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Self-Awareness Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

689: How Introverts Win at Work with Jennifer Kahnweiler

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Jennifer Kahnweiler debunks pervasive myths about introversion and explains how introverts can flourish at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The core strengths of introverts 
  2. How to get the most out of the introverts in your team
  3. The ABCDs of excellent extrovert/introvert collaboration 

 

About Jennifer

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler is a bestselling author and one of the leading speakers on introverts in the workplace. Her pioneering books, The Introverted LeaderQuiet InfluenceThe Genius of Opposites, and Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces have been translated into 18 languages. The Introverted Leader was named one of the top 5 business books by The Shanghai Daily. 

Jennifer has partnered with leading organizations like Amazon, Merck, Kimberly Clark, NASA, Bosch, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. She has delivered her signature presentations from Singapore to Spain. 

She holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation, awarded to a small percentage of speakers, and serves as a mentor to many professional women. 

A native New Yorker, Jennifer calls Atlanta, GA home. 

Resources Mentioned

Jennifer Kahnweiler Interview Transcript

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
It is my pleasure, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom and I’m also excited to hear your story. This morning, in the gym, there was a lot of Beatles playing, and you actually had an encounter with Paul McCartney. What’s the story here?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Oh, my gosh, this story pops up in family lore time and again. We were vacationing out on Eastern Long Island where I grew up on in the New York area, and the kids were little then, probably your kids’ ages, and we were just having a casual Sunday stroll, and there was nobody on the street in the little town called Amagansett. And my daughter was turning to talk to me and she was knocked down by a bicycle, by a kid on a bike.

And, of course, as a parent, you jump up. She was fine. She was okay. She just was a little bit startled. And we heard, and I’m not going to try to imitate the British accent but Bill and I, my husband, we looked at each other in one second as we were looking at our daughter, and we realized that it was…I was looking right into the eyes of my favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney. And he couldn’t have been nicer and made his son apologize for being careless, so I was impressed by that. And I got to have my Beatles encounter.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is memorable and extra…

Jennifer Kahnweiler
It was.

Pete Mockaitis
…not just, “Oh, there he is in the airport,” but…

Jennifer Kahnweiler
There you go. And I listened to the Beatles channel, too, on the radio so I always think about him. Interesting thinking about personalities, the Beatles have been so analyzed to death, but people talk about the opposite personalities of him and John, and who is the introvert, who is the extrovert, heard that question come up. I’m not quite sure, but I think Paul is pretty introverted. I’ll ask him the next time I see him.

Pete Mockaitis
Next time, yeah. Well, yeah, so we’re going to talk about introversion here. And, boy, you’ve spent quite a boatload of time studying this topic and writing multiple books, The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces. So, wow! Tell us, from all of this work, any particularly surprising or fascinating discoveries that you’ve made along the way?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Well, I tell you what, I came into this work 12 years ago, I started writing, but I think the greatest discovery is, oh, if there’s a great one, is that the definition of introversion and the awareness of introversion, the definition has kind of morphed, and the awareness is basically worldwide now. So, that’s been a surprise.

I didn’t realize, it wasn’t just for my work, believe me, but there was a whole cadre of us in the beginning, including Susan Cain and others, who started dipping into this topic because it had made such a difference in, I’ll speak for myself and my own life as a person married to an introvert for 48 years now, that personally helped me navigate my marriage as one lens. It’s not the only one for sure. But as I started working in organizations, that was a really, really helpful lens to look through.

And I realized a lot of people didn’t realize, A, that they were possibly introverted and that’s why they were having a challenge in our type A organizations, and, B, others didn’t understand introversion. So, that’s probably the biggest kind of nice surprise as the journey has gone on, Pete, really.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so now I’m intrigued. The definition has morphed. I mean, I am a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner. It’s been a while since I’ve done a workshop.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Nice. Nice.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if I’m still in good standing with the organization.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I don’t think it matters. No, I think you’ll be fine.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I have a definition in my mind about what introversion is. So, tell us, how has it evolved?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I think the biggest change that has occurred is that it’s not as discreet as we once might’ve thought. We said, and just to kind of backtrack a little bit, introversion is about energy, and extroversion is about energy, and introverts, the typical understanding of that is introverts get their energy from within. They’re in their heads, they’re thoughtful, they kind of think before they speak, etc. Extroverts tend to get energized by other people. But that’s really pretty simplistic, really, if you think about it.

And so, we’ve come to, now, morphed into, it’s more of a spectrum. Like, a lot of areas that we talk about, including different kinds of autism. All kinds of things are now more of it’s not either/or, it’s not binary.

And so, it’s about what you identify with. There are people, as you know, that most of us are really sort of more towards the middle of the Bell curve anyway, right? I don’t know about yourself, and I have morphed more over to the introvert side even though my friends don’t always believe me about that. My editor even told me that on my last book, before our last meeting, he said, “Jennifer, I think you’ve become more introvert. I think you are an introvert.” I said, “No, I haven’t gone that far.” But he goes, “You’re prepared for meetings. You listen really well.” He was ticking off all the strengths of an introvert.

So, I think people do flex over time, Pete, really. And so, I think that’s where there’s been some more forgiveness and openness to some people say they’re ambiverts. Have you heard that term?

[06:05]

Pete Mockaitis
I have, yeah.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Ambiverts, people identify that. Not as many, there hasn’t been much research on that, but people who go back and forth. And as you know from Myers-Briggs’ work, Carl Jung said we develop over time. So, we do tap into those other sides of ourselves. So, I’m very happy about the fact that we’re not just kind of defining it in one structured way, that there is more flexibility according to the person.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, given that, you mentioned some strengths of introverts. Can you share maybe a cool story? So, your book is The Introverted Leader, and more, could you share with us a cool story about an introvert who just saw some phenomenal results in their career and some of the strengths that they brought to the table that are pretty typical of introverts?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
One that I would think about is a woman named Jill Chang approached me

This woman, Jill Chang, was in Taiwan and Jill reached out to me, she said, “I just wrote a book. I was inspired by you and some others to really tap into and own my introversion. And it made such a huge difference in my life to see my strengths not as weaknesses but the fact that I spend the time preparing, the fact that I’m such a really great listener…”

And this happens a lot, Pete, with folks. They will get more confident because then you start to realize it’s not a liability, this is actually a differentiator that you have from extroverts. So, she did, she named all these things and she wrote me this long email and said, “Would you endorse a book?” And, of course, I was happy to. she went on then to write the book. It became like the number one bestseller in Taiwan, multiple weeks. We were able to introduce her to our publisher here and the book has come a few months ago in English. It came out in Taiwanese. And she became a superstar in her country, I should say.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Quiet Is a Superpower. And so, there’d been many people around the world now, I had a chance to speak in a number of countries, and it was really cool to see the awakening there, so that would be an additional thing I would say. The whole awareness, globally now, has legs and people like Jill are making such a difference in their world. And what’s been also cool is all we’ve been able to collaborate on multiple webinars and presentations with people around the world, too, who are introvert authors, introvert coaches.

I got to tell you, when I started out in this, people like you took the Myers-Briggs so you knew about it, but many people were like, “What? How could you be an introvert and be a leader?” It was a lot of selling, a lot of educating and awareness, so that’s been so gratifying.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, so let’s hear about some of these, the “Quiet Is a Superpower,” and some of these strengths. Can you enumerate a few of them for us?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Sure. Sure. Well, one of them is thinking and not just saying what’s on the top of your mind. So, it’s giving deep reflection, and depth versus breadth is oftentimes what we say, depth with relationships too. Introverts don’t have any patience for small talk often but they have a lot of really great relationships with people – depth versus breadth. Observation.

I mentioned preparation, that’s one of the things that comes up a lot of the time. It’s being able to spend the time ahead of the interview to really think about, “What are the points you want to make? What’s the agenda for the meeting?” All of the aspects of being successful in an organization where you’re not just winging it, where you’re really giving really deep thought, and that really contributes to innovation, to creativity, and all of those great things.

And then, really, I would say the other real strength that I think we saw this come out more in the pandemic is the quiet, being able to take quiet time, being able to embrace silence because that is really when the beautiful inspiration occurs.

I remember one day coming home from work and seeing my 6-year-old in the driveway doing some of her fantasy, just twirling around. We had gotten her a tape of Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. She was pretending that she was like dancing and in her world. Then she caught my eye, and that moment was kind of gone. She ran into the house, threw her umbrella down, where she was doing “Singing in the Rain.” That was the end of that moment. And I always remember that scene because that is what happens so much. We have that interruption from outside forces but also from ourselves where we don’t take the time to really sit.

And I will say for myself, one of the real beauties, and I’ve heard this from other extroverts, is that we were forced in lockdown to do that, to go within. Did you notice that as well? I mean, it was really a change this past year.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. It’s like you just had fewer options available. And so, you had to find something good there, for sure.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Right. So, exactly. So, I would say those are…there were so many more. Writing is another one, how introverts express themselves is so beautiful. A lot of writers are introverted. And so, those are some of the key ones. There are so many more, of course.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s funny, that story with introversion, extroversion, I tend to prefer extroversion. And I remember when I was little, I was also kind of doing my own thing, and I believe I was Captain America or some superhero fighting bad guys, and I was like punching the air and making noises, all that stuff.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
That sounds great on your mic.

Pete Mockaitis
And then my mom came in, and I, too, was kind of embarrassed, like, “Ahh,” like, “What are you doing?” But it was funny, my reaction was I felt a little sheepish but I just kind of said, “Well, you see, mom, I was being Captain America, and there were some guys who needed…”

Jennifer Kahnweiler
You had to explain yourself, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
But, yeah, that’s what I did. And she said, “Oh, okay, that’s great. Well, carry on.”

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Well, no, that’s great that your mom allowed you to do that because it’s one thing I will say is that, and I’m really starting to explore this with some research with a woman who’s doing more work with children and youth and teachers, because I really think that’s where the opportunity is now. Where we really need to start is working with young people to give them permission to do that, whether they be introverts or extroverts. Having that time in your head, it’s precious, but there’s so much external force, and, “He doesn’t talk up enough in class,” and you get graded down for that, all of this bias in our society.

And it really hit me when I was doing career coaching for a number of years. Before I wrote my book, I had a career coaching practice, and I would see lawyer after lawyer come in or professionals who felt they had really poor self-esteem. And a number of them, when I traced back to what was going on, they were more introverted and they had internalized that perception of themselves as not being sociable and not having the interpersonal skills to be successful in the work world. And so, I had to do a lot of sort of unpacking of that with them.

We need to give everybody a chance to reflect. So, all of these qualities, whether it be at school or in the workplace, are positive for all of us. It’s going to create better results.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jennifer, let’s take this moment for listeners to maybe have some of those aha moments, some of those liberations. You said that the lawyers were feeling stressed and inadequate or inferior or troubled because they had internalized messaging that was kind of, I guess, anti-introvert, if that’s a fair characterization.

And so, can you lay it on us in terms of like what are some of those epiphanies, those revelations, that folks tend to have, it’s like, “Oh, that’s not a problem or a bad thing, but just the way I prefer to run my brain and totally okay and, in fact, often advantageous”? Can you share that with us?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah. Well, it’s not always immediate that you turn around that negative thinking because it’s been years that it’s been ingrained in you, whether consciously or not consciously by others. And I don’t think parents or teachers ever meant to give us those messages. It’s also the systems that we’re in to not encourage that. But I will say I do have an image in my head of you do speaking as well, Pete.

When I do this, I’ll do a talk about introvert strengths, or that’s a piece of the talk where we’ll talk about strengths, we talk about challenges. And when I ask the audience to just say for me…I’ll get them started, “Well, what’s an introvert strength that you think?” And people will, one by one, kind of warm up, “They’re great observers,” or, “They’re great deep thinkers,” things we talked about.

You will, literally, when you’re in a live audience, I will literally see people sit up in their chairs even like higher. I mean, I don’t think I’m just visualizing that. And the comments that I get after talks and after training sessions, and what people write in the chats, is that they feel grateful to know this. It’s like, “Aha!” It’s like the first time. I don’t know if you felt this way. The first time I took a Myers-Briggs, I was like I was kind of relieved that I was an extrovert because I didn’t really understand my husband and I were having these issues.

We were early young married just coming home from parties, and he would just go into his cave, and I was like, “What did I do wrong? Well, it was immaturity too but it was also like I needed to process the evening and he needed to get away. And just knowing that, learning that, was huge. It was tremendous. And so, I think once you see teams do this, when I worked with organizations when teams start to talk about these differences, it makes such a difference in how they operate.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a lot of great stuff here, so let’s hear it. So, if someone is an introvert, prefers extroversion, leans introvert, however you want to articulate it…

Jennifer Kahnweiler
If they identify as an introvert.

Pete Mockaitis
Identify as an introvert. What are some of the top suggestions you have that can help make them all the more awesome at their jobs?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Right. And I like what you said, help make them more awesome, not change into an extrovert. That is the key, right? when you stop trying to be an extrovert, that’s probably the big idea here. And I found that when I researched leadership, when I researched influence, that that’s when introverts are most successful.

So, what do they do? The four P’s is what I usually go back to when that question is asked, and that came from the questions I asked of introverted leaders, I said, “So, how did you become successful?” And we define success in different ways, in different industries, but they were seen as successful. And I interviewed all kind of people. And they said, first of all, the first P is prepare, so back to their strength. Introverts prepare. They prepare questions. The kind of examples I gave earlier.

And that’s been a great lesson for me because I prepare a lot and I see that you do because you prepare your guests. I’ve never seen, I’ve never gotten a slide deck before. I’ve been on a hundred podcasts; I’ve never gotten a slide deck.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for reading it.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
So, you’ve learned that, right? You learned how effective preparation can be. Anyway, that’s one thing they do and that’s within all leadership scenario, whether it be networking, and they’re scared to go to a live networking reception, and they’re like, “How am I going to get ready for this?” I remember interviewing this one guy, a Martin, and he said, “I found out at our local, I had to do business development. I was really scared to do it, but I researched who was going to be there.”

And he found out that one of the guys was in this nonprofit that he was interested in so he did the research. That got him the deal. It was so many examples like that where he took the time. He didn’t just like, “Oh, I’m a great schmoozer. I’m going to go come.” Preparation.

Second thing is presence. So, what impressed me so much in my own working life was coming across introverted leaders, and I kind of sensed when they were introverted. They were with me when they with me. They were listening. They had their feet on the ground. They were tuned in. If they were doing a meeting, they weren’t worrying about, “Well, I didn’t prepare enough,” or, “What’s going to happen in the outcome?” They were truly tuned in to what was happening. And if things change, they were able to flex because they weren’t thinking about the past or the future. Presence is a huge strength.

Third area was pushing. So, what I meant by that was stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s what they told me, again the leaders said, “I push myself. I stretch myself.” And we know this with people who are high performers that they’re constantly setting the bar higher, not so much that they’re going to pull a muscle but that they’re going to feel it a little bit the next day, that they pushed themselves.

And then the fourth area is practice, and that’s like all the virtuosos do, and I always use the examples of comedians, people like Jerry Seinfeld who you wouldn’t think has to go out on the road but he does it because he talks about his comedic muscle like a fiber optic cable that will shrivel up if it’s not used. And so, all the virtuosos practice all the time. So, they look for opportunities to practice. And what happens is interesting because, when I do these programs with senior leaders, we do a lot now on virtual fireside chats.

So, I’ll do sort of a presentation and then I’ll ask for somebody at the C level or that area who’s coming out as an introverted leader. And, by the way, we used to have a lot of trouble getting those people to admit it or to understand it. And they come and we do a really vibrant conversation about that and they talk about how they push themselves and how they stretch. And for a number of them, I’ve had some recently who’ve been so nervous to do that, to do the fireside chat on Zoom, that they’ve actually written out everything and practiced. We’ve done a session with it. It’s very interesting.

So, then they practice and are good at doing what they do. But many of them are told by their teams and by others that they’re not introverts, they’ll say, “There’s no way you’re an introvert.” So, they’d have to educate people.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, so these four P’s, that’s an interesting maybe blend that we’ve got here because some of these things, it sounds like, come very naturally to introverts and so it’s sort of like, “Hey, lean into those strengths. You’re going to wow them if you do this thing that introverts tend to often be good at anyway.” And others are more of, “Yeah, and also try to do some things that they might be a little uncomfortable with.”

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah, because we still live in a very extroverted world, don’t we, where people, you are required to be in front of people. It’s just the way it is. People judge you if you don’t speak. You have to, in meetings, let’s say you’re with your peers and you’re not speaking up, you got to learn some tricks to do that. And whether it’s preparation or part of that preparation might be to have somebody tee the ball to you when you want to make a comment.

But I will say, Pete, too, that model has been around since my first book. People really resonate with that and I think it’s not just introverts. I think extroverts need to use it too because what I like to see is have people like us go to the other side. In other words, they can say to me all the time, “What can I do to bring out the introverts in my team? How can I bring out their talent?” It’s like, “Why don’t you try listening and be quiet? Just be quiet for a few minutes.”

And nature abhors a vacuum. You asked about a quote earlier. I think it was Thoreau that said that. Nature abhors a vacuum. Something will fill that space.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I like that. And you mentioned tricks, so, yeah, let’s hear them.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Tips and tricks, huh?

Pete Mockaitis
So, preparation, I guess, is a trick in so far as, “Oh, I feel more comfortable being in this environment now that I know some things,” although I think that’s probably universal. I think there’s a Daniel the Tiger jingle about this.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah, what is it? You’re immersed in that now with your littles, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
think it’s, “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do” is the jingle. So, that’s for toddlers who feel uncomfortable, like, “Oh, I’m going to a scary new place.” It’s like, “Well, hey, one means of conquering that is by, hey, we’re just going to have. We’re going to go to the doctor, okay? There’s going to be a sliding door, okay? You’re going to take off your shoes and get on the…” whatever. And they say, “Okay, this is what we talked about. All right, this is what’s happening right now.” Well, anyway.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
No, no, that’s a lot of analogies. That’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely true.

Pete Mockaitis
So, tricks. Tips and tricks.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear some of your faves.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Well, my head is parked more now in, “What can the organization do? What can we do as leaders and as a system?” And I know I can tell you tricks about introverts. But I think we’ve been putting a lot of pressure on introverts, just as you’re sort of alluding to, it’s like, “Well, they need to step out of their comfort zone. They need to do this, blah, blah, blah.” But what about if we were to frame this as, “You know what, why do they have to keep changing? Why can’t we look at the structures of our organizations so that we…?”

And that’s what I looked at in the last book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces. I tried to find pockets of introvert inclusion, “How can we have meetings that are inclusive, not just for introverts, for everyone?” So, examples. Okay, like on Zoom call. Zoom is on everybody’s mind, or virtual. Do we always have to have our cameras on? It’s exhausting. Being intentional about how we structure our meetings.

One thing I’m looking at now, I’m preparing a program for SHRM on hiring and talent development, and taking a look at, “As we’re in our hiring practices, are we being thoughtful about the kinds of competencies we’re looking for in people?” Or, are we putting our list of what our requirements and then the person comes in to interview, and they’re not necessarily the kind of person? The feedback comes back, “Well, they’re not really the kind I want to have a beer with. I don’t think I can have a beer with this person.” Is that really essential to getting the job done?

And I heard many conversations with my clients and what I call introvert advocates in organizations where they’d be sitting around promotional meetings, and somebody’s name comes up, they say, “Well, they don’t really speak up a lot at meetings.” And the person who’s their advocate said, “They’re brilliant, and they’ll talk to you one on one, and they’re really great with that, so we can’t pass over them. Don’t forget about this person.”

So, yeah, those are some of the things we can do. And, actually, structured advocacy, is a term I just came up with now as we’re talking.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Innovation right now. I’m listening.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Where we have allies, people that are actually saying, speaking up for people. But part of that advocacy has been the emergence, too, of what we call employee resource groups, which really comes under kind of diversity and inclusion and equity agenda where now it’s not just an add-on to say, “Oh, we need to recognize introverts,” but now I’m getting asked to come in and speak under the auspices of diversity and inclusion because it’s important to consider introversion as another aspect of that, that we need to educate people, make them aware.

So, in some of those examples I gave about hiring and about meetings, it doesn’t take a lot to change those. Those can be steps people can take and they can become aware. In the book, I lay out like five steps, I believe, to help, called Anyone Can Be a Change Agent, that you could be a voice for the quiet, you could speak up when you see that, raising the issues when you’re seeing that we’re maybe going too quickly.

I was in a retreat last year where everything was happening really fast and that people were supposed to answer questions. It was sort of an exercise we were doing, and some lady, one of the participants raised her hand, and she goes, “You know what, I’m an introvert and I’m already lost and overwhelmed, and I see that my colleagues here are the same way.” But it took courage for her to say that. So, being a person that speaks up for the quiet, intentionally addressing the needs as I talked about, encouraging teams to bring up introversion.

And one of the other tips I’ll share is that senior leadership, like in anything else, Edgar Schein talked about senior leadership, really, leading the way. It’s what they say and they do that changes the culture. So, that’s why I’m so gratified about all these fireside chats I’ve been doing because what people write in the chat is like, “Oh, I didn’t know that Jane was introverted. It’s incredible.” And these individual leaders become very vulnerable, so it’s cool.

And when people see that in their organization, that says more than just like, “Oh, we need to embrace everybody,” because they’re actually modeling that it’s okay and it’s celebrated to be introverted. I really love that part of it. That, to me, that’s another evolution that we’ve come to now. We couldn’t have done it years ago. We couldn’t have included. People wouldn’t have been willing to get up there and talk about it.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I think we’ve pretty much covered it all. One book that I think you might not have mentioned that I try to just bring attention to, some, because people ask about it, is about how introverts and extroverts can get along, and it’s called The Genius of Opposites. So, it’s the whole idea that we are exponentially better when we’re together. We really create something that’s better. Like, circling back to our earlier, way early conversation, John and Paul, right? Exponential.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so now I can’t just let that alone. Can you give us maybe a top one, two, or three things that extroverts and introverts can do well to harness these synergies between them?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yes. Number one, accept the alien, know that you’re not going to change the person. When you remember that, you will be in for a lot less stress. Bring on the battles. In other words, don’t be afraid to have conflict because that’s when you get the breakthroughs. And, let’s see, you could see I’m going in A, B, C order. C is cast the character but the person in the right role and not try to take credit on due credit, that you’re in this together. And I’ll throw one, but can I throw a fourth then?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Destroy the dislike. So, you don’t have to be best friends but you can try to get along or respect each other. So, yeah, there are some really great examples of pairs in there that people might enjoy reading, The Genius of Opposites. So, thanks.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. All right. Well, now, well, you gave us one. Is that the favorite quote you want to share with us or do you have another favorite quote to put forward?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
This is from Malcolm X of all people, he said, “In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I’m trying to manage with my time this week so that was inspirational to me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Inspired.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Inspired, right. Inspired, Pete.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I think my last study on remote work is my favorite. We had 200 introverts, 85% of them said they prefer staying home at least part of the time remotely, and how it really speaks to their productivity and their satisfaction. And so, I hope companies will take a look at that study because it really does come out strong. I don’t think there’d been any studies just on introverts, so I’ve got that available on my website, so it’s free download. So, thanks for asking.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
My favorite book, I just finished a book by one of my favorite women summer beach reads, or author, is Jennifer Weiner, not just because her name is Jennifer. And it’s something with summer in the title. It’s very relaxing to read her – Jennifer Weiner.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
A favorite tool for me now, is as an app, I would say, would be – and I probably check it 20 times a day – Dashlane. It sounds very mundane but it keeps all my passwords.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Jennifer Kahnweiler
To get up early and sit on my deck and do 30 minutes of, or wherever I am, 30 minutes of free writing, which is just sort of starting with a prompt and writing. And I’ve produced a lot of writing through the pandemic that way so I’m going to keep doing it.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
You know, Pete, I say a lot so I think you’d have to ask my husband. Oh, I’ll tell you a quote that he says because he’s very funny and we live together. So, oftentimes if I’m going on as an extrovert does, he will hold up the book, and say, “Read the book.” That’s his quote. No, I think that’s fine. I think that’s probably the one I’ll leave with for now.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I would love people to come to my website, and I’m probably most active on LinkedIn and Instagram, so they can just look up my name on there. I’m JenniferKahnweiler.com so you’ll probably have that in the show notes, Pete, I imagine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right, yeah.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Great.

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

Jennifer Kahnweiler
Yeah, I think the challenge I would have is to schedule some time with somebody that is on your team that perhaps you don’t know as well or you feel maybe just a different personality type than you, and schedule a 20-minute, half-hour call, just to get to know them a little bit and learn more about what they do. I think the challenge right now with so many of us being remote is that we are getting disconnected.

And that did come out strongly in the study I just referenced. We had 45% of our attendees say that they felt disconnected, so I think that’s pretty significant. So, I’d like to encourage all of us to get that weekly on our calendar to reach out to somebody we don’t know as well in our worlds, in our teams, or outside our teams.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jennifer, thank you. This has been a treat and I wish you all the best.

Jennifer Kahnweiler
I love interviews that challenge me and you definitely are at the top of that list, Pete. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

688: How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence with Robin Hills

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Robin Hills says: "Without emotions, we cannot make decisions."

Robin Hills provides expert tips for enhancing your emotional intelligence for better results at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to build the five domains of emotional intelligence 
  2. A handy question for getting helpful feedback
  3. How selfishness can help us be more selfless 

About Robin

Robin is the director of Ei4Change, a company specializing in educational training, coaching and personal development focused around emotional intelligence, positive psychology and neuroscience. He has taught over 250,000 people in 185 countries how to build resilience, increased self-awareness and understanding of others. His educational programs on resilience and emotional intelligence cover the most comprehensive and detailed education of any emotional intelligence organization and are today used in educational establishments in South Africa and India.  

Robin is also the author of 2 books and has through his work developed the experiential coaching methodology Images of Resilience to support cathartic conversations around resilience. He has delivered key-note speeches at conferences across the world including at Harvard University and sits on the North West Committee of the Association of Business Psychology. 

Resources Mentioned

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Robin Hills Interview Transcript

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

Robin Hills
Yeah, it’s my pleasure to be with you, Pete. Thanks very much to invite me along to speak to your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve had some exciting occurrences in your career and I want to hear a little bit about how your experience as a door-to-door cosmetics salesperson impacted you to study emotional intelligence.

Robin Hills
Oh, well, let me wind back the clock to this stuff in my career. I had a degree in biology that I just completed and I wanted to get a job in medical selling. This was an opportunity for me to utilize my biology degree, my knowledge, but at the same time, I wanted to get some more skills, some interesting insights into utilizing my biology degree in a different way.

And so, I applied for a number of jobs to become a medical salesperson. Unfortunately, after interview after interview after interview, I kept getting the feedback, “Well, you’re okay but we want you to get some experience. You haven’t had any selling experience.” So, I thought, “Well, where can I get my selling experience from?”

And I found in the local paper a job advertisement for a company called Avon, which sold cosmetics door to door, so I thought, “Okay. Well, I might as well apply for that and see what happens.” So, interestingly, I got offered the opportunity. I think they were desperate. But it gave me the chance to knock on doors and effectively sell.

But the interesting thing is I had a degree of success with it. So, I went along to one of the sales meetings at the end of this particular campaign, thinking, “Okay. Well, I sold £40, equivalent to about $60,” and the room was filled with must’ve been about 25-30 middle-aged women who are all good, successful Avon ladies and there was a little old me 20-year-old.

And they went through the recent campaign, the successes, and they said, “All right. Well, let’s have a look who sold the most this month.” And there was me having sold £40, so I was the top salesperson for that particular region for that particular quarter.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, a whole quarter of sales. Oh, my.

Robin Hills
That was a whole quarter of sales. So, I was really, really pleased with it. I was actually awarded as a prize six new brochures to help me to promote the next campaign.

Pete Mockaitis
I see. And did you develop some emotional intelligence insights along the way in your sales career that boosted your performance?

Robin Hills
This was about the time that Peter Salovey and Jack Meyer at Yale University were starting to write their academic papers about emotional intelligence into the world.

But during that time, I had a very successful sales career in medical selling, selling into the London teaching hospitals, and I recognized, whilst I was doing that, that there were certain doctors that I was selling to who I had really good engaging conversations with and I could develop deep relationships with them. And that came about through something I didn’t know and I didn’t understand, and I don’t think anybody else really knew or understood at the time.

Here we had groups of intelligent, cognitively intelligent people, and some of them were very easy to engage with and some weren’t. And it was only until I’d read Daniel Goleman’s book that I suddenly realized, “Ah, that’s the answer.” Those doctors that were good at engaging and good at developing relationships and communicating well had, what we now know, as emotional intelligence. They had an ability to work with their thinking, their cognitive intelligence, and work with their emotions to build up authentic relationships, communicate, and make good decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that all sounds like great stuff and we’d like to have more of it. I’d love to get your take then. Can you offer – it sounds like you maybe just did – with how you define emotional intelligence, as just that?

Robin Hills
That was just it. Let me repeat it. It is very simple. It’s quite a complex construct but emotional intelligence is being smart with your thinking in order to utilize the way in which you’re feeling about situations to make good-quality decisions and build authentic relationships. And by so doing, you improve your wellbeing. And by so doing, you’re able to manage your stress and motivate yourself and motivate other people. I’ve expanded on the definition a little bit there. Basically, emotional intelligence is being smart with your thinking to utilize your emotions effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. Well, that sounds handy. I suppose there are those who…I guess let’s talk about the emotional intelligence skeptics who’d say, “You know what? That sounds soft. It’s not like a hard skill like finance or Python or something. And it kind of sounds like a catchall for sort of everything in terms of, hey, when we’re thinking and we’re interacting with people.” So, do you have a message for the skeptics in terms of just what kind of an impact, quantitatively speaking, might we expect this to make for professionals? And to what extent is it learnable versus, “Oh, you’re just a natural with people. You just have a calm temperament, Robin”?

Robin Hills
Well, the interesting thing is, this has come out through the research, is that cognitive intelligence is fixed about the age of 18, so by the time you’ve gone through your teens, your cognitive intelligence is a fixed quantity. It won’t change. However, your emotional intelligence can change and will change with learning up to about and beyond the age of 70. So, we both still got plenty of time to become more emotionally intelligent.

Now, emotional intelligence is not an easy thing to work with, so the skeptics, more often than not, they’ll diss emotional intelligence and, more often than not, they’re the ones that don’t have a lot of emotional intelligence. They don’t have this open mind to be able to embrace something that is outside of their comfort zone. Cognitive intelligence is something that you can quantify. The finance side, the technical side, the Python part that you were talking about, all of that is very easy to learn. It’s quantifiable.

Emotional intelligence tends to be a lot more nebulous. So, to the skeptics, I would actually just say to them, “Well, you actually take your emotions to work with you whether you like them or not. You don’t leave them in the trunk,” using the American terminology, You don’t leave it in your car. You don’t leave it at home. You take your emotions with you and you need your emotions because your emotions will actually help you to make the decisions that you need to make. Without emotions, we cannot make decisions.

And this is being proven time and time again, that in order to make decisions, just a simple decision, “Shall I have a cup of tea or shall I have a cup of coffee?” requires an emotion. It requires you to have a preference for one over the other. So, once you actually understand the basics behind emotions driving decisions, you can actually then start to think and work with emotions more effectively by saying, “Well what is it that I need to do to utilize my emotions well in order to make better decisions?”

And to put it into some kind of quantitative context, and I do not want anybody to quote me on this because this is not confined to memory, but I believe it’s been said that people who have one or two points of emotional intelligence that they have improved upon and they’ve learnt can increase their salary by about $30,000, so this is something well worth considering. I mean, whether the figures are right or not, it doesn’t matter. The important thing behind what has been said is that you can actually increase and improve your career prospects by improving your emotional intelligence.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, could you perhaps walk us through a story of a person who had lower moderate emotional intelligence on either overall or on a particular sub-dimension of emotional intelligence, what they did to improve it, and then the cool benefits they reaped as a result of having done so?

Robin Hills
Yeah, I’ve actually worked as an emotional intelligence coach for a number of years, helping people in terms of working with their emotional intelligence. The first aspect of that is to look at defining their emotional intelligence, quantifying it, using a robust scientifically validated emotional intelligence assessment. And the one that I prefer to use is the EQI 2.0, which was developed by Reuven Bar-On back in the ‘90s. He’s an Israeli psychologist and his work has been repeated time and again in terms of looking at this assessment.

And the beauty of the Bar-On assessment is that it can actually help to increase self-awareness around what a person’s call strengths are, what their gifts are, what their qualities are, that they can actually then take into the workplace, and say, “This is what I’m good at. So, if I do a role which is helping me to support these talents, these gifts, these capabilities, I will be able to do my best work.”

Now, what we will also then look at is how those are balanced, again, things which get in the way, and sometimes people will have components of emotional intelligence that are not low. They’re actually moderate to quite high, but the blend of all the other elements of emotional intelligence means that they get in the way and it causes some issues. It causes them to have liabilities.

Somebody, for example, might be too empathetic. They might be too good at understanding things from people’s perspectives so that they can’t help or make a rational decision to support that person because they think, “Oh, I know that by doing this, it’s going to upset them.” So, we look at something like empathy, and say, “Right. How can you take that bit and drop a little bit down on the empathy?” And it might be a case of moving up their assertiveness or moving up something around their emotional intelligence, whatever it is, and looking at ways in which we can take the person as a whole and move them from a point of, “I’m actually doing really well here,” to, “I’m actually doing excellently here.”

Robin Hills
The beauty of this is that, through coaching, through a period of three to six months, and working on various parameters, we can actually see improvements.

I was working with somebody who had lost their job not through any fault of their own. Their role was made redundant and, through that, they found themselves looking for another job. So, they got in touch with me, and we sat down and we had some conversation around what it was that he was wanting to do and we put together a plan, and I said to him, “Well, I think what we ought to be doing is looking at building your self-awareness through an emotional intelligence assessment, through the EQI 2.0, so you’ve actually got something to talk about at the interview, you’ve actually got something to work on.”

So, we agreed, we did the assessments, and we actually utilized some of the information that came out of the assessment to reconstruct his resume. Around what it was that he was good at and how he applied his emotional intelligence in the workplace so that he had some really good stories to answer questions around the interview.

He went through three or four interviews before he actually got a job that he was really pleased with and was an absolute perfect fit.

And, off the top of my head, I can’t remember how long he’s been there as the CEO, the managing director of this company, but I think it’s probably in the region of about five or six years.

And I spoke to him during the lockdowns that we have in the United Kingdom here during the pandemic, and he was saying that he has still managed to keep the company afloat, going well, and he’s got some brilliant plans for the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then by engaging in some of that stuff, we got some self-awareness by which you’re able to have some compelling resume or CV content and interview stuff which made a great impression so as to make opportunities come about. So, that’s cool. Well, then so tell us, this EQI version 2.0, I don’t remember if this is the one I did. This was so long ago. But I guess what I found a little tricky is that, you tell me, does this rely on me saying that I do things frequently, or not frequently, or some of the time, or most of the time? Or, how does the assessment work?

Robin Hills
Yes, it’s very much as you described there, Pete. There are 153 questions which are measured on what’s known as a Likert Scale. So, you strongly disagree at one end of the scale with a statement, and you strongly agree with a statement at the other end of the scale. And through the statements that you are agreeing or disagreeing with, the actual results are constructed from the answers that you give. Now, within the EQI 2.0, it’s 153 questions because three of those questions are what we would call red herrings. They’re in there to test whether you’re actually trying to game the system. So, there are little tests in there just to check and double-check.

But, to go back to what I was hearing with your point, it is a self-assessed assessment so it’s going on the answers that you give yourself. Now, with there being so many and quite a few of these statements are double negatives, it’s very difficult to try and come out favorably and to work the system in a favorable way towards yourself unless you know what to do. Most people don’t.

But then to help and to build upon it and to create a more robust way of looking at a person’s emotional intelligence, and because emotional intelligence involves relationships, the great thing about the EQI 2.0 is that it’s got a 360 so you can go out to various people, both inside and outside of work, in order to get their views around how you’re working with them, how you’re utilizing your emotional intelligence.

So, you’ve got your own assessment, and then you can actually look at, “Well, this is what your manager is thinking of you. And this is what your colleagues, who are at the same level as you within the organization, are thinking about you. And this is how the people that report into you are thinking about how you’re using your emotional intelligence. This is what your family and friends are saying.”

Now, somebody who is very good at emotional intelligence along all the levels will have consistency, but most people don’t. They might be very good at influencing their leader or their manager, very good at influencing their colleagues, but they have a particular behavior when they’re trying to communicate and influence people who report into them, and they might be a completely different person outside of work, so it really does give a lot more robustness to the assessment, a lot more depth, a lot more dimension to it, and it allows for some really cathartic coaching conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, so we got 153 questions, and you mentioned a number of these parameters or dimensions, like empathy and assertiveness. How many dimensions are there and can you name them?

Robin Hills
So, within the EQI, there are five facets so let’s have a look at each of the facets in turn. The first one is self-perception. So, that’s how you perceive yourself in the world, so it’s what goes on in the world of thought and feelings. And that then leads into self-expression. So, this is looking at how you are expressing yourself. So, it’s looking at some of the components which include the assertiveness component, but it’s also looking at emotional expression.

And that then links into interpersonal relationships. And it’s within the interpersonal relationships that you will be looking at how you’re engaging with other people, so we’ll pull in the facets of empathy. It’ll also pull in other facets such as your social corporate responsibility. That then links into decision-making. So, this is looking at how you are going about making decisions. So, it’s looking about how you go about solving problems, how you are going about working with reality. So, these are some of the components of the decision-making facet.

And the decision-making facet then feeds into stress management. And within stress management, you’ve got things like stress tolerance, resilience, you’ve got optimism, and you’ve got things like perfectionism in there. And all of those are measures, they’re measured within the EQI 2.0. The stress management facet then links back into self-perception. And overarching all of that is wellbeing and how you’re feeling about how things are going within the world and your contribution towards that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I’d love to get your take then. So, we’ve got these five facets: self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, decision-making, and stress management. What is your favorite, let’s say, exercise, assignment, tool, thingy people can do, if you will, if that’s the scientific term, that makes a big impact in each of these five facets?

Robin Hills
Yeah. Well, this is a very interesting little exercise that I’ve ran in my live workshops when we’re able to run live workshops. I’d say, “Right. Get your mobile phone out. What I would like you to do is to text three to six people, three to six of your friends,” “I’m in a training workshop and I’d like you to feed back to me some of my key strengths on what it is that you like about me.”

And quite a few people are a little bit reluctant to do that in the first instance but they do it, and then they’re sitting there with the phone in front of them, and the phone keeps pinging, it’s all these messages come in, and people will look at them, and they will read these messages, and I can feel the positive climate rising within the room as people are getting feedback in a very affirmative way around what their friends and family like about them.

And, more often than not, people will come up to me, and say, “Ooh, this is what somebody has said about me,” and what I say to them is, “Well, how do you feel about that? What are your thoughts around what you’ve just been told?” “Well, I thought that’s what I did well but I’ve never been told before,” or, “I didn’t know that they valued that in me.” And that’s a very simple little exercise that people can do. Look out for good feedback from family and friends. So, when people say to you, “You’re good at doing this,” our automatic reactions are kind of dismissive as if, “Well, everybody does that.” Well, no, they don’t.

What are your core strengths? What is it that people see in you? What is it that people value in you? If you don’t know, ask them. If you’re embarrassed to ask them, send them a text, “I’m in a training session.” Give them an excuse, whatever, but get the feedback. And you’re not asking for any negativity there. You’re asking for positive feedback around what people value as your qualities. And people are very, very generous because they like their friends but we don’t often tell our friends why we like them because it just doesn’t sound right, or it sounds trite, or it doesn’t come across the right way, or we do but people don’t listen to the compliment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Okay. So, that’s quick, it just takes a couple minutes, and you could get a nice upgrade, like you might be surprised in terms of, “Huh, three out of the six people said this, and I didn’t even think that was anything special.” As you said, with strengths, we tend to think, “Oh, everybody does that,” but they don’t.

Robin Hills
They don’t, no. And if I want to know what my weaknesses are, I just have to go and ask my wife. She’ll give me half a dozen I’ve not even thought about, so don’t go there. Don’t go there. “Look, I’m going into an appraisal tomorrow with my manager, can you give me some feedback around what I’ve done well over the last three months that you really value.” “I’m going for an interview tomorrow. I’d like to know what it is that you really value in me as a mentor.” Three to six people. Wait for it to come through. Enjoy it. Build yourself up. Go into your interview. Go into your appraisal with some good evidence, and you can look the person straight in the eye, and say, “This is what I’m good at because this is what people tell me I’m good at.”

Pete Mockaitis
And then how about for self-expression? What’s the quick prescription for a boost there?

Robin Hills
Well, in terms of self-expression, how are you expressing your emotions? Are you expressing them in an effective way? So, if you’re feeling annoyed with somebody, what do you do? How do you express that annoyance? Are you angry with them? If you are angry, really angry with them, do you go home and kick the cat? Do you go home and take it out on the wife? Or, do you have a way of actually managing that anger and working with it in the most appropriate way?

Now, anger is a very easy emotion for us to talk about because there’s a high level of intensity around it. But how about if you’re feeling anxious? How are you working with anxiety? We’re not trying to get rid of anxiety or feelings of anxiousness because they actually serve a purpose, indeed, as does anger, but let’s look at anxiety.

Prior to me coming on to speak with you, Pete, I was feeling mildly anxious. Good. Because I need that emotion to physiologically put me in the right place and mentally put me in the right place so we can have an engaging conversation. Without that, I wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind to be able to come along and be interviewed by you. So, let’s not try and get rid of anxiety. Let’s recognize the quality that that emotion will provide in me, in the way in which I’m engaging with the world, and work with it and embrace it. No, I don’t like feeling anxious any more like any other person does, but it’s an important emotion.

So, how do you express your happiness? How do you express your pride? How do you express your fear? And how do you express your concerns and frustrations? I’ve mentioned, what, half a dozen emotions there. There are probably between about 3,000 and 27,000, depending on which research paper that you read. Well, we’re not going to go through all of those tonight, but let’s have a look at a kind of myth out there.

And I think in terms of emotional intelligence and in terms of psychology, there are psychologists and emotional intelligence practitioners that fall into the trap of labeling emotions as positive and negative. Well, emotions are emotions. They’re not good or bad, black or white, valuable or invaluable. They are emotions, and it’s what we do with them, how we behave, that is positive or negative. Not the emotion itself.

Anger, for example, is usually labeled as a negative emotion. Well, if people don’t get angry, what are they going to do to right a wrong? How are they going to use it to motivate themselves to overcome an injustice? So, that’s an appropriate use of anger. That is anger being positive.

Happiness, “Oh, that’s a positive emotion.” Have you tried communicating with somebody who’s deliriously happy? “Hello, trees. Hello, flowers. Hello, grass. Don’t worry. Be happy.” They take far more risks. So, we really want to be able to work with and blend our emotions and express them in the right way. Get away from positive or negative emotions, “This is the way in which I am feeling at the moment. These are the reasons. Let me express myself in the most appropriate way.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And then for interpersonal relationships? Is there a top suggestion you recommend to upgrade that?

Robin Hills
Well, I think, one of the key components there is empathy. How do you see people’s viewpoints from different angles? And the best way is to ask them how they are feeling, how they are thinking. I think the other core component of empathy that most people completely overlook is this ability to listen, to really truly listen to what the person is saying. So, it’s going beyond the words they’re using and picking up on subtle cues in terms of body language, facial expressions, gestures, the way in which they’re utilizing their voice.

So, empathy is something that I would encourage people just to try and get better at. And the way to do that is to, when you’re watching a movie or when you’re watching television, just watch how the actor is actually expressing their emotion through the way in which they’re using their body, they’re using their voice, they’re using their gestures. They’re using the words, just watch out for it, and think, “Am I actually understanding this emotion?”

And that’s an easy way to actually look at ways of developing empathy so that when you see it in some of the people you’re working with and you’re leading with, you can actually then think, “Ah, this is the emotion I am perceiving. Am I correct?” and it will help you in terms of asking the right question in order to test your hypothesis.

I think what we do tend to do in empathy, “Oh, I can see that person is angry so I’ll go and interact with them in a way that helps me to deal with the anger that I’m perceiving.” And it might be that the person is not angry. They just happen to be frustrated or they just have a certain intensity and wanting to communicate to that particular moment in time. So, I think the important thing is to take our judgments as hypotheses, go out and test them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And when it comes to decision-making?

Robin Hills
Decision-making is another interesting one. How do you go about making decisions? How do you utilize your creativity to solve problems? Often, we talk about brainstorming as a way of going and getting ideas, new ideas about doing things. And I’m quite a fan of the SCAMPER technique which is well-used in creativity to help people to look at problems, to look at situations from a different perspective.

So, without going into too much detail about all the components of SCAMPER, it’s taking something and blowing it up to a very large size. It’s taking something and it’s minimizing it down to a very tiny size. It’s reversing it. It’s actually looking at it from a number of different ways in order that you can actually then say, “Hmm, if I was to do it this way, I would get a completely different solution.”

A very good example is the ballpoint pen. If you actually magnify that and increase it up, it actually then becomes a bigger unit with the ball on the end, and that was the impetus for people to develop the roll-on deodorant. And that came from looking at the SCAMPER technique.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Rearrange.

Robin Hills
Brilliant.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you’re thinking about something, you can just kind of, “Hey, how do I modify this? How do I substitute this?” and sort of new things come up. So, that’s cool. And then how about for stress management? What’s your top tip there?

Robin Hills
Well, for stress management, it’s actually recognizing what it is that causes you stress, because what causes you stress, Pete, is going to be completely different from what causes me stress. And what causes me stress on a Monday morning might be completely different to what causes me stress on a Friday afternoon. So, it’s having this self-knowledge, this is why it links back into self-awareness.

But in terms of stress management, it’s knowing how you can manage your stress in the most appropriate way. What is it that is right for you? Now, some people might go and do some shadow boxing, do some boxing, hit a punchbag, and utilize their energy that way, and they may do it in a competitive environment.

Some people go and play squash. Some people go for a jog. Some people will just like to sit and watch the television. Some people will read a book. Some people will play with their kids. Some people will take their dog out for a walk. Some people will sit and listen to a piece of music. What is it that you need to do on a very regular basis to actually reinvigorate and reenergize yourself, and to actually take some time out of your daily working life just to take that moment of looking after yourself, and just taking some time out to reenergize yourself?

I’m a great advocate of people being selfish.  And what I mean by that is not being selfish, “Me, me, me, me, me,” all the time, “This is what I want. This is how it’s going to be.” That is selfish. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is that people should be self-ish. They should actually look after themselves because by doing that, they’re then in a better position to be able to help other people.

And when we fly, the cabin crew, in the case of a decompression, are suggesting that if the oxygen masks come down, you put your oxygen mask on yourself first before you help another person. And it’s exactly the same way in terms of working to be self-ish. What is it that you need to reenergize yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually in terms of getting to a point where you feel that you’re at one with yourself and being the best that you can be?

Another example is we may be very good as leaders at delegating and putting responsibility onto other people to help them in terms of their development, but there are certain things that other people could not do for us. And one of those is nobody else can go and have a cup of coffee on my behalf, nobody else can go to the toilet for me. So, those are opportunities to just take a break just to refresh and get it back into a point where you can engage with the world in an appropriate way.

We all go to sleep at night. Now, I don’t know, Pete, I’ve never come across anybody who’s capable of putting their head straight on a pillow and zonk-o, they’re gone. There’s that period when we get into bed and we just lie there on the pillow, and waiting for sleep to come. In that time, you can actually then start to think, “What are some really good things that have happened to me today? What is it that’s gone well? What have I contributed towards?” Then you can concentrate on your breathing, your breath, and you can build in kind of meditative mindfulness techniques if you haven’t got time to do them any other time during the day.

So, these are all little hints and tips just thrown out to the four winds just to help you in terms of looking at stress management.

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

Robin Hills
by Aristotle, “Anyone can become angry but to be angry with the right person to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose and in the right way, that’s not easy.”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Robin Hills
I keep going back to the work of Stephen Covey which I read at the turn of the century and got introduced with then. And a lot of his work is really around his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And I think to actually practice all of those habits, to the way in which Stephen Covey defines, is incredibly difficult, so it’s something that I aspire towards.

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

Robin Hills
I’m actually producing a lot of online courses, and I found that, as technology has improved, the tools have just got better and better and better. There are some brilliant pieces of software out there that I use in my work, Filmora, Audacity. And utilizing these tools helps me to get the message of emotional intelligence out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; you get them quoted back to you often?

Robin Hills
I think the quote that resonates with me and is quoted back to me often is going back to the Aristotle quote. People get a lot from that, and they will say that they really find that there’s a lot of power and a lot of strength within that. So, just bringing that into people’s awareness helps them to understand that, hey, we’re all human. We get it wrong. Sometimes we get it right.

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

Robin Hills
Come along and have a look at the EI4Change website – EI4Change.com, or you can go to Courses.EI4Change.info to have a look at our emotional intelligence courses. Get in touch with me. I’m more than happy to engage with people through social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or get in touch with me direct Robin@EI4Change.com.

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

Robin Hills
If they’re looking for a job, the call to action is look inwardly, look at your strengths, recognize them. Go out, live and breathe them. Don’t worry about your weaknesses. Don’t worry about trying to take something that is bad and make it not bad. Look at things that you are excellent at and excel at, and master them. Become capable of doing them in the way that only you can do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Robin, thank you. This has been a treat. And I wish you all the best in your emotional intelligent adventures.

Robin Hills
Thank you, Pete. It’s been a pleasure.

687: How to Combat Stress and Prioritize Your Wellbeing with Naz Beheshti

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Executive wellness coach Naz Beheshti offers her top tips on how to take your well-being into your own hands.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to nourish your inner coach while silencing your inner critic 
  2. The ACE method to combat stress
  3. An easy trick to boost your energy 

 

About Naz

Naz Beheshti is the author of Pause. Breathe.Choose.: Become the CEO of Your Well-Being. She is an executive wellness coach, speaker, Forbes contributor, CEO, and founder of Prananaz, a corporate wellness company improving leadership effectiveness, employee well-being and engagement, and company culture. Clients include Nike, JPMorgan Chase, First Republic Bank, Skadden, UCSC, and Columbia University.  

Her work has been widely featured in the media, including CNBC, Forbes, BBC, Yahoo, Entrepreneur, Inc., Fast Company, and many more. Naz also cofounded Rise2Shine, a nonprofit helping to alleviate the suffering of young children in Haiti. Visit her online at http://www.NazBeheshti.com. 

Resources Mentioned

Naz Beheshti Interview Transcript

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

Naz Beheshti
Thank you for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to hear what you have to say. And I’d love to start by talking about Steve Jobs, your first boss and mentor. Can you tell us a bit about how he’s shaped your views on work and life?

Naz Beheshti
Steve was my first boss and mentor so he had a highly influential role in my life. I mean, right out of college at the young age of 21, he influenced the most profound lesson that I had learned, and it was through him, which is “Wellbeing drives success.” And at that age and at that time, that wasn’t at the forefront by any means, but through example, he really led a holistic approach to wellbeing, and that wellbeing is what drove his success. So, I really learned the most profound lesson from him, so it was really influential and impactful for me to have crossed paths with Steve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And while we’re reminiscing a bit, any particular memories, anecdotes, things that were strikingly pleasant, or unpleasant yet helpful, as you think about your time with Steve?

Naz Beheshti
Well, I remember the time when I was working for him, and I discovered that my version of healthy was Steve’s version of garbage, quite literally, and I shared this in my book. One day, I thought I would surprise him with an oatmeal-raisin cookie as a healthy option for dessert, and later that day, I noticed the entire cookie, not a bite taken out, but the entire cookie in his trash can. So, that was a first red flag that I actually wasn’t as healthy as I thought, and that my version of healthy was, quite literally, Steve’s version of garbage.

Pete Mockaitis
Did you discuss it at all?

Naz Beheshti
No, I was quite embarrassed actually, and I just made a mental note never to give him an oatmeal-raisin cookie ever again. He was extremely health-conscious and that healthy version of that cookie was just like, I guess, too much sugar and not-so healthy for him.

Pete Mockaitis
You know what it also makes me think about is just how decisive that is in terms of, like, “This cookie going directly to the garbage.”

Naz Beheshti
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“No need to think about it. No need to take a bite out of it.” Sometimes I feel that way about, like I get gifts that I don’t want, so apologies to family and friends who are listening to this, and so it’s like I almost feel sort of like obligated to not get rid of it immediately, it’s like, “Well, you know, it was nice of them to think about it.” But there are times, I know that this has no place in my life or my home. The proper decision would be to remove it immediately via donation or whatever.

Naz Beheshti
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And he did it.

Naz Beheshti
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, let’s talk about your book Pause. Breathe. Choose. This is a great message. I’m intrigued. And so, what is the core idea or thesis here within “Pause. Breathe. Choose.”?

Naz Beheshti
Well, the key to thriving in today’s high-pressure culture is to cultivate deep self-awareness and strong emotional intelligence, which really facilitates making mindful choices that transform your life. So, one conscious choice begets another. So, Pause. Breathe. Choose. is a roadmap for authentic self-discovery, better choices, and purposeful growth.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so tell us, how do we go about doing some of that good stuff?

Naz Beheshti
It’s a holistic approach to wellbeing. And the MAP method is really a holistic approach to living your best life. So, I’ll start with the MAP being an acronym. For M, M is for master mindfulness, and really, mastering mindfulness is fundamental to the method because when you’re more mindful, you’re able to make better choices. That leads you to the A, which is applying better choices to manage stress and build resilience and the seven As. And then the P is for promoting yourself to the CEO of your wellbeing, and the three Ps. So, when you combine those three parts of the MAP method and implement them, you’re really going to be thriving in all aspects of your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, let’s talk about mastering mindfulness. I guess maybe, first, can you define mindfulness? How do you know if you got it, if you don’t, and how to get more of it?

Naz Beheshti
Yeah. So, mindfulness really, in a nutshell, is presence of heart. It’s really about awakening your mind and your heart from autopilot, and that enables you to experience life unfolding in the present moment. So, the mindfulness unlocks your ability to tap into your intuition and creativity so that you can receive new information and develop new perspectives with a beginner’s mind. And that’s really what mindfulness is all about.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that sounds great. If I want to do that, where should I start?

Naz Beheshti
I always say to start small, so start with two minutes of a seated meditation which there are so many different types of meditations out there, and I would say experiment with the different types. Maybe start with an app like Calm or Headspace. But, also, if you don’t want to do that, an alternative would be to just sit quietly and focus on your breath, and just allow whatever thoughts that come and go to just do that exactly – come and go. Just acknowledge them and, without any judgment, without labeling them, without any continued thought about it, just acknowledging that thought and then releasing it and then coming back to your breath.

So, in my sessions with my clients, we always start with a two-minute guided meditation, and I guide them through this process. And one of the visualizations I use that’s really helpful for my clients is that we get in a comfortable seated position, and then I ask them to take a few deep breaths, inhale, exhale, and then imagine a balloon in the sky, putting any of those thoughts or any sounds that may disrupt the pattern of the breath into the balloon, and then just allowing it to float away. So, the point is to acknowledge your thoughts and then put them into that balloon, and let them go, and then return back to your breath.

So, acknowledge, let go, return, and the focus will be on your breath. So, even that tiny visualization of the balloon could help because so many people think, “Oh, I can’t meditate. I think too much. I can’t sit still for that long.” So, starting small and having a visualization of that balloon, or whatever it is that works for you, to actually contain those thoughts and allow them to let them go, and just float away and come back to your breath.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, now, when one does this with regularity, what is the difference it makes, I guess, in terms of mental ability, capacity? If you think about it as an exercise, like if I’m strengthening biceps with a bicep curl, if I’m strengthening my mind by using this sort of approach, what does that mean for me, practically speaking?

Naz Beheshti
Well, mindfulness can literally reshape and rewire the brain through neuroplasticity in which new habits reorganize or rewire neural connections. So, a consistent meditation practice pretty much gives us the opportunity to be proactive in changing our brain and increasing our wellbeing and quality of life, and there’s research that supports that as well.

And in terms of your health, your creativity, decision-making, being less risk-reactive, these are all many ways that mindfulness can help. Consistent practice in mindfulness is key, not just practicing once a week or twice a week, but daily or at least six days a week is key.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you give us some examples in terms of perhaps it’s the decision-making and the reactivity? Like, what would life and your brain look and feel and sound like pre-meditation practice versus post-meditation practice if it’s doing its job? Like, how do we know it’s working?

Naz Beheshti
Well, I can give you the example of myself which was more reactive back years ago. I started meditation back in 2010, and prior to that, I was doing a bunch of yoga, daily yoga, so that really helped. But, before that, I tended to be…I’m very type A, and on the go, and perfectionist, and very fast-paced life, and I was very reactive when I was younger. And so, when someone would…I had very little patience.

So, if someone wasn’t doing their job or doing what they said they were going to do, I would be more irritable and reactive, and kind of tell them what I thought rather than taking a breath, and just pausing, and responding in a more compassionate way rather than reacting with a negative tone or with negative words, and not understanding and having compassion for that person. I’m much more, or less reactive, and more compassionate since then.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, reactive might sound like, “Hey, you idiot, why did you screw that up again?” And then the post-meditative response can be like, “Hey, I noticed this. What’s going on?”

Naz Beheshti
Yes. Yes. Or, “I’m just curious how this outcome turned out this way,” “I’m curious,” or, “Yes, could you please explain?” rather than, “I can’t believe you did this,” or, “That’s shocking,” or something like that, yes. So, it’s definitely a help in that respect. As far as decision-making, meditation brings extreme clarity. So, when you are able to quiet the chatter of the mind and kind of, like I was saying earlier, my definition of mindfulness is aligning your mind with your heart.

So, a lot of us work, operate, and speak, and think only from the mind without that connection to the heart. So, we are able to quiet our mind and go deeper into our authentic selves. So, the reason mastering mindfulness really is about discovering your authentic self, because you’re quieting all the chatter of the mind and the external stuff that’s just really loud and keeps echoing in your mind, it’s not necessarily your true essence, your true self because it’s too loud to get deeper to who you truly are. But mindfulness and meditation quiets that and then allows you to tap into your truest desire, your authentic self.

And so then, that also brings a lot of clarity, and then you’re able to make decisions with confidence, and you’re very tapped into your gut, your intuition, whatever you want to call it, and so decision-making becomes stronger and just faster and better and with more confidence.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so then you talked about your true self and essence and such, and you’ve got some terms – the inner coach and the inner critic. Can you expand upon these, and tell us to have some more good inner coach conversations and fewer not-so-great inner critic conversations?

Naz Beheshti
Right. So, like two dogs inside you competing for attention, you have an inner coach, the good dog, and an inner critic, the bad dog. The inner coach represents positivity and eustress, the good stress, and the growth mindset, while the inner critic represents negativity, distress and limiting beliefs. And what’s crucial is, it’s crucial to remember that the dog you feed determines the kind of life you lead.

When we choose to feed the good dog and view the world through the eyes of the inner coach, we feel more in control of our life, and we tend to view challenges as opportunities, not threats. So, we essentially harness the positive energy of acute stress and eustress, and can avoid chronic stress, and then we eventually see ourselves as continually evolving and focused on improving ourselves when we are in tuned with that inner coach more. And it all stems from mindfulness.

So, if we’re not mindful, the inner critic, the bad dog, might be barking and telling us, “You suck. You did that wrong. You’re going to blow this,” and that’s the default voice that we hear in our head if we’re not mindful to catch that, and be like, “Oh, that’s the bad dog. That’s the inner critic. I’m going to stop feeding that dog and awaken the inner coach, and start listening to the inner coach,” which is coaching you through it and saying not focusing on the bad, but saying, “You’ll learn from whatever you did last time and not do it again next time. You’ve got this. You’re awesome. What lesson could you learn from this, from many negative experiences that happened?” And it’s really talking to you with a growth mindset rather than through limiting beliefs which is the inner critic.

Pete Mockaitis
So, mindfulness enables you to sort of see it and catch it in the moment and make a shift. And any other pro tips for identifying and catching yourself as it happens? Or, any sort of telltale signs, like, “Oh, wait a second, I’m doing that thing again. I’m going to choose to not do that”?

Naz Beheshti
Well, so when you find yourself kind of spiraling or ruminating, and you’re just kind of stuck with the same kind of negative thought pattern, and you just keep replaying something that happened at work or a conversation you had that wasn’t very positive, or maybe you had like a great meeting, and then one negative thing happened, maybe you said something wrong, like you identified something that wasn’t accurate, or like you’re giving a presentation and you said the wrong numbers by mistake, but everything else went really well, but then your inner critic is going to only focused on that one part that was like five seconds versus the rest of the hour that went really well, and you’re going to just continue to ruminate over that, so then you start realizing, you start feeling bad.

And so, just checking in with how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. So, I have these…one of the things I do throughout the day is I do mindful self-check ins, what I call mindful self-check in, which really is just asking myself rapid-fire questions throughout the day. And this could help catch you when you’re ruminating or stressed or spending too much time in one area. And you just ask yourself, “How am I feeling? What am I thinking? Am I breathing? Am I thirsty?” and just check in with yourself, and just rapid-fire questions and address however you’re feeling in that time, and that will give you an opportunity to shift and shift out of that negative state.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Thank you. And you’ve got an approach to reframe stress. How do we make stress our friend?

Naz Beheshti
Yes, that’s the ACE method. It’s the new way of reframing stress which is very effective to upgrade both your mindset and your behavior. So, the ability to distinguish between different kinds of stress – being acute, chronic, and eustress, also stands for ACE – allows you to perceive stress as a challenge rather than an obstacle.

So, once you understand the type of stress you’re facing, then you can identify the actual stressors and their source and take empowered actions. So, it’s a three-step process. You can ace stress using the three-step ACE method through awareness, change, and empowerment. So, one is be aware of the signs and the symptoms, so the stressor, and identify the type, as I mentioned, and the source of stress.

Step two would be to change your mindset. Choose to reframe the stress using an upgraded mindset so that you can identify your options or opportunities both in mindset and behavior. And then, lastly, step three is to take empowered and effective action. And sometimes that’s just about shifting your mindset. It’s about choosing to shift your mindset if you can’t actually change a situation or the circumstance. There are just some things that are out of our control that we cannot change but we can always change our mindset around it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you walk us through an example of it’s a stressor and then the shift in mindset and the impact that makes?

Naz Beheshti
Right. So, I share a story in the book about how I was on my way to one of my clients to teach a stress management workshop, and I was so stressed, I found myself so stressed on my way to teach a stress management workshop, but I applied my own methods en route to this workshop that I was doing. What happened was that the subway system, I was in New York City and the subways were really delayed, and then they skipped a stop that I was supposed to get off of, and it wasn’t an express train so I didn’t understand. It was very surprising and it wasn’t accounted for in the time that I needed to get there so I found myself very late, and I was really stressing out.

And while I was stressing out in the subway as it flew by my stop, I decided that there was nothing I could do. I was literally stuck in the subway. I couldn’t jump out. I couldn’t change the time and go back in time, and I just accepted that I was going to be late to my workshop that I was teaching. So, what I did was I shifted my mindset by actually sitting quietly. I closed my eyes and I used the pause-breathe-choose method. And I literally took a pause, closed my eyes, focused on my breath, and just continued breathing. And I did a little mini-meditation in the subway until the next stop and that really calmed me down. And I was able to shift that stressor to really understand that, again, there are some things out of my control.

It was in my control earlier. I can’t go back. I can’t redo that. So, I can only show up as my best self, so I was preparing myself to show up grounded, calm, not frazzled. And so, I just applied pause-breathe-choose, and I did that in the subway, and I actually showed up after some time and I made a joke out of it, like, “I found myself really stressed out. Here, I am, teaching stress management, but the pause-choose-breathe method did work, and it can work for anyone at any time, and it’s there with you.”

You always have your breath. It’s there. It’s just about being conscious about it and choosing to be mindful to know, “I’m going to take a pause right now and I’m going to breathe consciously, and then I’m going to choose how I want to move forward.” And I chose to move forward with acceptance of the situation, I chose to move forward with peace, and just to make the best of the situation.

Pete Mockaitis
And in terms of sort of the effective choice behavior piece of things, with the ACE, I imagine within that realm there’s like, “Hey, no, I’m going to be late,” and so they’ve got their heads up.” I found my own experience of being late, like that makes all the difference. It’s just like I keep stewing up, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to be late.” They’ll be like, “What’s up with this guy? He’s so unprofessional.” And then I just sort of change the expectation, like, “Hey, guys, unfortunately this is what’s up. I got caught in a bunch of snow, whatever.”

And then they’re like, “Okay.” And now they know and I’m not worried about how I’m about to…it’s like, “I’m going to disappoint them, I’m going to disappoint them, I’m in the process of disappointing them. They’re going to be furtherly disappointed that I thought they were going to be one minute ago based on this delay,” versus, “Oh, well, now there’s a new expectation set, so we’re all good.”

Naz Beheshti
Right. And I, of course, immediately, when I had reception, texted them and let them know that I’m running late. But, yeah, that inner critic could be like, “Gosh, you’re so unprofessional. You’re late. You’re going to be stressed at your own stress management workshop. You should’ve left earlier. This is your fault.” And then it started pouring rain out of nowhere, and I didn’t have an umbrella. So, not only was I late, I was drenched when I showed up, so I had to regroup in the elevator, I just had a couple floors to regroup and I did. I made it work and I always remember that.

And now I try not to be late, but it’s not even about that. It’s about when you do find yourself in that situation, because no one’s perfect, and it may not be about being late, it might be something else, you have the tools. When you have the tools and you’re mindful to use those tools, then you could show up as your best self, not frazzled or upset.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m also curious to get your take about some energy management. What are your top tips for experiencing a boatload of energy?

Naz Beheshti
Okay. So, I would say that, first of all, getting seven to nine hours of sleep, average of eight hours of sleep a night does wonders. Sleep is the way to reboot your mind, body, and creativity, so sleep is essential. But, also, finding your energy sweet spot. So, everyone has their own energy sweet spot, and that is when you feel most energized. Some people feel most energized in the morning, some in the afternoon, some in the evening. So, learning, “I already know when that is.” If not, just kind of take note throughout the day when you feel most energized. Sometimes there’s peaks and valleys of your energy.

But when you are most energized, that’s when I always encourage listeners, people, my clients, to do their tasks that are least desirable for them. Or the things that they procrastinate the most, do it when they’re most energized because, then, procrastination is limited. Because when you’re not energized and you still have a bunch of things to do, especially if there are things you don’t want to do, you’re going to push them out and have more reason to procrastinate because you’re just tired. So, finding your energy sweet spot and doing those things during that time is really beneficial to being productive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Naz Beheshti
Well, I would say that my book offers over 80 proven tools and strategies to improve yourself and your workplace to achieve a sustainable success, so I highly encourage listeners to check it out so that you can become the CEO of your wellbeing and be awesome at your job.

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

Naz Beheshti
My favorite quote is, “Live well. Laugh often. Love much.”

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

Naz Beheshti
My favorite study is a study that shows how critical connection to others are, our relationships, how critical it is to our health. So, the world’s longest longitudinal study on happiness began in 1938 and it’s still running strong, which I find fascinating. It’s done by Robert J. Waldinger, a psychiatrist and Harvard professor. And he sums up the biggest lessons in his popular TED Talk by saying, “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. And loneliness is toxic.” And I just find that really so true.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Naz Beheshti
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which was also published by New World Library.

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

Naz Beheshti
I would have to say my PBC method, my pause-breathe-choose. It’s a powerful method for translating mindfulness into action, and really taking ownership of your wellbeing so that you could be present and make better choices.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect with your audience; they retweet it; they quote it back to you frequently?

Naz Beheshti
Yeah, so since my book has come out, I get a lot of retweets for “We prioritize doing well over being well, but the truth is we can have both, success and wellbeing.”

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

Naz Beheshti
My website, my corporate website for my corporate wellness company, Prananaz.com, or you can learn more about me and my book at NazBeheshti.com. I’m also on all social media as NazBeheshti, or I think Facebook it’s NazBeheshtiSpeaker, but everywhere else it’s NazBeheshti.

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

Naz Beheshti
I would say tell the listeners commit to your self-care and wellbeing as a non-negotiable. So, you have the power and the choice to be the CEO of your wellbeing and take charge of all areas of your life so that you can truly live your best life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Naz, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck with your pausing, breathing, and choosing.

Naz Beheshti
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

683: How to Break Free from Negative Self-talk and Chatter with Ethan Kross

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Ethan Kross breaks down the science behind negative self-talk and how to change the way you engage with your inner voice.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How chatter takes over and undermines us 
  2. Four simple ways to put a stop to chatter
  3. Why venting hurts more than helps

About Ethan

Ethan Kross is one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. An award-winning professor and bestselling author in the University of Michigan’s top ranked Psychology Department and its Ross School of Business, he studies how the conversations people have with themselves impact their health, performance, decisions and relationships. 

Ethan’s research has been published in ScienceThe New England Journal of Medicine, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, among other peer-reviewed journals. He has participated in policy discussion at the White House and has been interviewed on CBS Evening NewsGood Morning AmericaAnderson Cooper Full Circle, and NPR’s Morning Edition. His pioneering research has been featured in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe New Yorker, Harvard Business ReviewUSA TodayThe Economist, The AtlanticForbes, and Time. 

Ethan lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and two daughters. 

Resources Mentioned

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Ethan Kross Interview Transcript

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

Ethan Kross
Thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Me, too. I’ve been listening to your book and I think maybe the place we need to start is with you sharing a bit of the backstory behind why you did a Google search for bodyguards for professors.

Ethan Kross
Well, I think I need to add the clarification that I considered the Google search. There was that word in the book. I did type it out and did not hit send because, in the moment, I thought that might lead to some negative consequences. So, the backstory here, the very quick version of this story is about 10 years ago, my colleagues and I published a paper that ended up getting a lot of attention.

It was a neuroscience experiment in which we showed that the overlap between the experience of emotional pain, so the pain you might feel when you’re socially rejected or, to use the more technical term, you’re dumped, that that emotional experience resembled, to some degree, the experience of physical pain when you look at underlying neural activity in the brain.

And so, I did a bunch of interviews on this. One of them, or a few of them, were on TV, and life was really exciting for a couple of days. And then, about a week after, all of the press surrounding this study subsided, I walked into my department, checked my mailbox, and there was a letter hand-addressed to me that, when I opened it, I discovered it was a pretty ugly threatening message – letter – directed at me. The kind of letter that I showed to a few colleagues and the recommendation was to go to the police and ask them what to do.

So, it was a pretty significant event that really got my inner monologue or the negative side of it, the chatter, brewing. And I’ll never forget, I think I mentioned this in the book, that when I spoke to the police officer after showing them the letter, the first thing they said to me was, “Well, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about this. This happens every now and again when someone gets in the spotlight but, just to be safe, you might want to make sure you drive home from work a different way each day for the next two weeks.”

And the irony there is that, at the time, I lived about four or five blocks away from my office, so there weren’t that many routes that I could actually take home. So, for the next two or three nights I spent the early morning hours not sleeping and, instead, pacing the house with a baseball bat. My wife and I just had our first child, and I was on protector duty, and really concerned about their welfare.

And, at a moment of real anxiety at two or three in the morning, I had this epiphany that, “Hey, maybe I should do a little Google search for bodyguards for academics.” And as soon as I typed that out, there was actually a turning point, I realized, I actually said, “Ethan, what are you doing? This is lunacy.” And I thought through the situation in my head that way. And that helped snap me out of it, for reasons we’ll maybe talk about a little bit later.

I had stumbled on a tool, in that moment, for managing my chatter that ended up being quite effective and led me to put the baseball bat away. Though, you should know, it still resides beneath our bed in our bedroom, just in case.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a lot there and, yeah, it does tee up a great tool that we’ll talk about, that third person, and using your own name there, and how that helps gain distance, but I would love to zoom out a little bit. So, when you say chatter, how precisely do you define it? And just what’s at stake here when it comes to our internal monologues going well or not so well? How much of a big deal is that for folks?

Ethan Kross
Quite precisely, chatter is the dark side of the inner voice. And, specifically, what I mean when I use the term chatter, I use that term to describe getting stuck in a negative thought loop. So, you’re experiencing some kind of adversity in your life, whether it be in your personal life, your relationships, work, and many people, when they experience problems, they reflexively turn their attention inward to make sense of the situation, to come up with a solution for how to respond.

But rather than come up with a solution, rather than use this brain that we have to problem-solve, we end up getting stuck, thinking about the problem over and over again in ways that don’t make it better but actually just keep us where we were. That’s what chatter is. If it’s about the future, sometimes you can call that worry, if you’re perhaps worrying about the future and what might happen. If it’s about the past, people tend to call that rumination. The common theme is you’re looping over and over again, and you can’t stop thinking about it.

In terms of what is at stake here, I think this is one of the big problems that we face as a species, human beings. I think it’s one of our big problems. In the book, I talk about the three domains that chatter targets and really sinks us. So, first, it undermines our ability to think and perform at work, on the ballfield. We’ve got a limited amount of attention that we can devote to thinking through things at any given moment in time. When all of that attention is focused on our worries, guess what, there’s not a whole lot left over to do our jobs.

The real-world example I like to give people to really drive that point home is to ask people, ask listeners, to think about a time when they tried to read a few pages in a book when they were experiencing chatter. You’re sure you’ve read those pages, the words have crossed through your eye gaze, but you get to the end and you don’t remember anything you’ve read. The reason that happens is an incredibly common experience. It’s because chatter was consuming our attention. We’re not actually focusing on what we were doing. So, it could be a huge problem at work.

We also know that chatter can undermine our relationships with other people, and it can do so through a few different pathways. One issue that we see happening is when people are experiencing chatter, they’re intensely motivated to talk about it with other people to get help from them. But one of the problems is, once you find a person to talk to, you keep talking about the problem over and over and over again, and that can, unfortunately, push away other people, even those people who really want to help. There’s often just so much that another person can endure.

There’s also the related situation of listening to another person tell something to you but your mind is somewhere else. So, you’re sitting at the dinner table with your family, your kids are telling you about all the fun they had during the day, and they get to the end of the story and you, then, would say, “Hey, so what happened today?” They’ve told you about what was happening in their life, you were there, but you really weren’t engaged and you really weren’t listening. We know chatter can create friction in social relationships as a result.

Then the final domain that it impacts is our physical health and, here, the effects can be quite profound. So, we often hear that stress kills, I’d like to say that that’s a bit of a misnomer. Stress can actually be really helpful in small doses. Our stress response mobilizes us to deal with a threat in our environment. When stress becomes toxic is when it becomes chronic, so when our stress response goes up and then it remains chronically elevated over time.

And that’s what chatter does because we experience something stressful in our life or we imagine something stressful, and then we keep on harping on it over and over and over again. The chatter in that situation, what it’s doing, is it is maintaining our stress response, and that’s how you get things, get to situations where you get links between chronic stress and disorders of the body, like problems of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and certain kinds of inflammation.

So, if we zoom out, you asked me, “What’s at stake here?” Our ability to think and perform, our relationships, and our health. I think these are three of the domains that really make life worth living for many of us and chatter exerts its tentacles around all of them, which is a big part of why I’ve devoted my career towards trying to figure out what you can do to regain control of your inner voice, your inner monologue when chatter strikes. And the good news is that there are, in fact, lots of things you can do, lots of science-based tools people can implement.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Pete Mockaitis wants to understand these tools. And how about we start with the third person or talking to yourself with “you”? What’s the story here? And how does it work?

Ethan Kross
Well, so just to give listeners a framework, because I think these frameworks help organize these tools so there are lots and lots of tools that exists, that scientists have discovered. And I like to organize and it’s thrown into three buckets – things you can do on your own, ways of harnessing your relationships, and ways of interacting with physical spaces.

The tool that you just mentioned, what we call distance self-talk, what that involves is trying to coach yourself through a problem using your name and the second-person pronoun “you” rather than thinking through your problems as we normally do in the first person. So, “Alright, Ethan, how are you going to manage a situation?” rather than thinking, “What am I going to do? How am I going to manage a situation?”

One of the things we know from lots of research is that it is much easier for us to advise other people, to give wise advice to other people, than it is for us to follow our own advice. And what this tool does is it harnesses the structure of language to shift our perspective, to get us to, in a certain sense, communicate with ourselves like we were communicating with another person, like a friend who we’re trying to advise.

We did lots of experiments on this over the years, and there’s a finding that really sticks out to me, which is we’ll often have people think about really painful events in their lives, things that have happened in the past that they’ve really struggled to resolve, or future events that they’re really worried about. And, in certain conditions or studies, we’ll ask people to just report what’s going through their head when they’re thinking about the problems in the first person.

And when you look at what people report, it’s astounding. People are thinking things about themselves that they would never say to another human being. Some of the thoughts, they’re really dark, they’re really ugly thoughts, and I’m not talking about vulnerable populations per se. I’m talking about everyday just people living their lives that we recruit off the street to participate in this study. Sometimes, people don’t actually feel comfortable articulating what they’re thinking about their situation because it’s so embarrassing. They don’t want to admit what they’re actually thinking to themselves.

And then we looked at how people talk to themselves when they use their own name, and we see the tenor of those conversations really shift. Now they’re giving themselves advice like they would give to their best friend. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re being very warm and jovial with themselves all the time. Sometimes they are, “It’s going to be fine. You’re a good person,” but, in many situations, the advice takes the form of, “Would you stop this silliness? Get your act together. Do it and then move on,” like a stern authority figure.

And we find that that linguistic shift, going from “I” to using your name to coach yourself through the problem, it’s an easy-to-use tool and it’s something that helps people perform well under stress and regulate their emotions.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that so much because, yes, it is easy, it is well within everyone’s grasp to do so, and it makes a big impact. So, that’s gold. Lay some more on us. You’ve got three categories – things you could by yourself, and then relationships, then the environment. Can we have a couple more of things that we can just do in our own brains?

Ethan Kross
So, another thing you can do is something called temporal distancing or you could think about this as mental time travel. And this is a tool that’s often really useful for dealing with an acute stressor. What it involves doing is thinking about how you’re going to feel about the situation you’re grappling with down the road a day from now, a week from now, a year from now.

This is a tool that I relied on to help me manage the threat of COVID and the misery it brought upon me and my family, like, “Not fun. Not fun.” I mean, there were some moments of fun with COVID but, for the most part, much better to be vaccinated and have it behind us or moving in that direction.

One thing that’s important to point out about chatter is when we experience chatter, we tend to zoom in on the problem at hand, tunnel vision about what it is that’s driving us nuts. Being at home, in the case of COVID, my kids doing their homework at my ankles while I’m doing a podcast interview, sometimes flicking me at the same time.

And so, when you’re experiencing chatter, you zoom in on that situation. What can often be really useful is to do the opposite. Zoom out. Take a step back. And mental time travel provides us with one tool to do that. So, what often happens when you think about, “Well, all right. Dealing with COVID right now stinks, but how am I going to feel six months from now when my family is vaccinated and we’re traveling again and seeing family?”

What engaging in that mental simulation does, that mental time travel, it makes it clear that, as awful as the current situation is right now, it’s temporary. It will get better. And once we have that recognition, that often gives us hope, and we know that hope can be a powerful tool for helping us manage chatter. Now you can travel into the future, you can also travel into the past. So, I often also thought about like the pandemic of 1918, which was worse in terms of its public health impact and our ability to grapple with it.

And what I would remind myself is, “Yeah, things stink now but let me think. How did we deal with it back then? Hey, we got through it and we actually really persevered. Roaring ‘20s, we came back.” And so, those mental shifts, easy things to do, break you out of the immediacy of the situation, and give you access to the bigger picture. Oftentimes, when we step back and think about the bigger picture, we can find solutions to help us through our current adversity. So, that’s another quick thing you could do. And you could do both of those things interchangeably.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so when you talk about zooming out, that’s cool. We’ve got the time travel approach. What are some other ways we can get that distance and zoom out?

Ethan Kross
Well, distant self-talk would be another way of doing that. Writing expressively about what you’re going through. So, sitting down for 15 to 20 minutes to write a story that explains your predicament, that’s another zoom out technique. When you’re writing a story, when you’re journaling about your experience, the interesting thing is that stories have a character when you’re writing about yourself. You become that character so you’re put into the mode of a narrator when you’re writing expressively. That’s another zoom out technique.

A fourth would be something called adopting a fly-on-the-wall perspective. So,
Sometimes we think visually in terms of images. And when you think about painful experiences, rather than replay them happening through your own eyes, which we tend to do for any intense emotional events, you could distance in your imagination, and actually see yourself in the experience interacting with another person, let’s say it was an argument. Adopt the fly-on-the-wall perspective and then try to sort through, “Hey, why did I react the way I did? Was it appropriate? Why did my distant-self person over there do what he or she did?” That’s another way of getting distance. So, there are lots of tools that can help you do it.

Another way of doing it, which is a good segue to the second bucket of tools, is to talk to other people who are particularly adept at helping to broaden your perspective, people who can help you zoom out, so to speak. And, interestingly enough, many people don’t reflexively look to have those kinds of conversations when they’re dealing with chatter, even though science would suggest that they can be really, really helpful.

Many people think that when they’re experiencing chatter, the thing you want to do is find someone to just vent your emotions, to just find someone who’s willing to listen and then unload, let it out. There’s been a lot of research on this over the years, and what we’ve learned is that venting can be really good for strengthening the friendship bonds between two people. It can be comforting to know that there’s someone out there who’s willing to take the time to listen, to validate what we’re experiencing, to empathically connect.

But if all you do is vent in a conversation, that leads to something that we call co-rumination. It’s like throwing fuel on a burning fire. You’re just getting people to rehash all the aversive futures of that experience, so what ends up happening is you leave those conversations feeling really good about your relationship with the person you just vented to, but you haven’t done anything in that conversation to reframe how you’re thinking about the problem.

So, the best kinds of conversations do actually do two things when it comes to chatter. First, the person you’re talking to does allow you to express your feelings to a certain degree. But, at a certain point of the conversation, they try to help broaden your perspective, they try to help you zoom out, “So, Pete, you had a really inarticulate obnoxious guest on the show the other day. I mean, I get that that was really challenging, but let’s put things in perspective. You’ve done 500 plus interviews and the overall majority of them have been great, and so let’s chop this one up to a bad day.”

Or, “Here’s what I do when I interview someone and it’s not going well…” and so forth and so on. You want, at some point, shift from just listening to trying to help that person zoom out so they can ultimately work through the problem effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And I’m thinking here, I’m thinking about Michael Sorensen, we got to get him on the show – validation – that you want to start with the listening and not go too quickly, I imagine, to the brainstorming, problem-solving, distance-making.

Ethan Kross
That’s right. There’s an art to doing this. And, it’s funny, as a scientist talking about art, because we scientists like to be able to timestamp things down with millisecond precision. So, I wish I could tell you that, “Here is the magic formula for being an amazing chatter advisor to someone else. Listen for one minute and 36 seconds, and then transition to helping reframe.” It’s not that simple. Depending on the person and the situation, some people are going to need more time expressing their emotions before they are ready, before they are receptive to having their perspective be broadened by you, and so you want to feel this out during the situation.

Sometimes a person will say, “Please, just help me. How can I think differently about it?” Like, that’s happened to me on many occasions, people call me with that kind of request for help. Those people are ready to launch right into the perspective broadening. In other situations, people want to talk for a while, and I’ll ask them, “Hey, do you want to just keep going or do you want me to, also, could I give you my take on this? Or do you want to keep going? Either way is fine. Just tell me what you want.” And I think people appreciate you asking them what they need, and then trying to satisfy those needs in the context of the conversation. So, there is an art to doing this well.

But let me just say, I think there’s real value in knowing about these two elements that describe what makes conversations about chatter really productive. Because what they allow you to do with someone who is experiencing chatter is they allow you to think really carefully about, “Hey, who should I go to for support? Who’s really good at both listening and they’re good at helping me broaden my perspective?”

Sometimes, the people we reflexively turn to, the people that we love and that love us, don’t fit that mold. So, I think it allows us to think carefully about who we should talk to. And, on the flipside, it gives us a rubric for how to help others when they seek out our support and how to be better advisors to others that we care about.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, any other thoughts when it comes to relationships and engaging in these conversations?

Ethan Kross
The other quick thought is that there is a caveat that I like to attach to everything I just told you about how to talk to other people about their chatter. Those principles apply to instances in which another person comes to you and explicitly asks you for support. They want to talk about their chatter. There are going to be many instances in which you and listeners see other people in your lives, whether they be colleagues or friends, loved ones, and so forth, you know they’re experiencing chatter, they’re struggling, but they don’t actually ask you explicitly for support.

Research shows that in those situations, you want to be careful about volunteering advice. Unsolicited advice in those circumstances can often backfire quite dramatically. And the reason for that is when you volunteer support and someone else doesn’t ask for it, you’re essentially, the message you’re conveying to the person you’re talking to is, “You don’t have your stuff together, so here’s what you could do.” And that can threaten a person’s sense of autonomy and what we call self-efficacy, the idea that a person is capable, they have agency to succeed in life on their own.

So, this happens a lot to parents. There’s an anecdote in the book I described which is highly relevant in my own life. I’ll see one of my daughters struggling with their homework, I’ll go, “Hey, sweetie, can I help with that problem? You know, I teach for a living. I do this stuff. Here’s another way to think about it.” And, instantly, they give me the death stare.

So, they look at me, and then it’s, “Did I ask you for help? Do you think I can’t do this myself?” Then they call my wife to get involved, and then I’m in deep trouble. So, that’s an instance where a well-intentioned act has backfired because of my misunderstanding of the social calculus about how to calibrate the way I’m interacting with this person.

So, in those instances where you see someone struggling but they don’t ask you for help, the good news is there are still things you can do to help them. We call this invisible support. And what it involves is providing those individuals with help but without making it clear that you’re doing it because they’re struggling.

So, here are a couple of concrete examples. If I see my wife just really stressed out about something happening at work, lots of chatter, I can do things like just volunteer to take care of the dry cleaning or pick up the groceries, do things to make her life easier to ease her burden. That’s one way of helping invisibly. I’m not saying, “Hey, do you want me to do stuff? I see you’re stressed out.” I’m just doing it. And by doing it, I’m taking one or two things off of her work plate that makes life easier for her.

Another concrete thing you can do is let’s say someone on your team is really struggling with a skill. So, let’s say it’s someone in my lab group their presentations, they’re not nailing it in a variety of ways. Their presentation skills are off. Rather than pulling them aside and saying, “Hey, we have to help you improve in this regard because you need to do yourself and the science…the research isn’t being communicated in a way that does it justice,” blah, blah, blah. Rather than doing something like that, which is a pretty heavy-handed intervention, I can do things like email the group and say, “Hey, I just came across these resources. I found them really useful, in case anyone wants to take a look.”

Or, if I see someone is giving a presentation on how to talk about science more effectively, I’ll send a message to the group, say, “Hey, why don’t we all go as a group? That’s really interesting. It can help us all.” I’m getting that person the information but I’m not shining a spotlight on them, and saying, “Hey, you’re not performing well in this context.” So, those are a couple kinds of invisible support.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Well, then let’s hear a little bit about the environment then.

Ethan Kross
So, the environments are really fun, and I just think I had so much fun researching this for the book. It was really eye-opening in many ways. In short, there are many tools that exist in the physical world around us that I was certainly blind to before doing some of this research and writing the book, and freely available things you could do to manage conversations you’re having with yourself when it becomes chatter-ific, to invent a new word.

So, one thing you can do is, well, organize a space. So, one thing that often characterizes chatter is we often feel like we’re not in control of our minds. Our minds are in control of us and our thoughts are chaotic and disordered. And what we’ve learned is you can compensate for that experience, that feeling of a lack of control and order, by exerting control around you. And one way to do that is to organize your spaces, clean up, tidy up. This is why you have a lot of people who, when they’re stressed out, reflexively turn to cleaning.

This is true, mind you, of not only those individuals who are, by their nature, like to be organized but even folks like myself who tend to be of a more take-your-clothing-off-and-leave-it-wherever-it-drops sort. Yet, when I’m experiencing chatter, I will carefully go through the house and make sure everything is put away and is well organized. Doing that provides me with a sense of control and that compensates for the lack of control that I’ll sometimes feel when I’m experiencing chatter. So, organizing your spaces, that’s one thing you can do.

Another related tool involves performing a ritual. So, ritual is a structured sequence of behaviors that we do the same way every time we engage in it, and that also provides us with a sense of order and control because those rituals are highly structured, they’re highly ordered. Research shows that rituals that are essentially transmitted to us through our culture, so religious rituals and cultural traditions, those can be useful, as can be our own idiosyncratic rituals, the ones we develop on our own.

Many athletes, for example, before they have to do something that is high stakes, like shoot a free throw or a goal kick, will perform a small ritual. And the research would suggest that the reason they do so is to provide them with that sense of control. So, those are two environments.

So, I guess the last one, to just very quickly communicate, involves interacting with nature, green spaces. Interacting with green spaces can be useful in a few different ways. One thing that going for a walk in a natural safe green space can do is restore your attention, which chatter often depletes. We spend so much time thinking about our problems, all our attention is devoted to the chatter. That can be exhausting. And what nature does is, in a very gradual gentle way, it captures our attention.

As we’re walking through the arboretums and the gardens and tree-lined streets, people’s attention tends to drift to the trees, the flowers, the shrubs. We’re not focusing really intently on, “How can I determine the chlorophyll structure of that leaf?” We’re just kind of taking it in in a gentle way and that diverts our attention away from the chatter, giving that limited resource our attention an opportunity to restore. That can be useful.

Nature also provides us with an opportunity to experience awe, an emotion that we experience when we’re in the presence of something vast and indescribable. So, many people have trouble understanding, for example, like, how a tree can exist for hundreds of years, or you stare out at an amazing sunset, or a view, like, “My God, this is remarkable. I can’t understand this natural beauty,” looking at the Grand Canyon or plug in your awe-inspiring scene.

What happens when we have that emotional experience is it leads to something called a shrinking of the self. We feel smaller when we’re contemplating something vast and indescribable. And when we feel smaller so does our chatter. And so, that’s another way that nature can help.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, what’s been on my mind lately, when you talked about nature restoring our attention in a gentle way, I’ve recently been learning about and experimenting with nature restoring my attention, in a not-so gentle way, with cold water. My barber started talking to me about Wim Hoff and I got on a kick researching all about it.

Any thoughts there with regard to just sort of like our physiological situation, I guess, in terms of like breathing and cold and nutrition? It’s almost like if our brain is like a soil and chatter is weeds, it’s like there seems to be certain conditions in our internal environment, that our external environments of course influence, that is super conducive to it and super not-so conducive to it.

Ethan Kross
Well, we know that there are certain kinds of breathing exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, pranayama which is a breathing practice popular in certain meditative traditions, that can be useful for regulating stress and chatter. And there are physiological, we might call the pathway through which those activities work is I would call like a bottom-up, so you’re changing elements of your physiology, you’re sending signals to your brain that are activating the opposite of a stress response, and those can certainly be useful. There’s a lot of data on the value of exercise and nutrition as well, so there’s no question that those are other kinds of behaviors that could be helpful.

The cold water one is a really interesting one. I do not know the literature surrounding cold water. And I think it’s interesting for a variety of reasons. I think, first, the first thing that comes to mind is I’m not aware of an automatic pathway that’s activated when you’re in the presence of something cold that would instantly lead you to feel less chatter.

I suspect that there is some way in which that activity combines with your mindset to help you feel better. Let me give you an example. If my wife, if I were to say, “Go take a cold shower each morning to help you with your chatter,” that would be close to torture for her because she hates being cold, right? So, I think a lot of people who probably use this cold-water technique are doing so with a mindset that, “This is going to improve me in some way.”

In the book, I actually have a chapter. The last chapter of the book is called Mind Magic. And what that chapter focuses on is the power of the mind to heal itself and, in particular, the power of our expectations to help us when it comes to our chatter.

And in that chapter, I tell many stories of mesmerism, going way back in time, to crystals. There are many therapies out there that have some data associated with them suggesting that they do make people feel better. But the question is, “Is it something specific about those therapies or is it that people think that doing these things are going to make them feel better?” And it’s really the thinking process, the expectation that is driving their benefits.

And so, that would be a question that comes up when it comes to hydrotherapy. But I will say this, Pete, if the cold hydrotherapy is working for you and there are no real side effects, then just run with it.

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

Ethan Kross
Well, if listeners found this interesting, they can learn more about the inner voice, what it is. I think what makes it so fascinating is that we all have this inner voice. It’s an experience that, on the one end, is very intimate but we don’t spend a whole lot talking about it with one another so it’s also shrouded in mystery. So, if you want to learn more about what it is and lots of other tools that you can use to manage it, check out my book Chatter. You could find info on it at my website www.EthanKross.com and I hope it helps.

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

Ethan Kross
“He who has a why to live for can deal with almost any how,” which I believe Nietzsche was the first to come up with that phrase but Viktor Frankl, one of my favorite authors, later requoted it.

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

Ethan Kross
I work with my mentor, who was Walter Mischel, the marshmallow man, the scientist who drew out the delayed gratification test. So, those marshmallow studies are among my favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Ethan Kross
In this genre, I would say it is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, the book that I took that quote from.

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

Ethan Kross
I really like distance self-talk. I rely on it a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And maybe it’s almost the same thing. And a favorite habit?

Ethan Kross
I would say the most useful habit is that I have some chatter habits, which is the moment I detect chatter brewing, I automatically implement several rituals that I write about in the book, and it really helps me nip that chatter reaction in the bud.

Pete Mockaitis
So, right then and there, you’re saying, “You, Ethan,” doing some temporal distancing, time travel, writing, adopting fly on the wall perspective. Any unique twist or flavor you put into it when you’re doing it personally?

Ethan Kross
Yeah. Well, one interesting thing is there are 26 different tools, they’re summarized in the back of the book that I talk about. I don’t use all of those tools. I use subsets of them, and sometimes I use different combinations but there are some common ones, like distance self-talk, that I use and I do make out my own. Sometimes I’ll refer to myself not using my own name but rather the nickname that my wrestling coach gave to me in high school, which is not a particularly flattering nickname, but I will nonetheless refer to myself using that. And that, I tell you, that does the trick. That lets me muscle through most things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate; it gets highlighted a lot in the book or retweeted frequently?

Ethan Kross
The distance self-talk one gets people connect to because a lot of people do it themselves or have observed other people do it and don’t really understand why, and so that’s certainly one. The bit on venting has been really informative I think to lots of people as well. So, those are two nuggets.

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

Ethan Kross
www.EthanKross.com. They could find lots of information about the book, my lab, and me right there.

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

Ethan Kross
Yeah, my call to action is to read about these tools and then start doing some self-experimentation to figure out which combinations of tools work best for you, given your unique circumstances. I think science has done a fairly good job at identifying individual tools. What we haven’t yet done, what we’re doing right now, is trying to figure out, “What are the specific blends that can be most optimally used to help people?” And while we’re wait for that science to happen, I think there’s an opportunity to start engaging that self-experimentation process on your own.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ethan, thank you. This has been a treat. I’ve been digging your book Chatter and I wish you many chatter-free days ahead.

Ethan Kross
Likewise. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

 

About Andy

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

Andy Storch Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Storch
Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
“How dare you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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