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Mindset

446: Making Fear Your Friend with Judi Holler

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Judi Holler says: "Scary things don't get less scary, but you will get stronger. Keep going."

Judi Holler makes the case for exercising your bravery muscle and making fear your friend—one challenge at a time.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The small things we do each day that slow our long-term progress
  2. Why technology is a great servant but a terrible master
  3. How to deal with fear when it never goes away

About Judi

Judi Holler is a keynote speaker, author, and a professionally trained improviser and alumna of The Second City’s Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. Judi is a past president of Meeting Professionals International, Chicago Area Chapter, and was named one of the 40 under 40 in the meetings industry by Connect magazine in 2015

Judi’s book on Fear, titled “Fear Is My Homeboy: How to Slay Doubt, Boss Up, and Succeed on Your Own Terms”, was recently endorsed by Mel Robbins calling it: “relatable, relevant and most importantly ACTIONABLE!” Fear Is My Homeboy came out last week.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Judi Holler Interview Transcript

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

Judi Holler
I am honored to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, fun. Well, I am honored to have you here. And I think we’re going to have a lot of fun digging into some cool stuff. But I got a real kick out of your fun fact, which is you do some karaoke performances from time to time, and you’ve got a go-to “Caribbean Queen.” What’s the story here?

Judi Holler
Okay. So, Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen” is always my go-to karaoke. I have a few. I have a bag of tricks. But, you know what, listen, I always loved karaoke. Who doesn’t want to be a rock star? Who doesn’t want to be Beyoncé for just a minute? And I can’t sing to save my life, so karaoke, it’s just a great way to sort of play rock star, crack people up, improvise, which we’ll talk about later, and improv background, and just be goofy.

And so, Billy Ocean really kind of became one of my favorite songs because nobody sees it coming. It’s super old school. I’ve got a thing for yacht rock and like old R&B, and my mom used to like clean the house to like Lionel Ritchie and Billy Ocean, and so I kind of grew up listening to that song and I know all the lyrics, so it’s just great because no one sees it coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s really fun and what that reminded me of is that song, I remember when I was a kid, all the time there’d be this TV commercial for an ‘80s compilation CDs called “Totally ‘80s” or something like that.

Judi Holler
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, my buddy Ronnie and I like knew every word to this commercial because it was on so much. And our favorite part was when they show you one sample and move to the other, they didn’t really transition very well, so it was like, “Everybody wants to rule the…” “Caribbean Queen.” And I was like, “Do they want to rule the Caribbean Queen because that’s what it sounds like when you splice it together?” Oh, you brought me back, so thank you, yeah.

Judi Holler
That is amazing. Oh, yeah, Billy Ocean, it’s just old school, so there might a lot of people listening and they’d have to Google it up to find out who the heck he is. But that’s why I love it because no one sees it coming and, yeah, like ‘80s R&B.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m wondering if you’ve ever bumped into any Caribbean women, like, “I’m the Caribbean Queen”?

Judi Holler
Well, you know what, okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, in the bar or so when you’re there.

Judi Holler
Totally funny caveat to that. My husband and I honeymooned in the Caribbean, and they had musical performances in our hotel lobby, and we got to know the band because they were there a couple nights in a row and I’m not a shy sort of person. And I said, “Hey, do you guys do any Billy Ocean? You got Caribbean Queen?” And they were like, “Well, yeah.” These were American performers. And so, I’m not kidding you, we have a video footage of me doing “Caribbean Queen” in the Caribbean, the Caribbean as they say it, and it was just epic, and it was just amazing and people were kind of clapping, also awkwardly wondering what was happening. It was just magic.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s lovely.

Judi Holler
So, there you have it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it sounds as though you have, indeed, lived out the title of your book, Fear Is My Homeboy because it seems like you have befriended those sensations that, “Oh, I don’t know if I wanted to go up there and do that, and everyone is going to be looking at me, I don’t know.” So, could you sort of share with us kind of what’s the main idea behind this book here?

Judi Holler
Yeah, so the big idea behind the book is this, if I could have one page in my book, literally, one page in my book, it would say, “It doesn’t get easier. Scary things don’t get less scary, but you will get stronger. Keep going.” The big idea is that when you choose courage over comfort on purpose, almost every day you will start fearing less, which is how you pick up momentum, which is how you get stuff done, and it’s how you start succeeding in and outside of work the way you really want to succeed.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, yeah, that sounds great and I’d like to have some of that. So, maybe could you give us a little bit of a picture here when it comes to what are some of the ways that we frequently choose comfort and not courage to our detriment, particularly in a career context?

Judi Holler
Yes, so I really believe it’s all the small stuff we don’t do every day that ends up holding us back in the long run and really leads to regret. And I’m sort on a mission to remove the word “regret” from the dictionary because we’re too brave, we are too busy dancing with our fear. This means we’re getting stuff done.

And the main reason we’re not leveling up personally and professionally is because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to raise our hand in the sales meeting. We’re afraid to speak up in a meeting. We’re afraid to sit in the front row, or go for the promotion, or ask for the raise, or to promote ourselves, to talk about ourselves online, to toot our own horns.

So, I’m on a mission to stop that, and I think there’s a lot of unique things you could do to get uncomfortable every day to sort of mix up your routine to make sure that you’re staying in the driver’s seat of your life and not your fear.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s really interesting is that what this makes me think about is sort of all the little ways that we choose comfort instead of courage. And it’s like, in a way, I think I may have become, at least temporarily, a little bit less courageous than before only because I’m married now, you know. And my wife is awesome, and our kids are awesome. But there was a period of time in which I was, you know, meeting a lot of people and asking for a lot of dates, and I kind of got into a groove where I didn’t have that momentum such that I felt kind of bold and able to kind of ask for and do all kinds of things because I was in that regular habit.

Whereas, now, I’m kind of settled in and mostly working from home. And so, it seems like it does take me a little bit more of a push to think, “Okay, I’m going to send that email to ask for that opportunity. All right, we’re going to do it. Okay, I’ve put this off a couple of times, now is the time.” And it seems like that’s crept in a little bit more, which would follow your theory, that I’m kind of had fewer moments of choosing courage on a day-by-day basis and all kinds of other contexts.

Judi Holler
Well, think about it like this, Pete, like you just nailed it. Here’s the deal. If we don’t work that fear muscle, we will not work the fear muscle, just like when we go to the gym. We go to the gym and it’s hard at the beginning, right? But we keep going and we keep showing up and then we get stronger. And when we don’t go to the gym, we get weaker, right?

So, I look at it that way, like we have to be working that brave muscle. And so, when you’re not dating, and you’re in a relationship, right, you’re not out there doing that scary thing anymore but you, and I can bet my bottom dollar, doing all kinds of other uncomfortable things to move your life and your business forward, and that’s the real big idea.

We have to be doing something every day. Maybe it’s just something as simple as taking a different way home from work, right? Or, asking for a discount in a coffee shop, or just like taking a selfie of yourself in public to get better and not carrying what people think. But we have to work the brave muscle and, I tell you, this is how we fear less.

We shouldn’t be chasing the unrealistic goal of fearless. Because if you really think about it, if we were fearless, we would never pay our taxes, we would never go to a doctor, we’d walk down alleys at 4:00 in the morning by ourselves, at night, we would eat poisonous foods on purpose. Like, the goal shouldn’t be fearless because fearless could be dangerous in some situations.

So, the goal should always be brave. And how do we fear less? Well, the way you get to the other side, the way you fear less is by working that muscle, and you have to use it or you’ll lose it, so doing those small scary things every day. And sometimes, maybe some days, it’s a big scary thing. Maybe you’re leading a toxic relationship tomorrow, maybe you’re literally moving to a new city, maybe you decided to quit smoking. There are big things you could do for yourself as well, but it’s all those little small things that add up over time that really end up causing a lot of the problems, so we’ve got to work that fear muscle.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it there, you provided a few examples in terms of little things you can do every day to work that muscle, from asking for a discount in the coffee shop. And that came up with Jordan Harbinger, and a little bit of Ruth Soukup as well in those conversations. So, loving the reinforcements.

Judi Holler
So cool.

Pete Mockaitis
So, what are some other key things you recommend as means of working the fear muscle? You call it, is it the fear muscle or is the brave muscle?

Judi Holler
I guess you can say it either way. There is no wrong way to work that courage muscle, or fear muscle, or bravery muscle, whatever that looks like for you. I could give you an example of someone, and this could apply to your audience if you’ve got someone who’s leading a team, or maybe there’s someone in your audience and they’re working for someone else. I bet you have a little bit of both.

I have a client, who lives and works in downtown Chicago. She’s leading a team of about three or four people. And so, remember, the idea is to get uncomfortable, to mix up our routine. And so, she found herself really overwhelmed, and really stressed out, and exhausted and crabby and irritable. She just wasn’t succeeding the way she wanted to succeed. She wasn’t leveling up.

So, she started a fear I proposed in my keynote. I work primarily as an author and a keynote speaker. And one of the things I proposed in my keynotes is this idea of fear experiments, doing something small and scary and brave every day to advance yourself and get stronger. And so, I told her about this idea, and she said, “Okay, I’m going to try something on my own. I really need to get in front of my schedule.”

And I talk a lot about focus. And this can feel scary because it requires us to do things we’d never done before in our schedule and in our work lives. Most of us sit down and we literally, the first we do, maybe sometimes before you even get out of bed is we open our iPhones and we look at our email. It’s what we do, right? Or we’d check out social media.

So, she says, “I’m going to do a fear experiment, and I’m going to take the first, I’m not going to look at email until 9:00 a.m. every day. No emails.” So, she’s getting up at 7:00, she’s not looking at that phone, she’s not looking at her email, but she’s taking the first 60 minutes of her work day from 8:00 to 9:00 to move one small thing forward for herself or for her work first, and she started small with that first 60 minutes, just that first hour for a day. And you can even go as small as 30 minutes.

And what happened for her is she immediately started triggering momentum in her life because she started actually moving things forward which made the dopamine in her brain happy and it gave her confidence to keep going. And so, she saw it, she said, “Oh, okay, if I can do this in 60 minutes, what could I do if I did 90 minutes, if I grew this?”

And she didn’t look at email for 60 minutes, she didn’t take a phone call, she didn’t sit in meetings, again, advancing a goal before she was fine to the rest of world. That 60 minutes grew to like, I said, an hour and a half to 120 minutes. And today, most days, because there’s no perfect world, no perfect day, she doesn’t look at her email until noon.

And let me tell you, she is working in corporate America, she has a boss, she has a team, but she started small, bird by bird, and it took guts because she did not ask for permission. She just took the action and monitored her results because, after all, you are the CEO of you. And let me just tell you, Pete, what she did in a year.

So, because she started with this hour, and then it grew to like a 120 minutes, I don’t think she got to noon until like the second year of doing this, but in her first year of just protecting that first 90 minutes of her day, she lost 50 pounds because she started going to the gym in the morning, she read 19 business books. She was reading zero books. She reduced her staff turnover by like one person left in an entire left. They had had a really bad problem with turnover.

She got the certification that she had been trying to get for a long time. She grew tradeshow revenues at that organization by 25%. She watched like over, I could get this number wrong, 45 or 50 TED Talks. And she found herself happy, healthy, and this really bled into her personal life, so she was leveling up at work, leveling up at home, she got herself a promotion, she was making more money. And watching all these talks and reading all these books gave her a lot of great information to be able to have cool conversations at work, with her leadership, at the dinner table, at the networking event, sending them an email, to clients.

So, again, she started small but that took courage. It took her getting uncomfortable, literally not looking at her email, to open up a whole new door. I mean, she got a promotion on a video.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that example, too, because when we talk about fear, I think sometimes it’s natural to think about big, dramatic, scary fears, like, “Oh, I’m terrified of public speaking,” or heights, or you can sort of fill in the blank there. As opposed to, I don’t imagine she was terrified of not checking her email but it was uncomfortable. It was a little bit uneasy, like, “Oh, what if there’s something really important, and someone is waiting for me, and they’re like, ‘Hey, what’s the deal? How come you didn’t get back to me?’” As well as it’s a habit, it’s a groove that you’re in, so it just feels kind of off when you sort of reject that and don’t engage in it the first few times.

Judi Holler
And here’s the kicker, and this is new data, we are spending 6.3 hours a day on email. A day on average. The average worker is spending 6.3 hours a day on email. And you wonder why we’re not getting anything done. And we wonder why we feel stuck and irritable, and overwhelmed, and I’m doing air quotes here, “crazy busy,” right?

So, if we want to get out of this cycle of suck, we have to have the courage to try something new, to break a pattern, to flip the bad habit, and the more you do it, the better you get at it, and you’re going to start seeing results which welcomes momentum into your life party, and that’s really where all the magic lives.

It’s some staggering stuff, 55% of us are checking email after 11:00 p.m., 81% of workers are checking email, work email, on the weekends, 59% of us keep up with our work email while on vacation, you know what I mean? So, we wonder why we’re overwhelmed, and irritable, and crabby. We’re not turning off the machine, right?

When you hit the pause button on human beings, we actually start. It’s the opposite. So, we’ve got to be getting in control of this, and it takes courage to break some of those habits that are important. We need to be engaged. We need to be connected, certainly. But how do we make sure that we’re the boss? Technology is an incredible servant but a terrible master.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, intriguing. So, all right, well, that’s quite a case study in terms of tremendous results possible when you just sort of unplug a little bit from the technology. Sort of reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer stops drinking.

Judi Holler
Oh, my gosh.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, geez, all these phenomenal things.

Judi Holler
That’s hysterical. Perfect analogy.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s good. All right. So, anyway, I think we talked about a few things to sort of challenge yourself and to grow the muscle. I’d love to hear a few more things. So, that’s a great idea, is maybe you start with a few minutes away from the technology and maybe in the morning, and it’s high leverage there. What are some others you’d recommend?

Judi Holler
So, I would say it’s looking for, you know, and I think you’ve got to think about it mentally, too, because you’ve got to, I believe, when you’re managing fear and working with fear, knowledge is power. So, understanding, this is a big thing for, I think, everyone to understand. If you want to get better at fearing less, you can make more bold courageous moves in and outside of the workplace, you have to understand all of the sneaky ways that fear shows up. Fear is a trickster. It hides on purpose to trick you with the number one goal of getting you to stop, right?

Because if you keep going, if you do these new things, you become a version of yourself your fear has never seen before, and so fear doesn’t know what to do with that. So, understanding, I think, for me it was really big. I have a background in the improv theater, and I started to realize all of the sneaky ways that fear showed up to get me in my head as an improv performer. So, self-doubt is fear. Self-sabotage is fear’s way of stopping you.

Let’s not forget about procrastination. Just understanding, when I understood that procrastination is a way that fear shows up to stop you and block you is a powerful thing to get. For example, I was trying to finish a really meaty chapter of my book, and I was putting it off because I was afraid to sit down and do the work. So, I found myself for, literally, about 60 minutes, 45 minutes, organizing all of the drawers in my desk. I was on a deadline. I needed to finish this chapter of my book. But, boy, my office was clean, right?

And then I realized what I was doing. I was procrastinating instead of sitting down to do the work. So, the reason I shared this is because understanding that procrastination is sort of one of fear’s best friends is really a good thing to know so that you can move through it, right, and say, “Oh, hello, fear. I see you. I appreciate you. Do you ever take a day off? I don’t know if you do, but right now I don’t need you because I’m in control. I’ve got work to do, so have a seat on the other side of my desk and come back when I’m done, right?”

So, that was an a-ha moment for me, understanding that that’s just one of the many sneaky ways fear shows up. Perfectionism. Excuses. If you have someone on your team, someone in your life, that is making excuses for why they can’t do the thing, instead of getting frustrated and upset and trying to control, ask them what they’re afraid of because nine times out of ten there’s a fear on the other side of that excuse, you know, blame, gossip, jealousy, all of those are fear-based behaviors. So, just a few ways that fear mentally shows up. And I share them because we’ve got to be aware. Awareness holds our power.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’d love to get your take then, when it comes to this procrastination story, so you were avoiding writing a chapter of your book, and instead organizing your desk. So, what exactly was the fear there?

Judi Holler
Oh, my gosh, the fear of impostor syndrome creeping in, doubly fearing that, “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough.” It was a chapter that’s been, it was meaty. It was the chapter that is now chapters three and four. We actually ended up combining it into two chapters. But I was just afraid to start because I knew that if I sat down to do the work, I would have to sit down and do the work, and I would probably face a few things that I wasn’t comfortable with in building out and beating out that chapter. But a lot of it was impostor syndrome, worried that I wasn’t good enough.

And, by the way, once I finished the chapter, oh, my God, we’re moving forward, we’re moving forward, we’re putting a book out into the world. And so, there’s that. So, it was probably a combination of things mentally for me. And I think we all find our own internal demons, but there’s always usually something there. There’s always usually a reason. Anxiety. You know, you’re anxious and feeling fearful because maybe you feel that what you have isn’t good enough or whatever that may look like. But there’s usually always something living there.

If we’re procrastinating, okay, what are we afraid of? What is it? For me, it was about not being good enough, of not being smart enough, of not having a good chapter.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly. So, now, but you were not aware that that was what was going on at the surface level, it sounds like, at first.

Judi Holler
At first, I wasn’t, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, how did you get to that level of awareness?

Judi Holler
Well, in my research, and in really studying all the different things I was studying about fear, and then realizing that fear’s job is to stop you and to block you, and that self-doubt is a way it does that. Certainly, we self-sabotage, and procrastination is a form of self-sabotage. And that’s when it clicked, I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m sabotaging myself here. My office can get cleaned anytime, right? So, what am I doing here? It’s just busy work.”

And I, still to this day, do it. My husband always says, “You know when you’re stressed out,” because I’m either doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, mopping something, sweeping something. I do an activity, right, when my mind is filled with stress about something else. So, just understanding that stressors are triggers, right, to stop us from really sitting down and do the work.

So, I’ll give you a hack. If you’ve got someone listening that finds himself procrastinating, or not able to start something, what I did, and I write about this in my book, is I set a timer for 10 minutes because I believe so much in the magic of momentum. Because once we get a little juice, it helps us move forward.

So, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and I do this sometimes with working out as well when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I set a timer for 10 minutes, I say, “Okay, let me just do 10 minutes of the thing. And if I hit that 10 minutes and I don’t feel like it anymore, then I am not in the right mental space, the energy, the vibe isn’t right, and I stop the work. But if I have caught a vibe, and I feel good,” and nine times out of ten you will because you just welcomed momentum into the party, you just keep going, and then you keep going.

So, I find just even it’s the starting, that’s the problem. And sometimes 10 minutes can get you out of a funk. Just sit down to do the work for 10 minutes. Go sit on the bike. Go for a walk anywhere. If you’re not feeling it after 10 minutes, stop. And if you are, which most times you are, keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so now, I want to dig a little bit into your mindset and your title Fear Is My Homeboy. So, how do you think about fear in terms of befriending it as oppose to dominating and destroying it and you’re subjecting it to your fiery will of superiority? So, it sounds like that’s a different kind of a feel in terms of fear is your friend versus fear is something you were to punish and minimize. So, how do you think about that?

Judi Holler
Certainly. And here’s the deal, we have to work. I dance with my fear. I work with my fear because I realize that in my community, we call ourselves fear bosses because I’m the boss of my fear not you. Fear is never going to go away. Fear isn’t going to go anywhere. But I choose to dance with my fear. I choose to work with my fear. And in our community, we’re called fear bosses. This means we’re the boss, not our fear. So, I call the shots. And fear isn’t going anywhere.

So, fear, well, they’re very different for you at the age of 20, they will for you at the age of 50, what you fear, the things you fear, what keeps you up at night. And men and women, we internalize and externalize fears very differently. So, I got really awake to this idea that we’re never going to be able to get rid of our fears. This idea, this notion of fearless that everybody is telling us we need to be. I go back to that because it’s unrealistic.

So, why am I wasting my energy, my precious energy, trying to outrun something I’ll never be able to get rid of? Let’s work together. And, yes, I may feel fear. I may be afraid about whatever it is that I need to go to do, whether it’s going to a doctor’s appointment, or it’s making a phone call, but I know, yes, I’ll feel afraid, and I’ll never not feel afraid of things I feel afraid about, but I know because I know that fear is my homeboy. That if I keep going, if I keep doing small scary brave things every day, I will get stronger, and those scary things won’t be as bad. I’m now actually start fearing less, that’s the big idea, right? We’ve got to work with it. We dance together. We dance with our fear.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, then. So, you just sort of given up the idea that fear will ever be completely absent.

Judi Holler
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, in a way, yeah, it seems like fear is both your friend and your slave or colleague, I don’t know, if you’re the boss of it how you see that.

Judi Holler
What do they say? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, there you go.

Judi Holler
So, there you go, right? It’s this idea like, yeah, fear is not the best thing to have around. It can really destroy so many beautiful things that can happen for you. Yet, keeping that enemy close is a powerful way to get to know it and dance with it a little bit. So, that’s an analogy that may help people sort of mindset to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, so now, we’ve covered a lot of different potential things to do when it comes to fear. But I’d love to hear what do you think is just the most reliably outstanding, efficient, effective means of advancing when you are experiencing fear? Like, what is the thing you think is just the best?

Judi Holler
The thing. Action. Starting action. Action. Making the decision to go, and to do something, and to stop overthinking, and to stop self-doubting, and to stop overtalking. Just go do it. There are so many ideas and dreams and goals living inside of people all over the world and they’re waiting. They’re waiting for the right time, they’re waiting for, “Someday when the kids are grown. And someday I’ll have our money, and someday when I’m older. Oh, if I was only younger,” any excuses we make. So, starting is the hack, right? If you want a hack, that’s the hack.

So, momentum, again, I’m going back to that 10-minute timer. Just doing it, right, and propelling yourself into action. Mel Robbins has a great book The 5 Second Rule, right? That’s what the book is all about. It’s action. It’s starting. It’s momentum, right?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. And so, what would you say, on the counterpoint to that, is sort of like the most frequently arising mistake? Folks, they’re trying to do the stuff you’re saying, but they are kind of flubbing it. What is sort of the obstacle that’s popping up for them?

Judi Holler
Yes, I have one. It’s probably the number one question I get asked, this idea of, “Listen, I want to be more brave. I want to put myself out there. I want to promote myself and take more risks, and all of those things. But I don’t want to look like I’m bragging. I don’t want to look like I love myself. I don’t want people to judge me or make fun of me or not like me.” We get so worried about what other people are going to think. We’re so worried about publicly failing, or embarrassing ourselves, or people not liking us.

And here’s the hard, real truth, and this is a massive a-ha moment for me, and this will help you manage fear, and I hate to break it to you, but people already don’t like you. People are already judging you. And people are already making fun of you. So, the question is, “Who are you living your life for? Who are you running your business for? Who are you living for? You or everybody else?” So, the number one mistake people make is worrying way too much about what other people think. They’re already talking, you might as well give them something to talk about.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that’s really interesting perspective. I thought you were going to say, “Hey, for the most part, people are just aren’t paying much attention to you and they don’t really care because they’re wrapped up in their own lives.”

Judi Holler
It’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
But then you took it in the direction of, “They’re already making fun of you.”

Judi Holler
Right. I mean, I’m not saying everybody is making fun of you every day, but people are already talking about you, right? Look, we can’t control that or stop that. And people don’t care about you as much as we think they do, but we’re already being judged, right? It’s already happening, so live your life. That’s the point, right? Live your life.

Pete Mockaitis
And I really appreciate that when it comes to I think I’ve had an a-ha moment recently because we had a previous guest, Mindy Jensen from the Bigger Pockets money podcast. We talked about sort of money things. And she was just making a point how she just doesn’t care at all about what other people think with regard to her money decisions or if they think she’s a total cheapskate or whatever in these certain ways. And what I found interesting is that folks are going to judge you no matter what you choose in terms of like, so, it’s funny. We have two kids and we don’t own a car yet, right? So, hey, you’re in Chicago, so you know it. It’s not so essential especially when we’re really close by a Brown Line stop.

Judi Holler
Love it.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it’s on the list. We’re going to get to it pretty soon.

Judi Holler
So good. So good.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I sort of thought people judge me or imagine me to be foolish or, I don’t know, a bad dad, or broke, like, “Oh, Pete’s business must not be doing very well. He can’t even scrap together to get a used minivan or something.” So, whatever. And so then, I sort of just imagine that to be the case, I was like, “You know what, I’m fine. We’re going to wait till the time is right, till we get just the right vehicle.” And then I mentioned this to someone, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to get a car pretty soon, that’s long overdue.” And then that person said, “Why do you need a car for? The train lands right there.” That’s like, “Wow, you just judged me in the opposite way. I assumed everyone else is judging me.” Therefore, my assertion is that people will judge you good or bad whatever you choose.

Judi Holler
It’s so true.

Pete Mockaitis
Therefore, that’s not a useful or valid or helpful decision-making criterion, they’re going to do what they’re going to do.

Judi Holler
Correct. It’s a waste of time or energy. We can’t control people, places, or things. So, all we could do is control ourselves. So, when we take action, the courage to take action, and just to trust ourselves, I mean, that’s what the improv theater is all about, just really trusting ourselves. So, I love that your guest said that, like, “I don’t care what people think.” I learned that so big and clear in the improv theater at The Second City because there is so much power in looking silly and not caring, and just doing you. And it’ll inspire other people to want to do that as well.

And that’s what need more of in the world, to get a little woo-woo here. We need more people being themselves and doing things that light them up, right? So, yeah, it’s like a brave movement. We love watching people do brave things and be themselves because it makes us want to do more of that ourselves.

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

Judi Holler
No, I think that’s it. Like I said, if I could have one page in my book, it doesn’t get easier. Scary things don’t get less scary but you will get stronger. I think a big consequential mistake people make is they do one brave thing and then they stop, and they think that, “Okay, now I’ve done it. Now, I’ve got that brave thing going.” That’s how we miss opportunities and end up with a mediocre life. We’ve got keep going and it’s just consistent action little by little every day. We don’t need to do big scary things. We can start small and just still be very effective. So, that’s it in a nutshell.

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

Judi Holler
Yes. I would say I love the Steve Martin quote, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Love that.

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

Judi Holler
I would say, ooh, this is a good one. I recently read a study that showed, it was on happiness and laughter, that babies laugh about 400 times a day, and adults, we laugh, about 4 times a day. And that just certainly made me sad but it inspired me to bring more joy and laughter into my life. And I think joy and laughter is coming back into the workplace. And if we’re not having fun, what’s the point? We’ve got to sit at that fun table because we’re not laughing. We’re not a baby anymore, I get it. But laughter, for 400 to 4, how do we increase that laugh factor every day? And I loved that study.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you know, that is intriguing and I have thought that to myself, it’s like, “I would like to have some more laughs.” And, from time to time, I make a discovery, like, “Oh, my gosh, the TV show A.P. Bio is hysterical.”

Judi Holler
So good, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I binge all of those, it’s like, “Okay, now what do I do?” So, what do you do to bring in more laughs every day? I mean, you got your whole improv posse but outside that, yeah.

Judi Holler
You know what I do? I tell you this is brand new and I love this idea. I actually need to put it in my newsletter because it’s such a fun little hack. Because of this study, I have started watching on Netflix Stand-Up Comedy Specials, and I’ve been watching a lot of like “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, and those were like 15-20 minutes long. And I’m telling you, I watch about five of those “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” the other night while I was eating and making dinner because it’s all kind of in the same room. And I didn’t look at my phone once. I even forgot about my email. I forgot about the book launch. It was just so lovely to just sit there and laugh.

And so, that’s an easy thing someone could do. Just start like watching comedy specials and just let yourself laugh at the world because there is a lot of serious stuff going on, but if we’re not having fun, what’s the point? So, that’s a way to start laughing more.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that is fun and I’ve turned on the Spotify Comedy originals in there as I’m like taking a walk or whatever. And that’s great, yeah, because you don’t really need to look at it, you know. You can mostly listen to the Netflix Comedy Special, maybe you pop on some Bluetooth headphones.

Judi Holler
Correct. In your car, yup. Or, your, not car, your iPhone.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you just mix your ingredients.

Judi Holler
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. So, how about a favorite book?

Judi Holler
Favorite book, oh, my gosh. That’s a hard question. I have so many, but what I would say for this audience, I think what shifted me in a professional way, from a professional perspective, which really just changed the way I work, it’s a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we interviewed Greg.

Judi Holler
Oh, God, that book changed the way—you know that client I was telling you about, the first 60 minutes of her day, those ideas inspired a lot of those changes that she made and I made, and we just really all started working together to get in front of it and living like essentialists. So, that book is a game-changer. If you haven’t read it, go get you some.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about favorite habits.

Judi Holler
That’s definitely it, but I would say I use a goal-focused planner. I use a planner called the Volt Planner by a company called Ink and Volt. It is the number one tool in my business from a productivity standpoint that helps me living work like an essentialist, so I couldn’t live without it.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with readers and listeners?

Judi Holler
Yeah, I think my book comes out May 28, but there are a lot of folks that have had advanced copies, and one of the retailers are shipping early, and I think the quote that’s kind of getting tweeted a lot, and shared a lot, and have come up a lot even on podcasts is this one, “You can be a victim or you can be a badass. The choice is yours.”

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

Judi Holler
I would point them to, first and foremost, my website which is JudiHoller.com from a social media perspective. I am most active on Instagram, so @judiholler on Instagram, certainly on Facebook. And then I think those are the best ways to get in touch with me. And we’re doing a little freebie. I’ve got a little gift for your listeners. Do you want to share it or do you want me to share it?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yup, tell us.

Judi Holler
Okay. So, if you want to get to know a little bit more about me and kind of test drive my book without buying the book, we’re going to give you chapter one, in the beginning of the entire book, for free. And I’ve also included a couple of downloadable freebies. Most importantly, most specifically, my secret weapon which is my morning planner page.

And the way you get it is you text the word BRAVE to the number 474747, and you’ll get texted a little link, you click it, and then all of the downloadable freebies will be sent to your email once you enter your email.

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

Judi Holler
Just trust yourself. Trust yourself. What you have is good enough. And in the improv theater, we’re not trying to find the best thing, but we are always looking for the next thing. So, it’s all about momentum and moving the scenes forward on stage, you’ve got to do that for yourself. It’s about doing small things every day that are going to move your life forward. This is how you achieve results, fear less, and, of course, make fear your homeboy.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Judi, thanks for this. Good luck with the book and all your adventures.

Judi Holler
Oh, my gosh, thanks for listening.

441: Understanding Fear to Overcome It with Ruth Soukup

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Ruth Soukup says: "Action is the antidote to fear"

 

Ruth Soukup shares the seven Fear Archetypes so you can better understand and conquer your particular fear.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to identify your Fear Archetype™️ and use that knowledge to conquer your fear
  2. How to seek out honest feedback
  3. How to develop courage to take the first step past fear

About Ruth

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people overcome fear and create a life they love. Through her blog, Living Well Spending Less, which reaches more than 1 million people each month, she encourages her readers to follow their dreams and reach their goals. She is also the founder of the Living Well Planner® and Elite Blog Academy®, as well as the author of five bestselling books. Her practical advice has been featured in numerous publications and news programs, including Women’s Day, Redbook, Family Circle and Fox News. Her Do It Scared® podcast launched on April 30, 2018 and her next book, Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love (Harper Collins) will be available in May 2019.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ruth Soukup Interview Transcript

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

Ruth Soukup
Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom and in particular, I understand that you identify as a Harry Potter nerd. What’s the story here?

Ruth Soukup
That I do. I am a Harry Potter enthusiast I have to say, that probably does make me a huge super nerd, but I’m going to own it. I’m going to own it. I have read all of the books probably at least ten times each and that last one, number seven, which is my favorite, I’ve probably read at least 30 times. I just could read them over and over again from start to finish without stopping.

So thankfully, my 12-year-old daughter has actually inherited my love of all things Harry Potter. We get to now nerd out together. This summer we were in London and we went to the Warner Brothers’ studios, where they filmed all of the movies. My poor husband and my younger daughter had to bear with us as we nerded out to an epic proportion, but it was really, really great.

If you ever have a chance to go, I would highly recommend it. To see just the level of detail that they put into every movie and the sets and everything was so worth it, whether or not you’re a Harry Potter fan.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s impressive. Now you called yourself a Harry Potter enthusiast. I’ve heard the term, which I hadn’t heard before, a Potterhead. Is that common nomenclature?

Ruth Soukup
I’ve never got into the communities online. I kind of I guess maybe that’s my inner outcast coming out. I’ve also sort of just been independently nerdy, so I don’t know what the correct terminology is for that. But I would say Harry Potter super nerd would be an accurate description.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Understood. Cool beans. I’d also love to hear how you’ve applied some of your nerd-like enthusiasm for researching and getting some intriguing insights in your book, Do It Scared. Could you kick us off with what would you say is the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made while doing the work on this?

Ruth Soukup
That’s a great question. With Do It Scared I was really wanting to look into this question of why does fear hold us back. In my communities I see so many people, and women especially, who feel like they’re sitting on the sidelines of their own life, who are just afraid to jump in and there’s all these things holding them back from going after their goals and dreams wholeheartedly. It was a real problem.

I had so many people coming to me and saying, “I wish I could do this, but I just can’t.” I wanted to know why. I wanted to know why fear was holding us back and, more importantly, if there was anything that we could do about it. We ended up doing this gigantic research study surveying more than 4,000 people. I hired a whole team of researchers and psychologists to help me dive into the data.

But one of the most surprising things that we discovered was that all fear is not created equal. By that I mean there’s seven very, very unique and distinct ways that fear plays out in our lives because it’s a little bit different for everyone. We call these the seven fear archetypes.

Basically, what that means is that some people are afraid of making a mistake, while other people are afraid of rejection. Some people are afraid of authority or have an unhealthy fear of authority. Other people are afraid of being judged or letting people down.

How that fear plays out in your life really makes a huge difference in how it’s holding you back, but it also makes a huge difference because once you can identify how fear is holding you back, you can also start to do something about it and to overcome it. It was really, really fun research to do, but also really exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’ve already listed out some of these archetypes here, so fear of making mistake, fear of rejection, fear of authority, fear of being judged, fear of letting folks down. Is that five of seven? What are the other two?

Ruth Soukup
Let’s see. There’s the fear of not being capable and the fear of adversity. I believe that would bring all of them. They each have a name. The fear of making a mistake is the procrastinator archetype and that’s really another name for perfectionism. That one is actually the most common of all the archetypes.

Then there’s the people pleaser, which is the fear of being judged or the fear of what other people will say and letting down people. That is the second most common one. They go on from there. If you want me to keep going, I can keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it. Yeah.

Ruth Soukup
Yeah, so the next one after that is the rule follower. The rule follower is an unhealthy fear of authority. It’s just sort of this deep-seated fear of ever coloring outside of the lines or doing anything that you’re not supposed to do even though you don’t always know who’s telling that you’re supposed to do it a certain way.

You just sort of have this feeling all the time that there’s certain things are supposed to be done a certain way and if you don’t do it right, you’re going to get in trouble, whether that’s accurate or not.

The fourth fear archetype is the outcast. That is the fear of rejection. The funny thing with outcasts is that they tend to reject other people before they can be rejected. They’re so afraid of rejection that they reject others first as almost like a proactive way of not being rejected.

A lot of times outcasts will appear on the surface to be fearless, but the truth is that they’re very afraid of being rejected by other people, so they sort of put up this armor to protect themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
You say outcasts, I just can’t stop thinking, Hey ya.

Ruth Soukup
That’s true. Different kind of outcast. Different kind of outcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Let’s hear the rest. Let’s hear the rest.

Ruth Soukup
Yeah. Then there is the excuse maker. The excuse maker is afraid of taking responsibility, also known as the blame shifter. The excuse maker is the one who never wants to have anything pinned on them. We can probably all think of somebody in our life who is like that, where just cannot be pinned down, won’t take responsibility for their actions. But where that comes from is just a deep fear of taking responsibility. They don’t want to be held responsible.

There’s also the self-doubter, which is the fear of not being capable. A lot of times for the self-doubter that will play out in hyper criticism towards themselves and others. If you’ve ever known anyone who just seems like they are never happy, never satisfied, always nitpicking people that might be a sign of a self-doubter in your life, somebody that’s a self-doubter. Or if you find yourself doing that a lot, that might be your main fear archetype.

Then the final one is the pessimist. The pessimist is usually someone who has had a lot of adversity or hard things happen in their life and they’re therefore most afraid of pain or adversity or of hard things happening again. That makes them just sort of stuck and not want to try.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. That’s a nice run down there. Your assertion is that we tend to have one of these that is the most dominant for us.

Ruth Soukup
Yes. Most people have one that is more dominant than others. You might have two or three that are all fairly dominant and they sort of interact and play together. But there’s usually at least one or two. We all have traits of all seven of the fear archetypes, but sometimes some are far less prevalent than others.

But the way that they play out in our lives is really relevant because if you don’t know the way that – what your underlying fear is, you don’t know how it’s affecting you. But once you do know, once you’re able to identify that fear in your life and start to see those patterns of behavior and to start recognize the negative self-talk that happens in our heads without us even really realizing it.

So much of this stuff happens subconsciously. As soon as you shine a light on it and start to see it in your life, that’s when you’re able to start overcoming it and start creating solutions that will allow you to move past it and not be held stuck anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you maybe illuminate, what is some self-talk that shows up and that we might not even recognize because it’s just there in the background all the time? Any key words and phrases that pop up a lot?

Ruth Soukup
Sure. Well, again, that is different for everyone, but I’ll give myself as an example for this one because I actually had this happen to me fairly recently. Like I said at the beginning, I’m the outcast archetype. My deepest fear is rejection.

That has been something that really, I’ve started to recognize recently, probably in lieu of all of this fear studies that I’ve been doing. But I’ve started to really see how the outcast fear archetype is playing out in my life and how that fear of rejection holds me back in certain areas of my life and of my business.

Specifically I have an online business. I have an online company. I have always sort of approached my business from a I-don’t-need-anybody-else standpoint of “I’m going to grow this by myself. I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to ever be dependent on anyone else.” Yet, as my business has grown, I’ve really seen ways in which that – being unwilling to reach out to people and to ask for help or to ask for favors or to ask people for things has held me back.

Even to pitch someone to say, “Hey, I see you have this podcast. Can I be a guest on your podcast?” or to promote myself in that way. That’s always been really, really hard for me. What that really is is a deep, deep-seated fear of rejection. I reject everyone before they can reject me.

And it was funny I was with – I have a mastermind group that I call my truth club. I was with them maybe a few weeks ago. They, of course, know that my archetype is the outcast, so as good friends should do, they definitely called me out on it and were really pushing me and really challenged me to stop hiding basically behind this fear of rejection.

They challenged me to – we were specifically talking about media and PR and pitching yourself to different media outlets – so they challenged me in 24 hours I had to pitch myself to 20 people and that I knew were going to reject me just to get used to the idea of being rejected. It was terrifying to me, absolutely terrifying and yet, because they are my friends, because I believe in accountability, I took their advice and I did it and I did the challenge.

You know what? It was so incredibly freeing to finally sort of break through this fear that rejection was the worst thing that could ever happen to me because as it turned out it wasn’t that bad and as it turned out several of these people that I reached out to actually said yes and not no even though I had been sure that every single one of them was going to say no. It was just a really good lesson for me.

This is something I work with on a daily basis, but it was still a great lesson for me that when you know what your fear is, then that’s when you can start to create solutions to overcome it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve got me thinking now. It’s like well, here you are on my media outlet. It’s like how did this happen. I guess your publicist, Ashley, at NardiMedia.com was the emailer. I guess that’s another strategy. You can do a little bit out outsourcing.

Ruth Soukup
That has been the strategy that I’ve used is to hire a publicist to do it for me so that I don’t have to personally be rejected, but that’s where my friends were calling me on it. They said, “No, it’s better if you start making connections yourself. You have to start doing it yourself.” I’m like, “Oh, I don’t want to,” but I did.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for sharing that. It’s really resonating as I’m thinking – this is always sort of my game as a podcaster it’s like it’s for the listeners, but it’s also for me. It’s like which follow up question am I going to ask? Is it the one that serves me or the one that I think is going to serve the most listeners? Usually I give it to the listeners, but for now I’m trying to zero in on mine.

I think about when I’m not reaching out – because I’ve done the same thing. It’s like I would like to be on more podcasts. I’ve seen it results in great growth for my show and it’s fun. I haven’t made a lot of requests and I think it’s part of the procrastinator perfection thing.

Ruth Soukup
Well, that makes sense because that’s a very common fear archetype.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I say things to myself like, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe after my show is at six million downloads that will sound more impressive than five million downloads when I make this request.” It probably is already fine in terms of packing a punch, like “Oh five million downloads, Forbes, New York Times, blah, blah, blah.” That will probably pack enough credibility/authority/power to get over that hump.

And yet, I sort of wonder. It’s like, “Well, I don’t know. I should probably research their show more because I don’t like getting irrelevant pitches, so I should really know it intimately, but how intimately. Is listening to five episodes enough or is that not nearly enough?” So yeah. Well, hey, it’s the most common archetype. I’ve maybe got it, so hey, double win.

Ruth Soukup
Well, yours could be like maybe a combination of a little bit procrastinator and a little bit outcast in the same thing. Those two can really interplay together because the procrastinator is most afraid of getting it wrong, making a mistake and not having things be perfect. You always feel like there’s a little bit more that you could be doing.

Procrastinators a lot of times, in fact a lot of times people will realize that that’s their archetype but they’ll think, “I never thought of myself as a procrastinator. I definitely have thought of myself as a perfectionist.”

But what perfectionists will do is they will try to get so far ahead of things and so far out ahead of a deadline so that they can be tweaking up until the very last minute because it’s never quite right or they’ll avoid doing things at all because they don’t want to make a mistake or because it won’t be perfect.

[15:00]

It sounds like you’ve got a little bit of that going on, but also a little bit of “Hm, I don’t want to take the chance of putting myself out there because they might say no because I’m not good enough.” That’s a little bit of your inner outcast coming out too.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear you. I think when it comes to rejection in this realm, I don’t think it would hurt my feelings too much, like “Aw,” but from a business opportunity, it would be like, “Oh, dang it! Did I blow it? If I worked it a little bit better or differently, could I have nailed this and now this door is closed to me and I’m bummed because I did it wrong and if I had done it right, then this door wouldn’t be closed to me.” I guess I don’t feel like a loser.

I’ll tell you, it is great therapy to be rejected. I remember my first book collecting dozens of rejection letters, just, was very nourishing to the soul. It’s like, “Oh hey, this doesn’t hurt so bad after all.”

Ruth Soukup
After a while you start to get used to it, but yeah, it takes a little while. Well, we do have an assessment that you can actually go and take the assessment and discover what your archetype is.

You can find that at DoItScared.com if you’re interested in figuring out what exactly – because sometimes it can be a little hard to nail down and that’s where the assessment comes in and helps you really hone in on what your top one is and the premium assessment will actually show you where you rank on all seven of them so you can really see what your top ones are and how they interplay together.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You are bringing back some memories in terms of fear. I remember at Bain & Company that was sort of an expectation. They called Zero Defect Analysis, which means you’re not allowed to make mistakes, which is terrifying, like that’s in your review.

Ruth Soukup
That would make things really terrifying for a procrastinator slash perfectionist.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, what, we’re not allowed to make mistakes. I guess, over time it became clear, you’re not allowed to make a mathematical or factual error that the client catches. It’s sort of like, take a moment to double check your stuff and don’t get caught being wrong, which is still a high bar, but not as terrifying as it originally felt when I said, “Excuse me, what is the standard here exactly?”

But it was good lessons in terms of sharpening some skills. But yeah, it was spooky for a little while as young associate consultants are getting up to speed on that skill set.

Ruth Soukup
Yeah, for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, well memories. Now, let’s see. We’ve got some of these particular archetypes mapped out, the lay of the land, the diagnosis, and so I’d love to hear – I’m sure that there are sort of particular prescriptions for each of these, but because that may take a while, could you maybe share with us some of the universal prescriptions, like-

Ruth Soukup
Universal prescriptions.

Pete Mockaitis
That help everybody.

Ruth Soukup
Yes, yeah. Well, one of the most important things that you can keep in mind when you’re talking about fear is first of all that figuring out what your fear is matters so much because that’s where you can start to identify it and start to see where it might be holding you back. But when it comes to overcoming it, the most important thing that you need to know is that action is the antidote to fear.

If you want to start to overcome your fear, the first thing that you need to do is take any step, any step at all in the right direction towards whatever it is that you want to go after, towards facing your fears.

Back to the example that I gave you, the action that I took was my friends said, “Hey, your outcast fear is holding you back. You are afraid of rejection and you’re not putting yourself out there, so what you need to do is go pitch yourself to 20 people in the next 24 hours even through you know you’ll be rejected.”

My choice at that point was to say, “Whatever, you guys are full of it and I don’t care because I’m not going to do it,” because literally it was terrifying to me. It was panic-inducing fear of just the thought of that. As they were confronting me, I was standing up. I was pacing around the room. My arms were crossed. There was yelling going on. I did not want to do this.

My choice then was to ignore them completely and to not do it and to sit in my fear or my choice was to take action and to actually do that thing that they were challenging me to do. I took the action. What I realized is that once again, action is the antidote to fear. As I took the action, that was the cure, taking a step, doing the thing that you’re afraid of.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” That is it. That’s the answer most of the time to fear is to just – sometimes it just has to be the tiniest step in the right direction. Sometimes that’s all you can do is the tiniest step in the right direction, but just taking that step will give you the courage to take the next step and then the next step. Courage is like a muscle, so the more you exercise it, the stronger it’s going to get.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and that’s interesting when you talk about fear and how it manifests you said that you were terrifying and panic inducing. I guess – I don’t experience that much when it comes to stuff, but I think my fear can show up as kind of discomfort and resistance. It’s like, “Eh, I don’t really know about that just yet. There’s probably something better/different/alternative a little later.” That’s interesting.

Could you maybe talk about sort of the flavors by which fear is being experienced because I think maybe if some folks are saying, “Hm, I don’t really experience that panic-inducing thing much. I guess I don’t have fear.” What would you say to them?

Ruth Soukup
Well, fear happens on different levels for different people too. It’s important to realize that too, which is one really cool thing about our fear assessment is that it will actually give you a measure of your overall level of fear and how much it might be impacting you. Some people score off the charts in certain archetypes, some people are fairly low in all of them and there’s one that’s a little more prevalent, but it’s still fairly low. In that case, you might not be experiencing fear in that way.

Now, for me, my outcast is off the charts and everything else for me is fairly low. It really, really depends on where you’re scoring for that. Like you said, it might just be a resistance or something where you avoid things because you don’t want to do them and you just think, “Hm, I don’t really want to do them,” and you’re not even necessarily identifying it as a specific fear in your life and yet it’s holding you back because you’re not doing it. You’re not taking that action. You’re not taking that step.

In that case, you’re probably a little bit luckier because if you’re not having that panic-inducing fear that’s really holding you back, then that’s a little bit easier to say, “Okay, I’m going to take this step. I’m going to take this action and see how it goes.” The more you’re willing to do that, the more you’re willing to take that action, the better the results are and the more you realize, “Oh, I don’t have to let this fear hold me back,” or “Oh, this really isn’t as bad as I thought it’s going to be.”

For you, as being a procrastinator slash perfectionist, the best thing that you could possibly do is to push yourself to make some mistakes and to be okay with making mistakes because every time you do something and make a mistake and it’s not the end of the world, it helps you develop that capacity and the ability to next time realize, “Okay, I can do this and if I make a mistake, it’s not going to be the end of the world.

If I put myself out there before I have six million or seven million listeners to my podcast, and they say no, that’s not the end of the world. I can always ask again and I can always ask again. It’s not that big of a deal. Depending on where you fall within your archetype and the level, it really depends on then what the solution and the cure is.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, Ruth, when you say I can always ask again, that strikes me as a profound revelation.

Ruth Soukup
Really?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. It was like, “Oh yeah, I guess you can,” which is interesting. That kind of gets me thinking that another potential antidote here is just some of the conversation. You’ve mentioned you’ve got your accountability or mastermind posse, The Truth Seekers, The Truth Club?

Ruth Soukup
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And that helped out right there.

Ruth Soukup
And that is actually one of the universal recommendations also is to create accountability in your life, to put people in your life who will speak truth to you. That’s not always easy because there’s a lot of people who don’t want to tell us the truth, who don’t want to be confrontational and a lot of times we surround ourselves intentionally with people who will tell us what we want to hear.

Intentionally putting people in your life who will push back, who will give you the honest truth, who won’t always just tell you what you want to hear, but will actually push to make you better, that is so, so important.

It is one of the best things that you can ever do for yourself is to create accountability partners in your life or to find those people that you can really trust to say the things that nobody else will say to you because those are the people that are going to push you to be your best self and to push past your comfort zone into the place where you’re pushing past fear.

That’s also the place where all the good stuff happens, where you get to go after your biggest goals and dreams and actually create the life that you love.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, well, I’m all about doing just that, so great perspective there. Hugely transformative. I want to talk a bit more about the tiny step business. If folks are – I think that’s one great tactic right there. It’s like, identifying what’s the tiniest possible step. Then if folks are even scared to take that tiny possible step, what do you do? Is there any particular mantras or mottos or kind of power up tips?

Ruth Soukup
My mantra is definitely ‘Do it scared.’ Honestly, that sounds so simple and obviously that’s the title of the book. That’s the title of my podcast. But truly that mantra works whether you’re 10 years old or 100 years old. It really does.

I see it all the time because ‘Do it scared’ has been my own personal motto for so long. It’s been one of the core values of my company since I started my company and then it’s something that I really seen be embraced by the members in my community.

I see all the time in our Facebook groups, people say, “Oh, Ruth says ‘Do it scared.’ I’m doing it scared. This is my do it scared moment.” Even my daughter, we went a few weeks ago to one of those high ropes course things. She’s like, “Mommy, I was so scared, but I just kept saying ‘Do it scared, do it scared, do it scared’ the whole time. ‘Do it scared’ that’s all I could think. ‘Do it scared’ and then I was brave enough to do it.”

Sometimes you just need to chant that in your head. Really what that means is that courage doesn’t mean that you’re never afraid. Courage is taking action despite your fear. It’s doing the one thing and then doing the next thing. Sometimes you just have to tell yourself that over and over, “I just have to take this one step. If I can take this one step, then I can take the next one.”

I think sometimes also we think that we have to have everything all figured out. That is especially true when it comes to these creating goals and dreams for our lives or having these goals and dreams in our head that we were too afraid to pursue.

We don’t pursue them because we think we’re supposed to know every step along the way and that we have to have it perfect and that we have to – we’re afraid of what people are going to say about us or say to us or that they won’t understand or they won’t get it or that we’ll get it wrong. There’s all of these fears that come into play sometimes all at the same time, sometimes one more prevalently than others.

But really, we don’t have to have it all figured out all at once. We just have to take one step. Sometimes when you take that one step, the next step becomes more clear and then the next step becomes more clear after that. Before you know it, you look back and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did all of that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. You also talk about developing core beliefs that help us overcome fear. I imagine some beliefs get shaped just by taking those actions over time repeatedly. Do you have any other approaches to go about forming and strengthening these core beliefs?

Ruth Soukup
Well, yeah, so in the book, Do it Scared, I talk about the principles of courage. There’s several that are really important. Some we’ve sort of touched on a little bit. One is there are no mistakes, only lessons.

That one is – for somebody like yourself, that’s a really important one. In fact, it sort of came out when I said, “What’s the worst that can happen? You can always just ask again.” That was a revelation to you to realize if it goes wrong the first time, you can always try it again. You can always try something else. There’s no time and there’s no mistake that’s so big that you can’t recover from. I feel like I’m living proof of that.

I actually talk about this quite extensively in the book, but when I was in my early 20s, I went through a terrible depression, really, really bad. It was my senior year of college. I ended up attempting suicide multiple times, ended up hospitalized for almost two and a half years, had multiple suicide attempts in that time. It was just really, really, really bad. As bad as you can imagine a depression would be, that was it.

At the end of it, found myself divorced, bankrupt, completely alone. All the people who had tried to be my friends along the way, I had either made them so mad or so frustrated that they had pretty much abandoned me, had nothing left. I had no money. I had no education because I had dropped out of school.

I literally had nothing and somehow from that managed by taking one step and then the next step and then the next step after that over a course of several years, ended up finding my way back to having, first of all, a normal life and then finishing school and getting married and having two beautiful kids and then starting a business that has now grown to be this seven-figure empire.

I really look at that as kind of the proof that if you think that – as badly as you think that you’ve screwed up in your life, I promise you it’s probably not as bad as I screwed up. And if I can go from that hot mess that I was 15 years ago to where I am today, then there really is hope for anyone on the planet. And that’s where it’s so important to just take one step and the next step and the next step after that.

I truly believe in my heart of hearts that there are no mistakes, only lessons and if you can start to adapt that mentality, then you stop fearing that you were going to make a mistake. That’s such a big fear for so many people is this fear of making a mistake, but realizing that every mistake you make brings you to the next point in your life and you can look back and go, “Oh, that was amazing. I learned from that. Now I can take it and do my next thing.”

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

Ruth Soukup
Well, I want to make sure that you know that Do It Scared is available wherever books are sold.

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

Ruth Soukup
Favorite quote. I think I already shared it, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

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

Ruth Soukup
I’ve got to say – well, aside from this fear research that we’ve done recently, I really love the research that Jim Collins does in all of his books, but especially in Good to Great and Built to Last. Those are two of my favorite business books. I read them all the time.

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

Ruth Soukup
Favorite tool. Oh my goodness, I think the Freedom app is pretty amazing. It keeps me focused on a daily basis. I don’t know if you’ve used that before. You can connect it on to all of your devices and then set the timer and it locks you out of all distractions while you try to focus.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Ruth Soukup
Getting up at four AM every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I have to ask about this in more detail. When do you go to sleep at night?

Ruth Soukup
Usually by nine.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, okay. That works out. Any naps in the day?

Ruth Soukup
Nope, no naps. I am not a napper. The only time I ever nap is if I’m sick.

But yes, I am a morning person to the core. Sometimes I even get up at three just because I feel like it. I really do like getting up early. I love having the time in the morning when nobody else is up and the whole world is just yours. I find that that’s my time to get my best work done and just have the quiet where no one else on the planet is crazy enough to get up that early, so it’s all mine.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you wake up without an alarm, just naturally at about that time?

Ruth Soukup
I use the Sleep Cycle app, which is another one of my favorite tools, but, honestly, I don’t usually set my alarm on the weekends and I still wake up that early.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, cool. Well, nice work. Now could you share with us a favorite nugget, something you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get retweeted frequently?

Ruth Soukup
My favorite nugget is “Action is the antidote to fear.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I was totally already planning on using it as the pulled quote for our episode, so it’s a good one.

Ruth Soukup
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
You have great taste. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Ruth Soukup
Absolutely. Definitely go to DoItScared.com. That’s where you can find out more about the book. You can find the podcast and you can take the assessment and find out your fear archetype.

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

Ruth Soukup
I think that it’s really important to find out where fear is impacting your life so that you can be more awesome at your job. It truly is – it’s amazing once you start to identify those patterns in your life, how it sort of changes everything and can help you break through any of the resistance that you’ve been facing.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Ruth this has been a ton of fun. I wish you lots of luck and adventures as you do things scared and come out the other side. It’s been a treat.

Ruth Soukup
Thanks so much for having me. It was great to be here.

433: Boosting Your Goal Motivation and Completion with Tom Ziglar

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Tom Ziglar says: "The fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits."

Tom Ziglar shares best practices for motivation and goal-setting (AKA problem-solving).

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why and how to articulate your “why”
  2. The seven-step Ziglar goal-setting/problem-solving system
  3. How to transform a bad habit into a good one

About Tom

Tom Ziglar is the proud son of Zig Ziglar and the CEO of Ziglar, Inc. He joined the Zig Ziglar corporation in 1987 and climbed from working in the warehouse to sales, to management, and then on to leadership. Today, he speaks around the world; hosts The Ziglar Show, one of the top-ranked business podcasts; and carries on the Ziglar philosophy, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” He and his wife, have one daughter and reside in Plano, Texas.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Tom Ziglar Interview Transcript

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

Tom Ziglar
What a blessing to be on, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, thank you. Well, I am excited to dig into this goodness. I have seen your podcast many, many times, dancing around in the rankings. And so I felt honored to be in such good company as Ziglar. Because my dad and I — I remember one of my fond memories — we listened to an audio cassette tape called Goals, starring Zig Ziglar when I was growing up, and I thought, “This is pretty cool.” And I got into all this stuff. That was one of the very first things I could point to, was that audio tape playing in the car with my dad.

Tom Ziglar  
That is awesome. And you know, that’s a story I hear wherever I travel. Somebody will come up, and they’ll be like, “I grew up listening to your dad in the car,” and I’m like, “Me, too!” It’s just good. It’s good.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I wanted to ask if you could maybe give us a bit of a picture and a story for what it was like growing up with Zig Ziglar himself, the legend, as your father.

Tom Ziglar  
Well, I’ll tell you this, he was better off the stage than he was on stage. And of course, everybody who saw him thought he was maybe as good as he ever was on stage. And what I mean by that is, he really walked his talk. And one of my good friends said, “You know, your dad walks his talk, and he’s a pretty good talker.”

But at the same time, dad was an introvert. So when he was at the house, he was kind of quiet. He was always reading. Whenever we had family time together, he was always engaged. And it was just a blessing to know that he was there for us. And then when he had a teaching moment, he didn’t tell us what to do. Instead, he just asked us questions. So that was pretty clever.

I mean, here’s a world class expert. You know, millions of people, you know, read his books and followed him. And then we would come up with, “Hey, I want to do this,” or “What do you think about that?” Instead of just giving us the answer, because he obviously had it, he would turn around and then ask us the question that made us think through it. So that was something that I’m trying to emulate as I grow.

Pete Mockaitis  
That is a nice encapsulation there of the power of questions. Because, indeed, you know, here’s someone who’s got a lot of answers and shared a lot of answers to a lot of people, and this is the approach he takes for teaching. So well, that’s beautiful. A beautiful memory. Thank you.

You’ve got a recent book called Choose to Win out. what was maybe the most surprising or fascinating discovery you made while you were putting this together?

Tom Ziglar  
Probably, this is a discovery out the book that kind of got it started. I was speaking in Australia. And right before the first break, a guy raises his hand — I love questions. And he says, “Tom, what is the fastest way to success?” And I’ve never been asked that question. I’m 54, at that time, I was 50. So I’d been in the business for 50 years, raised in it.

And I never heard that question posed. It was always, you know, “What do successful people do?” or “What are the three keys to being successful?” But this guy wanted to know what is the fastest way? And so I, in that split moment, had to make up an answer. And so just out of my mouth, I said, “Well, the fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits.” And then we went to break. I didn’t think anything of it.

When we came back from break, and the host there, his name is Steve McKnight. He said, “Hey, before I bring Tom on, get out your pens. Did you hear what he said right before break? He said ‘The fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits.’”

Well, Pete, I didn’t realize I’d said that. So I literally got my pen out, and I wrote it down. And I’m kind of like, in the back of my brain, because I’ve grown up, I’m like, “You know, who did I just quote?” That night, I thought about it the whole time. That night, I went back to my room and looked it up on the internet. Nobody had said it that way, so I claimed it.

That kind of became the anchor quote of the book. And so then I started a program, a webinar series that I teach. And I started teaching what I wanted to put in the book. And I did that for two years. So pretty much about 45 weeks. For two years in a row, I taught sections of what I thought should go into the book. And that was the discovery, is putting information out there. And then getting all the feedback from all the people on all these webinars, where their questions were. And that’s kind of how it all came together.

So the discovery was that the simple things that I grew up with and took for granted. That’s not common knowledge or common practice. And there’s so much information out there that overcomplicates things. And so that’s why I tried to put the book the way I did. The byline is ‘transform your life, one simple choice at a time.’ And all I have is a good choice made over and over again.

And so, that’s kind of how we started off. Dad said it’s “Putting the cookies on the lower shelf.” And so every week, I would try to put the cookies on the lowest shelf possible. And that’s kind of how the book got honed.

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah, intriguing. Well, so then, is that then the big idea underneath all of us? To win is going about replacing bad habits with good habits?

Tom Ziglar  
That is the big idea. If you’re reading and writing and speaking and doing things, you’re always trying to find the next new thing — or not necessarily a new thing, but a new way to say it. And I’ve come across this quote that I love, and I’m trying to track down who said it first. But the quote is, “A tree’s fruitfulness depends on its rootfulness.” And so the idea is real simple.

As you listen to this, what fruit do you want on your tree? What’s the fruit you want? Well, most people, they want to sleep good. They want good physical health, they want money, they want good relationships. So you just kind of fill in your tree with the fruit that you want. What are the things in life that we want? So what are the roots that nourish the fruit?

Well, there are seven roots: mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal and career. And then here’s the essence of the quote: the fastest way to success is replace bad habits with good habits. Habits are what nourish the roots. And so what fruit do you want? What root feeds the fruit? And what habits do you have that nourish the root? And that’s really the book in a nutshell, and it’s in its design, where on a weekly basis, I can make progress to whatever goal, aspiration or dream I have.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, that’s cool. And that’s a good feeling, to be in that zone of regular recurring weekly progress. Could you whet our appetite, if you will, by sharing an inspiring story of someone who really read the book, took these concepts, and ran with it in terms of, “Hey, this is the fruit I want. This is the root I’m nourishing, and these are the habits I’m adopting,” and how they went after it with gusto.

Tom Ziglar
I’ll give you two. The book has been out now just a little more than a month. So you know, I’m getting notes all the time. But we’ve got about a month’s worth of results. Somebody who I’ve known forever, a good friend of mine, his name is Michael Norton. He got the book right away right when it was published. And then I was with him a couple of weeks later, and he gave me back the book that he’d bought. And underneath it, in the book, he had underlined and marked almost every page in the book.

And he wrote me this long inscription. And he said, “One year from today, you and I are going to meet, and we’re going to go through this book again.” And this is a guy who I think knows everything, right? He knows my stuff. He knows what we’ve been doing in Ziglar for years. And then I’m talking to him a couple of weeks later, and he’s read the book two more times since then!

And it’s not like he’s a slow learner or anything, okay? What he’s doing is he’s going back to the foundation. And he’s getting real clarity on the specific goals that he wants to achieve. And the book talks about legacy, and the difference between success, significance and legacy. And so what he’s doing right now is he is intentionally creating habits that will leave a legacy. And so that’s the path that he’s on.

I did a workshop for a group, and there was a family there. And they put in practice one of the things that I teach in the book, and that is, they took words that they wanted their family to be known for. And they had a bunch of kids, young kids all the way from three until, I believe, 11. Hollis family.

And they got ahead of family meaning, and they say, “What do we want to be known for?” And the whole family started putting in words, and they made an acronym around the word HOUSE. And so now, you can walk up to any of their kids, and you can you can ask them, “What’s a house?” and they will tell you. And it’s the reputation they want to have. And so they’re doing things every single day with their family to instill those principles and values, those words that make a difference.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s cool. That’s cool. And so in the case of Michael, I guess, for example, what are the particular fruits he’s after? And the habits he’s implementing?

Tom Ziglar  
While we’re talking, I’m opening up a text from him.

Pete Mockaitis  
Real time.

Tom Ziglar  
Real time, baby. Yeah, real time.

Tom Ziglar
Yeah. So this is what he wrote. So in chapter one, I talked about what is a goal or a dream that you have. So here’s what he wrote me: “Chapter one, homework. The Dream House. It’s a house on the beach with a big front porch. I can hear the crashing of the waves and the general laughing of the waves against the shoreline. The salt air fills the home to the point where everything smells like the beach.

“There are enough bedrooms and sofas and space for air mattresses where the whole family can gather and friends can stay. It’s a home where I have a large enough area to host business associates and clients. The annoyance of having to sweep or vacuum the sand every day is swept away by the magnificent view, the salty air, and the sounds of the ocean. It is filled with the smell of suntan lotion and squeals of joy, laughter, children playing in the sand or in the water.

“There are waves just the right size to body surf. And I teach my children and grandchildren how to body surf. There is an ice cream shop just blocks away — and I might even own it — that I take the family to at the end of the day or after dinner. We are close enough to the boardwalk with rides, arcades, and miniature golf and boardwalk through the house that’s close enough to a real golf course, where we can play and enjoy time together.

“There is a library in the house where I can sit and read and do my devotions and spend time in prayer. The front porch can serve the same purpose on those beautiful mornings where the weather cooperates. The house faces the sun. So we wake to God’s sunrise and beauty. The house is a home built on love and forgiveness, kindness, generosity, togetherness, faith and joy.”

So in that chapter, I basically say, you know, we’ve got to create our “why”, the future that we want, what is it that we aspire to? And I just gave an example of my dream home, what I want in the book. And so he sent me his. And that’s cool, because whenever we speak words, and we put a definition around in it, our mind goes to work immediately to fulfill it. And so it’s one of the things that happens.

It’s a habit that you see with anybody who’s achieved a certain level of success anywhere, is they have a way of looking into the future, and creating it, and speaking it out and casting the vision. And so he’s put it in writing, and he sent it to me, and I’m sure he shared it with his wife. And, you know, they’re thinking about what it is that they want to have.

Pete Mockaitis  
And it’s very vivid, you know, there’s a lot of great imagery there with regard to the smells.

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, and I talked about that in the book, because you want to get all your senses involved: your touch, your smell, your taste, the feel, what you hear, what you see. When you do those things, that makes it more real in our brain.

You know, it’s one of the things about TV, and why it’s so damaging, is it puts our brain to sleep because the imagination doesn’t have to do anything. But when we read or listen, our imagination has to fill in the gaps. So that’s why a book or a podcast or something where there is no visual, our brain has to fill in the gaps. We can put ourselves in that place, or we can create our own while we’re listening or reading.

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah, that’s cool. So we had a real clear picture of the fruits that we’re after with regard to that home. And so then, can you walk us through the process? So where do we go from there?

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, so the “why”. People come to me all the time, and they will say things like, “Tom, I’m not sure if what I’m doing is the right thing.”

And so we have a conversation around the “what”, and I’ll go back and I’ll say, “You know, the “what” is important, but it’s not as important as the “why”.” And so before we even get to the “what”, I like to know why they want to do something. And when we get to the “why”, and somebody buys into the “why”, like they’ve identified their purpose, their calling, what it is that they’re meant to do, and they hone in on that, then what happens is that that transforms into the “how”.

When your “how” is inspired by “why”, people take notice of the “how”. And so you can see this, and people who are, you know, you think they’re passionate about what they do, but underneath it is why they’re doing it, and when their “why” forms their “how”, everybody says, “Can you come help me over here?” “Can you do this?”

Well, let’s suppose that you’ve got your “why”, and it’s driving you. Well, now you need a game plan for the “how”. And that’s one of the things that we talked about in the book, in accomplishing anything in life.

There are three things that have to happen. We have to have the right mindset. And in other words, mindset is simply the habit of right thinking. So we’ve got to get our thinking right. The second, we’ve got to have the habit of right implementing. We got to do the right things, right? We’ve got to make sure that we’re on track, implementing the right things. And then we got to have the habit of right planning.

So if we implement the wrong things, that’s no good. So we get the right mindset, we plan it out, and then we take action on it. And so the book really goes through the process of, “How do I take a thought, a dream, a goal, and aspiration, and make it tangible into a plan of action?” And then, “How do I take action on that plan of action?” And the action is really, it boils down to simple choices made over and over again.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so those are the things associated with getting what you want and what you’re after. I’d like to talk about establishing that “why”. We had David Meade, who worked with Simon Sinek on some of this stuff earlier. But I’d love to get your take on how you go about articulating a “why”, or discovering the “why” and really bringing it right to the surface.

Tom Ziglar  
I think the thing that I use as an illustration, it’s three circles that overlap in the middle. So imagine three separate circles. And they kind of overlap in the middle, and where all three overlap. That’s what I call your sweet spot. That’s where you go hunting. And of course, in our business, we work with business owners and executives and people from all walks of life. But we also work with a lot of people who are faith-based.

And one of the things that’s interesting to me about faith-based people is a lot of times, they will hesitate. They won’t claim their “why”, because they don’t want to be wrong, you know, like, “What if I put a stake in the ground, and I’m wrong? That’s not my calling.” And so what they do is they get trapped in this Neverland, right? They get trapped of never fully 100% going all in. And that’s always a mistake. Because when you go all in for something, at least you’re going to find out faster, if it’s in the right direction. If you go halfway, you’re going to waste a lot of time.

So let’s look at those three circles. The first circle is, you can call it the “passion circle”. You could call it “What makes my heart saying ‘It’s the thing that you do’”, that time flies, it’s easy for you. It’s something that, you know, you anticipate, you don’t have to wake up for, the alarm doesn’t have to go off. You know, it’s kind of that thing that that makes your heart sing. That’s the first circle.

The second circle is, what problem do you solve? And this one is, you’ve got to do some searching on this. And you look back in your history, and, what kind of problems do people bring you? You know, are they people problems? Are they business problems? Are they math problems? Are they relationship problems? And what is that telling you? That’s a clue. That’s something that you’re good at. And so what problem do you solve is another way of saying “What are my natural gifts and talents? What am I good at?”

And the third one is, what’s the obstacle you’ve overcome? The scar that you have? The mountain that you’ve climbed? In other words, in your life, in all of us, if you live long enough, you’ve got a trial, a tribulation, a problem, something that happened. It could be something beyond your control, you know? You could come from a broken home or have a disease or be in an accident, or it could be a bad decision that you make that you wish you could take back. And if that’s the case, you know, now you’re living with the consequences.

And so if you’ve overcome that, if you’ve gone through time, and you’ve kind of you’ve worked your way through it, and you’ve learned, boy, that is a that’s a powerful thing. When you talk about the people who have the greatest impact on others, almost always, they’ve overcome some huge challenge in their life, some pit that they had to crawl out of.

And so look at these three circles: the thing that makes your heart sing, your gifts and talents, what you’re naturally good at, and the obstacle that you’ve overcome.

And where those three circles kind of overlap, that might be your sweet spot. Because that’s where you’ve got a real-world experience where you have literally compassion and empathy for other people going through the same thing. Because you’ve had a burden there. You’ve got gifts and talents, and you’ve got a passion to help.

And so that’s how I help people in one area find their way. The other is, you know, just ask yourself the question, “What is it in your life that’s most important?” Like at the end of your life? What do you want to be known for? And so when you start to pull all these things together, it will start to tell you a direction to go in.

When my daughter was young — she was a junior in high school, we actually took her up to Chicago, and we went to see a psychologist. It was like a two-and-a-half day testing of her aptitude and her natural abilities. And at the end — it was a two-and-a-half hour interview with the psychologist on the feedback — and what we were trying to do was to figure out, you know, what should we study in school? What direction should I point my life, right? Because I’m going to be applying to colleges; I’m not sure what I want, which direction should I go.

And instead of having a 360-degree opportunity of “I could go any direction,” they kind of gave her some pies to go after. And they said it could be anything in this area. But that’s the direction. Here’s the one line that I took away from that. The psychologist said, “Pay attention to the things you don’t like.”

Because a lot of times, the sweet job, the great opportunity has all the bells and whistles that you’re excited about it. One or two layers down, it might have a whole list of things that you just don’t like, you can’t stand. And that’s as important to you as you discover your gifts and talents, and your “whys”, what do you want most? And what are the things that drive you nuts? Because they shouldn’t be in the same place.

Now, all of us have to do things along the way, that isn’t our favorite thing to do. But we need to make sure that we understand what those are, so that we can be competent enough to excel in our gifts and talents.

Pete Mockaitis  
Mm-hmm. Okay, very cool. So in this world, we got the passion, the problem, the obstacle, we’re sort of in that zone, we’ve got a real nice image associated with what you’re going after. Can you now share a little bit of some of the tactical process, step-by-step stuff when it comes to goal setting, in particular. I love some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to goal setting.

Tom Ziglar  
About a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago, I was talking with a friend who’s a consultant.

And he said to me, “You know that in the world, about 20% of the people are naturally goal setters. They like setting goals. 80% are actually problem solvers.” They like the checklist, right? “They’d like to wake up in the morning, solve a bunch of problems, and then do it again the next day.” And that was a new thing for me. And then I realized, “Wait a second, only 3% of the population takes the time to have a written down goals plan. It’s actually less than 3%!” So now it makes sense.

So the first do or don’t is this: when we talk about goal setting, we have a very specific seven-step process that we outlined in the book of how to set a goal. If you raise your hand and you say, “But Tom, I’m more of a problem solver.” Then I say fantastic! And I’ll give you a high five. And all I want you to do is change the word, from “Ziglar goal setting system” to “Ziglar problem solving system”.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay. That’s pretty easy.

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, because it’s the same system either way. And so I’ll just give you an example. Step one is to identify the goal that you want to achieve. And so, gosh, you know, Michael identified that goal of he wanted his dream house, okay? Well, for a problem solver, it could be the same thing.

Well, what’s the problem? The problem is, I don’t like where I’m living. I’d really rather live somewhere else. So the problem I want to solve is I want to move from this to this. But for whatever reason, it’s more of a psychological hack, I guess it’s easier for a problem solver to say, “Okay, now I can set up a sequence of problems to solve,” whereas a goal achiever is thinking, “Okay, these are habits that I’ve got to implement.”

But the reality is they’re the same: the habits and the problems that I solved are the same when working with young people. Gosh, you know, let’s say you have a kid, 8 years old, 10 years old, 12 years old, and they want to be a college athlete. They want to play basketball or golf at the university. And you say, “Fantastic, I’m all for you.” And they go out, and they practice real hard. And the next day, they’re not practicing at all. What do you do when you come back?

And you say, “Hey, I thought you wanted to be a college basketball player?” “Well, I do.” “Well, let me ask you a question: What’s the benefit to them being a college basketball player? And so you let the person, whether they’re your child, or whether they’re an adult in the workplace, you let them tell you what the benefits are. So that’s step two. Step one is, “This is what I want to be,” step two is what are the benefits.

This is overlooked all the time, it’s usually very passing. You know, my goal is to weigh 185. That means I got to lose 20 pounds. So my goal was to weigh 185.

If I’m a problem solver, my problem is as I weigh 205, what are the benefits to solving this problem? What are the benefits to achieving this goal? The more benefits that we list — and the list should be long — the more likely it is that we’re going to follow through. It’s not just look better and feel better. It’s reduced medical expense, it’s better clarity of mind, it’s better relationships, it’s more confidence when I go out in the business world.

It’s all the things, that it’s being able to chase my grandkids someday, because I have good health. So the more benefits that we write in, the better. And so we go through the seven-step process. Number three is what are the major obstacles and mountains to climb that I’ve got to solve? That will keep me from getting there. If I’m trying to lose weight — man, I’m lazy.

My obstacle is, I’ve got to create a habit right out of the gate. If I’m working out at a certain time, every day before I get tired, you know, then I’ve got to figure out the skills and knowledge I need to get there. What don’t I know that I need to know in order to make that happen? And then the people to work with, and then finally the plan of action to get there and a date.

But it starts with the mindset. “Hey, this is what I want. This is why it’s a benefit.” And then we do the plan. And we detail out the plan, identifying the obstacles and barriers before we get started. Because they shouldn’t be a surprise when they come. We should relish them when we come, because now we’re prepared in advance to handle them.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, that’s awesome. So all right, step one, identify the goal. Step two, identify the benefits with a long list. Step three, zero in on the major mountains and obstacles that are going to get your way. Step four, zero in on the missing knowledge, what you don’t yet know that you need to know. And step five, the people you’ve got collaborate with to get there. Step six, the plan of action. Step seven, the date. Is that right?

Tom Ziglar
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And so when we talk about a couple things, what’s your take on smart goals? Because I see some of those things here with regard to — aren’t we out of date? So it’s timed, we identify the goal. So it’s specific. What do you think about the other elements there?

Tom Ziglar  
You know, let’s talk about reasonable, realistic. People ask all the time, “Well, what’s a realistic goal?” and I tell them, “A goal needs to be realistic in two senses: one is that, first off, it’s realistic in the sense that if you start tomorrow, you’ll get there in the timeframe with a reasonable likelihood of achieving it.”

Because if my goal is to lose 100 pounds in 30 days, that’s not realistic.

But if my goal is to lose five pounds in two years, that’s not a good goal either, right? Because I can gain 50 pounds, and then only have to lose 55 in the next year. So so the deadline that we put on, it needs to be something where I need to take action right away. If you’re not willing to take action on it right away— I know that it’s hard for people to really work on more than four goals at a time. It’s just our capacity and what we’re trying to do. So I would rather somebody pick four goals that they will take action on right away.

And if you’re new to goal setting, here’s something else. Just have one. Get really good at one, you know, work the plan for one and then add one and then add one. So that’s a great way to get started. And then there’s goals that give leverage to everything else, the way you start your day. I call it the perfect start. If you have that goal right, then it enhances everything else you do.

Physical, anything physical is going to be a multiplier for everything else you do. When we’re in good physical shape, we have more clarity, we have more energy, there’s a lot of things that happen with that. So realistic, is really around the timeframe and the priority. One of the other things that we do in the book is we create a filter. And the filter is a series of questions to make sure that it’s the right goal for you.

And we can look around how many people do you know who are accountants or engineers or doctors who are no longer practicing right now? Yeah, they went to school because somebody along the way said, “Hey, you’re good at math, or you’re good at biology.” And so they just assumed, “Hey, that’s who I’m supposed to be.” And then they go through all that work. And they realize, “Wait a second, this doesn’t fit my “why”. This doesn’t give me satisfaction. This isn’t what I was put here on earth to do. This isn’t my calling.”

And so what we say is this: there’s only one thing worse than not setting a goal. And that’s setting the wrong goal and achieving it. And so we want to be real clear on what it is that we want. And we do that through a series of filtering questions.

Pete Mockaitis
And what are the questions?

Tom Ziglar  
There’s a couple of them. Is it morally right and fair to everyone concerned? I’ll give you an example. When my daughter was a senior in high school, I knew it was going to be her last year at home. Because she was going to go off to college, and then knowing her, she’s going to get an apartment when she gets back as soon as she can. She’s very independent. And so in her senior year of high school, if I’d set a goal to be a competitive triathlete, then that would have been a commitment of four to six hours of training a day, on top of my workload.

And what that would mean is I wouldn’t have any time to be with my daughter in her last year in the house.

So that would be a goal that wasn’t morally fair to her, right? Because she’s more important than that. So that’s one question you can ask, then you’ve got to ask questions like, “Will it make me happier, healthier? Will it make me prosperous? Will it give me peace of mind? Will it have better relationships? Help in the future?” All these things? If I can’t answer yes to any of those things, then why do I want it?

And then another one is, it can’t contradict one of my other goals. For example, say your goal is to have great health. And then your other goal is to win the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating contest. You can’t do those simultaneously and be on track. So those are some of the type questions that we put through the filter. Also, probably the easiest one, you know, what’s your goal? What is your dream? You write it down and then you ask yourself the “why” question: “Why do I want that?” And if you can’t, in one sentence, clearly identify why you want it, take it off the list.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. That’s good. Well, finally here, I’d like to zero in on when it comes to the habits. You know, it may be that the fastest way to reach success is to replace bad habits with good habits, but it’s perhaps not the most immediately easy and painless way to get to success. So what are some of your tactical tips for the actual elimination of the bad habits and the development of a good habit?

Tom Ziglar  
You know, I’ll just cite a study that I read, because it kind of validates the whole thing. They took two groups of people who needed to lose a good amount of weight. And they said, “How many of you would like to lose weight?” They volunteered for this because they all wanted to run a 5k, and they all needed to lose like 20 pounds or more. And so they knew that getting in shape to run a 5k would help them lose the weight.

So one group, they said, “Okay, we’re going to run that 5k in 90 days. Go figure it out, just start jogging four or five times a week. You know what to do, right? It’s common sense.” The other group, they said to them, “How many of you watch TV every day?” And so, of course, they all raised their hand. And they said, “Well, for this first week, could you commit to watching TV 30 minutes a day and standing up while you do it?”

So they all said yes. And they all said, “Wait a second, we’re supposed to be getting in shape.” And they said, “It’s okay, we got a plan.” So these people who were watching TV anyway, the first week, what they did is they watch TV standing up. Right? Then the second week, they came back to them. And they said, “Hey, when the commercials come on, and you’re standing up during that thirty-minute section, could you walk in place during the commercials?”

So they all said, “Yeah, we can do that.” Well, then the next week, they said, “Hey, when the commercials Come on, can you walk outside to your mailbox and come back in?” Well, eventually they had them walking to the end of the block and coming back and then jogging out to the end of the block and coming back long.

And the short of it is that of the first group who they said “Just go exercise, you know what to do.” I think only about 30% of them completed the 5k. Almost 90% of the people who incrementally changed a bad habit for a good habit finished the 5k.

And so what we’re talking about, we call it the “persistent consistency” or “the block and a mailbox” plan. My father is famous for his weight loss journey. He said he got checked out by the doctor, they cleared him to jog, and the first time he jogged, he jogged to jog the block.

The second day, he jogged a block and a mailbox. The third day, he jogged a block and two mailboxes. And so what he did is he kept adding a mailbox until he did a whole block, and then two blocks, and then a half a mile, and then a mile.

That is, I think, the key of habits, is we take a bad habit, a little tiny, termite-sized, bad habit. And we replace it with a little bitty termite-sized good habit. And then we build. And so every day, every week, we do just a little bit more. And that’s the way careers are made, and reputations are built, and businesses are created.

It’s that long-term goal of, “Hey, I’m just going to get a little bit better every single day. And how am I going to do that? I’m going to take the things that are keeping me from achieving what I want out of my life and replace them with things that are going to take me closer to what I want and put them in my life.”

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah, I really love that. Because we just get so darn simple, like, “Well, I could stand up, and I’m watching TV. Sure.” You make that easy. Then if you almost feel like… I don’t know what the word is, like you would feel foolish to not do that. You’re like, “Come on, I can do that.” And it’s because of that, there’s very little resistance, mentally or internally, with regard to like, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

It’s just like, “Of course, yeah, I can. And in fact, if I didn’t, I would feel silly, not doing this tiny thing.” That is the challenge before me. And I really dig that with regard to, in this specific context of habits. That’s cool. We had BJ Fogg talking about tiny habits. Earlier, we had David Allen talking about making your list just so crystal clear.

Like, what is just the next action, right? I’m going to look up a phone number, I could look up a phone number. That’s, you know, as opposed to, you know, figure out that the next car I’m going to buy. Well, that’s a lot more complex and intimidating. But that’s really fun. And the results prove it out, like, they got the job done with regard to finishing the 5k at a way higher rate. That’s awesome.

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, I was in Nashville with some friends. I was with Dan Miller, a great guy, and with his grandson, Caleb. So we’re having dinner. And Caleb looks at me, and I’d give them both of them the book and Caleb says, “How do I know if I have a bad habit?” And he’s either 23 or 24? I think. So he’s a young guy. And it seems like on the surface, that seems like, “Why are you asking that question?”

But if you dig in a little bit, it’s a fantastic question. Because here’s the reality: You don’t know if you have a bad habit, unless you have a clearly defined “why”, a goal or aspiration, right? You just don’t know. Because here’s the definition: A bad habit is something that takes you further away from where you want to go. That’s all it is. A good habit is something that takes you closer to where you want to go. If your goal was to get lung cancer, smoking would be a fantastic habit.

So that’s where I think a lot of people, they go, “I gotta get in shape. I need to do this, I need to do that.” But they never take the time to drive it with the “why”. And so they give up because they can’t tell, “Is this taking me closer to or further from my “why”? Because I don’t have one.”

But as soon as you have one, and if you make it vivid, you know, like Michael did in his dream home — he made it vivid — if you make your “why” vivid, and you can smell it, taste it, feel it, and then as you go through the day, and you’re about to do something, you can literally look at the cheesecake card as it goes by and you can say, “Yeah, those won’t take me closer to my goal,” and you just keep walking.

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

Tom Ziglar  
No, that’s really the essence of the book. There’s a lot of how-to in there. I have like 50 habits that you can use to achieve top performance in your career, 20 habits or 20 things you can do to create energy in your personal life. And these are all super, super actionable and simple things. And so the book is just filled with this. And we look at every area of life, because success in life is about balance. And so we never want to be so one-sided. It’s never just about that the career or just about one area of life. It’s about everything. And that’s the way we approach it.

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

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, my favorite all-time quote is from my father, it’s “You are what you are and where you are, because of what’s gone into your mind. And you can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” So in a nutshell, the number one lesson that I learned was we choose our input. And when we choose our input, that determines everything else.

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

Tom Ziglar  
You know, I’ve got a bunch of them. I love Thou Shall Prosper, and Business Secrets of the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Bob Beaudine wrote The Power of Who and Two Chairs, which is amazing. And I just read Dr. Tim Irwin’s book, Extraordinary Influence, which is fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, thank you. How about a favorite tool, something you use to help you be awesome at your job?

Tom Ziglar  
Well, right now, I am on a block and a mailbox, physical, you know, get in shape. And so I have an app on my phone that is measuring my heartbeat and everything on the elliptical that we have. So it’s like every day, I just got to do a little bit better than a day before. And that is powerful.

Pete Mockaitis  
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your audiences and readers?

Tom Ziglar  
There’s a couple. One’s already shared: a tree’s fruitfulness depends on its rootfulness. And here’s a little insight into that, you know, because we already talked about it. But what nourishes roots on a tree are pure water nourishes roots, and so does fertilizer. So, in our life, what nourishes us are words of life, things, knowledge and information, and inspiration that give us the courage do something we haven’t done before, that nourishes us. But you know, what else nourishes us are the trials and tribulations the big truck backing up with the pile of manure that covers us.

If we look at that, the obstacles, the things that happened to us as opportunities, and what’s the nutrition that our roots can get out of, and the rest just becomes a foundation that changes our view of life. And once again, our mindset and how we see things will determine as much as anything as to how successful we’re going to be.

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

Tom Ziglar  
The easiest place to find this is ziglar.com. You can find the book there, and also, Choose to Win.

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

Tom Ziglar  
Ultimately, everything you do, boils down to this. It’s a choice.

Everything you do… now, not choosing is a choice, too. And so here’s the thing, what is it that you want to become? Who do you want to become? What do you want to do? What do you want to have? And then what are the choices that you can make that will take you closer to who you want to become what you want to do and what you want to have? That’s the key.

Pete Mockaitis  
Tom, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you and the book, Choose to Win, all kinds of luck, and keep doing what you’re doing.

Tom Ziglar  
Thank you. I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much, Pete.

428: No Job Can Give You Meaning and Other Intriguing Insights into Work with Ellen Ruppel Shell

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Ellen Ruppel Shell says: "Making meaning from our work is very much a do-it-yourself proposition."

Writer Ellen Ruppel Shell shares thoughtful perspectives on work and its future in a time of radical change.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why no employer can give you meaning
  2. What people actually want in a job
  3. How and why to engage in job crafting

About Ellen

Ellen Ruppel Shell is a correspondent for The Atlantic, and co-directs the graduate program in Science Journalism at Boston University. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, The Smithsonian, Slate, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, O, Scientific American, andScience.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ellen Ruppel Shell Interview Transcript

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

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Thanks for having me, Pete. I’m really looking forward to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. Well, I’m excited to chat with you for numerous reasons, and one of them is you have such an impressive writing career in terms of, well, all of the cool places to write, you’ve written pretty much. But, so I wanted to hear what was one or two or three of your all-time favorite pieces and why?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
I’ve always liked writing for the Atlantic, which was my home for some time— which is, for those of you listeners who don’t know what it is, it’s a magazine. It used to come out of Boston, now it comes out of Washington. And my favorite pieces for them usually involved issues of science and technology.

And I recall one in particular I enjoyed writing, which was based in Kosrae, Micronesia, if you can believe that. It’s a remote island, took a very long time, almost two days to get there, going by way of Hawaii and Guam, and then a puddle hopper to the small island. And I was reporting a piece about the fact that the folks on Kosrae, Micronesia show so… such a propensity toward obesity, okay?

That at the entire island— I don’t want to say everyone on the island, but the majority of people on the island are quite overweight. And I went there to write a piece about the biological basis of behavior, and an example I was using was obesity. And so, it was a very interesting place to report and a very interesting piece to write. And I went ahead and did a book on that topic.

So, that was a really fun and interesting story, but I’ve done other interesting pieces. You know, I did the first many years ago… I did the Flight Into the Ozone Hole and went down to put— the name is Chile, the southernmost city on the planet, and reported from there about this historic play to find out what was causing the ozone hole, which was an amazing experience, because the scientists there actually found the smoking gun. So that was a pretty cool project.

I’ve been to Africa to report on malaria there. And I just had such a fortunate, you know… I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to write fascinating things, and people have been very generous in helping me out. So it’s hard to pinpoint what I enjoy doing most.

I have to say, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done is this book that we’re about to talk about, The Job and the Future of Work. That was really challenging.

What I enjoyed, again, about doing it, was being able to talk to people all over the country — and even in various countries around the world — about an issue that, I think presses very hard on most of our minds these days. So that was also a terrific experience.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I’m excited to dig into it. And so, why don’t we just go right for the gold right away? Tell me — you said this is difficult — what was perhaps the most surprising and fascinating thing you discovered when digging in and doing the work to research this book?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Well, you know, I’ll tell you why it was difficult. And in fact, I’ll tell you, frankly, that for a long time, I tried to avoid writing this book.

But I decided I really couldn’t avoid it, to answer your question about what was most surprising, I’d say in recording the book. Well, I went to Finland, and there I learned about the wife carrying championships, okay? Which by the way, Finland holds the world championship record. And wife carrying up, I’d say that was the most surprising thing. And I actually— if you can go and look on YouTube and watch this, it’s astonishing. It’s a national sport. That is you run— a tall man runs with small wives on their backs up through obstacle courses, and it’s quite an event. So the most surprising thing was that, I’d say, okay?

But if these are the topics at hand that, you know, work and its future in a time of radical change, as the title indicates, I’d say that one of the most interesting things I discovered was that no employer can gift us with meaningful work, okay? I mean, the idea that an employer or a job can gift us with meaning is a myth, and that making meaning from our work is very much a do-it-yourself proposition.

And that gave me a lot of food for thought, you know? What does that mean? How does one make meaning of one’s work? Why is it that an employer cannot make meaning for us? What are the various factors involved? And how do each of us make meaning in our own way? I mean, how does this work?

All that was, to me, kind of a revelation, and gave me food for thought, both as, you know, someone who works and someone who is a college professor and teaches folks who will be working or are working, but will have the whole working life in front of them. And also, as a parent, you know, what do I tell my kids? So that I’d say was the, you know, one of the more important messages is of the book on a personal level.

Pete Mockaitis  
Mm hmm. Well, that is a juicy thesis statement there. And it really is pregnant with implication when it comes to, you know, taking that responsibility. And there may even be a temptation to say, “No, no, no, no, no. Some jobs certainly are intrinsically meaningful, and mine ain’t one of them.!”

So, I love it. If you can have a little devil’s advocate, if you will, for let’s say… I’m just going to just try to imagine a job that seems to have a bunch of intrinsic meaning, okay? “I am responsible for determining how and where malaria, mosquito prevention nets, get placed, thereby, you know, saving many, many, many lives super cost effectively.” Okay, so I’ve tried to put you on the spot here.

So that’s what strikes me as intrinsically meaningful, like, “Whoa, all right, people will live and die based on my decision, and we’re helping a lot of people survive.” So… but I still would need to make my own meaning there?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Pete, that’s actually a pretty easy one.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
I must say, remember, I told you I wrote a cover story on malaria for the Atlantic years ago, and I can tell you that putting out those nets does not guarantee that he was going to use them. When I was in Africa, I found that they, in fact, didn’t; they were too hot for many people.

So the question would be that does that mean, if you discovered that people were not using your nets, that you would no longer have meaning in your job?

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s a bummer.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Yeah, so let’s take a step back. You know, you really stepped on it, in that particular case, but I hear what you’re saying. So you’re saying some jobs are intrinsically meaningful, that means no matter who does them, they’re meaningful. Well, you know, I’ll beg to differ on that. And I gave a very brief example on my book, which was my father, right?

My father was a pediatrician. And one cannot imagine someone thinking that a pediatrician wouldn’t, you know, just find his work or her work just, by its nature, meaningful. I would say my father found his work useful and worth doing, because he did save lives, and he did help kids, and he worked in the inner city, where I grew up.

And, you know, he had a job that, you know, I think all of us would think of is worthwhile. But he didn’t. What he took meaning from most was gardening. And, yeah, he found that he didn’t love people that much, he really liked plants. And his hobby was gardening; he had a rock garden. And that was something that he took great meaning from.

His job, which he did well, and he was deciduous about, was important to him. And it was a piece, you know, it was the way he made his living. But the way he expressed himself, and what he took most meaning from, was his hobby. And I think that’s true for many of us, that, you know, we are told we should make meaning of our work, or our work should be meaningful.

You know, I found evidence that companies from Walmart to Apple were telling— were recruiting people with with a message: “We will give you meaning. We will make meaning for you.” And, you know, I agree that some Walmart greeters do find their work meaningful, but then finding work meaningful because they make it so, okay? Not because these are, by nature, meaningful jobs.

And so, that’s— I think that might seem like a minor distinction, but it’s really not. And I think once we all understand that we each make meaning in our own way, and that our employer cannot gift us with this, that we have to do it in our own way, I think it’s a great relief, because some of us will not find meaning in our jobs.

We’ll want to do our jobs well, we’ll take some satisfaction in our jobs, we’ll make a living through our jobs, but we’ll make meaning in other ways. And that’s a great relief.

I think I mentioned in the book that I wrote a little essay for the Atlantic about work, and I asked readers to respond. And I got a huge, huge response to this, probably more a bigger response I’ve gotten to anything I’ve ever written. And that actually didn’t surprise me so much, because I knew this, you know, as I said before, I knew this was a topic on everyone’s mind.

But what did surprise me was how many of these people were just starting out in the working world. They were recent, typically recent college graduates, and each of these recent college graduates, almost to a person, was quite dissatisfied with their jobs. And the reason they were was because they didn’t find their jobs, quote, “meaningful.”

And so what they were doing, many of them was to work longer hours because they thought it was their failure, that these jobs should be meaningful, and they didn’t understand, you know, why they weren’t making any from them. So they work longer hours. Of course, that contributed to a vicious cycle: they became even more dissatisfied, and they were really frustrated.

So, you know, one solution to this is to look at your job as important and valid and worthwhile, but not the source, the central source of meaning in your life. And I think years ago, most people did regard their jobs in that way. But in recent years, certainly, since the birth of internet culture, we’ve been told that we should feel passionate about our jobs, and we should make meaning from our jobs. And for many of us, that’s very unrealistic.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I’m intrigued. How does one go about making meaning, either in a job or outside a job? And how do you know— you said for me, it’s unrealistic. How do you know if there’s just no hope for a given job?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
You know, let’s be careful that there is hope, because it’s very hopeful to be able to go to a job each day or to tackle it— so, for those of us who work at home, to tackle a job each day and take satisfaction out of simply solving, you know, a problem. And again, you know, supporting a family, we are supporting oneself, these are very important things. These are critical things.

So, people you know, they don’t find passion through their work and still find satisfaction through their work, especially if they don’t set themselves up and berate themselves because they don’t feel passionate about their jobs, okay?

But another thing to keep in mind is, I think there’s this misimpression that we all require the same things on the job. In fact, I won’t mention any names, but there’s this idea

that we all seek challenge on the job and novelty on the job. This whole idea of moving fast and breaking things, you know, the Silicon Valley idea, actually, that’s not the way most of us make meaning from our job. Some of us do, but most of us don’t. Most of us, some of us really desire craftsmanship and mastery in our job.

So you know, we go to work each day, and we don’t mind doing the same, pretty much the same thing, as long as we can master it. And the example in the book is, you know, for example, a glazier, someone who actually makes windows and feels very strongly that he does an excellent job of glazing windows, making windows. You know, this is his thing; he doesn’t look for novelty or real challenge. He’s mastered this, and he feels on top of it, and he takes great satisfaction in that mastery.

Okay, so that’s one kind of job up— coders. Sometimes, you know, people who do computer coding, this is what they seek. Sometimes they seek challenge, but sometimes they seek mastery, you know, just being able to nail it every single time they do it.

And others of us seek kinship on the job. You know, we want to we think of our work family, whether it’s remote work family, or literally, you know, family we see at the office or in the workplace every day. Police officers, firemen, typically, people who work in hospital emergency rooms, oftentimes, this is a priority for them. They seek kinship, and it’s very, very important to them. That this is what they look for at a job situation.

So I make the point in the book, that there’s this myth that everybody needs to be challenged. Everybody needs novelty. Everybody’s working for rewards, immediate rewards. This is not true. Some people do, and some people don’t.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I love it. If, maybe, you can flesh out that menu, if you will, of job, happiness, drivers, if you will. So we got novelty, challenge, mastery, kinship, immediate rewards, and the other ones that seem to really do the trick for certain segments of workers.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Well, those are the major ones. And, you know, most of us— this is going to not fit well with many of your listeners, but what most of us really want on our jobs is stability. And that sounds strange.

In an era when everybody is doing the gig job, and we get the impression that people are moving from job to job—

in fact, especially millennials, millennials who now constitute the largest segment of the workforce, really, really value stability in a job, perhaps because it becomes scarcer than it once was.

But getting up in the morning and knowing that you have a job is, for most people, the priority. The number one priority. And again, people don’t think that necessarily, but that is the case. So everything else being equal. That’s the one, more than a better salary. More than other things, stability is the number one priority.

Pete Mockaitis  
Interesting. So you said that that is the number one, even if they don’t think it is. How do you reach that determination?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Again, as I mentioned earlier, I have had a lot of help. I interviewed hundreds people for this book: management scholars, social scientists, psychologists, historians. And this comes thanks to their research, which I cited, of course, and credited in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay, well, so then, let’s say that here I am, I want to make some meaning, I accept that I gotta do it myself. So what does that do and look like?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Well, again, that varies tremendously with the kind of job you have and the kind of person you are, most essentially the kind of person you are. So I mentioned I interviewed a lot of social scientists and management scholars, and among these was a wonderful scholar at Yale University. Her name is Amy Wrzesniewski, and she’s done some amazing work on work and jobs.

And one of her early pieces of work, one of her early studies, was of hospital cleaners. Now that sounds odd— custodians, in a hospital. And interviewing these custodians, she found that some custodians describe their work as just a job, as you would expect. I mean, they cleaned hospital rooms, right? So this sounds like, you know, just a job.

But there was a subset who described their work as a calling, okay? A call, a calling. That’s it, that’s a very high bar, to describe your work as a calling. We generally associated that with the clergy, or things like that. But these folks described it as calling.

So she she wanted to know why, and so she drilled into that. And what she found is in this subgroup of janitors or custodians, they thought of themselves as healers, okay? They worked in a hospital, and they would kind of keep an eye on the patients, they would notify the medical staff if they saw problems. If they could take a break, they would sit by the bedside and console someone who was missing a relative or who was not feeling well.

They really took a role. They saw themselves as healers. And Wrzesniewski explained to me that when the hospital found out about this, the custodians were often told not to do this, because this was not part of their job description.

Pete Mockaitis
And do what, specifically?

Ellen Ruppel Shell
Not to act as healers.
Yeah, stick to your cleaning. Stick to your cleaning. And because there was no impact on the bottom line, in other words, they saw this as kind of a waste of time. And they didn’t want their custodial staff to do that. And so, what Wrzesniewski explained to me was that, what these janitors were doing — their work was crafting, job crafting, what she calls job crafting.

So they took their job, and they carved out a piece of it, that to them, made it meaningful for them, okay? And they focused on that part that made it meaningful for them. And so it made them much more satisfied with their work — much better workers, by the way; they stayed longer, much less turnover.

So that is something that she did, then expanded to look at other workers and other arenas, and found out that one way to make meaning of your work is to find the part of your work that you find the most meaningful, and find a way to focus on that as much as you can, obviously, without costing your employer in the long run, right?

So you take the part where you feel a certain sense of mastery, or feel a certain sense of purpose, and focus on that and orient your job in that way.

So that’s one way to look at it. And I suppose we could talk about almost any job category, and find out how an individual could make the most of the job that they have.

Pete Mockaitis  
Right? Yeah, that does get the wheels turning. And could you share maybe some other actionable prescriptions in terms of if you’re a professional seeking to flourish at work, and enjoy it all the more, and perform all the better? What are some other things you recommend they do?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Well, okay, so my book is not a self-help book, okay? And I don’t make recommendations to people, you know, the general. I wrote this book as food for thought, and also to look at some myths about work and what we need as a society, what we should prioritize.

So I am low to good advice. There are so many books on self-help books in this arena that would do a much better job than I would. So I really, I don’t want to get into that too much.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, maybe let’s focus in on some myths in terms of, “Okay, you might believe this, and it is false. And that could lead you to make some suboptimal decisions.” So you’re not quite giving a prescriptive “don’t,” but you are highlighting potential errors that can feed the decision-making process. So what are some key myths that need to be busted?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Oh, my gosh, there’s so many. So on an individual level, early on in the book, I talked about the problem of people having to convey a personal chemistry that aligns with their employers’ expectations.

And I compared Israel, which I have visited, and the United States, and how these two countries differ in their approach to hiring individuals, especially knowledge workers. And again, this is a generalization, and not everyone has had this experience, okay?

But in the United States, there’s a push towards selling yourself as a person, as a total person to employers. You need to be a “cultural fit” with the company, we throw around words like that. And “the chemistry has to be right,” we throw around words like that.

In Israel, your skill set is what they’re looking for. More commonly, they’re looking for, “Can you do the job?” So if you don’t get the job, it means they don’t like your skill set. That’s so personal, right?

In the United States, if you don’t get the job, it means your chemistry was bad, okay?

That you couldn’t sell yourself well enough, that there’s something wrong with you. Psychologically, that’s very damaging, okay?

So I think when people are seeking a job or seeking a promotion, they need to think about this expectation, and find some way to arm themselves against it. Okay, so the the idea of “cultural fit,” and aligning one’s personal chemistry with the interviewer or the employer, is something I really addressed in the book.

And I warned against both for individuals’ sanity, okay? But also because it isn’t good for employers, because too often, employers look for people who look like themselves. And that’s something that — many of your listeners probably know — that you look for someone who’s a lot like you. And in fact, in a study of law firms and investment banks, the most likely reason someone would be hired was because he or she shared the same leisure interests as the person interviewing them.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, the one predictor number one predictor.

Ellen Ruppel Shell
The number one predictor. So if you play squash and the person who interviewed you plays football, that’s not a match. That’s not a match.

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah. So it’s like, learn their hobbies in advance, and then do it for, like, a weekend. You can talk about it.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Exactly. But you can see the implicit class-ism in this as well, right? And one of the things they found out is if you played football in college, and they played squash, that’s not good, because that implies, “Oh, you’re a football player; what’s that say about you?” Right? And they’re a squash player. What does that say about them? So that’s a problem because you’re hiring yourself. And that doesn’t lead to diversity or heterogeneity in the workplace. And heterogeneity is a good thing in the workplace. We want a lot of different viewpoints.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s great.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Yeah. So you know, that’s just something to think about on a personal level, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s juicy. Could you bust out another myth for us? That was fun.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Like I said, there’s so many myths. So another one that I really tackled in this book — and some of your readers might have seen some of my hotbeds on this, because it really got my goat — is the whole idea of the skills shortage in the United States, as if Americans don’t have the skills to do 21st century jobs, or can’t acquire the skills quickly to do 21st century jobs.

And I looked into this quite closely, and did a ton of research on it, and found out that, in fact, there really is not a skills shortage in the United States.

Certainly, there are times when it’s hard to find a particular employee for a particular position in a particular place, okay? That certainly happens, no question about that. But an overall skills shortage does not exist.

And so, what I warn against is the idea of society. And by that, I mean taxpayers paying for training, jobs training for individuals so they’re just in time ready for a particular employer that is not an effective way to produce workers of the future, okay?

If an employer has a particular skill and can’t find that they need it, and can’t find someone to fill that position, it’s most likely that they can hire someone close enough and train that person fairly quickly. It’s what we used to do not so long ago.

So the idea that we have to seek in our employees from other nations, or we have to train up a workforce in a particular way, I did not find evidence of that. What I did find evidence of is that there are, unfortunately, too many kids in the U.S. We’re not getting basic education, right? So they’re not learning what we call basic analytic skills, that is, being able to solve basic logical problems, make a logical argument, do basic communications, arithmetic, that kind of thing.

There’s no question, there’s a problem. But in terms of advanced skills, and a shortage of advanced skills, that I did not see.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, interesting. So it sounds like you found that we have a bit of a shortage of some foundational, fundamental critical skills, but not so much a skills gap on the advanced technical skills like Python, or, in particular, language or technology.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Right, right. I mean, anyone can learn Python, who has basic training in understanding computer languages and has the basic mathematical background and has had that exposure.

We can train, we can be trained in these things, and we should be, because, as you know, computer languages change fairly quickly. So that’s not a problem. You know, the idea that you demand that someone’s a Python expert versus another kind of individual who’s also worked in the computer industry is a little questionable, right?

Now, obviously, there’s always a shortage of the best and the brightest, right?

The top, top talent. But that’s sort of like saying there’s a shortage of the best NBA basketball players. So, to get that magical basketball player, you may, in fact, have to search the globe; they’re at least at the country.

But that doesn’t mean we need to train up a whole lot more basketball players, right? It just means that the best can call their own shots, and they will be rewarded for what they have to offer. But that does not mean that we need to be training— and taxpayers need to pay for the training of these basketball players, right?

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

Pete Mockaitis  
So could you share a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
I love Oscar Wilde, as do many people. And he has this great quote, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Yeah. You heard that one, yeah? I love that one. So if that’s a quote, yes, for quote. So I do try to be myself, and then I encourage everyone else to be. So, what other questions do you have?

Pete Mockaitis  
And how about a favorite book?

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Well, I’m a big fan of Edith Wharton, and I love— I love, love, love Age of Innocence, which is her masterpiece, I think. So it’s kind of an indictment of society at the time for being estranged from its from its culture, right? And, you know, I think we have a lot to learn today from that, you know, being estranged from culture and being focused on on sort of material world can be quite, quite problematic. So, I think Age of Innocence, I would have to say.

Pete Mockaitis  
Thank you, and how about a favorite tool? Something that helps you be awesome at your job.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Gosh, I’d have to say my bicycle pump. I love riding bikes, and I make very good use of— I ride on really rough roads, and so, I mean, I find myself inflating my bicycle tires quite a bit.

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

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Where would I point them? Well, I do have a website, and I probably should do a better job of maintaining it. It’s EllenShell.com, EllenShell.com. So if they want to, they can do that. I also teach at Boston University, and so naturally, I have one of those EDU emails. So, it’s EShell@bu.edu. So they have anything they want to share, I’m happy to hear it.

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

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs? Don’t forget the power of contemplation, okay? Getting away from the team and thinking quietly on your own. Because that’s often when people accomplish the most. And I think there’s an overemphasis on teamwork. Working on your own, often in a quiet place, can often be the most productive experience.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, Ellen, this has been a real treat. Thanks so much. And good luck with your teaching and your writing and your travels and adventures.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Thanks. And I think we’ve mentioned the book, right?

Pete Mockaitis  
Absolutely. The Job: Work and Its Future in a Time of Radical Change.

Ellen Ruppel Shell  
Thanks a lot, Pete. It was really fun.

427: Trading Work-Life Balance for Work-Life Blending with Tamara Loehr

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Tamara Loehr says: "Know your value so you don't need to feel guilty and apologize."

Tamara Loehr shares her perspective on work-live blending.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three steps for getting to the root of guilt
  2. Why you should go on an acquaintance diet
  3. How to optimally divide your time amongst competing priorities

About Tamara

Tamara Loehr is an Australian native, wife, and mother of two, who started her first business at the age of 19 after graduating college with a Bachelor of Visual Arts. Her ‘sweat equity’ model led her to winning a range of global awards. Loehr has become globally known as a leading wellness entrepreneur, growing her first business from under $1M annual turnover to over $10M in less than two years with no capital investment. She is proud to use her platform to share how people can have ‘blended’ lives without compromises.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Tamara Loehr Otting Interview Transcript

Tamara Loehr
Okay, so it’s Tamara, not Tamara. So Tamara and Loehr, as in stir.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Perfect. Okay, well then I will hit record and then away we’ll go.

Tamara Loehr
Thank you for having me in advance.

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

Tamara Loehr
Wonderful. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom and so you’ve packaged up at a lot of it in your book called Balance is B.S., but you were mentioning that you are primarily not an author. Where are you coming from when you approach this topic of balance?

Tamara Loehr
Look, it’s been 20 years in the making. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur for 20 years and working globally and growing brands across the world. I have a tribe of around 20,000 entrepreneurs through Young Presidents’ Organization and just all of us trying to figure this out like how do we have the best of both worlds, home, family and self? It’s really bringing collectively my experience and their experiences together to provide a solution to this big problem which is balance.

Pete Mockaitis
In your book, it’s titled Balance is B.S., what do you mean by that?

Tamara Loehr
Well, I think we need to abolish the word balance. We all know that that doesn’t work. The old balancing scale means that if you want to give more to your family, you’ve got to take something from the other side and then put it over. You’re constantly having to take from one side to the other.

This concept and something that I’ve been practicing for over ten years is about blending everything together unapologetically, so not having to choose between them and balance them out, but actually bringing them all together. It’s a really simple way of doing things, an ethical way of doing things, where you don’t have to compromise and you don’t have to choose.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, can you give us some examples of what is blending look like in practice?

Tamara Loehr
Yeah, certainly. For instance, whenever you’re feeling torn, so for me it might be that I want to watch my daughter’s concert at school but at the same time I’ve also got an agenda and a meeting and a deadline at work. How do I blend the two because I’ve promised someone that I’ll give them my time?

It might be that I go to that rehearsal and I say to them, “Look, I’m at my daughter’s rehearsal. It doesn’t start for another half an hour. You have my attention in that time and there will be some background noise.”

Ask for permission and say, “Is it okay if I do it from here because I don’t want to miss this concert? When it starts, I will be jumping off the call.” Asking for permission, not pretending that you’re in a corner of the office when you’re really hiding in the corner of the school hall, but earning it, saying I don’t want to miss this. Then, giving other people permission to do the same.

That’s an example of many ways that I just stand up and say “This is important to me, but so is your time. Would you like to reschedule or can we do it now, but can we work around this commitment that I would like to do as well?” Wherever you feel torn, you have to think about how can we bring these two together?

I feel that my expertise and my 10,000 hours and how long I’ve been in business grants me the right to have that flexibility and to offer it to other people, so we all don’t feel guilty and trying to balance between the two when it doesn’t work.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that specific example. Could you share a few more key ways that you see blending working out well?

Tamara Loehr
Yeah, certainly. I’m not a huge fan of doing the nine to five in the office. I don’t make any of my team do that. Instead we have flexible hours so that we can do the school run. Another example is there is no morning meetings, there’s no breakfast meetings before nine-thirty, so everyone, both parents can drop off the kids to school. For those who don’t have children, they might be interested in going to the gym or pursuing some other hobbies in the morning.

We make sure we give each other the flexibility. I don’t tend to like to be in the office all the time, so I love the water. I live on the beach, so quite often my management team will actually drive up, stay overnight with their families on a Friday night, and we will walk along the beach while the kids are doing something crazy or if they don’t have kids, they’ll bring their dog. We’ll do a lovely two-hour beach walk.

We’ll talk about the crucial things that we’re trying to achieve, what things they’re struggling with, what things they need assistance with, and obviously, revisiting our goals and our BHAGs, but we do it all on the beach while there’s a bit of chaos going on and over a glass of wine at night.

Really the conversation that we’re having isn’t between nine to five, we’ll be talking about obviously feeding the kids at night on a Friday night, but at the same time blending in and out of conversations between work and between family.

I’m absolutely okay with that. You open your home. This whole myth of keeping and personal separate I think needs to be abolished. We bring the things together that we love, which makes for an enjoyable life rather than working all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, understood. I’d also love to get your take, if you do experience some of this guilt, how do we get to the root of that and sort of prevent it and get that in check?

Tamara Loehr
I think if you’re good at what you do, the first thing is that you need to value yourself and then value your time. If you give yourself permission to blend, then the point is, is that you know your value so you don’t need to feel guilty and apologize.

I think the number one issue, especially as a female, is the voices in my head saying “I want to be wife of the year. I want to be mother of the year. I want to be boss of the year. I want to achieve all these things.” That’s just a recipe to burn out as far as I’m concerned because we all know if you try and do everything 150%, you’ll land at mediocre and you’ll end up quite upset. Especially me being perfectionist, you get quite upset at yourself for not giving it your all.

The first step is to say look, my time is valuable and making sure that that isn’t in hours. Me being in the office from seven in the morning till seven at night is not valuing my time. I know that four hours of my time is very valuable, so if that’s what I choose to work that day, that’s up to me and I know I’m still adding value.

The second thing is I don’t listen to the voices in my head. I make sure that when I am feeling guilty about something, I reinstate to myself, “No, you’re an expert. They come to you for this reason. Your time is valuable, so what you’re giving is more than enough,” so stamping out those things in your head that come up and play.

The third thing is saying no to things, not feeling obligated, I do not have acquaintances in my life. I actually regularly go on an acquaintance diet. I unapologetically don’t volunteer at the school talk shop because that’s not best use of my time, but I will help in other ways that excite me.

The things that you say yes to and the things that you say no to, more importantly what you say no to, is really important and having that discipline and protecting your time and valuing your time so that you can give that to things like your family, your children, your partner is really great.

When I drop off the kids to school, the other women will say to me, “Oh, you poor thing. You’ve been in the States-“ because I sell most of my products in the States and I live in Australia – they go, “Wow, you’ve been away for nearly two weeks.” I explain to them well, actually I think I probably get more quality time with my family than perhaps you would think.

That’s because it’s concentrated and I don’t do things like cleaning and acquaintances and all those things. Whilst I might be away for two weeks, it’s concentrated time, where I’m focusing on the business and I’m having a great time because I love coming to America and I love playing business there. Then when I come back, I’ll have a week off and just spend that with the children and really be a mom for a week.

For me, not doing television during the week, not cooking and cleaning, doing all those things, and choosing to give those up in this busy time of my life, so I don’t look back and go, “Oh, I missed my kids growing up.” I don’t ever want to have that future guilt or remorse.

I am very happy to sell an asset that we’ve accumulated in our 20s and 30s, sell something or demand more from work at that time in my life because this is really important to me and having time with my family is important, but not at the compromise of growing my business globally as well. I want both those things.

It’s really about redesigning your life. What we look at is the pie that is your life. That’s one of the exercises in the book. We say, okay, how much chunks of time do we want to dedicate to the things that we don’t like and let’s make it as small as possible. Let’s really look at the rest of the pie and when we feel most content.

For me, 45% of my time or over half my time is spent at work and I unapologetically say that half my pie is work because I love it. A big chunk is my family and I have a tiny little chunk for things like reports and stuff that I have to do at work, the death by meeting, I really only put a small amount of time.

What you’ll find is if you work on your pie of what makes you most content and most happy in life and you’re really honest about it, then whenever you’re feeling torn or burnt out or unhappy, something will be off with that pie.

When I was at work and my business got really huge and I had over 70 staff and there was lots of reporting and compliance on a creative by trade, when I went back to my pie and I went okay, I’m spending more than half my time on work, but it’s not on the things that I enjoy and it’s eating into my family time. No wonder I’m not feeling driven. No wonder I’m not feeling motivated.

Going back to that base pie and going okay, I’m out of kilter, communicating that with the people around me and saying, “Look, guys, this is my pie. I need to get back to this if you want the best from me,” then everybody else who communicated it with them that you’re going to start working towards getting back to your content when you’re content.

I think being self-aware, understanding the percentages of what make you happy and doing a regular check in to see where you’re off kilter and bringing yourself back in, not all at once, but chipping away at getting back to your content pie, that’s really important for you as well as everybody around you because you’re not a great leader and a great mother if you’re out of kilter.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m intrigued by a few things here. First, tell me, you say don’t have acquaintances in your life. What specifically do you mean by that?

Tamara Loehr
Quality over quantity is probably what I’m saying here. I don’t say yes to every person who wants to do coffee with me or people that aren’t really the top five qualifier of who I like to be around, which is people that I really enjoy their conversation, we feed off each other, and they have a really close, important part of my life.

You’ll find that a lot of people are doing things outside of their hours that really they can give up if they wanted to. For instance, I will not take meetings with suppliers and things outside of hours. I keep my meetings to a minimum. I certainly don’t catch up with people who want to be friends with me that I don’t necessarily feel a connection with.

I know that might sound ruthless, but I feel that the quality of the people around me is really important and I give them my undivided attention, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to say yes to every movie date with the girlfriends and all that sort of stuff. I would prefer one-on-one time rather than all these events that everyone seems to make all the time.

I rarely make it to people’s birthday parties. Instead I’ll take them to lunch one-on-one and have a birthday celebration between the two of us because that will be more quality for me. That’s just because that’s not my style in being in a room with 50 other people and doing idle chitchat. You know. You know yourself. You know when you feel like, God, I’m just making conversation for the sake of conversation. That is an acquaintance situation.

Pete Mockaitis
What is the point you made about the top five there?

Tamara Loehr
There’s this saying in business that we use a lot, that you are the net value of 95% of the five people you spend the most time with. I don’t mean net value as in money-wise I mean as in value and all that sort of stuff.

It’s interesting to have a look around and see sometimes who might have snuck into your life involuntarily and then decide to go on the acquaintance dive if it’s something that doesn’t serve you as far as making you a better person, making a better business person, a better mother, all those sorts of things.

A true friend will call you out when you’re going off track, if you’re being a pain in the ass, all those things. They’re the sorts of people I want around me, not the ones that are just going to laugh at my jokes and just nod and agree with everything I say even if – or those who have an opinion, who don’t have a track record, critics without credentials as they call them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood there. When you talk about your pie, how many segments do you have in it or how do you go about constructing it? I guess I imagine you could do a pie in terms of two things, hey, there’s work and then there’s family or fun … work is fun or you could have 50 segments. How do you think about how many chunks you put in your pie and formulating it well?

Tamara Loehr
What’s really cool about the book is each section works you through some exercises to help you define what your pie is. Then the first exercise is actually defining your values. That’s part of that acquaintance dive as well because if your values are respected and aligned to other people, that’s how you might want to choose who you spend most of your time with. The values exercise is first.

The second is talking about your pie. When we talk about your pie, 50 might be a little bit too much. I think that might be a to-do list or a task list or an obligations list. That sounds exhausting. But what we look at is family, business or work, and self. Those are the three things.

Then, of course, we’re grown adults. We have obligations as far as things that we have to do like tax and stuff that just needs to be done, so the stuff that we don’t like to do, but we want to keep to a minimum. I only allocate 5% of my pie to that stuff.

The rest of it is divided up between those three areas and you give as much weight to it as you would like. There’s no judgment around that. It’s what makes you happy and makes you content and fulfilled, so those three chunks.

Then inside those chunks, you look at what makes me happy when I’m at work. What tasks am I doing, what activities am I doing when I’m really buzzed and motivated and excited and almost a little nervous too, like we really want to make sure we’re constantly challenging ourselves. What are those things and how does it look?

For me in the work pie on the creative by trade side, about 80 to 70% of my work section needs to be on creative. I need to be doing that. The other stuff is around mentorship and leadership. I love to spend time mentoring other people and really bringing up the next generation of entrepreneurs. That’s all in my work section.

My family section, for me it’s really not only just with both kids and my husband, but it’s also one-on-one time with the children. We have separate holidays with the kids, for instance. I travel a lot. Every third trip my husband comes with me because we love that 13 hours on the plane where we finally get to finish a sentence without being interrupted and really catch up with one another. My family pie, it’s very specific on how I like to spend my time.

Then self is so vital. What are we doing to serve ourselves? For me, going to the gym is a chore. It’s an exercise, I would actually put that into that 5% that I loathe.

For me, myself, it’s all about clean air and walking in the national park and being near water, yoga, massages, things like that really – and obviously being around my tribe, the people that I love to be around, who challenge me, who inspire me, who I love their conversation. I can’t get enough of it. That’s my self time. Then I design my life around that.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get your take on if we’re dealing with a professional, who maybe has a little bit less leeway in terms of there’s some constraints and boundaries and expectations from third parties as well as maybe some financial constraints in terms of not as much ability to do as much outsourcing of the cooking or cleaning or massage receiving. What do you recommend for folks to just try to get the ball moving in some good directions when they are feeling the pinch of those constraints?

Tamara Loehr
Look, it’s not all about money. Walking on the beach doesn’t cost that much other than perhaps the petrol to get there. It’s really important that they’re not things that cost a lot of money. We will walk you through those exercises in the book around what are these things that I enjoy. But the most important thing is to share it.

What I find is a really good exercise is to do your values exercise and really establish what are your core values because people tend to think that this is what I want out of life, but then they get there and they go actually it’s not about the car and the house. It’s about the journey and it doesn’t align to my values.

For instance, mine is freedom, one of my values. One of my values is impact, which is why we’re having this conversation. Sharing your value with other people, when you do that and give them permission to do the same with you, it’s really great because that becomes the basis of your conversation.

When someone says to you, “Okay, I need you to work nine till six in the office every day, Monday to Friday,” if someone said that to me, rather than me going – having a tantrum and saying, “I don’t want to do it because it doesn’t serve me,” I’ll say to them, “Actually, one of my values is freedom and part of that is flexibility. That doesn’t serve me.

Another one of my values is creativity and being a nine to five window in an office with a limited windows doesn’t serve my creative drive. Those two things obviously get you massive inputs and results from me, so how can we work it so that I’m fulfilled on my values so that I can get the maximum inputs and give you give the maximum return and results?”

It’s really important that they understand who you are and then when you get some things that are being basically slimed on you that you don’t want to say yes to, but you may be obligated to because it’s your boss or the like, then it’s important for you to communicate that with them. I think, again, getting back to your value, knowing how much you’re valued at and your worth is really important to be able to step up and have those conversations.

I’m assuming that your listeners are sophisticated and they’ve done their 10,000 hours and this is really about okay, how do I get off this rat race and this inevitable we’re leading towards a burnout. How do we re-shift and refocus so that everybody wins. It’s important you make it a win-win and you share what your values are with them so that they understand.

Then the other thing that we do in my family, including my kids, who are only seven and nine, they have things like their bucket list and they have the things that they love. It’s important to share that with each other and they have to be things that don’t cost money.

What’s great about that is when I tell my kids, “You know how much mommy hates cleaning,” and perhaps a cleaner – we’ve got somebody coming over and the cleaner is not coming, I’ll say, “Look, the house needs a clean. It looks like a bomb’s hit it. You know mommy doesn’t like cleaning. Why don’t we all get together and help each other and support each other to get it done really quickly and then in return-”

I know what’s on their list, which one of them is going to the national part. They love going for walks in the national park and spotting animals. Then I’ll go, “Then that means we can go for a really nice walk in the part and have a look and see if we can find another snake or another lizard or another koala.”

If you all know each other, what serves you and what makes you happy, it’s about coming together, sharing those things and then helping each other get to the closest version of their pie together. Really, if you love someone at home and if you’re valued at work, people will find a way to accommodate you, but you need to be able to reciprocate.

Pete Mockaitis
I really liked that sentence you had there and I want to hear it again. You said something like – in having the conversation with a manager – “These things enable me to give you the best or deliver the most result-“ how did it go? You framed it nicely in terms of if I get this stuff, then you’re going to be better off was kind of the implication. I loved it.

Tamara Loehr
It’s a win-win.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Tamara Loehr
Yeah, it’s a win-win. This is what serves me and gives you the best of me, so to maximize that and get you the best return and give you the best results, this is how I work best.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Tamara Loehr
That’s really important. Make sure that you’re very clear in yourself, even if you have to go and take five minutes, remind yourself of your worth, remind yourself of the great things. If you have to keep a diary and write that down, I have my values everywhere I go, my one-pager of Tamara, which has got my pie and my four values.

If I’m feeling torn or confronted, I look at that. I remind myself this is how I want to live and I cherish it. I spend a minute and then I go into those crucial conversations knowing my worth and knowing how to make that a win for them. Make sure that they win out of it as well and then you’ll get what you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you share with us, what are the four values for you?

Tamara Loehr
Yeah. I don’t want to influence anyone, but mine is creativity, impact, freedom and travel, believe it or not. I’m addicted to being on planes. Those are my key four. Everyone’s is different. That’s what really cool about the book is we take you through those exercises.

I’ve had a transformational coach. I think everyone always asks me “What’s your secret to success?” It’s definitely not the years at uni and all that sort of stuff. For me the three key things is having a transformational coach. They’re like a life coach, which is NLP trained. They’re very much about yourself and what makes you tick, not just about work. I have a transformational coach.

I have a mentor in business because I find that I learn a lot more from somebody who has been there and done it before.

The third thing is I always surround myself with my tribe, the people that are so much like me and to the point where they’re playing such a big game that it’s infectious. I love being around my tribe obviously because I don’t then feel like an alien. Likeminded people are really important.

Those are my three key things, which I cherish and I spend a lot of time in. I think it’s important for you to go through the exercises of understanding your value.

My transformational coach has come on board with when I write the book and I’ve asked her to take the exercises that she’s done with me and put them down into really simple one- and two-page exercises for you to be able establish what your values are as well so that we use that as the compass for making decisions, not from the influences from around us and what everybody else wants.

It’s bit like a spring clean in your life. If you lived your whole life and raised a couple of kids in a house for 20 years, my goodness, if you want to move house, it’s a big effort. It’s probably about 20 skips full.

How do we declutter? How do we get back to what makes us happy, define our values, define our slice of our pie and then start making decisions again and decluttering our life and getting back to that core because you being happy, you being served is crucial before you can possibly make an impact at work or at home.

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

Tamara Loehr
I think one of my favorites, which is from Warren Rustand, one of lecturers at MIT, he said at the front of the room, “You are not a success in business if you fail at home.” That’s about sacrificing your family in order to do well at work. I love that quote. I think that one’s one of my favorites at the moment. There’s so many good ones, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. How about-?

Tamara Loehr
“Fail quickly” is another good one if you’re an entrepreneur.

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

Tamara Loehr
I think for me at the moment is the Birthing of Giants. I’m lucky enough to be studying at MIT part time at the entrepreneurs master’s program and that has been really life changing. That’s through Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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

Tamara Loehr
Definitely a transformational coach, absolutely. Then giving my management team permission to have a coach as well so that they could work thorough the things that they’re needing to work through.

For me, everything that’s in the book are my tools, my go-to tools in life that I also pass on to anyone who works for me so that they can speak the same language and I understand what drives them, I understand their values and I also know their bucket list, so we can all help each other tick off at least three things in our bucket list because it’s about the journey.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Tamara Loehr
Favorite habit. This is going to sound a bit weird, but being a little fish. I am a big believer in not being the smartest person in the room. As soon as I grow into a space, I pull myself out of it and I go join some other space, where I’m totally the little fish. I love that. I absorb – I’m a quick learner. I learn from everyone around me. I’m highly intimidated, but I love that because it makes me grow even quicker and faster and now I have their support. For me, I’m just constantly being a little fish.

I think the second one is do the opposite. When everybody else is doing something in business, I sit down, write down what everybody else is doing and then I go about doing the complete opposite. That’s a version of disruption and innovation for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget from the book or that you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they quote it back to you often?

Tamara Loehr
I think the main one that I get is thank you for giving me permission to blend because I don’t want to burn out. This thank you, I want to drop the word balance because for so long everyone keeps saying balance and I cringe because I can’t figure it out. Thank you for giving me permission to get rid of that word and set a new paradigm, which would be fantastic if we can all blend.

My husband’s a stay-at-home daddy and he has so many men in the playground who say to him, “Oh my God, I would have loved that opportunity.” Guess what? Women are great at business. We’re great at running businesses. We’re great at growing businesses. We’re great leaders. Let’s have that conversation.

I’m just giving permission to everybody to have some conversations together and giving them the tools to be able to do it so that it’s not an argument, it’s not a ‘your work is more important than my work.’ It’s not about that. It’s about how do we come together and redesign our life. That’s something that everybody says, “Thank you, I’m working on redesigning my life,” and they’re excited about it. I think the important thing though is we have to support each other.

Having just wrote a book and said, “Right, set and forget. You guys, you’re on your own now that you’ve got the tools.” My amazing coach, Emily, who wrote the exercise has come on voluntarily to support the community afterwards so that we can all come together and share what’s working, what’s not, bits of the exercises that we’re unsure of, that we’re stuck on and help each other so that we can go from trying to balance, which isn’t working, to a blended life and supporting each other in that.

That’s really exciting. Let’s bring this community, get together, let’s have this conversation, let’s support one another so that we can all redesign our lives and have the life that we deserve. When you’re at your best, that’s when you make the best impression and the best impact on people around you, including your children. That, to me, is really important.

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

Tamara Loehr
Head to any of our social. It’s LoehrBlend, L-O-E-H-R-B-L-E-N-D, websites, Facebook groups, all that sort of stuff. Reach out and I’d love to meet you and have a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Tamara, thanks so much for taking the time and sharing the wisdom. I wish you all the best with the book and your business and your adventures.

Tamara Loehr
Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and I value your time and your listeners, so thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you.