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Mindset

387: Becoming Comfortable with Uncertainty with Julie Benezet

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Julie

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

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Julie Benezet Interview Transcript

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

Julie Benezet
Nice to be here.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow, eight minutes per one page.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite habit?

Julie Benezet

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

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

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

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Benezet

Guaranteed. Thank you very much.

380: The Five Routes to Personal Change with Jane Ransom

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Jane

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jane Ransom Interview Transcript

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

Jane Ransom
I am truly excited to be here.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, on the record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that is sophisticated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, go for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Do you want to share it?

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

Jane Ransom
Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
The bibliography.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That sounds familiar.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
The visualizers.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful, thank you.

Jane Ransom
You’re welcome.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Jane Ransom
Self-hypnosis for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I do.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Let’s do it.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Tweet that. There you go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

356: Living Out the Wisdom of Napoleon Hill with Jeffrey Gitomer

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“King of Sales” Jeffrey Gitomer discusses his new book Truthful Living, a compilation if the wisdom of Napoleon Hill. He also hashes out his tips for persuasion and personal development.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why Napoleon Hill is still worth listening to 100 years later
  2. The number one thing people don’t do that will benefit them
  3. The five most important words in the English language according to Napoleon Hill

About Jeffrey

Jeffrey Gitomer is the New York Times bestselling author of some 15 books on personal development, attitude, and sales, including The Sales Bible, The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude, 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling, and award-winning The Little Red Book of Selling, which has sold more than five million copies worldwide and is cited as an essential work in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Widely known as the King of Sales, Gitomer is a dynamic keynote speaker whose social media footprint reaches millions. He is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeffrey Gitomer Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jeffrey, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It is my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, mine too. And I want to get us started by orienting a little bit. You have the title or nickname “The King of Sales”.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s a great orientation at the beginning.

Pete Mockaitis

How did that come about?

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’ll make everyone angry. I grew up in a business household. My father was a businessman, my grandfather was a businessman, and I define them as non-entrepreneurs because it’s from a lineage of business people. And entrepreneur is somebody whose dad worked for General Electric for 40 years and his mom is a teacher, and he bought a franchise. And that’s how I look at entrepreneurship.
But I started my own businesses at the age of 21 and I began cold calling in Manhattan, and I made very large sales, literally millions of dollars’ worth of sales by either cold calling or by being pre-prepared for a sale. And when I left that, I started to do consulting to companies and I realized that they didn’t know how to sell. So I began to teach them my strategies, and then in 1992 I began to write them. I wrote for the Charlotte Business Journal and about 50 other business journals around the country every Friday for about 15 years.
And when you do that you develop what’s known as “a body of work”, and that has been the fuel for many of the books that I’ve written. I’ve written 13 books to date, and two more on the way before the end of the year. And it’s been a very hard challenge. I wake up every morning and I write. I do what I say, and then I go out or talk to companies. I was just in Chicago yesterday, giving a talk to leaders and giving a talk to salespeople, and I’ll do that probably 20 times between now and the end of 2019 in public. And then I do corporate ones as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Three months. There you go.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I’m pretty booked.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, certainly. We’re going to talk about your latest, Truthful Living. But before we get there, I’d love it…so, since you have generated and codified and written and published so much sales wisdom, I can’t let this opportunity slide to put you on the spot. If you had to give me your single most critical recommendation or the two, three or four and a half most critical recommendations for selling more effectively, what would they be?

Jeffrey Gitomer

My number one rule of sales is, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” You have never gone to a car dealership to get sold a car. You have never gone to a department store to get sold a suit or a television. You go to buy one. Salespeople don’t quite get that, and when you get there, they want to tell you stuff rather than ask you stuff. So, people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.
Ask before you tell. Find out why they want to buy before you start to talk about what it is that you do, because they may not be interested in it. All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not quite so equal, people still want to do business with their friends. And so, the challenge for the salesperson is, become friendly and likeable and trustworthy before you start. It ain’t that tough.
But actually there’s a caveat to this now, because in today’s business world, you have to engage people socially. You attract them, then you engage them, and then you connect with them. So I challenge people to attract with some value message, and then you engage with by being real, and something that I can actually use – my content. And then I connect with them because you perceive a future value of some kind, then at some point they may be willing to buy something. But don’t try to attract me with a sales message; attract me with something that I want.
So I’ll give you an example. If I’m wanting to be on your podcast, I might send you “25 Things That People Do to Have a Great Podcast”, and then a week later “25 Things That People Screw Up to Have a Lousy Podcast”. Then I call you up and say, “Would you like to know the five things I didn’t tell you?” And if my 25 things were valuable, you’d say, “Hell, yeah.”

Pete Mockaitis

Totally.

Jeffrey Gitomer

But if I call you up, if I email you, LinkedIn you, whatever, and say, ”I’m the greatest guy on the planet. I’ve written a lot of books that are really interesting. I’m a great guy. I think I’d make a great guest for your people and I think I could create a lot more listeners.” You don’t give a sh*t about that. You’ve heard that from everybody, haven’t you?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s true, yes. Many, many messages like that have come my way.

Jeffrey Gitomer

So, I would challenge you that if there’s not a perception of value, then there’s no real reason to connect. I’m not going to buy your television set because you’re the cheapest. I’m not going to buy your car… In fact, when you’re the cheapest, it makes me doubt. How could you possibly be $500 cheaper than somebody else?

Pete Mockaitis

“What’s wrong with it? What’s missing? What am I overlooking? Are you lying to me?”

Jeffrey Gitomer

Yeah. They use the words “just like”. “Well, it’s just like an iPad.” “Okay, then I’ll take an iPad.” I don’t understand, why would you compare yourself to something that’s clearly marketed better and branded better?

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha. Well, thank you.

Jeffrey Gitomer

No problem.

Pete Mockaitis

I appreciate getting the overview of that. Now I want to dig into a bit of the book here. It’s called Truthful Living, and you are featuring some goodies from the classic writer Napoleon Hill. Could you orient those who don’t know who that is? Who is this guy and why is his old stuff worthwhile?

Jeffrey Gitomer

He has written more words on personal development and achievement and wealth than any other human being on the planet.

Pete Mockaitis

No kidding!

Jeffrey Gitomer

Yeah, that’s number one. Number two, he wrote his opus, Think and Grow Rich. It was published in 1937. And the foundation and I’ve had a relationship for more than a decade. They unearthed his earliest writings, his earliest lessons that he gave at the George Washington Institute in Chicago, lesson by lesson in a course called Truthful Advertising. And at the end of each one of the lessons, he had an “after the lesson visit with Mr. Hill”. And those “after the lesson visits” were the foundation of Think and Grow Rich.
So when I saw what they had, I edited out all of the sales advertising stuff and was left with the fundamental elements of what went into Hill’s life’s work. And it was phenomenal, because it was raw and real. Never published, never edited. I compiled all of the documentation, and all I did was I added a beginning to each chapter so people could understand what they were about to read. I would occasionally put an annotation in each of the chapters to clarify some of the things, because the book is 100 years old. There may be some lexicon clarification that’s needed. And then I ended the chapter with how to put this into your life. All the rest of the words in there are 100% Napoleon Hill authentic.

Pete Mockaitis

Very cool, yeah.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It’s way cool. And it was a labor of love for me. It took me a couple of years to do, and when it was completed I knew that this was going to be major. I just knew it.
And it’s fun for me. I’ve been writing and publishing books for 25 years. This is by far the best experience I’ve ever had.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great to hear. Then let’s hear a little bit about some of the content here. So, any sort of surprises or particularly potent takeaways from Napoleon Hill? I’d say particularly in the context of suggestions that would help professionals be more awesome at their jobs.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It starts out with Chapter 1: Success Is Up to You. It’s like a warm slap in the face. Not a cold slap in the face; just a warm slap in the face. And then Lesson 2 is Finish What You Start. How obvious can that be? No one’s going to go, “Wow, finish what I started? Never heard that before.” But Hill shows you and tells you the importance of it. Why is it important to become known as someone who finishes what they start, and how does that help build your wealth?
And in each one of these cases, whether it’s chapters like How to Think or The Value of Self-Confidence, and then his cool chapters like, The Law of Harmonious Attraction. Come on, dude. That’s so cool. What he’s saying is, hang around people that you can get along with well, and together you’ll achieve more. The book just makes sense, and I think that’s probably the most eloquent thing that I can say about it. It is an easy book to read, and even easier to apply. But it takes work. And my statement has always been, most people are not willing to do the hard work that it takes to make success easy.

Pete Mockaitis

And could you give us some examples in terms of some of the hard work that is not done by many folks?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, I wake up every morning, as you do… Do you have a morning routine?

Pete Mockaitis

Right, yes.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Does it involve writing?

Pete Mockaitis

No.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Does it involve reading?

Pete Mockaitis

Yes.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Think about it. My morning routine has been the same five things for 25 years. I read, I write, I prepare – one of those three things, or all three – and that causes me to do the other two things – think and create. So I’m a thinker and a creator. I’m not an email reader, I’m not a news watcher, I’m not a time-waster. I’m going to be productive for my first hour of the day. And I don’t want to hear whiny people telling me that they have a kid, because I have a 9-year-old every other week. She gets up at 6:30 so I had better be rolling at 5:30.
And people say, “I’m not a morning person.” Well, there’s a reason. Actually everyone is a morning person, except for the people that drink beer and watch television until 2:00 in the morning. Those are not morning people. Those are people that drag their butt out of bed and make some excuse about having a headache or a bad day. And blame the weather for their day.
And this is a book about taking responsibility, not blaming. Success is up to you. Now, any one of your listeners can get a free chapter of the book. We’ll send you the URL. Do you have the URL for the free chapter? I’ll get it to you. You can download a free chapter, the first chapter, which is Success Is Up to You, so that any one of your listeners can have access to that information so they can see it for themselves. It’s in an e-book. Just put your email address in there, done. I’ll get that to you later today or first thing tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis

Got it. So then, I’d be curious to hear maybe in your own experience, what were some of the most transformative elements in this that you found really made a world of difference in terms of, you learned it, you latched on and it did the trick in great effect?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Keep in mind, I’ve been a student of Napoleon Hill for 45 years. And not only did I have to edit it, but I had to read it. And then I had to record it, which means I had to read it aloud. It was, for me, an additional transformation. It’s not going to change your life, but it will supplement everything you do in your life. And there’s a full-page quote: “Ambition is a contagious thing.” Okie-dokie. How ambitious are you? Because people that have been in the same job for 20 years have lost a lot of their ambition.
And he has laws and words. There are five words that he considers the most important words in the English language – imagination, desire, enthusiasm, self-confidence, and concentration. There is a chapter in here called The Magic Key, which later on became a book called The Magic Key by Napoleon Hill, 30 years later. And it’s all about the word “concentration”. How well can you focus? They call it “mindfulness” now; I don’t know why. And then he has something which I think is really, really cool. Let me see if I can find it here real quick. It’s called the “5-point rule”. Can I read it?

Pete Mockaitis

Sure, yeah.

Jeffrey Gitomer

“Success may be had by those who are willing to pay the price. And most of those who crave a $10,000 a year position…” Now remember, this is 100 years ago, so that would be about $250,000 in today’s money. “Who crave a $10,000 a year position, especially if they are engaged in business, may realize it if they are willing to pay the price. And the price is eternal vigilance in the development of self-confidence, enthusiasm, working with a chief aim, performing more service than you are paid for, and concentration. With these qualities well-developed, you will be sure to succeed. Let’s name these qualities the ‘5-point rule’.”
Now, think about that. First of all, concentration is in the five most important words, and the 5-point rule. So, he is making certain that every reader understands. Repetition leads to mastery. So he’s playing the word “concentration” as much as he possibly can because he defines it… Let me see if I can find the definition real quick.
“Concentration is your contractor and builder, the overseer of the boss carpenter and all the other forces, the purchaser of materials and supplies.” In other words, if you’re building a house, you need that one person to make sure the focus remains intact and that everything gets built. Otherwise, stuff stands around, people are late for the job, you’re missing this, you’re missing that. Somebody has to keep everything together, and that’s what Hill wants you to do. He wants you to focus in on everything that’s important to you. That’s where we’re at.
There’s nothing in here where you guys say, “Oh my gosh. Concentration? I never heard that before.” No, everything in here has been heard about before. The question is, or the challenge is, how do you put it all together to be able to turn it into money? And that’s what this book does – it creates a game plan for wealth, not just success.

Pete Mockaitis

I’d love to hear some of these points then, in terms of, these are the five points. How does one rapidly go about developing each of these – the self-confidence, the enthusiasm, the concentration?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, the word “rapid” is a tough word, because things don’t happen like a Domino’s Pizza delivery. You don’t get great at success in a day. You become successful day by day. People go, “Jeffrey, how did you do that?” I say, “Well, I worked my ass off for 20 years and then all of a sudden I became an overnight success.” So, people don’t see the ”work your ass off” part; they only see the success part. Or I’ll say, “Well, I’ve got 112,000 Twitter followers.” And they say, “That’s easy for you to do.” I said, “No, it’s not easy for me to do.” I started with one, like everybody else. I have 28,000 LinkedIn connections. I started with one in 2008. So, I’m relatively late to the game. I fought it for a while, and then realized that I could develop a community and help even more people by recording things for YouTube, by going on LinkedIn.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. So, we’ll sort of strike the word “rapidly” I guess from the prior question. So then, what are some of the optimal practices, activities, behaviors day-by-day to build up the self-confidence, the enthusiasm, the concentration?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, if I tell you success is up to you, and then I tell you you have to believe in yourself, and then I tell you that you have to develop self-confidence – those are qualities that happen on a day-by-day basis, especially in sales, when you make sales. You can’t always develop that quality if you’re in some kind of a managerial position, because it’s very difficult to measure. Sales you can measure in a heartbeat. “What did you do today?” “$100.” “What did you do today?” “$1,000.” “What did you today?” “$50,000.” It’s measurable. And it’s further measurable by how many referrals did you get and how many reorders did you get. I’m pretty confident that as a salesperson I can measure my own success.
And when Hills says “Success is up to you”, then you as a person, regardless of what kind of job you’re in, you have to determine, write down what it’s going to take for you to succeed, because it may be that you just want to be the best teacher of all time. Okay, great. Can you win the “Best Teacher” award this year? That’s some indicator that you’re on the right path, because if somebody else wins it, you can’t go and say it was political. That’s sour grapes. Either you’re the best or you’re second best. And second best doesn’t win the prize. There’s no participation medal in sales.

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha, yeah.

Jeffrey Gitomer

So, I’m looking at it as, it has to be a daily thing. What are you doing every day to be enthusiastic on a regular basis, to be self-confident on a regular basis? And you practice. If you want to practice being a great communicator, just join Toastmasters. So, take lessons in what it is that you’re trying to achieve, but do it consistently.

Pete Mockaitis

And what would be the analogous or equivalent lessons or activities or practices when it comes to the enthusiasm and the concentration, for instance?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Well, when you wake up in the morning, you have a choice. You can have a crappy day, a good day, or a great day. It is a clear choice. “I’m going to have a great day.” You tell yourself that in the morning and then everything you do has some kind of positive response to it. If you hate your job, today is the day you’ve got to quit. What are you miserable for? If you have a bad boss, go get another boss. The best part about America is, you’re free to choose.
So I’m free to choose my attitude, and I’m going to read something on attitude every morning to get me going, or I’m going to watch something on attitude every morning to get me going. I’m going to write something about how I feel, I might tweet something. There are all kinds of things that I’ll do. I’m going to prepare, like I had to prepare yesterday for my seminar in Chicago. And that’s going to cause me to think and create. And if I think in the positive, then the answers will be in the positive, the words will be in the positive, and I will create my own outcomes. I’m here to create an outcome for me. And it’s a selfish thing, but if I want to be the best dad on the planet, the first thing I have to do is be the best person. Otherwise I’m going to have, quote, an “attitude” about it.

Pete Mockaitis

I’m curious, are there particular resources that you go to time and time again to spark the positive attitude? You said you’re going to watch something or read something or look at something.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I don’t have a consistent resource. I’ll read something 100 years old. I’ll write down what I’m thinking about. I have a book called The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. There are 220 pages on attitude that it took me 60 years to figure out. So, I’ve created a book that sold 300,000-400,000 copies in America, millions of copies around the world. And I’m happy with that. But if I want more information, then I’ll go back and read Samuel Smiles, a paragraph or two, or a page or two on character or self-help. Or I’ll read something by Orison Swett Marden, a page or two, from Every Man a King. Or I’ll read something by Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people. I go to my library and I can pick out anything. I don’t go to the library, I have a library. Books are not just for reading; they’re also for reference. So, I have a massive library that I call on, and I’ll maybe only read five pages, but it’s enough. And if you are doing it for 25 years and you read five pages a day, you’ve read a lot of stuff.

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely, adding up.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s why I said “day by day”. I achieved my positive attitude in 1972 by listening to Earl Nightingale, The Strangest Secret, watching a movie called Challenge to America by Glenn Turner, and reading one chapter per day of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich for one year. And there are only 15 chapters in the book.

Pete Mockaitis

Mathematically, yes, over 20 times then.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Bingo. Well, I took the weekends off.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, gotcha. I also want to get your take on, one thing about your writing that I’ve always found intriguing is that in your lists you will have a decimal. For example, one of your books, 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling. What’s your thought process behind this practice?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I did consulting early on in Charlotte before I was writing anything. And one of my clients wanted to do a leadership course, because he’d already been doing time management. And I created a list of things for him. I literally created a speech for him about the qualities of a great leader. And I got to the end of the list and I go, “The glue that puts this together is the word ‘commitment’.” So I made it 0.5 – “8.5 Qualities of a Leader”. And I showed it to him. I was so enthusiastic, I couldn’t stand it, about what I’d done. And the guy said, “I don’t like it.” I said, “Okay, I’ll use it myself.” You can go on Google right now and look at the “8.5 Qualities of a Leader”. I guarantee it’ll pop up someplace, because I wrote it.
And I’ve been using 0.5 ever since. I trademarked another 0.5 list from Jeffrey Gitomer. I have been using 0.5 as the glue piece for whatever it is that I’m trying to put a list together for, so that I can tie the whole list together with one point, whether it’s as simple as “Have fun” or “Do the right thing”, or more complex, in the case of 21.5, or in the Little Red Book of Selling 12.5 was “Resign your position as General Manager of the universe”. You don’t have time to manage the world. Just manage your own closet and your backyard and your kids and your family.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. So with a trademark, the 0.5, does that mean I can’t make a list with 0.5? I’m stepping on your intellectual property?

Jeffrey Gitomer

You can, but I will sue you.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, will you? But we’re friends now.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I’ll call you first and say, “Please remove that.” Some people violate that. I’m not the world’s policeman. If they want to do it, that’s their karma. But people know me by that and have known me by that since the first thing I wrote.

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha. Well, tell me – anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some your favorite things?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I would. Just from a standpoint of the book, I’ll just say a couple of things. You can pre-buy it right now. Is Jen there? What’s the URL that I’ve got to send people to? I think it’s HillsFirstWritings.com. And that will take you to a landing page, and if you enter your email you’ll get the first chapter free.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Jeffrey Gitomer

You could stick that in the show notes. We’ll email it to you anyway. You might want to consider talking to people about our podcast, Sell Or Die. We have gone daily, because the podcast is so popular, it’s unbelievable. Jennifer Gluckow and I do it; she’s my partner. And it’s engaging and it’s fun. It’s not over the top. It’s expletive-rated; they call E-rated or something. Say what you want to say, sometimes the guests are a little bit explicit, and sometimes I am. But Jennifer, never. She’s a pristine, first-class New York City babe. But I think that there is an ability for your listeners or your fans to take another look at a podcast that I think can affect them, if they’re in sales or they’re in business, because we have really good guests. And you can be one of them if you’d like.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I’m honored. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Jeffrey Gitomer

We get a lot, a lot of action. We’re over 100,000 downloads a month now and we’re shooting for the moon.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. Kudos and congrats, and good luck!

Jeffrey Gitomer

Thanks. Luck. There’s another thing in one of the chapters.

Pete Mockaitis

Luck or Pluck.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Exactly. You either work hard and create your luck, or you are buying lottery and wanting to win and hoping and scratching your number off and going, “Oh, crap, I lost again.”

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, understood.

Jeffrey Gitomer

I don’t know why people play the lottery.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s not a great investment, in terms of your ticket.

Jeffrey Gitomer

No. From what I’ve seen of it, if you have all your teeth, you can never win.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s fun. There’s one tidbit I want to share. So, you know Dan Kennedy.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Of course. I love him, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis

I thought you would.

Jeffrey Gitomer

He has brass balls, and he’s accurate.

Pete Mockaitis

He had a great bit; I think it was factual. Someone had the winning lottery ticket, and he was anticipating that everyone was going to start asking him for money. So, after he got the winning lottery ticket, he called up all sorts of friends and family and said, “Hey, I’m in a tight spot. I can’t really explain it, but I need to borrow $1,000 right away.” So, just about nobody helped him out. So, the next day it’s announced that he has the winning lottery ticket, and sure enough he dramatically cut down on his inbound requests for money.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s incredible. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. So now, let’s hear about some of your favorite things. How about a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring?

Jeffrey Gitomer

One of the quotes I wrote is, “People will rain on your parade because they have no parade of their own.” That is time immemorial, not just in business, but in politics. That’s number one. That’s my best- written quote, other than “People don’t like to be sold but they love to buy.” But quotes that I love: “You become what you think about all day long” by Earl Nightingale is probably the best of the personal development quotes that I’ve ever, ever read. The Zig Ziglar quote of, “Make every day is productive as the day before you go on vacation”, if you’re looking for a productivity mantra. I live by quotes; I have thousands of them. In fact, any of your listeners the want my Retweetables book, there are 365 140- character quotes that they can use in a heartbeat. Not just by me, but by lots of people.

Pete Mockaitis

Sure thing. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I wrote The Patterson Principles of Selling, based on the life and times of John Patterson, who is known as the Grandfather of Salesmanship in America. Because he didn’t sell anything, he created pull-through marketing by advertising for women to go demand a receipt when they bought stuff. And the merchant would say, “We don’t have a receipt.” And then three days later a cash register sales guy would come by and go, “Do you guys need receipts?” And literally sold a million cash registers between 1900 and 1911.
I’m in awe of him the same way I’m in awe of Steve Jobs, who created things that we don’t know we need and now we can’t do without. He created the redistribution of music, he created the laptop that everyone tries to… I had a T-shirt that said, “Windows 95, Macintosh 85”, and that was pretty much what the deal was. So, I like the innovator, I like the person who’s trying to be first at anything, whether it’s Roger Bannister running the 4-minute mile, or Neil Armstrong being the first guy on the moon, although that’s a little controversial as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Everybody in our place uses Asana. We’ve graduated from Slack, although we still slack one another. I use Microsoft Word. I love Google Docs, because I can share some of my stuff with other people, but when I’m writing myself, I find Word is the most comfortable thing for me to create in. The best tool that I’ve ever found in my technical life is Dragon for Mac.

Pete Mockaitis

For Mac? I’ve heard people say that Dragon for PC rocks, and Dragon for Mac breaks all the time and it’s super annoying and they hate it. But you’re saying you’re loving it. It’s getting it done. It has 100% delivered for you.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Yes, and it’s only about 97% accurate. But I use it and I’m very successful at it and I love it, because I’m not a good keyboard person. So, my last three books have been done with Mac.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome, cool. Good to know.

Jeffrey Gitomer

It’s Dragon for Mac. And if you like the subtlety of it, I think it’s very important to understand this as a writer. If I’m talking into the screen and it’s taking my words and I take a few minutes to edit it when I’m done, I don’t have to think about anything with my fingers. I don’t have to think where the P key is, where the Return key is, none of that. I’m concentrating on my words, not on the keyboard. And that’s a significant part when you’re writing with a stream of conscious.

Pete Mockaitis

And as I’m thinking about it, you even have the ability to jot down a quick note. It’s like, I’m saying one idea and I’ve already got another. And so, I’m going to write that down and that’s going to be there for me next.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool, thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Jeffrey Gitomer

I think my favorite habit is probably hanging out with my family.

Pete Mockaitis

Right on.

Jeffrey Gitomer

That’s the best habit I could get. My fiancée and I are going to have dinner tonight that she doesn’t know about yet. And that’s becoming a habit. It’s a wonderful time to just sort of clear the air and talk about life in the big city, or life in Paris, which is even a bigger city.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome. And tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that seems to connect and get retweeted over and over again?

Jeffrey Gitomer

If you go to my Twitter feed you’ll see a bunch of them. But the one I just tweeted, which I think is going to be a pretty important one: “Don’t give your children advice you don’t take yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, that’s a command. “Don’t give your children advice you don’t take yourself.” [laugh] I’m sorry, I’m just thinking, I keep saying, “Johnny, don’t poop on the new carpet.” [laugh]

Jeffrey Gitomer

But here’s the deal – make a friend. “If you make a sale, you make it commission. You make a friend, you earn a fortune.” And that has been a real lifelong retweetable for me. I’ll tweet it out once a month or so and I still get tons of response.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Jeffrey Gitomer

Easy. Go to Amazon to get the book. Just go Truthful Living and it’ll pop up. And go to my website, Gitomer.com. And listen to the podcast Sell Or Die and you’ll get all kinds of information on a daily basis for free.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. And thanks so much for the invitation. That’s very kind. I’m excited.

Jeffrey Gitomer

My people will reach out to your people.

Pete Mockaitis

Wheeling and dealing. Cool. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking be awesome at their jobs?

Jeffrey Gitomer

If you don’t love it, make tomorrow your last day. Go find something you love, and you’ll make 10 times more money, even though you have to sacrifice something in order to make it happen.

Pete Mockaitis

Gotcha. Awesome, thank you. Well Jeffrey, this has been a treat. I wish you tons of luck in your Kingship of Sales and with Truthful Living.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Pleasure for me.

334: How to Stop Freaking Out and Keep Moving Forward with Maxie McCoy

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Maxie McCoy advises dropping the grand plan of your life in favor of simpler questions to move you forward.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two exercises for discerning your direction
  2. Why you should keep a gratitude journal
  3. Five wise questions to ask your support network

About Maxie

Maxie McCoy is a writer and speaker obsessed with giving women the tools they need to believe in themselves. She writes weekly inspiration on maxiemccoy.com, and is the host and executive producer of the live-audience show Let Her Speak. She specializes in creating meaningful offline experiences for top brands and conferences. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, Bustle, Fortune, TheSkimm, INC, Business Insider, Yahoo, Marie Claire, GlassDoor, The Huffington Post, Women’s Health and many others.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Maxie McCoy Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Maxie, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Maxie McCoy
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’ll get into a lot of really good stuff, and perhaps the best place to start is with your flower obsession. What’s the story here?

Maxie McCoy
You know, where all great podcasts start. So my flower obsession – I really just have this dream of myself in the future where I’m going to own a flower shop at the age of 80. But really where that came from is, I have a ritual every Saturday morning – I go to the farmers market here in San Francisco at the Ferry Building. We’ll get into rituals later, because it’s such a key piece of figuring out where we’re going. And I basically only allow myself a certain amount of cash and I spend it all on flowers. And then I come back and I fancy myself a flower designer and cover my one-bedroom apartment full of flowers. So it’s just flowers galore in here. I can’t really explain it, other than it’s a really fab ritual.

Pete Mockaitis
That is really fab, if I may. I don’t have much in the way of flowers; most days are flowerless in our home.

Maxie McCoy
Oh, no. We need to change that. It’ll bring your home alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, one thing I’ve noticed is that every time I pass eucalyptus branches, I go, “Ooh, I really like that!” And so, that seems like a nice little gateway drug, if you will, into bringing them into my home. But someone freaked me out, like, “You want to watch out for mold and for bugs.” It was like, “Uh-oh.” What should I do if I want to get eucalyptus into my life, in the home? Are there any safety tips I need to follow, or what’s the story?

Maxie McCoy
I really think that that’s amazing. First of all, I’m the girl that could kill a cactus. So if I can do it, I feel like you can do it and not have to worry about bugs. But isn’t eucalyptus the one that dries and then stays in a vase for a really long time?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s what I thought.

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, you picked a really good one. And also, eucalyptus makes the air smell amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes! It’s so fresh and alive. It’s like, I’m a little bit more energized, and I love being more energized.

Maxie McCoy
See, and we’re going to talk about that too. So I think that you just need to follow the energy, Pete, and get yourself some eucalyptus.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, already unlocking transformation.

Maxie McCoy
Right here on the flower anecdote.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so with inspirations – you’ve got a lot of them written up at your website MaxieMcCoy.com. And I was sort of cruising through them and enjoying them. What would you say are some of the biggest recurring themes that show up again and again as you’re doing your writing?

Maxie McCoy
There’s a few of them, and I think in order to understand where they come from, it’s important to understand why I started writing to begin with. I actually was spending about 90% of my time on the road, talking to women, building out offline networking communities. So I was building out curriculum and facilitating workshops, and really just focused on having these conversations with young professional women. And there were just so many universal themes that kept coming up.

I was a writer first and writing has always been my first love. I was like, “I have to capture this somewhere”, because these conversations that we’re having in anywhere from groups of 10 to groups of 300 could be brought together for other people to glean from. And what really came out of that, and it’s what you see as you’re cruising around on my site, is this incessant doubt around our future. There are just a lot of these themes of, “Am I doing the right things? Is what I’m feeling normal? How do I handle this doubt? Where the heck am I going with my life?” And really the writings there are one giant love letter to women that they’re not alone, that we’re actually all feeling these things and asking these things, and most of it comes into career as a cornerstone in our life in my writings. So those are some of the big ones.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And so, our audience is mostly women, but not all. I’d say gentlemen too experience some of these questions – the “Where am I going with my life?” obsession, you call it. And so, your book, You’re Not Lost tackles this. And how would you phrase the main idea behind You’re Not Lost?

Maxie McCoy
You’re Not Lost came because in all those conversations I was referencing, it was the one thing – and I’m sure you have this with our podcast also – it’s the one thing that I just kept hearing over and over and over again. And it brought me to the main thesis and the solution that I was trying to create from having heard this so much. It’s just simply that you don’t have to know where you’re going in order to begin; that we can find our way when we tap into a really deep sense of self-belief in order to take small step after small step after small step.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I dig this. And I see that you on your site have a reference to Tara Mohr, and we’ve had her on the show, and she’s awesome. That’s one of the top, top downloaded episodes – fun fact – the Tara Mohr episode.

Maxie McCoy
It doesn’t surprise me. Just this morning actually I was sharing on Instagram about this visualization of  my future self, which I actually found from Tara. The amount of comments already this morning on that are just… She resonates so widely with me, with my audience also, and just that concept of some of what we want to figure out in our life, we can do by going forward first.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And so, for the listener, that was the “inner mentor” exercise, where you imagine an older, wiser version of yourself in a pleasant setting, and just see what does your older, wiser self tell you. And it’s almost freaky. I was like, “Wow, that was really wise and helpful.”

Maxie McCoy
So, did you do it?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I just made that up. It’s like, “That’s all from me! Whoa!”

Maxie McCoy
“It all came from me.” Wait, I have to know – what was your inner mentor’s name? Because in the visualization exercise, for everybody listening, you have to name your future self. Do you remember what your name was?

Pete Mockaitis
We did it such a rapid pace; it was sort of real time on the show. And so I more just had a visual picture, as opposed to a name. I just thought of him as Peter.

Maxie McCoy
Yes. Kind of like Maxine.

Pete Mockaitis
And I more so resonated with his gray hairs and wrinkles, and yet sort of smiley, joyous demeanor. I was like, “Okay, what does this guy have to tell me?” [laugh]

Maxie McCoy
“Let’s talk about this guy.” Same. I had a very similar experience. It was cool, because kind of what you just said –  we have all of our answers. And a lot of the messaging that I work around is really to help people get to peeling back that onion and just figuring out our own answers. And this is one amazing exercise to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So we got the, “I’m lost. What am I doing? Where am I going with my life?” – that obsession. You say one of the very first steps is to just accept it’s okay to start before you have the whole masterplan step by step laid out. So, what are some of the other first steps that folks should take when they’re wrestling with this one?

Maxie McCoy
I think when you are just kind of obsessed with that question, there’s a lot of people out there that are going to tell you to find your passion or figure out your purpose, which honestly – and I don’t want to offend anyone – I kind of think it’s B.S., because we’re all really smart people; if we knew the answer to that, we’d be doing it already. And so, it really is more of getting us into action, to a place that we’re going to be able to really level up the answer to some of those really big questions. And at a macro view kind of figuring out, “Where is my life going?” really is about dropping the obsession with the big picture and stepping into the unknown.

I am a reformed goal junkie and then some. I used to live my life by a masterplan, but there’s a number of things that happen when you do that. We’ve all been there, where we’ve achieved the goal, then feel completely empty about it, whether we’ve done that at work or whether we’ve done that in our own lives. We’ve set this bar for ourselves and we get there and it’s like, “Well, this doesn’t really feel like anything.”

Or we don’t have the ability to even conceptualize the masterplan. The feeling of loss comes from both of those, and just at a macro view, when we can tap into our own power and be willing to step into the unknown, we’re going to create the path as we go. That is what starts to open up the, “Oh, I actually do know where this is going.” But you’re not going to think your way to that answer.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that, I dig that. And I think sometimes people will identify a passion, like, “I love the violin! Oh, but that’s really not practical. You can’t make a career on the violin. Only a dozen people per town.” Whatever, it can go to a symphony. So, I’m intrigued by that. You say if you knew it, then you’d be set.

Maxie McCoy
You’d already be doing it, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m thinking, sometimes you have some inklings, but it feels sort of impractical or not possible. So, what do you do with that one?

Maxie McCoy
You’re totally right, that there are some of these that can feel impossible. However, if something is moving you forward, actually so much possibility is there. I’d even say in my own life working in women’s leadership and talking to women for a living really… My background was sports broadcasting even though this was always my passion – really did always feel outlandish until some of the small decisions and choices that I made led me here.

And I think instrumentally these high-level, like being a pro athlete or a concert pianist – those things could absolutely be hard to achieve, and to make a life and to grow, but in the context of our own jobs, when we’re able to tap into that inkling and know it may not be about the fact that you love playing the violin and that’s where you want to make your living; it may just be that you want to be a bit more creative. You might be in a data job, but the violin is really speaking to you, and then really understanding why is that, what are the qualities about this that are pushing me forward? And I think when you start to tap into that energy and ask yourself, “Why?”… We’ve heard the exercise – I’m sure all of us – you ask yourself “Why” three times and it can really get at what that inkling might be able to tell you, even if it feels really not remotely possible. There’s some kind of nugget there.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. So with the violin piece – when you go into some “Why’s”, let’s just see how this might work. You might be, “I love the idea of being able to be immersed in something for hours at a time without interruption, and feeling like I’m being pulled in 10 different directions from all these different stakeholders who want a piece of me.”

Maxie McCoy
And I ask you, “Okay, Pete. But why?”

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. I don’t actually play the violin, so I’m trying to imagine a violin player.

Maxie McCoy
You want to know what’s funny? I do play the violin.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding! Maybe my subconscious picked that up as I was reading about you.

Maxie McCoy
It’s kind of incredible. It’s by my feet, which is amazing. That’s so good.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you tell me. So maybe the “Why” associated with that – I’m just going to guess – and then you give me another example. So, with the violin, “I like the sense of going deeply immersed into something and not be pulled in many directions, because I feel like I am getting a sense of learning and growth and mastery from getting to spend that extensive focus time.” And if I go “Why” again, it can be like… Or in some ways I almost feel like …, “Because that sensation is awesome, and I’d love it.”

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, and you’re feeling very alive or very energized. And it does come back to that sensation. I think what builds into so much of the joy that we have in our careers is like, “Where are we spending our time and the feelings that we’re getting out of that?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. So, give us maybe another “three why” example that you’ve seen with some folks you’ve worked with.

Maxie McCoy
So I think that when you’re breaking down, whether it’s energy or expression, really figuring out who we are, is a really amazing first step in progressing this question along. I am always asking myself and others, “How can you be the highest possible expression of yourself? What does that actually look like?” And then when you are able to distill down what the expression of you looks like and ask yourself, “Why that matters, why that matters, why that matters”, you can really get at all of the molds and the limits that were keeping you from being that person.

And the reason I think that this is really important in the grand scheme of figuring your path out is, there’s so much telling us to be different and there’s so much telling us that we need to change before we begin, but actually we just need to take all of the things that people have told us to do differently and to be differently, flip it on its head, and you actually have an inverse formula, specifically for being the highest possible expression of who you are, which is going to directly correlate to the things that energize you. And I think when you can ask yourself “Why” three times, and doing this often, it really gets down into, “Why does it matter that I am the most me, and who does she or he actually look like in that?”

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say “inverse formula”, can you talk a little bit more about that? What are we doing?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, so we’re basically converting all of the things people have told us to change and flipping it on its head. So if I’ve been told that I talk a lot, or that I’m loud, or that I’m taking up too much space – it’s really just flipping it and doing all of those things, and doing more of those things, of the things that come so innate into who we are, they make up who we are. And those become what an expression of us looks like, and not changing them, and not trying to fit into other people’s molds, because molds are just limits. They pull down on who we are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. And I think in some ways, you want to exercise a bit of prudence there, because on the one hand if someone says, “Pete, you’ve always got your head in the clouds. You’ve got to be more practical” – I can imagine inverting that like, “Coming up with new ideas and innovation is a real strength of mine. And so, I’m going to run with that and make it happen.” Versus if it was like, “Pete, you drink so much, you embarrass yourself and everybody else around you” – I’d rather not flip that, like, “This is who I am. Deal with it.”

Maxie McCoy
No, I think an asterisk is really important. You give a perfect example of where those things can really matter and where they cannot really be relevant to as much of a career conversation. But yeah, you’re totally spot-on. I think it’s more values and characteristics-driven as we’re trying to apply our talent into whatever it is that we’re doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Alright, so those are some great steps to get the wheels turning in some really positive directions. I’m wondering, once you’ve begun, what do you do next?

Maxie McCoy
What do you do next? I’m really glad that you asked that. I think once the wheels are turning, there’s a couple of things and exercises that are just really powerful to get you to continue moving. We talked a little bit about going forward and talking to that future self, per Tara. But I think coming back to this “What energizes me” conversation, because that’s going to point you like a compass where it is that you should be stepping.

Reflecting here is really, really powerful. I think looking back at your work – if you’re in a place where you feel stuck or your feel a little bit unhappy or you’re feeling like you have no idea where you’re going – going backwards and asking yourself, “Where are all of the places that I’ve felt the most energized?” Energized can be a little amorphous, so I think breaking that down even further and asking yourself, “Where have I felt proud? Where have I done things where I’ve completely lost track of time?” We hear that one a lot. Where have you really felt deeply connected to your power? And just listing out whatever comes up, you’ll start to see that there are probably a lot of similarities in some of the types of work that you’re doing.

And then to put action around those, because that’s what actually matters. Just what you were saying, getting that wheel turning is not so much about creating the grand plan, but just asking yourself the simple question of, “What is the absolute smallest thing I can do right now to put any of that energy into motion?”

In my own life, one of the biggest life-changing things that’s ever happened to me came from a tiny, tiny decision. And a lot of what happens in our life isn’t because we took this giant big leap; it’s because we made one really small decision that ended up setting us off on a very exciting and different course, and we kept taking those steps and we kept taking those steps, but it started somewhere. For me that was about six and a half years ago. I’d been in sports broadcasting, I wasn’t yet in women’s leadership. I was feeling more lost than I had ever felt, and I was like, “Shoot. I have got to go back to the things that make me me, the things that I really care about.”

And I took myself actually through some of this, “Where have I felt the most proud and energized in my life?”, and it all came down to writing and women’s stories. So, I decided to sign up for a writing class. And it was a tiny decision at the time. It was just a difference of like, “Can I afford this 7-week class or not?” And I was like, “I’m just going to do it, because I need to be exercising this energy that makes me feel alive.”

And that ended up leading me directly to the startup that put me into women’s leadership, why I started being on the map, traveling and talking to women – because a woman in that writing class handed me the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle business section and was like, “Hey, there are these women who are building a company based on all the things that you care about.” And I think that’s what we underestimate, is we have no idea how it’s all going to play out. Life is so not linear, there’s just no way to tell these things. But if we can get into a place where we’re really willing to do that absolute smallest thing to follow the energy, it could truly lead us anywhere, and that’s where the path starts to open up.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. I’d also like to get your take when it comes to the instincts and what they’re serving up. How do you think about doing the trusting of instincts, versus the digging deeper and exploring and evaluating what the instincts are pointing you to?

Maxie McCoy
I think it’s a fine balance of knowing, “Do I trust this? Is this just anxiety and fear coming up? Or do I need to go a little further, do I need to ask some people?” I think we can actually answer that ourselves when we come back to us. One of the things that I think we lose track of is how much time we’re spending in other people’s lives, which makes it really hard to evaluate any of those instincts, because we’re so not tapped into our own power.

These stats get referenced all the time, but the fact that a third of us feel unhappy and envious following our most recent social exchange – that just tells us that there is a direct correlation to how we’re feeling and how outside of ourselves we’re getting to even know what our instincts are saying, much less trusting them enough to do anything about it.

But I think with instincts specifically, this one’s a little off the map, but I love it so much and I’m on a crusade to bring back superstitions and lucky charms. Hold with me – it’s not as crazy as it sounds. When you are starting to get onto this path and you’re taking action and the fear shows up, and the gut instincts are showing up and you don’t know if this is right or if you should even follow it – there’s a lot that we can do to ritualize our highest potential.

So, doesn’t matter what this is. I can tell you what mine are, but there’s a reason that top athletes and people are using the sign of the cross a million times, or have their lucky underpants. There are so many examples of people doing this. And there was actually a study that found – they did this specifically with golfers – that when you hear, “I’ll cross my fingers for you”, or you’re given a lucky ball, they do better. They do better than those who didn’t hear those things or weren’t given a golf ball.

And so, we all have the power to kind of ritualize that experience. For me I have an Oprah candle that I light for myself before really big days. I also light it for other people. It’s this long candle that has Oprah’s face on it, because I’m obsessed with her.

Pete Mockaitis
Oprah gave you this candle? What is an Oprah candle?

Maxie McCoy
Oprah did not give me the candle. It just is an old devotional candle that has Oprah’s face on it. She’s my religious experience, but that’s beside the point. So, it’s become a joke now amongst me and all of my friends, like, “I’ll light the lucky Oprah candle for you.” And I light it for myself, and it’s not just superstition and lucky charms; it’s really proven to help our performance.

And so I think when you’re talking about, “I’m feeling this, I’m not trusting it” or, “I don’t trust myself”, there are some very real things we can do, like coming back to ourselves by getting out of the world of everyone else. And then, how can I use a lucky charm or a superstition to improve my performance? Which is going to feed back, loop cycle back to you feeling more confident and doing even more.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s really cool about the lucky charm or superstition or ritual piece is that whenever I go deep into scientific journal article reading, which is surprisingly often; I’m not a scientist.

Maxie McCoy
I’m not that surprised by that, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just curious and I want to know the truth. So I’ll get after it. One thing that really strikes me is how the placebo is really pretty good. It’s like when we compare something against the placebo, and they’re like, “Oh, it didn’t do any better than the placebo.” It’s like, “Yeah, but the placebo did pretty good on its own.”

Maxie McCoy
The placebo is pretty powerful, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe I should just sell placebos and look at all the results that get claimed. I don’t know, maybe FTC or somebody has cracked out on that. But I guess the placebo effect doesn’t really work unless you believe that there’s something that’s at work.

Maxie McCoy
Is being done, yeah. Do you have a lucky charm yourself?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know about…

Maxie McCoy
No Oprah candles over there?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if I’d call it a “lucky charm”, but I had a rosary that turned gold when I was in a pilgrimage location.

Maxie McCoy
No way!

Pete Mockaitis
Way, yeah. And actually it’s funny because a lot of people say this happens. So I was checking it every few hours when I was there. It’s in a tiny village in Bosnia. So that’s pretty cool, because it’s like something miraculous and supernatural happened here. And so, if there’s something really big happening, I do want that by me, because it’s like, “This got a heavenly touch and I’d like that to be near me in this moment.”

Maxie McCoy
It’s powerful. And I think knowing what those things are for you… I am so blown away by that story; that’s incredible. Yeah, I would keep it by you and in your pocket at all times.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s fallen apart a few times. I’ve had to try to repair it, because it’s been around.

Maxie McCoy
Can I borrow it?

Pete Mockaitis
If you are next to me. While we’re in the same room you can have it in your pocket. So, whether it’s a lucky charm or an item from heaven, or a placebo – there’s something to that. I also want to get your take… On your website you have one of the most interesting hashtags that I’ve ever seen, and it’s #batshitgrateful. [laugh] I was like, “Boy, there’s a combination of words, and I think I love it.” So could you unpack a little bit of that? What does that mean?

Maxie McCoy
I absolutely can. I’m trying to remember the genesis of this particular hashtag, but I really think it just came from a place of being so grateful, #grateful was not enough for me. And people say “batshit crazy” often. I was like, “No, I’m not crazy. I’m grateful.” And then “batshit grateful” was born. And for me, kind of going back to that ritual conversation and the power of gratitude – I ended up ritualizing in my own life because things were just getting crazy and I was trying to find a way to ground back into myself so I could listen to take these little steps that were opening up on my own path.

People talk about gratitude journals all the time, and every year I felt like I was writing New Year’s resolutions, “This is the year that I’m starting the gratitude journal.” But it actually wasn’t until I read Oprah’s What I Know For Sure, which is one of my favorite books. And she talks about in her career, and at the height of her career, she was feeling a lot of unfulfillment in her own work. And when she looked at the reason for that, she brought it all down to the fact that she had stopped a gratitude journal that she had done for decades, because things were at the height, it was getting crazy. She had more than she’d ever had, and yet it wasn’t feeling like enough.

And I just had this light bulb moment of, “Okay, if Oprah felt like that then, then I sure as heck have to get my head wrapped around feeling grateful for what’s going on in my life right now.” And there is so much to back this up. One of the things that has always stuck with me about gratitude journaling is that if you do that for five minutes, it increases your long-term well-being by more than 10%. And 10% is the same impact as doubling your income. So you can feel the effects of doubling your income just by gratitude journaling for five minutes a day. And that really sums up the practice of being “batshit grateful”, but the hashtag as it is is just a way for me to just put out in the world that I am so grateful for where I’m at, even though I have a million places that I want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s cool about even just the concept of being “batshit grateful” is like being crazy – it’s sort of over the top. It may make people go, “Whoa”. Nonetheless, it really is wonderous that, whatever – you have delicious food available to eat, or that you can summon a Lyft or an Uber, they just snap up, from your phone you can contact anybody in the world and be in touch with them.

Maxie McCoy
You can have Pete’s voice on your phone any morning you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, so much to be grateful for.

Maxie McCoy
It really is so much.

Pete Mockaitis
My voice. And so, with the gratitude journal, could you unpack a little bit what happens in these five minutes? So you’re feeling grateful, you’ve got a pen and paper, and what are you doing?

Maxie McCoy
I think that you are just reflecting on your day. And when I say “I think”, I mean you’re reflecting on your day. You’re coming up with, no matter how bad your day was, no matter how good your day was, what are a few things? I always encourage to do three; two of those being, what are the things that you’re grateful for outside of yourself? So, what you just said – “I had a really amazing meal”, “I got to FaceTime with my best friend, who lives in another country.”

And then really taking that third, that last piece of the stuff that you’re jotting down and asking, “What am I grateful for myself for?” So whether that is, “I had a lot of motivation today and really got a lot done” or, “I feel like I handled that conversation really well” or, “I was really honest.” Just being able to be grateful to yourself, not just to the things happening to you. I do three. I jot down three and give a lot of detail. You could do five, if you wanted to do that every day. And it really is piecing out what are the things, no matter how simple, that you are feeling particularly grateful for that day.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice piece there. So when I’m doing gratitude stuff, it’s usually in prayer. I think of three to five-ish things that happened the last 24 hours. And I took that form Shawn Achor and his Happiness Advantage work – an amazing book.

Maxie McCoy
Amazing book.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I think of three to five things that I’m grateful for, just in general, that are generally great, like it’s pretty cool that I have a baby. But then you’re adding a whole another dimension there, in terms of grateful about yourself, because I think it’s quite easy to criticize. I see my shortcomings all the time.

Maxie McCoy
All the time. Our brain is wired for that. We’re kind of wired for criticism.

Pete Mockaitis
And so it could be, “I’m grateful that yesterday I was able to do four podcast interviews, even though I was feeling really hot and tired. And they were great.” So, that’s something to feel good about, in terms of what I could do there.

Maxie McCoy
Exactly. That’s exactly it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Maxie, tell me – anything else you want to cover before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, I think that we’ve talked a lot about this internal journey that we can have in order to kind of figure out where your life is going. But I think one of the things that we don’t talk about enough is how in certain situations, external validation from the people that we love the most and who are some of our biggest cheerleaders can really have an impact on us believing in ourselves enough to take these actions.

And so, the last thing that I would say, just in terms of what can make a really big impact in figuring out where it is you want to go – and this was one of the more transformational exercises I’ve ever done in my life – is really surveying. And we hear this a lot, about getting 360 degree feedback, doing peer reviews. There’s so much here on why this works, when it comes to our own self growth. But really figuring out where people see you and where they see your potential and your value, can eventually help you get there. You eventually will start to believe in yourself and the way that they see you and that they believe in you.

For me what I had done was, I had a friend who put together five questions. She sent them out in a typeform to around 15 to 20 of my closest, I call them “cheerleaders” – people who are your biggest fans and believe in you and have your best interests at heart. And we asked them what makes me irreplaceable, what is my superpower, what’s holding me back, where they thought I would be five years from now, and then anything else they wanted to say about my potential or my value or my talents.

And then that friend actually synthesized all the information to me and delivered it to me in person, and then gave me all the raw data. And I am telling you, Pete, my life – this was years ago – I am literally living the life that is in that spreadsheet of answers right now, because they saw it. I just was too scared to do anything about it, but knowing that these people believed in me and what they saw started to open up me being able to see what that North Star might be, and how to get there.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool, that is bold. Can you lay it out – what are a few of those questions that got in there?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, the five are: What makes you irreplaceable? What’s your superpower? What’s holding you back? What are you up to five years from now? And then any additional notes on talents, potential, or unique value.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And what I like is that it’s a positive. We had a guest talking about self-awareness – it was Tasha Eurich. Self-awareness and talking about doing dinner of truth. And that’s really cool.

Maxie McCoy
Super cool, but I don’t want to be there.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds pretty spooky, whereas those questions do have some constructive stuff – “What’s holding you back?”, to deal with. But most of it is going to make you feel awesome.

Maxie McCoy
And sometimes you need that. We’re hard enough on ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s cool. Well, thank you for that.

Maxie McCoy
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell me now – how about a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Maxie McCoy
I find this incredibly inspiring. You can tell me how you feel about this, but it’s from an artist named Ashley Longshore. She’s incredible, one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram. But she says, “Instant gratification will get you stone drunk or pregnant. Everything else is going to take some time.” I think it’s just a really funny way, and I say it to myself often to just have some patience with any of the things – with ourselves, with trying to figure all of this out. We’ve just got to stick at it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Maxie McCoy
The McKinsey study – I think this was late 2015 – specifically around advancing women’s equality, which is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, that $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025. And for me that’s just a reminder of why this work matters.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Maxie McCoy
Lilac Girls. So this one is Martha Hall Kelly. I read it, I’m obsessed with it. In all of this self-help work that we’re all always doing, I have transitioned my mind at night to being obsessed with fiction, and this is just one of my favorites. It’s got some complex female characters that I dig.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool, thank you. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Maxie McCoy
So, I use and love – and this goes back to the gratitude journaling – an app called Reflectly. It’s a daily gratitude journal where you rate your day, and then you can see over the course of time what your metrics are, like how happy you’ve been over the course of a week, through the course of a month.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Maxie McCoy
Am I allowed to talk about the Oprah candle again? Because that’s just hands down my favorite habit. I light her every day. And by the way, I buy her in bulk.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect or resonate with your people, and you hear it quoted back to you frequently?

Maxie McCoy
Yeah, this quote around, “You never know who you’re inspiring” gets retweeted all the time from me, because I think it’s just a reminder to all of us that our actions, even if they feel small and insignificant – our actions, our stories, our voice – it all really matters so much. You have no idea the impact you’re having on other people.

Pete Mockaitis
And Maxie, if folks want to get in touch or talk to you, where should they go?

Maxie McCoy
Please, I love talking to people. It’s MaxieMcCoy.com. You can email me directly at an inbox I do check, at hello@maxiemccoy.com. Or quickly, I’m always fast on social. It’s @maxiemccoy, Instagram and Twitter.

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

Maxie McCoy
I really think that everyone should do this survey about their humans, and just get that feedback and believe them. I also put the survey in my book, which is You’re Not Lost. It’s on any of the major retailers. You can find out a little bit more about the story and how to do that there.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Maxie, this has been a ton of fun.

Maxie McCoy
So fun!

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks so much for sharing your take, and good luck with the book You’re Not Lost, and all you’re doing!

Maxie McCoy
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so batshit grateful to be here.

313: Closing the Gap between Potential and Results with Thom Singer

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Thom Singer breaks open the Paradox of Potential to highlight where potential doesn’t equal results and what to do about it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to identify the unique things holding you back
  2. The three things that always help achieve better results
  3. How to bring back purpose when it’s most needed

About Thom

As the host of the popular “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast, Thom interviews business leaders, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and others who possess an extra dose of the entrepreneurial spirit. The information compiled from these compelling interviews is shared with his clients, as he challenges people to be more engaged and enthusiastic in all their actions. He has authored twelve books on the power of business relationships, sales, networking, presentation skills and entrepreneurship, and regularly speaks to corporate, law firm and convention audiences. He sets the tone for better engagement at industry events as the opening keynote speaker or the Master of Ceremonies. His Conference Catalyst Program has become a “meeting planners” favorite in how it transforms the conference attendee experience.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Thom Singer Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Thom, thanks so much for joining us here again on How To Be Awesome At Your Job.

Thom Singer

God, I’m so excited to be back. It’s been like three years.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, yeah, time really flies. And thanks so much for saying “Yes”. Back in Episode 17, before I had much of a show, I had to pick people who seemed to like me, instead of anybody.

Thom Singer

Now people don’t have to like you.

Pete Mockaitis

No. They resent me, but they grin and bear it for the publicity.

Thom Singer

Awesome.

Pete Mockaitis

So I want to hear a little bit, you did some stand-up comedy for the first time at the age of 51. What’s the story here?

Thom Singer

You’ve done your homework on me. So, I made a pledge to myself when I turned 50 almost two years ago that I was going to have the most fun ever from 50 to 75 years old. Not that I had a bad time before; I was in a fraternity in college, I had a really good time. And I’ve had a good time in between. But I just decided that I wasn’t going to talk myself out of things. And when I was younger, when I was about your age, I was in my 20s, I wanted to try my hand at just open mic night. I didn’t want to go be a full-time comic. But I always found a reason, like I wasn’t going to be good enough, or “What if I sucked?”, or “What if my friends saw me?” And so I always found a way not to do it. I had a friend who was pushing me to try it, and I just never did.
And recently I had a situation where I was going to be in New York and a professional speaker friend of mine is also a professional comic, and he said, “When you’re in New York I’ll take you to open mic night.” And I said, “Oh, how cool. I’d love to see you work on new material.” And the other friend who was with us started shaking his head going, “That’s not what he means. He’ll take you to open mic night, but he’ll make you sign up and do a five-minute set.” And I was like, “Oh, I can’t do that.” And he said, “Why?” And all of my reasons were false. And he said, “Have you ever wanted to try it?” And I said, “Yeah, I used to when I was younger, I really wanted to.”
So, he didn’t really talk me into it, but he made the offer that he would help me. And so when I was in New York City, we signed up, I got my name drawn and I did a five-minute set. And what was fascinating was, I wasn’t the best one. There were maybe 17 comics that went. But I was probably in the top seven. And so I was like, “Huh.” So I’ve now done it five more times.

Pete Mockaitis

No kidding! That’s so great. Well, so to put you on the spot, could you share one or two of your jokes that got the best response?

Thom Singer

Yeah. So you are putting me on the spot. I’m turning 52 years old really soon, and I just realized that my dad was 52 years old when I was born. I had sort of an older dad. In fact, growing up with an older dad there were a couple of things. One was that I thought things were normal, I thought you were supposed to go to restaurants for the discounted dinner at 4:30. And I thought every time you got out of a chair you were supposed to make a noise like, “Ugggghhhh”. I thought it’s just what people did when they got out of the chair. And then I was the only kid on the block who wasn’t allowed to play on his own lawn.

But seriously, my dad was 52 when I was born, and I realized I’m about to turn 52. So I went to my wife and I said, “Oh my gosh, honey, we could have another kid!” And she said, “No. No, we can’t, for so many reasons.” She said, “You can’t keep track of your car keys; how are you going to be able to keep track of a toddler?” So, that’s just a little bit of what I did.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. And kudos for having them to be kind of connected in that theme, because sometimes I understand the comedians, they test a lot of material, and they just push together all the stuff that works great, with little segway, and that’s sort of the way of the world. But call me – I don’t know what the word is – someone who likes themes and structure and organization. I appreciate multiple jokes within the same category.

Thom Singer

Well, I only had to do five minutes, so the whole theme of the whole thing was just stories about my dad, about him dating when he was widowed and different stuff like that. So, that was my two cents, and like I said, I wasn’t the funniest guy. Seinfeld is not worried about job security because I did stand-up. But it definitely was a great experience, and I learned that it’s probably one of the hardest things about standing up in front of an audience. It’s way harder than being a professional speaker, because the expectations of a stand-up comic, even a guy at open mic night, are way higher than some keynote speakers. So, I’ve learned a lot from doing it.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s true. Often they sort of expect the speakers to be boring, and when you just sort of provide a modicum of engagement and jokes and enthusiasm and thought provocation, it’s like, “Alright!”

Thom Singer

Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis

So speaking of keynote speaking, you’ve got a newer program

Thom Singer

The Paradox of Potential.

Pete Mockaitis

I really liked the blurb that was on your site and I think that there’s a whole lot of thoughts, concerns, questions when it comes to our potential. And How To Be Awesome At Your Job listeners are into developing potential. So what’s it all about?
Thom Singer
Yeah, I would imagine if you’re listening to a podcast called Be Awesome At Your Job, that you definitely have this interest in being awesome at your job. And yet when I talk to people, and I’ve interviewed 300 or 400 people now through a survey, and then I’ve talked to about 10% of them on the phone and done personal interviews – most of the people who I’ve interviewed say that they’re not doing everything they could do in their career. They could be achieving more in their jobs.
And when I talk to managers I say, “Even if my numbers are wrong, even if it’s not 70% to 75%, what if just half your people could be having better performance and doing more, and being more successful? Wouldn’t you want to know about that, about how to get across that gap between potential and results?” And so that’s what I talk about, is what’s holding people back, and then what are some of the ways to get farther across the gap between potential and results.
Because here’s the deal: Potential does not equal results, no matter how much we want it to, no matter how excited we get about having potential or our team having potential, or our new hire being a high potential employee. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to achieve anything, and yet everybody wants to build a bridge. They want to build a bridge for their whole team between potential and results, put everybody on one bus and drive them across.
The problem is not everybody has the same things holding them back, therefore not one solution is going to help everybody. And the bigger thing is that as you move across that gap from potential to results, what happens is that your potential is going to shift, because you’re meeting new people, you’re listening to a new podcast, you’re reading a new book, you’re having a new experience. So, if you build a bridge and your potential shifts, you drive the bus across, everyone’s going to fall into the ravine. So I tell people that you do not want to build your path across in advance and then go across; instead you want to build a scaffolding, you want to build a modular thing so that you can go across at an angle, diagonal, up, down sideways. And then when your potential shifts further out, you can just add a new module.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, I like that. And I even want to start at the very beginning, which was just that you did so much research in crafting a keynote. I think that’s awesome to start with. Other folks are like, “Hey, here’s an idea I think is good.” And you went deep into seeing, “What’s a real problem folks are having and what’s some insightful stuff I can bring to it?” So kudos from the get-go in developing your speaker potential by doing that.

Thom Singer

I feel I’m one year into about a five-year survey of people. My intent is to interview thousands of people, and I’m in the process of trying to see if maybe I could get a real researcher, like a PhD level researcher to help me, because I haven’t set the questions up right. I’m not a researcher, I’m not an academic. So, my information I found is still somewhat anecdotal, but there’s a lot of stuff going on here. And people get really excited.
When I go into a company and they have me come into their team, once we get through the presentation point and we get it to that interactive piece where everybody gets to start talking about what holds them back, or others on their team… Sometimes nobody wants to talk about themselves, but hypothetically, “My friend is held back because of XYZ” – people get really into sharing the fears and the mistakes they’ve made along the way, and the team gets really excited about figuring out, “How can we support each other?” So it’s kind of a fun job to be able to do working with actual teams inside a company.

Pete Mockaitis

That is fun. And so I want to dig into a number of these gaps that are popping up frequently, and some of the prescriptions for remedying them. And it’s funny – the first gap that I thought of – and you’ll tell me how prominent this is and if people fess up to it – is just, “Yeah, I could be doing better at my job, but that sounds like a lot of extra hours that I don’t want to spend there because I want to spend more time with my family or doing other cool outside-of-work things.” Is that one of the top gaps?

Thom Singer

Yeah, it’s sometimes as simple as that, that “Hey, this just isn’t my priority.” And you know what? That’s okay. Even if they don’t want to, sometimes people have a new baby, or sometimes… One lady told me after hearing my speech – she came up almost in tears and she said, “Thank you”, because she had an aunt who had no children, and she was caring for her aunt in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. And her boss was really supportive of it, but she felt that when she was at work she was cheating her aunt, and when she was with her aunt she was cheating work.
And the reality of what I said is, sometimes work isn’t your priority. Just be honest with yourself, it’s okay. I gave a fictitious example about caring for somebody, but it hit home with this woman. And she wanted to put more time into work, but she had another commitment. So yeah, sometimes there’s either “I just don’t want to do it” or sometimes “I can’t do it, because I have this other commitment.” And that’s a legitimate reason and people can’t beat themselves up for it. We live in a society where we talk a lot about work, work, work, work, work. It’s not always your priority, and if it’s not your priority, that’s okay. But also don’t have expectations if you’re not putting all that work in that you are going to become CEO.

Pete Mockaitis

Right, that’s well said. And boy, that angst there associated with, “When I’m at work I’m cheating my aunt and when I’m with my aunt I’m cheating my work” – I think that really connects and resonates with lots of people with their outside work obligations and concerns. And so, any pro tips on just coming to peace with that? I think in a way just the sheer anxiety is going to diminish your ability to realize your potential. So, any pro tips on how to take that breath and to become okay with that?

Thom Singer

One of the things I talk about is I think we’ve been done a disservice by all these speakers and trainers who’ve come in and tried to teach work-life balance, because I actually don’t believe you’re ever in balance. If you’re at home with your kids, you’re not at work, so work is out of balance. If you’re at work, you’re not home caring for your kids, so that’s out of balance. So we focus on wanting everything to be in perfect balance, but nothing in the universe is in perfect balance. Something’s always going on that’s throwing something out of balance. So, you just have to get okay with that fact, that just do the best you can with what you’ve got in front of you.
A friend of mine wrote a book called Good Enough Now – her name’s Jessica Pettitt. You know Jessica. One of the things she talks about is, everybody is waiting for perfection before they’re going to go do the things they have to do, but really you’re good enough now. Just go do what you have to do. And that’s sort of what I try to teach people.
But here’s the thing – no matter what you look at in this paradox of potential, it all comes down to three things that help you. There are a lot of things that are holding people back – a lot of different fears, a lot of things where people feel they don’t have the right degree or they don’t have the right training or they don’t have the support of their spouse or their boss, or their company is out-of-sync for a lot of reasons. The list is really, really long of what the problems are.
But the answers all fall into three buckets, and those buckets are your plan, your purpose, and people. So your plan is really just goal-setting. And I know you teach goal-setting in some of the seminars that you do. I’ve never understood why people go, “I don’t believe in goal-setting.” I hear this all the time because it’s part of what I teach. People say, “Oh well, I don’t believe in goal-setting.” I had one person tell me, “Setting goals just sets you up to feel bad when you don’t reach them.” And I’m like, “No, because if you strive for something and you come close, don’t feel bad about the 10% you missed. Look at the 90% of the way you came.”
I have a daughter who is a high achiever, and she always sets her goals really high. And then when she lands at something that other people just think is excellent that might have been shy of that goal, she’s thrilled that she landed at the excellent level that she is. And it’s a really good example – she’s always pushing herself and setting expectations, and I’m always worried that she’s going to be disappointed. And then she’s always thrilled because she’s still coming out in the top 90 percentile. And she said if she had just shot for the 90 percentile, she might have ended up in the 80 percentile.
So, I’ve never understood why people think, “I’m going to feel bad if I don’t hit my goal.” If my goal for sales – and I’m just making this up – is $500,000 and I sell $400,000, that’s better than selling $300,000. So if I had no goal, I have no idea where I would have landed, plus I can’t benchmark myself against my own performance if I don’t have some sort of goal. So the first thing is having that plan and knowing what success looks like, and then taking the actions to get there.
The second bucket is purpose, and that just goes back to what Simon Sinek has taught for years, of knowing your “Why”. Everybody on your team at work has different reasons that they have a job. Some people want to pay their mortgage and have a fancy house and things like that. Other people want to feel part of a team. Other people want to contribute to the greater good. Each person has to come to terms with why they do the work that they do. And in some cases it’s, “I have to pay the bills.” Well, okay, as long as you understand what that is. And it’s really coming to terms as an individual about what your purpose is.
And then the third bucket is people, and that is having the right mentors, being part of the right team, knowing who to turn to, having support at home. Being a mentor is one of the best things that you can do if you really want to grow. So it’s all interactions that you have with people. It’s your network, it’s your brand, it’s how you engage. And so those are the three ways across. No matter what’s holding you back you can always find the answer in your plans, your purpose, and your people.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, thank you. It’s nice to have three things and to be alliterative along the way. Really cool. So then, I’d be curious when it comes to executing on each of these. What are some of, I guess the best practices versus the worst practices? I guess in some ways with a plan, just like having no plan is not optimal, as you were laying out here. But what are some other pointers there?

Thom Singer

Well, as I said earlier, potential does not equal results. You have to take action. So, I’ve seen people make plans and make lists and do all these things, but if you’re not checking things off, if you’re not actually moving towards the goal, then nothing’s going to happen. So you really have to be somebody who tries to do something, and I’m a big believer that momentum builds stuff. So a lot of people overthink; they don’t take action because they’re trying to weigh all 10 options against each other.
Yet if you look at really successful entrepreneurs, they know that they have to start their business. They’re really smart in the tech industry in Silicon Valley – the term is “pivot”. Start your business, start building, launch something, and then see where it’s working and where it’s not, and pivot. There are so many companies that started to be one thing and pivoted to something else. Twitter is a perfect example. It wasn’t started to be what it became, but they pivoted it and all of a sudden it went crazy 10 years ago.
So, you just need to be able to start doing something, because if you have momentum it’s easier to change course than to start from an absolute dead stop. And too many people don’t take action until they know that the action they take is going to be perfect. I worked for a person one time – it was in a marketing department – and we were talking about something we were going to do in marketing. And it wasn’t a big spin, I mean it wasn’t $50,000; it was like $6,000, $5,000, something like that. And she said, “What’s the guaranteed ROI?”
And I said, “From marketing, from having an event and doing sponsorship and things like that, you’re not going to have a total guarantee. Here’s what we assume will happen and here’s what we’re hoping for, but I can’t give you a perfect guarantee that we’re going to have 100 people come to our booth and we’re going to meet 10 people and we’re convert three of them. I can’t promise you that.” I go, “Sometimes you may have to throw a little spaghetti against the wall.” And she looked at me and said, “In my company we throw no spaghetti against the wall. Most spaghetti hits the floor.” And I’m like, “Well, then you can do stuff but you’re never going to be able to take the type of actions that are going to lead to the big success.”
Because when you look at people as individuals in their job or companies who have big success, there’s some risk, there’s some trial and error that goes into being awesome at your job. And if you’re not willing to take that trial and error and take some actions without the guarantee, then you’re just going to be mediocre at your job, and that’s not what your podcast is about.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s dead on. And yeah, marketing in particular, that’s hard for anyone to guarantee. And you really don’t know until you start for sure. And so, I think that is compelling, in the sense that if folks do something, or don’t do something because they’re so terrified of the potential for a failure, then you’re pretty limited to a very narrow space of actions you might take.

Thom Singer

Yeah, and therefore you might succeed… But I’ve been doing this in my career for nine years. I throw some Hail Mary passes and sometimes they get intercepted, and that’s just the way it goes.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so that’s the “plan” side of things. And how about purpose?

Thom Singer

Well, we all are motivated for different reasons. And sometimes we forget why we get out of bed. What are we trying to accomplish? What is it that we want for our family? What’s our purpose of what we do? You have a new child. When you have a kid, that changes your purpose. You may have noticed some things in the past five or six months have changed in the way you look at the world, and that is because you’re now responsible for somebody else.
So I have two kids of my own, and then I mentor two young gentleman who are both in their late 20s, who call me their “fake dad”. They’ve been around about four years; I don’t think they’re ever going away. And my kids are like, “What’s the deal there?” My one daughter is like, “Are they in the will?” And I said, “No, they’re not real kids. They’re not in the will.” And she said, “Okay, then I support your friendship with them, as long as they’re not taking my inheritance.” No, she didn’t say that.
But the thing is that I tell them all the time, because they’re young and they’re both single – I tell them all the time I have a different outlook on the world because there are other humans I’m responsible for. I have a wife and I have two kids. And I said, “When you’re responsible for three other people, that changes the purpose of why you do things and the decisions that you make in your career, in your personal life, what you do on Friday night, etcetera.”
And so, I think that that’s something we have to realize, that our purpose and our plans and our people – they’re going to change from time to time, and that’s okay. But you have to understand, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” So, one of my main motivations of why I pursue the business I pursue is, I want to be that person who’s educating people. I could go be a teacher or a professor or a newscaster. I like being in that role, where I’m sharing information with people. And because I like being in that role, part of my purpose is, I want to be the best I can at that.
Another one of my purposes is money. I’m not ashamed of it – I want to have nice things. I don’t have to make a million dollars a year. So many people focus on giant numbers, but I have to have decent numbers because there’s certain things I’ve chosen to do. Plus I have kids, who one goes to a very expensive college, one’s in high school with her eyes set on very expensive colleges. And the problem is when you have kids who are straight-A students in high school, they get accepted to those colleges, so then you have to figure out, how do we pay for them.
And the problem is that unless you’re making… If you make a million dollars a year, it doesn’t matter. And if you make a smaller amount, there’s often need-based scholarships. But if you’re in the middle, you’ve got to pay for them. And so I’m motivated to make sure that I can make those tuition payments on top of our mortgage payments and still be able to, as a family, take some trips and have clothes and things like that, eat nice meals. So that’s part of that purpose piece is, I have to know why I’m doing it, because it makes me get out of bed in the morning.

Pete Mockaitis

Very good. And so I think it’s often quite common to forget or lose sight of the purpose when you’re in the urgent stuff.

Thom Singer

Absolutely, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

And so any thoughts on how to bring it back, fresh in our mind?

Thom Singer

Well, out of sight is always out of mind, so I encourage people to write their goals down, going back to the plan. The old saying is, “A goal not written down is a wish.” So, you’ve got to write down your goals. Part of that is you’ve got to write down your purpose. And this is more than your company’s mission statement that hangs in the lobby. This is individual to the person. Everyone on the team needs to be clear about why do they work there, and what do they want to contribute.
And you’ve got to review it because otherwise, when things get busy and when things get bad, and it always gets bad… I mean none of us have a perfect career, whether there are problems with the economy, problems with bosses or co-workers, or just caught up in the moment, there’s some problem with the client, it’s just bad – it’s easy to forget why you get out of bed in the morning. So write it down and have it in front of you.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful, thank you. And how about on the people side?

Thom Singer

Well, I started my speaking career teaching people how to network better, how to connect with people in a gadget-crazy world. It’s something that I’ve talked about for 10 years. I started my speaking career just as the iPhone and the smartphone started showing up in everybody’s hands. And everybody thought, “It’s going to be so much easier to connect.” And yet, I ask everybody who is over 35 years old, “Do you feel now that you have more friends? And I mean friends who are going to invite you to Thanksgiving. Do you have more friends than you had a decade ago?” And I rarely – there’re sometimes people – but I rarely had a hand go up in the audience.
And then I flip it around to business and I say, “How many people feel that you have more business, like it’s so much easier for you to sell” – because I speak to a lot of sales teams – “than it was 10 years ago?” Now, if somebody is 28, they don’t remember life without a smartphone. But if they’re 38, they sure do. And rarely, again, does a hand go up. Every now and then, there’s somebody who, they do a real good job at Internet marketing and use of social and stuff like that, but in most cases, people shake their heads.
And I say, “Okay, so we can have a room up several hundred people, nobody or very few people raise their hands.” I’m like, “But let’s think back to the last 10 years. Every conference that you went to, not so much now, but certainly 3 years ago to 10 years ago, had entire tracks on social media and mobile and digital. And yet, nobody feels that they’re better connected.” And in fact, there was an article in the Harvard Business Review last fall, written by the former Surgeon General of the United States under Obama, and it was called… I don’t know what the title of the article was, but it was about the epidemic of loneliness that’s going on.
And there are a lot of articles written about how the Millennials feel very lonely, like they don’t feel they have a lot of friends. One of these guys I mentor sent me a funny – I don’t know if it’s called a meme or whatever, because I’m old – but he sent me a thing at Easter time, and it said, “The real miracle is, how did Jesus make it to his thirties and have 12 friends?” So they talk a lot about younger people not feeling like they have close friendships, but this article in Harvard Business Review said it’s not just the Millennials, it’s all the generations. People feel that they’re invisible, people feel lonely, more so than at any time in history. And yet, for the last decade, we’ve put all these connection tools into place.
So one of the things I talk about is we have to step back, we have to see people, we have to get back. The saying in India when you greet somebody is “Namaste.” And if you translate that – and there are a lot of ways I’ve heard it translated – but the simplest one is, “I see you” or, “I see your soul” or, “My soul sees your soul.” Well, that’s what we have to get back to because people are feeling like they don’t see them.
So I talk about this at conferences and I tell people it’s not just the introverts. Sometimes people think, “Oh well, this is a conference of all sales people. Everyone’s an extrovert.” That doesn’t apply. Even the extroverts who are life of the party – a lot of them feel invisible. And I’ll have people come up to me and nod their head and go, “That’s me. I’m right in the middle of the crowd. I can hold my own, but I don’t feel anybody knows who I am or knows what I care about.”
So, we’re living in this age, and for 10 years I’ve been teaching it, about how do we connect with people in this gadget-crazy digital world. And a lot of it comes down to stopping and seeing people and having real conversations. I mean how often have you been in a restaurant and you look over and there’s a whole family – a mom, a dad, and three kids – and everyone’s on their phone at the table?

Pete Mockaitis

Right, yeah.

Thom Singer

It happens all the time. Or you’re in a business meeting, sitting around the conference table, and a couple of the partners in the firm or even lower-level people in the firm are doing what I call “the iPhone prayer”. Looks like they have their head down and they’re praying. But in reality, they’re just tapping away on their screen down in their lap, or they’re looking at the screen by their hip – I call it “the one-hip sneak”. They’re thinking nobody will notice they’re looking at their phone. So, I think we have to get to where we put that stuff down from time to time. I love my phone; it’s always in my hand. It’s in my hand right now while I’m talking to you, but I’m not looking at it. I’m just still holding it. It’s on my lap.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s so soothing, like a comfort blanket. [laugh]

Thom Singer

Right. And I’m going to be 52 right around the corner, so it’s not just the Millennials who are that way. But I think the point that I’m trying to make here, and I’m going around the long way, is we have to realize that the connections to people are so important. I mean the old saying, “People do business with people they know, they like, and they trust” – that’s not a cliché, that’s true. The difference is it’s harder to get to know people, I mean to really get to know. A like, a link, a share and a follow is not a friendship. We have to go back to getting to know people.
There used to be a process to get to know them. You had to go to a few networking events, maybe you had lunch, maybe you played golf, maybe you went to a few social events with them. And then you got to know them, and then like and trust came along, or it didn’t. But nowadays, everybody thinks they know everybody.
They listen to this show – I bet there are people listening right now who are like, “Oh, I know Pete.” Well, no. They know Pete based on the one side of Pete as the podcast host. So, they don’t know how you are one-on-one, they don’t know your soul, per se. And so people think, “I’m connected to them on Twitter. I listen to their podcast. I know them.” So know, K-N-O-W, has gotten misinterpreted to “know of them” or “know about them.” And so like and trust are harder to get to.
And so I encourage people, if to go back to the old school ways of face-to-face spending time with people with no digital interaction in the moment while you’re there, you’re going to get to like and trust a lot faster, and I think it’s more important than ever. And I talk a lot about this whole idea of seeing people. When’s the last time you went into Starbucks? And if people tell me, “This morning”, I go, “Can you tell me what color eyes the barista had?”

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good.

Thom Singer

Know. Even if I’m going to have a two-second interaction with them, I try to just register, look them right in the eye, and I think “Blue eyes.” And I smile, and they smile back. They don’t know why, they just know that I just saw something about them.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s awesome, thank you. So we hit the plan, the purpose, the people. You’ve also got some perspectives when it comes to limiting beliefs and how those could be problematic for realizing potential.

Thom Singer

Well, let’s go back to where we were talking about me doing stand-up comedy. When I was 25 years old, my wife and I used to like to go to comedy clubs. We had another couple we did a lot of things with. And he and I used to drink a lot of beer together and we would talk about it. And he goes, “You’re kind of funny. You could do this.” But I had a ton of limiting beliefs. I overthought the entire process. And now that I’ve done this a few times, I’m like, “Well, that was stupid. So what if I went and I sucked? I still would have done it.”
And so this whole concept of “I’m going to make 50 to 75 the best years of my life”, is all based around the fact that I’m not going to have limiting beliefs. So I’ve done other stuff besides the stand-up. I jumped off the Stratosphere in their SkyJump in Las Vegas. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but the sky tower, like Seattle or whatever – they have one at the Stratosphere Hotel. And they have, I guess it’s called a ride or an attraction, where you go out on a platform and leap off the 108th floor in a harness. It’s not a bungee, it’s like a tension thing, and you land on the ground without any impact, because just before you get to the ground, the tension between the three wires gets strong enough where you just kind of go “Bling!” and you land.
But I’ll tell you, it’s really scary. If you watch the video, the guy counts you down. You go through a class, they tell you how to do it, it’s supposed to be a perfect swan dive. And the guy goes, “One, two, three, jump!” And I just stood there. And on the video it’s funny, because I’m just holding on to the rail, and I look over my shoulder and I go, “Say it again.” And he goes, “One, two, three, jump!” And instead of swan diving, I just half-jump off. I go like, “No!”
However, I agreed to do that. I mean I didn’t agree – it was my own idea, nobody talked me into it. But I decided to do that because I looked it up online – nobody’s ever died. The thing’s been there well over a decade, and I figured I’m not going to be the first. And so why overthink it? And I have friends who’ve watched the video who were like, “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, not going to do it.”
The other thing is I’m kind of a city guy. All my vacations throughout my whole life have been New York, and Chicago, and Paris, and Rome, San Francisco. And this last couple of years, I have a daughter who’s very outdoorsy. She wanted to hike the Grand Canyon, so we went for three days to the Grand Canyon. And we stayed in the hotel, but we went hiking around and down the Grand Canyon.
With my kids, I do a thing. You have a young child. My wife and I do a thing – I’m going to pass on to you. When the kids turn 13, they get to plan a three-night trip anywhere in the country with their mom. Now, we take care of the airfare and the hotel to make sure they don’t overspend, but they plan all the activities, and it’s anywhere that they want to go. When they’re 16, they get to do it with Dad. Because otherwise, they go on all these family vacations, but it’s mom, dad, their sibling and all this. So this is the one-on-one time for three days with a parent.
And they look forward to it. People are like, “Your 16-year-old wants to go away?” She’d spent years planning this trip, and her answer was “Yosemite.” And I said “Boston? Is that what you said?” And she said, “No, Yosemite.” And we stayed in these tent-cabin-like structures, and the bathroom was a quarter mile down the path, and we had to eat in a mess hall, but it’s what she wanted to do. And so part of my “50 to 75 is the best years of my life”, we hiked 10 miles a day every day for the three and a half days we were in Yosemite, and we had an awesome time.
I did a TEDx talk with three weeks’ notice because I think someone had cancelled and they gave me a last-minute addition. But before, I would have overthought it. I would have had limiting beliefs saying, “Oh, TED talk is a big deal. That video’s going to end up online. Three weeks isn’t enough time to prepare. It’s a topic I’ve never really spoken on before.” And instead I just said, “Yeah, I can do that.” And so it’s all of these types of things combined that in the past, my limiting beliefs would have taken over. And so the answer is, “Don’t overthink. Just do more.”

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. Awesome, thank you. Well, Thom, tell me – anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Thom Singer

No, but I was doing a little research on you, and you’re the only person I know who has a custom-made Superman suit. And so I just am not sure all of your listeners know that. But I watched your video, I watched your speaking video, and there’s a picture of you in a form-fitting… Thank God you’re not old enough to have gotten fat. But you’ve got a custom-made Superman suit, which you said was for Halloween, but I’m a little curious if your wife has the matching Wonder Woman outfit.

Pete Mockaitis

She does not. Thank you for asking, publicly. [laugh] It’s funny. The backstory is, since we’re going here – I remember for Halloween, I always wonder, “Oh man, what should I be?” And I thought, “You know what? I really just want to be Superman”, because that’s what I always wanted to be as a kid. So I would just like the ultimate Superman costume. Christopher Reeve style is my preference.

Thom Singer

Sure, it’s cool, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis

And it was interesting because I got dumped numerous years ago, and I was kind of sad. And my mom had remembered the conversations we had about… I said, “You know what? I’d like to be Superman, but you can spend 300 bucks for an adult Superman costume that doesn’t even include the red boots. Isn’t that absurd?” And so she sent me, unannounced, a pair of red Superman boots.

Thom Singer

In your size?

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, exactly. And it was just like… As soon as I beheld them, I knew immediately what I had to do was to get the…

Thom Singer

$300 Superman costume.

Pete Mockaitis

It turned out I saved about half of that, because I found someone on eBay who made Superman costumes or other hero costumes to your precise dimensions. So it was not just a medium, small, or large; it was exactly my size. And it is my favorite thing to wear, and I do only wear it on Halloween.

Thom Singer

[laugh] Alright, we’ll go with that.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. So thank you for bringing that up. [laugh] And so now people probably feel like they know me all the more, but it’s an illusion.

Thom Singer

So now people can say, “I know Pete and the Superman costume.” But you really don’t know Pete. You just know about the Superman costume.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s all you need to know. [laugh] Okay. Well then let’s hear…

Thom Singer

All the women listeners are going to look for the picture.

Pete Mockaitis

I declare. [laugh] Well, let’s hear a favorite quote from you, something you find inspiring.

Thom Singer

So I’m worried this might have been the quote I used three years ago. I meant to go listen to that episode to make sure I didn’t use the same quote. But my favorite quote actually comes from my dad. And I recently used it without giving attribution to my dad. I made it sound like it was my quote. And my 21-year-old daughter called me out on it. She saw it online where I’d said this, and it had my name next to it. And she said, “That’s not your quote. That your dad’s quote.” And I said, “Yeah, but he’s been dead for four years, and so who else did he leave the quote to? He left it to me, I’m sure.” So I told her when I was dead four years, she could take it. But it’s really a quote from my dad. And that is, “Be slow to anger and fast to forgive.”

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Thom Singer

I’ve got to say this stuff I’m doing with people’s potential and how they feel about their own success in their careers. And I was surprised how many people don’t think they’re living up to their potential, so I found that to be quite interesting.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite book?

Thom Singer

Always go back to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a life-changer for me when I was 25.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Thom Singer

My iPhone.

Pete Mockaitis

And I thought you were going to say handwritten thank-you notes, which you sent one to me, and it was very nice.

Thom Singer

[laugh] Yeah, probably my iPhone, but I still send handwritten notes.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite habit?

Thom Singer

Everybody asks about, “What do you do in the mornings?” I have bad habits, I don’t have really good habits. But I will say the best thing – and this is part of the age 50 life change – is, I used to weigh 35 pounds more than I do now. And I gave up sugar and wheat for the most part; I eat limited amounts of processed sugar and wheat. And then I started running. So I think health habits are the one that I didn’t know about until two years ago, but the ones I’m most impressed with because I feel better than I’ve felt in well over a decade. And I wasn’t in bad shape, I wasn’t unhealthy. I’m six foot three, so 30 pounds, it’s not like you’d go, “Wow, fatty.” But having lost that 30 plus pounds and eating a much healthier diet really has been a great habit for me.

Pete Mockaitis

And I’d like to hear, when it comes to giving up the sugar and wheat, how would you describe the difference in your mental clarity or performance?

Thom Singer

So the first three weeks I was an ass, if I can say that on your show. I was grumpy, I was horrible, it was not good. And then the clarity sort of came in and stuff somewhere around a month or two. And I never knew I was unclear, I didn’t know I was foggy. It’s not like I was having problems, but it was like, “Wow.” There was such a huge difference. And coupling that with a guy who was never a runner – I’d never run a mile in my life – and I started training for a half marathon.
And after I completed that… After you finish a half marathon, if you’re not a runner and you’ve never been a runner, all your runner friends start saying, “Now that you’ve done a half, you’re going to want to do a whole.” They’re lying. I don’t want to run that. I don’t even want to run a half ever again. But I am still running three to five miles about three days a week. And the combination of eating a cleaner, healthier diet with the running just makes me feel younger.

Pete Mockaitis

And is there a particular nugget you share in your presentations that really seems to connect and resonate with the audiences?

Thom Singer

I should have probably prepared for that one. No, nothing I share connects with the audiences, I’m sure. No. So lately it has really been around this whole issue of seeing people. Actually, I have a slide, and it says #seepeople. And it’s just a picture up close of someone’s eye looking out into the distance. And I talk about how people don’t feel anyone sees them.
And I’m surprised and saddened maybe how many people come up and say, “I feel invisible. I feel that people don’t see me in my family, at work, in this audience.” So this whole idea of putting your phone down and taking a little bit of time to just talk to people and see them as humans. They don’t have to be your best friend, just see them. And when you’re with people, choose people – probably is the thing that resonates the most.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And if folks want to learn more and get in touch, where do you put them?

Thom Singer

ThomSinger.com.

Pete Mockaitis

Not “Thom”Singer.com?

Thom Singer

It’s not “Thom”, no. It is Thom. So here’s the deal. How many Thomas’s do you know? Everybody is T-H-O-M-A-S. When they shorten it to “Tom” my question is, why did they take out the H? I just get rid of the “AS”.

Pete Mockaitis

Clever.

Thom Singer

Maybe stand-up’s not my thing.

Pete Mockaitis

[laugh] And do you have a final challenge or call-to-action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Thom Singer

Yeah, listen to podcasts like this one. I think the podcasts, the last five years they’ve really exploded. And I do a podcast – listen to mine. But I think the real big thing is I learn so much from listening to shows like yours and so many others, that I think when you’re out for your run, when you’re on the bike, when you’re going for a walk, when you’re in the car, whatever it is you’re doing where you can put ear buds in and just have a human university just broadcast into your head – there’s no way you’re not going to be better for it.
It’s like getting a Master’s degree. If you listen to the right people, you’re going to get all these ideas, these theories, these nuggets, these concepts. Some of them are going to stick. And so I think that listen to Pete’s show, listen to my show, listen to any one of the thousands of other shows that resonate with you. You cannot lose if you’re listening to the right stuff.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Thom – not “Thom” – this has been a lot of fun yet again. Please keep doing the great stuff that you’re doing, and keep on rocking out.

Thom Singer

This was great. And I don’t know why we didn’t have you on my show three years ago, but we’re going to get that scheduled before we hang up today.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome. Thank you.