this in negotiation training is the winners tend to be the ones who are quieter and ask more questions. I’m not saying you never can correct, but something to consider is what is it that I can do here to learn more about what I don’t know about this person’s position and why it is we’re not on the same page.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a handy one. Thank you. Any other patterns associated with when the defensiveness is starting to bubble up?

Julie Benezet
Perfectionism is a big one. There are ten hooks. Perfectionism is of course a rabid fear of failure. The perfectionist thinks if they just keep doing it until they get it right, they’ll be okay. It’s almost like a safety thing. It’s a great way of spinning because there’s no end point to it. There’s no such thing as something that’s perfect.

But a lot of people get into perfectionism. For example, if they’re going to go out and sit down and do a customer survey with a customer who they know might not be happy, they might find themselves spending a long time getting the wording just right on this survey rather than picking up the phone, calling up the customer and saying, “Hey, I need to come see you and learn some things here.”

It’s perseverative behavior. It’s round and around. What it can do is while you’re trying to get the perfect product, you’re avoiding making a decision. It can be a real career ender. You see a lot of perfectionists in a number two seat, not a number one seat because they’ll just keep trying to make it nicer and better and cleaner.

You see this in finance a lot. You see it among engineers. We’ve all got pieces of this. I was a lawyer for years, believe me, they’ve got perfectionism down. But what it does is if you don’t make a decision, then you’re not accountable. If you’re not accountable for something, you can’t fail at it. That’s the myth, but that’s what keeps a lot of people in that trough.

Getting out of perfectionism, again, is to first catch yourself when you’re doing it. When you’re adjusting the font for the 14th time on this proposal, you might step back and ask yourself “Am I picking on this font because the font really needs to be fixed or am I failing to look at whether this proposal is really answering the question that the potential client is asking? Is this really going to win the deal?”

Particularly if it involves things that you feel stretched in trying, but may be important to do so. Perfectionism is another big one.

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

Julie Benezet
Oh, I could mention a lot of things. When I wrote The Journey, I wrote it as a story because it’s full of people that are familiar. All of these things are very typical and yet the final goal is to pursue something better, the adventure of improving things and making a difference. I think that’s worth all the sweat along the way.

{Sponsor: Babbel. If you’d like to pursue an adventure into a foreign country…or just into your own mental development, check out our sponsor, Babbel, the language learning app that will get you speaking a new language with confidence. I’ve long wanted to learn how to speak spanish and even purchased some software to help me get there, but I had a hard time finding the time to sit down at the computer and make it happen. With Babbel, you can take learning anywhere using their app or online platform. Progress is synced across all devices. Their lessons are quick and convenient, in only 10 minutes. The app is beautiful and they have fun little sounds that make me feel rewarded as I’m making progress. You can try the #1 selling language learning app in the world for free by visiting Babbel.com or downloading the appl. That’s Babbel, BABBEL dot com, or download the app to try for free. So thanks to Babbel for sponsoring the show, and helping people speak a new language with confidence}

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Julie Benezet

Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Julie Benezet

Well, I tend to look at biographies as telling important stories. I look at research too. But a couple books for example that are very illustrative of what I’m talking about is Shoe Dog, which is Phil Knight’s biography of how Nike was formed. You spend the whole time wondering how it is possible that this company ever succeeded to make a dime much less a billion dollars.

There is a study, it has an important moral. It’s for people who love animals like I do. It’s not a great one to read, but it’s Martin Seligman’s Learned Helplessness. It’s all about how people can get into situations where they feel like they have no control over the end, so they just quit trying. You see that in lots of different ways.

But it was done in the early ‘50s. It remains true today. It has powerful implications. The moral of that one is to find out what it is you can control and to go towards that.

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Julie Benezet

One is free writing. Free writing is something where you don’t sit and organize it. You just sit down and you just start writing. Handwriting is better than typing because it’s kinetic. It actually slows you down, so you think better. It improves the memory that comes out of that work, but it also tends to personalize it more.

Free writing is you say, “I just wish I could go down there and tell them what I think. The reason they’re bugging me about this.” It can sound like a word salad, but by dumping it out of your head and putting it on a piece of paper, you start to see things bubble to the surface. “What are the themes, the patterns here that are showing up for me? Oh, I see. These are all instances where somebody treated me like a little thing and put me down and that makes me crazy.”

Another one is white boarding is that people are very visual and whether you’re one person, two or a roomful, there’s something very powerful to going up to the wall and drawing shapes, words, colors, lines, whatever, to talk about what you’re thinking about. I find it’s less structured and, again, it surfaces patterns and thinking and can be very powerful to getting to a better place.

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite habit?

Julie Benezet

Well, if you knew me, you’d think this would be strange, but sitting still. Because I like to be very active, strong bias for action, you might have figured that out, when I really want to sit down and figure something out, the idea of being still makes me shift into a different gear and quit distracting myself with other stuff. It makes it impossible for me to run anyplace else.

I just sit, feel, breathe, and let my head drift. I don’t do it for very long. I do it for at most five minutes, but it’s re-energizing and it can be very clarifying because when you have a little meeting with yourself like that, it’s amazing what shows up on the agenda.

Pete Mockaitis

Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they repeat it frequently?

Julie Benezet

One of the things that I hear a lot is about leadership. It’s not a job; it’s a mindset. It’s a state of being where you’re always looking for the bigger opportunity in whatever is going on. If something goes wrong in your job, don’t just fix the little thing, like the team didn’t put the paper in on time. What’s the bigger deal that’s going on?

Why is it that they didn’t come through on that? Did they not understand it? Did they realize that nobody is going to read it? Did they think that the data were flawed? What was sitting behind that stuff that stopped them from doing it because that’s what you go to fix. The mindset is always looking for that bigger opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis

If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Julie Benezet

On my website, JulieBenezet.com or there’s Author Central off of Amazon.

Pete Mockaitis

Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Julie Benezet

Dare to dream, face your fears, and go for it.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Julie, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you lots of luck and more adventures and more unknowing places.

Julie Benezet

Guaranteed. Thank you very much.

380: The Five Routes to Personal Change with Jane Ransom

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Trainer, author, and master hypnotist Jane Ransom discusses how you can remap the brain’s neural pathways toward what you want using self-intelligence and self-hypnosis.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Scientific proof for the effectiveness of hypnosis
  2. How to strengthen the neural pathways to achieve behavioral change
  3. The interconnectedness of self-discipline and self-forgiveness

About Jane

Jane Ransom is a coach, speaker, trainer, master hypnotist, dedicated optimist and an incurable science nerd. The international publisher Quarto Group recently released her book Self-Intelligence: The New Science-Based Approach to Reaching Your True Potential. She helps individuals transform their lives and works with organizations to improve leadership and strengthen employee engagement.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jane Ransom Interview Transcript

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

Jane Ransom
I am truly excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh me too, me too. But first I want to hear a little bit about your story in terms of, you have an interesting relationship with practical jokes, you mentioned. Can you unpack this both on the giving and receiving side?

Jane Ransom
Yeah. By the way, so I answered that. That was in answer to your question, what’s something people don’t know about you. The reason they don’t know about that is because I never talk about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, on the record.

Jane Ransom
After I sent that to you, “I thought what have I done?” But now that it’s out there, I’ll run with it.

I’m just really gullible. I choose to trust people and I would rather be trusting than cynical, but that means that I’m very open to practical jokes. I can give you an example of a certain kind that’s not even that inventive, but I have fallen for it more than once.

Pete, let’s say we have lunch together. Here’s how you can fool me because it will still work even after I told you. That’s the sad part okay, let’s say I’ve got a veggie burger and some beautiful sweet potato fries. We’re talking.

You point over my shoulder and you say, “Oh my gosh, doesn’t that look like Meryl Streep?” I turn around and it doesn’t at all look like Meryl Streep, but because I don’t want to embarrass you because I’m really nice, I’ll try to make it work. I’ll look really hard and think, “Okay, well maybe.” I’ll turn back around and I’ll say, “Well, I don’t know, but maybe.”

We’ll keep talking and then after a little bit, I’ll notice that my fries have moved to your plate. That will totally crack me up.

Pete Mockaitis
So people have done this to you multiple times?

Jane Ransom
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve never thought to steal fries nor have I had my fries stolen, but now I’m inspired.

Jane Ransom
It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be fries.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, that’s a good trick for being awesome at your job is free food.

Jane Ransom
I can tell you a joke. I am fooled more than I do in reverse, but once I did – way back in the day before internet travel reservations and so on, I knew I was going to be sitting beside my oldest brother on a plane trip. This is actually when you had to make a phone call to make a plane reservation. I was able to say, “Well, where is Barley Ransom sitting? Can you put me by him, but don’t tell him.” They actually said okay.

Anyway, I had long hair then and I had just had a perm. I had big hair. I wore sunglasses. I wore this crazy outfit. I put on these stick on nails. I looked really goofy. I sat down by my brother and I left my sunglasses on and I kept trying to talk – make conversation. I was like, “Hi, where are you from?” I was so ditzy, he tried not to talk with me.

In order to force him to talk with me, I had to spill my water on him, just kind of knock it over. Then he had to talk to me just to be nice because of course I would have felt so embarrassed. Then we had this conversation. I was like, “Where are you going?” He, “I’m going to Indiana.” “Oh, I grew up in Indiana.”

It went on like that until finally I said, “I think I know you.” I pulled the sunglasses off and I said, “I really think I know you. Don’t you know me?” The poor guy, he stared at me. He was, “Oh, no, no.” Then there was this shock. Then he just looked completely horrified.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that is sophisticated.

Jane Ransom
I don’t know if he ever recovered.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m going to tuck that away. That’s good. Thank you. Thank you.

Jane Ransom
You’re welcome. I was trying to think of well, how could this be meaningful at all after I sent that info off to you. I thought, what I think it’s about for me and why I like to be fooled is that it really helps me to laugh at myself because I feel like one of the ways we hold ourselves back is we get so serious. We feel so bad about mistakes. We have to be right. We get very uptight. There’s no better way to shake yourself loose than to feel really silly for a moment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Very nice. Well, so let’s talk about your latest, your book, Self-Intelligence. It sounds like an important thing. What’s your main thesis here?

Jane Ransom
Okay. The main thesis I think, because there are many roads to Rome, but there are also kind of a set of proven roads to Rome, Rome being positive change. If we could pause for a moment – or just to lay a little bit of groundwork here.

The book partly sprang out of my own enthusiasm over the discovery of brain plasticity. Pete, the reason I would like to pause on that is because I go around talking about brain plasticity and people nod their heads, but not everybody actually understands what it is. Could I take a moment just to kind of describe-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, go for it.

Jane Ransom
Okay. When I was growing up I was told was that the brain stops changing and developing after a certain age, basically when you’re a kid, but certainly by your 20s because that’s when the prefrontal cortex kind of sets in.

What that meant was you brain is set. Once you’re an adult, your personality is set, your intelligence is set, your character traits, whether you’re a procrastinator or not, whether you’re self-disciplined or not, whether you’re a cheerful person or not, all that’s set. You’re done.

What happened was around the 1980s this brain imaging technology started coming in driven by computers. Once scientists were able to look inside the brain, what they found was that brain plasticity is real. Until then just a few outliers had been arguing for it, but no one believed in it.

What that means, plasticity, as in plastic, as in malleable. We each have about 100 billion neurons or thinking brain cells. They each have at least say 1,000 connections each, so we’ve got at least oh, a hundred trillion connections among our neurons.

Well, plasticity means those are constantly shifting and remapping. You’ve got all these connections and brain maps and they’re constantly shifting and remapping. What that means is that we can literally reform our brains by choosing better thoughts, better experiences, and better actions.

Why scientists didn’t believe that for so long until they could see it due to the neuro-imaging technology, why they didn’t believe it is because people don’t seem to change. They don’t seem to change because very often, it’s quite natural to maintain homeostasis. We go around thinking and doing the same old things. If we do that, we’re just continually remapping our brains onto the same old, same old.

If you decide to change, it’s not that hard. The brain is actually set up for your entire life to be changeable. This is a revolution in neuroscience. By now people have heard the term, but to really take that good news in, I think it’s astounding.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly and it’s inspiring in terms of the potential and what that can mean for someone and their life and their potential for where they can go. It’s really cool. Yeah.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah. What happened was in 2008 my dad had died. He had had lung cancer. He had been a smoker. Then I had read this book about brain plasticity I was really excited about. Then my dad died. Before that my stepfather, my mother had died of lung cancer, been smokers. My father had never been able to quit smoking.

Somehow I stumbled upon the information that hypnosis was an effective way to quit smoking. I thought wow, that’s so interesting. Then I started kind of a deep dive into the science, like is hypnosis real and wow, yeah, there’s lots of science on it. I also was open because I’d just been reading about brain plasticity, so it made sense to me. Okay, hypnosis is a way into the brain to kind of speed up, to put on hyper speed brain plasticity.

I got my training. I opened an office. I was living in San Francisco, opened an office in downtown San Francisco and started a hypnosis practice helping people among many other things to quit smoking.

But what happened was people would come in and they would be so excited about their results, but then they would ask me for help with other stuff like, “Help me with my relationship,” or “Help me get a promotion.” Hypnosis isn’t a magic bullet for everything. Being a science nerd, I would run home and keep reading the science.

So I would be helping my clients by gathering all these science-based tools and there’s so much. Once brain plasticity was discovered, that’s launched many new fields of investigation because once scientists realized, “Oh my gosh, we can change. People can change,” now many, many scientists are investigating, “Well, how do we change? What actually works?”

As I was gathering those tools, I was kind of spewing them at my clients in my nerdy way. One of them said, “Can’t you just put this into a kind of a pretty picture for me?” so I started forming this model of self-intelligence that’s basically got sort of five routes into personal change. Then I started sharing that. One of my clients said, “Well, why don’t you put it in a book?” I was like, “Okay.” Then followed about six years of deep dive research and testing and practicing.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear a little bit. These five routes, what are they?

Jane Ransom
Okay. One is programming the subconscious self. When I was growing up, hypnosis was like woo-woo, considered kind of spooky. The word subconscious was sort of the same, woo-woo. But now with brain imaging technology, we know that most of our brain activity is subconscious. If you want to change yourself and your habits, you’ve got to deal with the subconscious.

There are ways of more or less directly dealing with it. For example, programming your dreams or hypnosis is another one, visualization, things like that. That’s one portal.

Another one is conditioning your conscious self, self-talk, say gratitude practice. I don’t actually talk about that in the book because so many people already know about it. But being aware of choices, becoming more aware that everything you’re doing is a choice, being aware of your self-story, things like that. There’s conditioning your conscious self.

Then, you’ve talked about this on your show, three is thinking through your embodied self, the mind-body loop you really can’t take apart the mind and the body anymore. Knowing that what we do with our bodies can directly influence our thoughts and emotions, so that’s embodied cognition. I love that stuff.

I think you’ve talked about – have you had Amy Cuddy on your show? I think someone’s talked about it on your show.

Pete Mockaitis
Not yet. I think the day is coming. But she has definitely come up.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah. Her work – it’s not just her. There are scores of other scientists doing amazing research there. That’s the body-brain loop, the embodied self.

Then four is integrating your social self. When I was growing up, friendship was not considered important to one’s mental health or physical health, now we know otherwise. Not only is social connection vital to your well-being, but it’s also vital to professional success. That’s been a wonderful new area of research as well. That’s integrating your social self.

Then the fifth one is vitalizing your striving self, where I zero in more directly on okay, goals, setting goals, achieving goals, how we can best do that and how we do that in order to pursue meaning in our lives. I think that we’re all naturally strivers. When we stop striving, I think that’s not a good idea. That’s the fifth one, vitalizing your striving self.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m perhaps most intrigued by the subconscious piece because we haven’t talked about it a whole lot on the show and secondly, you have lots of hypnosis experience and thirdly, you’re all about the science, so I can just candidly ask the hard questions about the evidence-base associated with them.

Let’s talk about the programming of the subconscious self. Can you maybe first orient us to what extent is that possible or what are the limitations? What’s too much to expect from what you can get from programming the subconscious self, versus what’s something that is totally achievable if we’re looking to take her around in there?

Jane Ransom
Okay. I wouldn’t put any limits on what’s achievable, but I would say that – this has to do with brain plasticity. When we’re talking about programming the subconscious self – when we’re talking about any kind of change, but think about this in terms of brain plasticity – what we’re doing is we’re going in and we’re laying down new neural pathways. Now, to make those pathways stick takes practice and habit, repetition.

For example, somebody might come in for a hypnosis session and they – often people want to just feel better. They might leave feeling great, but now to continue feeling great, they’re going to have to keep reinforcing those new neural pathways. It can vary from client to client because some clients are high hypnotizables.

I should also tell you, I’m happy to talk about hypnosis. I love it. I use it all the time on myself. I’m a self-hypnosis junkie. But I should also tell you, it’s just one tool in my toolbox now. But the science is very real.

I’m so thrilled, on the back of my book one of the blurbs is by Elvira Lang, who used to teach at Harvard Medical School. She is probably the world’s top researcher on the uses of hypnosis for medical procedures. She’s done studies involving many, many hundreds of people.

She’s found – at Harvard these were done – that people, they need less anesthetic when they’ve prepared using hypnosis. They suffer fewer infections. The surgery takes less time because the body is subconsciously cooperating with the surgery. The patient later heals faster. Here’s what’s extraordinary, even bones heal faster if the patient has prepared for the surgery using hypnosis. Isn’t that astonishing?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that because in the world of clinical/medical stuff, it’s all about the numbers. There’s no fudging, outside of outright fraud or abusive reporting of things. Anyway, that’s pretty cool setting in terms of its high-scrutiny and high-evidence basis there. That’s intriguing.

I find if that’s the case, then it’s easy to believe that hypnosis may have some good impact on you, say, feeling more confident and less anxious and being more creative and having more great ideas. Let’s talk about it. If we’ve established that hypnosis can work, what does one do to lay some of that neural pathway and do some of this hypnosis work to impact the subconscious?

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah, great question. Hypnosis can be used for so many different things because the mind can be used for so many different things. I mentioned self-hypnosis. I use self-hypnosis for example, I was a lifelong insomniac. I think this may run in my family somewhat, whether it’s genetic, epigenetic, whatever. I use self-hypnosis every night to get to sleep. When I wake up, I use it to get right back to sleep.

What I like about it is that it actually involves a certain amount of self-discipline so that I have to focus – which is counterintuitive. You would think that going to sleep is just like let it go and relax. Well, sometimes relaxing actually takes discipline. That’s one thing I use self-hypnosis for. But you’re absolutely right, you can use it to dial up confidence.

I have a little free self-hypnosis mini course on my website that people can go and learn it there if they want to. I can share with you a funny thing. We do a funny example of how do you use hypnosis at work?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, funny is good, but I guess what I most want to know is sort of what are the practices, sort of the how to with regard to most reliably getting some positive results?

Jane Ransom
Well, so it’s quite easy basically to hypnotize people. Maybe a little bit of background here. There are high hypnotizables and low hypnotizables. We’re not really sure why. We’re not sure whether it’s brain structure. It seems to have something to do with whether someone is easily absorbed, like the kind of person who can just drop down into a novel and forget everything else. But we’re not really sure why.

I also want to just come clean and say we don’t really know what hypnosis is. Somebody that pretends to know what it is, is not actually well informed. But keep in mind, we don’t really know what gravity is either, but they both work. There’s major research that shows that they both work.

In terms of the how to, there are many ways to hypnotize people. I work with people sometimes just over the phone, so I can use language to hypnotize people. There’s the old visual use of – remember the swinging watch?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

Jane Ransom
That’s a Hollywood stereotype, but it could actually work. Sometimes we use visual fixation. Milton Erickson, who was a psychiatrist who was probably one of the most famous hypnotists ever was said to be able to hypnotize someone by shaking their hand in a certain way, that confused them, led them in one direction, and then in another direction mentally, and then they would just sort of give up and drop in without knowing it.

In terms of the how to, there are various techniques. This course I have on my site throws a bunch of them in there, but there are many, many ways to bring a person into hypnosis.

Now, about maybe 10% of the population are what we call high hypnotizables. Some people call them somnambulists. Those people go right in. I mean they are so easy to hypnotize. I feel jealous of them because they also often have that sort of like they’re being in a movie experience.

I had one client that used to – she’d come in and say, “Oh, while we’re doing the other stuff, can I go flying around through the pink stuff again today?” I’d be like, “Yeah, okay.” Now, when I’m hypnotized, whether it’s self-hypnosis or by somebody else, I don’t go flying around in the pink stuff. For me, it’s – the conscious experience of it is more or less just being deeply relaxed, but it still works for me.

Often the result is a little bit more delayed. With my own self-hypnosis for sleep, obviously it’s not so delayed. But I’m a low hypnotizable. Some of the non-medical research has been on high hypnotizables just because scientists know that they are going in.

One of those studies used PET scan. I think it’s been done with FMRIs as well, where they give people a piece of paper with black and white designs on it. They put them in the brain imaging machine. They say, “Okay,” they say, “Imagine that those black and white images are in color. You’re seeing colors.” They measure the brain activity and look at what the brain’s doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Are your eyes open when you’re looking at the black and white images or are they closed?

Jane Ransom
I think they’d be open, but I’m not sure whether the people are allowed to close their eyes when they’re asked to imagine. But then they put them in hypnosis. First they take these people and they see what’s going on when they just imagine it. Then they hypnotize them and, again, for the experiment they’re using high hypnotizables because those people just go in so fast. Then they give them the same instructions.

Now, not only do those people report seeing vivid colors, but their visual cortex is just going wild. They are seeing those colors. There’s no doubt.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah. But so those are the high hypnotizables. The strategies to go into hypnosis are wide and varied.

Pete Mockaitis
Why don’t we maybe just grab your favorite? Let’s say it’s just me, Pete Mockaitis, or the listener.

Jane Ransom
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s say we’re looking to have more confidence and ability to speak up at work and less sort of anxiety and self-consciousness. What would you say given all you know might be your best bet approach for self-hypnosis to get some progress here?

Jane Ransom
First, it’s going to take practice. This is the thing. I’ve learned if you wanted to do that – and I’m not plugging myself here to plug myself, but go do the mini course because it really is a mini course. It won’t take you long at all. But the thing is to practice. First, get good. If you’re high hypnotizable, hey, you’re way ahead of the game, but most of us aren’t.

The first thing is to learn how to go into hypnosis to kind of get used to that. The more you practice it, the faster you can drop into a trance. Then once you – then I would say – the way I prepare people is I have them practice doing a couple of things. I have them first practice mental imaging.

If I’m teaching someone and I like to teach all my clients self-hypnosis because I want to send them out – I don’t want my clients hanging around forever. I want them to go on their own. I teach them – some of them I improve their mental imaging skills. You can do that. You can use this for other kinds of visualization too. Because I meet people sometimes, “Well, I don’t know how to visualize.” “Well, yeah you do.”

There’s a couple ways to do that. One easy way is just to look up, see everything in front of you, close your eyes, try to reconstruct what you just say, look up, see what you left out, keep doing that exercise.

The other one – the other way to increase your visual imaging strength is to close your eyes and – I love this one – imagine some food on a plate. I often do a red apple on a white plate, but you can make it anything. Imagine that you like that food. Pick something you like if you don’t like apples. And make it something really easy to bite into, so it could be-

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jane Ransom
Okay. What I would have you do then is to first of all notice that you can change the color and the shape of the apple and the plate.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jane Ransom
Then once you’ve made it look as – and just notice the choices you’re making. Is it a paper plate? Is it a porcelain plate? Is it a green apple? Is it a red apple? Is it a tall apple? Is it a short apple? Does it have a leaf on it? Again, as you’re doing that to notice how easy it is for you. Whatever way you’re seeing that image, it is there for you. You’re able to change it.

Then, I suggest in your mind’s eye, in your imagination, just picking up the plate and noticing – with the apple on it – and noticing just what it feels like in your hand, like both the weight and the texture, even the temperature. Okay. good.

Then I would say, you can put the plate down and now pick up the apple in one hand and first of all, just as a test to see how this works for you, bring it to your nose, in your mind’s eye. You don’t have to actually move your hand. In your mind’s eye, bring it to your nose and smell the apple. See if you can get a whiff.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Then take a bite. As you’re chewing it, notice all the sensations: the flavor, also the juiciness, the crispiness, the crunchiness, how long it takes to chew, what it feels like in your mouth, what it tastes like, what it feels like to swallow. Just enjoy that process. That’s a great way to improve your overall sort of imagining skills.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s interesting because in so doing, my brain feels like it’s in a different place now having done that visualization across and experiencing the imagery on the senses, so well, I guess a couple things. One, this mini course is there – what’s the URL?

Jane Ransom
I would go to my site, JaneRansom, that’s all one word. No ‘e’ on the end. JaneRansom.com. Then go to the book page. It’s right up there in the corner. I think you have to opt in, but it’s free. It’s a really good course and it’s really short.

I think that’s the first exercise is the first part, module is practicing that. Or no, maybe the first part is setting your intention. I’ll give you that quick as well, but go through the course because it leads you through it and it’s very, very fast. It’s really carefully thought out so as to not waste people’s time.

But the other part that I would do before doing the actual hypnosis hypnosis – and you’re right, even the visualization part that you just did gets you a little trancey, but the other part I would do is practice setting your intention. Suppose you want to feel more you said confident, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Can you think of a time when you felt the kind of confidence that you would like to feel more of?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Do you want to share it?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah. I guess I’m just thinking about – I guess this is maybe kind of like a winning victory moment, which associated with confidence. I remember when I was in a college there was a time in which I was facilitating for the model United Nations club-

Jane Ransom
Wow.

Pete Mockaitis
-a date auction fundraiser. I was kind of the emcee guy. I felt totally confident doing that because I had done it before and these were mostly all my friends.

But then at the time I felt so confident that when I got a phone call about a job that I was very much wanting to have, I just passed the mic over to someone else, like, “Okay, now you tackle this,” and just walked off, like it’s fine. I can just do that. I can be on the front of the stage, speaking, facilitating confidently and then I can just walk off at a moment’s notice because I’ve got something to do.

Yeah, that felt pretty darn confident because I think many people would be like, “Oh, I just can’t leave the stage. Everyone’s looking at me.” It’s like, “No, I’m running the show and I’m just going to walk now.”

Jane Ransom
I love that. I love how your own confidence also it spread out to include really confidence in the people around you as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, they were great, totally trustworthy.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “You got this. Fine. Here’s the mic.”

Jane Ransom
But that is I think a sign of genuine confidence also when we’re able to trust others, so that’s beautiful. That’s how you as a leader, as a confident leader, are then – that’s part of the leadership too is trusting others, not feeling – because some people, they think it’s about being in control,, being confident, but I just love that.

Okay, you know that, you remember that time and you remember you’re right there. Can you conjure up that situation in your mind? Can you remember maybe even what you were wearing and what the place looked like around you? Who was there?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. It was the University of Illinois, Illini Union, one of the ballrooms. There were many folks I knew from the club who were there. Then there are friends of friends that they had roped in to do some bidding. They were there. I was wearing a suit, probably my only suit at the time in college, my one suit. Yeah, it was black. Don’t recall the shirt combo, but yeah, that’s that.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Do you remember what it felt like to be wearing that, your one suit, the black suit? You can pause a moment, kind of go inward here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Jane Ransom
To actually kind of feel it on your body. What did it feel like on your shoulders, the weight of it, the texture, the warmth or coolness of it, the give of it, or the constriction of it?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, at the time it fit well. I guess, it’s funny, I was wearing it earlier in the day for interviews, so it’s funny, it might have been kind of wrinkly or kind of a little bit dusty or dirty, but I didn’t seem to care at all.

Jane Ransom
I love it. Even better. Even better. That’s great. Okay. What I would advise you to do – you don’t have to go through this whole thing now – but is to spend some time revisiting that moment. Then to invite into your whole being, body and mind, because remember those are the brain-body loop – it’s all really one entity – to bring into your brain-body loop what that confidence felt like.

We tend to feel our emotions in the body, so to become aware, you’re wearing that one suit. You’re in that place where you recognize these people, you recognize the location, you might notice textures and colors, architecture, things like that. You’ve got all that surrounding kind of nailed down. Then let yourself go inward and recapture what that confidence felt like. Now you might want to spend more time with this, but can you begin to get a sense of it right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, that’s great. Thank you.

Jane Ransom
Okay, good. Okay, so that’s actually – that will help you even without hypnosis. It’s a great way to just practice confidence. Remember, brain plasticity, neuroplasticity is all about just strengthening those pathways. You’ve got that pathway already in you. It’s a matter of kind of bringing it back and now strengthening it.

What I do with people training them to do self-hypnosis, I’m like, pick the thing you want to feel, say confidence, choose the event that you want to draw from and work on imaging that in your mind with all the sensations, and particularly revisit what it really feels like.

Now, if you were to go into hypnosis, either with somebody else hypnotizing you or practicing self-hypnosis, then you bring that word with you and that memory and you practice them in hypnosis. What hypnosis seems to do is to – it sort of puts visualization on steroids. It seems to remap the brain more quickly and more powerfully than can be done outside hypnosis. Why is that true though, I don’t know.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating. You mentioned some of the cool research. What I love on your website, that page that has the book, you’ve also got – talk about being a science nerd – you’ve got all of the references and there are many of them.

Jane Ransom
The bibliography.

Pete Mockaitis
28 pages of them, each pointing to the particular journal articles or books or whatnot for each chapter. I feel like I can put you on the spot, so tell me we heard about some cool results for hypnosis for bones healing faster and better surgical outcomes, any other cool hypnosis study results to speak to with regard to healing from trauma or sort of capability development like we were talking through?

Jane Ransom
Do you ever hear of the pianist, the late pianist, Glenn Gould?

Pete Mockaitis
That sounds familiar.

Jane Ransom
Okay. He was one of the great classical pianists. He practiced more in his mind than he did physically. He visualized practice.

They’ve done studies. They did a while ago a classic study with some dart throwers. They got a bunch of people at the same level, same level of training. They had half of them practice – they had one-third of them practice throwing really throwing darts every day. Then they had one-third not practice at all. Then they had the last third practice one day actually throwing the darts and on the other days, every other day, practice only in their minds. Guess which group improved the most.

Pete Mockaitis
The visualizers.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, because you can have a perfect practice. Also, you can prepare for the worst. Michael Phelps, for example, talked about how he would visualize getting water in his goggles. He would use it to prepare for any situation.

The reason I wanted to mention this is sometimes people use the word visualize and they’re like, “Visualize your success,” but studies show that merely fantasizing about something, can actually have a detrimental effect. If you go around just fantasizing that you’re winning an Emmy or something, that is actually probably going to decrease your motivation to actually do something and won’t help you at all.

But if you do visualization in a disciplined, focused way, it will remap your mind really for much better performance. Then if you pair it with hypnosis, oh my gosh, you can become unstoppable.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Tell me Jane, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Jane Ransom
Let’s see. My problem is I’d like to talk about everything. I would like to mention one book that people should read that has nothing to do with hypnosis.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Jane Ransom
Okay. It’s been out for a while, but it’s sort of like brain plasticity that people often use the term growth mindset and they don’t really know what it means yet and they’re not fully appreciating it or taking advantage of it. I do not know this scientist personally, but her book changed my life. This is Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Do you know about this research, Pete, a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Jane Ransom
Okay. I’m just going to quickly, quickly sum it up for people because this changed my life. She has found that when we praise somebody for being smart or intelligent, we undermine their authentic confidence. When we praise ourselves for being smart or intelligent, we undermine our authentic confidence. That doesn’t mean we should tell people they’re stupid. That will even be worse.

But what you always want to be – this has to do with the subconscious mind because we think of those traits as innate and people don’t – they feel that they don’t have any control over them, so once somebody gets labeled as smart, for example, they become subconsciously afraid to take on challenges that might make them look dumb because they feel like they don’t have that much control over that.

The thing to praise is effort. Because our brains are plastic, are malleable, we can actually become smarter.

The guy that invented the IQ test, Alfred Binet, never meant it to be a test of what people are throughout their entire lives. He actually invented it – he was French – he invented it because he thought some school kids were being badly educated and so he thought they could do much better if they’re education improved. He took a baseline IQ test with a purpose of proving that with better teaching, their IQs would go up, which indeed did happen.

Anyway, everyone should read that book and keep that in mind. When you praise people, this is really important for managers as well, never tell people, “Oh, you’re so brilliant,” “Oh, you’re so talented.” Praise them for what they actually do, their effort and their strategies.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful, thank you.

Jane Ransom
You’re welcome.

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah. This was hard to choose as well. Can I give you two?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing.

Jane Ransom
Okay. One of my clients turned me on to it. It’s by Teddy Roosevelt, “With self-discipline most anything is possible.” By the way, something else we could talk about in a different conversation, but self-discipline and self-forgiveness go hand-in-hand. If you want to be more self-disciplined, be more self-forgiving.

Then the other quote that I love is Walt Whitman from Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. How about a favorite study? You mentioned a few, but are there any others that are mind-blowing for you?

Jane Ransom
Many. But to stay sort of on topic, I will say that – because there are amazing studies into the split brain subjects, having to do with what we do with the question why, which is some wonderful crazy stuff.

But I’ll just point to Carol Dweck’s work because she has, for example, given a bunch of school kids the same test. They all do well. Tell half of them, “You did well. You must be really smart.” Tells the other half, “You did well. You must have put a lot of effort into what you do.” Then they’re put through all the same learning program.

These studies that have been with kids and with adults and professionals prove over and over again that the people who are primed with the fixed mindset and told they’re smart, start underperforming. The people primed with the growth mindset, praise for effort, embrace challenge and they don’t mind failure. It’s just a great thing to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite book?

Jane Ransom
Again, so many. I mentioned Carol Dweck. John Ratey’s, Spark, which is about how physical exercise is just about the best thing you can do for your brain. Then another book that changed my life is – came out around 2007 I think. It was one of the first books on brain plasticity for laypeople. That’s by Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Jane Ransom
Self-hypnosis for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And habit.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, okay. I always tell people to make things easy on themselves, like I was saying self-discipline and self-forgiveness go hand-in-hand. Also just making things easy.

For example, I like to stay fit. I don’t watch TV, but I have a screen up that’s connected to my computer so I can watch Netflix. My rule is I never watch anything on that screen unless I am also simultaneously exercising. I have a stationary bike, I have a hula-hoop, I have weights, whatever. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, but I simply do not watch anything at all unless I’m exercising. It makes exercising so easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh lovely. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your audiences?

Jane Ransom
It probably has to do with self-forgiveness and going easy on yourself. People think that change has to be hard. It doesn’t. It’s oddly enough, the nicer you are to yourself, the easier change will come. That means practicing self-forgiveness and it means setting up situations like I was just saying like with my Netflix to make things easier on yourself.

Because self-discipline is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it is, but on the other hand, you don’t want to be spending it on stuff that doesn’t matter, that isn’t necessary throughout the day.

When I work with people, the main thing is self-forgiveness and I’ll just say it here even though we’re not going to talk about the science in it, but self-love. Love yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say self-forgiveness, since we’ve hit this a couple times, in practice what does that look, sound, feel like? Is it just like, “Pete, I forgive you for sleeping in until those many hours instead of exercising the way you had hoped to?” Is that all I do or how does one forgive oneself?

Jane Ransom
In a way, kind of, yes. Do you know what the what-the-hell effect is? It’s a scientific term.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I do.

Jane Ransom
Okay, can I – do I have time to ….

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Let’s do it.

Jane Ransom
Okay, okay. The what-the-hell effect is the fact that if you beat up on yourself, let’s say you did sleep in, the more you beat up on yourself, the more you chastise yourself for that, the more likely you are to do it again. This has been proven over and over with overeating, over drinking, procrastinating, not studying for exams. Whatever it is, the harder a person is on themselves, the more likely they are to repeat the bad habit. By the harder they are, you can test that by seeing how bad do you feel about yourself.

What some diet researchers discovered this a few decades ago. They called it the what-the-hell effect because what they hypothesized is that the subconscious is basically saying, “Well, I guess all is lost. What the hell, I might as well keep doing the bad thing.” I love that. Kelly McGonigal, who wrote a book called The Willpower Instinct, which I also recommend, calls the what-the-hell effect, “The biggest threat” – this is her quote – “The biggest threat to willpower worldwide.”

Pete Mockaitis
Tweet that. There you go.

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah. It is counterintuitive, but the harder you are on yourself, the harder it becomes.

In your example, if you sleep in, yeah, what you do is you say, “Hey, Pete, everybody screws up now and then. We are all beautifully imperfect. It is the human condition to be imperfect. Okay, I screwed up today. Oh well, I’m going to do better going forward and that’s great, but I certainly forgive myself.” I know as silly as that sounds, trust me this is actually proven science and it’s very powerful.

I had one client who – won’t go into the whole story here – but he was having major problems in his life. They surfaced when he originally came in as he was very out of shape. He had a gym membership and he wasn’t able to – he was like, “I haven’t gone and I’m a fat slob,” and this and that. He was having issues in a number of other areas in his life.

We worked on the self-forgiveness. His whole life turned around. What turned out for him was that he’d actually been carrying a lot of guilt because he was a Vietnam vet and he actually had killed people and never dealt with it. We didn’t have to go over the details. He didn’t need to talk it out. I don’t do talk therapy in that regard. But what we did is some self-forgiveness exercises.

You can use visualization too. Sometimes I will ask people to just close their eyes and imagine wrapping a nice self-forgiveness blanket around themselves. I’ll have clients hug themselves. I’ll have them go into hypnosis and picture holding themselves as a baby.

Anything to kind of loosen up our adult self-criticism, which can be so harsh because we are – think about a child learning to walk. I know many people use this metaphor, but it’s really – or this analogy, but it’s really true. When a little kid is learning to walk, they are falling down a lot, and we don’t sit there and go, “Oh, you idiot.” We’re like, “Yay, rock on. Get up and try again.” We really, we need to be that loving toward ourselves. The science says that is what will really help you to walk faster.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jane Ransom
I’d point them to my website, JaneRansom.com. Again, they can find that self-hypnosis course on the book page.

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah, I would say make an effort to praise somebody, and it could be yourself, today if it’s not the very end of the day for you, specifically for something that they did, but make a practice of praising people for effort.

It takes effort to praise people for effort because you can’t just say, “Great job.” You have to actually say, “Oh you did a really nice job of keeping everybody engaged and bringing out the people who weren’t speaking,” or whatever it is. My call to action is make an effort to praise effort.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jane this has been a whole lot of fun. Thank you for taking this time. I wish you lots of luck with the book, Self-Intelligence, and all you’re up to.

Jane Ransom
Thank you Pete. I’ve had fun. Thank you.