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Self-Awareness

402: How Overachievers can Reclaim Their Joy with Christine Hassler

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Christine

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Christine Hassler Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes, I’m already distinctive.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Hands, toes, feet, knees.

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

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

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

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

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah, we never shot together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That is ringing a bell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
No.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly not.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

Christine E. Hassler
Right.

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

Christine E. Hassler
Right, right, exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christine E. Hassler
Me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christine E. Hassler
Yeah, yeah.

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

Christine E. Hassler
I like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Walter Mischel, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, okay.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christine E. Hassler
Thank you.

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

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

380: The Five Routes to Personal Change with Jane Ransom

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Jane

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jane Ransom Interview Transcript

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

Jane Ransom
I am truly excited to be here.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, on the record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that is sophisticated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, go for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Do you want to share it?

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

Jane Ransom
Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
The bibliography.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That sounds familiar.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
The visualizers.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful, thank you.

Jane Ransom
You’re welcome.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Jane Ransom
Self-hypnosis for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I do.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Let’s do it.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Tweet that. There you go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

376: How to Become the Success Nobody Saw Coming: Research Insights into “Dark Horses” from Harvard’s Todd Rose

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Bestselling author and Harvard professor Todd Rose dissects how Dark Horses became successful and how you can apply their secret to live a reliably fulfilling career and life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The implications of pursuing personal fulfillment vs. power, wealth, or prestige
  2. The most important step to understanding what fulfills you
  3. Why fulfillment isn’t just for the rich

About Todd

Todd Rose was a high school dropout with D- grades and a GPA of 0.9.  He caused a ruckus in class and was suspended several times. He married his teenage girlfriend and by the age of 21, was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

In less than a decade, Rose was able to turn his life around from a dead-end factory job to the most influential spheres of American academia. Today he’s the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and cofounder of Populace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming how we learn, work, and live. His previous book, The End of Average, was a best seller and his talks have been featured at TedX, the Aspen Ideas Festival, SXSW, Google, Microsoft, Pixar, Costco, JP Morgan, Chevron, and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Todd Rose Interview Transcript

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

Todd Rose
And thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom here, but first I want to hear a bit about your story because it’s a unique one with some twists and inspiration. Can you lay it on us?

Todd Rose
Sure. Yeah. Today I’m a professor at Harvard, but I have the distinction of also being a high school dropout. Actually, it’s even worse than that. I dropped out with a 0.9 GPA, which I really believe you have to work super hard to do that poorly. By the time-

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious, and did you or how did you find yourself with a 0.9 GPA?

Todd Rose
It was interesting. From a very early age – I grew up in rural America and the school I was going to was all about conformity and it just didn’t fit. It kind of snowballed, where it doesn’t work and then it really doesn’t work and then you’re like, “Screw it. I’m just going to do what I need to do.” And like, I think if I just would have shown up in class enough, they probably would have passed me just to get me out of their class.

But I did that and I ended up – my girlfriend got pregnant. She’s still my wife today. We ended up on welfare with two kids, working a string of minimum wage jobs before realizing I got to do something different with my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Todd Rose
Yeah, that was the short version. And then ended up going to night school at Weber State University, an open enrollment university, mainly out of desperation. Not because I had some grand vision for what my life was going to be.

Through that process, really discovered who I was, discovered what mattered to me. I was able to turn that into something, which in my case turned out to be academia of all places, which I just couldn’t believe at the time. I ended up getting my doctorate at Harvard. Did a post-doc at the Center for Astrophysics and then came back as a faculty member.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m just intrigued with this astrophysics. Fellowship at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Okay, wow. There you go.

Todd Rose
It was a funny thing because it actually came out of a hunch that I had that I was working with an astrophysicist named Matt Schneps. We had this hunch based on some of the genetic and neuroscience work we’d done that actually people who have trouble reading, would have very specific talents with visual stuff. And there was no better place than in astrophysics.

I got funded. We went there. I did a post doc. I got to learn a lot about science, truthfully, really taught me how to be a scientist more than anywhere else. But I got to study astrophysicists and how they detect black holes. It was so cool. It was to me just this luxury for a couple of years that was just fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is really cool. And I want to dig into a little bit of the Weber State part of it. This is a whole other conversation, but I think people talk about the – to what extent is America, United States, still a place where if you’ve got grit and hustle and determination, you can make something of your life and yourself regardless of the circumstances you’re born into versus are the scales wildly uneven.

That’s a giant conversation for a whole podcast, but I want to get your sense of so there you were. You sort of found the something inside of you to stick with it. What was that something?

Todd Rose
Well, at first it really was desperation because no kidding the last job I had before I decided I was going to go to college, I actually was working in a factory and then was a minimum wage job and then this home nurse assistant job came open, but no kidding I had to drive around and give people enemas. That was my job. I was like, look, it’s honest work and it’s important someone does it, but I was like, “there has to be more than this.”

For me, it was largely – my dad was the first high school graduate in our family. I remember when I was in middle school, he came home one day – and he was a mechanic. He said, “Look, for me I think there’s something more.” And he said, “I’m going to go to school.”

Well, no one in any of our families had gone to college. That wasn’t a thing that you do. And yet, he had figured it out. His parents actually weren’t happy about it. They thought he was kind of – he was big timing them. Yet, he still – he did that.

He became a mechanical engineer and he’s one of the most accomplished airbag designers in the country now. He’s got lots of patents. He’s done amazing work. I watched what education did in terms of changing our lives and life circumstances. So I realized that’s probably the way to go. I knew that much. What I didn’t know is like, “Okay, where does this path go?”

I got my GED. I went there. Didn’t want to go back. What was remarkable, it was really – it’s an open enrollment school. It takes all comers, which I think is the future of our country, frankly, is where the innovation has to go.

But it was actually the relationships I developed with faculty and people who taught me how to think about who I am and help me make I think kind of interesting decisions about what would help me get on a better path for myself.

But as I developed my abilities there, I went from thinking I was a terrible learner and didn’t have a lot of talent to thinking actually maybe I’m pretty good at a couple of things, to thinking actually maybe I’m reasonably smart. That was just a process. But it was just a remarkable one for me and something I’m always grateful for.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve done a lot of work there associated with The End of Average and how, we’re not average-sized people. We’re not average learners. That’s silly. We’ve got to really get customized on different dimensions of the brain and people and how they’re operating, which is really cools stuff. Could you orient us a little bit to what you’re doing now at Harvard? Then I want to talk about your book.

Todd Rose
Sure. So at Harvard I do a couple things. I’m the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program, which is this really cool interdisciplinary program that brings neuroscience and psychology to issues of learning both in schools, but also workplaces and things like that.

Then I also run this thing called the Laboratory for the Science of Individuality. And in the lab, just as you were saying, there’s this cool revolution going on in science that most people don’t know about, which is we’re done studying averages, groups of people. It turns out that kind of science doesn’t really predict very much about individual people’s lives. That’s been true in everything from studying individual cells to cancer progression, to how kids learn.

Everything that people hear about, whether it’s personalized medicine, personalized nutrition, personalized education, is all coming because this science is giving us very, very actionable insights about individuals. We contribute to that science.

The third thing I do is I have a think tank that does a lot of my public-facing sort of work, called Populace.

I think academia is a fantastic place for science and reflection, but isn’t the best at action. It’s just not what it’s built for, so created this thing called Populace. Our purpose is to get these ideas to the public in a way that helps them be part of deciding where we go as a society because all of this technology and know-how is bringing deep personalization to everything that we do as a people.

That could turn out well. It could be really, really valuable, but it also could become incredibly manipulative. Right? It could be incredibly divisive in terms of the have’s and have not’s. Populace exists to ensure that we take the right path.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Let’s talk about your book here, Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment, sort of what’s your main thesis here?

Todd Rose
The basic thesis is this: that we’ve been told that the way to be successful is essentially follow the standard path and try to be the same as everybody else only better. The thesis is basically, if you want the most surefire way to be excellent and happy, it’s actually to prioritize personal fulfillment and make choices off of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so you’re prioritizing personal fulfillment as opposed to what are the top alternative s that get prioritized instead of personal fulfillment.

Todd Rose
Yeah, and this is what we feel like society pressures us into. Usually it’s some combination of wealth, status or power. You think about picking the kind of college major you’re going to take or the job you’re going to do or the promotion you might go after. There’s a lot of pressure for prestige and showing that you make a lot of money.

That kind of view of success is very comparative. It’s like, “Am I better than somebody else? Do I make more than somebody else?” We know this. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses. We know this. It’s also terribly zero sum. We tend to think somebody has to lose for me to win.

Personal fulfillment just orients things internally. It’s about achieving things that matter to you. It’s very personal because the things that will matter to you aren’t the same as things that matter to me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. This reminds me. I remember I had a buddy in high school. He loved cars, just all about cars. He knew the in’s and the out’s of the V6’s the V8’s, the V4’s, all the stuff. I don’t so much know cars. I remember his family – he said it was because “Oh, it’s my Indian parents.” I don’t want to paint with a broad brush. I’m sure people of all ethnicity and races can do this to their children.

But he said that he wanted to do something with cars, like own a car dealership and do repair or sort of body work and retool them, make them awesome, this kind of vision or dream for him and cars. His parents said, “Yes, yes that’s fine. You can do that. But you have to go to medical school first.”

Todd Rose
Medical school to be a good mechanic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Todd Rose
…. But that’s a perfect example. The truth is most of these parents are doing it not because they don’t want their kids to be happy, but because they are convinced that there are a handful of paths that really bring stability. Right?

They think, “Well, look, if you just go to medical school, you’re going to have a great job. You’re going to get paid a lot and then you can kind of dabble in the things that make you happy on the side.” The truth is that was actually a pretty good suggestion for a long time in this country. Right? Through most of our sort of industrial age, there were just a few paths.

My argument is simply that that’s really not true anymore and that in an age of AI and automation and a very diverse economy, this idea of figuring out you love cars more than anything else, let’s have that person go ahead and find a career and a life that revolves around that because they’re going to be deeply engaged, which means they’re going to be more productive and they’re going to be happy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes. This is reminding me of some of the Shawn Achor research with the happiness advantage in terms of the engagement and the happiness and how it’s all kind of linked up there. You say that these dark horses, which you define as folks who just succeeded and no one saw them coming. It’s like, “Surprise. I have huge accomplishments now and you never expected that from me.”

Todd Rose
Yeah. What’s so funny is so this whole thing – it didn’t start out meaning to be a book at all. It started out as a project at Harvard, where we were just kind of interested why – we all know about dark horses. When they’re successful, there’s usually some media attention, people get excited about it like, “Wow, that’s amazing.” Then that’s it.

We feel comfortable just walking away as if there’s nothing we can learn from them because it seems like, too one-off, like, “oh, it’s too risk. They were lucky or super talented,” or whatever excuse we make. We thought, maybe that’s true, but let’s just study them.

We thought maybe someone’s looked at them and no one had. We ended up studying a wider range of fields and people from all walks of life as we could. After studying hundreds of people, I was looking for do they have anything in common.

I have to say, I’d like to tell you that I knew that it would prioritizing fulfillment, not even close. I like to, before we start any project, write down my hypotheses so I hold myself to them.

Pete Mockaitis
Of course I always do at this point.

Todd Rose
Yeah, like not revise it after. … new. Here’s what I thought it would be. I thought to be a dark horse you would have to have a certain kind of personality. You’d have to be someone who doesn’t mind bucking the system, like a Steve Jobs, Richard Branson because it’s kind of rough, right? You’re going to against the grain and people aren’t going to be that happy.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that just simply wasn’t true. Twenty people in, you realized their personalities are all over the place. The thing that was crazy to me is that I kept asking them questions about – I wanted to know were their tricks about they got great at things. All they wanted to talk about was how they figured out what really mattered to them.

Then they would use things like fulfillment. They’d talk about fulfillment or meaning and purpose. I was like, no, this can’t be it. It seemed too squishy and fluffy. I wanted – I’m usually a numbers guy. All of my research is quantitative up until this point. I just didn’t want to hear it. But it just kept coming through.

They prioritize personal fulfillment over someone else’s view of success. That is why they end up on these very individual paths. It’s also, we believe, what allows them to be successful and happy.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. In a way it sounds sort of too simple and somewhat squishy, but you mentioned that they kind of kept coming back to kind of tools or approaches, like how they came to these discoveries about themselves. Could you give us an example and tell us some of these strategies?

Todd Rose
Yeah. Exactly as you were saying. It’s one thing for someone to say, “Look, it’s all about living a fulfilling life.” Is that what you say after you’re successful?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Todd Rose
You rewrite your own history. We really pushed hard and realized, no, they’re prioritizing it early. What we were interested in is well, okay, how is this not follow your bliss off a cliff, right? Because it’s not the first time someone said, “Pursue happiness.” Follow whatever. We were digging into okay, what is it that makes this actionable really.

It turns out there’s a handful of things that they know that really does make this what we call a “dark horse mindset” a reliable path to success. The first thing – if you don’t get this right, we have plenty of non-examples, where if you don’t have this it doesn’t turn out very well, which is they have a deep, deep understanding of what really motivates them.

That sounds so simple. Who doesn’t know what motivates them. But I would actually argue most of us don’t really know what motivates us.

All you have to do is look at the engagement research. Gallup shows that the vast majority of Americans are disengaged in their jobs. Something like 30%, I don’t know the exact number, they’re called actively disengaged, which sounds kind of crazy to me, but actively disengaged. A majority of kids are disengaged in school in this country. Something’s wrong there. If we were so smart about what motivates us, wouldn’t we have made better decisions?

So dark horses do something that I thought was really, really interesting, which is when we think about what motivates us, most of us go to the way society talks about it, which is these big universal things, like, “Okay, are you more about …-”

Pete Mockaitis
….

Todd Rose
-or competition or whatever.” Some of those are true, right? But what we found with dark horses is that motivation is very, very individual, that people are motivated by a wide range of things, some of them big and universal and some of them are very, very specific to the individual.

All that matters is that you figure that out and you figure out that mosaic of what motivates you because then you’re going to make decisions that sort of check those boxes. When you’ve got a choice between A and B and A checks ten of your motives and B checks three, you know which one to pick. That starting point of figuring out what we call your micro-motives is by far the most important first step.

Pete Mockaitis
When you’re saying micro-motives, you’re saying hey, it’s much more individualized and specific and precise than competition. Could you lay it out for us, either yourself or a few of your dark horses, like this is what a micro-motive sounds like? Like it’s not competition, it’s like seeing my opponent squashed on the mat or …. I don’t know.

Todd Rose
It’s even crazier than that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Todd Rose
Again, certainly competition and those things are true for people. But – and we can imagine that being a motive. But what about aligning physical objects with your hands. That for me-

Pete Mockaitis
There we go.

Todd Rose
-saying it right now, I’m like, who in the world would be motivated by that, like truly motivated, not like it’s a nice thing to have, but I need this in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
So they’re misaligned, you mean the silverware drawer is askew or what do you mean by aligning objects with your hands?

Todd Rose
Like, for example, becoming an engineer that is actually aligning copper wire to fiber optic to solve one of the biggest problems in the telecommunications industry 30 years ago. That kind of stuff. This guy – we talked to this guy who – this is a primary motive for him, among other things. He’s this engineer, but then when that doesn’t – he gets out of it because – for a number of reasons.

But he is now the top upholstery repair person in New York City, which you’d never think of those two jobs as being the same, except for upholstery repair is terribly difficult and you’re fixing family heirlooms and leather, where you’ve got to align these things. He is just so happy and so good at what he does. We also-

Pete Mockaitis
I love this so much. It’s precise and beautiful. Please continue, more and more micro-motives.

Todd Rose
How about, again, we can imagine something like collaboration being great, but what about someone who truly is motivated by organizing people’s closets.

We talked to a woman who was a political rock star, who had basically worked at local, state, federal, all the way into a great job at the White House, so good at what she did. She realizes one day as she’s leaving the White House, she gets asked to help run Bloomberg’s government in New York. She realizes she can’t get out of bed. She can’t figure out why. This should be the next step.

She comes to the realization of what’s missing as she’s organizing her own closet. For her, everything is about being able to create order on behalf of other people, right? The benefits to other people that come from having their lives have order and meaning like that. She realized everything she loved early on in politics was about that, not about beating the competition, not about winning, but this.

As she rose in the ranks, you get less and less opportunity to do that. She said, “What am I supposed to do with that?” Except for she realized, wait a minute, there’s a whole field called professional organizers. She didn’t even realize they existed. She figures out, “Wait a minute. This is like what I’m born to do. I love helping people and I love organizing.” She literally loves closets more than anything because she sees it as the most intimate form of organizing for people.

She starts a company. Now she’s one of the most prominent in both New York and Florida. She makes great money. She loves what she does.

Over and over again, we found that what dark horses did got them on this right path is they really had this deep understanding of that quirky collection of things that matters to them. Even if they don’t matter to anybody else, that’s okay because it’s what gets them out of bed. They’re going to use those micro motives to start making decisions in their life big and small and that’s what gets you on the path to fulfillment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so aligning physical objects with your hands, creating order on behalf of others. Let’s hear a few more micro-motives.

Todd Rose
Some of them get a little more familiar you think, we talked to a woman who owns a flower shop, florist stuff and decorator, like that. She has this really interesting motive, where it’s like she likes to arrange floral stuff, but it has to include non-floral stuff.

She has this really weird combination of things. If she’s just arranging flowers, that’s not good enough. If she was just doing stuff with non-flowers, that’s not good enough. When you combine the two, it’s magic for her.

Another one, which I thought was remarkable, I just – for me none of these things are actually motivating. It’s like, I’m like, “Are you sure?” When you talk them and they just light up. They can’t imagine a world where they don’t get to do this. Imagine someone being motivated by literally holding paper in their hands.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, there’s some good papers out there.

Todd Rose
Yeah, right.

Pete Mockaitis
I could be fired up if it’s the right paper.

Todd Rose
Interviewed a woman who is one of the most famous art conservators in the country, but for her it’s not any kind of art. It has to be paper. Her ability – she said, “Look, to be able to hold it” and it’s history and everything it means. She talks about it in great tactile detail. For her, she wouldn’t even take a promotion or move onto something else that would take her away from doing that.

Now, as a result she has actually been responsible for the restoration, some of the most prominent paintings and other kinds of things in the country.

But, time and time again, this is it. We all have things big and small that motivate us. If we turn to what society tells us should matter, we get in trouble because we’re not really listening to who we are. Now I would say probably the next question because I know you’re all about practical stuff and application I like, “Well, wait a minute, how do I start to figure this out then?”

Pete Mockaitis
I will absolutely ask you that question. But if I could first get even some more micro-motives when it comes to – those that you mentioned, they seem to fall under the category of I guess maybe sensory, tactile. Could you share a few that are maybe not something that you can see and smell and touch?

Todd Rose
Yeah. We talked to a woman who – probably most things end up manifesting in some ways in having some physical interaction with it, but talked to a woman who was – actually one of my favorite people. She loved music. That seems like, well, of course, … people do, except for she doesn’t like being in front of people. She doesn’t want to be famous. She doesn’t even want to sing. She can’t sing.

She has very specific combination of wanting to be involved in music, but at a production level, like, “I want to be able to take something that someone’s creating and make it better. It’s really weird. It’s very, very specific for her. But combined for her, it was with this but it has to be for somebody else’s benefit. Somebody has to be moved by it, but, again, she doesn’t want to create. That’s not what she does. It’s not what she wants.

She goes on to become – she starts from nothing, absolutely nothing. She ends up becoming Prince’s sound engineer for Purple Rain. She does these spectacularly great things. In the book, her story is laid out in great detail, so I don’t want to steal too much more, but she’s just remarkable.

We have some of the more traditional ones. Talked to a guy who grew up blue-collar town, came from nothing and just scraped by and built up a little mini empire of restaurants and bars and real estate. He was kind of king – big fish, small pond. Now you can imagine, that’s it. That’s great. Everyone is like, “You’ve really made something of yourself.”

But he knew there was this creative motive that he didn’t understand. He knew he had to have something around this creative space, but there was nothing there. He used to have jazz night at this blue collar bar. People are like, “Why are we doing this?” like nobody wants to hear it and he’d make them listen to it. It was bad for the bottom line.

He wakes up one day and says, “Look, I’ve got to figure out what this is.” He actually makes a pretty bold move. He sells everything and he moves to Boston. He’s like, “Look, if I’m going to figure this out, I’ve got to be in the city.”

Anyway, flash forward through some crazy things that he ends up doing. He turns out to become one of the top bespoke tailors in the country. It turns out he has this amazing love for fabric and creating stuff for people and create – it’s remarkable. In fact, it was the first bespoke thing I’d ever bought. I had him create a jacket for me. I’m like he’s very, very good.

These range of things – here’s the thing, nobody can tell you what yours are. They just can’t. There’s no test to take. There’s no – because they come from all kinds of places. Some of them might be innate; some of them might be learned. It doesn’t matter. If they get you out of bed in the morning, you’ve got to understand them.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I’d be curious, what’s yours, Todd?

Todd Rose
I thought a lot about that. I have – I think mine are probably common for a lot of people. But I have for sure the case that I am – I get bored easier than anybody I know. That’s a pretty big one, but I have to have a lot of novelty in my life.

One thing that I realized is that that causes a lot of problems if you’re not careful. Sometimes you’ve got to just keep doing things. You can’t just keep bouncing around because you get bored with something. You have to figure how to harness that.

I absolutely cannot have a boss. I just cannot have somebody telling me what to do. I think that’s – the ability to have control over the choices that I make matters more to me than anything else. I would take so much less money, I would take – to have that kind of autonomy is just so important.

The other thing is that I have this weird mix of what feels like contradictory motives. On the one hand, I need autonomy. I just need it. On the other hand, I deeply, deeply, deeply enjoy collaboration to the point where everything I do, I try to force to say I want to have a partner with it, I want to find someone to work with on these things because it’s just so meaningful to me.

It’s a fun kind of wait, but I want to have – I want complete autonomy, but at the same time I really need other people and I want to work together, so you’ve got to figure that out. Those ones are the big ones for me. I do actually have – I keep saying competition is not a – it’s definitely a motive. I definitely have that kind of streak, and what you do is try to harness it to be compete with yourself rather than other people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Okay, well now at last, yes, micro-motives, that’s kind of what they look, sound, feel like in practice. How do you folks go about discovering and zeroing in on what they are for them?

Todd Rose
Here’s the thing. We’ve road-tested this not just on dark horses, but frog marched a bunch of our family members and all our friends and “Test this out and see if it really works. Let’s see what happens.” I might give you – it’s incredibly simple. All I want is for people to try it. Just try it a couple times and you’ll be really shocked.

A very easy thing to do is to just think for not very hard, but think a little bit about a couple things that you actually enjoy doing, like really enjoy doing and ask yourself why. The why is everything here. Most of the time when we engage in some kind of activity and we like it, we’re like, “Yes, I really love-“ for example, I really love football. I would say I’m pretty passionate about football.

What we end up doing is attaching – and we call it passion for something – but we attach it to that thing. That’s usually the sort of grain size that we deal with. Oh, I really love football and I like watching TV, whatever. But if you ask yourself why, is it the competition, is it the teamwork, is it the strategy involved, is playing outdoors. There’s a whole range of things for why you might actually like football.

If you start getting a handle on those – that’s really closer to your motives. If you do that a few times, you start to suss out some common themes. What’s really important about that is that once you realize why it is you like these things, that’s portable.

Let’s say for example, actually I can’t play football. I’m just too old now. I’d get hurt in two seconds and I‘d rather have a healthy back and knees than do that. But it’s like if I know why I liked it, I can actually make choices because there are other activities and things I can do that check those boxes.

It sounds really simple. I think you’ll be shocked at how much value it gives you in a hurry about figuring out why you care about the things you care about.

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

Todd Rose
Actually, I’ll tell you one thing that I think matters the most to me and if there’s one thing I can get across is this. When we think about the pursuit of fulfillment, it can easily sound like a luxury item. Like, “Okay, after I get all of the things taken care of I need to,” it’s sort of like Maslow’s hierarchy or something, that’s it. Fulfillment is for rich people or for people who have it made, whatever.

I think it’s exactly the opposite. I think this understanding of making choices based on personal fulfillment matters most to people who don’t have a safety net, who really have to hit home runs on choice after choice after choice because there is no backup plan.

Because there, knowing who you are really and being able to make decisions on that puts you in contexts that are going to be engaging, where you’re going to be productive. You can string those together. I think it’s the safest way to a successful life.

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

Todd Rose
Yeah, I love quotes. I’m like a collector of quotes. For me this was actually hard to narrow down, but here’s the one I think is awesome. It’s by Joss Whedon if you know the producer. It’s, “Remember to always be yourself unless you suck.” I like that quote because I think it’s both true and then true. Yeah, we always tell people know who you are, be great, but if there’s some really dark stuff inside, yeah, let’s work on that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s true for competence as well. It’s just like, “No, this is my style. This is how I do my thing.” It’s like, “Well, nobody likes that,” in terms of if it’s like a consumer or kind of commercial application market, it’s like, “That may well be, but it’s not working for the people who buy it, so you’ve got to change it.”

Todd Rose
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study?

Todd Rose
That’s actually an interesting one. Basically I would pick – I’ll give you a specific one, but I would pick almost any of them in the science I’m a part of because when we get away from group averages and we study you on your own terms, we find remarkable things.

It turns out individuals aren’t snowflakes. You can actually find patterns and it matters. It matters for how we keep you healthy and how you develop and what you can become.

My favorite one of them because this is pretty actionable is the new work out of Israel by Eran Segal on personalized nutrition.

We have the glycemic index, which is supposed to tell us how certain foods elevate our blood sugar. It’s really important for pre-diabetes, diabetes, just health and wellness in general. It turns out the glycemic index, it’s all averages. On average a potato will elevate your blood sugar by a certain amount.

What these folks found is there’s literally nobody that responds the way the glycemic index says you should respond. Nobody. We’re so individual. But importantly, they were able to use the science and some machine learning stuff to be able to create incredibly precise predictions for every single person.

They turned that into an app. I have no commercial interest in it, but I did buy it. It’s called DayTwo. It’s amazing.

One concrete example, for me – they tell you on average that if you want to keep your blood sugar low to eat grapefruit. It’s supposed to be really terrific. For me, it turns out to be the single worst thing I can possibly eat. It elevates my blood sugar more than chocolate cake.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Todd Rose
So what I love about this is it’s an example where understanding individuality, it matters. Your individuality matters and it’s not noise. We can build systems that are responsive to you and to everybody else. We don’t have to choose anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
This is just mind-blowing in terms of its implications over the next century of boy, technological and human progress, just thinking about that. So on maybe more pedestrian question, how does an app figure out how much a grapefruit is spiking your blood sugar?

Todd Rose
You have to send it you get blood work done, gut biome and a bunch of other things, so rather than reduce you to a type, they actually collect a lot of information on you. It’s analyzed and then it’s fed through the app. There’s some crunching done on the backend and the app is just how I interface with it. But it helps me basically, anytime I want to eat, I know exactly what it’s going to do to me.

I think what’s so cool about that is pre-diabetes and diabetes is like a massive problem in the United States. You realize wait a minute, we’re blaming everyone for their poor habits, which maybe that’s true and I’m sure it’s part of it, but actually we’re literally telling them, we’re giving them advice that guarantees, guarantees that we’re not optimizing their nutrition. It’s like it doesn’t have to be that way.

For me, I’m excited about the future. There’s a lot of dangers and challenges in this brave new personalized sort of society, but the idea that we can understand you as an individual and build systems that are responsive to you and get the most out of you is really remarkable.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s wild. DayTwo is generating an individualized profile of you based upon your genetics and your gut biome and your blood stuff.

Todd Rose
Yup and it really doesn’t matter if there’s anybody else like you, you can still have an optimized nutrition. We can do this, by the way, we can do this for cancer treatment. We can do this for how you develop. We can do this for how you best learn. This is the future.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s wild. Tell me, from the food perspective, is there something you can eat that makes you feel awesome and you wouldn’t even know it had you not done this adventure with DayTwo?

Todd Rose
Yeah, yeah, that’s great. What’s really funny is my wife did it and we just have completely different – like, trying to figure out what we’re going to cook at night now is like, “Huh, which one of us is going to spike our blood sugar?” But what’s really crazy about this, so you can imagine – so rum, it’s sugarcane.

Pete Mockaitis
Delicious.

Todd Rose
Yeah, but it’s sugarcane. You would think that should be – you’re just guaranteeing you’re going to spike your blood sugar. Nope. It doesn’t spike my blood sugar at all. I’m like, made in the shade. This is fantastic. There’s these things like that which I can do. It’s probably not making me healthy, but it doesn’t hurt me as much as I should.

The other thing is – this is kind of crazy – but, I can have soft serve ice cream as long as it’s chocolate and not vanilla. It’s that fine-tuned.

Pete Mockaitis
You would actually feel it in your body?

Todd Rose
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
You will have a different sensation in your head and your feeling of fatigue versus sharpness.

Todd Rose
It’s the fatigue thing that’s so clear. I would have never, honestly, never done it because I don’t really have – I don’t have diabetes or anything like that, but – so I never really appreciated the toll that spiking blood sugar takes on your body. If you understand the sort of science of it, it’s like pretty obvious. It’s a very, very taxing mechanism.

Even people who aren’t even near getting pre-diabetes, it’s like it is what – it drives fatigue, it drives up – it’s just simply optimizing against your own individuality. I just can’t believe how much cleaner my mind feels. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s just like I feel cleaner and clearer and sharper to the point where there’s no chance I would go back. It’s like, I cling to this like I can’t believe. It’s so neat.

Then I think wait a minute, if we’re not careful, we’re going to live in a world where people who can afford get this kind of information and the people that can’t, keep getting the stupid faxed copy of “Here’s the glycemic index. You should eat this.” It doesn’t-

Pete Mockaitis
…. Yeah, that makes it a lot more real when you described Populace at the top of this. I thought, “Okay, that sounds important.” Then it’s like, “Oh, yeah, this is critical. Thank you.”

Todd Rose
It has to be about all of us. It has to. It can, but we’ve got to make good choices.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite book?

Todd Rose
Can I give you two or do I have to really-?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Todd Rose
Okay. One is my sort of nerdy one, but I think it’s really important called The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper. It’s the only philosophy book that I actually like. It really taught me what it means to do science versus not. It really changed how I do my work.

But one of my favorite books of all time is called City of Thieves by David Benioff, who most people would know from Game of Thrones, but it’s a fantastic book, just love it, that fiction book.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Todd Rose
I have – I do two things. I’m trying to sneak in a bunch of extra things. One of the most important things that I ever figured out because I am – I actually have really terrible working memory. If you ask me right now, “Hey, when we get done with this, will you remember to email me blah, blah, blah?” There’s a good chance I’m not going to remember to do that. Organization was really important to me.

One of the things that I do that I always do is spend the first half hour of every day organizing my priorities so that the rest of the day I’m actually doing things that matter to me rather than things that get put on my plate that are first in kind of like “Oh no, this is really pressing.” It’s like sure, but did it matter to me. This helps me stay prioritized and accomplishing things I want to.

The second thing that I do is related to my need for novelty, which is I really, really, really don’t want to become that person that’s so narrow in what I know and do because I just don’t think that’s good. I don’t think – I just think you don’t get any inspiration or new ideas just by doubling down on one narrow piece of the world.

I try once a week, at least once a week, I read or watch something that is absolutely not part of my wheelhouse. That doesn’t mean like high culture and …. Sometimes is just anything, just stay out of the same-

Pete Mockaitis
Like what’s up with this Kardashian’s business? Some people seem – I’m curious how do you get prompted because I think so often it’s like, “That’s not interesting to me therefore I’m not going to engage.” How do you kind of get over that hump?

Todd Rose
I have a really weird way of doing this. I don’t know, I’m probably revealing too much about myself. But I’m trying to use the way that Google and other things, they feed you stuff as a recommendation, which is actually up that – it’s super helpful in one way, but then it kind of narrows your world in a hurry.

So I create alternative – my alter ego kind of stuff, where I’ll go and set up stuff where I’ll look at different sites and set it up so that I know that feeds me things that are very, very different than what I’m actually looking at now, whether it’s political, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s even sports and stuff like that. If I can’t find it on my own, I always go visit my alter ego and get new information.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Tell us, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and folks quote it frequently to you?

Todd Rose
Yeah, it seems a little self-serving for the book, but it really is this idea that the pursuit of fulfillment is actually a reliable path to success. That people come back to “Wow, I can’t believe that,” but it’s true. When you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

The other one is the sense of this is not about selfishness. One of the most highlighted things in the book for me is this quote that said, “To build a great … society, we must get the best out of everyone no matter who you are or where you’re starting from.” The idea that the pursuit of fulfillment is something that’s good for the individual, but it leads to a much stronger, more thriving collective.

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

Todd Rose
Sure. They can follow me on Twitter. It’s LToddRose or ToddRose.com.

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

Todd Rose
Yeah. Getting back to the theme here, make choices based on fulfillment, not what you think will get you ahead or you’ll – or what you think other people want and you’ll be in the absolute best position to live a life of success and happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Todd, this has been a lot of fun, eye opening, exciting. I wish you tons of luck in all of the good work you’re doing at Harvard and Populace and books and more.

Todd Rose
Thank you so much for having me.

374: Future-Proofing Your Career through Three Key Skills with Stephen Warley

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Stephen Warley shares the critical skills that keep you valuable in a changing work landscape.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two exercises for increasing self-awareness
  2. Four key questions to ask yourself every single day
  3. Why–and how–to embrace discomfort better

About Stephen

Stephen Warley has been self-employed for more than a decade, and he shares how to build the life skills that matter for the new nature of work. Stephen helps people build self-awareness  and other skills through his writing and coaching work at Life Skills That Matter.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stephen Warley Interview Transcript

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

Stephen Warley
Thank you so much for having me on. I enjoyed meeting you at Podcast Movement.

Pete Mockaitis
Whoohoo!

Stephen Warley
It’s fun geeking out over work stuff because we all do it.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. Totally, totally. And apparently you said I was a bit more wild at Podcast Movement than I am behind the microphone.

Stephen Warley
I know. You’re just so uber professional here on the mic, but let me tell you folks, when you meet Pete in person, he’s the guy you want to go have a beer with, let me tell you.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, I don’t feel uber professional on the mic. I think I’ve said some things that are pretty zany from time to time. But I guess I am – I really do feel a sense of what a privilege it is to be talking to such brilliant people, who have something to share and what a duty I have to get the goods to show up. I guess that does naturally bring a little bit of business likeness into the equation.

Stephen Warley
But I do like how you just described that too. It’s just showing how much you really care about what it is that you do and the effort that you put behind it and the respect that you have for your listeners, for yourself, and for the people that you bring on the show. I really appreciate that.

Pete Mockaitis
Aw, shucks. Well, thank you. But let’s start with something zany. First of all, I understand you don’t like to use any kind of paper. What’s this about?

Stephen Warley
I do use toilet paper, folks. I tried a bidet. I can’t do it. That’s too far for me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s the first time bidets have come up on the program. Cutting edge.

Stephen Warley
And toilet paper. Yeah, I think long ago before it was kind of this movement of minimalism, I just don’t like clutter. I like order. I truly believe that a cluttered physical space is a direct connection to my mind, therefore my mind is cluttered.

One thing I always tell people to declutter any space in your life is you’ve got to get rid of that paper first. And it’s never been easier to do that because we can automate and digitize like everything now.

Now once in a while, I will say this, I do like sending cards still because nobody does that anymore, so when you do send somebody a card in the mail, it’s a big deal. They text you about it. They call you about it. They even put it on social media

Pete Mockaitis
The paper, it’s not so much that you don’t like writing on paper, you just hate the clutter that paper contributes into your visual field.

Stephen Warley
Absolutely. I write very minimally on paper. Even when I journal I prefer doing an electronic note on my phone or a spreadsheet – we can talk about that, yes, journaling on spreadsheets, it’s possible – or a Word document. Because it’s also because of, again, the searchability of digital versions of your thoughts and your writing can help you see things in many different ways as opposed to having it all written in a journal.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool.

Stephen Warley
There’s like an …. There’s people who are like, “I love my journal.” Well, good. Journaling is a super important life skill. Keep writing. Get it out of your head. No matter how or where, you want to put it on a screen or on a piece of paper.

Pete Mockaitis
Noted, thank you. Well so let’s talk about – you’ve got your company. It’s called Life Skills That Matter. We like skills that matter over here. What are you all about there?

Stephen Warley
Well, I am trying to help people understand that work as they know it is fundamentally changing because I think we all start hearing about “Is automation, AI, going to take all of our jobs? There’s just even written recently Verizon is offering their entire workforce, 44,000 employees, a buyout package. I just got a text from a friend who works at Red Hat and he’s like, “Oh, they just got bought by IBM. I just got laid off.”

And even in a good economy, we’re seeing these shifts. The work in the way that we were taught by our parents or even sometimes still to this day, it’s changing. We can get into how I think it’s changing, but I want to let people know is that you can do something about it. You can survive and thrive in this emerging new economy.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, now we talked about work changing. I know we could wax – I don’t know if it’s poetic – but we can talk about trends and the robots and artificial intelligence, but maybe could you share – you’ve got a ton of numbers, stats on your website, which I dig.

Could you give some of the most hard hitting evidence that says “Oh no, for real, it’s happening now and so here’s the proof in terms of X percent of this or Y percent of that” or kind of what is the transformation and just how fast is it coming here?

Stephen Warley
The one that blows my mind – there’s two that I’m going to give you. The one that blows my mind was from the US Census Bureau, so pretty conservative, the US Census Bureau. They’re not going to say crazy stuff.

2013, they came out with a stat that said that as of that year 65% of the children born in 2013 would be doing work that had not yet been invented. Let that soak in people. That has never happened before in human history. That is how fast our economy is changing, that people born right now will be doing work that has not yet been imagined or invented.

Pete Mockaitis
That is wild. Yeah, the Census Bureau is not a fantastical sci-fi kind of a place. It’s sort of hard demographics that they see. 65% that’s a good, just about two-thirds majority. Okay.

Stephen Warley
I’ve got one more from the US Census Bureau.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s take it.

Stephen Warley
If I can because, again, just again to that point we’re making because it’s a lot of gravitas there, the US Census Bureau, that in 2016 to 2017, single founder or solopreneur businesses, that means there’s a business and there’s only one person running it, those making over a hundred thousand dollars increased by about 5% and the same is true for those making over a million dollars. Again, this has not happened before at that rate.

Pete Mockaitis
In one year, that number of sort of solo – solopreneur is what you’re saying here?

Stephen Warley
Like you and I. We’re running our own business. We have no employees. Maybe you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’ve got full time contracts, so ….

Stephen Warley
That’s a little different.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. Yeah, it is.

Stephen Warley
We have teams. We can get into all of that. But this is a solopreneur business. There’s only that. They are recognized as a single-founder business. The rate of those businesses that are making more money over hundred thousand dollars and a million dollars is going up significantly.

Again, something we haven’t seen before and is increasing because of automation. A lot of times we see the downside of automation, but the upside of automation, it’s never been easier to work for yourself and to make more money.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. That’s your take is that many more people are going to find themselves in a self-employment situation at least for a portion of their careers is one of your contentions.

Stephen Warley
Posits. Let’s couch that a little bit because I’m not as crazy as you might read on my website. So here’s the deal.

I think we have all been educated in a system that taught us to be employees for the most part, myself included. I believe there’s a much greater population of people that have the capabilities to work for themselves but they were taught that they couldn’t. They were taught they didn’t have what it took. Their self-confidence to a certain extent was systematically eroded to make sure that they continue to be employees.

I’m saying to people, you might have the capability. I was that person. I never thought I’d ever work for myself. Then economic reality, getting laid off Election Day 2000. By the way my entrepreneur birthday is coming up November 7th. I’m excited to celebrate that. I’m going to be 18 in entrepreneur years.

Pete Mockaitis
….

Stephen Warley
So that’s what I want to put out there to folks that this could be an option for you. Again, because things have changed so much in terms of the work that we can be doing, that we can have these single-founder businesses and we have technology to help us run those businesses now and there’s just so many more infrastructure growing every day, co-working spaces and communities popping up all over the place, especially in the last ten years to help this new growing workforce.

It’s estimated, depending on where you look, but about a third of the American workforce right now is considered to be self-employed in some shape or form. In the next decade that is supposed to be just over 50%. We are trending towards a majority independent workforce and we have not necessarily on a mass scale been taught how to thrive in that. That’s what I’m trying to help people understand and to do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. You’ve identified a number of particularly essential skills, life skills that matter, if you will, in this context that I think would be great to kind of dig into a bit. These are helpful if you do find yourself in a self-employed situation, even if you don’t. I think you can’t lose by digging into some of your deep expertise in these particular skills. Can you lay them out for us?

Stephen Warley
Yeah, I just want to make one other note about self-employment. Even if you are going to be conventionally employed, continue to be a W-2 employee, you’re going to function much more like a self-employed person. I call it the decision shift.

Incrementally, maybe you even notice this over the last five years, you’re being asked to do more work or be responsible over different aspects of your work. Even telecommuting, you’re going to work from home. Where are you going to work? How are you going to organize your work day? That is also a shift.

It’s almost like there’s a blurring of the lines between what it means to be a freelancer or a consultant or a full-time employed person. That’s the reality that all of us need to get ready for. That’s a lot of these skills that I’ve identified. I think a lot of times first people are like, “Oh my gosh, this is happening. What do I do about it?”

The first thing I tell people is do the work that you want to do, not do the work that you’re supposed to do. I think a lot of us haven’t really understood, like, “What do I really want to do with my life?” The skill that I often tell people is this most important life skill that is going to teach you about yourself and about your potential, your possibles, what you really want to do. It’s self-awareness. And again, Pete, the most important skill in my book and not taught to us. It’s kind of crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well that showed up again and again actually in terms of high-performers in corporate environments. That’s one of the top things they’ve got going for them is self-awareness. Tell us, how do you define it and can you paint a picture of what it looks like when you’ve got it versus you don’t?

Stephen Warley
Sure, that’s great. Self-awareness is the ability to observe your actions without judgment and to see the consequences of those actions to then decide “Do I want to keep having those results or should I start changing some of my behaviors and habits?”

Let me repeat that. Self-awareness is not self-judgment. It’s not about judging yourself. It’s about looking at yourself almost as if you’re hovering over yourself from a third-party perspective, an outer body experience.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m seeing the UFOs right now.

Stephen Warley
Right. It’s like somebody is watching – Pete’s watching himself right now, which is very hard to do. It’s very hard to – a big part of self-awareness is about getting really honest with yourself and to say, “You know what, Stephen, if I continue – if I go out every night and I’m getting these results and this is how it’s impacting my work.”

It’s not about beating yourself up that you’re doing that. It’s about asking yourself, “All right, I have this goal of making X amount of dollars or taking this big trip or having a family or buying a house or whatever it is, so is going out every night is that helping me or is not helping me?” That’s the type of kind of observation I would want people to practice self-awareness with.

Getting good at self-awareness – I have two exercises for people. One, is to start bringing awareness in your day-to-day life as we all do this, bring just self-awareness to when you just react, when you just react, whether you just get super excited or you get super angry, you get super frustrated, just notice when you have an instant reaction and you didn’t really think about it.

Because a lot of times those instant reactions aren’t very helpful. They kind of cause miscommunication. If you can start bringing awareness that you’re doing it.

Then the next step after that is understanding what’s the trigger. Where is that coming from? Why am I doing that? Those are the types of questions we want to be asking ourselves. I see this pattern of behavior in myself, why do I keep doing it? Where does it come from?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really connecting for me right now because I notice – for example, there’s – so right near where I live there is this graphics shops. It’s kind of independent. I was pretty excited to see that it was going to start to open. You see people bringing in the copy machines and building some shelves. It was looking pretty good.

I was like, “Oh yeah, this is going to be great. Maybe I’ll use that as a sort of mailbox that I can have publicists and sort of a public address to go to. Or maybe that will serve as a UPS drop-off spot, so I won’t have to truck it so far or pay the pickup fee when I’m sending stuff via UPS.” I sort of started to imagine how wonderful this graphics shop will be in our life.

I even said “When are you going to open?” They’re like, “Oh yeah, maybe next week.” I was like, “Oh cool.” I got excited. But that was more than a month ago and it’s not open. When I pass this graphics shop, I have a reaction. I’m just angry. Not like enraged, you know? I don’t scream or huff and puff, but I’m irritated. I’m like, “It’s still not open. What’s the deal? How come it’s not open?” I don’t care for that. I don’t really need that irritation in my life.

Stephen Warley
So why are you irritated?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah. I haven’t quite gotten to the very bottom of it. I think part of it is – at the very surface level, it’s just sort of like, “Oh, people should live up to their word. He told me it would be here next week and it’s not there,” but more than that I think it’s that I – I think the truth is I just sort of feel kind of overwhelmed maybe too often in terms of all this stuff.

It’s partially my own doing. I get so excited by all these ideas and I chase after them. It’s like, oops, didn’t set aside some time for this or that. Then I view that this graphic shop is kind of an opportunity to have that kind of just little extra bit of time, whether it’s – because I’ve walked to a UPS drop off spot several times over the last few months, so I just sort of imagine that this graphic shop represents to me maybe a half hour a month that is reclaimed for me.

Stephen Warley
This is what I’m hearing from Pete – because this by the way is an amazing example of self-awareness. And I’ll tell you how if I wasn’t here how he could get to where I’m probably going to hopefully bring him a little bit more quickly. This is not about that graphic shop.

Pete Mockaitis
….

Stephen Warley
It is not. It’s not even about the drop off at UPS. What Pete is – kind of now that he’s gotten a little bit more honest with himself, he already kind of started to say. He’s like, he’s feeling overwhelmed and he might need to look at all of his work activities and be like, “Okay, it’s really not about the UPS store. Like I’m doing a lot of stuff. What do I really need to be doing here and maybe what do I need to be doing less of or what I can I automate, what can I delegate?”

That’s something, Pete, that’s a whole other probably episode. People never stop to reflect once a month, once a quarter, even if you’re working at your job of “What are my work activities?” And then saying to yourself, “Which one should I eliminate?” because there’s stuff that we’re always accumulating or people are asking us to do and all of the sudden you’re like, “Why am I even doing that anymore?”

Maybe your boss, your manager, your team says, “I don’t even know. Stop doing it.” Or even you have to do that to yourself when you’re working on your own like Pete and I are.

Number two, can I automate stuff because there’s all kinds of tools that are pretty low cost or free that can automate a lot of what you do now.

Number three, what can I delegate? Even if you’re the low man or woman on the totem pole there, you’re kind of way down on the food chain, you could be surprised. There’s lot of opportunities to delegate stuff that you really shouldn’t be doing to other people.

Finally, you schedule what’s left. That’s the stuff that you should be really focused on doing. And you will feel such relief if you can do that. That’s kind of a very strategic self-awareness exercise that you can turn into a regular part of your work life.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. So we jumped right to some strategies associated with how does one handle overwhelm, which is great. I guess I kind of want to dig into some of the broader perspective in terms of I love what you said that when you see a reaction, it’s like it’s just there, then that is sort of fertile ground for digging in and gaining insights and getting somewhere.

So how do we go from the place of “I’m irritated that this graphic shop hasn’t opened yet,” to the self-awareness, insight that’s really going to be helpful and transformational? Are there kind of key questions that you dig into?

Stephen Warley
Absolutely. The most important and the most effective self-awareness practice that I’ve come across is journaling. It’s writing. I know you hear that word. There’s baggage with it. When you say meditation, the walls go up. Hear me out.

There’s lots of different ways to journal. You can do a free write. Some people like that. Sometimes people want prompts. Sometimes – actually I do an Excel spreadsheet sometimes when I’m feeling really negative and I’m aware that I am. I actually kind of put all these different thoughts into a spreadsheet.

I say, “What time of day did they occur? Who are they about? Who was I with? Where did they occur? What was it about? What do I think the trigger might be?” Then I go back a week later to look at those thoughts and you can start to see patterns and trends. That’s the true gift of having a writing habit every single day is that you get to communicate with your subconscious mind, your inner voice.

Because we try to think our way out of everything. We overuse our rational mind and we do not use our subconscious mind, our gut enough. We really need to use both parts of our brain because oftentimes your subconscious knows what you really want before your conscious mind does. The conscious mind is kind of like the one who’s going to get the job done. The subconscious mind is your motivation, your purpose, what gets you really excited.

When you’re writing, I often recommend looking back after a week, after a month to look for those patterns and trends, especially if you’re somebody like, “I want a big career change, but I have no idea what I want to do.” Start journaling about it. It’s a way to start communicating with that subconscious, so you can start to uncover things.

What it does, it allows you to see your thoughts from a different perspective almost as if somebody else was going to give you this information. So it’s kind of like you’re coaching yourself. Does that make sense, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes, thank you. All right, that’s a self-awareness side of things. What’s the next skill?

Stephen Warley
By the way, I have a daily growth journal. This will be a little segue into the next important skill that we’re going to talk about. Four questions you want to ask yourself every single day, especially if you really want to make a big change in your life or you feel like you need some more focus.

Number one, what did I learn about myself today? Pete might have journal about his frustration with this graphic store not opening up and what that was all about.

Number two, did I learn something new today in terms of helping me learn my work better, get better at my craft or get better at whatever my profession might be?

Number three, did I meet somebody new to you? This is something that we’re going to talk about as the next most important skill.

Finally, did I create something today? That’s a lot of things. Especially when we are working in jobs, we are constantly always having to live up to other people’s expectations and we are under this unfair regime of perfectionism that you really need to start thinking about stuff in your own life.

If you really want to learn, you’ve got to learn by doing, not just by listening to other people and reading. You’ve got to see how it feels for yourself. You’ve got to take that imperfect action. You’ve got to do stuff on the side. Or maybe you have a forward-thinking employer that’s going to allow you to get messy from time to time.

But let’s get back to that next most important skill and that’s outreach. You’ve probably seen this quite a bit, Pete, especially on this show or the people that you work with. When do people generally think about reaching out to people?

Pete Mockaitis
When they need something immediately.

Stephen Warley
Yup, when you need something. Guess what? After you’ve been at your job for two – three years, maybe five years, maybe longer and you get laid off or you quit or whatever, all of the sudden you notice that the only people that you really know professionally are the people that you’ve been working with and they’re really not going to be that much of a help to you, maybe a couple of them. Maybe they’ve moved on to somewhere.

The thing that can never stop and it’s never a to-do list item, it’s never part of your job search process or whatever it is that you want to do is you’re always on the outlook to meet new people. Even if you tend to be more introverted, it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to meet people.

I always tell folks, you never want to meet people when you need something because they can smell it a mile away. You want to meet people just like you make friends. You want to be drawn to interests or topics or subjects that really light you up.

I encourage you whether you see something on social media or overhear in conversation out and about, jump in. Let them know why you might be excited about that or an idea that you have because that’s how you build true, genuine connection with people.

That’s really the first step when you want to get a job or you’re building a business that you want to be very clear with your values and your purpose and your mission about who you are and not feel bad about it. Don’t feel like you have to change because you want to attract people that also share that same vision, that same interest, those same values.

Pete Mockaitis
For these people, what are your top tips in terms of finding them and connecting with them in great ways?

Stephen Warley
My unconventional advice is this. I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all way to reach out. I actually have a whole worksheet that I use in my 30-day accelerator to help people understand how do they like to reach out to people.

The questions that you want to ask yourself. Do I like to meet people online or offline more? Do I like to meet people in large groups like, go to conferences or like smaller, intimate groups or do I like one-on-one interactions? How frequently do I like to interact with people? You know maybe it’s like once or twice a week, but maybe it’s like five times a day. Even in social media, start bringing attention to which social medial platform do you like more than others and really get better and give yourself over to that.

So I think broadly speaking, that is what I would recommend to people is to actually make the best use of who you are as an individual human. Bring awareness that you already have a habit for interacting and engaging people. But just start calling yourself out. Do some journaling about how do you do it, how can you make it better, and how can you bring awareness to make sure that you’re doing it all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Yes. So you mentioned several different formats. Maybe could you mention some perhaps overlooked or unconventional formats because I think sometimes we think, oh mixer, cocktail party, business cards, that is – networking. We just sort of paint a picture as to what that word sparks for people. You’re saying, “Oh no, hey, you’ve got the online thing as well. You’ve got the kind of small group thing.” What are some of your favorite approaches or manifestations where this comes into play?

Stephen Warley
Your everyday life. Don’t be afraid. I do this all the time at my co-working space, in lines at grocery stores. I live in Boston; I could be on the T. If I overhear a conversation that is super interesting to me, I chime in and I jump right in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people that way. Sometimes it goes nowhere and sometimes it really could lead to an opportunity or they give me another idea about somebody that I could meet.

I think one of the unfortunate things that we do is we compartmentalize a lot of these different activities. What I’m always telling people, the folks that I work with is, how to start integrating that just in your daily life. Like, there’s opportunities to meet people all the time, just start being more open to them. Right now we’re so closed off.

Yesterday, I treated myself – it was Halloween – after work I went and got a beer at a local coffee shop slash brewery. I generally don’t have my computer or my phone, but I was actually working on a presentation. But I couldn’t believe these four women sat next to me, who were in their early 20s. They all got there. They all said hello to each other and for the next 90 minutes they just looked at their phones and their computers the entire time and didn’t talk to one another.

Pete Mockaitis
Are you sure they weren’t choosing to have a productive work session inspired by shared culpability?

Stephen Warley
They were wearing costumes, which made it – I wanted to take a picture of it. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, talk to each other.” And not saying that – I’m being unfair because there were plenty of other great conversations going on throughout the space.

But a lot of times I think we – all of us even if somebody’s an extrovert like myself, if you didn’t guess that already, a lot of times it’s like kind of that home base, that safe, that security blanket where you whip out your phone because nobody’s talking to you. You almost feel like you go back to middle school sometimes. You feel like, “Oh, other people are talking to everybody and I’m talking to nobody,” so now we have a phone so we can look like we’re doing something.

Instead of picking up our head, kind of – don’t be creepy, but you can be listening on other things and jump in, jump into a conversation. Go for it. I challenge you next time in the next 48 hours if you hear somebody say something that really energizes you, really sparks you or you feel like you have something to add to that conversation, jump in.

Pete Mockaitis
What I dug about what you said there in terms of compartmentalizing, ….

Stephen Warley
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed with Halloween we took precious baby Jonathan for his first trick-or-treating experience.

Stephen Warley
What did he go as?

Pete Mockaitis
He was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo, to be precise. It was so cool, I hadn’t chatted with my neighbors much at all in the year that I’ve lived here, but then in the context of Halloween and trick-or-treating, suddenly that’s just normal. Yes, you show up at someone’s home and you talk to them for a moment and take their candy. They were so cool. I was like my neighbors are awesome. It was like, how come we never talk to each other?

Stephen Warley
Or now, you can call yourself out, how many times did you pass each other, but you guys, you were both so busy with your lives that you couldn’t even just do, “Hey, how’s it going? How is your day today?”

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Yeah. A lot of times we’re in motion, but you can at least say hello. It was ….

Stephen Warley
I’m in Boston. I make it when I walk to my co-working unit, it’s about a two-minute walk, I look people in the eye and I smile at them because people don’t do it. We are so closed off from each other. I know that sounds like really timeless advice, but be aware of that. Realize that in our modern, fast-pace life, we’re losing that.

We’re not doing that and that is a simple thing that you can be doing all the time to kind of be practicing your outreach muscles, so that way you’re always meeting new people, building up that community, building up your network. That way when you do need people, you have that to fall back on. You’ve been developing and nurturing it all along.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. You’ve got another key skill about embracing discomfort.

Stephen Warley
Yeah, here’s the deal folks. Work is changing in such a way that it is changing faster than ever before. Remember US Census Bureau stat about babies born in 2013, how they’re going to be working on something that has not yet been invented. You’re no longer going to be hired just to do something and be trained to do something and do it over and over again.

A lot of times people – I don’t know if you get this Pete – but a lot of times people ask “What skill can I learn that I can have for the next ten years?” I’m like, “There isn’t any. They’re gone. Done. Over.” “Not even coding, Stephen?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s changing all the time.” The timeless skills are these life skills that I’ve identified like self-awareness, purging, even letting go. We haven’t talked about that. But also – reaching out.

But also one of them is embracing discomfort. I think a lot of times we want everything so secure I think that’s why a lot of us don’t consider the option of having a side hustle or maybe considering other forms of work like freelance, consulting or working for ourselves as a single founder because we are so afraid of losing everything, having that security lost.

I will tell you as somebody who’s worked for himself for 18 years, the idea of having all of my money come from one entity and that they can lay me off at any time or fire me, that freaks me out. That does not sound like security to me. I love having multiple income streams. That’s where I think more and more of us need to start thinking about. Even if you have a primary job, you might want to have a backup plan. You might want to start playing around with something.

Or if you have a job where you feel like you’re not growing or you’re not – maybe you’re just not happy but it’s decent money and this is what you’ve got to do for the next six months or a year, outside of work you can start challenging yourself. You can be learning new skills. You can be doing experiments. You can be taking imperfect action. You can do messy things.

It’s that creation habit once again. What are those four questions that you’re asking yourself? Maybe you want to learn how to cook. A lot of times it doesn’t have to be a direct professional skill that you’re going to figure out how to monetize.

Sometimes we need to be doing other types of skills that we’re not exactly sure if it’s going to make us money or not, but we just enjoy them. It actually helps us learn about ourselves, reconnects with our self.

I love gardening. I don’t make any money off of that, but I tell you one thing, if you are a gardener like weeding, planting, doing all that stuff when you’re working through a lot of mental stuff that I’m going through all the time because of the work that I do, it helps me process that so much more quickly.

And that’s the other thing. Humans were not designed to sit in front of a freaking screen on our butts for eight hours a day. You have to move a lot more. I see that as a future work trend of how do we start evolving so we are moving more again. We’re not just trapped in cubes.

Pete Mockaitis
It seems like the cool theme there when it comes to that embracing that discomfort is that it is sort of the meta skill or the uber skill in terms of if you get comfortable being uncomfortable, then you are more agile and ready to learn the next thing when you need to learn it.

Stephen Warley
That’s why I tell people even if you want to work – and there’s nothing wrong with working for somebody else, nothing. I have had a lot of great experiences. I think it’s still a great way. I think looking at a job as a paid apprenticeship if you can look at it that way. There’s different seasons to your career. Sometimes you might work for somebody else; sometimes you might work on your own.

But I do believe that if everybody, honestly, I really mean this, Pete, if everybody could give themselves the chance of working for themselves for just one year, just one year of your entire career, that is going to teach you – I think it is the most elaborate, effective, intense way to really learn about yourself, your potential and your opportunities. It really gets you out of your comfort zones in lots of different ways.
You’ll never look at your money, your time, your energy, your connections, your self the same way again after that year. And that’s why I guide people through a 30-day accelerate to really give them that intense experience of what could this look like, what does it feel like even after just 30 days?

Also, this is a great study from the University of California at Berkley. It was from 1979 to I believe 2015 or ’16. They tracked 2,500 – no, I’ll get the exact – I believe it was 5,000 adults. Adults that tried to work for themselves, yet failed and then they went back to the job market.

Guess what? They earned on average 10% more in income than their peers who had the exact same characteristics, exact same skillset. The one difference is one tried to start a business and failed and one didn’t. The one that failed got rewarded. Isn’t that amazing?

Pete Mockaitis
That is fascinating. I hadn’t heard that one. Thank you.

Stephen Warley
The reason behind that is employers feel like you’re no longer just in your little silo of your skill. You have a greater understanding of the entire context of the business so that way you can talk to a greater number of people within the company, so that’s going to be better for the business.

Number two, it shows that you’re a little bit more of a risk taker, that you want to learn, that you have curiosity, that you have initiative. You’re not just going to wait to be told what to do. Guess what? The future of work is not about sitting around and waiting to be told what to do. People are going to hire you because things are changing so fast that you better be ready with some ideas. You better be ready with some experiments to find an answer to a new challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Another driver I think that might be behind that 10% bump if you have a year of self-employment could just be even from the negotiating, making an offer side of things.

Stephen Warley
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s kind of like they’re thinking, “Now this is a person who is totally cool, not accepting something that doesn’t work for them and doing it their own way, so maybe I had a range in my head, I’m just going to error toward the higher end of that range because I might be told no.”

Stephen Warley
But again, they did something that was really uncomfortable I think and negotiations is very uncomfortable for most people, but when you work for yourself, you really understand the value of every single minute of your day in a way that you don’t as an employee. I’m serious. I didn’t realize it either. And the value of every single dollar.

That way you are going to become that much more of an effective negotiator if you do go back into the job market for their reason that you just cited.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, now let’s talk about a few of your favorite things. Can you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Stephen Warley
I say a mantra to myself every single morning. Everything is temporary. I’m sure that’s some ancient Chinese wisdom, but it’s very liberating hearing that. Whether something is good or something is bad, everything in your life, no matter what you’re feeling right now, it’s temporary and it will change. You’ve got to get ready for it.

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

Stephen Warley
My own experiments. One reoccurring experiment that I do is I always like to take something out of my life. I like to stop drinking for 30 days. I like to not watch television or video for 30 days or not use a social media platform for 30 days.

Why I like to do this because it’s just clear, it’s focused. It also kind of shows me the role of that thing in my life. Sometimes I realize, whoa, for somebody who I feel like I’m not addicted to these things, there is a little bit of an addiction going on there. I call myself out on that.

But also the effect that it has on the rest of my life. When I stopped watching television for four months once, the first time I did that, I realized that I started waking up an hour earlier every day and I was much more energized because I started going to bed earlier.

Also, they’ve done a lot of studies, that blue light, the screens. You really shouldn’t be looking at any type of screen about an hour before you go to bed because the blue light that it projects out kind of screws with the chemicals in your brain and messes up your melatonin.

To really learn about yourself, kind of another self-awareness exercise, do some experimentation on yourself, just try removing one thing from your life and to see the effects that it has on the rest of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. How about a favorite book?

Stephen Warley
First book I read after getting laid off, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, completely changed my mind about money that the middle class does buy a lot of their stuff with debt. You’ve got to stop doing that. You’ve got to buy stuff with assets. Make your money, invest in assets and let those assets buy you your fun stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite tool?

Stephen Warley
My favorite tool – people are going to laugh. I will tell you the great thing about this tool. It’s free. You can use it in every part of your business and you can use it to journal. My favorite tool, Pete, I swear, is a spreadsheet.

Pete Mockaitis
I won’t laugh. I think that’s an excellent tool.

Stephen Warley
A lot of times we overthink because there’s all these little, “Stephen, how come we’re not using this and that?” When I introduce technology to … it really has to save me time, save me money and I’ve got to keep it simple and it has to be really flexible and has to have a lot of uses. I don’t like having different tools to do very specific things across the board. I like a lot of integration. Spreadsheets, let me tell you, as a tool, they are quite amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m right with you there. Do you have a favorite function?

Stephen Warley
Function, what do you mean, in terms-

Pete Mockaitis
I’m thinking about like in a spreadsheet, like sum would be an example of a function or a shortcut.

Stephen Warley
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Anything that – some secret sauce?

Stephen Warley
I can’t say that I do. I mean I’m forever always putting little notes in everything because I think a lot of times we forget about the significance of the data that we’re putting in there, so I always like to deepen it and I always make sure that I put extra information in there in the notes.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Stephen Warley
Oh habits. I’m all about habits. People, your life is the sum of your habits. You want to make a change in your life; you’ve got to focus on your habits.

One of my favorite habits, I actually have turned – the first hour of my day, I call it my robot morning. The first hour of my day is nothing but habits. I don’t make any decisions. I don’t think. I’m on autopilot. The reason why I do this is to conserve my limited willpower energy and to minimize the effects of decision fatigue. That way when I do start working I still have as much of my fresh mind as possible.

I know if you have a crazy life, you have kids and life happens to you. I can’t say that I do my robot morning every single day the same way. But it gives me a lot of freedom now not having to think about what do I have to do. I get up, I pee, I brush my teeth, I floss, I put on SPF moisturizer on my face, I drink an eight-ounce glass of water, I stretch, I meditate for ten minutes, I do a little journaling, eat breakfast, get dressed, head out the door.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you frequently?

Stephen Warley
I actually – “it’s possible” is – I know that sounds corny, but it’s something that everybody says, like, “Stephen, I come to you with all this stuff. And it feels so chaotic and I leave feeling like yeah, this is possible. You give me clarity.” That’s something I say all the time.

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

Stephen Warley
If you are thinking – first if you really want to learn about yourself, you’re in the middle of a big transition, go to LifeSkillsThatMatter.com/challenge and I have a free 12-week self-assessment challenge. If you are kind of exploring maybe thinking about working for yourself, I would head over to LifeSkillsThatMatter.com/GetStarted to learn the first five actions to take to start working for yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Stephen, this has been a real treat. I wish you tons of luck in all of your adventures.

Stephen Warley
The same to you. And don’t be mad at that graphic designer anymore, okay?

Pete Mockaitis
I won’t.

Stephen Warley
Thank you, Pete.

352: Conquering Fear and Expanding Awareness with Emma-Kate Swann

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Emma-Kate Swann shares how increased awareness enables you to be a better employee and a better person.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four key practices for becoming more conscious
  2. Tips for becoming more secure in your identity
  3. Six ways to counter  your fear responses

About Emma-Kate

Emma-Kate Swann is the Vice President of Leadership & Transformation at Healthy Companies International working alongside a team to both support and lead key client engagements. As part of her mission to bring about positive, healthy outcomes, Emma-Kate coaches executives on optimizing their performance, helps organizations navigate through change, and guides executive teams in building more productive relationships. She is also actively involved in the design and implementation of leadership development programs at all levels within client organizations.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Emma-Kate Swann Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Emma-Kate, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m excited to dig into a lot of your wisdom, but first I want to go into your past because I understand that you, when you were 13-ish, appeared on television dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. What’s the story behind this story?

Emma-Kate Swann
That’s true, yes. Well, growing up, who didn’t like Michael Jackson, right? I used to study his video clips and learn his Thriller dance step by step. Then I had the opportunity at 13 years old to perform this dance in a group on a children’s TV show. It was definitely a great thrill at a young age.

Pete Mockaitis
How did you end up connecting with this TV show? How did that come to pass?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, I was in a jazz ballet group. We decided to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We had to study the video clip and then our teacher also helped us with some of the steps. We won an Eisteddfod – it’s just sort of a competition that we were involved in – then got invited to go on this television show as the entertainment between cartoons. It was a children’s TV show, so that’s how it came about.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you recall which cartoons you were in between?

Emma-Kate Swann
Oh my goodness. I cannot.

Pete Mockaitis
Hardball here at Awesome At Your Job.

Emma-Kate Swann
I wish.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I can recall the cartoons I watched as a kid other than Nickelodeon had a good lineup with Doug, Rugrats and – maybe I can’t remember them. Ren and Stimpy was a crazy one. That was wild. I don’t even know if you can get away with some of the stuff that they did on that show today.

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely. Oh my goodness.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s talk about perhaps your current income and impact in career that you’re making. It’s not through dance and Michael Jackson performances.

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely not.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got a cool title as the vice president of leadership and transformation at Healthy Companies International. I love transformation. Tell us what’s your role and this organization all about.

Emma-Kate Swann
Healthy Companies, we refer to ourselves as a leadership and change and transformation company. Our mission is to transform the world’s organizations one leader at a time. We’re actually founded back in 1998 by our CEO, who’s an organizational psychologist and my co-author on our current book, Conscious, Bob Rosen.

We have a very focused – we have a specific view about leadership. Our view is that as the world around us is accelerating and becoming more disruptive, that we need to develop ourselves from the inside out in order to show up differently on the outside. We refer to this at Healthy Companies as grounded and conscious leadership.

Our focus on leadership was really set early on when the company was awarded a multi-year grant from the MacArthur Foundation to research the characteristics of successful executives and their companies. This led to more than 500 interviews with CEOs in 50 countries. Then Bob and Healthy Companies and myself then published the results from our executive coaching and our consulting work as well as interviews in eight books.

We apply these approaches to grounded and conscious leadership within really three key areas. One is executive coaching. I know, Pete, that you’re an executive coach yourself, executive consulting, and leadership development in workshops.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm. Now did you say say eight books?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yes, yes, so eight books.

Pete Mockaitis
You know it’s a good sign when you need eight books for them. That’s awesome. Could you give us a tidbit in terms of one of the most striking, powerful, counterintuitive insights that emerged from all that research?

Emma-Kate Swann
Well, often, we focus on competencies or skills in a lot of leadership development. Companies are spending millions and millions of dollars on leadership development. However, our research found that actually the most effective leaders focus on what we call is the six dimensions of leadership health. That is their physical health, their emotional health, their social health, vocational, spiritual, and intellectual health.

This is really what I mentioned in terms of operating from the inside-out. Interestingly, one of the key strongest predictors of effectiveness of those six healths would be what would you say if you had to guess, of those six?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy, I could make a case for all of them.

Emma-Kate Swann
I’ll put you on the spot, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
But since I just moved a heavy file cabinet, I’m thinking about my physical health. Let’s go with that one.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, actually each of those independently predicted higher levels of performance. But the one that actually we were really surprised about that had the strongest predictor of performance was actually spiritual health.

Now spiritual health can often mean religion. It’s not what we meant in our research. We actually defined spiritual health as the way you view your world, coming from a spirit of generosity and things like having a higher purpose and also being globally connected, so respecting different cultures and different points of view.

That particular dimension of spiritual health in the way I just defined it had the strongest relationship with effectiveness and also engagement. That was a bit of a surprise for us and actually opened up a new conversation with leaders and individual contributors in a way that they operate within the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
As you say that it makes real sense to me in terms of generosity because as you sort of generously invest your time and your network, your knowledge, your energy, your attention, sort of whatever you have to offer into people, sure enough they remember it, they appreciate it, and they are all the more likely to respond to you with subsequent requests and provide discretionary efforts and creative ideas and all that good stuff.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yes, and Pete, there is some data to support what you’ve just said.  Bersin & Associates found that companies known for their strong expressions of appreciation are twelve times more likely to show better results than companies less generous with their gratitude.​

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Let’s talk a little bit about your latest now. The book is called Conscious. What’s your main point behind this one?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely. We recently conducted a Harris poll actually with 2,000 working adults over 18 years of age to understand how Americans view leaders and their ability to navigate in a rapidly changing world.

A strong majority of Americans from our Harris poll believed that conscious leaders, which is really the focus of our book, and we defined conscious as those people who are aware of themselves, their relationships and their environment. These leaders said that being conscious improves organizations in terms of engagement and performance, yet only half of those surveyed think that C-level executives and leaders actually exhibit fully conscious behaviors.

We then focus in our book on what are the practices of becoming more conscious. We identified four key practices being one going deep, which is about really building awareness of yourself and how you show up and discovering your inner self.

The second one is about thinking big. This is about looking over the horizon, looking into the future, and seeing a world of possibilities.

The third is about getting real. This is about being your own change agent and also being honest and intentional about how you’re showing up and your impact on others.

The final one is about stepping up. This is about empowering yourself to act boldly and responsibly. A lot of us can focus a lot of time on blaming those around us for the challenges that we find in society and in our workplaces. We’re saying that stepping up is actually looking at what can you take control of and what can you influence.

Together these four practices then create the ability to transform ourselves and our organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’d love to dig into each of those. But first, I want to talk about a definition a little bit. One who is conscious is aware of themselves, of others in their environments.

Could you maybe give us a quick kind of picture of what it looks like when someone – a manifestation or expression of a person who’s acting in a way that is clearly not aware of themselves or not aware of others or not aware of their environments and then the positive foil to that, so just get a real clear picture on what that looks like?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely. If we start at the level of self-awareness. Let’s just take a really simple example like in a meeting. We all have to attend many meetings. It spends a lot of time out of our day in a meeting.

If you think about someone who is conscious, firstly they’re aware of how they’re showing up in that meeting, so how much of the air time are they taking up, how much time are they spending in inquiry versus advocating their view. Are they actually drawing in others in order to get as diverse perspective as is possible? Are they open in their mindset or are they fixed and caught up in their own biases?

That sort of self-awareness is the first level of being conscious.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s striking because I think there are definitely times when I think that I’m on it. I’m sort of thinking all of these sort of like second layer or extra dimension thoughts meta of what’s happening and what I’m doing. Then times when I’m absolutely not. I’m kind of checked out or just sort of barely able to convey something worthwhile from time to time.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice to note that what level of awareness are you playing at in a given meeting because it can probably change hour to hour.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely. I think part of the challenge is that we’re operating in such an accelerating business environment, that we’re all running from one thing to the next that to actually be able to be present and notice how we’re showing up is more and more challenging. That level of awareness is just so important.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so that’s what it looks like awareness in itself and then with others?

Emma-Kate Swann
Awareness of Relationships or others is how aware are you of others’ thoughts and feelings. It is also about the ability to change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as you interact with others.  For example, if you take the example of a meeting, to what extent are you aware of the signs and signals others are giving of how they are feeling.  What are you noticing about their tone of voice, their body language, and what really matters to them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. The emotions, sort of the subtext, what’s not said, what are people really thinking and feeling underneath the surface there. Then how about the environment?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, so the environment as well. One of the things that more conscious leaders are focused on is not just in terms of increasing revenue, but what’s the impact on the communities around them.

Awareness of the Environment involves understanding and adapting to both internal (organizational) and external (societal) forces that impact you, your team and your business. It is also about understanding the context or challenge you are dealing with. For example, are you bringing a perspective of what’s important to your internal and external stakeholders to share at the meeting?  If you are meeting with a group of senior executives, are you adapting your communication to meet their needs? For example, providing a big picture strategic perspective and not getting into too many of the details.  This is about being aware of your environment and the context in which you are working.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Emma-Kate Swann
Does that make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well so could you maybe give us an example, and you don’t have to name names specifically of just – because now that you lay it out, it seems like yes, but of course, we should all do this and that would be necessary for any leader to be effective.

But maybe could you give us an example of an organization or a leader who just bombed it in terms of they did some decision making or some communication that just clearly conveyed they were severely lacking on some of these awareness dimensions.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yes, absolutely.  One example comes from working with a group of global leaders at PricewaterhouseCoopers.  They came together from around the world to participate in a three month residential leadership program to prepare them to lead global teams.

I worked with this one senior leader as part of that program. He had moved around a lot in his teenage years. That had really left him feeling disconnected from his peers, so his way of relating to others was to outsmart his peers and his clients, which gave him some sense of control and feelings of superiority, but further increased his feelings of loneliness and isolation.

One of the things that we talk about in Conscious is that it’s no longer enough to be the smartest in the room. Pete, the man was clearly smart but we had to move him in our coaching to have more of a conscious way of thinking and way of showing up.

For example, one of the things that I worked on with him in coaching was to have him move from this scarcity mindset, which is a belief that there’s not enough, so there’s not enough knowledge or resources or opportunities, to one where he’s actually believing a principle around abundance, which there is enough. That led him then to share his knowledge, to be more cooperative, and to be more generous in his relationships.

The second way that I needed to work with him in terms of moving from a smart to a conscious mindset was to challenge his belief that I am what I know. His whole identity was caught up in – and this is very common – was caught up in being the smartest in the room, having the right answer. If I challenge – if someone challenged him, they’re challenging him as a person.

What we needed to work on was that he was who he was, warts and all, and that all of us have strengths and weaknesses. When we become more conscious, we are more comfortable in our own skin and we share more of our whole self. We feel more comfortable being vulnerable with others.

Then finally we worked on his mindset, which is also a smart paradigm rather than a conscious paradigm, which is I can only rely on myself to survive. In other words, I have to have all of the answers myself rather than engaging others to help with me tasks or to give me some more ideas.

We had to shift that thinking in order for him to actually understand that we’re only as effective as those around us. We actually learn a lot from those around us in our environment. This then moved him to focusing on more behavior around asking others for ideas and learning from others.

The outcome eventually was that his peers provided him feedback that he became much more of a team player and that his clients gave him positive feedback that they shared a new desire to continue doing business with him because interestingly he was brilliant but no one wanted to work with him because they came away feeling stupid as a result of his need to be the smartest in the room.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen that. I’ve felt that. I remember one of the kindest things anyone ever said to me in sort of a farewell work event is that I never made him feel dumb. I thought that was really sweet. I was like, “Oh, thank you so much.” Because I know how that feels. It sucks.

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. I’m intrigued about the identity point though, so he said – before identity was I am what I know, and then that shifted to something. Was there new identity statement or what’s the new identify then?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, so the new identity is I am okay who I am or as I am. Right. It’s acknowledging that all of us have strengths and all of us have areas for development. Actually, when we’re vulnerable and when we show some of that and when we ask for help, it actually builds trust. Rather than seeing vulnerability as a weakness, actually starting to see it as a strength.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Now that ‘I am okay as I am’ can for some be a lifelong journey to arrive at such a place.

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
As a coach what are your pro tips for fast-tracking that one?

Emma-Kate Swann
I have to say that particular mindset shift is not one that happens necessarily overnight. Yeah. It’s one it’s starting to be kind to ourselves. It’s simple little things to start with, so asking for help, sharing where – in a safe way, I normally get people to experiment in a safe way to start – so sharing something they may need, some support with, so something – whether it’s even just help with a spreadsheet.

It’s something that feels safe enough and just opening up a little bit about themselves, which is being a little more personal, which can be vulnerable for people. Just with those small steps over time with that mindset can start to shift and they can actually see that their relationships start to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. I’m thinking about maybe even more of a baby step is, I have confessed my need for help to the Amazon Prime Now delivery person or the Instacart grocery shoppers like “I don’t know you and I need help with this.” Sometimes life is out of control, so thank you so much for you’ve done here.

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Thank you. That was just background. Now, you’ve got four practices associated with being conscious. Could you give us maybe sort of kind of a best practice prescription in terms of “Hey, if you want to do one thing when it comes to going deep and discovering your inner self stuff, what would that be? Could we do that for each of the four?

Emma-Kate Swann
Sure, absolutely. I’d love to. Going deep is about discovering your inner self. This is really just about learning who you are, where you come from, and why you act the way you do.

There’s a particular skill that we refer to. It’s got an interesting name. We call it wrestling your inner reptile. In other words, it’s about understanding how your mind works and how we get hijacked by our survival instincts. I’m just going to spend just a couple of minutes talking about the neuroscience of the brain just because it sort of helps to understand this particular practice. I just want to keep it really simple here.

We have three brains. All of those have developed at different times and they have different responsibilities. Firstly, we have what we call the reptilian or primitive brain. This is really just focused on survival. Secondly, we have the emotional or feeling brain. This is where aspects of memory reside and also our impulsive actions begin. Thirdly, and really important in terms of our creative thinking and our decision making, we have the executive or thinking brain.

Now the problem is that our Stone Age survival instincts are not our friend in our current accelerating disruptive business world. What they do is they keep us stuck in negative emotions and they often slow us down in our business tasks as well as our life.

What happens is that our brains are constantly scanning for threats. The amygdala part of our emotional brain uses the five senses as well as some of our internal signals of threat, like our elevated heart rate or shortness of breath. Then when it perceives a threat it takes only 80 milliseconds for an automatic threat avoidance impulse to kick in. This actually happens at an unconscious level.

The signal telling us about our actions so that it’s how we actually show up, doesn’t reach our thinking brain until 240 milliseconds. At the same time, what happens is that one or more avoidance emotions like fear, and anger, and shame are triggered and that effectively takes our thinking brain, the part of our brain we need to be at our best, offline.

We’re all wired for survival and prone to these reflex-like responses and it takes the smallest of signals for us to perceive a threat.

I think Pete, we’ve all been there. We’re in a sales meeting. We know our numbers are not where they need to be. Your boss is frowning and instantaneously you notice your defensive reaction. Your tone becomes defensive. Your body language becomes defensive.

Going back to your question around what can we do about this, one area of awareness that’s particularly important to help us learn to – let’s just put it, wrestle our inner reptile, right that unconscious part of our brain that can trigger us – is to recognize what we call early warning signs our body gives. We refer to these as somatic responses.

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone says or does something like frowns at you because they think that your sales numbers that you’re about to report are not good enough or says something that you feel disrespects you then you get either a flushing feeling or that feeling in the pit of your stomach or a tightness in your chest?

Now given the reptilian’s brain unconscious and our emotional brain is only partially conscious, by recognizing what we’re experiencing in our body, that is vital information to then course correct our behavior.

So for example, when you notice that feeling in your stomach, what you need to do is take a few deep breaths and slow down the reaction from your emotional brain and that buys you some time to allow your executive or thinking brain to switch back on and then you can actually be more thoughtful in your response. Does that make sense, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing, yeah. The practice then is just in the moment of you begin to feel some defensive things to do some conscientious breathing there.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely. The first step is to – the first thing you need to be aware of what are those people and situations that are likely to trigger you, and then what do you notice somatically, so what do you notice in the body before the behavior even shows up.

Before the defensive tone or the defensive body language, what is – this is really a level of awareness that most people do not have – what do you notice happens in the body? Because that reaction in the body will give you the early warning sign before the action sets in that you can then manage the response. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Emma-Kate Swann
Then the response can be as you said the deep breathing and knowing that our thinking brain if we’re triggered is going to take a little while to switch on.

For some people it’s pausing because their reactive response is to sort of snap at someone or sort of have that short tone. For others, they disengage or they freeze. You need to build awareness of how you react and then notice the somatic reaction and then plan a different response in order to manage them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. This is really good. Could you share some observations in the body, that sort of common defensiveness things that pop up? There’s “Oh my heart rate is suddenly going faster,” or “I feel a descending wave of heat from my head to my toes,” or “I am getting a little twitchy in the elbow.” What are some examples that come up again and again?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah. One is interestingly when some people are stressed, they actually clench their fist. By simply noticing that your fist is clenched and then relaxing it, can actually shift your whole emotional response and then that shows up differently in your behavior. It can be very small tweaks in awareness building, but that can actually have a huge impact and then the behavior you can then change as a result.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. What are some of your responses that you recommend folks use? I guess there’s the breathing and there’s the unclenching and what else?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yes. So the deep breathing, the unclenching. One key one is that you need to buy yourself some time so that you can allow that executive brain to switch back on.

Sometimes just if there’s some water there, just take a glass of water and have a drink of water and that’s just buying yourself time. At the same time ground your feet because we physically – when we ground the body physically it can actually reground our emotions because we’ve got to remember that our emotional brain is being hijacked right now.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding. So there’s science behind this?

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
I do that. I just do that. I remember I just did that during my interviews when I was a candidate trying to get my first jobs. I had no idea why, but somehow when I started freaking out that just made me feel better. You’re saying – I thought that was just a weird thing I did, but you’re telling me this is deep in our humanity. This is so reassuring.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, there you go. Yeah, your intuitive response worked.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so put both feet firmly on the floor, that does stuff for not just me. Cool.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Definitely the deep breathing, the grounding the feet, and buying yourself some time, whether it’s just ask another question so you can listen rather than having to present your point of view right then and there because you’re thinking brain is not going to be at its best. Taking a moment to have a drink of water.

If you really, really feel triggered, and you’re concerned about how that may show up, you may need to just ask to leave the room for a moment and then come back when you’re more present. That’s not the most ideal response, but if it’s going to be better than sort of having a short tone or sounding very defensive, then it’s a better outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
You talk about reptiles and angry reactions, in my mind’s eye, this is so dorky, but I just keep seeing this scene from a Star Trek Next Generation, maybe a movie, maybe a TV episode, not sure, but Worf says – I don’t know who cares about this but, Trekkies in the audience here we go – when Worf screams at the captain, “If you were any other man I would kill you where you stand.”

That’s what I think about in terms of the intensity. But I think we probably are thinking, shall we say, attacking thoughts perhaps in response to these things, maybe thoughts we’d never want to say aloud.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yes, yes. Very true. Very true. Yeah. And remembering that not everyone reacts that way, some people disengage, but that also can be not effective in the way we’re showing up. It looks like we’re not contributing to the discussion. For some people, it’s how do you get back in the game when you get triggered? How do you get grounded again and then actually be able to contribute again in a conversation?

Pete Mockaitis
Emma-Kate, what I love about this is that this awareness stuff is so much more than surface level, “Oh know yourself and your strengths and your weaknesses.” This is really in the moment and what that looks and sounds and feels like from a very personal and physical perspective. That’s a whole other level than “I’m good at details,” which I love.

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes just asking our peers, someone that we trust, to give us feedback around how do we show up nonverbally when we’ve been seen to be little bit defensive, what does that look like? Normally people – that’s really showing vulnerability again, which builds trust, so most people are very happy to share any observations they might have of you.

We all have them. We’re all human, which is part of being conscious is to acknowledge that we’re all human and sometimes even if we’re practicing these conscious practices, we’re going to have an off day and that’s okay as well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. Well, I wanted to talk a bit likewise about think big, get real, step up but we had so much fun with go deep. We went deep on going deep.

Emma-Kate Swann
We did.

Pete Mockaitis
So thank you.

Emma-Kate Swann
Of course.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there maybe one kind of quick tip that you might share or key thing you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Emma-Kate Swann
We have at the end of each chapter we have some very practical tips for each of these practices so that would be one way of starting to learn sort of how to apply it in a very practical way. That would probably be sort of if people want to learn more about it, that’s probably where I’d direct them.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
I would indeed. I’d love to. One of my favorite quotes is by John Wooden. He’s from the Hall of Fame Basketball. He was a coach from the Hall of Fame. His quote is, “It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.” I think for me that really sums up that distinction between conscious and smart. Being conscious is about being a lifelong learner and staying curious and open.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Sure, research that was cited by O’Brien and … in 2010 is very relevant to what we talk about within Conscious that is that 83% of our brain is unconscious and 17% is conscious. However, of that 83% that’s unconscious, it controls the majority, which is 95 to 97% of our perceptions and actions.

In other words, most of our day we’re operating on autopilot. From a conscious perspective, if you can imagine the possibilities, if we could tap into more of that unconscious part of the brain, and become more intentional about our actions, behaviors, what the impact would be in our teams, in our organizations, and in our communities.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh great, thank you. How about a favorite book?

Emma-Kate Swann
No, my favorite book is Leadership and the Art of Conversation by Kim H. Krisco. If you think about it, one of our most powerful tools in getting things done through others is our communication tools. This book really provides a number of key practical tools to doing this very well.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
I practice and teach yoga sculpt at Core Power Yoga. That’s a combination of yoga, cardio, and weights at a 92 degree heated room. For me – that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But it energizes my body. It helps me get very present and helps me get really focused so that’s something that I practice every day.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Emma-Kate Swann
Well, that would be my habit I would say. Your other question was a favorite tool?

Pete Mockaitis
It was a tool, yeah.

Emma-Kate Swann
A favorite tool of mine, this is one I use a lot in coaching or introduce people to is called the HeartMath, M-A-T-H, technique. There’s actually software you can purchase online. It’s about I think 250, sorry 150 to about 200 dollars.

What it does is it looks at your heart coherence and you can actually see – it starts to graph it on a screen. By using this breathing technique and actually being able to see the data on a screen, when you have high heart coherence, you’re able to better manage your emotions and you’re also able to be more creative in your thinking.

It’s a technique that really helps people get conscious, or it’s really a conscious practice, but also sometimes people need the science or the data and that HeartMath technique allows you to see that on your computer screen.

Pete Mockaitis
What exactly is heart coherence?

Emma-Kate Swann
Heart coherence is the distance between heart beats. I’m sort of not a scientific expert in this. What my understanding is that when you have high coherence, that’s when you have those positive relationships with performance outcomes.

What the software does is just show you – it actually has a graph, green, blue, and red – and it shows you when you start to move from low to high coherence. It can actually happen as quickly as five minutes time. There is actually a lot of science and a lot written behind it, researched about it that people can read up on. But that’s what the technique is about.

Pete Mockaitis
Fascinating. I’ve heard of the HeartMath Institute long ago. But I didn’t know exactly what was under the surface, so thank you. That’s intriguing.

Emma-Kate Swann
Oh, of course, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a particular nugget, something you share that really connects and resonates and gets quoted back to you?

Emma-Kate Swann
Probably as simple as conscious is the new smart. That really sort of comes down to that paradigm shift that I talked about earlier. I think that if people could actually make that shift, it would make our teams and our organizations really much more creative and much more engaging places to work.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely. It’s HealthyCompanies.com is our website. Or I’m very happy for people to email me at EK.Swann@healthycompanies.com. I’m also LinkedIn or Twitter.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely. We say that teams, organizations and communities become more conscious one person at a time, so my challenge to you is to start with yourself. One thing you can do is take our short self-assessment to see how conscious you are. It’s just a small number of questions on our website and it’s free. If you go to our Conscious book page and click on the assessment there. And thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Emma-Kate thank you. This was a ton of fun and I wish you lots of luck with Conscious and all you’re doing.

Emma-Kate Swann
Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you so much Pete.