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Self-Awareness

380: The Five Routes to Personal Change with Jane Ransom

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Jane

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jane Ransom Interview Transcript

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

Jane Ransom
I am truly excited to be here.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, on the record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that is sophisticated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, go for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure.

Jane Ransom
Okay. Do you want to share it?

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

Jane Ransom
Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
Yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Ransom
The bibliography.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That sounds familiar.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
The visualizers.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful, thank you.

Jane Ransom
You’re welcome.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Jane Ransom
Self-hypnosis for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I do.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Let’s do it.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Tweet that. There you go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Todd

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

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Todd Rose Interview Transcript

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

Todd Rose
And thanks for having me.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Rose
Medical school to be a good mechanic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Of course I always do at this point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
….

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

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

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

Todd Rose
It’s even crazier than that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

Pete Mockaitis
There we go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Rose
Yeah, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Rose
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Delicious.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
You would actually feel it in your body?

Todd Rose
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Rose
Thank you so much for having me.

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Stephen

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stephen Warley Interview Transcript

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Whoohoo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s take it.

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

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

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

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

Stephen Warley
That’s a little different.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. Yeah, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I’m seeing the UFOs right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Warley
So why are you irritated?

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
When they need something immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Warley
Yes.

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

Stephen Warley
What did he go as?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Warley
Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite tool?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Warley
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Anything that – some secret sauce?

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

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I won’t.

Stephen Warley
Thank you, Pete.

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Emma-Kate

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Emma-Kate Swann Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Oh my goodness. I cannot.

Pete Mockaitis
Hardball here at Awesome At Your Job.

Emma-Kate Swann
I wish.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely. Oh my goodness.

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Emma-Kate Swann
Does that make sense Pete?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely.

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
We did.

Pete Mockaitis
So thank you.

Emma-Kate Swann
Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

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

Pete Mockaitis
It was a tool, yeah.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
What exactly is heart coherence?

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

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

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

Emma-Kate Swann
Oh, of course, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

347: The Power of Truly Living Your Values Daily with Drew Dudley

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Drew Dudley redefines leadership and shows what it really means to live your values.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The gross way we make decisions when we don’t have clear values
  2. How to make leadership a practice, instead of a hobby
  3. Approaches to discovering your own deep wisdom with “the edge of the bed advice” technique

About Drew

Drew Dudley is the Founder & Chief Catalyst of Day One Leadership, and has spent the last 15 years helping individuals and organizations increase their leadership capacity.

Recognized as one of the most dynamic keynote speakers in the world, Drew has spoken to over 250,000 people on 5 continents, been featured on The Huffington Post, Radio America, Forbes.com, and TED.com, where his TED talk has been voted “one of the 15 most inspirational TED talks of all time”. Time, Business Insider and INC. magazines have all included his talk on their lists of “speeches that will make you a better leader”.

Drew’s clients have included some of the world’s most dynamic companies and organizations, including McDonald’s, Proctor & Gamble, JP Morgan Chase, Hyatt Hotels, the United Way and over 75 colleges and universities.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Drew Dudley Interview Transcript

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

Drew Dudley
Oh, I’m thrilled. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, thank you. I think we’re going to have a ton of fun here. One fun thing I want to know about you right away is all about your stuffed penguin collection.

Drew Dudley
The stuffed penguin collection. The stuffed penguin collection emerged, believe it or not, because I’m afraid of dogs.

I was dating a girl and almost every silly story starts with that. I was dating a girl who really wanted a dog. I was attacked when I was a kid by a big Siberian Husky. While I’ve gotten better with dogs, back then I was – if there was one the size of a hot dog, I crossed the street to avoid it. This was a bit of a nonstarter for me.

We were out one night on a date and we saw March of the Penguins. She leaned over to me and said, “If you buy me a penguin, I will never bother you for a dog again.” I thought, “Done.” This is a way out. Believe it or not you cannot purchase penguins as pets anywhere. I tried. I tried. I said, look, I’ll just poke holes in the front of my freezer. We’re good to go.

I was in Wal-Mart lamenting the fact that I was going to have to back to battling against this impending Great Dane that she wanted and sure enough I saw a giant stuffed penguin sitting in a box. I thought to myself, she did not specify the penguin had to be a live one. I brought it home. Every now and then as a boyfriend you knock one out of the park and she loved this penguin.

Unfortunately, what happened is – I don’t know if anyone out there has pets, but sometimes your pet becomes the communication tool between you and your partner, like “Tell daddy he’s staying far too long at work.” “Well, tell mom that if I don’t stay at work, we don’t get to-“ etcetera.

Well, one of my friends witnessed this exchange. In order to mock me for the fact that I was apparently whipped by a stuffed penguin, he began giving me penguin gifts and got all my friends on board. What I realized is that you can do one of two things when your friends are picking on you. You can either fight back, which just makes it all the more rewarding or you can lean into it.

Sure enough, I leaned into it and it became my thing. I’ve got 50 or 60 stuffed penguins and penguin cuff links. Because what happens is once you make a deal of it, every gift from every client, from every friend, anybody who sees a penguin-related thing in a store, that’s it. My penguin collection was my way of avoiding having to get a dog. I was trying to find a loophole and it turned into a monster.

Pete Mockaitis
That is wild. I would imagine if everybody just gives you penguins, because that’s what they know about you, you’ve probably got some duplicate penguins over the course of your collection years. Is this true?

Drew Dudley
Just a few actually. Somehow they got to be the big thing about three years ago. Everybody had a penguin in the front hall. Yeah, I’ve got – but what’s cool is people make little shirts for them. I’ve got one from the University of Notre Dame. I’ve got another one from the Sanitation Workers of New Jersey T-shirt. We break them up a little bit. I’ve got – I think they’ve got a little football league going on.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m just curious, if you move, are you going to take all of them with you and will you store them? This is quite a commitment that you have taken on your shoulders here.

Drew Dudley
I’m not going to lie, there’s about 48 of them that are just stuck in a storage unit somewhere. I move around a lot because I figure I can, so why not experience the world. Ultimately, after I moved out of my place that I had sort of been in for a few years, we just pack them away because now I live – I’ve got a bunch of 500 square foot little places scattered about North America where I base out of.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just imagining the episode of was it Storage Wars or whatever that reality TV program is where they claim abandoned storage lockers.

Drew Dudley
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, “What the heck is this?”

Drew Dudley
I actually am storing a bunch of them in the actual storage facility where they shoot that show. Yeah, I kid you not. If somehow I disappear in the Bermuda Triangle, dammit, somebody’s going to open it up and find a whole bunch of stuffed penguins and all of the workout materials that I’ve stuck in my storage unit because –

Pete Mockaitis
You’re not using those either.

Drew Dudley
That little ab roller that everybody buys, “Hey, that’s a good idea,” yeah, that’s what they’ll find.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. Now I want to hear a little bit about your other role, other than penguin custodian, you are … the title. I like it. You have fun with the title. I do the same. You’re the founder and chief catalyst of Day One Leadership. What does that mean exactly?

Drew Dudley
I guess my job ultimately is to be accountable for how well the company makes three things happen. One, help people figure out the specific leadership behaviors that are right for them to feel like leaders and act like leaders. Two, to help people make those behaviors a non-negotiable part of every single day of their lives. Then three, convince people that doing those two first things makes them a leader.

My title when it comes to the company makes it sound like I’m in charge I think, but effectively all it means is that I’m ultimately accountable for the company’s success in making those three things possible for as many people as possible.

I started to realize this when it comes to titles. The day-to-day operations, the strategy, marketing, sales, everything that a company or organization does, those are all just logistics in service of, in our case, those three things. Whatever your job is, it’s not the tasks that you have to do, it’s how those tasks relate to the bigger mission of the organization.

Here’s the thing, if you don’t know what the bigger mission of the organization is or you hate it, quit because you’re in the wrong place. That’s it. That’s my role is to make those three things happen: help people figure out what the best leadership behaviors for those are, make them a nonnegotiable part of their life, and then convince them that doing that is in fact leadership.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, you’re clear on what you’re about, which is cool. Let’s dig into some of these dimensions one by one. You sort of capture a number of these ideas in your book, This Is Day One. What would you say is sort of the main idea or thesis behind this one?

Drew Dudley
The key thing I’m trying to get – and this is everything that I do in terms of my speaking and the book, here’s the main idea. There’s a form of leadership to which we all can and should aspire. It’s defined by a commitment to acting on your core leadership values every single day because when you do that, you close the gap between the person you want to be and how you’re actually behaving.

My argument is that actively and consciously working to close that gap is what defines a leader, nothing else. Whether or not you are trying to close the gap between the person you want to be and how you are actually behaving on a day-to-day basis.

Because I don’t know the secret to happiness, but I have found that the secret to unhappiness is when a gap forms between who you want to be and how you’re acting and you become aware of that gap.

For me it happened because a seven-year-old called me out on it. About ten years ago I had this horrible time at work, like a real toxic environment. I decided I wanted to take a train ride all the way across Canada and not talk to anybody, just stick my nose in a bunch of books, all those books you were supposed to have read and just not talk to anybody.

I started out in this empty car at the back of the train and was super happy with my nose in this book. This little girl was running up and down this train, back and forth, back and forth. Then she plopped down next to me and said, “What are you reading?” I said, “It’s just a book for work.”

I remember she looked at me and said, “You get to read books for work? My dad has to go to an office,” which is one of those cool moments that remind you of how awesome your job is. I said, “Yeah, yeah, I get to read books for work.”

She said, “Well, what’s the story?” I said, “This book doesn’t really have a story,” because it was some academic research thing. She said, “Well, don’t all books have stories?” I said, “No, some just have knowledge.” She says, “Well, aren’t stories knowledge?” I was really thrown off by that because the last thing I want to do is send this kid away thinking that stories aren’t knowledge.

I said, “Actually a really smart friend of mine said once that ‘The story is the basic unit of human understanding,’” As soon as it came out of my mouth, all I could think was, “Dude, she is seven,” but this girl was amazing. She just looks at me and says, “I think your friend is very, very smart.” I said wow, this girl is incredible.

I said, “Why are you running up and down the train?” She says, “My parents say I have this very big spirit. They say my spirit is way too big for every room that I’m in. A train’s just a big long hallway, right? Anytime I’m in a place where it’s not big enough for my spirit, and no hallway is big enough for my spirit if rooms aren’t, I run to remind myself that I’m free anytime that I want to be.”

I said to her – because there was something – she didn’t do it to be pretentious. She didn’t do it to try to sound impressive. When you work at a university, like I did, all anyone is trying to do is sound pretentious and impressive. It was just the way she said it, “I’m always free if I want to be.”

She said – I said, “I think I’m like that too. I think the problem is I’m not spending time in places where it’s big enough for my spirit.” She hops down off this chair and looks at me and says, “Drew, I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t think anyone whose spirit is too big for a hallway would ever read a book without a good story,” and then disappears.

It was weird because I had always seen myself as someone who gathered stories, who gathered insights, who shared them with other people. This is a fundamental part of who I am. This seven-year-old pointed out that I’d gotten on a train, gotten a single sleeper car, hadn’t wanted to talk to a single person. There was a gap between who I wanted to be and how I conceived of myself and how I was actually behaving.

It changed so much about how I treated that trip and made me so much more aware of where real leadership lies and the really big struggle in our lives is becoming aware of where that gap is between we want to be and how we’re behaving and doing something about it.

In the book – I know that was a long answer to that question – but it’s really about how I try to address things in the book is here are the stories of these extraordinary leaders that I’ve picked up along the way. They don’t all look like we’ve been taught leaders look like. There’s a seven-year-old and there’s a cab driver. Each one of them has sort of given me a little bit of an insight. The idea of This Is Day One is based on this.

We all wake up every single morning and we have done absolutely nothing to deserve the title of leader that day. Nothing. Whether we’re a CEO or we’re the person who just got hired in an entry level job, when you wake up in the morning, you have done nothing to deserve the title.

Ultimately that came from one of the first times I ever went to a meeting about my alcohol addiction. A guy said – he was talking afterwards – he said, “I’ve got 36 years in.” A guy next to me was also at his first meeting, he said, “Wow, 36 years.” The older guy looks at him and says, “Son, I have just as much time in today as you do.” There was something that really resonated with me at that.

When it comes to leadership, we all get up at the exact same place. That – a lot of Day One comes from that experience recovering from addiction, is that if you don’t want to have a drink for the rest of your life, choose not to have a drink today. Then treat every day as if it’s the first day of your recovery because every day one has an inherent commitment, humility, forgiveness.

If you screw up, you just recommit. You don’t throw away everything you had before. If you’ve got 25 years in of being sober or rising up through the ranks and running an organization, yeah, you’ve done all that stuff to get here, but when you wake up in the morning, you haven’t done a damn thing.

That’s what the book is about is saying, “This is day one and if you want to be a leader, you want to close that gap between who you want to be and how you’re behaving, you start today with nothing on the score card. You’ve got to earn it again.”

Long answer because I love to tell stories, but that’s really what the book talks about, how to close that gap, how to give a step-by-step guide of exactly how to do that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s what I found interesting is that these are big questions and heavy and tricky and can take some – a lifetime to figure out, but you have laid out a bit of process or ‘process’ as Canadians say. I love it.

Drew Dudley
Do we say it different?

Pete Mockaitis
You do. It’s a long O instead of a short O. I actually like it better that way.

Drew Dudley
I didn’t realize we did that. I know that we throw U’s in words you don’t. Apparently, we say ‘about’ although I don’t know what that crap’s about. I did not realize we said ‘process’ different ….

Pete Mockaitis
Most Canadians I do hear it. One time I was even chatting with some folks and I made reference to a process and I pronounced it with a long o and they said “Pete, are you Canadian?” I said, “No, I just like the way Canadians say ‘process.’”

Drew Dudley
You know how you can spot a Canadian right now?

Pete Mockaitis
Do tell.

Drew Dudley
We don’t have our head down on our desk banging it slowly as the chaos descends around us.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Noted, thank you. What I want to discuss is you have a process or a ‘process’ associated with getting to the bottom of some of these questions in a step-by-step rigorous way. I’d love to hear what would you say are the first steps to zeroing in on these values and associated leadership behavior?

Drew Dudley
Well, I think the first thing is to actually identify what your core leadership values are. Most people haven’t.

One of the things that sort of drives me as a person is this theory is that when you don’t know what to do in a situation, ask yourself what would the person who I want to be do in this situation and then do that.

But what I found is that because we all went through an education system that asked us what you want to do when you grow up and taught us that you should focus on the things on which you’re going to be tested, well, we never got tested on what our values were. We never got tested on who we want to be.

We never got tested on what criteria are you going to use to make big decisions, so most of us, especially high performers, actually never had time. We never sat down and thought about what are the values that want to drive us.

What I talk about in the book is how to actually figure out what those core values are. That’s where it starts because values are criteria for decision making. What real leaders do is they identify their values and they define them because then you use them as criteria for decision making.

Every single time that you face a challenge, you face a decision, you pivot to your values and you say which one of these options is most consistent with my list of values. The challenge is that often that option sucks. It doesn’t allow you to look good, avoid punishments, keep the money, stay in the job, but it’s always the decision that you are proudest you made five years from now.

The first step that leaders need to do for their day one is say “These are the values that are nonnegotiable for me. Here’s what they mean,” and then make sure, that’s what the book talks about, the process of actually living them every single day.

Because if you don’t do that, if you don’t use your values as criteria for decision making, the question that I love to challenge people with is “what criteria have you been using to make decisions every day for your whole life so far?” What I realize is for most of us, the number one criteria we use to make decisions is “what will avoid the most consequences right now?” That is not how leaders make decisions. That’s why that’s where you start.

I talk about how in the book, but mostly it comes down to self-reflection, not on what you think, which is how most people think about self-reflection, we get into our head, but self-reflection on how you have behaved because your values are indicated by how you behave, not by how you talk.

In the book I talk about how to use a reflective exercise that looks not at “Oh, what are my values? Let me think about it,” but it looks directly at “What have I done in my life?” because that’s a better source for figuring out what your values are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so intriguing that notion in terms of in the absence of clear values that is the default, what will avoid the most unpleasant consequences for me right now. It’s really not at all inspiring.

Drew Dudley
No.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like in terms of just selfishness and shortsightedness. But at the same time a lot of times that answer is an okay one in terms of “Well, not lying about how I just screwed up would avoid the most consequences because if I lied about it then I’d really be up a creek.”

In a way I think that’s – that shorthand default gets you to some decent decisions somewhat often, but it sure doesn’t make your chest rise in pride as to the person that you’re being.

I’m intrigued then. Let’s hear it. First, when you say values, I’d love to get your take on – there’s many you can choose from. Perhaps an infinite amount in terms of ways you could articulate it. I’d love for you to first give a few examples of “here are four different values and what they mean.”

Drew Dudley
Sure. In the book, I actually focus on six. The idea is that each individual, you have to identify your own and then there’s a process to embed them into your life. But in order to demonstrate the process, I say here are six, like here on day one when you put the book down, this is what you could actually do right away. They are impact, courage, growth, empowerment, class, and self-respect. Those six values.

Impact is a commitment to creating moments that cause people to feel as if they are better off for having interacted with you.

Courage is a commitment to taking action when there is the possibility of loss, which gets educated out of us as we grow older.

We go through the education system that teaches us you’re going to get evaluated not on how good you are right now, but on how few mistakes you made along the way because every time you make one along the way, we take points away. Even if at the end you’re the most talented, hey, if you lost the most points, it doesn’t reflect.

Yeah, we talk about growth, which is a commitment to increasing the capacity to add value. Leaders add value to other people’s lives. That’s ultimately your goal. Now, in the process, you add value to your own. Any time you get better at the ability to add value, you are embodying the value of growth. That means any time that you’re a catalyst for learning, you effectively have helped people grow.

One of the big ways that you can help people grow is to change how you ask questions or sorry change how you – that’s one of the big talents, sorry, is to learn how to effectively ask questions.

Leaders, I think we get confused and a lot of people walk away from the idea of leadership because they think they don’t have all the answers. One thing I really want to tell people is that leaders do not have more answers necessarily than other people, but they do ask tremendous questions. They’re better at that and they ask a particular kind of question.

The best leaders I know – and if you’re listening, think about trying to get better at this – asking questions, where the person being asked learns more than the person doing the asking. Usually we think, “Okay, if I’m asking questions it’s because I want to gather information,” but what leaders do is they ask these powerful questions that help people understand things about themselves they didn’t know.

I give a bunch of examples in the book, but the one I really like is “Why do you matter?” That’s a deep ask question, but most of the people I ask, 95% of them, cannot give me an answer to that question or they’re making one up on the spot. Ultimately, the reason I ask it isn’t to get an answer necessarily, but to make people realize they don’t have one. No one’s ever asked them before and your kids don’t have one either.

If they’re under the age of five, go ahead, ask your kids that question, they will give you an amazing answer. But once we send them to school, they stop believing that why they matter is up to them and it’s supposed to be evaluated by somebody else. Because all of us spent 20 of the most formative years in our lives in that system, we don’t unlearn that lesson. We spend the rest of our lives waiting for someone else to evaluate how much we matter.

Ultimately becoming a great leader I think is finding out a way to ask those questions where the person who’s being asked learns more than you do.

Empowerment is a commitment to helping other people reach their goals. It’s a commitment to acting as a catalyst for the success of others. Ultimately what that means is unlearning this competitive process that we also learn through school, this idea that we’re – there’s a finite amount out there. We live in this economy of scarcity and if you don’t get the job, if you don’t get the money, somebody else will. Ultimately, you have to outperform other people.

What that makes us do is that we stop seeing empowering other people as a fundamentally good thing in our lives and what we do is we think helping other people, what we’re doing is we’re holding ourselves back, particularly in the job world.

One of the things when I get invited to have the opportunity to speak to business schools, because business students are a special breed—ultimately they’re being taught this idea of compete, compete, compete, be the top, have the best resume, that’s what’s going to help you.

One of the things I tell – if you want to be great at your job and if you’re in one of these positions where you actually create a culture at a job, a manager or an executive, don’t try to outperform other people because if you can outperform 90% of the people on the planet, great, or in your organization, great. You’ll make six figures.

But if you can become the type of person where everyone who works with you outperforms everyone who doesn’t work with you, then you’re indispensable. If you want to be great at your job, be indispensable. Don’t necessarily be someone who’s at the top. Be indispensable.

When you create a career where every day you could identify something you did to make someone else move closer to a goal, what you’re doing is you’re creating a career where when other people get promoted, you get promoted too because people remember who made them better at their job.

Class is a commitment to treating people in situations better that they deserve to be treated.

Self-respect is a commitment to recognizing you cannot add value to other people’s lives until you’ve added enough value to your own. When you are empty, you have nothing to give.

That is the six that I use as examples within the book. Each one comes with an accompanying question to make sure that you can give yourself evidence you’ve lived it. But the idea of the day one process is you get to figure out your values and you can figure out what they mean and then you can convert into your own things that drive you every single day.

That really is the key to what the book, my work, and my company is trying to do is give people this direct guideline every day of how to live like the person they want to be through their work, not necessarily on top of it. You can answer all these questions and live these values through the work that you do every single day.

If you don’t know what the values are, you don’t know how to define them, the last like 40 pages of the books is basically a list of 40 of the most common values I’ve been given over the years and sample definitions for them along with the questions you can use if these are the ones that are important to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then this is intriguing. Maybe no need to offer all 40 definitions, but of those 40 could you share a few more because I have a feeling as folks listen, some folks will be like “Yes,” like by hearing a little bit of a laundry list, some of them will naturally have more of a resonance than others. I think that could be valuable if you could maybe rattle off a few more.

Drew Dudley
Yeah, sure. Adventure, a commitment to seeking out new or exciting experiences. Accountability is a commitment to acknowledging responsibility for the outcomes of your actions. Perseverance, a commitment to overcoming obstacles and enduring discomfort. Rationality is the commitment to making decisions based on logic and reason.

Mastery, a commitment to seeking continuous improvement. Mindfulness, a commitment to being conscious aware and engaged in any given moment.

You’ll notice that they all start with a commitment to. We use a lot of these words – integrity is a big one, integrity or honesty or compassion. We throw these words around and we use them to evaluate our behavior and to judge other people, but we honestly very rarely identify what those words actually mean.

What I often will tell people is to envision a hypothetical where someone follows you around for 30 days out of your life and at the end of those 30 days, and you weren’t aware of this, I asked that person what are the three values that this person puts out into the world every day. What are the three values this person uses whenever they have to make a difficult decision? What would they be? It’s always integrity, honesty, generosity, kindness.

But if you ask people, “All right, finish this sentence, ‘Integrity is a commitment to…what?’” We have been using these words to judge ourselves and our organization and other people and we have never actually identified what they mean.

The problem is if you haven’t identified what one of your values means, turn it into a finish line so that you can actually recognize when you cross it, you can’t make it a target, you can’t strategize on how to get there, and most of the moments where you actually live up to it will be completely ignored and uncelebrated.

In order to actually live our values – yeah, because look, it’s the celebrations in our lives that drive us forward, that give us momentum. Setting goals is planning celebrations. When we don’t identify what our values actually are, we deny ourselves the opportunity to celebrate the moments when we are the person that we want to be. Some days, that’s the only thing that we get to celebrate. Some days the world blows up in our face.

That’s why I think it’s really important that what guides your behavior every day is a commitment to making sure that you can give yourself evidence at the end of the day that if you claim to be someone of integrity, honesty, empowerment, in my case, growth, courage, empowerment, at the end of the day you have to be able to give a specific example of when you were that.

Because when I ask you, “Okay, you’re someone of integrity. Give me three examples of integrity this week.” “Well, hold on. It depends on how you define it.” “No, it depends on how you define it.” But ultimately if you can only give me two or three examples of you living your values in a given week, then leadership isn’t a practice, it’s a hobby.

Really what I want to talk to people about is moving leadership from a hobby to a practice because I have six questions that drive my behavior every single day. With a laptop and a phone I can answer those six questions tied to my values in less time than it takes me to empty my email inbox. But for most of my life I prioritized emptying my email inbox ahead of being the man I want to be every day.

What I found is that most people, even very successful people, that is what they’re doing with their lives. They’re sticking what they have to do every day ahead of who they want to be. The two don’t have to be separate, but you can make sure that you’re being the person you want to be as you finish the things that you have to do every day.

Because when you don’t, eventually you don’t get to answer the question why do I matter because you don’t have any evidence. And if you do, but if you don’t give yourself evidence, that impacts how you feel about yourself and how you treat others.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I dig it. I think it’s so true. I remember one of my happiest thoughts – I think Einstein has a happiest thought – but I recall I was right in front of my childhood home. I was 18 years old, going to graduate high school pretty soon. I was just sort of chilling in my car, a 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity.

I was licking some ice cream and just thinking, “Why do I feel so amazing right now?” Then I was like, “And why at other times do I feel really just yucky even though the circumstances around me are somewhat similar in terms of family and friends and school and whatever.”

Then I sort of came up with the same kind of conclusion, kind of like, “Oh, your baseline level of satisfaction with life and yourself is determined by the extent to which you are living in accordance with your values.” I thought I was really a brilliant guy for figuring that out, but then I realized that no, that’s very well kind of established in sort of the human condition and philosophers throughout the millennium.

But it was cool to arrive at and say, “No, yes, this is true. I buy it and I can kind of see how in the last few weeks I’d been on sort of a hot streak. Hey, how about I do that more deliberately rather than just get lucky.”

I’m right with you. It is powerful and well worth prioritizing. I like how you’ve put it there in terms of getting systematic about making it a practice and say, “Well, did I do that this – today and this week?” I want to kind of rewind a little bit to the starting line in terms of what is the step-by-step process by which you reflect upon your experiences and come out with your true values on the other side?

Drew Dudley
Well, I think it’s one of those questions I gave an example of a little bit earlier, a little earlier. One of those questions that people learn something when you ask them, for me, it’s the edge of the bed advice. The edge of the bed advice happened on that train trip. It came out of when I started speaking to people after that young girl, her name was Alison, sort of made me realize that I wasn’t living the life I wanted.

The edge of the bed advice says this – I started to ask people on the train. I learned a lot.

If it was the last night your son or daughter was living in your house and you’re walking by their room, and they call you in and you sit on the edge of the bed and they say, “Mom, dad, what do I need to know? What do I need to know to be happy and healthy and successful in this world? What insights have most contributed to your happiness? Give me 30 of them. Bring them back tomorrow when you wake up.”

See, because what happens is if you ask people for one piece of advice, they think it has to be some sort of Dalai Lama-esque, Confucius says, massive insight. You give people 30 and they actually start to realize, “Man, I know a lot and I never thought about that phrase, the things that have most contributed to my happiness.”

What it does is you start to reflect as you go through these 30, “What do I know to be true about,” fill in that blank. What do I know to be true about love? What do I know to be true about business? What do I know to be true about happiness/sadness/friendship?

When you think about that, ‘what do I know to be true,’ and you start to write down these 30 pieces of edge of the bed advice, what they do is they emerge from your wisdom.

Now your wisdom comes from experience. Wisdom – you can’t just sit and come up with wisdom. You earn wisdom through what you do, what you’re successful at, what you fail at, what makes you happy/sad, other people happy and sad.

As you write down these 30 pieces of advice, what you’re ultimately doing is reflecting on what you have done and writing down what you learned from it, which means those 30 pieces of advice are born from your lived experience, not from some idealized version of what you think sounds good about your life. This is actually what you did.

Now, the next step, I actually can’t give away, not because I want people to run out and buy the book, because if you know what the next step is, it influences how you create the list, if that makes some sense. Because you need to do step one first in order to – and not know what the next step is because otherwise it starts to – you don’t get an honest assessment of what your values are.

The reason I say it is that you need to surface your values is what my work has taught me. You can’t just ask someone. You actually have to put them through a reflective process on their experiences that help them surface it.

I don’t want that to be a cop out. It’s one of the challenges of trying to give practical advice through podcasts or on the radio is that you can’t actually surface your values if you know step two when you do step one. But that’s where you start.

Honestly, my friends, if you’re listening, just do that assignment. Do it for yourself. Sit down over the next two weeks and think that question, ‘what do I know to be true about.’ If you have kids, give it to them.

If you are a manager, get the people in your office to do it. Bring them in or take them and then put together a list of your favorites, take the names off of them, hand it out anonymously because what you’re doing is you’re saying to people “This is the brilliance of the people who surround you,” because if you come up with 30, there will be at least 3 on your list that you are proud of, that you say, “Man, I want to Tweet that because that’s really smart.”

Do that assignment. That starts to get you thinking about what has made you happiest, what has made you wisest. You can start to pull from there. But in terms of actually identifying the values, it’s step two. But that’s where you start. Your values come from what you’ve done, not from what you say.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s intriguing. Wheels are spinning. I guess turning has a more positive connotation, so they’re turning as opposed to spinning.

But that’s – so you say, ‘What do I know to be true about,” and so you had a few things there in terms of love, happiness, so is it just kind of any big piece of life, like money, business, fitness, relationships, friendship. Is it kind of like how you think about how you fill in the blank there is just sort of the big buckets of stuff?

Drew Dudley
Yeah, really it comes down to the idea that some people get stuck. They’re like, “I don’t even know where to begin,” so you can sit back and just reflect on your wisdom. Some people can come up with 30 like that.

What I discovered however, is that people really sometimes need a little bit of “Okay, well, where do I start?” Ultimately that really helps is you sort of write down a list of things that are obviously a challenge that someone’s going to face: love, family, friendship, work. What do I know to be true about failure or stress or fear? Ultimately that little phrase, that can really get you thinking about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Neither borrower nor a lender be.

Drew Dudley
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just thinking about all of the – that whole speech. Is it Polonius and Laertes? He really goes on. But I guess that’s helpful for those Shakespearean folk. Well, cool. That’s awesome. Drew-

Drew Dudley
You know what’s funny my friend?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear it.

Drew Dudley
You mention that, one of my – because I put together my list there. One of them is number – what was it? Number 14, I would have told my kids there are more Rosaline’s out there than Juliet’s.

There are more people – there are more things that you think you desperately want and you can’t live without them and then all of the sudden, you realize that you didn’t really want them, that there was something else out there for you. That’s something wise to keep in mind when you lose something you thought you really wanted is that that was probably a Rosaline, not a Juliet.

The next piece of advice is that both Romeo and Juliet end up dead at the end of that story. Love does not conquer all, but love has an incredible winning percentage. Love is LeBron James and you should adjust your expectations accordingly.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fun. Drew tell me, lots of good stuff here, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Drew Dudley
Mostly folks, if we can start to recognize that we get educated out of leadership by using these big giants as our examples, for those of you out there who are parents, you can start to shift this. We can start to widen the definition of leadership.

Most of the leadership on the planet is coming from people who don’t see themselves as leaders because we were taught to think of leaders as these giants. That divided or that put a wedge between our identity and what leadership actually was.

When you start to talk about leaders to your kids, to your coworkers, let’s start to realize that all of our biggest leadership heroes should be people that you know personally because you get to see how they make decisions every single day.

When we look at famous people, when we look at the RFKs and the Martin Luther King’s, I’m not trying to diminish that. What I am saying, however, is that we only see the outcomes of their decisions, we don’t see how they made them. Most of the leadership heroes you know should be people that you’ve seen how they make decisions.

I do not argue that everyone should be a CEO or everyone has the capacity to be a senior manager, but there is a form of leadership to which we all can and should aspire. We’re ignoring people who consistently behave in ways that make their lives and the lives of people around them better.

If we can recognize these moments of compassion and generosity and kindness and we recognize them as leadership, what we’re doing is we’re doing a better job recognizing the leadership that’s being ignored. Leadership recognized is leadership created.

That’s one thing that I want to say is that we’re teaching kids to not see themselves as leaders because they’re not yet in charge. I think we can start to change that if we start to give different examples of what leaders actually are.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that a lot. There’s one more thing I’ve got to get before we hear your favorite things that is you talk about those moments of kindness or compassion and whatnot and how often following your values sucks in terms of – it’s unpleasant or uncomfortable in terms of the consequences.

Do you have any pro tips for when you’re in the thick of it and either you just don’t feel like it or it’s like, “Oh, this is going to hurt,” any pro tips for following through and being consistent with those values when you sure don’t want to?

Drew Dudley
One, imagine yourself explaining the decision to a group of people you respect five years from now. Imagine that every single decision you make in your life, five years from that day you have to stand up and in front of a group of people that you love and respect, you have to explain the decision that you made.

That – when you do that a lot of the noise surrounding our decision falls away. When you don’t know what to do, what would the person I want to be do, and then do that.

Second, you’ve got to practice. You have to practice. Yeah, that’s part of what the book is about is how do you create this habit of making decisions based on your values. That’s really, really important is that you have to do it regularly because what it does is it makes you so aware of the fact that you are capable of handling the consequences.

So much of how you handle those extra tough days are determined by the behaviors that you engage in on the days that aren’t tough. We need to prove to ourselves that we have courage and resilience. I can make tough decisions not because I am a better person than other people, but because I made it a habit to make decisions consistent with my values, which meant a lot of times bad crap happened.

But what you become aware of is that you can make it through bad crap. Only when you become confident in your ability to do that are you more willing to take those chances.

Your brain’s job is to keep you from harm. When you can prove to your brain that you can get over those consequences, it will be more likely to say, “Okay, then let’s do it.” But if you don’t practice and if you don’t get used to it, then you’re always going to shy away from the consequences because you haven’t yet proven to yourself that you can handle them.

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

Drew Dudley
I shouldn’t tell so many stories, I know. Here’s a quick one from the book though about the word favorite.

Two World War II veterans told me you should never use the word favorite, best or greatest because it diminishes everything else in your life that isn’t the best. They said draw what they call the great line and all you ask yourself, it’s not where does that rank in terms of all the things in my life, best meal, favorite quote, greatest sunset, just say to yourself, that’s above the great line.

Because there’s an unlimited amount of things that can go above the great line. There is only one greatest. He said to me “Drew, greatest is the enemy of great because when we focus on the greatest, we diminish all the great.”

I will probably give you more than one answer for these favorites. I’ll try to limit it to two. When it comes to my favorite – you asked for quote, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

Drew Dudley
Two. The last thing my girlfriend ever wrote to me was “I want to build a better life for myself and a better self for my life.” She passed away just a couple of days later. That – it’s so odd when the greatest summation of what you try to teach in the world is summarized by somebody else. “I want to build a better life for myself and a better self for my life.”

The other one is one that she and I shared. I actually have – well, I actually have hers tattooed on my arm and I have this one tattooed on my leg. It’s from Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Drew Dudley
That’s going to be Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner work in the book The Leadership Challenge, specifically around personal value clarity because what they found was – they identified five exemplary practices of leaders. I highly recommend the book. But what they really showed is that individuals who are clear on their personal values have higher levels of commitment, pride, and happiness at work.

That’s much more co-related than clarity on organizational values. If you want to be happy at work, proud of the job that you do and a better overall work experience, get personal value clarity in. The book The Leadership Challenge talks about how those things are linked.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. While we’re at it, how about a favorite book?

Drew Dudley
Oh gosh, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Also Silos, Politics and Turf Wars. Good to Great is the best business book of all time.

Hey, there’s one I’ll recommend to everybody, which is Why We Sleep: The Power of Sleep and Dreams. You will get eight hours of sleep a night when you read that book. The number one resource that will make us better that we’re ignoring is sleep. We all know it, but when you read this book, you realize you’re not going to deny it anymore. It’s scary for individuals who get four hours of sleep a night.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, when I tell people “Oh what do you do?” “I have a company called How to Be Awesome at Your Job and a podcast.” “Oh yeah, so what’s your top tip?” “It’s like well, it’s hard to condense over 300 interviews into a top tip for you, but since you’ve asked, it’s sleep.” Yeah, I’m right with you there. How about a favorite tool?

Drew Dudley
Tool? What do you mean by tool?

Pete Mockaitis
Like you’re a tool Drew.

Drew Dudley
Well that’s got to be like – I love a hammer, a good quality hammer. Actually those little multi-tools or did you mean favorite tool to use for success in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, something that helps you be awesome at your job.

Drew Dudley
Exercise. The endorphins – your body is the greatest tool. I used to be 300 pounds. I lost 100 pounds. I had a good job and liked what I did before that, but I am 1,000 times better when I realize that the greatest tool you were ever given is your body.

Look, do not hate your body, but do not lie to yourself when it’s unhealthy. I lied to myself for a lot of years that my body was unhealthy. The greatest tool that I have is my body. It’s one that we all have. Exercise is a profoundly good tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Drew Dudley
Two things. When you don’t know what to do in a situation, ask yourself what would the person I want to be do and do that.

Three words—these saved my career—elevate don’t escalate. When you’re getting trolled, when you get an email that pisses you off, three words, elevate don’t escalate. Leaders elevate situations. They never escalate them. Elevate means trying to succeed and escalate means trying to win.

Those three words over and over again, elevate don’t escalate, elevate don’t escalate, I repeat them on a loop and it’s gotten me out of some trouble because we’re the only creatures on the planet with a gap between stimulus and response. Your career and your relationships and your life is in large part determined by how you use the gift of that gap.

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

Drew Dudley
DrewDudley.com. D-R-E-W-D-U-D-L-E-Y.com. You will notice that all of the words on that webpage have u’s in them though. Humor has a u ladies and gentleman. Come on, stop I don’t know why you Americans are so exclusionary sometimes. Embrace the u. Embrace the u.

Pete Mockaitis
Colour me embracing. I couldn’t resist.

Drew Dudley
That’s not really cool there, eh? Don’t be doing that.

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

Drew Dudley
I do, number one, by the end of today make sure you have an answer to this question. What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership? That question you answer for 30 days, you journal how you answer it. Your job’s going to get better. Your relationships will get better. Your career will get better and your life with get better. Leadership recognized is leadership created.

One of the best things we can do to make our lives better and our jobs better is to start to recognize all those moments of kindness and compassion, that person at the coffee shop who knows your name and smiles at you every day, the custodian at your workplace that keeps the place spotless every single night, the receptionist, who thinks she’s just a receptionist, all of those people make your life, your job, better.

Take a moment and recognize that as leadership because we continually do the things that make us feel good. When somebody tells you that when you do this it’s having an impact, you’re going to do it more often. Be the catalyst for making that happen. What have you done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Drew, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you all the best of luck with Day One Leadership and all you’re up to.

Drew Dudley
Oh, my friend, thank you so much. It’s been a blast.