Tag

Presence Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

660: Finding More Success through More Failures with Jim Harshaw, Jr. (Host of the Success Through Failure Podcast)

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Jim Harshaw Jr. explains how to overcome the fear of failure and use it as fuel to achieve more success.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A mantra to ease the burden of failure 
  2. The simplest way to improve your chances of success
  3. The one common habit of successful people 

About Jim

Jim Harshaw Jr. is an NCAA Division I All American athlete, internationally recognized TEDx speaker, and personal performance coach. He has impacted hundreds of thousands of lives across the world by helping clients and audiences increase resilience, maximize potential, and build high performing teams. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Jim Harshaw Jr. Interview Transcript

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Pete, thanks for having me. Good to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m delighted to have you here. We’re going to be talking about failure and you’ve got some good failure stories under your belt. I mean that in the nicest way and you probably take it that way.

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Yeah, I don’t feel insulted by that anymore. Yeah, I used to.

Pete Mockaitis
You were a Grade-A failure, Jim.

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And we want to hear some stories and some practical perspectives on that because most of us hate failing. It feels really bad. And you have a different point of view. But could you kick us off with your story? Do you have a favorite failure or two and what do you love about them?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s funny, I was talking to a group of doctors, actually. They’re finishing up their residency and I was brought in to give a talk about a week ago, and I was like, “Man, you’re here because of your success and I’m actually here because of my failure. I hope that doesn’t put you off of this message today.”

And same for the listeners. Everybody who’s listening right now, knowing the profile of the listener of the show, you’re generally a successful person. You’re looking to get to that next level and be awesome at your job, and failure is part of that. Failure is a necessary step on your path and on my path and on every world-class performer’s, it’s the same for them as well.

I get to interview Olympic Gold medalists and CEOs and New York Times’ bestselling authors and astronauts and Navy Seals on my podcast, and they always tell me about these miserable failures that they’ve had, and so we explore that. And while I’m not at that caliber, I will share with you some of my failures. And, really, I want to make sure everybody gets actionable stuff out of this. Like, how do you actually deal with failure and be resilient and use it for your benefit?

So, I was a college wrestler. I got recruited to a great school, the University of Virginia, but I had so much failure, and fear of failure, and self-doubt, and lack of confidence when I got there because I just really never saw a future for myself, for really much of anything, let alone in my sport or academically or professionally. And I got to the University of Virginia, and I looked around and I realized, “Gosh, everybody here has more money than me. Everybody here is smarter than me. Everybody here is better-looking than me,” so it just reinforced all of these feelings of unworthiness, of that next level, whatever that next level would be for me.

And I began my wrestling career and I had set my goal to be an All-American, and in my freshman year I qualified for the national championships, which is kind of the first step, but I failed. My sophomore year, again I qualified for the national championships but, again, I failed. My junior year, pretty much a repeat of the prior two years, I got to the national championships and my season ended with me in the locker room, my face buried in a towel in tears, wondering, like, “Why can’t I do this? Like, what’s wrong with me? Am I not good enough? Am I not smart enough? Am I not capable enough?”

And then I dedicated that entire off season searching for the answer, like, “What is it about me? Why do I keep failing? Like, what’s wrong with me?” And I searched and I searched, and over the summer I went to the Olympic Training Center to pick the brains of some of the best in the world out there. I worked wrestling camps so I could be around other wrestling coaches all summer long and pick their brains. And the next season started and I realized I never found the answer, I never figured out what it is that I need to fix or do better in order to reach my potential so I finally gave up and I let go.

I let go of that goal and I said, “All I can be is all I can be. All I can do is all I can do.” And I ended up having this great successful season. My senior year ended up on the podium at the national championships in front of 15,000 fans in the arena, and I had reached the pinnacle of my sport. I was one of the best in the country at what I did.

And this kind of set me off on this trajectory of success. I was invited to live and train at the Olympic Training Center as an Olympic hopeful. Shortly after that, I got into coaching and I ended up being the youngest division one head wrestling coach in the country. I coached for about a decade, about 12 years, and I got out of coaching and got into business. I started my first business and now was a success, and I’m like, “Man, this is great. I’m on this trajectory, this winning trajectory.” And all these feelings of self-doubt and failure, etc., all that kind of like fell by the wayside and I was like on this trajectory of success in my life.

And, finally, looked up two years later and realized that everything I was trying to build, I was doing the opposite of. I had a failed business, we had debt up to our eyeballs. I had failing relationship with my wife. I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids and I was in the worst physical shape of my life, and I’m like, “This wasn’t the plan. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen to me.”

So, there was this second crucible moment of failure in my life and I, literally, I mean, Pete, I was shutting down that business, I was scrolling like on Craigslist looking for jobs, scrolling past jobs for paper boys and unpaid internships, and thinking like, “You know, I have two degrees from the number-one rated public university in the country, I have all this success in my background. How did I end up here again? Did I not learn the lesson that I was supposed to learn?”

And I closed down my computer. I remember that night specifically. I laid down next to my wife in bed, I’m staring at the ceiling. She’s already asleep. And I’m like staring at the ceiling, thinking, “What was in place of my life when I was able to turn failure into success? What was in place when I was clear on what was next for me, when I knew how to do the things I needed to do, I was able to be consistent and stay focused, and stay on task and on track, and do really hard things for meaningful goals? Like, how do I get that back in my life?”

And I realized there were like four things in place in my life then when I was competing at the highest level and reached that platform of being an All-American, they were not in place of my life at that moment. And I can share those in a minute here, but I went back and I reconstructed this system in my life and it changed everything for me. I tripled my income, healed my relationship with my wife, and started spending more time with my kids, and got physically fit again. Like, it just transformed my life, and that’s what I get to do now.

That’s my mission in the world, is to help people deal with failure, overcome their own self-doubt, have clear and meaningful goals and a plan to achieve them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly. Well, yes, let’s do hear about these four principles. First, I’d like to note, so in between your junior and your senior year, you were studying with all kinds of great potential mentors, coaches, and you said there wasn’t any particular bit of learning or technique or thing that you’ve fixed. So, then what was the difference-maker?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Yeah, it was this realization. Well, let me share this with you. I’ll use another wrestling reference. So, it’s a woman who’s the first ever Olympian, an Olympic Gold medalist from the United States. Her name is Helen Maroulis. And she talked about how this overwhelming self-doubt that she had, literally, a month before the Olympics and even through the Olympic games. She made it to the finals. Now she’s got to wrestle the best female wrestler in the world from Japan and she had this mantra of saying, “I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.”

And if you go back and you Google it on YouTube, you can see her lips moving when she’s standing in the tunnel next to her opponent and she’s saying this mantra, “I am enough.” And I realized that this is what I had learned. It was literally the night before the opening event, opening competition of my senior season, I was literally sitting in the hotel room on the edge of the bed, going, “Wait a second. I never figured out the secret. I never figured out the thing that I’m missing.”

And I said, “Well, I give up. All I can do is all I can do. I can follow the plan. I can make sure I go to bed on time, put the right food in my stomach, in my mouth, eat healthy, rehab my injury, show up for practice early, stay late, watch film. I can do all those things and everything else, I can’t control winning and losing. I can control the process. Otherwise, I’m enough. And if I become an All-American, awesome. If I don’t, I can put my head on the pillow at night knowing that I did everything I possibly could that was in my power to achieve that dream.”

And so, at that night I, literally, I gave up on the goal, I gave up on the dream, and just said, “I am enough.” And I went out the next day and I competed, knowing that I’m enough, and it’s not about winning or losing, it’s not about the fear of failure any longer. It’s about showing up as my best self and putting everything I can out there, being fully 100% me, and allowing that to be okay and to be enough, and taking my ego out of it. And it became so much fun.

I mean, wrestling is not a fun sport. It’s pain and suffering and that’s when you win. And I had so much fun that season because this burden of failure I was able to set down. And for the listeners, you have that burden of failure whether it’s at work and you’re trying to look good for your boss, you’re trying to get that promotion or trying to get that raise. It’s not about that. You start with the end in mind, that goal, then you work backwards and go, “Okay, what’s the process? As long as I follow that process, I will have control what I can control because there are other things that are outside of my control that I can’t influence, and for those things I’ll let them go and know that I’m doing everything I possibly can.”

And that allows you to fully show up as yourself, as your authentic genuine self. And guess what? The world needs more of that. The world needs you.

And that’s what I realized and that was this moment where I made this mental shift which freed me up.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s huge. And so then, when you say, “I am enough,” I guess let’s unpack what specifically we mean by that. I guess I’m interpreting, from all the context, that means, and this is a lot more words, so “I am enough” is a better succinct mantra to use here but it’s sort of this “My intrinsic worth, value, dignity is in no way contingent upon a particular success or outcome. I have no attachment to any of those things. And I am okay and at peace with simply being and doing how I do.”

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Amen. You said it. Can I write that down and then cite that back?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Hey, send me a recording.

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Can we hit pause on the recording and I’ll say that instead of you?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
That’s it. But that’s it. So, I interviewed a world champion on the podcast one time, and he said his breakthrough came for him mentally when he realized that failure was an option. People talk about failure is not an option. Yeah, it is an option and it’s okay if you fail. Like, you actually can’t control success or failure. You control the process that puts you in the best position to be successful.

And so, if you can let go of that failure and fear of failure, and know that everybody fails, like I said on my podcast, I interview these world-class performers and they’ve all failed. Like, failing is actually part of their DNA, it’s part of their story, it’s why they’re good at what they do. They’re not good despite those failures. They’re good because of those failures.

John Wooden, he’s a legendary basketball, he said, “You can’t give 110%.”

People talk about 110%. Like, you can’t give 110%. You can only give 100% and that means if you go out and you give 110%, that just means that other times you were giving something less than 100%. That’s what that means. The first time I heard that, I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, that didn’t really resonate with me.” But the more I thought about that, the more I realize, like, all you can do is all you can do, and that’s okay.

You can’t show up and try to be somebody you’re not in something that you’re not. If you’re making a sales proposal or interviewing for a job, you can control the studying that you’re doing and the test and the sample interview questions that you practice and rehearse. You can control all that but, when the day of the interview comes, let all that go. Let all of it go because fear and anxiety decrease performance. I don’t care if it’s in sales, I don’t care if it’s in public speaking, or in sports, or in anything else, but fear and anxiety decrease performance, so let it go. It’s not going to help you. Don’t carry it with you. Let it go and understand that failure is an option.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s beautiful. Well, I want to talk about the four principles. But, first, you quote Tom, the CEO of IBM, who says, “If you want to…” well, you do it better. What did he say and how do you think about it?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
He said, “If you want to double your success rate, double your failure rate.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
And that’s the crux of all of this, is you have to be willing to fail and to be okay with it. There was a fantastic study out of Northwestern business school, at Kellogg School of Management, and they studied failures who became successes in three different areas. So, it was grants to the National Institutes of Health, they studied investor-backed startups, and they wanted to find something a little bit off topic to really study this and have a breadth of examples, and they studied terrorism attacks.

And what they discovered was all of the successes, if you can call terrorism attacks successful, all of the successes started as failures. All the winners started as losers, but not all the losers became winners. So, what was the difference between the losers and the winners, the failures and the successes, the failures who went to success, or the failures who just kept on failing?

Well, the difference was how soon they tried again. And the ones who succeeded tried again sooner. So, they’re learning, they’re taking what they learned, they’re being resilient, they’re getting up, they’re dusting themselves off, and they’re trying again, and that leads to success.

I interviewed Tim Ferriss on my podcast and he said, “Just because you fail doesn’t inherently mean you’re going to be successful. It’s the learning that comes from failure and then applying that learning to your next iteration, to your next attempt, is what leads you from failure to success.” So, for the listener, when you’re saying, “I applied for all these jobs and I didn’t get them,” or, “I failed at this presentation I tried to make,” or, “this raise I tried to get,” or, “this promotion I tried to get,” like, try again. Learn from that failure and try again.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have any pro tips or tactics for maximizing the learning and maximizing your emotional ability to get up quickly?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Now, in the podcast, I’m interviewing these amazing people, and on the podcast especially, I started asking them, “If there’s one thing, one habit, one thing that you do that you most credit for your success, like what is that thing? What’s the secret? What’s the one thing for you?” And it’s so fascinating, Pete, for the New York Times’ bestselling author, it’s never the writing. For the Olympic God medalist, it’s never the training. It’s never the thing that you think it’s going to be.

The actual thing that they say is they’ll say things like, “I journal every day,” or, “I meditate,” or, “I work with a coach,” or, “I plan my day in advance,” or, “I spend half an hour at the end of the week reviewing my week prior and planning my week ahead,” or, “I take a retreat once a year with my spouse and myself and we look back on the year behind, and we look forward to the year ahead, and we create plans and goals and action plans, etc.”

And I put this all under one umbrella and I’ve coined this term productive pause. And if there’s such a thing as a secret to success it’s a productive pause. And the productive pause is this, this is the definition. It’s a short period of focused reflection around specific questions that leads to clarity of action and peace of mind. Like, who doesn’t want that? Clarity of action and peace of mind.

So, this is like in the military they call it an after-action report. When I look back at my career as a wrestler, and if I could pick one hour that was the most valuable one hour spent the entire season, it was not in the weight room, it was not in the practice room, it was not watching film. It was sitting on the couch in my coach’s office setting my goals, setting my goals for the year, setting the goal and creating the plan to achieve that goal. That’s the most important, most valuable one hour, and this is a productive pause.

When you hit the pause button, for example, after a failure and you say, “Okay, what went right? Well, I did this and this and this and this. This went right. All these things went right. Okay, what went wrong? Well, this and this and this went wrong. What would I do again? What would I do next time if I could do it again differently? What would I tell myself if I could back to prior to that failure? What would I tell myself?”

If you simply ask yourself those three questions, “What went well? What didn’t go well? What would I do differently?” those three productive pause questions will bring you tremendous insights, and now you can get back up sooner and try again.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, I love it. Well, so that might be one of your four things, but I want to make sure we hit these four principles. What are they?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Yeah, so there’s sort of four pieces to this framework. And number one, it’s this. When I was competing, I knew what I valued. Like, I probably couldn’t have stated as core values like I can today, but I knew what I value. Like, I wanted to be tough, I wanted to live my life a disciplined life, I wanted to be respected, I wanted to go on to success after the sport. Like, these are all the things that I value just because this is what my mentors and my coaches, this is how they lived their lives and these are the things that they did. I’m like, “Man, that’s who I want to be.”

And so, number one is get very clear on your core values. Number two is this, when I was competing, I had goals that aligned with my values, not goals that aligned with my mom and dad’s values, or my teammates’ values, or anybody else’s. Like, these were the things that I valued. And in the real world, what happens is people set their goals based upon what’s parked in their neighbor’s driveway. They set their goals based upon what they see on social media or what the mass media is forcing down our throats and telling us that we should want. You have to set your goals and align it with what you value because failure doesn’t change what you value. Like, if you fail at something, it doesn’t change what’s important to you so you become more resilient when you have aligned goals.

And in my program, not to get into the weeds too far, but we set goals in every area of our lives: relationships, self, health, and wealth. And relationships, pretty self-explanatory. Self is sort of three subcategories: growth, impact, fun. Health is health and wellbeing. Health and wellness is going to be physical health, mental health, spiritual health. And then, the last one, wealth is wealth/work/career goals. Those are the four areas and so we set goals in all of these areas. Goals that are aligned. They’re tethered to the values.

And so, those are the first two steps. The third is this. Like, when I was competing, I had a coach who kicked me in the rear end if I needed it or picked me up and dusted me off when I needed that. I had teammates with similar goals, we’re like-minded people pursuing similar goals. I was accountable to them; they were accountable to me. I had nutritionists and sports psychologists and strength and conditioning coaches, on and on. I had the support system in this environment, and I call it the environment of excellence.

In this environment of excellence, it’s not just people. It’s actually four things. So, there are four things under the umbrella of the environment of excellence, which is the third step. And these four things are this: M-A-P-S. Just like you need a map to get from point A to point B, you need to know your maps to get from where you’re at to where you want to go in your life.

So, M stands for media. Like, what’s the media that I’m allowing into my life? Like, when I was competing, I didn’t watch much television, but when I did, I was watching the national championships or breaking down film of myself or my opponents. I used to fall asleep with a mindset audio in my ears with my Walkman, if you remember those Walkmans, back in the day. I used to listen to these mindset audios. And so, the same now.

So, for the listener, you’re doing the right thing, you’re listening to How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast. This is the kind of stuff you need to be bringing into your life and then blocking out things like the news. There’s a minimum effective dose of it but are you consuming it constantly, or social media? So, the first one is media.

A is for area, like your physical space around you. When I was competing, I had a poster on the wall with my hero, this Olympic champion. I had my goals written down in front of me. I had a training journal. I had healthy food and snacks. Like, I had an optimized physical space. Right now, I’m talking to you, Pete, I’m standing at my standing desk. Like, this is part of my environment of excellence. So, that’s A for area.

P is for people, we already talked about that, who are the people you’re surrounding yourself with. And then S, and this is really, really important, S if for speech. That’s your self-talk and your out-loud talk. There’s a great quote that says, “If our mind is a super computer, our self-talk is the program that’s running it.” Like, what are you saying to yourself? Like, are you saying, “I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not capable enough because of that failure”? Or are you saying, “I’m smarter, wiser, and stronger because of that failure”?

Those two stories are there, they’re going to take you down different paths. So, that’s the environment of excellence. And then let me give you the last and fourth and final sort of phase or module in these four steps to this framework, it’s this. It’s nice to have core values, like really clear core values and aligned goals in this environment of excellence but if you stop there, what happens when you show up at work the next day and the boss puts a big project on your plate, or you get sick, or the car breaks down, or a global pandemic happens? You can’t put your goals up on a shelf. You have to have the fourth and final piece in place, and that’s a plan for following through.

Like, if I lost a wrestling match on Saturday, coaches are like, “Hey, Jim, I’ll see you tomorrow morning at the team lift 8:00 a.m. Be there.” It’s like, “Oh, man.” Like, this is a plan for following through even when I didn’t feel like it. And you have to have that system, that structure, that framework in place to make sure you follow through, you come back and you check in on your goals, you have a monthly goal check-in, you write those, I call them micro goals, like these smaller goals that are part of the larger goal, you write those down.

Every single month, actually, I’ve got mine right here in front of me, they’re here, these are my micro goals, and I write them on the back of my business card, and I keep these in my wallet. So, these are the type of things you have to do to ensure follow through. So, those are the four steps or four phases: core values, aligned goals, environment of excellence, follow through.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful. 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?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Well, it’s this. It’s nice to sit here and talk about failure in like, “Oh, yeah, you can learn from failure and it’s valuable and it’ll help you grow, etc.” Like, failure sucks. Failure hurts. It’s not something you’re seeking. You’re not trying to go out and fail but you’re just becoming understanding of it, you’re becoming aware that this is a normal thing for very high-performing people, for the best people in the world, it is a normal thing.

And understand, like, “Yes, it’s going to be painful.” I know it’s painful. I know. I’ve cried the tears both when I was in college and as a grown man of the pain and suffering that comes from failure. You are enough. Get up and try again. Build this framework into your life and keep going.

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Yeah, the quote that I’ve always lived by was “There’s two pains in life: “The pain of discipline and the pain of regret.” The pain of discipline, do it now; or the pain of regret, “I wish I had done that thing.” So, that’s a quote that’s just always stuck with me.

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Most recently it’s been that one that I just shared with the study that came out of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. It’s just fascinating to understand that winners were losers, and winners were the ones who got up faster when they were a loser. So, get up and try again.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
How to Win Friends & Influence People. This is such a game-changer and I’m probably not the first person to recommend this, but this is such an important book on human relationships and how to deal with people. You mentioned favorite study, and another one of my favorite studies is the grant study out of Harvard which is the longest longitudinal study on human happiness ever.

And what they’ve come to realize, proven, is that happiness comes from connection and relationships. And this book will help you strengthen your relationships and just be more emotionally intelligent. It’s like the original book from an influencer, Dale Carnegie, written back in the 1940s, I think it was. So, How to Win Friends & Influence People.

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
For me, it is The Five-Minute Journal. The Five-Minute Journal is a productive pause. There are three questions in the morning, two in the evening. In the morning, it asks you, “What are you grateful for?” And then three things you’re grateful for, and, “How will you make today great?” Three things and then an affirmation.

And then in the evening, it asks you, “What are three amazing things that happened today?” And then the last one is, “What could you have done to make today even better?” And when you ask those simple five questions, super short productive pause, takes than less combined five minutes, it helps you be grateful, it helps you reflect on your day as opposed to just kind of moving onto the next thing. It’s about mindfulness and bringing you into the moment.

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Yeah, it’s, “We all need someone in our lives who holds us to a higher standard than we believe that we can attain.” There’s a lot of fear of hiring somebody like me who’s a coach, and people think like, “Oh, I should be able to do this on my own.” Well, no, you shouldn’t. Yeah, certainly, you’re listening to this podcast, you’re successful at some level, but there’s another gear inside of you. And whether it’s me or somebody else, like find somebody else who can hold you to a higher standard than you believe that you can attain because that will push you, that will drive you, that will help bring the best out of you.

We see this, again, going back to athletics as sort of the public example. I love watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. You look at all these Olympians down there, they all have one thing in common. They’re doing different sports, they’re from different countries, but they all have one thing in common. They’re the best in the world at what they do and they all have a coach. And so, what about you?

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
JimHarshawJr.com. You can find everything there. You can sign up for a free one-time coaching call with me. It’s just JimHarshawJr.com/apply. My podcast is on all your favorite podcast platforms, so it’s called Success Through Failure. And if you just go to any social media outlet, just search for Jim Harshaw, you’ll find me.

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

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
I challenge you to hit the pause button. Take a productive pause, whether it’s using The Five-Minute Journal, whether it’s reflecting on your day, reflecting on your most recent failure, setting goals and creating a plan to achieve them. Hit the pause button in the next 24 hours and evaluate where you’re at and where you want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jim, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and success and even fun in your future failures.

Jim Harshaw, Jr.
Thank you, Pete. It was great to be on here.

658: How to Fix Burnout and Beat Exhaustion, Stress, and Overwhelm with Dr. Jacinta Jimenez

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Dr. Jacinta Jimenez says: "When you stress, you must rest."

Dr. Jacinta Jimenez breaks down what causes burnout and what we can do to prevent and fix it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What most get wrong about burnout 
  2. How to recover using the PULSE framework
  3. The tiny recovery habits that build tremendous resilience 

About Jacinta

Jacinta M. Jiménez, PsyD, BCC (also known as “Dr. J”) is an award-winning Psychologist and Board-Certified Leadership Coach with a 15+ year career dedicated to the betterment of leaders. An in-demand speaker, consultant, and coach, she has worked with individuals in top organizations in Silicon Valley and throughout the world. A graduate of Stanford University and the PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium, Dr. J is a sought-after expert in  bridging the fields of psychology and leadership. She contributes to national news and TV outlets, including CNN/HLN, Business Insider, Forbes, and Fast Company. 

As the former Global Head of Coaching at BetterUp, she developed groundbreaking  science-backed coaching approaches for helping today’s top organizations foster resilience,  while also leading a global community of 1500+ international Leadership Coaches in over  58 countries. She holds a certificate in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University and  provides consultation on topics related to this important area as well. 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Blinkist. Read or listen to summarized wisdom from thousands of nonfiction books! Free trial available at blinkist.com/awesome

Dr. Jacinta Jimenez Interview Transcript

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

Jacinta Jimenez
Hi, thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I am, too. And the first question I had to ask, and apologies if you’re getting a lot of this, but have you met Prince Harry with your work?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, I just can’t get into too many details but I am on the executive team and we are delighted to have him. He has shown up to our all hands recently for the company meeting that we had when we announced it. So, that was a delight to see him virtually.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Lovely. Well, tell us, so we’re talking about burnout here today. What is the state of burnout these days amongst professionals? Like, do we know what proportion of us are feeling burnt out? Is it getting better or worse? What’s the scoop?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, it is. So, burnout prior, it was already a problem prior to COVID-19, it was already becoming an epidemic in itself so much so that, in 2019, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon and conceptualized it as a syndrome that’s resulted from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.

And, again, these are stats prior to COVID but, in 2015, Stanford researchers estimated that job burnout, costs the US economy about $190 billion due to absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, medical, legal and insurance costs.

And then now, throw in COVID-19 in the mix, and we have changed our lives substantially, our psychological resources are being taxed over long periods of time, and that’s taking a very large toll on people’s mental wellbeing and also is setting up conditions right for burnout. So, I think folks are feeling it even more, and the stats are showing that burnout is on the rise.

So, it’s a growing phenomenon that, hopefully, folks are…I think the silver lining could be that folks are actually paying attention to it and wanting to address it and wanting to find solutions for it.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a sense for in the United States, what percentage of people, in general, or professionals in particular, have burnout? And is there a specific precise, like scientific definition of burnout we use when we make such claims?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yes. Yeah, thank you for asking the second part, but both parts of the question, but the second part especially. I feel like the word burnout has been thrown around so much lately, it’s been sensationalized, so I’d love to get into the specific definition, but, yeah, there’s a lot of good stats. So, Deloitte’s workplace survey has found that 77% of respondents have experienced burnout in their current job at one point or another, which is a pretty incredible number when you think about it.

Pete Mockaitis
And your current job is, statistically, likely less than five years old. It’s like how quickly we turn over, maybe two, three, four years. And maybe it happened the whole time or right now or maybe just half a year or a year ago. Okay, so that puts it into perspective. Thank you. And then how do we define burnout?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yes, thank you for asking that question. So, a lot of people think burnout is just a consequence of overwork, like, “I overworked myself to the point of exhaustion so I burned out.” And exhaustion and overwork are part of burnout but it’s not the whole picture. It’s a very complex issue so there’s actually three core components at research, especially research led by Christina Maslach, who is one of the pioneering researchers in this field, that make up burnout.

So, the first one is exhaustion. So, that’s the obvious one. That’s when you feel like you go on a vacation and you don’t feel replenished after the vacation. You take time off work; you don’t feel better. You’ll hear people say, like, “I feel used up by the end of the workday. I feel tired when I have to get up in the morning and face another day on the job. I feel emotionally drained by my work.” So, it’s that really deep, deep level of exhaustion.

But then the other components are cynicism and inefficacy. And so, cynicism is a really interesting one because a lot of times people who are most engaged in their work are the ones who are actually more prone to burnout because we’re passionate or care about it, want to give our all to it, and that can be kind of a slippery slope. And, ironically, a lot of times, these folks end up cynical even though they were the most engaged.

And so, cynicism shows up by becoming less interested in their work, wanting to be “Just leave me alone. Don’t bother me. I just want to get my work done. I’m not enthusiastic about my work.” So, it’s really questioning their company’s mission, the technical term can also be called de-personalization, where you just don’t feel connected to what you do anymore.

And then the final one is inefficacy. And this is another heartbreaking piece because these are people who are competent and able to do their job but they’ve gotten to this point with burnout where they don’t feel confident at getting things done, they don’t feel like they’re making an effective contribution, they feel like they’re kind of drowning or they can’t catch up, and they can’t effectively solve problems.

And so, when these three components come together, think of like a Venn diagram almost, where these pieces come together, that’s when burnout happens. But the interesting thing, is people have different burnout profiles. So, one person may be really feeling the inefficacy but not so much the exhaustion and maybe a moderate level of cynicism, or someone else could be heavy cynicism and not much exhaustion. So, it’s important to know if you’ve had burnout in the past, how it shows up for you so you can kind of monitor yourself on those three.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we don’t necessarily have to be experiencing all three of these to be classified as burnt out? Is that accurate?

Jacinta Jimenez
You need all three but they can be in different dosages.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I hear you. So, I got a whole lot of exhaustion, just a little bit of cynicism and inefficacy.

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m with you. I don’t know why I laugh. I think I’m laughing just in like smiling recognition, like, “Oh, yes, I had that before,” as opposed to, “That’s hilarious,” because it’s not hilarious. It’s very troubling.

Jacinta Jimenez
It’s very troubling.

Pete Mockaitis
And so widespread. Okay. So, there we have it. We framed it up. So, that’s the definition, that’s how widespread it is. Well, so you got a book here, The Burnout Fix. Do enlighten us, what is the burnout fix or maybe any surprising discoveries you’ve made about burnout?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, I think the interesting thing about burnout or a misnomer that kind of surprises people about people is that a lot of people think burnout is just an individual problem, like, “I’m not strong enough to deal with crazy life. And if I was just more gritty, I could’ve not burned out.” But burnout isn’t just an individual problem in any way. Individuals exist in systems and environments, so we cannot look at the individual’s burnout without looking up the environment that they exist in.

So, it’s co-created by our work, too, and there’s actually…it’s really interesting, there are six specific mismatches between the nature of a person and the nature of their work that leads to burnout. And if you can figure out which of those six mismatches align with kind of what’s going on for you, you’re going to be a lot better off addressing it. So, I think it’s really important for people to understand that it’s not just you, it’s not because you’re weak or poor coping strategies. A lot of it has to do with your job environment as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, lay it on us, so what are the six ways we can be mismatched?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah. So, the first one is fairness. So, if you have been working really hard at your job, and there’s not clear job promotion kind of processes outlined, and someone else gets a promotion, this is just one example, that could feel very unfair. That can take a toll.

Christina Maslach, again who I mentioned earlier, she describes burnout as an erosion of dignity, spirit, and will; an erosion of the human soul, which is so heavy. But if you’ve ever experienced burnout, I have, it’s a really good description of it. It takes away the pieces that made you feel meaning and purpose at work. And so, when you have a lack of fairness, that’s going to erode on the human soul.

A second one is workload. So, if you have a huge workload and you don’t have the resources, time resources, executive sponsor resources, or just general resources to do it, that’s going to erode on your soul as well. The third one is communities. So, we are human beings, first and foremost, we are wired to connect. That’s how we’ve survived for centuries is existing in tribes. We could not have survived without one another. And when we feel a breakdown in community at work, we feel lonely, we don’t feel like we belong, that can also erode on someone’s soul.

And then the other one is values. So, if your boss is telling you to do something that feels out of alignment with what you stand for, or you joined the company’s mission because it aligns with your values but the company is doing something that does not feel legitimate or good to you, that’s going to take a toll.

And then reward. We like reward, we want progress. I always say, those shiny stars we got as kids, they just feel good when we did something well, that doesn’t go away. We want to feel rewarded for our efforts. And so, if we’re not being rewarded fairly or being acknowledged, and this can be intrinsic, social, economic reward. It’s not just economic, that can take a toll.

And then the sixth one is control. So, if we don’t have control over our environment, it’s a recipe for learned helplessness where you’re just like, “Why even try if I have no way to influence my environment? I’m just going to give up.” And that can lead to inefficacy. So, it’s not just from overworking. It’s more due to this mismatch between just our capacities as humans and the nature of our work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it sounds like the second one, resources, it may be is the only one that really seems to check that box specifically associated with overwork, it’s like, “I got more tasks that are being demanded of me than I have hours to do and also sleep,” for example.

Jacinta Jimenez
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that makes sense in terms of checking yourself. And I find that really, really handy in terms of it is bigger than overwork, and that distinction can be transformational in and of itself just having that awareness because I guess I’m thinking that I have felt some burnout in times, and I’ve been sort of scratching my head, like, “Well, I mean, I’m not working that many hours. I’ve worked longer hours before.”

And then the conclusions you can leap to from there, it’s like, “Why? Am I getting weak? Am I out of shape? Am I sick? Am I old already?” Like, what’s real here, “I’m not as vital despite having fewer hours of work.” And it’s like, oh, well, we can zero in on one of these other five dimensions and see, “Well, aha. Well, here’s the thing. I don’t actually care at all about this thing that we’re doing. It’s like I wouldn’t call it evil per se but I don’t think it really matters and the world wouldn’t really be changed significantly whether we did this or did not do this, so I don’t really care.”

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah. Whereas, maybe we’re working longer hours but we have so much meaning and values and reward and community that it doesn’t take a toll. So, it’s really powerful to know. I think it’s very empowering for folks to know, “Oh, I can look at this in a much more granular and nuanced way, and then figure out what I want to do about it based on that, versus just going I overwork to the point of exhaustion. Now I have to work less.” But sometimes work less and it doesn’t solve it if it’s a values mismatch or something else.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then, can you tell me, so we’ve got a PULSE framework that we can check through as well.

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, the PULSE framework really is kind of my hope to help build out resilience so that they don’t have to get to the point where they’re looking at these six mismatches, where they can boost their resilience as much as possible. Yeah, so, on a side note, I like to think of resilience as kind of like a seesaw. So, on one side of the seesaw is adversity or tough things that happen to us, and on the other side is protective factors.

And that fulcrum, that thing in the middle where it rests on, that’s our genetic setpoint because, let’s face it, genetics does play a role but, good news, it doesn’t play like a massive role. We have a lot of influence, so that’s the good news. But we have to be very proactive in putting more and more proactive resilience tools and mindsets and strategies on that other side of the seesaw so that when adversity hits, the seesaw doesn’t flip us out of equilibrium.

So, the more and more we can build out our resilience, which is my PULSE framework for building out resilience, the more we can be protected in our ever-changing world of work where things are just going at such fast, rapid pace, that there’s going to be constant changes and new adversity, and it will allow us to navigate it more easily and successfully. So, that’s my hope in writing this, Pete, writing out the book and the PULSE framework.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. So, then how do we make that happen?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah. So, the acronym is PULSE because if you think back to Christina Maslach’s erosion of the human soul, just like we have to take care of our heart and physical pulse, we also have a personal pulse. That’s our spirit, it’s our vitality, it’s our overall wellbeing. And so, it’s an integrated framework because you can’t just address burnout by doing one thing, as we talked about. You need an integrated approach.

So, it looks at your behavior, how you think, how you relate to others, how you take care of yourself, and how you manage your emotions, and so it’s a very holistic framework. So, the P is called pace for performance, and that’s about how to boost your personal and professional growth in a way that doesn’t drain you.

So, how do you actually stay in your stretch somewhere, you’re actually optimizing for productivity without going over the edge into the stress zone? So, knowing where is that really great point where you’re doing your best work but you’re not going over and stretching yourself so far that, over time, it’s going to take a toll.

The U is cognitive, it’s undo untidy thinking. It’s really about how to train your mind to be very aware of your thoughts to stave off unhelpful thinking patterns. And, again, this is all evidenced. I’m a science geek so this is all evidence-based about how to do it most efficiently. The L is really cool, I think. It’s about the not-so obvious ways we can replenish ourselves physically. So, it’s stands for leveraged leisure.

Leisure has changed alongside the nature of work. Leisure used to be long meals, like old-world culture, the Sabbath, people would take off. I mean, people do still practice it but there were lots of different cultures that used to really integrate leisure into practices. But, as we’ve evolved, leisure has become kind of like compensatory leisure where you go drink or you drive fast cars, you go clubbing to blow off steam, or spill over leisure where you go lay on the couch after work and you scroll through your Instagram feed or your social media feeds and just kind of zone out. That’s not true leisure and replenishment. So, the leveraged leisure is about really, “How do you optimize for actual replenishment?”

The S is social, so how to secure support, how to have a really robust community that allows for you to have cognitive flexibility, but also adaptability while also protecting yourself, so how to set boundaries., and those important things that actually are very good for building more relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
And what is cognitive flexibility?

Jacinta Jimenez
So, cognitive flexibility is kind of the art and science of being able to look at two seemingly disparate things and hold them in your mind at the same time. So, instead of thinking of things as black or white, sitting with the shades of grey, being able to flex your mind to look at things from different perspectives, which is a huge benefit in our new world of work as well to be able to flex our thinking as much as possible versus getting really rigid. It helps with creativity and innovation, empathy, connection with others.

And then the final one is the E, and that’s evaluate efforts. So, that’s about how to regain control of your time and priorities by really tuning into what aligns with your enduring principles, and what are your emotions telling you as data points, and really making sure you’re putting your effort into the right things so that you’re aligned with your values, so you don’t have that values mismatch. So, altogether, it makes PULSE.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, great.
So, the PULSE framework gives us a set of five categories of actions to take that can make a world of impact. And so, I’d love to hear perhaps your favorite tactical to-do inside each of them. So, in terms of pacing for performance, we want to get a sense for what’s too much, what’s too little. And how do you recommend we excellently arrive at that understanding?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, this is where I really tried to make this framework very practical and realistic and feasible.

So, let’s say I am feeling a breakdown in community, let’s go back to the six mismatches. I probably would go to secure support and pick belonging, and figure out, “Oh, read about the science of belonging,” and then I have steps on how to create more feelings of belonging in yourself and with others to build deeper connections.

If I was feeling overwhelmed by my tech use, I may go to leveraged leisure, and I have one on silence and the power of silence, and the power of solitude as well. There’s a really interesting study that I mentioned in the book where you ask people to sit alone with their thoughts or to shock themselves. A significant amount of individuals will choose to shock themselves over sitting alone with their thoughts.

And one outlier in the study actually shocked themselves 190 times, which is incredible but it speaks to how, in our fast-pace constantly hustling society, slowing down to stop and to still has become an afterthought or seen as lazy or non-adaptive. But the more we have space, and this doesn’t have to be massive amounts of alone time but to sit in really, you know, have more introspection, have more self-awareness, we can then ensure that we’re picking things in our life and channeling our energy and emotions and time, these really finite resources, especially our time, the ultimate finite resource, towards things that matter.

But if we’re not sitting down and reflecting on, “Hey, how do I build in a solitude practice once a week, small, micro moments of just solitude events to reflect on this? How do I know I’m even going in the right direction?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, the action step there is to, in fact, have silence built-in. And so, you said a short silence is still great, like a minute, and just put it in the calendar or lock it in after a particular activity in a day. Or how do you think about that?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, exactly. So, a big thing when you’re building new habits is it’s always important to start really small. These don’t have to be big overhauls in behavior. That’s why, with behavior change, if we think about New Year, most New Year’s resolutions do not work out because they’re just too big. It’s too big of an ask. So, I’m a believer in doing these little micro moments throughout the day on a more consistent basis, and pairing them, we call it piggybacking for habit formation. You pair with a habit that you’ve already established.

So, let’s say I want to start one of introspection or just silence just for a moment, every time you can come home and put your keys in the entry way table, you could just pause for a second, maybe it’s for two minutes and just breathe or just think about your thoughts for the day. You can also tie it to brushing your teeth at night. So, tie it to something that’s already existing in your habit, in your routines, can go such a long way.

And then you can think of all of these things but, especially like leisure, dosing it so you can have little micro doses where you have, “Okay, I know my 30-second to one-minute doses,” and then you can do moderate doses, and then you can do even mega doses where you’re like, “Every three weekends, I go away on a vacation into nature because nature can relax me.”

So, it really can be you can get pretty strategic about it to integrate it into your lifestyle because that’s what matters. It’s the little tiny…I liken it to like a piggybank. You got to put little tiny deposits into your resilience piggybank so when adversity happens, you take it out and you don’t break the bank. And it’s just little things down on a consistent and persistent basis over time that are going to make the most impact. It does not have to be huge massive changes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then, tell us, what a micro dose of leisure might look, sound, feel like in practice in terms of like what’s a one-minute thing that really helps?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah. So, I have one scheduled in after you and I talk. So, I know from, and this is mentioned in my book, our nervous system gets activated whether we are excited or angry or scared. It doesn’t matter. It just knows your heightened levels. So, I’m excited to be here. This isn’t a negative moment for me, but my nervous system is still getting activated. And that’s okay to have a nervous system activation or stress. Stress is not bad. The problem is stress without recovery. So, chronic stress without recovery.

So, whenever I have something that is going to get me excited, like I love this stuff, I love to geek out on it, so talking to you is exciting for me, but I know I’m activating my nervous system, I will set aside, so I have five minutes, just five minutes, to go outside. Like, I live here in San Francisco where it’s sunny out, and go outside right by the bay and watch some seagulls fly around, breathe, get my nervous system back calm, and then continue in on my day.

So, it’s not a massive thing but it’s allowing, it’s hacking my nervous system just enough so that I’m not in a chronic stress state. Chronic stress without recovery is where it can lead to really, really unhealthy ailments mentally and physically.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And when it comes to the securing of support, you say there’s particular things that really bring on the belonging feelings. What are those things?

Jacinta Jimenez
A big one is compassion. So, people, I think, we hear a lot about empathy, and empathy is important but compassion is different from empathy because compassion is empathy but in action. So, it’s, “I feel for you, but also I want to do something for you.” And so, again, this doesn’t have to be a massive thing where you’re like driving across town to help a friend or something. It can be something as small as just acknowledging someone, or saying thank you to someone, or just checking in with someone. But those moments where you’re engaging in compassionate action creates this, what researchers call, positivity resonance. And it can give us a helper’s high actually, which is very, very good for us and for our relationships.

And so, when we help others, we actually feel more belonging in us so we’re setting up conditions where other people will want to help us. So, it’s this kind of self-reinforcing process but it’s about actively looking. It’s not random acts of kindness. It’s actively looking for maybe three compassionate actions you can take each week to help someone else, to be there for someone else. There’s also a really cool meditation, a loving kindness meditation, where they’ve done a lot of brain MRIs to look at feelings of loneliness before and after this meditation. And just practicing it up to, in total, one hour a week can have significant impacts on how we feel whether we feel connected, and, basically, gets us out of our self-focus so we start.

What it’s doing is you sit and think about people that you care about or in your life, and you say, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease,” and just focusing on other people, getting out of our self-focus can drive a deeper sense of belonging because we just go, “Oh, I’m not alone. We all have a shared common humanity here.” And that’s really powerful because the self-focus with our social media and the pull to just think about ourselves and curate our lives and how we present is a pretty strong pull and it’s not necessarily good for us.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And when it comes to undoing untidy thinking, what is some of the most frequent and problematic thinking that pops up for professionals, and how do we go about undoing that untidiness?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yes, our mind can get quite untidy. I liken it to Marie Kondo for the mind. Got to know what’s in there and straighten it out. Well, I think a big one is with COVID has created tremendous amounts of uncertainty, and our minds are absolutely programmed to hate uncertainty because it is not evolutionarily viable for us to live in uncertain conditions. Like, we’re on the prairie as hunter and gatherers, and we’re like, “We don’t know what the weather patterns are or if something is going to eat us.” That’s going to set us up to be highly anxious, nervous system activation, lots of stress.

This is something, another study is that they’ve done with people is ask them, “Do you want to shock now or you may not get a shock but you may get a shock later today? Which one would you pick?” And people always pick, not always, I should say, but often, more than not, option one. They’d rather just get it over with. And so, that creates this kind of negativity bias in us where we’re looking, trying to make things certain and so our minds will paint stories for us to try to make things feel certain even though we don’t know the real story.

So, let’s say you’re in a hallway and you usually say hi to your manager, and then your manager weirdly walks past you, kind of with a not-so nice face, and you’re like, “Oh, no, I sent my manager that email yesterday. I shouldn’t have sent it to her.” We make this whole story to make sure we feel we know what’s going on. In reality, the manager could’ve just had to go to the bathroom before a meeting.

And so, we paint these pictures, these stories to create a false sense of certainty, and our mind doesn’t always get it wrong, but oftentimes we can do what we call thinking traps, where we mind-read it like, “Oh, I know what person is thinking.” Or we personalize everything, “Oh, they’re looking at me weird. I know it’s something about me,” and it may not be about you at all. Or mental filtering, like, you do a talk and you get great reviews, and then that one person didn’t give you a great review, like, “Is it awful talk?” you don’t even see the good stuff.

So, being able to be aware of how our brains are serving us sometimes, and also not serving us, can keep us from feeling a lot of stress. It’s pretty powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay. So, we get some awareness. And how do we get it and what do we do with it?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yes, so you get the awareness by asking yourself, I say, pick curiosity over concern. So, curiosity over concern is the mantra for undo untidy thinking. So, the more curious you can get, like, “Is that true? Do I have evidence for this thought? What’s another way I could be thinking about this?” can go such a long way at just checking out your thoughts versus just automatically going down the rabbit hole with your mind and going on a whole tangent, making up stories or explanations. And that can help so much to have some space between your thought and what you do.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. It goes, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies your freedom.” And I’m like, “That’s it. You have the space to go, ‘Oh, wait, let me check it out.’” And it’s not that hard. It just takes a little bit of a pause, this space.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you share any other key things professionals should know to reduce or address burnout?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is that hard work and leisure and rest and recovery and vitality are not at odds with one another. If anything, the two go hand in hand. I think there’s a lot of misnomers about, “Oh, I need to keep working harder. If I don’t work harder, I’m not worthy or valuable,” or, “More work actually equals more output,” which isn’t true. Or, success, “Part of being successful is you just have to be chronically stressed.” And I’m like, “No,” the research shows us, beyond a certain threshold, our efforts to work harder actually don’t serve us. We are less productive, we are less creative, we make more mistakes, we are less empathic.

And so, the more we can actually prioritize this and think of these things as part of work, leaning into these resilience capabilities, the more we show up. We do better work. We show up to our communities, our families, our customers, our teammates, more productive, vital, present, and innovative and empathic.

So, yeah, I love to communicate to folks that this isn’t something, like I don’t see it anymore for a new world of work as a nice-to-have. It’s a necessity. It’s really a necessity for doing great work and making an impact in whatever way you want.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, you shared a favorite quote, could you share with us a favorite study or experiment or piece of research?

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, I think one of my favorite pieces of research in writing this book is just the power of nature. I think we all kind of know nature is pretty special. But just to think about, like from a time-spent perspective, like human evolution, like we’ve spent 99.9% of our time as a species in nature so we’ve evolved to find restoration in nature.

So, this is part of my leveraged leisure section is nature and finding sanctuary in nature. And just even 20 minutes in nature, or listening to nature sounds even, or looking at nature scenes can reduce our cortisol levels, which is our stress hormones, substantially, and it’s powerful. It’s almost…it is like a form of medicine physiologically for us and then mentally as well. So, nature is a powerful, powerful thing to think about when thinking about how to buffer against chronic workplace stress.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Jacinta Jimenez
I think a favorite book is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and just the power of meaning, and how important it is for us as humans, that we can’t be happy all the time. Emotions are inherently impermanent but we can always have meaning. And meaning can help us persevere and be more resilient in the face of adversity.

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

Jacinta Jimenez
I think it’s support. I am a biggest believer in being a good people picker is what I call it. So, aligning yourself with people that you care about, that also up-level you, that challenge you, that support you. So, I have this support group of professionals that I go to. We’re very close, six of us, and we counsel each other on matters tied to work or career moves or new things that we’re thinking about tied to our work. And it’s just allowed me to, again, have that cognitive flexibility to look at things from all sides of the spectrum. It is a super power to have. Multiple perspectives help you out along your journey. But it’s the right people.

In the past, you can pick not-so great people, and it does take a toll, those are energy vampires. Whether they mean to or not, they can just take a lot of energy from us and leave us less vital, and we want people to fill us not drain us.

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

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah. The main one, this is kind of my mantra to hide to, that stress isn’t bad, and I say, “When you stress, you must rest.” So, if you have a stressful thing in your schedule, just counterbalance it with a rest, and so you can have what peak performance researchers call oscillations. So, stress and rest. It’s okay to have stress, we’re going to have it, but just make sure to rest. Micro rests. It does not have to be a big one.

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

Jacinta Jimenez
TheBurnoutFix.com.

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

Jacinta Jimenez
Yeah, I would challenge folks to really consider how building out your resilience and your wellbeing is kind of the fundamental piece, a baseline I would say, for doing being awesome at your job. I adamantly believe a new world of work necessitates new ways to approach work. So, the more you can lean into these things that allow you to feel more vibrant, and full, and have a full soul, the better you’re going to be at all the other efforts of working hard and all these productivity hats and working smart. So, I would say this is a non-negotiable and I challenge you to really consider it a core component to how you approach work and life.

Pete Mockaitis
Jacinta, thanks so much for sharing the goods and I wish you all the best and many burnout-free workdays.

Jacinta Jimenez
Thank you so much for having me and letting me geek out on this stuff with you.

657: How to Stop Drifting and Start Directing Your Career & Life with Andy Storch

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Andy Storch says: "Nobody cares more about your career than you do."

Andy Storch discusses why professionals often feel lost in their careers—and how you can find your direction.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three mental shifts that turn challenges into opportunities 
  2. The ultimate tool for resolving your hardest decisions 
  3.  The subtle ways we waste time—and how to stop 

 

About Andy

Andy Storch is an executive coach, consultant and facilitator specializing in helping clients turn strategy into action and results. He helps leaders accelerate and grow their success through measurable improvements in their business and careers. Just as important, he helps them become the happiest, healthiest, most fulfilled versions of themselves. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Andy Storch Interview Transcript

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

Andy Storch
Pete, thank you so much for having me back on. I am flattered, I’m honored, I’m a big fan of yours and everything you do, and I’m excited to be back on here to talk with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, I’m excited to be talking with you. Now, boy, a lot has changed in the last two and a half years since we recorded an episode. And for you, in particular, you’ve dealt with an extra dose of changes and you seem to be holding up masterfully. So, could you give us a bit of the life update and sort of a little bit about how your mindset and how you’re thinking about things?

Andy Storch
Sure, yeah. Over the last year, I faced many challenges like many of your listeners and people you network with. At the time, early in 2020, my whole business was selling and running in-person training programs, I was flying all over the country and the world. And, of course, that got completely shut down by COVID, and I made some pivots in my business last year. I wrote and published a book which we’ll be talking about.

And around the time that I published my book in November of 2020, I was also diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was a complete surprise, not something I was planning on at all. I ended up having surgery two days after I published my book, and then spent December and January trying some different treatments, and basically on the couch, unable to work, and then started chemotherapy in January.

And you and I are recording this in March, it’s been a couple of months of treatments. There had been some really hard days, some ups and downs. I’m feeling pretty good now as I’ve gotten through a lot of it. And, yeah, mindset is something I was already big on going into this. In fact, I have a chapter in my book about the importance of having the right mindset, and it’s something that’s helped me get through this.

And I would say, to take it a step further, taking responsibility for everything that’s going on, accepting what I can’t control, focusing on the best path forward, and spending a lot of time focusing on gratitude, which is hard to do sometimes when you feel like everything is horrible. You feel horrible, you can’t walk, and you just feel nauseous and terrible, but I remind myself and I remind others that no matter how bad things seem, no matter what the challenges you’re going through, and we all have challenges, we always have things to be grateful for, reasons to be grateful, and that gratitude has helped me a lot. I write down in my journal my gratitude every single day.

The other thing that helped me, from mindset perspective, was remembering the nature of impermanence. So, that’s something I learned about through my time of meditation and mindfulness over the last few years. And a certain phrase that I learned from a friend of mine, that I kept in mind, when I was going through the worst of the treatment on those days where I just felt absolutely horrible, that hating life feeling, I can’t believe it’s this bad.

And I remember this phrase, I recite it often, which is, “This is how it is right now.” And that just kind of reminded me that, “I am going through this right now but it’s not going to be like this forever, and I’m going to accept the situation for what it is right now. I’m going to get through this. Tomorrow will be a better day.” And, sure enough, it almost always was. There were some days that were absolutely horrible, but then things would get better. Like today, I feel pretty good and a lot of that stuff is in the rear view, and we just keep moving forward day by day knowing that there are going to be challenges but we will get through them, possibly come out stronger. That’s my plan.

And I don’t know why this happened for me but I know it does create opportunities for me to share more of my story to inspire people and help people who may be going through similar challenges. And I know there will be plenty of those who come after me, and so I’m always happy to share my story. I’ve been sharing a lot on social media and on my podcast so people know what’s going on, and also to know that, hey, if I can get through this stuff, you can get through whatever challenge you’re dealing with right now, especially with that focus on gratitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for sharing that. And, yes, that is inspiring, just how you’re handling things. And I heard you even say, “I don’t know why this happened for me,” and then your Chapter 13 is called “Mindset Is Everything.” And that’s one of the distinctions you talk about there. So, I’d actually like to start with mindset and then rock and roll throughout the book. So, tells us about that phrase, “something happens for you,” as opposed to “to you.”

Andy Storch
Yeah, it’s a simple but a very big flip and switch in your mindset. It’s this idea of going from everything in life happens to you, to everything in life happens for you. And the “to you,” I see that as more of the victim mindset. In other words, “I’m waiting for things in life to happen to me,” “My boss did this to me,” “That person cut me off in traffic,” “Someone said something not nice to me,” “You made me angry,” or, “You made me happy,” instead of taking full responsibility and seeing everything in life as an opportunity.

So, from going from “everything in life happens to me,” to “everything in life happens for me.” When you believe everything in life happens for you, then you start to see the silver linings, you start to see the opportunities that come up. And so, I started even a couple years ago using that language and trying not to say that anything is happening to me or that this happened to me. Instead, I get to do this and this happened for me.

By the way, that’s another great switch you can make in your language. Stop using the phrase “I have to.” Like, “Oh, I have to do this podcast interview with Pete today.” No, “I get to do this podcast interview with Pete,” just like I get to go through cancer and I get to go through chemo instead of “I have to.” And that is simple, it’s a small switch but it flips in your mind, and you start to see everything in life as an opportunity as almost something that you’re choosing to do.

And most of what we do, we do choose to do, and I think a lot of people don’t realize it. They say things like, “Well, I have to go to work,” “I have this commute because I have to go to that place,” or, “I have to go to this meeting.” And the truth is if you live in most countries in the world, you have free will, you have the opportunity, you are making choices every day. You are choosing to go to work at that company that you work for. You are choosing to do the job that you’re doing. You could walk away and do something else if you wanted to. I’m not saying it’ll be the best option if you don’t like your job but you are making a choice.

And when you’re honest about that, then you start to realize that you have more control and ownership in your life than maybe you thought. And the whole idea behind this is I want people to take more ownership, to take more initiative, and be more intentional with what you’re doing and what you’re saying.

And when you’re honest with yourself about what you get to do and you’re able to make the switch and take that ownership mindset, it’s a lot easier to then turn challenges into opportunities by saying things like, “I get to go to this job,” “I get to deal with cancer right now.” Well, why? I don’t know. It’s not what I would’ve chosen but I get to do it and it gives me the opportunity to share my story and, hopefully, inspire and help more people when I’m done.

Pete Mockaitis
And I really like that notion about the “have to” because usually that’s not true. And I’m thinking about the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, which is awesome. And it says, “Most often behind the ‘have to’ is a ‘because.’” Like, “I choose to do this because I don’t want to get fired.”

Andy Storch
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And, in a way, that’s still pretty coercive. It’s like if it’s all or nothing like that, and most things aren’t. If it’s all or nothing like that, it’s still your choice. It’s like, “Well, I could choose to not comply with these things and not have this job anymore or I could continue doing this.” So, your “have to” is still a choice even if it’s kind of a narrow coerced choice.

Andy Storch
Yeah. Another one that people do all the time that I think is a big switch, when you’re willing to be honest with yourself and others, is when people say, “I don’t have time to do that,” or, “I wish I could work on that project but I don’t have time,” or, “I would’ve stopped by your happy hour but I didn’t have time.” And the truth is you always have time to do anything you want. It’s just that you chose to do something else. And that choice may have been because you had a project that you felt you needed to get done, otherwise you’d get fired, or it may be just that you chose to go do something else.

Let’s say you invited me on this podcast and I said, “Oh, Pete, I’m sorry, I don’t have time,” or I asked to come on and you said, “Sorry, we don’t have time,” you really do have time. What you’re saying is, “I don’t see the value in having you on or coming on the show because I’m choosing to do something…”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, relative to my alternatives, it’s not valuable.

Andy Storch
Exactly, “I’m choosing to do something else during that time,” when you’re honest with yourself. Now, the hard thing is to be honest with other people because, when they invite you to something and you say, “I can’t come,” which is not true. What you really mean is, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to come because I’m choosing to go somewhere else,” that can sound kind of bad so you go to pick your battles but it really is about being honest, at least with yourself. And I think that also changes a lot because it brings a lot of awareness to how you are prioritizing your time, which allows you to think more about how you could be spending your time to maybe achieve more of your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s get right to the heart of that issue then in terms of you mentioned defining your unique purpose is, in fact, the ultimate productivity tool. So, I love productivity tools. Tell us, how do we get to that unique purpose?

Andy Storch
I know you do, Pete, and I know you’re all about helping people be awesome at their jobs. In the book, I talk about the importance of setting a vision and getting clarity on where you are going with your career and with your life. No one’s going to hold you to that. Things always change. You never know exactly what’s going to happen down the line, but the more clarity you have on where you’re going, the easier it is to make decisions when they come up, whether you get laid off or someone offers you a new job or a business opportunity or something like that. These decisions become easier when you have clarity on where you’re going, and then you use that to set the goals for accomplishing and achieving that vision.

But when we set big goals, if you are an ambitious person, like you and I, you know that challenges are almost always going to come up, some things are going to try to get in your way. And that’s where I think being connected to your purpose, understanding your why behind that goal and behind why you’re doing anything and everything can be that really motivating factor to help you get through things.

And the way you find that purpose and you connect to that purpose is through a lot of self-reflection. At least for me, it’s asking that question why over and over again, “Why do I want to achieve this goal?” “Why do I want to get that promotion?” “Why do I want to move into finance?” “Why do I want to achieve financial freedom?” or, “Why do I want to travel with my family?” Any goals, “Why do I want to lose weight?” or “Why do I want to pay off my debt?”

Whatever goals you have, asking yourself why and really getting honest and deep with it because, what I’ve noticed over time, and this is part of I talk about people drifting and operating in reaction mode, in the book, is that a lot of people are setting goals based on other people, based on things that they see out there on social media, or what their friends are doing. And when you truly set goals based on your own values and your own priorities, and connect with your own purpose for what’s driving you to do those things, you become a lot more motivated to go out and achieve those things and to overcome those challenges.

When you’re trying to lose weight and you set a goal to go to the gym three or four times a week, you need a good purpose behind that because challenges are going to come up, somebody is going to invite you to happy hour, work is going to run long, you’re going to feel tired one day and not feel like going to the gym. But when you have that purpose, “I want to have more energy to play with my kids, and I want to be around for a long time,” that’s the driving why behind your goals that’s going to give you more motivation to go out and overcome challenges to achieve those things.

You can also get ideas from other people as far as purpose is concerned, and then get feedback from people around you as well. So, in the book, I mentioned an interview I did with my friend Travis Jomer who used to run purpose programs in the organization where he worked where people would go to a workshop to discover their personal purpose, and then they’d go around and spend several days running that by other people, their colleagues in the company, and get feedback on that.

So, I might say, “Pete, my purpose,” and this is my life purpose that I recite every day, by the way. My life purpose is to love and support my family to continue to grow and improve, to model a healthy and intentional lifestyle and add value to the world. You could give me feedback on that, and say, “Well, I know you, Andy, and I don’t really see you doing those things,” or, “Could you give me a little bit more clarity on this one thing?” or, “Tell me more about this. Maybe you could hone it down a little bit more,” or you could say, “I love it.” But either way, if I get feedback from you, I might be able to hone it down and improve it a little bit more.

And then come back to that purpose on a regular basis. Write it down. Recite it as an affirmation, as I do mine every day, and it can be a really motivating factor in everything you do, just like mine has been for me, both with achieving big goals like publishing a book, and getting through cancer and making sure that I’m still there for my family and I’m still doing the things that I know are going to help me be happier and more successful in the long term.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, part of arriving at that, you need purposes, is bringing in feedback from other people. And then, I’m curious, prior to that, how did you land upon yours as you’ve articulated it?

Andy Storch
Well, to be honest, the initial spark of the idea came from hearing a couple other people talk about theirs, one of whom was Hal Elrod who wrote the book The Miracle Morning. I borrowed some of my affirmations from his when I started developing those. And hearing him, I think on a podcast once, even talk about his purpose, and then thinking through, “Okay, what do I want mine to be? I see what he’s doing, I see what other people are doing with theirs.”

And a lot of it also came from, going back to that self-reflection, what really motivates me. And what I realized in really reflecting on my life, especially throughout my 20s when I really felt like, looking back, was really drifting, I was having fun but I wasn’t really progressing, I was happy but I wasn’t truly happy.

And what I realized is, after college, I stopped learning, I stopped growing. And then when I got into my 30s later, and I got into personal development and I started investing in myself and reading more and learning and taking courses and going to workshops, I felt so much happier and more fulfilled. And I realized that growth has to be a big part of my purpose because it’s a driving factor for me. So, that’s something I built in that I must always be learning and growing.

And I’ve realized, through my own self-awareness and through reflection, that that’s something that’s a driving factor for me – growth and contribution. And it may be for other people, it might be something different for other people, but that reflection is so critical, I think, to really developing that purpose and understanding why you live the way you live, what truly makes you happy and fulfilled, and what’s driving you and going to help you go forward and achieve your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Well, so we’ve already got into a number of the key ideas inside your book Own Your Career, Own Your Life: Stop Drifting and Take Control of Your Future. Let’s talk about this. This title almost feels like it’s two topics, two podcast interviews – owning one’s career and owning one’s life. Tell us, what’s the same versus different when we’re going about owning each of these domains?

Andy Storch
Yeah, it’s a good point. And I often describe the book as a personal development book disguised as a career development book. So, for those listening, if you’re looking for straight career development with interview help and things like that, it’s not all in there. This is a lot more personal development.

Where the overlap is this idea of being really intentional with how you’re spending your time with the goals you set, with how you go and achieve those things, getting help along the way, and going after and achieving the goals that you want in your career, and not operating in reaction mode, waiting for other people to tell you what to do, doing the things just because you think society deems it, “I should be watching sports or Netflix,” or, “I should spend my time doing these things,” when you might really want to be doing something else.

And then, for your career, that’s where I really dive into how do you set yourself up for future success. The middle section of the book that kind of bridges the two is about planning for the future or owning your future, controlling your future, whatever you want to call it, by doing things like investing in continuous learning, building a network and building a personal brand. All those things are going to help you in your career but they’re going to help you in your life as well.

And then, on the life side, of course, talking about the importance of things like investing in your health, getting enough sleep, getting exercise, eating right, things like that, that are going to serve you well in your life, but I think they will also serve you well in your career as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And I’m intrigued, when it says, the subtitle, “Stop Drifting and Take Control,” I think that word drifting is resonant, that many people feel they’re adrift or they’re currently drifting or they’ve had seasons in which they’re drifting. What’s behind the drift? Where does it come from and what do we do about it?

Andy Storch
Yeah, I was worried, to be honest, that would offend people or people wouldn’t realize they are.

Pete Mockaitis
“How dare you?”

Andy Storch
I know. Hey, I’m a friendly guy. I shy away from conflict but I do want to wake people up. And I’ve been there myself. As I mentioned, I was drifting through much of my 20s. I had a lot of friends, I had a decent job, but I was going up partying every night, I was watching a ton of sports, and there’s nothing wrong with those things, but I realized, after the fact, that they weren’t moving me forward, they weren’t helping me in my career, they weren’t helping me achieve my goals, and they weren’t contributing towards my growth or my fulfillment.

And I’d rather, now that I realized those things, I’d much rather be having a conversation with someone like you, investing in a course or a mastermind group or reading a book and learning than watching football and baseball all day. And, again, nothing wrong with those things if that’s how you choose to spend your time, but I want people to realize that how they’re spending their time can have a big impact on their life. And a lot of things we do are not really moving us forward. They’re just kind of static exercises that we’re often doing because we think, “Well, that’s what we need to do. That’s what society tells us to do.”

And this originally came from a book by Napoleon Hill that was all about drift. It was written some 80 years ago and it’s still resonant today as it was back then, the idea that the devil gets hold of us through drifting, through people just spending too much time drinking or smoking or watching TV or doing things that really don’t move them forward versus being really intentional with their lives and being intentional with how you’re spending your time and where you’re going and what you’re doing.

And I think this comes also down to you being honest. And I’m sure you’ve come across this all the time, Pete. You work with a lot of people in the professional world, successful and not successful, whatever, people who say things like, “Well, family is the most important thing to me,” but they’re working 60, 80 hours a week and then spending all day Sunday watching football. Again, nothing wrong with those things. It’s just about being honest with who you are, what’s important to you, and how you’re spending your time.

And does that time, how you’re spending your time, actually match up with what you say or your values and your priorities and what the most important things are to you? Or, are you spending your time doing other things? And do you need to maybe make some adjustments, kind of wake up, stop drifting, like I said, and take control of your future by being a lot more intentional with your actions and how you’re spending your time?

Pete Mockaitis
What’s interesting to me is some of those drifting examples you shared in terms of watching sports, watching Netflix, drinking, smoking, in some ways, I guess the theme I see there is it may be sort of societal messaging that these things are cool or fun or what to do. I think it also can be that those are some of the easiest ways to just sort of push the pleasure button. I might add video games into that mix as well.

Andy Storch
There’s lots of things you can add in there. Even like reading romance novels all days. Some people might say reading is superior to watching TV but you’re still just kind of spending your time doing something that doesn’t really advance you in any way. And society, we as men, especially, Pete, and I always hate to generalize, but men are supposed to be into sports and watch every tournament and championship game. The commercials tell us that. But we don’t have to live that way, we don’t have to do that.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with those things. And I spent all my 20s watching sports like 24/7. I was a huge, huge fan. And now, looking back, I realize that I gained almost nothing from that. And the funny thing is, what I always joke about now is that you could spend six hours or four hours on a night watching a basketball game or a football game and I can skip it and check the score and spend 30 seconds reading the recap the next day, and you and I have the same exact amount of information. So, you can save yourself a lot of time just by scanning the headlines.

You could be spending that time learning something or making progress in your career, working on a goal, working on a new project, spending time with your kids, with your spouse, with friends. There are so many things you could be doing that I think would contribute so much more happiness and fulfillment to your life than watching sports.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, there’s a theme there associated with it’s the easy thing, it’s the messaging you’ve heard elsewhere. It’s just sort of the rut that you’ve been into. It might give you a bit of a dopamine hit here and there but it seems like you’re really saying, “Well, let’s elevate the perspective and evaluate how we’re spending time in these ways,” in terms of the better criteria are not so much those but rather, “Is it advancing me into where I want to go and who I want to become?”

And what are some of the other key questions or criteria you use to evaluate whether something is a great or okay or bad use of time?

Andy Storch
Yeah. So, does it connect with your values? And this would require you to probably go do a values exercise. I’m not an expert on this but you can go Google values exercise. There are tons of them available out there and, usually, it involves looking at a lot of different words, and then eliminating and narrowing it down to the top five, and saying, “Hey, what are the most important things to me?” And that helps guide you in making decisions and how you spend your time.

The easy example is if you say health is one of the most important things to you. When 5:00 o’clock rolls around, you’re planning on going to the gym and your friends invite you to happy hour, what do you do? Do you go to happy hour or you go to the gym? There’s no right or wrong answer but if your value is that health is one of your most important things, you’d probably go to the gym. Whereas, if socializing or connection is one of your most important values, you’d probably go to happy hour and hang out with your friends, or get on that Zoom happy hour during a pandemic.

So, think about understanding your values and your purpose, which we talked about earlier, and then figuring out what are those goals, what are those things you want to achieve both professionally and personally. Is it a promotion? Is it moving from finance into marketing, or doing something different with your career? Is it starting or running a side business, maybe starting a podcast, you want to be cool like Pete, or maybe it’s losing weight, or getting a second degree, or learning another language?

And it’s easy to put those things off because you get sidetracked with some of those drifting activities we talked about, whether it’s watching TV or sports or whatever it is. And thinking about how you’re spending your time and being honest with how you spend your time.

And then, going back to the mindset piece, the mental bandwidth, we talked about that ownership mindset. The other thing I would say is when you focus your energy on things that are within your control and you try not to spend too much time worrying or thinking about things outside of your control, you can also get a lot more done.

We just came off of a very long and contentious election cycle here in the United States, and so many people spend all this time thinking about the election and who’s going to win, and the other people that don’t believe the thing that I believe, and yet there’s really almost nothing you could do about it other than casting your vote on that one day, which, honestly, takes like an hour or less.

The rest of the time, we’re spending all this time worrying about something that is outside of our control and there’s really nothing we can do about it so we’re much better served focusing on things in our control, like our job, our career, our business, our family, connecting with friends, working on that goal, learning that new language, whatever it may be that’s going to make you happier than focusing your time watching CNN all day wondering what’s going to happen with the election.

And I’m not saying I don’t get sucked into those things from time to time, especially in an election cycle, but I try to avoid it as much as possible because I know I have a very limited amount of time and I want to spend that doing important things that are going to move me forward in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s an interesting perspective and it sounds very simple and maybe almost obvious but it rings true, and I think it’s easy to forget or ignore. What you said there is that the more time we spend on things within our control, the better. And that sounds right. And I wonder if you have a good study on it, I love those, because I think it’s true, that the more we spend time on the here and now, the happier we feel. And I think, likewise, it adds up that the more you spend time on what you can control, maybe the more meaning or fulfillment or excitement is in your life. What do you think here?

Andy Storch
I think it leads to a lot more happiness and fulfillment because when you’re spending your time thinking about things outside your control, that’s when people get really anxious, they experience a lot of anxiety, worry. People spend a lot of time worrying about either things that happened in the past or things that might happen in the future, when you have no control over those things. You could be spending your time focused on the present, as you mentioned, which is the only thing that we can control, as how we act in the present, what we think and how we react to things in the present moment.

We can’t control the things that might happen in the future, and we certainly can’t change anything that happened in the past, but we can do things today to help set us up for success in the future. We can do things today to help influence our future, but we can’t do anything about a thing in the future. I heard a quote a long time ago that I loved, that, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives us something to do but it doesn’t take us anywhere.” And we really are not getting anywhere by worrying about those other things that are outside of our control. And this is not easy, by the way.

I’m not saying you can just flip a switch and stop worrying about stuff that might be coming that are outside of your control. Like, if your company announces that, “Hey, we might be downsizing in a couple of months or something,” of course, you’re going to worry that your job might be eliminated, but I’m saying that the more that you can limit the time that you spend worrying about that and focus on what you can do today, which that might include making sure that your boss understand the value that you contribute in your role in your organization.

It might be starting to build your network or honing up your resume, calling a recruiter, going and talking to some people, and looking at future job opportunities, not sitting around waiting and worrying, “What happens if I get laid off?” Start taking action today, things you can do in the present moment that will help set you up for future success.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lovely. Well, we’ve talked about big picture things. Andy, could we zoom in, before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things, about just a few tactics like, “Oh, boy, here’s a quick trick or script or key question that makes a load of difference when it comes to owning your career and owning your life”?

Andy Storch
Yeah. One of those is investing in continuous learning. The days of relying on getting that college degree and then working for the next 40 years are gone. I think we can all agree easily on that. The future of work, work is changing all the time. Jobs that exist today, there are a lot of jobs that exist today that didn’t exist 20 years.

Pete, you probably have a podcast producer and editor. That job didn’t exist 20 years ago. There are tons of social media managers out there, that job didn’t exist 20 years ago. And that means jobs are going to change again in the next 10, 20 years, and the job you do today might not exist. You’ve got to be learning all the time to help you get better at your job and prepared for things that come up.

If you’re listening to this podcast, I’m not preaching to the choir, you are listening because you want to learn and better yourself, that’s why you follow Pete and listen to this podcast, of course. And, hopefully, you listen to others, you read books, you take courses, you hire coaches, things like that, because all of those things can be really helpful, as well as formal education.

The next thing is building your network. Nothing has been more critical to my success over the years than having a strong network, having relationships with lots of different people. Every opportunity I’ve gotten in my career has come through my network and through relationships. And you can be doing that whether we’re in a pandemic, in a virtual world, or in-person world, there are plenty of opportunities to do that by attending virtual summits, getting active on LinkedIn, reaching out to people inside and outside your organization on a regular basis to have virtual coffees, get to know each other sessions, and just chatting with people and find out what they’re working on.

Look for opportunities to give value and contribute and help other people around you because I believe karma is real. It does come back to you when you do that. And so, you can get really practical and tactical with that by saying, “Hey, I’m going to reach out to three new people a week,” especially if you have a specific goal, like, “I want to move from finance into marketing.”

Start reaching out to people who work in marketing. Build your network in that space. Make those connections. Ask them questions. Learn about how they get to where they did, learn about the mistakes they made, the things they made, they did, what helped them become more successful. And that’s going to lead to you being more successful. It might lead to job offers. You have no idea what might come from that.

And then the third piece that I mentioned there is building your personal brand. And a lot of people believe a myth that if you just do a good job of your job then you’ll be rewarded and promoted, when the truth is people often are rewarded based on their reputation, not on the job, the quality of the job that they do, or they did. And you’ve probably seen this a lot, Pete, as well. Reputation is huge. It’s everything.

And a personal brand, I talk about a personal brand or professional brand, it’s nothing more than your reputation amongst your colleagues, your peers, out in the marketplace. And the interesting thing about the personal brand and the reputation is that, whether you do anything about it or not, you have a reputation. So, I always say you might as well be intentional about building that. And I always recommend being authentic. I never want anybody to be inauthentic in their personal brand or the reputation they’re building.

But think about how you’re showing up at work, the types of projects you take on, the way you collaborate with others, the way you work with others. Are you easy to work with? Do you easily get along with? Are you difficult to work with? And then, do you put any content on social media? Do you post anything on LinkedIn? Do you go interact with other people’s posts, comment on things, send messages, connect with others? All of those things can contribute to your reputation and your personal brand and can help you get that next job that you might want, or that promotion. A lot of it comes down to the brand and the reputation that you’re building. And so, there’s a lot of things you can do on a regular basis to help set you up for success in that area.

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

Andy Storch
No, I think that’s it. We’ve covered so much great ground. It’s really about being intentional with your actions, being honest about how you’re spending your time, and remembering that nobody cares more about your career than you do so you’ve got to be the one to kind of take the reins to set your vision, set your goals, connect with purpose, and start doing the things that I talked about to set you up for future success and take control of your future.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, Andy, when you say that line “no one cares more about your career than you do,” I chuckle a little bit because, well, it’s so true kind of on the inside about how you feel about your own career. But I see it on the outside because, hey, I’ve got the show, I love talking about this kind of stuff. Nonetheless, when I’m in a meeting and people start introducing themselves, and they give me like a three-minute kind of a career story, “Well, I did a stint in marketing and then I went and came back to operations.” I don’t know about you but I’m just so bored.

Andy Storch
Like, “Why should I care? Why is this relevant to me?”

Pete Mockaitis
They just give me a theme, just like, “Hey, man, I’m the guy who always has the wild ideas, whether I was in marketing when I did this, or manufacturing when I did, or finance when I did that.” I was like, “Okay, got you.” But you see, I don’t know, I kind of understand what your thing is as opposed to just a chronology of things. Maybe I’m just…

Andy Storch
No, but it’s true. And you’re not going to care as much as they do about that career that they did. By the way, if you’re lucky, you might have a manager who cares a lot about your career, and a lot of people have…your mom probably cares a lot about you and your career, but nobody really cares as much about your career as you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, certainly. And I think that the “what you can control” side of that is, “Therefore, go ahead and take some big action to rock and roll because most other folks won’t.” Maybe friends, family, love ones, manager can nudge, but maybe not. So, seize the reins. All right. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andy Storch
One that resonated with me recently was from Albert Einstein, which is “Try not to be a person of success but try to be a person of value.” And the reason that resonated with me recently because I feel like, especially as you’re building a career and we’re in this tumultuous world, you see a lot of people out there that are kind of showcasing or talking about how successful they are on social media or wherever it may be.

But if you want to get far, if you want to build a network, or you want to build relationships, if you want to get promoted or find success in a job or career that you’re in, the more you prove to be valuable to the people around you, the more successful you’re going to be in the end because they’re going to want to work with you more, they’re going to want to promote you, they’re going to want to do business with you, they’re going to want to help you. So, when you seek to be more of a person of value than just trying to show that you are successful, not only are you going to be more valuable but you’re going to be rewarded, I think, across the board.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Andy Storch
One of the ones I mentioned in my book is the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It’s kind of changed my life and set me on this trajectory when I got into personal development in 2016. But another book that I love that I probably give as a gift more often than any other book is The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

And so, that is kind of like my Bible. It’s a book of 366 quotes from the stoics, each with kind of an explanation for modern times, and I read it every day often with my kids. And, just, it’s always thought-provoking, always gives me things to think about, and helps me reflect in how I want to live my life, and has been really influential for me.

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

Andy Storch
I’m a big fan of the Google Suite. So, I use Docs and Sheets a lot. And I have an assistant who helps me integrate everything in my business to be able to easily share and have everything in the cloud for us to work together on. I’m a big fan of Zoom like anybody else. It became even more important during the pandemic to get on video calls with each other.

The reason I mentioned that, too, is I mentioned the importance of networking. And I think it becomes more important that we become intentional with how we build our network when we’re in a remote and virtual world, especially within your company. You’ve got to reach out to people intentionally. And it’s great to have a video tool like Zoom where you can still get on video with people, you can connect, and it becomes more intimate than just being on the phone. You could build those connections to help you build that network which becomes critical for you later on down the road.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that tends to resonate with folks; they quote it back to you frequently?

Andy Storch
Well, I already talked about the idea that nobody cares more about your career than you do. Lately, what we talked about at the very beginning of this podcast is about gratitude. And I’ve been sharing a lot of that lately as I’ve been going through my journey, that gratitude really is everything. And when you think about it, and I learned this from going to a Tony Robbins workshop years ago, that when you are fully immersed in gratitude, you really cannot experience anxiety or anger or any negative emotions.

And that’s why I think gratitude is so important, so powerful, that no matter what challenge we are going through, we can always find reasons to be grateful. And it’s also important when you’re an ambitious person. We talked about being awesome at your job, you set big goals, you want to get promoted, you want to do well, whatever it is you want to experience or accomplish. It’s great to have big goals but we never want to tie our happiness to the goal because there are always going to be more goals and it’s almost always going to elude us.

We also want to make sure that we’re enjoying the journey that we’re on, that we are grateful for the things that we have today. We always have things to be grateful for whether it’s family, friends, great weather, a great podcast to listen to like this, anything. You can be grateful for anything, a good cup of coffee, but make sure that you spend time thinking about reflecting on and immersing yourself in gratitude on a regular basis. And I think that tends to lead to a lot more happiness and fulfillment in life.

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

Andy Storch
Well, I’m pretty active on social media. LinkedIn and Instagram, I’m there all the time. I’ve got a couple podcasts, as you mentioned, including the Own Your Career Own Your Life podcast and the book “Own Your Career Own Your Life” which is available on Amazon and everywhere else. And I’ve got some free resources, including the five steps to owning your career, which is available at OwnYourCareerOwnYourLife.com/bonus. So, if you just go to OwnYourCareerOwnYourLife.com/bonus you can pick up all the bonus resources from the book, including five steps to how to own your career.

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

Andy Storch
So, the challenge, the final challenge is, and I have this challenge in the book, it’s the no complaining challenge. If you want to take on an ownership mindset of your life, and you believe that everything happens in life for you and not to you, and you take full responsibility in life, then I challenge you to stop complaining for a day or a week or a month. Some people may not do this already very much. Some people complain all the time and it’s going to be difficult to get away from that.

But I challenge you to stop complaining because complaining, while it feels good in the moment, and it passes the buck or responsibility to somebody else, it doesn’t ever really get you anywhere. So, if you want to take full responsibility, you take responsibility and ownership for everything going on in your life, and you try to eliminate all complaining, if possible, to try to do it for a day or a week, see if that works. And if it does, see if you can last longer. I try to never complain about anything and I find that I’m a lot happier as a result.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Andy, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck with the book and your work and your recovery, and keep on inspiring.

Andy Storch
Pete, thank you so much for having me on. I love all the work that you’re doing. It’s been an honor to come on and talk with you and share, and I just really appreciate you having me on.

654: How to Tap Into Your Genius Zone with 34 Strong’s Darren Virassammy

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Darren says: "Be confident in where you sine and where you're blind."

Darren Virassammy shares his expert tips on how to make the strengths work best for you and your team.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How strengths can both be an asset and a liability
  2. The surprising sign of genius
  3. The trick to turn your blind spots into strengths

About Darren

Darren Virassammy is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of 34 Strong, comprised of a team that believes everyone deserves a great place to work and that any workplace can be great. A leading expert in the global employee engagement community, the 34 Strong team leverages the Strengths-Based approach to human development to create massive shifts within organizations, both culturally and on the bottom line. He and his team have created sustainable change in small microbusinesses, all the way up to large organizational teams at the FDA, Bank of America, and The California Department of Public Health. Darren is the co-host of the Leading Strong podcast and the host of The Nature Advantage podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Blinkist. Read or listen to summarized wisdom from thousands of nonfiction books! Free trial available at blinkist.com/awesome
  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease! Save $20 on a $150+ purchase with promo code AWESOME.

Darren Virassammy Interview Transcript

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

Darren Virassammy
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. What an honor to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear about so much of your wisdom. And, first, I want to hear, I understand you recently moved to Barbados. From where? What’s the story?

Darren Virassammy
Okay. So, yes, I am talking to you right now from Barbados. I moved from California, from Sacramento. I am a business owner. I’m the co-founder of a company called 34 Strong. That didn’t dissipate. We’re in a virtual world now so I have relocated here to Barbados. A big part of that story, Pete, was the fact that we wanted to give our kids a chance to live abroad. My family is originally from the Caribbean, from British Guiana, my parents and whatnot.

Barbados had a program called the Welcome Home Stamp, the Welcome Home visa, and that opened up over the course of 2020. Now, the interesting part, Pete, was we made the decision to make a move to the Caribbean in the summer of 2019 before COVID or any of that hit. So, 2020 was going to be the year that we planned on making that move to give the kids a chance to get a different experience, living overseas, looking into the United States, and really appreciating some of the things that we had there, and then getting a different appreciation from a global perspective.

One final piece I will say about that is a big part of that impetus as well was, for me, personally, outside for my family, was I really wanted to step into just leveling up into my strengths as a dad, and stepping into that place. I was personally ready to just shift into an environment like here that was going to force some of that because of some of the connections I had seen with my kids when we had been together on past trips to the West Indies, different islands.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like a cool adventure, and so, kudos. You did it and you’re living it and you’re loving it. So, that’s cool. We’re going to talk a lot about strengths here. Can you orient us quickly, your company, 34 Strong, what is it?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah, we actually do a lot of work in the space of organizational development and wellbeing. One of the tools that we’ve become very known for is our work with the CliftonStrengths Assessment. We’re helping to define what’s right with team members instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them. And then we really focused on focusing on moving the needle on employee engagement and wellbeing. There’s a loop connection between people’s overall wellbeing in their life, and employee engagement and their engagement in their work. So, we actually work in both those spaces, and we use strengths as a foundational. Foundation is kind of an anchor to build from.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, so we’ve talked about strengths a couple of times on the show and the difference it can make. Maybe, could you paint a picture perhaps by telling a story of just one professional who they were living their career life pre-strengths awareness, and then they came to getting an understanding of their strengths in a profound way, and then saw things take off as a result?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, when we think of playing to our strengths, let me start by giving this caveat. There’s this great question that Dr. Donald Clifton asked. He’s known as the father of the whole strengths-based movement and that perspective and this type of thinking. And he asked this question that ended up guiding his life, Pete, and it was simply, “What happens when we focus on what’s right with people instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them?” And that guided his whole life’s work.

So, getting to your specific question about how did that create a shift, I’ll never forget early on in 34 Strong’s life cycle, in our career as a company, when we were building it, there was a scenario where there was somebody that was in kind of a managerial role. And they were managing a team, and what started happening, there was these two managers. There was a manager effectively and an assistant manager, and they had to work together. But here’s what had happened.

They got to the place where they were not speaking and hadn’t actually spoken for 18 months. They’d be in meetings together and they literally wouldn’t speak to each other. Talk about toxicity, right? What ended up happening was they both went through the StrengthsFinder process, and the manager went through it. And the reason I started with the question of “What happens when we focus on what’s right with people instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them?” when you talk about strengths, it’s easy to think of, “Oh, let’s just focus on our strengths and ignore our weaknesses.” That actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

We actually become highly aware of where we are strong so we own those elements, and we have to own where our weaknesses show up. And here’s the key caveat. Our strengths can be our greatest assets and our greatest liabilities. This particular manager, Pete, had an awakening. She came to understand that there were things that she was doing that were contributing to how her counterpart was showing up, that was triggering her strengths.

So, it went from this lens of self-awareness to team awareness in terms of how they worked through. She came to an understanding of her own strengths and realized how that might be completely out of alignment with somebody else’s strengths on the team. And then that rippled well beyond just this assistant manager but to other team members as to how she was showing up.

So, a big piece of the puzzle that came here was this awakening of self-awareness in understanding, “How do I show up as I want to so I can be confident in where I shine? And how can I be confident around the areas where I’m blind where I might be stepping into it and not even understanding that?”

Long story short, that relationship synced up and that whole division synced up in the time that took place after that. And there was moving in the direction where it could’ve ended up very, very ugly from an HR perspective. All of that went down by the wayside and actually completely improved the overall performance of that whole division as a result of those two’s relationship falling out.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that is really cool. And so, I remember I’ve got Dodie Gomer, she was a guest on the podcast, and she told a story about she went through some strengths work and one of her top strengths was Positivity. And then she was working with someone who had another strength, I don’t even remember what it was, it might’ve something that was like Skepticism but that’s not one of them. I don’t know.

Darren Virassammy
Maybe Deliberative or Restorative where there’s a natural tendency to ask a lot of questions, like, “We need to prove first,” and going through looking at things from a very risk perspective, or seeing very, very solutions-focused but to get to solutions, have to identify the problem first. But go on.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, the facilitator said, “Oh, so you see the problem with this?” And Dodie said, “Not at all,” which is like, “Your manager thinks you’re full of it. He just doesn’t believe you with that Positivity that’s not kind of vibing or natural for them.” And, sure enough, that was on the money. So, that’s what I think is kind of interesting here is that I think many of us have taken CliftonStrengths or a tool that goes after it. And, listeners, if you haven’t, I just recommend every human do it. It’s great and fun and quick and you learn some things. But so, then once we’ve got sort of our report, “Okay, these are my top five strengths or…”

I went with the whole enchilada, one to 34 all ranked, so I’ve got all of mine. It’s kind of like, “Now what?” I think a lot of people say, “Okay, so my top strengths are Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, Input. Okay, cool, cool, cool.” And then I read a bit about what those words mean and I feel good and I say, “Yeah, I guess that’s kind of right. Okay, that kind of rings true.” So, I’m wondering, how do I go from, “Okay, I’ve got my report,” to, “I am going to build an exceptional career with this as my rock and foundation”?

Darren Virassammy
So, I think that’s a great question. That’s often the question that we come against here, and it’s, “So, what? Now, what?” and that’s a really important question to ask here because we have to switch the lens towards looking at it from, “How do I apply this?” So, some very practical techniques to go through.

There’s an exercise that we utilize at 34 Strong, it’s part of our series that we actually train our managers on, but we actually train staff on it. In fact, as a company, we’re going through this right now for Q1. So, this is how much we believe in it, and that’s everybody in the company. Myself as one of the founders and part of the leadership team, all the way through to every single member of our staff, and it’s a very simple exercise. We call it the triple G. And it’s called grind, greatness, and genius.

So, when we think of our grind, our greatness, and our genius, we have to think these in terms of the respective zones that we show up in here. So, grind, greatness, genius, when we’re thinking about our grind zones, Pete, these are the things that when you think of in your work, in your career just the thought of thinking about these things causes your stomach to go in knots. You get pits in your stomach just thinking about these things, “Oh, my gosh, I have to do these elements,” right?

Now, here’s an important caveat as you’re going through this. Everybody is going to have grind in your work. It’s called work. There’s going to be grind. The goal here is evaluating where your grind zone is, where your greatness, and your genius zones are, and then thinking of ways that we can shift towards spending more time in our greatness and our genius zone. And I speak of this a little bit more wider. If you’ve taken the CliftonStrengths Assessment, your knowledge from that will further deepen by going through this exercise. If you haven’t taken it, this is still a very applicable exercise. And this can, again, for all levels of your career.

The greatness zone, Pete, this is things that you do well. You enjoy doing them. There are some level of enjoyment and you feel pretty strong in it. You can do them really, really well. Now, here’s an important part to understand, and this is, again, whether you’re a leader or whether you’re an employee. You might have strengths that will allow you to get into the greatness zone to where you’re actually really good at doing something that’s actually in your grind zone. So, you’re grinding to do it but when others are looking in, they’ll say, “Pete, but you do such a good job at this,” but you do not love doing it. So, make sure you actually segment those things out. It’s really important for us to do that.

I’ll give you an example of this. For me, personally, in my old job that I had before I started 34 Strong, Pete, I was a senior project manager at a commercial construction company, and I would often get pulled into the fire drill projects where a project had gone sideways. And my thought process was constantly, to the owners of the company, “Hey, instead of having me parachute in and be the firefighter on these jobs to repair client relations and going through, why don’t we spend a little more time training the other project managers on this? I can spend the time doing that.”

And that never became an area of focus. It was constant firefighting that didn’t need to happen. So, I got really good at doing something that I didn’t love. I felt like I would’ve been much better in training and developing people. And then, lo and behold, I started the company that focuses on training and developing people. So, that’s an important distinction to make.

And then, finally, we get to the genius zone. So, when we step into the genius zone, these are the things that you do so well, Pete, and that people can do so well. Oftentimes, you personally might overlook them or be frustrated. This is a very important “or.” Or, be frustrated if somebody can’t do these things. Maybe you’re a person that very naturally, like you were talking about with your strengths, with Strategic, Ideation, you can very rapidly see where things are going.

Oftentimes, for those strengths, they’re sitting in a meeting, they’re sitting in a program, and they’re like, “Okay, I see where this going. Let’s move. Let’s get onto that place.” And many others need to actually catch up in going through. That’s a sign of genius and sometimes our frustrations can be a sign of our genius and the brilliance that we bring.

So, that can be something that we do so well that others come to us, and these are things that we often overlook and say, “Yeah, it’s no big deal. Anybody could do that.” If you ever catch yourself making that statement in any point in your career, I encourage you to pause because you’re overlooking a key area of value that comes to you so naturally that others see it as a huge gift that you’re providing and you’re just overlooking at it as no big deal. That’s a sign of your genius that you have to give.

So, again, grind, greatness, genius, spend some time over the course of a month, make a list of three columns. I think we have a resource on our website as well, 34Strong.com, where you can actually grab one of those, or message us for those and we can send you one of those links to be able to get that. And it’s an exercise that you can actually go through to take some inventory of that and think of that. And that can serve as a framework to start moving and asking yourself, “How can I spend more time in my greatness and my genius zones?” And we can think of ways that we can partner with others who might be in their greatness or genius zone when we’re in our grind zone.

Pete Mockaitis
And can you share some other telltale signs for our genius zone? I think the frustration is great in terms of that can tell you something. What are some other indicators that are like, “Aha, this is genius territory”?

Darren Virassammy
So, genius territory is when you feel very energized by doing these things. And, again, it feels like second nature. You’re stepping into doing something, it felt like you have known how to do this your whole life. That’s one of the clues to talent. And there’s a level of not only energy but enthusiasm. After you’ve gotten through it, you want to do it again. You might be tired. At the end of the day, you might be exhausted, and you see this surge that can be rising to do it. You find yourself in positions where there’s third-party validation of excellence. This is not me saying, “Hey, I’m a great singer,” when I’m singing in the shower. It’s like I’m actually singing out where other people are validating that for you when you’re getting that validation.

Here’s another piece, Pete, that I will share. Think of the reasons that people seek you out as a complementary partner. And if you haven’t thought of, “Why is it that people come to you?” ask that question, “What is the value that I do bring?” because oftentimes, again, it’s staring us right in the face. We’re looking at each other right now through a camera, but if we were in person, I wouldn’t be able to see my face, so if I had a big giant mark on my face, I’d hope, Pete, that you’d say, “Hey, you might want to remove that blemish. You’ve got a leaf or something sitting on your face.”

Pete, my point here is, oftentimes, our talent, similarly that genius zone, lies so close to us we cannot see it. So, it’s when we actually seek that out and find out, “What is it that we bring? What is unique about the perspective that we bring?” You talk about your strength of Ideation. Oftentimes, people will come to somebody with the strength of Ideation, and really enjoy digging into things with them because they’re constantly and quickly able to see many, many different ideas, and bring out very, very fresh perspective, and not get stuck in the, “Well, we’ve always done this the same way, so we need to keep doing it that way.” That can be a huge tell for us to really grow in our career and in our job. Again, wherever you’re at in that cycle.

Pete Mockaitis
And let’s talk about, I don’t know if you want to call them weaknesses or lesser strengths or what’s number 33 and 34 on the CliftonStrengths report. For me, it’s consistency and adaptability.

Darren Virassammy
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Fun fact. So, what should we do with those?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, our bottom five, we like to look at, if you do go through the CliftonStrengths process and you take a look at your full 34 report, you really want to get to a place where you own your top ten and spend the time to understand not how they only exist individually but how they exist collectively. The reason for that is the likelihood of somebody having their top ten in the same order as you is one in six billion.

So, even though, Pete, you and I share Activator, you have Activator, you have Input, you have Ideation much higher. We share Activator and Learner in our top ten, you have those as your top five. But that Ideation that you share, that you have there, that’s a little bit lower for me. That’s not quite as high. I appreciate Ideation but what I’m getting at is the way that Activator and Ideation will pair versus the way that Activator and Self-Assurance might pair, the way that I have those. That’s going to be a slightly different brand of the way that that Activator goes.

So, we want to start in that top ten and understanding that. And that pivots right down to the next phase of understanding, getting into exactly what you talked about, the bottom five. So, we want to explore our bottom five, and here’s the reason why. It’s not to step into the place of deficit thinking. A lot of times, and when I say deficit thinking, we think that our greatest opportunity for growth and excellence lies in focusing in our areas of weakness. That’s not true.

What we’re getting at here is our greatest opportunities for growth and human excellence lie in those top ten. But when we look at the bottom five, what are we inevitably going to have? People that have those in their top ten, those are our blind spots. So, getting to a place where we can understand those strengths, we can also come up with an awareness of, “How do those strengths provide benefit? How can they give rise to the best ideas? How will they balance out my very own gaps of where I’m at to actually create a much stronger outcome overall for the team, for the organization and going through?”

And understanding them is not, again, to the lens to become them but spending the time to dig into that so we can figure out what those needs are, so we can figure out how those can play into a greater good, and, really, bring out the fact that, on teams, our differences can be our greatest advantage that we have.

The analogy I like to give with this is the Golden Gate Bridge. I mentioned to you at the top of our time together is the Golden Gate Bridge, we’ve all seen it, it’s absolutely beautiful, but the cables that keep those two towers standing are pulling in different directions. There’s a little bit of tension that’s there. And the healthy amount of tension is actually what gives rise to the strength of the bridge in and of itself. Much the same way, Pete, that’s what gives rise to the strength of teams where we go from self-awareness, and, “How do I grow in my career?” to, “How I then ripple that to my coworkers that we need to flow, work together, and give the rise to the best ideas?”

And we come to that understanding as opposed to just saying, “This person is difficult.” We start to understand where they’re coming from, what they bring that’s very unique, and that can be an advantage to getting to exactly where we’re collectively trying to go as our outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you share some of those tactical specific adjustments you’d make in your environment and with others to pull that off so more of us are spending more time in the genius zone?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, I love what you said with your bottom one, your 34 is Consistency. Let’s just use that. So, somebody that’s really strong in the strength of Consistency, they’re going to thrive oftentimes in creating and establishing systems and routines that we can rinse and repeat and then going through, and they’re naturally going to think in that sort of capacity.

So, for you, for instance, if you were working with somebody that was very strong in the Consistency strength, and your Ideation, your Strategic, your Activator might move in very different directions, but I might understand, if I’m in your shoes, you might understand, if I’m working with somebody that’s very strong in Consistency and then understanding that, they might have needs that are different than mine.

So, I’ll give you an example of this. Your Ideation might naturally go to a place where it’s going to communicate different ideas. And what we’re searching for is to give rise to the best ideas. We might throw six, seven, eight, ten different ideas on the board, and somebody with Consistency might be listening and saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, which one of these are we doing?” because their brain is not naturally thinking in the context of, “We’re throwing seven, eight ideas on the board to kind of wrestle with them and then see if we could push together and come up with a best idea out of that and maybe it’s not one of those ten. Maybe it’s one that merges together.”

So, when we’re communicating with somebody that might have Consistency high, when we’re looking at potentially disrupting that pattern, we give acknowledgement to the fact that, “Hey, consistency is going to bring the system.” I want a message to you so if I’m you, Pete, I might tell somebody with Consistency, just letting them know, “Right now, I’m in the process of ideating.” I might be very intentional in communicating that up front. So, “We have not landed a consistent place. In fact, the work that we’re doing now is to come up with the idea of what that could look like,” and leading the conversation with that.

Because if not, the way that they’re receiving that information might be through the lens of, “Let’s establish the system right now,” and where you might be at is working through defining what even the relevant ideas might be for the system. In a nutshell, you’re both working towards the same goal but you’re in different places as to where you might show up.

So, in spending the time to be curious not only about just reading the report but if you have somebody on your team that’s strong with that, get curious about them. Ask them, “Tell me more about Consistency. That’s one of my bottom ones. That’s in my bottom five. How does that show up for you? What does that mean to you?”

And learning about that and asking them if they have any specific needs that they feel like they have to be successful. What are the needs that they have to be successful? That might be very different than your need, and that will help you to grow your connection with direct teammates, with people that you manage, or if you’re managing up the chain with understanding what success looks like for them. And that will help you to nurture and strengthen those relationships, and, again, advance in your career as you’re continuing to grow in those techniques.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You know, Shane Metcalf, a recent guest, brought up those perspectives associated with the strengthen and the associated need. Can you say more about that and give us some examples? So, Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, those are some strengths. You say there are some particular needs that are often tied to them. And what might be some examples of those?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. Shane is a great guy. I’ve worked extensively with 15Five and with Shane since 15Five was like a nine-person company, so outstanding human being. Great friends with him. When we think of some of the needs, so you mentioned Activator, I’m going to talk about that particular strength and how it kind of falls into place here.

A need that some strengths might have, and some of these are known as our influencing strengths here, Pete, they might need to verbally process. They might need to, when I say verbally process, for verbal processors, some of our strengths, like Activator, like Communication, like Command, Self-Assurance, Maximizer, those are some of them, they might need to verbally process where they think by talking. So, the talking process is thinking.

Now, here’s the thing that’s fascinating. When we’re listening to somebody that has these strengths, when they’re thinking out loud and going through that process, because those strengths bring with them a certain level of presence to be able to influence others, one of the things that we have to be mindful of, if we have those strengths or if we’re working with somebody with those strengths, is when they’re verbally processing, they might be influencing us. We might be feeling like an Activator creates some urgency, “Gosh, we got to get going. We got to get started on this.” And an Activator might unintentionally be getting things started and getting people going on things when they’re still in the verbal processing phase.

So, if you understand the needs of somebody that might be a verbal processor, my business partner, Brandon Miller, for instance, he is very much a verbal processor. And when we first started 34 Strong, I was very much an Executor so I would hear a story that made sense, I would say, “Hey, we could get this done, we could get this done, we could get that done.”

So, I’d hear what he might’ve been verbal processing, and what did I do, Pete? I went right forward to the task and three days later we’d have a chat, I’d say, “Hey, I got this done, I got this started. We’re moving forward with this,” and he might say, “Why did you get all that started? Why did you do that?” And I’m thinking, “Well, we talked about it,” because in my brain the only reason you talk about something is if you’re going to do it, and that’s where we were missing. And, thankfully, that didn’t cause us to disconnect. We weren’t eating our own cooking and it came to the place of understanding, for him, he’d signal to me, “Hey, Darren, I’m just verbally processing.” So, that was my signal to just allow that to go, allow that process to flow.

And then, for me, if I wasn’t sure if, “Hey, do we need to be moving to task on this?” I could easily ask, and say, “Are you just verbally processing right now or are we getting ready to land the plane right now? Do we want to move to task on this?” That’s just one example there, but those little nuances in understanding those of different team members can be the difference between frustration and acceleration as opposed to having to do things one, two, three, four times and we’re just missing how we actually connect and how people best learn and go forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And that’s one huge win right there in terms of, “Is this a commitment or is this just sort of kind of thinking about some things?” And, folks, their feelings can be hurt, “Hey, I planned my whole day around this thing that we talked about.” It’s like, “Oh, sorry. It was just sort of one option among many.” So, great to zero in on that.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah, I think these are really powerful tools to be able to take advantage of in thinking through in framing our thinking. And I want to let everybody know as well, you can go beyond this in just your work environments. You can take this sort of thinking home. Think of if you do have children or if you have a spouse.

What was really revealing for me, Pete, early on was when my wife and I both got our 34 reports unlocked, and I realized that three of her top five alone were in my bottom five. Everything that I’m talking about of understanding where people are coming from, that made our relationship make so much more sense.

And we’ve even applied this into the vein of parenting with our kids, and there’s a whole platform and push forward for going through that as well and digging into that great book called Incredible Parent. It was released earlier in January, and there’s actually a parenting assessment on strengths as well. And that was written by my business partner Brandon and Analyn Miller. And our whole Barbados story is actually featured in that book as well.

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

Darren Virassammy
So, a favorite quote of mine that I have lived by for a long time, I have so many, but the one that really stands out that’s at the core of the life that we live within 34 Strong is this African proverb, Pete, “If you want to fast, go alone. And if you want to go far, go with others.”

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

Darren Virassammy
So, my good friend, Joseph McClendon, III…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’ve seen him speak with Tony Robbins.

Darren Virassammy
He’s Tony Robbins’ business partner.

Pete Mockaitis
We did some power moves together.

Darren Virassammy
You did some power moves.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if he’d remember me. I was one of thousands.

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, Joseph is actually a dear friend of mine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Darren Virassammy
We share the space of bass playing, and we facilitated some workshops together on future-vision thinking and whatnot with the iconic bass player Victor Wooten, so him and I share that. But the story that he has shared, a study that he talked about was simply this. When he was doing his doctorate of neural science. When he was going through his doctorate in that, there was this stretch of highway in this two-lane road in southern California. And on one side of the road, Pete, there was light poles, telephone poles every hundred yards or 200 yards, whatever it was.

So, what was fascinating to Joseph was accidents would happen on that highway, and frequently over 50% of those accidents would end up with at least one vehicle hitting a telephone pole, which made no sense to Joseph because it didn’t just divot off and there was like these divots that went down. It was flat open dirt and fields.

So, what ended up happening for Joseph was he started doing studies, and he interviewed everybody that survived these, and there was a common theme that emerged, Pete, and it was simply this. Everybody said, “You know, Joseph, the last thing I saw coming at me was a light pole,” and that was it for him.

What happened for him, as he realized, people are what they focus on. They were so focused on not hitting the light pole, they never saw the wide-open fields that were there for them to go through. And that is at the core of a lot of what Joseph has gotten into his teaching as an ultimate performance specialist, and I love that story because you cannot hit what you’re not focusing on. How can you become strengths-based if you’re focusing on your weaknesses?

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite book?

Darren Virassammy
Favorite book of mine, there’s many to mention. I love Think and Grow Rich, the classic version by Napoleon Hill. I read it at least once a year and it seems to constantly teach me something new on a personal level, on a life level, and on a business work level each time as well.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Darren Virassammy
I love the CliftonStrengths Assessment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Darren Virassammy
It’s pretty powerful. That’s an obvious one.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Darren Virassammy
One of my favorite habits right now is collaborating with nature. So, I believe that as we become more technologically connected, we become more nature disconnected. And nature has always been a catalyst for human excellence, human innovation, and so much of what we do is tied up in that place. So, I actually talk about that as I explore people just like Joseph McClendon. He was one of my first guests and I interviewed him on my show The Nature Advantage and he shared a lot of his takeaways of how he’s actually used nature to step into his own genius.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, one of the ones that comes back to me a lot is “Be confidently vulnerable.” And by that, I mean be confident in where you shine and where you’re blind. When we step into the place of being confidently vulnerable, we own who we are and we own who we’re not, and that allows for our self-awareness to grow and our team awareness to grow. That’s at the core of being strengths-based.

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

Darren Virassammy
I would tell them to check out 34Strong.com. You can find me as well on LinkedIn and you can find me at NatureAdvantageShow.com as well, and check out the Leading Strong podcast as well through 34 Strong.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. I say go visit 34Strong.com and there’s a free download that’s right there on the power of setting clear expectations. This can be a valuable tool if you’re in a managerial role. I know with Shane, you talked about the importance of identifying recognition, what are the forms of recognition that people like. It’s just ten simple questions that you can ask of somebody that you’re managing or of a partner that you’re working with to understand their learning styles better, understand how they liked to be recognized, and what success will look like for them. That’s something that you can use immediately and put into work, so take advantage of that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Darren, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you and 34Strong lots of luck.

Darren Virassammy
Thanks a lot, Pete. Really appreciate being on here today. Thanks for the work you’re doing.

653: Training Your Mind to Conquer Stress, Pressure, and Underperformance with Dr. Ellen Reed

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Ellen Reed says: "That which you focus on expands."

Dr. Ellen Reed reveals how to build mental toughness by training your brain to be more solution-focused.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The biological reason why we underperform 
  2. Three simple questions to your build mental toughness 
  3. How to beat out stress in 60 seconds 

 

About Ellen

Dr. Ellen Reed has been a top performance coach for more than ten years, working with Dr. Jason Selk. In addition to helping others reach high-levels of success, she has a well-established career as a professional dancer. With her background in academia and the performing arts, she helps athletes, students, and business leaders reach their peak performance by developing mental toughness. 

Dr. Reed received her PhD. in experimental psychology, with a focus on memory and cognition, from St. Louis University. 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease! Save $20 on a $150+ purchase with promo code AWESOME.

Dr. Ellen Reed Interview Transcript

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

Ellen Reed
My pleasure. I’m so excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Me, too. Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom, talking about Relentless Solution Focus: Train Your Mind to Conquer Stress, Pressure, and Underperformance. I love so many of those words so I think you’re right up our alley. So, maybe, first, could you tee us off with a cool story? So, you and your colleague have been using relentless solution focus to help athletes win Super Bowls, gold medals, national championships. Like, can you tell a cool story with a particular athlete and how this stuff made the difference for them?

Ellen Reed
Yeah. Well, a big part of what I do is helping people perform at their best. Athletes have really kind of this opportunity to kind of show us how these mental tools can play out kind of in their arena.

But, really, what we do on a daily basis, and what the listeners do on a daily basis, is probably so much more important than what the athletes are doing, and these fundamentals were developed by my colleague Dr. Jason Selk. And you’re absolutely right that they were developed originally for athletes and teaching athletes how to focus on the right things, especially when the wrong things want to be swirling through their minds.

So, when a basketball player, is at the free-throw line with one second left, and they’re down by two, all those thoughts that want to swirl through your mind and all that pressure, how do you deal with that?

So, Jason Selk, who is the co-author on our book Relentless Solution Focus, his first book was called 10-Minute Toughness, and it was geared towards athletes. And in this book, he detailed a mental workout for athletes to do to really help train their minds be prepared for high-pressure situations. And people started picking up this book and applying these fundamentals to their own lives, in business, in their relationships, whether it be a business person, a doctor, a stay-at-home mom, and really started to find that these fundamentals, that really helped athletes play to their peak potential, really had almost better results with us regular people.

So, Jason, he started as the director of sports psychology for the St. Louis Cardinals in, I think it was 2006 where they had not won a World Series. I might need to fact-check this but they had not won a World Series in, I think, over 20 years. And the year he started with them, they won the World Series and they won the World Series again, I think, six years later. Again, I may need to fact-check this. I may be a couple years off on this.

And Jason spent, gosh, 20 plus years really studying highly successful people, and studying and paying attention to kind of the common threads that these people that have accomplished great things and people who are happiest in life, “What about them stands out? What about them kind of sets them apart?”

And what he noticed is that it’s really their ability to stay focused on solutions especially in the face of adversity, whether that be an athlete standing at that free-throw line with two seconds left, down by two, being able to keep their mind focused on, “What I need to be doing in this moment to improve or to succeed…” versus, “The pressure is on and we’re down by this much, and all of those thoughts. And I’ve got to make this shot.” All of those thoughts that are really normal that swirl through our minds on a daily basis.

So, relentless solution focus is essentially a method of training our brains to be able to stay focused on solutions and improvements when it’s really normal for us to want to focus on problems.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And so, that sounds very useful and powerful for professionals who… their brains can go, myself included, our brains can go in all kinds of places that might not be super helpful. So, I think, for me, it’s like, “Uh-oh, I feel tired. I feel stressed. I feel overwhelmed. I am annoyed at…” fill in the blank.

So, yeah, there’s all kinds of thoughts going on up in there, and I imagine some are helpful, some are not. So, walk us through it, how do we get our brains to do what we want them to do? And, maybe first, what do we want them to be doing?

Ellen Reed
Right. Right. And I love that example, and I think that those thoughts that you’re kind of talking about that are normal for you, I think we can all really relate to. How many times do you wake up and think, “Oh, I’m so tired”? And then it’s easy to carry that into the next hour, and, “Gosh, I’m so tired today. I’m so tired today. I’m so tired today.” Right? And the more we focus on things, the bigger they get in our minds.

There’s a theory called expectancy theory that states that that which we focus on expands. And those examples that you just gave are such a great testament to that. When you focus on the fact that you’re tired, and when you focus on the fact that you’re annoyed by something that your spouse has done, those things get bigger in our minds.

And when you pair that with this what’s called problem-centric thought, where it’s normal for our brains to focus on problems first and foremost. We’re built this way. This is part of our DNA. And if you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, it was really important that we were very quickly able to pinpoint and recognize the problems and threats and shortcomings in our environments and so that problem-centric thought was really essential to our survival.

But, now, statistically, this is the safest time to be alive. Even with everything going on in the world right now with COVID, it’s still the safest time to be alive. And so, this problem-centric thought that really set us up well years and years and years and years and years ago, now really just causes us to underperform, it causes us undue stress, it’s unhealthy for us. And so, how do we get around that? That’s your question. What do we do? Because we know that we’re wired to focus on problems, and we also know that the more we focus on problems, the bigger they get.

And so, relentless solution focus is essentially a concrete method of training your brain to become abnormal. Mental toughness really is abnormal because it’s normal to be driving home from work, and having done 99 things right that day and one thing less than perfect, but then on that drive home from work, you’re focused on that one imperfection. That’s normal.

What’s abnormal is to be driving home from work and thinking, “Hey, what’s one thing I want to do that’s a little bit better tomorrow?” or, “What three things did I do well today?” Can you imagine how great life would be if that was what you were thinking on your way home from work instead of hampering on that one imperfection?

And so, the point is that this requires training because it’s not going to happen for most of us naturally. Everyone once in a while I think there’s somebody that’s kind of born with this amazing mental toughness and this amazing kind of uncanny ability to stay focused on solutions. I certainly was not one of those few that was born with it. For the rest of us, we can learn to be solution-focused. And RSF, relentless solution focus, is the polar opposite of that PCT.

So, the training aspect of this is critical. And we have a couple of tools outlined in the book, and I’d love to be able to teach everybody at least one of the tools today. And this tool that I’d love to teach everybody is called “the success log.” The success log is composed of, for our purposes, three questions. In the book, it’s a little bit extended because we talk about some goal-setting in there, but for our purposes, if you can get a start on these three questions, you’re going to experience some really dramatic results.

And that first question, just ask you, “What three things did I do well today? What three things did I do well in the last 24 hours?” So, it’s forcing your brain to think about and focus on some of the little things you’ve done well when, remember, your brain wants to be focused on what you feel like you screwed up that day. So, that’s the first question.

And the second question is, “What’s one thing I want to improve tomorrow? What’s one thing I want to improve in the next 24 hours?” So, keeping your focus on making small incremental improvements instead of, “Hey, what did I screw up today?” Again, that’s where our brain wants to go.

And then the third question is, “What’s one thing I can do that could help make that improvement? What’s one thing I can do that can help make that improvement?” So, let’s say that today you got really behind on emails, and so the one thing you want to improve tomorrow is you want to catch up, you want to clean out your inbox, you want to catch up on emails. That’s where most people stop. And most people are pretty good at identifying, “Hey, what do I want to do better or what do I want to improve the next day?” but most people won’t take this critical next step to identify something concrete you can do to bring about that improvement.

So, then you might say, if the improvement you want to make is to clean out your inbox, “What’s one thing I can do that could help make that improvement?” Maybe you say, “Okay, I’m going to block out from 10:00 to 10:30 on my calendar to go through emails,” or, “I’m going to set my alarm for five minutes earlier so I can get into the office five minutes earlier and work through emails.” It doesn’t matter so much what you come up with to make these improvements. What matters and what’s important is that you’re training your brain to be searching for improvements.

And you’re really taking advantage of the brain’s ability to change and mold itself through training. It’s called neuroplasticity. You probably learned about it in school, and it’s really important. And I think anyone that thinks, “I’m just not motivated,” or, “I’m just not a morning person,” or, “I’m just not good at math,” or, “I’m just not…” you fill in the blank. We’re really good at labeling ourselves as lacking certain things. But you’re failing to recognize that you have the ability to change your brain through training. What fires together, wires together.

So, using the success log and filling out that success log on a daily basis, starts to cause those positive thoughts and those productive courses of thoughts to wire together. So, it’s a really, really useful tool that I would encourage everybody listening to this, just try to answer those three questions three, four times a week, and you don’t need to spend more than a minute or two on it.

Pete Mockaitis
And for three things I’ve done well, I guess that’s interesting. As we talk about being positive and journaling, I’m thinking about gratitude. Three things I’ve done well is a different prompt than three things I’m grateful for. Can you maybe give us some examples? Because I guess there could be a Venn diagram overlap there, like some things are both.

Ellen Reed
Yes, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
But others are uniquely…So, I’ll just put you on the spot, Ellen, can we hear your success log from today or yesterday?

Ellen Reed
So, how about I’ll do my success log for today right now?

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ellen Reed
Because usually I would do it about the end of the day and it’s about that time. So, three things I did well today. I snuggled with my boys this morning for a little bit of extra time before we all got ready and went off to school and work. I sent out an email to someone that I wanted to follow up with about getting their thoughts on the book. And, number three, I got my headphones ready for this podcast today.

And one thing I want to improve tomorrow, let’s see, I want to make sure that I get my mental workout done before I go to rehearsals. So, today, I was a little bit late getting out the door and so I had to do my mental workout kind of lunch break but I want to make sure I can get it done before rehearsal. And the one thing I can do to make that improvement is I’m going to write myself a Post-It note and I’m going to stick it on my dashboard to say, “Don’t leave before doing your mental workout.” And I’m going to get it done in the car on my way to rehearsal.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you.

Ellen Reed
So, that took what? About 45 seconds?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s quick.

Ellen Reed
And let me go back to your point and your question about kind of the three things I’m grateful for versus three things I’ve done well. I think if you’re in the habit of, every day, identifying three things you’re grateful for, I think that’s awesome, and I would absolutely keep doing that. I think that’s awesome. I think that really promotes that positive thinking and I think that’s really important for our soul.

Now, there’s an added element to the success log that I think is really important that I want to talk about, and that is developing self-confidence. Now, self-confidence, scientifically-speaking, is the number one variable for performance. It’s the number one variable for performance. So, empirically-speaking, there is nothing you can do that’s more important for affecting your performance than developing your self-confidence.

Now, remember, PCT, problem-centric thought, we’re really good at honing in on our imperfections or where we feel like we fall short, which is a disaster for our self-confidence. And so, if you can get in the habit every day of identifying just three things you did well, three little things you did well, search for the small. I spent like five or ten minutes, snuggling with my boys this morning, when it’s really easy for me to be kind of rushing around in the morning to get out the door. They don’t have to be huge. But identifying the little things you’re doing well on a consistent basis really promotes that self-confidence.

And I think it’s easy to blow this off and it’s easy to kind of shrug it off as being kind of soft. It doesn’t necessarily sound very tough to take that time to develop your self-confidence but I want to be really clear that there’s really nothing more mentally tough than being able to identify some things you’ve done well when you’ve just lost a game, or when you’ve just lost a deal, or when you’ve had a bad day at work. That is mental toughness. It’s being able to get your mind focused on what you’re doing well and what you want to improve because that’s going to make you perform better in the future. Being hard on ourselves and really beating ourselves up for mistakes is a big, big factor in people underperforming to their potential.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious then, when we talk about three things I’ve done well, should we kind of keep it broad, like in any and all domains of life?

Ellen Reed
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Or, is it preferable to focus it in terms of one thing or another?

Ellen Reed
Right, that’s a good question. And the best option is to just get it done instead of trying to get it done perfectly. And I think it’s a really important thing to point out is that you don’t have to do these success logs perfectly. Getting them done is so much more important than getting them done perfectly.

If, one day, you’re sitting there for two minutes trying to come up with something you want to improve for the next day, just stop and put it away and then come back and start a new success log the next day. It’s the consistency of forcing your thoughts onto what you’re doing well, and forcing your thoughts on searching for improvements that really works to rewire the brain. Remember, that’s the key here. That’s the key is working on re-training, rewiring the way our neurons are firing together.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that’s one approach. Boy, there’s so much I want to ask about. Okay, maybe we’ll hit this. You say it’s key to remember 60 seconds. What do you mean by that?

Ellen Reed
Yes. Yes. Okay, great question. So, what we talk about is you want to really recognize that you’re focused on a problem and be able to come up with a potential solution within 60 seconds. And why this is so crucial, it’s so important to understand the biology behind it. I won’t bore you guys with a ton of the details of the biology behind it but I think it’s important to understand a little bit of it so you really understand why this is so important and why this is so effective.

So, when you are faced with a problem, or when you’re faced with kind of thinking about something that you messed up or something that you feel like you’re lacking in life, that sends a message to your body to feel a certain way, to experience negative emotion. And I want you to think of negative emotion as really a wonderful gift, a gift that tells you what you’re focused on because you don’t feel anything without your brain telling you to. Your body does not feel any emotion without your brain telling you how to feel.

So, if I’m focused on a problem in my life, I’m going to feel like garbage, right? I’m going to feel stress, I’m going to feel frustrated, I’m going to feel nervous, I’m going to feel worried. Whatever it is, whatever that feeling is, you’re going to feel like garbage, and that is your signal that your brain is focused on a problem.

Now, what happens when we’re focused on a problem and when we’re feeling these negative emotions is that our brain sends a message to our body to release cortisol, the stress hormone. And we’re all probably a little bit familiar with the effects of cortisol. Now, in small doses, cortisol is actually helpful for performance, it kind of gets us going.

But, now, people are walking around with really elevated levels of cortisol because of this problem-centric thought. And even at moderate doses, cortisol really wreaks havoc on our health and on our happiness. It causes us to feel like garbage but it really increases our propensity for a lot of diseases, it limits our creativity, it significantly limits our intelligence.

And, again, because of this problem-centric thought that, evolutionarily-speaking, doesn’t really do much for us anymore. Our cortisol levels, for most normal people, are really elevated to the point where it’s creating a lot of unhealthy people and a lot of miserable people. And so, being able to recognize that you’re focused on a problem, within 60 seconds gets you ahead of that cortisol release.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ellen Reed
And so, this is why that 60 seconds is so important. Now, let me tell you though what you do within that 60 seconds because I think it’s easy to say, “Oh, just recognize you’re focused on a problem and start thinking about solutions,” right? We all probably know that it’s good to think about solutions and that it’s good to be positive and it’s good to be optimistic, but I think people have a harder time with understanding how to do that because we haven’t really been taught how to do that.

And so, I challenge everybody out there to write this down. Write down this question, it’s called the RSF tool, the relentless solution focus tool, and the RSF tool is a question. The question is, “What is one thing I can do that could make this better?” So, when you catch yourself focused on a problem, when you catch yourself feeling any negative emotion whatsoever, you’re feeling stressed, that’s your cue that you’re focused on a problem, and that’s your signal to ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do that could make this better?” You ask and answer that question within 60 seconds and you’ve just beat that cortisol release.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. And so then, I’m curious, Ellen, not to be a downer or super difficult, but what happens when there’s just not a solution?

Ellen Reed
Great question.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, your parents are dying of a degenerative illness, etc. Like, it just sucks and there’s not much you can do, but you feel lousy because your environment sucks. What do you recommend we do there?

Ellen Reed
Yeah, that’s a great question. And we’ve got to redefine the way we think of solutions. Okay? So, I think kind of the traditional definition of solution is complete resolution to the problem, right? But it’s really important that we’re really clear about how we define solution. And the way we define solution is any improvement whatsoever to the current situation even if that means improving the way you deal with the situation.

So, I think that’s a great example that a lot of people are going through. I work with, in my other life, I’m a professional dancer so I spend the first half of my day in dance class and rehearsals, and then the second half of my day coaching others. Our outreach for the dance company is in senior living facilities.

We do a little performance, we’re not doing them now, obviously, because of COVID, which has been really sad, but we go into a lot of memory care units with older adults who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, and we do like a little 45-minute show, and we use music that’s from their era, and it’s just amazing to see a lot of these residents who their caregivers will tell us, “Gosh, this person hasn’t spoken in a week, and after the performance we couldn’t get them to stop talking.”

Or, we’ll go up to the residents afterwards and try to talk to them for a little bit, and they’ll tell us about, “Oh, that reminds me of my grandchildren who I used to go to their dance recitals. And my husband and I used to go dancing all the time.” It conjures up all these emotions and these memories, and it’s really amazing to see.

Now, I completely got off on a tangent there, but I think the point that I want to make with this is that we’ve got to search for anything we can do to improve our situation. And maybe, in your specific example, maybe there is nothing we can do with a parent who is, let’s say, suffering from Alzheimer’s. But what’s one thing you can do to make their day a little bit better? Or, what’s one thing you can do to help yourself emotionally deal with watching them and caring for them?

And this isn’t a one-time question that you answer. This is something that you have to be relentless about. You may ask yourself this question 50,000 times a day. Just because you come up with one answer to the question doesn’t mean that that’s going to solve your problem, right? We’re searching for the small, we’re searching for anything we can do that will improve our current situation or improve the way we’re able to deal with the situation by one, because remember expectancy theory. That which you focus on expands.

And when you’re focused on all the sadness, that’s a really, really hard thing to watch someone that you love go through dementia or Alzheimer’s, and that can really consume a person to watch that. But when you search for the small, kind of going back to what you said, you search for what you’re grateful for, those moments of seeing that spark, or thinking about the memories, or whatever it is that turns your focus onto something positive.

Again, go back to the biology of it. You can get ahead of that cortisol release and you can prevent yourself from going down what we call the PCT tornado where you get going on a negative train of thought in a problem-centric thinking and it becomes really hard to climb out of. But as soon as you can turn that around, and the one thing you can do that can make this minute a little bit better, or make this minute a little bit better for someone else, you’ve stopped that tornado from going down and you can start that momentum going in the other direction.

Pete Mockaitis
And I want to get your take, Ellen, if there’s any skeptics in the house. We had a couple guests just very fond of the poem by Rumi about “The Guest House,” I don’t think I can recite it, but about the notion that each of our emotions is a guest which has something valuable to offer, and we should allow them to enter and remain until they exit. Or, others have said, you said that which we focus on expands.

Ellen Reed
Expands.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve also heard it said, “That which we resist persists.” So, how do we reconcile or work with the idea of avoidance or running away from negative feelings and how does that square with what we talk about here?

Ellen Reed
Okay. I love that you asked because I think probably a lot of other people are thinking the same thing. And one thing that’s important to understand is that this isn’t about running from your emotions, or resisting your emotions, or turning a blind eye to the problems in your life. It’s about being able to get to solutions faster. And, really, it’s about being able to look at your problems with much more accurately focused lenses.

It’s important to recognize our emotions, and I think people have become so afraid of negative emotion. We do everything to try to avoid negative emotion. We run from it. We take medicine to not have to feel negative emotion when, really, again, negative emotion is given to us as a gift and we need to be able to recognize why we’re experiencing these emotions so that we can start to get to work on it, start to move in the direction of, “What can I do to make this better?”

Because what happens is that we get so consumed with the problem that, oftentimes, we don’t even get to the solution. pick up any newspaper, or watch any news show, and you just see how focused the world is on problems, and it is so important to be able to recognize the problem. And, in fact, we have, in the Relentless Solution Focus book, we have this broken up into three steps. Three steps to developing this relentless solution focus.

And the first step is to recognize. You’ve got to recognize when you’re focused on a problem because, a lot of times, people will feel a negative emotion and then they’ll try to put a Band-Aid over it, or try to, like you said, kind of resist it, and, meanwhile, this problem is still swirling around in their minds but they haven’t done anything to be able to move forward with it or figure out what to do about it.

And so, that first step is to recognize that negative emotion because, remember, negative emotion is there to tell us that we’re focused on something that we can’t control or we’re focused on a problem. And so, it’s so much more efficient to focus on what you can control or to focus on the solution by asking yourself, “What’s one thing I can do to make this better?”

If everybody in our world right now was asking themselves, “What’s one thing I can do that can make this a little bit better?” just imagine what kind of a world that would be, and we can do it. We can train ourselves to think like that even though it’s normal to want to really get consumed with the problems and spend so much time focused on the problem that we never take that step towards a solution. We can learn to do that. We can learn to become more solution-focused.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, you mentioned the mental workout a couple times. Have we covered that or is that something else we should talk about?

Ellen Reed
So, that’s something else, that’s something else. That’s another tool that we outlined in the book. So, the first tool, again, was that success log that I told you as three questions. And then the mental workout is a tool that’s designed to help you visualize and keep your focus on what you want out of life, and then to practice in your mind what you need to do on a daily basis in order to get there.

So, in the book, we talk about something called the framework of achievement where we walk the readers through how to develop, basically, a vision for what they want out of life in the long term, what they want out of life in the short term, so within the next year. And that’s really important because you’ve got to know where you want to go or you really have zero percent chance of getting there. And I think so many people kind of avoid this question because it seems like such a big question that they’re afraid to get it wrong, like, “Where do I want to see myself? What do I want out of life?”

But we really challenge people to just get a start on it. Just spend a little bit of time, and we walk you through it really specifically, really concretely, it’s not scary, and just get a start on it. You don’t have to get it perfect but you want to avoid holding pattern at all costs. Get a start on that vision and then modify it along the way. But it’s important that you know where you want to go so that you’re motivated to do the things on a daily basis that are going to get you there.

So, we establish that vision, but then the really important piece of this is establishing what we call the integrity piece of the framework. By the integrity piece of the framework, we mean what it takes on a daily basis in order to achieve that vision. What are the most important daily activities for you to be doing that are going to get you to that vision in the short term and then in the long term?

So, for example, let’s say you’re in sales and your goal is to increase your sales from a million to 1.1 million in the next fiscal year. And you’ve identified that the most important thing for you to do on a daily basis that’s going to put you in the best possible position to achieve that is to make ten prospect phone calls every day.

So, what you’re going to do in your mental workout is you’re going to visualize who you want to be and what you want your life to be in the long term, so three to five years down the road, but then you’re going to visualize yourself doing those things that you need to be doing in the upcoming day in order to get there. So, you’re going to practice and rehearse and visualize making those prospect phone calls, or putting in the effort and with the intensity that you want and that you need to achieve what you want to achieve.

So, it’s really a targeted mental tool that helps you practice what you want out of life and prepares you for what you need to be doing in order to get there.

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

Ellen Reed
One of my favorite quotes is by Coach John Wooden. And John Wooden is one of the winningest coaches of all time, one of the quotes that really sticks with us, and we talk a lot about in our coaching, is that, “It’s the little things done well on a consistent basis that cause greatness.”

I think most of us know what we should be doing on a daily basis that’s going to put us in a great position to get to where we want to go, but we have a hard time executing those most important things.

And let me give you one more quote because I think this is a good one in conjunction with Coach Wooden’s quote. And this is a quote from Jason Selk’s, one of his books, I think it’s Executive Toughness, where he says that, “Highly successful people never get everything done in a day but they always get the most important things done each and every day.” So, you don’t have to get everything done in a day but you’ve got to get the most important things done.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share with us a favorite book?

Ellen Reed
This is probably not what you would expect me to say but I love interior design and organizing and all of this stuff, and there’s a book called The Home Edit, and they’re actually a company and they do organizing, and they’re kind of taking the world by storm right now, The Home Edit, and they basically teach you how to organize. They teach you how to organize your drawers, your closet, your garage.

But when I go through this book and I look at all of their amazing, beautiful, inspiring pictures of these beautifully organized drawers and closets, it just reminds me in kind of a strange way of what we try to do for our clients. And they basically teach you how to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t serve you, get rid of all the noise, get rid of all the extra stuff that we don’t need and that holds us back, and really prioritize what’s important, and make sure you have it prioritized and organized in a way that you can execute it and that it’s functional for you.

And so, I know it’s kind of a weird response.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no, that’s beautiful. I think it’s a great book.

Ellen Reed
But I love that book and I love kind of what it represents for people’s lives, and I think it’s like a different way of packaging kind of exactly what we do for our clients.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with clients; you hear them quote it back to you frequently?

Ellen Reed
I think it’s probably, I would say, the importance of self-confidence. I think that’s where everybody that we worked with, one of the first things that we are going to teach them is a success log.

And the beauty of it, and this is what, again, really kind of drew me to Jason’s fundamentals and Jason’s perspective is that it’s so simple.

And one of the simplest things you can do is to really start working on your self-confidence through the success log. And so, I think the nugget that probably comes back the most is, “Gosh, the success log is really making a difference and it really affects the way I go throughout the rest of my day.” And just taking that one or two minutes to identify what I’m doing well and what do I want to improve, really fuels so much performance and success and happiness in people.

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

Ellen Reed
Well, you can go to RelentlessSolutionFocus.com and that’ll take you to some really great resources. There’s also more information about Jason and myself at JasonSelk.com.

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

Ellen Reed
My challenge would be to pick one thing from this that maybe stuck with you. Maybe it was the success log or maybe it was that RSF tool, “What’s one thing I can do that could make this better?” and pick one thing and work on starting to implement that one thing. Don’t try to do it all. Pick one thing, whether it be the success log, or that RSF tool, or something else that you heard that maybe resonated with you. But try to just start implementing that one thing with consistency.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Ellen, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in your dancing and your coaching adventures.

Ellen Reed
Thank you. It was so fun to be here.