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735: Cultivating the Mindset of Motivated and Successful People with Jim Cathcart

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Legendary speaker Jim Cathcart shares powerful wisdom for overcoming the self-limiting beliefs that keep us from thriving in work and life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The simple secret to motivating yourself and others
  2. A powerful phrase to motivate you to be your best
  3. The four steps to breaking bad habits

About Jim

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is a person who has achieved every major milestone in professional speaking: President of the National Speakers Association, Speakers Hall of Fame, 22 published books, 3,300 highly paid speeches worldwide, speeches in China, South America, Europe, and in every one of the 50 US states. He received the Golden Gavel Award from Toastmasters International which was also presented to Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar,, Earl Nightingale and Walter Cronkite. He received The Cavett Award from the National Speakers Association, and more.

Jim is also a guitarist and singer/songwriter who performs often in clubs, at conventions and special events. A fitness enthusiast who has logged over 10,000 miles of running mountain trails after age 60, and a lifetime member of the American Motorcyclist Association. A newscaster once said, “Jim Cathcart is what ‘Fonzie’ from Happy Days would have been if he had gone to business school.” To that end, in September of 2021 Jim received an honorary business degree from High Point University in North Carolina.

Resources Mentioned

Jim Cathcart Interview Transcript

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

Jim Cathcart
Hey, it’s a great place to be. Thank you for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so fun to be chatting with you. I was reading you when I was a teenager, and here we are talking. That’s wild.

Jim Cathcart
It is.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’d love to get your take, having lived through, boy, with some of the greats, a great yourself, when it comes in the speaking biz as well as hobnobbing with other just sort of legends, rock stars, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins.

Jim Cathcart
Yeah. I grew up in the human potential movement. If you look at the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, that was known as the human potential movement because it was the first time that society in the US got really interested in self-development and success, motivation, and that whole general field. And the primary players were Napoleon Hill and Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie, and then Earl Nightingale and on and on.

And then Denis Waitley and I came along about the same time, and then Zig Ziglar was just before us, and along with us, for that matter, and Og Mandino and W. Clement Stone. And then Tony Robbins came later and Brian Tracy and Les Brown, so it’s been a heck of a ride. And I know all those folks. I mean, I didn’t know Napoleon Hill, but all the rest that I’d mentioned, I’ve known them all and worked with most of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell us, any funny anecdotes or stories or surprise tidbits that you think listeners might get a kick out of if they’re familiar with some of these legends?

Jim Cathcart
Yeah. In 1976, in November of ’76, I was at the Oral Roberts University big arena, and it’s called the Mabee Center. And there were 11,700 attendees at the positive thinking rally, and the speakers were Paul Harvey, Dr. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral, Earl Nightingale, Art Linkletter, Zig Ziglar, Cavett Robert, the founder of the National Speakers Association. And the emcee was Don Hutson out of Memphis. And Don and I had met through a training organization and he invited me backstage to meet my hero Earl Nightingale.

So, I went backstage and shook Earl’s hand and had the appropriate goosebumps and loss of breath and everything that would go with being star struck. And then, Don and I walked out, and we were standing behind the big stage, looking out at the sea of bodies up in the stands, and Don said, “Jim,” he called me JC. He said, “JC, we’ve got this.”

I said this, “What do you mean we’ve got this?” He said, “All these speakers on this program, they’re 20 or 30 years older than us. We’re next,” and he was right. And he went on to become president of the National Speakers Association. So did I. We were both inducted into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame. I’ve written 22 books, he’s written a big handful of New York Times bestsellers himself, and I was just collaborating with him yesterday on a new business deal.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool.

Jim Cathcart
And all the others are gone now. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, our respects to them. And thank you and congratulations for your success and contributions to the field. We’ve got a whole boatload of things we could talk about. My producers found you specifically to talk about motivation and The Power Minute: Your Motivation Handbook for Activating Your Dreams & Transforming Your Life. So, that sounds awesome. Tell us, what’s the big idea behind this book?

Jim Cathcart
Well, first up, motivation needs to be understood as motive and action. Motive, action. Motivation. It’s easy to remember. So, if you think, “I’m not motivated to do something,” well, if you haven’t acted on your motive, then you’re right, you’re not motivated to do it. You might have a motive, but until you take action, it’s just a dream, a wish, or an impulse, or a preference.

So, how do you motivate somebody? Well, you do not bring motives to them. You find motives in them. So, if I put a gun to your head and asked you to give me all your money, if you don’t want to continue to live, you probably won’t give me your money, you’ll just say, “Take your best shot,” right? So, you got to have the motive for me to be able to stimulate it and get the results I want.

So, if I put a gun to somebody’s head and they don’t care if they live or die, then that’s not going to work. I got to find another way to appeal to them. If I offer somebody a vacation in Acapulco and they’re not interested in international travel, it may have been a great reward for somebody but not for them so they’re not motivated. So, if I can learn to read people day-to-day and listen more acutely to what people say and what they express interest in, I can identify their motives because people will teach you how to motivate if you’ll just listen. And so, then I know how to appeal to you.

So, it might be it’s like in couple’s therapy, they talk about love languages. Some people feel really loved when you’re listening intently just to them. Some people don’t think that much of that one. They feel really loved when you give them a thoughtful little gift. Some people feel really loved when you mention them to other people and brag about them, and there are a lot of other ways.

 

Same thing is true for motivation. Some people are motivated by things, some people are motivated by experiences, some are motivated by interactions and relationships, and so forth. So, there are lots of ways to motivate someone. That’s why I wrote The Power Minute, which is your self-motivation handbook. And The Power Minute is 336 one-minute ideas for how to motivate yourself or others.

Now, how do I know they’re one minute? Because I originally wrote them as one-minute radio clips, and so they have to be timed exactly to that and the script was that tight. And so, I put them all together, and I said, “This would make a pretty good book but it needs some more work.” So, I worked on it and had 365, and out of 365, about 30 of them were pretty lame and obvious, so I eliminated those and kept 336, and that became the book. And I was writing the book as if I was teaching my grandchildren how to look at life and live a fulfilling and rewarding life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it. So, share with us, I like how you could cut 29 and don’t allow yourself to put out inferior content just to hit a sweet 365 number, which should be tempting for many of us. So, tell us, because I’m thinking now about the 80/20 Principle and how 20% of them could have 80% of the juice, and maybe 4% of them, even 64% of the juice, fractal style. So, can I put you on the spot to give me your top, we’ll say, five.

Jim Cathcart
Let me give you one that summarizes the whole book and most of my philosophy in life, “Become a magnet, not merely an arrow.” In other words, cultivate in yourself the qualities of the person who would live the life you want to live, get the rewards you want to get, have the experiences and the relationships you want to have. Be the kind of person the people you admire would love to hang with, and those people will be more attracted to you. Be a magnet for what you want.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s the magnet. And what’s an arrow by contrast?

Jim Cathcart
Well, an arrow goes outward from you toward a target. So, that’s when you work diligently to achieve a goal. That’s fine. You find the goal, you identify the steps, you do the discipline day-to-day until you get there – that’s an arrow. But a magnet develops the qualities that make them the sort of person that others want to do business with, that others want to hang around with, that others would seek out the advice of.

When I joined the National Speakers Association in my 30s in 1976, I was right at 30 years old. That makes me 75 today, by the way, save people the math because some of them are doing it in their heads. So, 30 years old, I joined the National Speaker Association. That’s, at that time, only a few hundred members but they were my heroes, the big names, the big-deal people in the world of human development, and I had none of the credentials that I have today, and I didn’t have much career experience either.

So, I decided to be the most generous, the most grateful, the most helpful, the most flexible, the most willing supporter and encourager that they could find. I went to the convention, offered to move chairs, put out signs, greet people, take tickets, do whatever was necessary, drive someone to the airport, if necessary, although I didn’t have a car at the time, that kind of thing. And I was included into the conversations with the big guns as if I was an equal.

And when they would ask about me, I’d give them a very brief answer, and then I asked about them because I didn’t want them learning about me. I wanted me to learn about them so I could become, someday, one of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. That’s cool. And so then, that magnet principle is fantastic when it comes to people in terms of, “Yeah, this Jim guy, I like him. I like the way he works it. I like the way he’s helpful. I like being around him. I like the way I feel in his presence, so fantastic.” I guess I’m also wondering…

Jim Cathcart
Oh, I got a quote for you.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ll take it.

Jim Cathcart
This is from the first president of the National Speakers Association, Bill Gove. He, in a speech, one time, said, “The greatest compliment I’ve ever heard in my life is this, ‘I like me better when I’m with you.’”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is nice.

Jim Cathcart
Ain’t that a great example?

Pete Mockaitis
I had a friend who once told me, “Pete, you make people love themselves,” which was among my all-time faves, and that memory there. So, yeah, that’s cool. And so then, that magnet principle is fantastic for people-y goals in terms of you want…I’m thinking about sort of like a career in leadership and folks want you in the room, and to be present, and to trust you with some responsibilities and things. I’m curious about goals that are less people-y. Let’s talk about maybe fitness or sort of powering through a bunch of stuff you don’t feel like powering through. What are some of your favorite principles there?

Jim Cathcart
I can definitely address those. Well, in 1975, I weighed 200 pounds on a 5’9” frame that should be 150. Fifty-two excess pounds at the time, and I had never been fit, never been an athlete, and I wanted to be, and I had set some big goals for my life and my career, and I’ve looked at my life totally, wholistically – mental, physical, family, social, spiritual, career, financial, emotional – and I knew that I had to grow in each of those areas, and that’s eight areas, and many of those areas needed work, and one of those was fitness and health.

And so, I’d quit smoking a couple of years before and I’d gained a little weight, and I decided it’s time to make a change so I’m going to lose weight. Well, I knew I could diet successfully. I’d done that half a dozen times but I always gained it back in the next year or two. So, I decided I’m going to become a slender person. And people that knew me said, “What’s the difference?” I said, “Slender people never have to go on diets.” They said, “Well, yeah, some people are lucky.” “No, no, no, no, no. Slender is not luck. Slender may have something to do with your metabolism but you can also live a slender life by choice.”

So, I re-thought the way I lived my day-to-day life, the kind of food that I kept in the refrigerator, the kind of drinks that I used for refreshment, the places I went and the way I participated. For example, I had never considered water to be a real drink. I thought it was the default if nothing else was available. And I’d never had coffee or tea without sugar in it. And in coffee’s instance, I had cream as well as sugar, so it was basically a mocha milkshake.

And I decided I’m going to learn to like black coffee and I’m going to stop drinking sugared soda, Cokes and things, and instead of substituting it with diet soda, I’m going to learn to enjoy water. And I did, and that was 1976. By the way, I lost 52 pounds over about a three-month period, became fit – and I’ll tell you about that part of it in a second – and have been slender ever since. So, my waist is 30 inches, and I’m 75 years old, and it’s been pretty close to 30 inches for the last 40 plus years.

And I enjoy water. In fact, sometimes when we go out to dinner, I’ll just have water with the meal – no ice, thank you – and I’m perfectly content with that. And when I drink coffee, it’s always black coffee, but, at first, I didn’t like just water and I didn’t like black coffee. So, I re-trained my own taste buds and my own preferences, and I went on, at first, what I called a FABS diet. I made it up.

No fats, meaning animal fats, no alcohol, no bread, meaning white flour, and no second helpings. F-A-B-S. Second helpings are exactly twice as fattening as first helpings. I’ve noticed that. And I was always saying to my wife, “You’re not going to waste that, are you?” If she didn’t finish something on her plate, I would W-A-I-S-T waist it by putting it in my body.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Zing.

Jim Cathcart
See, all food goes to waste. It either goes into the trash or it goes around your middle.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Jim Cathcart
So, you have to choose which one do you prefer, and people say, “Well, it’s just wrong. It’s sinful to throw away food that’s still good.” Well, then put it in the fridge and eat it later or wait till it molds and then throw it away, but don’t store it around your middle. It takes too long to get rid of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you. So, with that example then, we’re still applying that magnet principle except it’s not so much the people that are drawn to us but the results, and it still comes from the work of reshaping your core, like identity perspective, you are a slender person, and by being that, “How does a slender person think and operate and behave?” and there you go.

Jim Cathcart
Exactly. And that was the big thing because your mindset leads to your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits are your reputation, because a reputation is simply observed habit patterns. And your reputation determines which relationship doors open to you and which ones close. And the relationships you’re able to form determine the size of a future you’re capable of because nobody does it alone.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. That’s right. And if there are any skeptics in the audience, like, “Oh, that’s the motivation-y stuff,” I’ve been quite impressed with the work of psychologist Albert Bandura talking about self-efficacy, which is that these linkages are, in fact, pretty robustly evidenced in research that it’s not rah-rah.

Jim Cathcart
Oh, yeah, there is a lot of proof. The way a person thinks determines the actions they will choose. If they think they are unworthy and unlikable, then they will build up defenses and look for ways to game a system. If they think they are worthy and able to be valuable to other people, they will look for opportunities, and they will reach out.

If they feel they cannot recover from a failure, then they will do everything to mask themselves and their performance so that no one notices their failures. If they feel they can bounce back from a failure, the failure is not a scar or a permanent stain, it’s simply action that didn’t pay off the way you wanted. If they feel they can bounce back, then they will stay in the game and keep trying other things. They’ll be open to new ideas. So, mindset leads to actions, and actions repeated become patterns, which are habits.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so, Jim, then, let’s go right to the core there. So, if you do have a belief or a mindset that isn’t leading you down the actions/habits pathway onto results that you’re looking for, like if you think…

Jim Cathcart
Yeah, leading you downhill instead of uphill because you got the same chain uphill and downhill. It’s what I call a causation chain. And so, it’s mindset, actions, habits, reputation, relationships, future. And if you go down the stairs instead of up the stairs, then it’s mindset, limited actions or wrong actions, bad habits, bad reputation, no relationships, small future or dim and dismal future.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. So, let’s say, if we do find ourselves, like we notice in ourselves a belief or a mindset that is pointing us in a downhill direction, and maybe we think, “I’m just fat,” or, “I am a loser,” or, “I’m too shy. I’ll never be able to run the big thing.” So, whatever limiting or unpleasant or downward-pointing mindset, belief, we have – and sometimes I think they are very conscious and front of mind for us, and other times are kind of buried, a little bit under the surface…

 

Jim Cathcart
And, also, we’ve been listening to people tell us things about ourselves, and many people just say, “Okay, that’s a fact because so and so said so.” That’s not true. That’s their opinion, their point of view based on the limited experience they’ve had with you. Like, if your parents tell you you’re a loser, that you’re never going to be a competitor, or that you’re not good at math, or you’re whatever, name your category. If you’ve been labeled or blamed as not being worthy in that category, and you accept that, then that’s your life. Sucks to be you. Sorry.

But if you say, “Well, man, that hurts and I don’t like that. How do I get past that?” The way to get past that is a different mindset, a different point of view, a different way of thinking about yourself, your world, your relationships, your potential, and other people, about life in general. I recognized, growing up in a working-class household where dad was a telephone repairman and mom was a homemaker, and we had my invalid grandfather in the front bedroom, who spent seven years in a hospital bed, never spoke or moved from the bed because of a stroke.

We had a loving household. But I wasn’t encouraged to think big. No one said, “Boy, Jim, you’ve really got potential. Man, if you apply yourself, you could do anything you want.” Nobody said that to me.

So, one day, I heard Earl Nightingale on the radio, Earl was a dean of personal motivation in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and he said, “If you will spend one hour extra each day studying your chosen field, in five years or less, you’ll be a national expert in that field. And in seven years, with an hour of focused attention extra on that each day, probably one of the world’s leading authorities in that field.” And I thought, “Wow, that’s 1,250 hours if you figure the minimal approach to five years, 1,250 hours on one subject beyond the job, yeah, even I could do that.”

And then I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living because I was working as a government clerk for the housing authority, and then it hit me a few weeks later, “I want to do what he’s doing but I don’t know what that means.” And so, I started studying human development, applied behavioral science, psychology, things like that, fanatically. I’m talking 12, 15, 20, 30 hours a week listening to recordings, reading books, going to the few seminars that existed back then, just getting around anybody that knew what they were talking about in those fields, and my world transformed.

And I bought a whole series of recordings from Earl Nightingale and listened to them fanatically every day to reprogram my own mind over time to seeing the world in a much more positive and intelligent way.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. And I completely buy that incidentally in terms of the hours because I think some people would say, “Oh, Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours, whatever,” and that’s a bit of a different phenomenon, like violin practice versus knowledge in a domain because I’ve heard it said that if you read the top five books in your field, you’re beyond, like 90 plus percent of folks.

Jim Cathcart
You’re in the top 3% already, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s just five books, which might be like 15 of your hours, clock it under a month. So, I totally buy that. So, hey, good on you, How to be Awesome at Your Job listeners. You’re going places. Well, that’s one pathway to answer the question. If you find yourself with a mindset that’s not doing the trick for you, one path is to just dig, dig, dig deep into learning about a thing.

And so, are there other pathways you’d recommend in terms of, let’s say, “I think I’m just shy and I’ll never really be able to have a commanding presence in a room because that’s just not my gifting. I’m kind of behind the scenes, operational person, and that’s fine. We need all sorts.” What do we do with that?

Jim Cathcart
Yeah, let’s drill down. Let’s drill down to the underlying assumption. I found that there are two primary mindsets in the world that tend to easily separate the vast majority of subjects into this school and that school of thought. And the underlying mindset is there is a loving Creator, whether you call it a universal intelligence, or God, or Mother Nature, or whatever it is. There is a loving Creator in our lives. We’re meant to be. That’s one mindset or worldview.

The other one is, “No, there’s not. And once you’re dead, it’s over.” Okay. So, let’s take one of those assumptions and start organizing all the input that comes into a person’s life based on that underlying assumption. The assumption is, “There’s not one. This is it. And when it’s over, it’s over.” Okay. “It’s everyone for themselves. Get what you can while you can. And anything you can get away with, cool. Just do it because…” The other side says, “No, you should be nice to people because that’s what works best.” “Okay, if it works best. If it doesn’t work best, to heck with them. This is your only shot. Go for it.” so, that’s one mindset.

The other mindset is there is a reason for humans to be alive. We are so profoundly different from all other lifeforms that this must be somehow meant to be. And if that’s the case, then we’re not the sheep of an angry god that wants us to submit, because how shallow would that be for something as powerful as a god to just want servants and just wants submission? You follow that through to the thoughtful end of it, and it just doesn’t make sense.

So, if there is a source of creation, a source of life, and that source of life meant for us to exist, then what is sin? Sin would be not living well, fully, in the ways that you’re designed to live. In other words, there are thousands, if not millions, of contributions you could make to the world to make it a better place, a happier place, a more loving place, a safer place, etc. And if you don’t do those things you are capable of doing, or learning how to do, then you deny your creation, you say, “No, I was a mistake. I’m a factory second. Just let me get out of the way. I’ll die soon. Don’t worry about it.”

Or, you can say, “If I’m meant to exist, and I can do a great deal of good, it would be a sin, not in a Biblical sense, but in a cosmic or philosophical sense, for me not to do the good I could do. If somebody needs to be pulled out of quicksand and I’m walking by and I’ve got a rope, and I don’t do it, I can take partial blame for their death because I didn’t do the good I was capable of doing at a time when I could’ve done it.”

So, I think there is a reason for people to exist. I think that the essence of life is living fully, that that’s our job, our assignment, and that that means physically, mentally, spiritually, interpersonally, etc., and that we should live the most abundant life we’re capable of. They’ll, “Yeah, but I’m not good at math.” Yet. See, that’s the word that all these people leave out.

Sudoku, just play around with friends or go to Mathnasium where my grandson teaches, and learn to be better at math, “Yeah, but I just don’t like people.” No, you don’t like you and you’re afraid of getting around other people because you don’t think they’ll like you either. Well, true. Or, “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve got the bandwidth to do smart things.” Do you know how to avoid pain? “Yeah.” Do you know how to eliminate danger, like if a kid is running into traffic, you stop them or you stop the traffic? “Yeah.” It looks to me like you’re a useful being. Go forth and multiply.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so that’s fascinating and deep and profound in terms of like zeroing in on a singular belief and you brought it to a Creator. And I guess, I don’t know, we could debate whether this is one belief.

Jim Cathcart
Yeah, the danger here is when you say the word Creator, people say, “Oh, God, church, Bible, strict, rules, judgment, shame.” And you think, “What? Where the heck did that come from? I never brought up any of that stuff,” but they go, [makes noise] right down into that deep dark hole, and that’s not what it’s about at all. Not at all.

There is a life source. Everybody would pretty much have to agree that there’s a source that causes life.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I guess when you bring about the life source, I guess I’m thinking the notion of responsibility is what hits me in that it’s like either you feel, you believe you are responsible to become all you can be, to contribute all you can, or you think it’s more of a hedonistic do-whatever eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-die kind of a vibe.

Jim Cathcart
Yeah. Well, one of those goes outward and the other one comes inward. See, the outward is the service and the doing, and the other one is the receiving, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I guess I’m thinking it’s conceivably possible that you might not have a unique view…you can have a different view of the Creator but also feel the responsibility. But, regardless, I hear what you’re saying in terms of we’ve got…that is a foundational mindset pathway differentiator right there. And so, if we are on the…

Jim Cathcart
And it has a profound domino effect once that shift is made.

Pete Mockaitis
So, if we are on the responsible stewardship contribution pathway, and then we have more of a minor mindset difference, like, “Oh, I’m just shy and I’m not going to be able to do whatever,” it’s like you gave us one master key, which is throwing a yet in there. It’s like, “At the moment, that is the case. However, that is not fixed and we have the opportunity,” Carol Dweck’s growth mindset action, “to grow and flourish.”

Jim Cathcart
Yeah, things are learnable.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that’s one master key. Any other perspectives there? You find yourself with a troubling mindset and you want to shift gears and directions, what can we do?

Jim Cathcart
If you feel that life is unfair, that, somehow, you’re a factory reject, you were the bad product coming off the assembly line and there’s not much hope for you, then your life is going to be defensive. Your life is going to be sad, of course, and scary but you’re going to take that assumption and reinforce it daily with actions that kind of build on that belief. So, how do you interrupt that belief? It’s not just the other. How do you interrupt that belief? Because any pattern that’s not working needs to be interrupted. And if you don’t interrupt the pattern, you get more of it.

So, if I’ve got a pattern of eating too many sweets, let me look at that pattern. Where do I keep the sweets? “It’s all around the house.” Why? “Because I like to eat them.” Okay, do you like the result of eating them? “No.” Okay, could you restrict them to one place in the house and eat fewer? “Yeah, if I didn’t have them on the coffee table and the kitchen counter and the other places, I probably wouldn’t impulse-eat as often. So, yeah, if I put them on the cabinet, always had to go in there and never put them out on the table, then I would probably eat fewer sweets.” Okay, what if you didn’t even put them in the house? What if they were in the garage, in a cabinet?

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Jim Cathcart
“Well, that’s just silly.” No, it’s not. This is simply a self-management technique. I came up with a little formula I call MADE, and I say it’s your mindset and your lifestyle must be made. And it’s going to be made by someone else or by you, so why not take charge of it? So, M mental picture. What do you focus your attention on? How do you envision your future? How do you talk about your future and so forth?

A, affirmation. That’s the words you use, the actions you take, that reinforce one mental picture or another. So, if I say, “I’m not very coordinated physically. I don’t learn new skills quickly.” Okay, I get that. Every time you say that, you strengthen that belief. Every single time you say it, you strengthen the belief in it. And every time you strengthen that belief, you increase the likelihood of undesirable actions.

So, mental picture, affirmation. The D in MADE is daily successes, and that means doing little tiny things every single day that leads in the direction you want instead of the direction you want to avoid. And the E stands for environmental influences. So, it could be something as simple as having a motivational slogan on your wall, or a photo of your dearest child or grandchild in front of you on your desk, or a reminder, or a saying, or something – environmental influences. Also, the people you hang with are environmental influences. The places you go are environmental influences.

So, I thought I was naturally inclined to be a fat guy. I spoke that way and I acted that way. So, I had to change my mental picture, and say, “I commit here today to become a slender person,” and then I had to notice my language and interrupt the pattern of talking myself down, and say, “I’m becoming slender.” Someone said, “Jim, you’re fat,” “Yeah, but I’m becoming slender.” And so, I adjusted my language and I talked in terms of what I wanted and intended, not what I feared or hated.

And then daily successes, I found that I couldn’t get myself, at first, to exercise on a regular basis, so I made an absurd commitment that turned the trick. I committed, and I don’t mean I decided to do this on a superficial level. I committed to putting on my running shoes and walking to the curb every day, 365 days a year, no matter what the weather, no matter what the agenda. And you’d think, “Well, that’s just stupid. It’s so trivial.” No, that was the first olive out of the bottle. That was the first lick on the ketchup bottle that got it to start flowing.

By walking to the curb with running shoes on, every day I had to make a second decision, “Do I go for a walk or a run, or do I go back in the house and eat ice cream?” And some days, I went back in the house and I ate ice cream, but most days I said, “Well, I’m going to the corner. Well, I can go to the next mailbox. I could make it to that tree before I stop.” And before long, I was running five miles a day easily, and the weight just dripped off of me because I was still on the FABS diet regimen, and I was learning to like water and black coffee. And I dropped 52 pounds, I got in great physical shape, and people started talking about me as an athlete.

I remember the first time a guy said, “He’s skinny like Jim,” and I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I am thin. I’m skinny. Wow! Thank you.” And that was 40 years ago.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool.

Jim Cathcart
Forty plus, as a matter of fact.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Kudos. Kudos.

Jim Cathcart
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jim, this has been a lot of fun. I want to make sure we get to hear some of your favorite things. Can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jim Cathcart
A favorite passage from the Bible – I’m Christian – is John 10:10, but you don’t have to take this in a Biblical sense. You can take it in a philosophical sense. John 10:10 is where Jesus is quoted as saying, “I’ve come that they would have life, and have it more abundantly.” Well, I embrace that as my life purpose. I want my life to help others live more abundantly, live more fully, more meaningfully, more satisfying, because they got ideas that I was sharing. So, that’s my purpose.

The greatest quote I can recall right off the top of my head is from Zig Ziglar. Zig said, “You can get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” And ain’t that the truth, right?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And could you also share with us a favorite book?

Jim Cathcart
I’ve got two and they’re very similar in nature. One is The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino, which stood for Augustine, and that was his nickname, Og Mandino. And Og was a friend of mine, he sold tens of millions of books. And The Greatest Salesman in the World is not just for salespeople, it’s for anybody, but it’s an inspiring book set in ancient times with people, nomads wandering across the desert and all that sort of thing. And it’s about a young camel boy that ended up becoming fabulously successful. So, The Greatest Salesman in the World.

And then another one that’s similar in nature but much more contemporary, and that’s by Giovanni Livera, and the book is called Live A Thousand Years. And it’s like a Disney movie when you read the book but it’s all about goal-setting and self-awareness and healthy relationships and living a meaningful life. And it’s just so well-written. So there’s two.

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

Jim Cathcart
Well, I’ll point them to my name, Jim Cathcart. If you do a Google search on that, you’ll end up with like 300,000 links. And I’m Jim Cathcart on YouTube, on Instagram, on Facebook, on LinkedIn – Cathcart Institute on LinkedIn also – Vimeo. Man, I’m out there. The only thing you won’t find me on is Twitter. I canceled that account. I got frustrated with Twitter. But Cathcart.com is my website, and I’m pretty much omnipresent.

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

Jim Cathcart
Well, I would just challenge them to take some of the ideas we’ve been talking about and start applying them in writing, keeping a record, dating your written record, right now, for the next 30 days or the next however long you can get yourself to do it. Just start applying some of these ideas and notice the payoffs that you get. And if you need my help, come join me.

In February, I’m going to Nashville. I’m going a program called Going Pro. In June, I’m going to Machu Picchu, Peru and doing a program on knowing yourself and understanding all the things that make you who you are based on my book The Acorn Principle. So, come with me and let’s see how much more successful you could be.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. Jim, this has been fun. Thanks so much for taking the time and keep on rocking.

Jim Cathcart
It’s a joy for me. Thank you. And go to GuitarMusicLive.com and listen to and watch some of my videos where I’m playing and singing. I’ve got 19 songs on there, and I don’t know how many videos, but it’s all free. Just go there and enjoy yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Thank you.

731: How to Harness Motivation…According to Science with Ayelet Fishbach

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Ayelet Fishbach reveals insights into motivation to help you achieve your goals.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The top variable for motivation 
  2. How to find motivation when you’re just not feeling it
  3. How to make incentives really work 

About Ayelet

Ayelet Fishbach is a psychologist and a professor at the University of Chicago. She’s the past president of the Society for the Study of Motivation. She is an expert on motivation and decision making and the author of Get it Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation. Ayelet’s groundbreaking research on human motivation has won her several international awards, including the Society of Experimental Social Psychology’s Best Dissertation Award and Career Trajectory Award, and the Fulbright Educational Foundation Award. 

Resources Mentioned

Ayelet Fishbach Interview Transcript

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

Ayelet Fishbach
Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’m excited to talk about motivation with you. First though, I need to hear about your nine-year old calls you an expert on how to fail. Tell us about this.

Ayelet Fishbach
Yeah. So, I’ll share the story with you. Doing my own things at home and my son is playing video games, and this is not when you usually expect parents to do anything, like this is what we let our kids do so that we can do something else. So, he’s playing these video games, and the monster keeps killing him, and he’s getting frustrated. As you know, this monster, they’re terrible. They’re just killing those innocent kids in the video game.

And I can see that he almost has tears in his eyes, so we asked him, like the entire family, like, “Do you want someone to be there with you?” And then my daughter suggested that she will sit with him so that he can better cope with those monsters, and he replied saying that he wants mom to sit with him because I know how to fail better than anybody else. I was proud.

Pete Mockaitis
So, with him in the failure zone, he’s like you were sort of the expert to assist in that territory. Is that the vibe?

Ayelet Fishbach
Yes, I have a lot of experience with learning from failure, and I think I take it to heart but not as much as he does. So, he realizes that if I’m around, we’re probably going to make fun of this and not take it too much to heart.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is kind words and something to remember maybe when in tough times. So, I’m excited to talk about motivation and your book Get It Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation. And maybe to kick us off, one of my favorite questions is to hear, when you’re researching a topic for many years, what’s among the most surprising and fascinating discoveries you’ve made about human motivation?

Ayelet Fishbach
We found that giving advice is more motivating than getting great advice from the expert.

Pete Mockaitis
So, if I give advice, I’ll be motivated more so than if I receive advice.

Ayelet Fishbach
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ayelet Fishbach
And that was kind of cool to us. We predicted that but still it was nice to see that it doesn’t matter what is the domain, whether it’s controlling your finance, or finding a job, or controlling your weight, or studying, those who are struggling are more motivated by giving someone advice than by getting advice back, which was nice.

We found that what predicts adherents to basically any goal, in particular, now we’re looking at New Year’s Resolutions because it’s soon, is how much people are enthusiastic about doing the thing, how much they enjoy doing the thing, and not how important it is, which was surprising for us because you do something, you set a resolution because it is important, not because it is fun to do. Nevertheless, how important that is for you can predict so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s juicy. And Katy Milkman, we had on the show, in her book How to Change, we talked a little bit about some of those principles in terms of being enjoyable, and that’s sort of like old-fashioned exercise advice, “What’s the best exercise? The one you enjoy and you stick with.” It’s like, “Okay, no, but seriously, what’s going to give me faster or big muscles,” or kind of whatever your outcome you’re shooting for, or lose weight, you name it. But there’s something to it, the adherence, you’re telling me that that’s the top variable you found for tracking adherence is how much you enjoy doing the thing?

Ayelet Fishbach
Yes. And I basically think about it as immediate rewards. And it’s interesting that you mentioned Katy Milkman because we did our research independently and we did get to similar conclusions. Yes, it’s how much you get some immediate feedback that this is working, that this is enjoyable, that you are in it. It’s not just enjoyment. It could be something else that is immediate, like, “It immediately makes me feel proud.”

We recently published a paper that found that even if there’s a slight discomfort, if it’s immediate, then that’s better than nothing. So, realizing that, “This is working because I feel like I’m slightly struggling is good. It motivates.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. As opposed to, I’m thinking about supplements, it’s like even if it feels a little weird, it’s like, “Okay. Well, it’s doing something as opposed to just nothing,” so that maybe gives you a dash of hope. And what’s funny, what comes to mind now is, as we speak, I just happen to be in one of my best ever weightlifting grooves of my life, and I think that’s exactly what’s going on here, is that because we got some structural and environmental things working in my favor so I have some consistency, and I’ve got a really lovely app called RepCount, which makes it so easy to track what I’m doing, it’s so exciting, rewarding, fun to see, “Oh, I bench-pressed as much as I could last time, and I could do this weight four times. Oh, but this time, I could do it five times.” So, it’s like, “I am stronger than I’ve ever been before. Yes.” And it just feels fantastic.

And then, of course, exercise in its own endorphin-y, positive, biochemically way does what it does, but then I’ve got that immediate reward. So, I really do, it gets me coming back again and again and again because I want to keep breaking records and feeling awesome each time I do, which, at this stage in the game, thankfully, is almost every time. So, I’m into it. And, yeah, my adherence is high because my immediate positive enjoyable feedback is high.

Ayelet Fishbach
Yeah. You actually mentioned out a bunch of things that all contribute to motivation.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, unpack it for me.

Ayelet Fishbach
So, the one thing that you mentioned is that this is immediate, like you do this and you immediately get the feedback that this is working, that you just broke a record. And we know that whatever is immediate is much more motivating than some delayed outcomes that will happen in a week or a month or in a year.

Then another thing that I like about your example is that you looked back, and you say, “Well, I only did three last week, and four earlier this week, and now I can do five.” And looking back is often the way to keep yourself going. If you always look forward then you might never quite be where you want to be, so that might be hard. We often tell people, like, “Look back. Look at how much you have achieved. That will increase your commitment.”

In studies, like students that look back were more motivated to study in particular when they were unsure whether they want to do the thing. Customers standing in line, when they look back, they appreciated more the thing that they’re waiting for. So, looking back is good. And then the last thing that you mentioned is having a miracle target, like, “I want to be at five or at six,” which is also a very good strategy to motivate yourself. So, you just found a combo.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, it’s working because sometimes I find myself daydreaming, like it’s Tuesday evening as we speak, I was like, “Oh, boy, Wednesday is a day away. I’m already excited for tomorrow morning to go to the gym.” And I find other times in my life where that was not at all the situation with regard to thinking about the gym.

Well, cool. So, we kind of got a little bit of hodgepodge of fun discoveries and practice how they’re working. So, maybe you could share with us sort of the core thesis of your book “Get It Done” and any key principles that we haven’t hit yet?

Ayelet Fishbach
All right, yes. And so, when I looked at the field of motivation, and I’ve been a motivational scientist for a long time, I feel that what is common to all the interventions, all the strategies that we developed is that they change the situation in order to change the behavior. And so, basically, if we wanted to change someone else’s behavior, we would change their situation, we would change how we present the information to them, or whom they’re going to do the thing, or we are going to give them certain incentives to behave in one way, or a punishment for behaving in another way.

We can apply this to ourselves. We can be the person that shapes our own behavior if we systematically think about the situation in which we put ourselves and how we think about these situations. And I started with this, and then I looked at all the strategies that we have been studying for many years, and thinking that they really fall into four buckets.

And so, when we think about changing our situation in order to motivate ourselves, first bucket or first element is setting a goal. How do we set a goal? Is it a motivating goal? Is it a “do” goal as opposed to a “do not” goal, which might seem urgent but is not fun to pursue? Is it an intrinsic goal? Everything on that. The second element is “How do we monitor progress?” Do we get feedback? Do we look back? Do we look forward? How do we learn from setbacks, from negative feedback? So, all these interventions.

The third element is, “What do we do with everything else?” “I might plan to exercise but I also plan for other things for this early hour in the morning when I thought I would exercise, so that doesn’t work.” How people design their environment for everything else. And then the last element is social support and all the interventions that get people to find other people that will help them.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. So, that’s a nice menu there, bits there to work with. And so, boy, it seems like we talked a good bit about the monitoring of progress in our earlier example. Let’s talk a little bit about setting a goal such that it is a motivating one. I’m thinking we recently interviewed Michal Bungay Stanier who was talking about making goals really juicy and epic that get you going or worthy. What does the research suggest makes a goal more motivating versus less motivating?

Ayelet Fishbach
So, yes, I agree that juicy is good, a goal that is enticing. We find that goals that are intrinsic, that feel good to pursue are motivating. We find that goals that are challenging are more motivating. And so, ideally, you should think about setting a goal that you have maybe 80% chance of achieving on a daily basis. You will not always be successful but you will also not be so unsuccessful that you will give up. The error can be on both sides, and the study shows that when people are in this zone, where they are not sure that they can do it, but if they work hard, they will. In this uncertain zone, this is where you see the energy level picks up.

We want people to set “do” goals more than “do not” goals, or approach goals not avoidance. The early research on this actually looked at thought suppression and Wiseman described that the study seemed intuitive. It’s much easier to ask people to think about something than not to think about something.

I can ask you to think about brown bears. You can do this. If I asked you not to think about white bears, that’s impossible. I can ask you to think about your current partner. You can do this. If I asked you not to think about your ex, you think about your ex, I think. It’s really hard not to do that. And, indeed, do-not goals are harder. They seem urgent, so if you want to do something immediately, then avoidance goals are maybe a good fit, but usually try to avoid them.

Pete Mockaitis
Avoiding avoidance goals.

Ayelet Fishbach
And a number, put a number on it is something that is pulling you toward it. One of the nice studies on that looked at marathon runners. A marathon runner tried to run the marathon under four hours, and so there are many more people that finished the marathon in three hours and 59 minutes than in four hours and one minute.

Pete Mockaitis
I bet, yeah.

Ayelet Fishbach
Right? Because it’s just like you really want to do this under four hours, so you just try to push very hard toward the end. It’s such a nice demonstration of the power of goals.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you mentioned four key principles there. One is sort of what do we do with the other stuff, like in the morning example, like there’s other stuff that happens in the morning. What are some of the best practices there?

Ayelet Fishbach
So, we never just want one thing. I would say that, to begin with, we need to realize that we want several things simultaneously. And we can think about identifying activities that achieve several things simultaneously. And so, a good way to pursue a goal is such that you also get something else out of doing it. If you bike to work, you get your commute and your exercise and saving money at the same time.

Some activities help some goals but interfere with other goals. If I make my lunch at home, well, I will be eating healthily and I will save money, but this is going to interfere with my goal to get to work on time because I have a lot to do in the morning and I’m slow.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. We’re socializing when the colleagues go out to Chipotle or wherever.

Ayelet Fishbach
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “Oh, well, I just have this, so, sorry.”

Ayelet Fishbach
Yes. And so, thinking about the impact that your action has on multiple goals is important. So, some activities achieve several goals, and they are good. We call them multi-final. Sometimes we fare to the saying, “Feed two birds with one scone,” if you will. Think about it.

Pete Mockaitis
This is very clever. Scone, stone, wow. This is an original. I like it.

Ayelet Fishbach
Thank you. So, other activities are what we call equifinal. This is all roads lead to Rome. So, there are several activities to achieve the same thing and when you think about this superficially, it feels like, “Well, why do I need more than one path to pursue a goal? Why do I need another way of exercising?” given that you just identified this thing that works so well for you. Well, we need that as a backup plan, and we need this to increase our confidence.

And so, when people identify several ways to do the same thing, they are more confident. One of the studies that I like, found that for new gym goers, new people at the gym, learning that there many options to get their exercise increase their motivation. For those that have been there for a while, that doesn’t really matter.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “Yeah, I already knew that. Thanks.”

Ayelet Fishbach
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay.

Ayelet Fishbach
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And then social support? I’m all about accountability groups, or people challenging and inspiring and being workout buddies, or whatever. What are some of your top do’s and don’ts when it comes to social support?

Ayelet Fishbach
So, there are a few ways in which we should think about social support. There are some goals that we are doing with others, and many of the important things that we do, we do with others. I do my research with others. I raise children with my spouse. I work with colleagues. We do things with other people. And then we should think about, “How do we make sure that we are efficient in our division of labor, how to combat social loafing?”

And many of the strategies that motivation scientists think about are meant to combat social loafing. How do we make sure that, when several of us are doing something together, we are not doing less? The classic studies found that when you put a few people and ask them to do something, either to pull a rope or just make a lot of noise, more people, less work that everybody is doing. And so, we think about how to make contribution identifiable, how to increase the identity of a person as a group member so that the presence of other people will not make them work less hard.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You know, this brings me back to thinking about band in high school because I was pretty mediocre as a saxophonist, not the best, not the worst. But then, boy, when there were times when each person had to individually go into the room and play the piece for the director, the practicing really happened because there was no hiding in the crowd as to the sound. It’s like he knew what you could do and what you couldn’t do, not that he was going to scream at you but you just didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t know how to play the stuff. That’s just not a pleasant feeling.

Ayelet Fishbach
Yes, as long as you remember that you need to listen to these kids individually sometimes, then you could keep the motivation high. If it’s hard to identify who’s doing what, then we tend to procrastinate.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Ayelet Fishbach
Then the other aspect of social support is just the people that are helping you with your own goals. So, they are there, they want more of the real estate, they want you to do well. You really need those people to keep going. It is actually impossible to adhere to any goal when the people around you think this is fully so unnecessary.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so these are some great principles. And I’d love it if you could help me get creative about applying them into some career situations. I guess I’m thinking about the stuff that tends to get left behind. And maybe it’s the email inboxes that never seems to hit zero, or maybe there are some strategic thinking and things I want to run after, or maybe there are some goals that show up in my annual review and I never seem to find the time to actually advance them until it’s a bit of a scramble towards before the next annual review.

So, in these sorts of fuzzy things that might be hard to put a number on, etc., and might not even be things we are interested in intrinsically, how do we work some magic to tap into an extra level of motivation on the tricky ones?

Ayelet Fishbach
So, these are ongoing goals. The problem with email is exactly as you mentioned. It never ends.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Ayelet Fishbach
You might get to zero emails at some time in your life. It will probably last till like 30 seconds, so it’s really just keep doing it. It’s not reaching the end of it. And when goals don’t have a clear beginning or end, they are much harder to pursue. I talk in the book about the middle problem, which happens for goals that do have a beginning and end. But in the middle, motivation is not great, like, “I started the project. I was all into it. I’m about to submit the project. I’m super energized, but in the months in between, I can’t bring myself to work on that thing. This is hard.”

In our studies, we found that people relax their performance standards, they even relax their ethical standards. In one study, like, we found the people literally cut corners in the middle. That is we gave people five shapes, like drawn on paper, and a pair of scissors, and they had to cut them. And the first shape looked great. The last shape was pretty decent. In the middle, they literally cut corners. They were not good at their job.

And I think that this is a bit with like the problem with email, “It’s just that it doesn’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything. I’m just like on the treadmill, keep going.” It helps to find some markers, some beginnings, some ends, that sets your daily goal to answer a certain number of emails or address a certain aspect of the work so that you can achieve it and get to something that you can accomplish, to some end.

I also want to add that we ran a study a few years back in an advertising company where we asked people that was in Seoul, in South Korea, and we asked half of the people to reflect back on what they achieved, and the other half to reflect on what they have yet to achieve. So, either look at what you’ve done or what you still have to do.

And what we found is that those who look back were happier with their job, and those who looked ahead were more motivated to move forward. They had a higher level of aspiration. And so, yes, they were more thrusted with their current position but they were also more eager to do something else that’s even better. And I thought that that was good.

Pete Mockaitis
So, they’re both getting some good vibes. Can we recap? So, with people looking back, felt more what?

Ayelet Fishbach
Felt better about what they do. They liked what they do more.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so maybe more satisfied with where things stand. And then those who looked forward were more hungry to get after it. Is that fair to say?

Ayelet Fishbach
Yeah, they wanted to be on the next level already. They wanted to progress.

Pete Mockaitis
interesting. Well, I guess now I want to know in terms of their behaviors afterwards because, in some ways, feeling good sometimes results in us taking care of business. In other times, feeling good results in us chilling out and not pushing it as much.

Ayelet Fishbach
Exactly. And we can predict when we will see each one of them. The less committed people tend to work harder when they feel good about what they do, when they look back, and they say, “Well, I already did some,” they work harder. The fully committed people are more motivated when they get feedback on what they have not yet done. Although, in this study that I told you, we didn’t really look at commitment. Everybody was pretty committed. We really just wanted to see how high is their level of aspiration, how much they want to already be doing the next thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That is great. So, we got a lot of nice foundational fundamental principles to bear in mind as we’re designing goals and chasing after them and how we pursue them. I’m curious about sort of in the heat of battle, in the moment, it’s like, “Aah, I just don’t feel like it.” Any tips, tools, stuff to do then and there?

Ayelet Fishbach
I would ask why you feel like this.

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, I didn’t get a great night’s sleep. Oh, I’ve just been going at it for a while. I’m just kind of tired of it.”

Ayelet Fishbach
Yeah. Well, so you say that you didn’t get enough sleep, but the way you were, pretending to be that person that’s unmotivated, it sounded like you’re just not excited about what’s ahead of you. You look at your day and it seems kind of boring. It’s not intrinsically motivating. And if that would be my diagnosis, now, notice that I encourage people to run their own diagnosis. But in our play here, I’m diagnosing that what you do is just not exciting for you, so either you bring excitement to what you do or you do something else. You find another path to be successful at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, okay, so how does one bring excitement to what you do when it’s not there naturally?

Ayelet Fishbach
Something that you can do, actually, pretty easy, you can try to listen to music while you work. You can try to make your environment more enticing, so put around you images of things that make it more fun. In one of our studies, we encouraged students in a math class to listen to music while they were working on their problems.

The teachers were unhappy with us but the students were doing more math problems. I don’t think that they were more excited about the math. They were more excited about the music, or some support, some color of pencils, so it kind of made it a party. So, you can make your office more like a party without changing the actual work that you need to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s true. I guess I’m thinking about there are times when I’ll take a phone call while walking, and so that’s kind of more interesting. Or, if I don’t need much brain power, like while organizing an area, a space, tidying up so it’s sort of like, “This call, I’m not looking forward to, but there is something that I can feel better about in doing that that works for me.” So, that’s cool. Thank you.

Ayelet Fishbach
And if you think about it, many people go to work to be with other people that they like, so it’s really not about the task. I’m not saying that you should not do something interesting. I think that everybody should try to find something interesting to do that the work in itself is rewarding. But in terms of an immediate change that you could do, you could do it with people that you like.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. What colors you like, colored pencils for the math problems. I think a great pencil makes an impact. Sure. Okay. And then do you have some thoughts when it comes to when we’re motivating ourselves versus trying to motivate others? Do kind of like the same rules and principles apply or are there some distinctions and ways we want to play the game a bit differently based on the target?

Ayelet Fishbach
That’s an interesting question. The main difference is when we look at incentives. Research on incentives, it’s easier to think about how to incentivize others than to incentivize yourself. Of course, you can use the wrong incentives for others as well as for yourself. In the book, I give the story of French colonials in Hanoi. They were trying to get rid of the rats that were all over the city, which was partially because the way that the French colonials built the city but, anyways, there are rats everywhere, and they decided to have a bounty system by which they give people a cent for a dead rat, actually for the tail of the rat.

Terrible incentive systems because the way to make money is by bringing dead rats, and the way to have dead rats is by, first, having live rats, and so the residents of Hanoi were breeding rats in order to get the money from the government. So, incentives can backfire and cannot do what we intended them to do, whether we incentivize others or ourselves. But when we incentivize ourselves, that’s, in particular, hard because we often find it hard to think how will we do that. And this is where often we see people struggling, like, “What do I give myself? And how do I make sure that I don’t give it to myself when I don’t deserve it?” Not impossible, but harder. And the other end, self-control is much more when incentivizing ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re right. It’s almost sounds like you need a referee in terms of like, “I’m going to have some chocolate when I accomplish this thing.” But if you have the chocolate in the corner, it’s like, “Well, it’s right. I guess I can just have it now regardless of whether I do the thing.” So, I don’t have any clever ideas other than having a referee, a gatekeeper, holder of the chocolate or whatever, monitoring things. Are there any other tricks?

Ayelet Fishbach
I think that you are referring to having another person helping you, and absolutely having other people is always helpful. Giving gifts to yourself, a thing that you would not afford on a daily basis, like this coffee that’s way too expensive so you only give it to yourself when you feel that you have done something special, or going to the spa because you exercised a certain number of days this month, which, again, might be something that you, well, you can afford every week but is a reward. That’s harder.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, if it’s indulgent and kind of inaccessible, then that just sort of makes sense in terms of you’re less likely to say, “Well, I’m just taking a spa day here on Tuesday. Just that what’s happening.” That, of course, requires a little bit of thinking and planning in terms of like the obligations of the day and, yeah, I guess you’d feel more lame if you just took the incentive prematurely as opposed to chocolate which is something you might do anyway.

Ayelet Fishbach
Yes, exactly. Yes.

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

Ayelet Fishbach
Gosh, so you already realized that I am thinking about many things that people can do to keep themselves motivated. I will follow your question because if you just let me talk, we are going to just like, “Aargh.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, how about a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ayelet Fishbach
Oh, a favorite quote. Let me go with Gramsci, “History teaches but it has no pupils.” The way I take it is that there is a lot of feedback out there but we often don’t learn. And I am particularly reminded of this when I look at how much people learn from negative feedback and from setbacks. And we often think about negative feedback and setbacks as something that you should just ignore and keep going. And I say, “Well, there was some interesting important lesson there. Have you learned that? Maybe not.” So, I will go with “History teaches but it has no pupils.”

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

Ayelet Fishbach
We did a study in which we wanted to explore people’s aversion to investing in means, like people want to invest their resources in this thing itself, not in a means to the thing.

And so, we auctioned a signed by a University of Chicago economist to some people, and they told us how much they’re willing to pay, and the highest bid is going to get the book. Then we took another group of people from the same population, and we auctioned a tote bag, actually a fancy tote bag that contained the same book.

And so, we asked these people, “How much are you willing to pay for the bag that contains this book?” People were willing to pay around $25 for the book and around $12 or $13 for the bag and the book. In economic terms, the value of the bag was negative. And so, that was a very cool illustration of how much we don’t like to invest our resources with a thing that is not the thing itself, that is a way to get there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m just going to chew on that for a while. Thank you. Whew, that just makes me think about so many businesses in terms of you can buy a virtual assistant, that’s another business I run. You can pay for a virtual assistant, or you can pay for a podcast production. And that person is doing that thing, and yet how you present it can have wildly different implications for willingness to pay and such. And that’s kind of mind-blowing. Thank you. Whew!

All right. And how about a favorite book?

Ayelet Fishbach
I read a lot of novels so I would say my favorite book, anything by Elena Ferrante – how does it work? – “The Lying Life of Adults.”

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

Ayelet Fishbach
So, that was an important question. Go to my webpage AyeletFishbach.com. Everything is there, information on my book, on my social media, on my research, my publications, my teaching, this podcast hopefully soon. Everything is on AyeletFishbach.com.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?
Ayelet Fishbach
Okay. So, how can you work better with other people? How can you bring someone to help you, bring someone who is your role model, do something in order to connect to a person? Your challenge will be to do something with another person either in order to do it better or to connect better to that person.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Ayelet, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and motivation in all your pursuits.

Ayelet Fishbach
Thank you very much. I hope so and I very much enjoyed talking to you.

726: Developing the Mind of a Champion and Leader with Dr. Jim Afremow

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Dr. Jim Afremow reveals the secrets of how top performers prepare themselves mentally to succeed.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five-minute mental training routine used by top athletes 
  2. Two easy ways to turn a bad day around
  3. One powerful question to elevate your leadership 

About Jim

Dr. Jim Afremow is a much sought-after mental skills coach, licensed professional counselor, co-founder of the Champion’s Mind app, and the author of The Champion’s Mind (over 140,000 copies sold), The Champion’s Comeback, and The Young Champion’s Mind. For over 20 years, Dr. Afremow has assisted numerous high-school, collegiate, recreational, and professional athletes. In addition, he has mentally trained several U.S. and international Olympic competitors. Jim also served as a senior staff member with Counseling Services and Sports Medicine at Arizona State University, and as a Mental Skills Coach and the Peak Performance Coordinator with the San Francisco Giants MLB organization. In addition, Jim has helped many business executives elevate their mental game. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease!
  • University of California Irvine. Chart your course to career success at ce.uci.edu/learnnow 

Dr. Jim Afremow Interview Transcript

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

Jim Afremow
Hey, Pete, thanks so much for having me on today.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about your wisdom. And you’ve helped a lot of athletes achieve peak performance. I’d love to hear is there a particularly dramatic or exciting story you’d like to share to set the stage or the scene for what could be possible if we become mental champions?

Jim Afremow
Absolutely. So, one of my favorite stories is from Natalie Cook, and she’s a five-time Olympian, and she won the gold medal in Sand Volleyball at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. And the story behind that is her grandfather, when she was really young, encouraged her to dream big, and set a that’s impossible goal, or seems like an impossible goal. And so, she said, “Grandpa, I want to win a gold medal in the Olympics, and I don’t even know what sport yet.” So, he said, “Really go for it, and I believe in you.”

And so, anyway, she ended up really dedicating her life to excellence and she surrounded herself with the color of gold. So, she wore gold-colored sunglasses, and had painted her nails gold, and just surrounded herself with gold as almost a subliminal message that, “That’s what you’re gunning for in life.” And so, she ended up, again, accomplishing all of her goals. But my favorite part of the story that she shared with me is that she was asked after winning the Olympic gold medal what if she had finished second place. What if she got a silver medal?

And her response is perfect. She said, “Well, I would’ve painted my silver medal gold.” And her point was it’s not about the medal, it’s about living a gold-medal life. And so, when she decided to really go for it, she ended up telling everyone, and one of the things that usually when we set a big goal, we don’t want to tell anyone because what if we don’t accomplish it. And her idea was, “I want people to hold me accountable to that goal,” and she calls it teaming, which is surrounding yourself with people that really support your dreams and goals. And it’s just a great story because I think that should be something that we all strive for, is to live a gold-medal life.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I dig that. Yes, thank you. Well, I’m excited to hear some of your particular insights and tools from your books The Champion’s Mind, and your latest, The Leader’s Mind: How Great Leaders Prepare, Perform, and Prevail. So, that’ll be fun. But, first, my producers and I, we were prepping for this. We can’t resist. On your website, you have an intriguing teaser that says, “Win the mental battle. Train your mind in just five minutes a day by following the mental training routines used by top athletes.” That’s good copy, Jim. Tell us, what is the five-minute mental training routine used by top athletes? And can you walk us through it? And what is it going to do for us?

Jim Afremow
Well, absolutely. So, I do have an app, Champion’s Mind app, it’s sort of like a powered toolbox. And the powered tools would be things that we should all work on regardless of whether we’re athletes or not. So, examples would be positive self-talk. How can we talk better to ourselves to accomplish what we want more in life?

Gratitude. We’ve often heard about gratitude and how important it is but I don’t think we realize how important it really is and what a game changer it is. So, there’s different tools and techniques for how to be more grateful in life. Goal-setting. Just like what we’re talking about with Natalie Cook, let’s write our goals down, let’s share them with others, and let’s put them somewhere where we could see them each day.

In addition to that, visualization. That’s one of my favorite mental skills. Not only just picturing our success but the steps, the specific steps to achieve our success. And then, of course, mindfulness. There’s a new saying now in sports, which is, “Be where your feet are.” And if we’re in the moment, we’re at full power, but most of us tend to be thinking about what happened earlier today or what might go on later today instead of being right here, right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, that sounds cool. And I can do all that in five minutes?

Jim Afremow
You could definitely do that in five minutes. And the neat thing about mental skills training is that you could do it in tandem or in parallel with other activities. So, for example, gratitude, one of the suggestions that I like to give to athletes is when they’re driving to the arena or the ballpark, is turn the music completely off and think about what you’re grateful for, not only in your sport but also in the rest of your life. And so then, you start your day or your practice with an attitude of gratitude, which really helps us not only to feel our best but to perform our best.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. Well, so then I’m curious, over the course of five minutes, what might my ritual or protocol be in terms of if I’m going to do a little bit of all of these things in five minutes?

Jim Afremow
Yup. What you can do is, I think that having a routine is good. One of the things that we hate as human beings is uncertainty, and that adds a lot to our stress. And the world is kind of in an uncertain place right now with the pandemic and just maybe job security and those kinds of things. So, build a routine around thinking like a champion each day. So, whether in the morning, afternoon, or in the evening, set aside some time to review our goals, review what makes us grateful, to give ourselves credit where credit is due.

Most of us are too hard on ourselves than not hard enough, so part of the positive self-talk is thinking about what you did do well today or what you’ve done well recently, and say, “Hey, that’s just like me to do that.” And then mindfulness, again, kind of in parallel with other activities, when you’re eating, really taste your food, or when you’re taking a sip of water, really taste the temperature and feel that water cooling your chest as it goes down when you take your sip.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, well, I do. I like cold water so much more for that very reason. It’s just more entertaining and rejuvenating, in my own personal opinion. And so, who could’ve thought, that, apparently, by adding some mindfulness to that, I can be more champion-like in my mental game. So, that’s cool. Well, so then share with us then, so your latest The Leader’s Mind: How Great Leaders Prepare, Perform, and Prevail, sort of what’s the big idea here?

Jim Afremow
Well, the big idea is that we need good leadership now more than ever, and that all of us are leaders in one way or another. We don’t need a title to be a leader. And so, take the opportunity to show good leadership skills in all areas of one’s life. So, as a parent, as a coworker, whether a teammate, or if you happen to coach a team or be a boss, I think it’s important to be the very best you can be as a leader because, number one, we know that people don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses.

And then the other thing, too, that we know is, from research, that most of us at work are only about 50% engaged with what we’re doing in the moment. We’re either feeling entitled, or unhappy, or negative. We’re not really engaged with what we’re doing so we’re not going to perform well obviously and then no one wins when that happens.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, lay it on us then, what should we do in terms of is there a particular mindset that gets us engaged and rearing to go, and makes us do better leadership-y activities and avoid poor leadership activities? How do we think about the mental game here?

Jim Afremow
Yeah. Well, I think it all starts with the idea that champions make each day count. So, most of us tend to procrastinate, “I’ll just try to get through today, and then maybe tomorrow I’ll bring my A-game.” And that’s one thing that champions don’t do. What they do do is, “How can I get one day better today?” And so, it’s that attitude that, “Whatever I’m going today, I’m going to do it to the fullest. And so, I’m going to have a great attitude and give my best effort.”

And so, part of being a great leader is taking care of yourself and leading by example. So, that’s why some of those mental skills and strategies we’ve talked about at the beginning are so important, “Am I talking good to myself with positive self-talk? Do I have great body language?” As a leader, you got to ask yourself, “Would I want to work for me today?” or if I’m a coach, “Would I want to play for me today?” So, it all starts with setting the right tone with your attitude.

And then looking for ways to help others around you. And when we help others around us, we kind of feel better about ourselves, and then it shows that we’re there for the right reason instead of it just being about us; it’s about the collective good.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, so, Jim if you said that sometimes we have these days, like, “Ugh, I’m kind of tired. I don’t know, bored, unmotivated, disengaged, not into it,” whatever is going on, a little of blah or yuck going on. And so, rather than responding with a, “Uh, let’s see if I could just get through the day and maybe tomorrow will be better, and I can really make it count tomorrow.”

I’m curious, if you’re in the heat of battle there, the “Ugh” feeling not so grand, what do you do? Like, how can you flip the switch or get to a better place? Or, maybe you just don’t, and you suffer through but that somehow feel horrible on the inside but I guess look good on the outside and get some things done. Help us, Jim. When you’re in that yucky place, what do you do?

Jim Afremow
Yeah. Well, you definitely need a go-to strategy, and I have a bunch to share. But the thing is it’s really a fork in the road, in terms of, “Am I just going to go down the path of least resistance, and good is good enough?” And then we know that when our head hits the pillow at night, we usually don’t feel good about our day in terms of, “Yeah, I settled for silver instead of really went for gold today.”

But when we do our best, I don’t think anyone ever regrets that, and then we’re more likely to get into flow state or in the zone, and not only do we perform better, we end up enjoying our day more. So, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by giving that extra effort of excellence. And so, one kind of fun activity that I like to do with athletes is I suggest that they pick an animal, a predator in nature, that they want to emulate on the field or in practice. It could be a fun team-building exercise as well.

But when you think about predators, they love to hunt. They live in the moment. They’re not too worried about what else is going on around them. And when they’re hunting for prey, they’re totally focused and goal-oriented. And if they don’t get that prey, they don’t needlessly beat themselves up. What they tend to do is just, “Okay, where is my next prey?”

And I think that what’s really cool about that, thinking about, “What’s my predator that I want to emulate on the field?” is then we could talk to ourselves that way. So, we could say, if I’m feeling a little bit low energy, I could say, “Hey, wake up. It’s time to hunt. Be the tiger. Be the lion. Let’s get after it today.” And I think one of the things, too, is that, for athletes and other performers, we tend to think, “Well, if I have a bad day, I’m a bad performer,” or a bad worker, or a bad athlete. And what I like to remind my clients is that even tigers have bad days but they’re still tigers.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Noted. Thank you. That’s cool. Well, so I’m intrigued, you really sort of go into some detail in terms of the internal conversations. Can you share with us, you mentioned a go-to strategy, are there any key sort of words, or phrases, some do’s and don’ts in terms of particular verbiage inside our heads?

Jim Afremow
Yeah. Well, self-talk is the mind leads the body, so that’s also a good metaphor for leadership. The leader kind of leads the team. But the reason why self-talk is so important is because we have about 60 to 80,000 thoughts per day. There are different estimates, but we have a lot of thoughts per day, and the one thing we do know from research is that most of those thoughts are negative. So, we all have a negativity bias that keeps us safe, and that’s the number one priority of our brain is safety first. That’s the operating principle there.

And so, that’s going to keep us safe but it’s not necessarily going to make us successful. And so, in order to be happy and successful, we need to counteract that negative self-talk with positive self-talk. And so, that’s where I like to say that champions listen to themselves, or rather they talk to themselves, they don’t listen to themselves, because most of the thoughts that we’re going to have are going to be negative throughout the day.

So, when you catch yourself kind of in that negative state of mind, that’s when you really need to kick in the positive self-talk. And it could be as simple as, “I can do this. I am strong,” or, “I am not alone.” One athlete that I worked with was kind of having some challenges with conditioning on her team. She’s a freshman and moved up to college, and, man, the conditioning was a lot harder than in high school. And so, one of the things that she would say to herself is, “I’m not alone. I’m strong. I can do this.” And she would just repeat it over and over again, and that helped her get through those tough workouts. Whereas, before, what she was saying to herself is, “This hurts. This sucks. I can’t do this.”

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. It sounds so simple and, yet, you’re telling us that that makes the difference in terms of whether you quit and don’t get the result versus you persist and do. Is that fair?

Jim Afremow
Yeah. Well, our muscles are always listening to what the mind says. So, if we want our muscles to perform or our body to perform the way we want, we need to really give it the right messages. And self-talk is something that, just like with gratitude or goal-setting or visualization, body language, all these skills and strategies are simple but they’re not easy. We just need to remember to do them.

And, usually, when we need to do them the most, is when we least feel like doing them. So, again, we’re having an off day, we’re low energy, adversity is striking, and that’s when we need to say, “Okay, game on. Put on the champion,” and look at whatever we’re faced with as a challenge to overcome rather than a threat to avoid.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued about self-talk in that it’s not that often that I am too harsh myself, like, “Oh, I’m a loser,” or, “I’m an idiot.” That happens here and there. But mostly my own negative self-talk is more just like I’m irritated by something. For example, I was trying to sell something on Facebook Marketplace mostly just because I wanted them to haul it away without paying for it to be hauled away. So, don’t tell them but I would take zero dollars for this item, but anyhow.

So, they send a message, like, “Hey, what time?” or whatever, and then I’m not on Facebook for a while, and then 40 minutes later, they’re like, “Hello?” and that just makes me angry. Jim, I don’t know if that’s just me or what because it’s sort of like, “I am angry that someone has the expectation of being always on and instantly replying. And, like, I feel like I have failed or disappointed them in some expectation. But I think that expectation is bull crap. So, I’m angry.” Usually, I can let that pass but it kind of gets me a little bit of a slant or funk.

I think the mind, with those 60 to 80,000 thoughts, it’s sort of like, once you’re prewired or in one chute of emotional being, it’s easier to see, “Well, what else is irritating and anger-inducing in my environment or world?” So, Jim, I’d love to get your take on that when it comes to self-talk. Sometimes it’s not even verbal inside the mind’s ear, but it’s an emotion. And sometimes it’s not lifted or pointed at the self, like, “I’m so bad,” but rather something else, but it still has unpleasant effects that can decrease performance and productivity over the course of the day. So, yeah, I guess I laid it on you my own situation but some of the nuances of self-talk. How might you address that situation?

Jim Afremow
Well, we definitely, most of the time, our first appraisal is usually negative. And, again, that relates to the negativity bias, so, “I can’t believe this is happening,” or, “Why now?” or, “This is unfair.”

Pete Mockaitis
Like, “What’s this guy’s problem? Chill out, man. Some people don’t live their lives on Facebook. Deal with it.”

Jim Afremow
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, it’s just not helpful.

Jim Afremow
Exactly. And that’s where we need to make a re-appraisal of the situation and either look at it in a humorous way, like, “Okay, this is going to be a funny thing to share with someone later today,” or, we look at it as a challenge to overcome. And one of the little sayings that I like to use for myself is, “Get your expectations in line with reality.”

And most of us expect everything to go perfectly well each day, and, lots of luck, that’s not going to happen. And so, it reminds me of the story of Walter Hagen. He was, about a hundred years ago, one of the best golfers in the world, if not the best golfer of his time, and he reacted really well to the bad shots when he played. And back in the day, most golfers would throw their clubs or break their clubs and let it ruin their whole round when something bad happened. And he just ho-hummed, went onto the next shot, hit a good shot.

And so, he was asked, “How do you do that? How do you keep such a great attitude?” And he said, “Well, I expect four, or five, or six bad shots around, and golf is not a game of perfect, so to speak,” as we say nowadays, “So, when I do hit a bad shot, well, there’s one of the five, six, or seven bad shots that I’m going to hit today, or this tournament, so let it go. Put it behind me.”

And so, that’s kind of a key of champions is they tend to underreact emotionally when things aren’t going well rather than to overreact. And so, I like to joke again with performers that no one after a competition has ever said, “Man, I wish I got more angry out there or more anxious out there, or whatever it is out there. I wish I overreacted more to that bad call by the rep.” It’s usually, “I should’ve kept my cool,” and that’s where I like the saying that, “Cool heads win hot games.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s lovely. So, two good tools there. One is expectations, like, “Hey, if you interact with strangers, it’s probably going to have some unusual characters in some ways, and there’s a scammer in the mix as well. So, to be expected,” as opposed to be, like, “I’m so mad and frustrated and surprised and shocked that this thing happened.” So, one tool, get those expectations aligned with reality.

Secondly, re-appraisal, tell us, how can we do that? What are some examples of re-appraising? You say funny. I guess I’m imagining, I don’t know, like Seinfeld or something. You can make a whole episode out of this nothingness and turn that into humor. Can you give us some examples of re-appraisal in action, how it’s done?

Jim Afremow
Well, let’s say the classic example is you’re stuck in traffic and you need to get somewhere, maybe to work that day, and you’re getting frustrated, “What’s taking so long? Why are the roads so crowded?” And so, we’re going to have that instant negative reaction, and I think that’s where we could catch ourselves, take a deep breath, and kind laugh it off, and maybe think of it as an episode of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, and just think that, “If I were watching this on TV, what would make this situation kind of humorous or funny?” versus just getting upset, and then kind of reminds me of, what the saying, that it’s kind of like holding a hot coal and expecting it to hurt someone else that you’re mad at.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, like revenge.

Jim Afremow
Yes. So, we tend to be our own worst enemy in those situations where we just stress ourselves out but, yet, we’re the ones holding the stress. So, the problem isn’t the problem is, I guess, what I’m getting at. It’s our reaction to the problem that’s often the problem. So, being stuck in traffic is just, “Okay, it’s going to happen. I’ll probably be a few minutes late. It’s not the end of the world.”

Again, get my expectations in line with reality, and then maybe take a deep breath, find out, listen to something good on the radio versus getting really upset, frustrated, heated, and then, all of a sudden, we have this really…we slip into this black hole and then carry it around with us all day.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Thank you. Well, so now these are parts of the mental game that apply to everybody. I’d be curious to hear, particularly with your book here The Leader’s Mind, how do we translate this into leadership context? Like, are there any particular applications, use cases, do’s and don’ts, that make all the difference when it comes to leading others?

Jim Afremow
I do think that what’s really, really important is that we get crystal clear about our core values. And one example that I share in the book is when Steve Kerr decided to accept the Golden State Warriors’ head coaching job for the basketball team, he started reaching out to not only his mentors in the basketball world, Phil Jackson, when he was with the Bulls, and then Greg Popovich when he was with the San Antonio Spurs, but he reached outside of his sport.

And one of the people that he reached out to was Pete Carroll, who’s Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl winning coach. And he said, “Pete, what should I do in terms of being a great coach?” And Pete said, “Don’t worry about the X’s and O so much. I want you to start with what is the most important to you.” And he said, “Well, what do you mean?” And he said, “Well, write down ten core values and then narrow that list to four core values that you’re going to implement in your program on your team, and that you’re going to live each day.”

And so, he came up with joy, mindfulness, competition, and then kind of like gratitude. And what’s really powerful about that is they incorporated those things into every day practice, “So, let’s make sure we’re having fun with the purpose of practice.” In terms of the gratitude or the caring for others, “Let’s really care about each other, not just the uniform but the person in the uniform.”

And so, he started really living those core values, and I think that that’s really important because then you can kind of gauge, “Am I living those or are we living those?” And then when the team or the organization kind of hits a wall or goes through a period of struggle, you could go back to those core values.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. All right. So, I’m curious, core values have come up a few times in the show. How does one arrive at them? I could just think of some off the top of my head, sure, and maybe that’s your first 10 or 50 depending on how much the juices are flowing. And then how do you recommend you really zero in on what are the big four?

Jim Afremow
Yeah, I think that one thing is having role models can be important. So, in terms of leadership, we don’t have to be kind of lost in the wilderness on our own. We should have leaders that we look up to that we can gain some wisdom from. And so, kind of along those lines would be, “Who do I respect most in terms of leadership?” It could be a family member, a parent. It could be maybe a teacher or a boss that you’ve had or a coach, or it could be someone that you’ve studied in history or maybe a current coach in a major league sport.

And then you think about, “Okay, what are their core values? How do those resonate with kind of my own experience?” And that could be a good starting point. So, just with, for example, with Steve Kerr, I really liked his core value of joy because I’m a big believer that the more fun you have, the better you’re going to do, and the better you do, the more fun you’re going to have. So, let’s start with joy. If we’re not having fun, and again, it’s not silly fun or goofing off fun, it’s fun with a purpose, or it can even be intense fun. If we’re not having fun in any area of our life, we’re probably not going to be doing that well in that area of our life.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Thank you. Okay. So, core values, that’s one huge cornerstone in terms of leading well. What else do you recommend?

Jim Afremow
I love the idea of having an after-action review or a debrief after a performance. And in the work world, it could be maybe a weekly debrief but, basically, “What are we doing well? And what can we do better, moving forward?” That also gives you the opportunity to celebrate what you’re doing well, give yourself credit where credit is due, but then also to really put your finger on, “Okay, here are some…let’s target some areas for growth that we can really take up a notch and that will help us to move forward.” Because that, again, the goal is to get one day better every day or one week better every week. And if you can do that throughout a season or a year, and do it every season and every year, you’re going to like where you end up.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. And, likewise, what are some things we should not do or stop doing? Any key mistakes that leaders tend to make repeatedly that maybe they’re not even aware of?

Jim Afremow
You know what’s really, really fascinating is, in terms of the advice I give coaches and other types of leaders, number one is I’ll ask them, “Have you ever asked your employees or your athletes ‘What do I need to know about you or what do you want me to know about you in order to be the best leader I can possibly be for you?’” And it’s such an interesting and powerful question that we tend not to…it’s almost too simple.

Jim Afremow
But it’s really powerful and so a lot of the coaches that I’ve worked with will ask their athletes, “You know, on an index card, write down some things that you want me to know about you that will help me to be the best coach possible for you.” And it’s amazing what they get back. It might be, “Hey, I like when you coach me really tough,” or, “I respond better to maybe encouragement versus being challenged.” And so, really, it’s a great way to learn what buttons to press, to get the most out of the people you work for, and then so everyone is happy.

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

Jim Afremow
Well, I think that visualization is, again, it’s one of those skills that I think we all use a lot when we’re little just kind of spontaneously, picturing kind of cool and awesome things. Let’s get back to being creative in our own lives. And I encourage people to spend a few minutes a day just with their eyes closed and visualizing kind of who they want to be as a professional and performing the way that you want to perform.

So, it’s not just the end result of holding the trophy or getting the big paycheck, but the steps that will lead to that. But spend a little more time crafting your reality in your mind’s eye, and it’s amazing how often that will manifest itself in real life. I did that with my first book The Champion’s Mind. I visualized holding the finished product while I was writing it, and it gave me kind of that extra motivation to work when it was hard to sit down at the desk and write.

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

Jim Afremow
Well, a quote from Muhammad Ali, I really, really appreciate. So, he was doing, during one of his fight camps, he was doing sit-ups, and one of the reporters was watching and afterward asked Muhammad Ali, “How many sit-ups did you do there?” And Muhammad Ali said, “I don’t know because I only start counting them when they start hurting.” He said, “The reason I do that is because those are the ones that really count, those are the ones that make you a champion.”

And so, I really loved that quote about kind of when things get tough, that’s when you really find out what you’re made of, and that’s where you really, that extra effort of excellence, that’s where really you could go that…accomplish what you really want to accomplish. And so, working hard when things get hard is the great separator.

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

Jim Afremow
I always got a kick out of…so, just majoring in psychology as an undergrad, I went to University of Oregon, undergrad, and they just had a great psychology department, and just fell in love with psychology and then studied sports psychology and counselling in grad school. But I was a big fan of the Stanford marshmallow experiment.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Jim Afremow
I really enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a great movie, the early one. I know there’s been newer movie of it made. But I just love just the adventure of it and the story of redemption. This guy gets wronged and finds a way to kind of crawl back and reinvent himself and come back out on top again. So, I kind of love those stories about great comebacks.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite tool?

Jim Afremow
Favorite tool for me is having that attitude of gratitude. And along those lines, I like the quote that “Entitled to nothing but grateful for everything.” And, usually, when I find that I’m in that state of gratitude where I appreciate everything I have in life, and I’m thankful for the people in my life, it just makes everything better.

I heard someone once say that if everyone in the world put all their troubles in a big circle, you would gladly take yours back. And so, most of us could probably appreciate what we have, or the bad things that we don’t have, much more and that will make us feel much better about things.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite nugget, something you share that really connects and resonates with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Jim Afremow
So, the mantra, kind of the motto is, for The Champion’s Mind book is, “Think gold and never settle for silver.” And so, it’s just that reminder that every day is an opportunity to be the best or the gold version of ourselves. So, to ask ourselves, “What can I do today, what acts of excellence can I do today to make my life more golden?” I think that’s an important question.

And then my second book, The Champion’s Comeback, it’s we’re going to get knocked down. If we have big goals and dreams in life, we’re going to fall but we need to get back up again. So, I love the saying that “Love the comeback more than you hate the setback.”

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

Jim Afremow
Well, my website is GoldMedalMind.net and I’m on Twitter a lot, and I might already be following you or we might already be following each other because I follow a lot of people and have a lot of followers, but that’s at @goldmedalmind. And then on Instagram, @jimafremow

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

Jim Afremow
Yeah, I would start with, “What’s one thing that I’m going to start doing as a result of listening to the podcast today in my own life?” And it could be a small thing. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a big thing. It might even be just, “I’m going to take a gratitude drive when I go to work each day. So, “One thing I’m going to start doing,” and then, “One thing that I’m going to stop doing.” And it might be related to, “I’m going to stop watching TV or looking at my phone while I’m eating. I’m going to really sit and be mindful and appreciative of the food that I’m eating.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jim, thank you. This has been a treat. And I wish you much luck and much champion goodness.

Jim Afremow
Thanks so much, Pete.

714: How to Find Success and Purpose with Tanya Dalton

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Tanya Dalton says: "Living on purpose isn't about changing who you are. It's rising up and becoming the best version of you."

Productivity expert Tanya Dalton lays out the daily steps for a more successful and purposeful life and career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The life-changing habit we often shy away from 
  2. Why our brains hijack our motivation and willpower
  3. The simple trick to propelling yourself into action 

About Tanya

Tanya Dalton is a nationally recognized productivity expert, best-selling author and speaker. Tanya serves as a growth strategist for female leaders in the corporate and entrepreneurial sectors. 

In addition to having her book being named one of the Top 10 Business Books of 2019 by Fortune Magazine, Tanya’s podcast, Productivity Paradox is ranked among the top 50 on iTunes. She is also a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and has been featured in some of the world’s leading publications including Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, and Real Simple. She has been awarded the elite Enterprising Women Award and has been named the Female Entrepreneur to Watch for the state of North Carolina. 

Tanya is also the founder and CEO of inkWELL Press Productivity Co. a multi-million dollar company providing tools that work as a catalyst in helping women do less while achieving success. 

 

Resources Mentioned

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Tanya Dalton Interview Transcript

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

Tanya Dalton
I’m so happy to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. We’re happy to have you back. And I’m curious to hear, any pretty noteworthy discoveries you’ve made over the last two years you think that might help people be awesome at their jobs? Let’s just get that right up front at the top.

Tanya Dalton
Yeah, let’s just go for it, shall we? Let’s just start it right away. Yeah, I’ve been on quite a journey for sure for the past couple of years. I had the Joy of Missing Out come out two years ago at this point, and have had a lot of things happen to my life, notwithstanding my name change. I changed my name. I have a new book coming out. I have a kid who went to college. Lots of things, lots of shifts in my life.

You and I were chatting before we went live here, and talked about, “Okay, you changed your name. It’s kind of a big thing. It’s kind of a big deal.” And it really is especially when you have a book come out with your other name. So, my name just changed the spelling, T-O-N-Y-A, to T-A-N-Y-A, still pronounced the same, but we were talking about it and it was really important to me to really signify that I’ve been on a journey, that I’ve changed who I am spiritually, emotionally, in a lot of ways have done a lot of deep work.

And I was mentioning to you, what’s good about changing my name is this is something that a lot of cultures do. It opens up the door for conversation to talk about things like this, “Oh, you went and you did some deep work mentally.” And, for me, it really was wanted to signify that to the whole world that I’ve changed who I am and I think I’ve changed for the better and I think, because of all that I went through, I was able to write an even better book, for this new book, that’s come out On Purpose.

Pete Mockaitis
And I know in the book, there are some themes there associated with taking a look at the past and such. So, it’s called On Purpose: The Busy Woman’s Guide to an Extraordinary Life of Meaning and Success. Now, Tanya, I presume men can also find value on having an extraordinary life of meaning and success.

Tanya Dalton
Oh, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good. Good.

Tanya Dalton
Men also need an extraordinary life as well. Most of my writing is really focused and narrowed in on women because, let’s be honest, Pete, for hundreds of years, books have been written for men. And we, as women, we’ve read those books and we make it work for us, and it’s the same thing here. This book is written for women but it absolutely applies to men.

Pete Mockaitis
Men will make it work there.

Tanya Dalton
You can read it too. I think that a lot of people can get a lot out of this book. I think it has the ability to allow everyone to see that they have an extraordinary life just waiting for them.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, would you say that’s the core thesis here, everybody has an extraordinary life just waiting for them or how would you articulate kind of the big idea?

Tanya Dalton
Oh, absolutely. I think that we think that extraordinary is this thing that we have to claw and scratch to fight to achieve, and an extraordinary life is just waiting for us. Living on purpose isn’t about changing who you are. It’s rising up and becoming the best version of you. It’s really about looking out beyond today and seeing a brighter tomorrow and then making strides each and every day to get to that tomorrow, to that vision we want for ourselves.

[03:22]

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that all sounds pretty cool. Could you make it all the more concrete for us with an inspiring story of someone who did just that?

Tanya Dalton
Yeah. Well, I love that question because, honestly, me, in my journey, is a perfect example of, really, shifting and changing who you are. In the book, we go through four different sections. We go through reflection, projection, action, and alteration. And what’s beautiful about this is they all weave together so intentionally, and I know they have in my life.

I think that reflection is such an important part of growth. It really is, that we have to look backwards in order to move forward, in that when we take the time to dive into who we were, to see how far we’ve come, we understand how far we can go, and we understand what’s possible. And I know, for me, in my own life, I’ve seen this manifest in numerous ways, in numerous times.

We talked about my name change. That was certainly one of those times. But when I closed my first business and made the decision to open up inkWELL Press Productivity Co., that was definitely me making a very intentional choice to shift and move into what I was really meant to do. I started my first business in 2008, and I started with $50, and it was just a little side business that I was doing, selling to friends, maybe friends of friends. And I had a moment where I was on a phone call with my husband.

He was doing marketing for Fortune 500 companies at the time, and he would buy a ticket called the Round the World ticket where, literally, he would leave our home in Dallas and he would fly all the way around the planet, come back to the other side, so he’d be gone for three or four weeks at a time. And we had a conversation where I was telling him all the things that the kids were doing, they were really small at the time. And he said, “I’m missing everything. I’m missing all the moments. I’m missing all the milestones. I’m missing everything.” And I said, “No, no, no, you’re not.” And he said, “No, I am.”

And I hang up the phone that night and I made a big decision in my kitchen that night, that this girl with a ponytail, with $50 that she started her business with, no business experience, was going to grow that business to the point where it could absorb my husband’s MBA income and he could come work alongside of me, so we could have that lifestyle freedom that would allow him to be a part of the kids’ life, more a part, which is what he was really wanting.

So, I sat down, I created some plans for myself, I sketched out some systems, and it was about a year I made that happen. So, he and I started working together in 2009. It was great.

Pete Mockaitis
One year. It’s pretty quick. From fifty bucks to two income size in one year. That’s well done.

Tanya Dalton
Thank you. Well, I think this is a thing, it really is about choosing and then I had that to work towards. That’s me looking bigger than today. That’s me looking at tomorrow, “Where is it I want to go?” I knew at the time I wanted him to come and work alongside me, or rather across the desk from me, which is where he still is, and have this life for ourselves.

So, that gave me the motivation I needed to dig in and figure out what it is I need to do next. And that’s what I really think is so important, is understanding where it is you want to go. So, it was great because then he and I started working together and we loved that. But then in 2013, I looked at him and said, “I love you. I love working with you, but I don’t love what we’re doing.” That big goal that I had of getting him to work alongside me, I was ready for something else. I was ready for something bigger.

I knew that I wanted to make a bigger impact, and what we were creating together with that business wasn’t it for me. It wasn’t hitting those buttons of what I was truly passionate about, what I really wanted to do in the world. I used to be a teacher and so I’m really big on influencing and impacting other people’s lives, teaching and helping others grow.

So, he said, “Okay, what do you want to do?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. I have no idea.” So, I had to do a little reflection, I had to get my little Marty McFly time machine, go back in time and reflect back on, “What is it I want to do? What am I passionate about? How do I figure out what it is I want to do when I have no idea? How is this going to work?”

So, I did that, I did this process of reflection. I tried to find activities and exercises to dive into it myself but nobody seemed to have anything that would work for me. And out of that reflection process, which we can dive more into if you want to, but I found that there were really three things that I am truly passionate about.

I’m truly passionate about teaching. I have always been a teacher even when I was like eight years old. I was teaching and educating and I love watching lightbulbs light up in people’s eyes. I love empowering women and I love productivity. I love structuring things and systematizing things. That’s how I was able to grow that business, that first business, and able to really make that work for our family.

So, through that process of reflection, I realized, “Oh, this is what I want.” So, reflection tells us why, why we want what we want, “This is what I’m passionate about.” So, then we have projection, which is what, “What is it I want?” Well, I have these three things that seem very unrelated: empowering women, educating, and productivity. What can I create out of that? Well, that what became inkWELL Press Productivity Co., my company that I started and created.

So, I projected and figured out this is what I want to do, this is where I want to go with it. I started looking to the future of where could it go. And so, that’s when I stepped into that third step of action, creating action, “How am I going to get there? How am I going to create this for myself?” So, really, creating an action roadmap for myself of, “Okay, if this is where I’m starting out with closing down a business,” mind you, going without income, this is a family of four, both my husband and I are now getting income from my business I started, making that decision to close that up and open up something brand new, that was a big choice.

So, I needed to create an action plan to make sure that I had a map in front of me, that I knew where it was I wanted to go. So, I created that action plan for myself, scaled to seven figures in less than 18 months because, again, I love systems, I love productivity, so I was able to really make that work. And then along the way, there was a lot of shifting and changing that had to happen because life happens, life gets messy, things shift, we evolve and change and grow.

And that’s where alteration step comes in where we know where it is we want to go. We know that vision, that north star. You heard me talk about before our mission, our vision, our core values, I know where that is. I’m at A right here where I am today. The Z is where I want to go, that big vision I have for myself. The B to Y is how we get there, “All right. Now, let’s figure out how we’re going to get there.”

So, I started off by offering up physical products. We started off by selling physical planners, weekly planners, daily planners, all kinds of planners, productivity tools. And then that shifted and grew into having a podcast. And then that shifted and grew into having programs and courses. And then that continued to shift and grow into having publishers reach out to me and offering me book deals which is where I am today.

So, really, it’s all aligned with where it is I want to go. But you can see through every step of that, it’s really understanding that it’s not the actions of today. It’s the actions of today that build into tomorrow, into where I want to go. And I think that’s really when we achieve that extraordinary part of the life. It’s when we’re satisfied, it’s when we’re fulfilled, it’s when we feel successful at the end of our days that we go to bed at night and feel really good about what we did because we’re working towards something bigger than just checking something off our to-do list.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. So, there we have it. You are the case study, and we walked through those stages. So, let’s zoom into each of them then in terms of what are some of the best practices or questions to engage in each of these phases when we do want to understand where you want to go? How do you go about getting after that why to uncover that clarity?

Tanya Dalton
Yes. Well, that’s why I think it’s so important, I think reflection is one of those things that’s really important to do but it’s something we will avoid doing. We would rather clean the cat’s litterbox, we would rather start the vegan cleanse we’ve been putting off for six months, we’d rather do just about anything than reflect back because our past is often filled with lots of great moments but there’s also failure and trauma and frustration and things that we don’t like, and we want to push those underneath the bed. We want to just sweep them underneath the rug and pretend they’re not there, but, really, reflection is so important because that’s the fertile ground from which we grow.

I often tell people that it’s the regret that we can push against that gives us and builds up that resilience that we have. So, when we’re looking back, looking at the things that we have learned, the failures that we’ve had, the trauma, what have we gained from that? Because out of every one of those things, we gain lessons. We have a backpack that we all wear, it’s invisible, but we’re piling it full of these heavy lessons that we’re learning. And those backpacks help us in moving forward.

People will ask me, “How did you grow your business to seven figures in less than 18 months?” I had a backpack filled with experience. I had a backpack filled with knowledge and learning that I pull from teaching, from my first business I’d grown, from parenting, from all of those things. That’s what I used to allow me to grow and I think we tend to discount some of that.

And, really, it’s important to recognize that in a lot of those hurtful moments, those things that were hard, those things that feel like we don’t want to think about them, when we know what we don’t want, it’s so much easier to see what we do. We will move away from pain so much faster than we will towards pleasure.

We don’t go on the diet till our pants get too tight. We don’t stop working long hours till we recognized and realized we’ve missed dinner with the family again for the second week in a row. I know, for me, I had a period of time where I was working way too hard, and that’s a whole another story, where I was working every day, seven days a week, for 12-hour days minimum, and the kids were coming to the warehouse after school. They were coming and they were there on the weekends, and I ended that season of time and I reflected, “How do I feel about myself?” and I felt terrible. I felt like the world’s worst mom.

And it would be really easy to just say, “I’m the world’s worst mom,” and let that be the end of it, “I’m not going to think about this ever again. What a terrible mom I am.” But I realized out of that season, “If I feel like a terrible mom, how do I not feel like a terrible mom? What do I need to do to shift and change so I never feel this way again?”

So, because I had this oozy hurt that I didn’t want to think about being the world’s worst mom, how can I push against that to get to what I want? Well, I made the decision, “Okay, no more of these days where I’m working these insane hours. I’m leaving work every day at 3:00 o’clock. I own my own business so I can make that work. I’m going to leave every day at 3:00 o’clock.” That’s now a boundary for me.

And that’s been a boundary for me ever since, that’s years of me leaving work at 3:00 o’clock every day. I probably wouldn’t have believed it was possible, I probably never would’ve done that except for the fact that I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been. I didn’t want to feel like the world’s worst mom again. So, that’s what’s so beneficial and beautiful about reflection is the trophies we hold up, the beautiful things that have gone well. Those are amazing and they show us how amazing we are.

But the things that aren’t trophies, the things that feel like awful and terrible, those are amazing too because they also tell us how amazing we are, how strong we are, and how resilient we are. And we can build off of those things to get to that life we want.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really powerful in terms of it can very much be a temptation to not think about that at all and then move along.

Tanya Dalton
Yes, easily.

Pete Mockaitis
I think when you talked about working a lot and with the kids, I saw an episode of the Supernanny. I pull things from everywhere. And so, there was a couple, a mom and a dad, they were working a lot, and their strategy was to, well, I guess for the Supernanny to come over. I don’t know.

Tanya Dalton
That’s a strong strategy right there.

Pete Mockaitis
But before that it was just buying them a lot of stuff. And so, yeah, that’s a lot easier in terms of, “Oh, I feel kind of guilty because I’m working a lot and my kids are disappointed. And so, I’m going to buy them something because I can.”

Tanya Dalton
“Because I work so hard, I can afford it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And I think that’s common in terms of whether it’s a like a little feel good, quick Band-Aid option that doesn’t get after the stuff. So, it may be like, “Well, I’m going to have a drink. I’m going to play some video games. I’m going to have a smoke. I’m going to…” I don’t know, fill in the blank, whether it’s a healthy or not so healthy means of making yourself feel better in the moment. What they all share is that they don’t experience that pain full on and allow that to be a force for powerful motivation.

Tanya Dalton
Yeah, we don’t want to pull back the bandage because it looks gross. When we pull back the bandages, that’s when it gets air, that’s when it heals, that’s when it feels like it’s better, it scars over. And scars are not ugly, scars are beautiful because they’re part of our journey, they’re part of our path. And I think that when we start to recognize and realize that we’re all so beautifully human, which means that we are imperfect in a thousand different ways.

When we can embrace that in ourselves to know that we’re not alone, the frustrations we feel with ourselves, the negative self-talk, the trauma that we’ve experienced, we’re not alone in that. That’s a collective human experience that we share together. It really is about the healing that we do with the moving forward. Having hard things in our past does not make any one of us unique but it does make us human, and it means that we’re able to grow and we’re able to heal. And I think that’s really important to understand and to acknowledge. It’s not easy. I’m not going to pretend for anytime here on this show that that’s an easy process.

I go into some of the deep dark trauma that I’ve experienced in my life in the book to kind of show how we can overcome it, how we can dig in and understand why it happened to us, and where we want to go in moving forward, because I think it’s really powerful to understand that we have that ability. And I think it’s just believing in yourself, choosing to believe that you can move forward, that tomorrow is a brighter day.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. All right. So, we have a powerful distinction and an action we could take that many people don’t, to take a hard look at that which you’re not liking in the reflection and trying motivation.

Tanya Dalton
I can give you an easier one if you’d like because that was a tough one.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, we’ll take an easy one too.

Tanya Dalton
Okay, here’s an easy one for reflection. You can also look back at your past and think about what did you love when you were a kid before you started adulting. Because what happens is we lose sight of what we love in the pursuit of adulting. We got to pay the rent, we got to pay the mortgage, we got a car payment, we got all those things, and so we lose sight of what it was that used to fire us up, that used to light us up and get us excited.

So, really, going back and revisiting what were the things that you loved as a kid, what were the things that you got fired up about, not the piano lessons your mom dragged you to. That doesn’t count. The activities that you wanted to go to again and again? Maybe it was softball, maybe it was playing the violin. What was it? And then go a little bit deeper why did you love that.

If you loved softball as a kid, or a sport, was it being outside? Was it the camaraderie? Was it the competition? Was it the physicalness of it? Use that as a little bit of fodder to get you started because, oftentimes, our passions, even as adults, can be found in our childhood. We just lose sight of them because we’re so busy doing, we don’t stop and recognize and realize. And a lot of times, those things that we did as kids, we can build upon and grow that into what it is we want to do in moving forward. So, that one is a lighter one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Beautiful.

Tanya Dalton
A little less trauma, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, let’s move onto the next step. We did a reflection. And then what comes, projection

Tanya Dalton
Projection, yes. So, reflection tells us why, why it is we want what we want. And projection answers that question of what, “Well, what is it that I want? What do I want in life?” And I think what’s really interesting is we have a hard time knowing what that is. I can guarantee you have some listeners right now who are thinking, “I have no idea what an extraordinary life looks like. I have no idea what it is I want. I have no idea what goals I should set.”

And so, what happens is we look left, we look right, we look over the fence, and we see where the grass is greener, and we go, “That’s what I should be doing.” And what we really want to do is understand what it is that you want and what you look like in the future. But here’s, really, what’s fascinating, I think, is that our brain has an extraordinarily hard time seeing ourselves in the future. Our brain is hardwired for today because that’s what’s kept us alive and allowed us to avoid the saber toothed tiger, it’s what allowed us to get to the next day.

And there’s this really fascinating study where they’ve used fMRI machines on people’s brains, and they would have them talk about themselves today, and certain areas of the brain start pinging and lighting up and really showing that they’re active. And then they would have the people talk about themselves in the future. Now, the future could be three weeks from now, it could be three years from now, it could be three hours from now. But when they talk about themselves in the future, it lit up a very different part of the brain, not the same part of the brain when they talked about themselves.

What’s most fascinating is when they had these same participants talk about Natalie Portman and Matt Damon, those same areas of their brain lit up as it did with when they were talking about themselves in the future. So, in other words, to our brain, you in the future is not you. It’s a stranger who looks like you, has the same name as you, is you but it doesn’t recognize you as being you. And this is why we often fail at our goals. This is why we splurge on the Paris shoes instead of investing in the 401(k) or why we eat the cookie instead of eating the carrot because the person in the future who has to pay for that, or has to deal with the outcome of that, isn’t you, and so our brain prioritizes today over the future.

And I think when we understand that, it’s incredibly powerful to understand, “Oh, this is why I’ve struggled in the past, and, again, I am not alone in this. This is how my brain works.” So, it’s really understanding, “Now, if I can start to picture myself in the future and I can start really projecting forward into what I want in the future, then I can see myself, and then I can connect to my actions from today to what I want to do in the future.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating in terms of that fMRI study.

Tanya Dalton
Isn’t it? I found that so interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yeah, that would seem extraordinarily powerful is that if we can view “future self” as sort of just as real and valid and important as “current self.” And so, it seems like you’re hinting at a pathway that’s very different other than just, “Buckle down and get to the gym.” It’s sort of like…

Tanya Dalton
Yes, that’s not what it is at all.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s more about know what you really need to see and adopt and embrace the future self as yourself. And so, how do we do that?

Tanya Dalton
Yeah, that’s the big question, right? Because it is, it’s a mental game. It is. And we love to blame willpower on why we haven’t gotten things done, “Oh, I don’t have the willpower,” or, “I’m not disciplined enough.” And it’s not discipline that you need. In fact, if we know that our brain is prioritizing wins for today over wins for tomorrow, it’s our brain that’s hijacking this, that’s causing us to do that.

So, what we can do is we can really look forward into the future and create a map for ourselves. I call this wayfinding in the book where it’s really looking forward into the future to what is your potential. Okay, what is your potential? “Like, ten years in the future, what could I possibly have in my life? Like, what could that possibly look like?” What is your potential? So, figuring that out, and then we back it up a little bit. So, that’s your potential, you want to back it up to what is possible, “Okay, if that’s the potential in ten years, what’s possible in the next three to five years on that map to get to that?” what I’d call your cathedral. What’s possible?

Then if we back that up even more, “Okay, if that’s possible in three to five years, what’s practical? What would be practical for me to accomplish in the next 12 to 18 months?” So, here, we’re talking now about long-term goals, a year to 18 months. Well, let’s back that up a little bit more on our little map. And in the book, I literally make it like a little map of, like, “You are here and there’s a roadmap.”

If we back that up any more, we can figure out, “What do I need to prioritize in the next three months, the next six months, the next nine months?” That’s how we decide what our goals are because then those goals are on that path to get to that potential that we’re dreaming of. And there’s lots of things that we can do to really help solidify that in our brain. As I just said, we have a hard time seeing ourselves in the future so we can do things.

There are all kinds of amazing technology now. You can do these things on Snapchat even and Instagram where you can use a filter to age yourself and put yourself. Let’s say that your potential is that you want to be on the cover of Forbes magazine. All right, you can create a picture of yourself in the future on the cover of Forbes magazine. Put that someplace where you can see it and then start solidifying it in your brain. Start mapping that out and seeing who you want to be in the future.

When we back that up, that’s when we begin to see, “Oh, this is the action I need to take right now. This is the goal I need to set for myself right now. If that’s where I want to go, here’s where I need to be in a month, here’s where I need to be at the end of this week, here’s where I need to be today.” And that’s when we start to make motions and take action towards that big potential out there, that big extraordinary life when we’re making those connections, when we create that map for ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I think make connections is the phrase because with that pathway in place, with all the dots connected, it really does feel real as opposed to, “Sure enough, I did this thing and I saw some improvement. And, thusly, I can see that if I do all of the things, they will lead me into that place, and, thusly, the future-aged person on Forbes magazine is not Natalie Portman but it is me.”

Tanya Dalton
“But it’s me,” yeah. I think it’s really incredibly powerful when you start to recognize that and you realize that. I think this is why we set goals and we’re never quite satisfied. We build into that someday syndrome, “Someday, when I accomplished this goal,” or, “Someday when I cross the finish line,” but that finish line keeps moving back, doesn’t it? Like, we never really get it crossed.

And even when we do, we have this fleeting moment of satisfaction and excitement. It’s called the goal-setting paradox, where you get a fleeting high when you accomplish a goal, and it’s followed immediately by a question of, “Now what?” “Okay, I finished the marathon, now what do I do?” “All right, I just climbed…”

I actually spoke to someone who’s climbed Mt. Everest who’s blind, Erik Weinmeyer, and he said after he summited Everest and he went on his way down, someone said to him, “Okay, now what?” He’s like, “I just summited Everest. Isn’t that enough?” But this is what we go through in our life. We accomplish a goal, and then we’re like, “Now what?” But if that goal is to connect to something bigger, to a brighter future, it becomes just a stepping stone to get us to the next one, so we get that satisfaction and we’re ready to go to the next step. And that’s how we continue on the daily basis to feel happier, more satisfied. And isn’t that really what our goals are all about?

I would argue that every goal, every dream, and every aspiration is steeped in happiness. You want to cross the finish line in a marathon? Why? So you can feel that pride and joy, that happiness of crossing the finish line. You want to lose 15 pounds? Why? Because you want to feel happy when you put your pants on. You want to get that promotion at work? Why? Because you’ll be happier when you have more money and when you have a team underneath you.

All of those things are tied to happiness. Let’s stop waiting for happiness to happen to us. Let’s make happiness happen on a regular daily basis. That’s absolutely achievable. That’s what makes life extraordinary.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well said. All right. Well, this is so much good stuff. Can you give us maybe the quick greatest hits in terms of action and alteration? What should we be doing to do those masterfully?

Tanya Dalton
They go hand-in-hand because alteration is really woven throughout. Alteration really is about building in that flexibility and that grace to allow life to happen because, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all know life is messy. And the best-laid plans allow for detours and re-routing and all of those things to happen because life demands flexibility.

So, as we’re creating action, action answers the question how, “How are we going to do this? How are we going to accomplish this?” it’s really about breaking it down into bite-sized milestones. So, you have this big thing off in the distance. It seems really far away in our future self because we know we’re not connected to it. It feels like it’s not us. So, how do we back that up even more to create little milestones we’re working towards, little stepping stones to get us closer to that life we want.

We do that by creating an action roadmap for ourselves. You’ve heard me say before here on the show, I’m sure, overwhelm isn’t having too much to do. It’s not knowing where to start. When we know where to start and we know what actions we want to take, it’s incredibly empowering and it’s incredibly confidence-building. And so, that’s really powerful for us to do.

But really, it’s about creating a plan for ourselves so we feel confident to step over our fears and create time in order to allow these things to happen in our lives, to allow ourselves to get closer to those big goals and dreams and aspirations.

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

Tanya Dalton
Yeah. Well, I would say we kind of touched on that whole idea of discipline earlier, here’s what I would say. When we people talk to me about needing discipline, I really want to encourage more people to let discipline go, to stop worrying about needing more willpower, or feeling like they have to force things to make it happen. Discipline is really just a series of small actions.

So, when you recognize that and realize that, that it’s really just small actions, little tiny steps on a regular basis that build up, that begin to look like discipline, it’s just habits that we build over and over again over time. When we start to do that, that’s when we start to get that momentum we need. So, just focus on the next small action you can do. That is honestly the way you get on that path to that extraordinary life.

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

Tanya Dalton
Oh, a favorite quote. I would say probably one of my favorite quotes is actually from Harry Potter, and it’s when Albus Dumbledore tells Harry that, “It’s our choices that show us what we are far more than our abilities.” I think, really, when we understand our choices, it’s incredibly powerful.

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

Tanya Dalton
Oh, I have a study I just stumbled upon not that long ago that I love, where they took these men out of a retirement community and they separated them into two groups. One group went to another retirement community, and the other group, they fashioned everything in the place where they were so it looked 20 years earlier, and they encouraged them to talk about things that had happened 20 years earlier, all the appliances were 20 years earlier. And so, they encouraged them to really think about who they were 20 years ago.

After less than a week, they took the control group who’d gone to the retirement community, they were still in the same place, still have the same aches and pains and all of that. They took that group who had just kind of time traveled 20 years mentally, and they found that within those seven days, they had built more muscle mass, they had gotten rid of a lot of their arthritis. Not only did they feel better, but their bodies have physically reacted.

I think a lot of times we think that mind over matter thing is just a bunch of woo-woo, but, truly, our bodies are able to change and shift when we get our minds set right, when we really think about what it is we want.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Tanya Dalton
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. That’s a great book because it really is, again, really how strong your brain is and how it can really get you where you want to go.

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

Tanya Dalton
Well, I use inkWELL Press products but that’s kind of a no-brainer there, isn’t it? I have to be honest with you though, so I do a lot of my planning obviously using inkWELL Press but we use a lot of Google Docs and we found some ways to kind of hack them so they work for us. I felt like I was using far too many different tools to do all the different things. So, we’ve kind of created a little hub in our own system within Google Drive and Google Docs so that we can make that work to get rid of a lot of our project-planning tools and all those things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m intrigued. Can you share a particular Google Doc hack that maybe many people might benefit from?

Tanya Dalton
I don’t know if I can give it really quickly, but we have a whole system that we use and we use, it’s kind of funny, because we use like emojis to kind of signify the different steps we’re in in a project. And what I love is that all the conversation happens within the Google Docs because we were getting things from Asana, and we were getting things from Slack, and we were getting things from email, and I felt like we were going far too many places.

So, we started using this icon system where if something was in process, we give it a thumbs up. And if it’s something that’s completed, we give it a check mark, if we’ve shared it. So, there’s a whole system of using these little symbols, and it’s made it, it’s so insanely simple that I think sometimes we overcomplicate things. So, that’s what we’ve done is just using all these different symbols within Google Docs.

I create a table of contents for every project that we do, and that’s our main Google Doc. Everything is, that’s become the hub. So, everything that we create off of that, other documents, other spreadsheets, other things, that table of contents becomes almost like our little bible where we click on it and it sends us exactly where we need to go, so everything is succinct and together inside Google Docs.

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

Tanya Dalton
I would tell them to go to TanyaDalton.com. You can find links to my podcast, The Intentional Advantage, there. You can also find information about both my books The Joy of Missing Out and my newest book On Purpose. TanyaDalton.com is probably the best place to find me.

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

Tanya Dalton
Yeah, I would say that extraordinary life is there. And I know where you are right now, it might seem like that’s impossible. But what I would challenge you to do right now is just take a moment and start with that reflection step that we talked about. Go the easy route. Let’s not worry about the hard things or the difficult things or the things you don’t want to think about. Let’s start with the easy things.

Let’s start by thinking about who you were before you started being an adult, like before the age of 16, we’ll say, and just make a list of the things that you loved. And then ask yourself, “Why did I love that? What was it about that that I loved? I don’t want that stuff there.” Ask why again, and then maybe ask it one more time. Get to the heart of why you loved what you did and start to rediscover your passion. Because when you start to remember and recognize that passion has been there all along, it’s so much easier to build that fire.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Tanya, this has been a treat. Thank you. I wish you much luck and fun and purpose.

Tanya Dalton
Thank you so much. This is great, Pete. We always have a good time together.

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About April

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

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Go take it away, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.