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

954: Rewriting Your Source Code: How to Identify and Cure the 12 Patterns Holding You Back with Dr. Sam Rader

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Dr. Sam Rader discusses a fresh approach to identify and cure the unconscious patterns that keep us from living fully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The surprising origins of many work dysfunctions
  2. The 12 coping styles and their antidotes
  3. How to build your patience for annoying co-workers 

About Sam

Dr. Sam Rader is a former psychologist who took what she learned about childhood development, personality, and growth and turned it into a new quantum healing  modality called Source Code.

She is the author of SOURCE CODE, a forthcoming book about the 12 Coping Styles we adopt in childhood, which helped us then and hurt us now, and how we can heal. Dr. Sam believes that our early childhood experience writes a source code within us, which determines the rest of the way that our story unfolds. She helps people rewrite their code for a healthier, more beautiful life. 

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Sam Rader Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Dr. Sam, welcome.

Dr. Sam Rader

Hi, Pete. I’m so happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I’m happy to be here as well. Mawi sang your praises so strongly, I was like, “Well, I’ve got to hear what all this is about.” So, let’s jump right in and tell us, what is Source Code in your parlance and lingo?

Dr. Sam Rader

Sure. So, Source Code is a new technique and theory that I’ve developed over the last 13 years. I was a psychologist for 18 years, and during that time, I started seeing all these patterns in all of my clients across everyone, no matter their walk of life, where they’re from, who they are. They all seem to have the same 12 problems. And once I saw these patterns, I started working with those instead of any other old ways of diagnosing things. I just saw them as these patterns.

And over time, I found that the ways to heal them are quicker when we bypass the mind and just work with the patterns themselves as sort of symbolic energies, and I can speak more about that later. But as we’ve done this, I’ve developed this new way of healing. It’s an alternative to coaching and therapy, and I call it Source Code. And Source Code is based on the premise that in our first five years of life, our early experience writes a code deep within us. And that coding kind of becomes the algorithm that runs our matrix of reality for as long as we live.

So, we keep reliving the same patterns and problems that we had from our family system when we were little, keep attracting and reenacting it, and we’re not even aware of it. It’s kind of like living in an invisible prison. And what I do is I help people jailbreak. We kind of liberate ourselves from these life-long unconscious patterns so that we can finally feel truly free and feel more connected to our essence of love and joy and peace.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, boy, intriguing stuff. Okay. So, more love, joy, peace. Sounds great. I mean, I think we could all sign up for that, but I got to be true to the ethos of the show, “But, Sam, how’s that going to make me more awesome at my job?”

Dr. Sam Rader

I know, it’s so good. It’s such a good one. Well, so, Source Code is based on the premise that we live in a fractal universe, and let me explain what I mean by that. Fractals are, probably, your audience has seen 3D renderings of them online. They look kind of trippy and psychedelic and beautiful, but it’s really a mathematical equation representing how there’s a pattern that repeats at scale.

So, when you look at a fractal image, it’s got a certain amount of squigglies and doodly dots, and if you were to zoom all the way in microscopically, it’s that same exact pattern. Zoom all the way out, same pattern, all the way to the left, all the way to the right. It’s the same exact pattern that keeps repeating. So, when we’re encoded in our first five years of life with these patterns, these what I call our coping styles or the glitches in our matrix, they keep repeating at scale in every area of our lives, including our work life.

So, if we’re always a pushover because we had a parent that was highly dominating, we are going to attract best friends who dominate us. We’re going to attract lovers who dominate us. We’re also going to attract bosses at work who dominate us, and we’re going to keep doing that pushover people-pleaser thing and feel like we can never say no and never hold a boundary. This is just one of the 12 potential glitches that I’m outlining now, and it deeply affects our work life. It deeply affects our finances, how we show up at work, the circumstances we attract at work, what we’re capable of, and the money we’re able to make is all determined by our coping styles.

Pete Mockaitis

Intriguing. So, that, in essence, it sounds like I could have one or maybe multiple. Or, what’s your take?

Dr. Sam Rader

We all have several of the coping styles because none of our parents were able to get it right so many times because they were working with their own coping styles. So, I personally had all 12, which is what allowed me to be the conduit for the work. Most people have like a dominant, maybe five or eight of them. But, yeah, we all have a combination of them.

And another cool thing about the fractal is like that whole thing, “as within and so without,” that, let’s say, you’re a business owner. If you have a certain holding pattern in your energetic system that repeats in your life, your business is going to be an exact reflection of that same holding pattern inside of you. So, when I do coding work with CEOs and business leaders, when we code out all the glitches inside of them, lo and behold, all their clients start acting differently, their employees start acting differently, the money starts flowing, the whole organization feels completely different because the organization is just an extension of them.

So, whatever we’re embodying, whatever patterns we have, those patterns are going to show up exactly reflected in our work and in our businesses.

Pete Mockaitis

Could you give us a cool example of someone who identified one of these patterns, took some actions, and then saw some cool transformation unfold in their career life?

Dr. Sam Rader

Absolutely, yeah. I was recently working with this CEO and founder of a consumer product company, and what we discovered was that his core wound was what I call the “withstanding subtype of the frustrated coping style.” So, let me break that down for you.

When we’re little, around 10 months of age to 4 years old, we’re developing our will. We’re developing our sense of what we can and can’t control with our will. If we are overly frustrated, during that time and our will doesn’t get to matter, we won’t be heard, things are really hard around us, we become frustrated. We develop the frustrated coping style and it haunts us through life. But there’s four subtypes to frustrated, and the one this man was working with is called withstanding.

Withstanding is when we grew up in a family that was kind of extremely harsh, things were really hard. Maybe we were abused literally or emotionally. It was like high neglect or high abuse, just like really painful stuff, right? And so what we do on the inside to cope with that is that we become withstanding, resilient, durable, unbreakable, unbeatable, “I’m going to be so firm that none of that pummeling from the outside is going to break me or destroy me,” right?

And so, for this client, as we started processing it for him, he said he identified with the Man of Steel, like Superman, right, who can withstand anything. But the thing is, when you’re in the Man of Steel embodiment, because you’ve had to withstand so much abuse from the outside, that Man of Steel embodiment is paired together with a villain on the outside. There’s no superhero without a villain. He’d just be Clark Kent, otherwise, right?

So, what would happen in this man’s business is he’d be going along, thinking he was doing the right thing, and then, all of a sudden, the other businesses he was doing deals with, they would do these sinister, villainous, damaging things to him, and he would have to be that resilient, durable, withstanding Man of Steel because that’s the fractal pattern he was living inside of. So, he kept attracting and reenacting these circumstances where he’d be beat down, and disappointed, and the rug pulled out, and pummeled, and he’d have to just keep withstanding it.

So, once we were able to do the work and soften all that need to withstand, and realize that there can be an entirely new reality beyond the harsh, beyond the hard, where things actually get to be easy, which is the antidote to withstanding. Each coping style has a corresponding antidote. When things get to be easy, all of a sudden, the business starts taking off in a more effortless way and business partners and associates are coming in with kindness, fairness, gentleness, collaboration, playfulness, warmth, instead of that pummeling from the outside that was so familiar.

So, we were able to switch the story he was living in, and recode his matrix so that now he’s living in a world that’s easy and in flow instead of hard and challenging and “Aargh!”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. Thank you. I dig that story. And it was funny, as you were talking, I was thinking a little bit about David Goggins’ book, Can’t Hurt Me, in terms of that’s very much the story. We had some abuse and then he became the hardest mother-fer alive, is kind of his tagline, and I don’t know the particulars as to his business partners or what has gone down there. But, yeah, I can sort of see how, indeed, certain experiences could form us to cope, have a coping style in a certain way.

I guess what I’m wrestling with a little bit is, talk to me about this word “attracting” in terms of what is the pathway or mechanism by which that unfolds in reality?

Dr. Sam Rader

Yeah, so if someone is showing up in meetings and in life as the Man of Steel, or whatever that guy’s book was, “I’m a badass mother-fer,” right? If you’re showing up into meetings and in that embodiment, “Come on, bring it on,” what is that going to elicit from the outside? A fight. A struggle. It’s just natural. It’s just instinct. You’re showing up ready for a fight, “Come on, try to break me,” and then that’ll happen.

And if you show up soft and present, and in a different kind of power, a power that’s not like, “Try me!” but a power that’s like, “Let’s try this. Let’s work together. This is my power.” It’s an invitation for the other to be collaborative, to be gentle, to be harmonious and synergistic in how our powers can work together. So, you can just think about, “Man, how I show up in my body and my energy really does impact what happens next in my story.”

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely. So, let’s hear the rundown, perhaps, just the couple-minute version of what are the 12 coping styles, just like the listing, and then the alternative, just so we could hear the definition and perhaps see ourselves, or start to a little bit, like, “Oh yeah, that does feel kind of familiar to my experience”?

Dr. Sam Rader

The first coping style I call “disconnected,” and the disconnected coping style is when we essentially learned that we wouldn’t be understood by our caregivers, and so we figured that maybe we don’t belong in this world. So, we feel separate in some indefinable way than the rest of society. We feel like an outcast, we feel like an alien or a weirdo, we feel like we don’t belong in this time and space and place and planet.

And so, we found ways to disconnect, and we really struggle with feeling misunderstood a lot, feeling like an outsider, feeling like there’s no point in even trying to explain ourselves because no one could fully understand. And that causes a lot of ruptures, and it’s really not easy to maintain connection because connection feels really confusing and bad, and disconnecting is the only thing that feels safe.

So, if we’re disconnected the antidote is to become connected. And to do that we learn how to feel our feelings, share our feelings, repair the ruptures, take the risk to let people know what’s going on for us, let them know what we need so that we can actually get in that loop of connection and communication where things get to be a fit.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Dr. Sam Rader

The next coping style I call frictive and it’s when there’s a lot of intensity and energy in the body. We feel like we can never stop going, and moving, and doing, and thinking, and it’s because, subconsciously, we’re quite afraid of disappearing. This comes from not having enough physical containment as a little one. And so, the physical containment being squeezed and held from all sides, especially as newborns, is what allows us to feel like we have a body and have a self and we’re not disappearing.

And so, without that kind of physical containment, we feel like we’re always at risk of coming apart and fragmenting, and so we have to create a friction that keeps us tethered to this world so that we don’t essentially fall off the edge of the earth and die. So, that friction means we never get to rest or pause because, in the silence and stillness, it feels like there’s a void that could swallow us up. It’s a very existential wound.

So, what it looks like as adults is you’re just kind of anxious, and manic, and talking fast, and doing a lot, and really can’t slow the self down and rest. And if you’re frictive, you think about at work, you know, it’s like work always has to be some drama. There’s always a rush. There’s always a drama. There’s always a challenge and the friction and this, because it’s the friction that makes us feel alive and feel connected to something. So, the antidote to frictive is to be spacious where things can be really easy and gentle and quiet and kind of effortless and things don’t have to be so high drama anymore.

The third coping style I call omnipotent. And this is when, well, the word, let’s break down the word. Omni, all; potent, powerful. So, when we’re omnipotent, we actually feel so out of control because everything affects us so deeply, we’re hypersensitive, everything in our environment impacts us so deeply, we need everything just so, or else we feel very, very reactive and very frightened and get very angry very fast. And so, we feel we need to try to have complete control over everything and everyone around us. That’s omnipotent, all-powerful.

And that’s actually secretly because we don’t know how to self-soothe. We don’t know that, instead of controlling everything out there, we could actually just take care of ourselves in here and start to feel safe. So, instead we become very bossy and demanding. And at work, we might find that our employees are scared of us, they perceive us as bullies or dominating, and, really, we’re just trying to prevent the chaos. Like, as omnipotence, it feels like, “If I don’t have everything just so, it will devolve into total chaos.”

And so, the antidote to omnipotence is to feel safe. And we do this by kind of creating a psychic skin that we didn’t get to develop as little ones, where we know that something outside isn’t actually us. We don’t have to control it and we don’t have to change it. We can actually just relax and calm ourselves down inside, and know that that thing out there that’s out of place isn’t going to kill us and isn’t us, and that we’re okay even when it doesn’t feel okay.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Dr. Sam Rader

The next coping style I call deprived. This is a big one for people in their careers, but deprived is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when we don’t feel connected to the good stuff. So, it really feels like, “Other people can get the good stuff, but not me. I’m the unlucky one. I’m the one that experiences a lot of limits and lack, and I don’t ever get to be fully resourced. I’m always grabbing and grasping and wanting and longing for the good stuff, but it always stays just out of reach.”

And the antidote to deprived is to become resourced. So, when we’re deprived, it’s often really hard to get ahead financially, because no matter how much money we get, it doesn’t seem to stick around. For some weird reason, we always hover around that zero balance because we’re so used to feeling empty inside. But when we come out of deprived, and we become resourced, we learn how to drink in the infinite well of goodness that’s inside and outside because this universe is so abundant and benevolent.

And when we start to experience ourselves as living in that buoyant state of fulfillment from all that resource that we’re resourcing on, lo and behold, the world starts to reflect that by giving us more income, when we feel more valuable and good inside instead of feeling broken, bad, or empty inside. When we feel good inside and feel full inside, the outside starts to reflect that by us making a lot more money, having a lot more opportunities, and being fulfilled in life.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

So, the next coping style I call symbiotic, and this was the one I was kind of bringing up at the top of the hour where we become pushovers and people-pleasers. We’re really afraid of conflict. We’re afraid of ever saying no, firming up, taking shape, disagreeing, having our own point of view, being separate.

So, we tend to attract a lot of people who are dominating and we become kind of their sidekick, and their yes-person, and we kind of give up ourselves to have them, and we pretend like we have all the same preferences but actually we’re betraying ourselves to do that and to be in that twinship with them. And then after a time, it gets really annoying, and so we bail, and we cut and run, and we’re like, “I got to get rid of you to have me.”

And then the pattern just continues because we find the next dominating person, and we do the same exact thing over and over and over. It’s absolutely exhausting, and you can imagine what happens at work. It’s just, we get totally emptied out, totally used feeling, and then we have to quit and leave and go to the next place and do it all over again.

And we often don’t feel totally respected because we don’t respect ourselves. We often don’t find a lot of value monetarily because we always are in that kind of assistant mentality and embodiment where we can’t really get ahead because we don’t know how to firm up and take aim and be kind of potent because we just have to stay limp and malleable in order to stay in those fused connections with people.

So, the antidote to coming out of symbiotic is to become truly solid. And when we’re solid, we know that we have all the resources and all the capability inside to be able to feed ourselves, and trust ourselves, and have our own compass, and have our own agency. And when we can do that, then we can be more honest with people. We can say no, we can set boundaries, we can become in healthy relationships that are a two-way street, where there’s room for two people negotiating and collaborating rather than losing ourselves in the connection with others.

The next coping style I call premature, and this is when we had to sort of grow up too fast as little ones and take care of other people in the families when we were still kind of babies on our own, kind of toddler times. And so, what we do when we’re premature is we’re over-givers, we’re overachievers, over-doers. So, we’re the ones always planning, contributing, giving, volunteering, nurturing, cooking, caring.

We’re the ones always providing, and so all of our energy goes out to feeding others, and we go hungry. Our needs are always last on the list, and eventually it leads to a lot of burn out, so we can feel very, very drained. Even though it feels really good giving to others, because it generally does feel good giving, if we just keep depleting ourselves and we never nourish ourselves, we never take in any of the goodness that we’re giving to others, it’s an equation that doesn’t really work and it leads to burnout.

So, the antidote to coming out of premature is to become nourished, where we learn that it’s actually okay for us to need and feed. When we’re premature, we worry that our needs are too much and they make us needy, and so we wouldn’t want to ask anyone for help or be a burden. But when we come out of premature, we know that it feels just as good to other people to feed us as it does for us to feed them, and then it becomes a loop of nourishment, and it’s sustainable and very fulfilling.

And this definitely plays out at work if you’re the one picking up the slack for everybody, staying overtime, doing everything for everybody, and you’re starting to feel really drained and depleted, you may have the premature coping style, and it’s time for you to be nourished.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

Okay, the next coping style I call idealizing. And this is a wound about identity, really. But it’s when we’re really hyper-focused on our outsides, meaning anything we could measure or write down on a paper about ourselves, like our looks, our achievements, our status, our level of intelligence, our level of success, and we are constantly caught up in this rat race of comparing ourselves to people who are above us or people who are below us.

And what we never get to do is just stand eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart with people and get to be human, which is the antidote to idealizing. So, when we’re human, we’re more in touch with our sentience, the fact that we’re living beings with thoughts and needs and feelings and values and our essence energy inside of us, which is so much more who we really are than any of those outside things you could measure, which always do, by the way, go up and down, “Maybe today I got the best score on the quiz, and maybe tomorrow I don’t.”

And that ping-ponging up and down between “I’m the best, I’m the worst, I’m the best, I’m the worst” is so painful. When you’re more connected to your humanity and your insides, there’s no ping-ponging because you can’t compare essences. And there could be a lot of freedom in that in the workplace if you’re no longer the one always trying to beat everybody, beat your opponents, get the gold star, be the best, and it really starts to become about your own humanity and your needs, it could really change the game for how work starts to work for you.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Dr. Sam Rader

All right. The next coping style I call frustrated. And I started to speak to this a little bit when I was giving the story of the CEO who had the withstanding subtype of frustrated. But frustrated is a will injury, where, as we’re developing our sense of will, of what we can and can’t control as little ones, we need to feel that we can control some things, that we’re not always crushed and thwarted and blocked by our parents, but we’re allowed to have a say, we’re allowed to make choices, we’re allowed to have a will.

And if for whatever reason our will is blocked, we become frustrated, and there’s nowhere for our power or our anger to go, and so it gets turned inwards, and it actually turns into self-sabotage. This is major for the workplace. If we’re always feeling like “Life is hard, I’m stuck, I can’t,” can’t is such a key word for frustrated, “Things are hard,” “I can’t,” all of that, that is a frustrated experience. And the truth is, that’s how it was when we were little, we couldn’t. Like, the thing outside, the parents were so much bigger than us. Of course, we couldn’t, right?

But we’ve been carrying that baggage with us and calling it true now as adults, which is what was happening with this man who felt he had to be the Man of Steel, and life is hard, and all these challenges. And it’s like once we melted that and we brought him into a state of ease, he was able to get in flow, which is the antidote to frustrated. Coming out of frustrated means owning our no and saying no to things we don’t want to do, and saying yes to things we do want to do.

And so, I say, we’ve got to say no to get in flow. So, if you find yourself at work feeling frustrated, like things are not going the way you want them to go, things aren’t fair, things are unjust, things are such a struggle, think of the places that you haven’t yet said, “You know what? No, I have a boundary here and I don’t want to do X, Y, and Z.” Once you hold that no with your universe, boom, things get in flow and you start to get what you do want, instead of always getting what you don’t want, which is the frustrated coping style.

Pete Mockaitis

Alrighty.

Dr. Sam Rader

And the next coping style is kind of a pair to frustrated. It’s another will injury, but it’s the opposite, which is when our will is actually overindulged. Instead of overly frustrated, it can also be overly indulged. I call this the indulged coping style. This happens when we’re either neglected so no one’s there to block our will, or we’re overindulged by our parents, but basically, whatever we want, we get. And these are kids who kind of would fail the Stanford marshmallow experiment of the “If you don’t eat one now, you can have two later,” right?

We never developed that capacity in our frontal lobes to have any self-restraint. We just want what we want when we want it, and we want to get it, and we want to get it now, and we want to get it at any cost, and we’re not aware at all of how we impact others. And so, that entitlement, that indulgence, that impatience, that “Me, me, me,” it’s really, really rough. And if you find yourself at work, feeling like other people don’t trust you, or they’re kind of shunning you, or they’re kind of like, “This one’s not a team player,” you might be struggling with the indulged coping style. In some ways, it’s one of the most shameful coping styles to have. I had it.

This is how I’ve discovered all 12 is because I have found them in myself. It’s a hard one to reckon with, but if we find the courage to reckon with it, it is a revelation because, really, when we’re indulged, we were just lacking a village. We were lacking a sense of belonging because when you know you belong to a tribe, then you know how you impact others, because you all impact one another. And so, we’ve been living in solitary confinement as empty, lonely consumers, so, of course, we just want to fill that hole. It makes so much sense.

But coming out of indulged is to enter the antidote of interbeing. Interbeing is a term coined by the late Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and it means that within every being is every other being that, in this computer that we’re talking through, the silicon parts were mined by miners, and it was part of the dirt and the earth where trees were growing, and all of those things are inside of this computer that we’re looking at each other through. Like, everything that is, is interwoven, inextricably interwoven with everything else. We’re all interconnected.

And so, coming out of indulged is realizing, “Hey, it’s not just me here. I’m part of a larger whole.” And when we do that, we work so much better with our teams, and we actually end up getting what we want, truly want, in a more holistic way than when we’re just grabbing in the moment in that impulsive, entitled way.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And number 10.

Dr. Sam Rader

So, the next one I call the squashed coping style. This one could really be at work, too. So, this is one, as we were developing our sense of power and beauty and magnetism as little ones, somebody was jealous, and so they actually squashed us. They didn’t want us to have that beauty and that power and that shine, and so we now inadvertently squash ourselves.

We keep ourselves small. We dim our light. We hide our shine. We play small. We’re always being the nice one or the invisible one or the one who doesn’t want to step on toes or threaten anyone. And it’s kind of like the archetypes of Cinderella or Harry Potter, and when we’re squashed, we’re usually not aware at all that we have this special sauce, that we’re a Cinderella or a Harry Potter. We don’t realize that we’re actually so beautiful and so powerful and so radiant and so potent that it makes other people envious. We’re not aware of that, but we do keep ourselves small unconsciously.

And so, coming out of squashed is to finally be erect, is to stand up into our full height, and be as radiant and potent and beautiful and powerful as we really are so that we start to become a true leader and an inspiration rather than this fear that we’d be a threat.

So, when we own that we are the radiant, beautiful bell of the ball, things really start to work for us in a new way and other people start to respond to us in a new way, and we’re no longer bullied and we’re no longer shunned, and we actually become a real leader and inspiration. So, this could be huge for people at work. If you’re like, “Why does everyone else seem to get ahead and I always have to play the nice guy?” you may be squashed and your story is not over. You can play in the big leagues. You can go to the ball. It’s time to go to the ball.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

The next coping style I call provocative. If we’re provocative, unfortunately, our parents play out a love triangle with us, where one of them was our object of desire and they kind of overindulged that and played into that with us of like, “Yes, you are my special one and I wish mommy would go away,” or whatever the vibe is, and then the other parent was jealous.

And there is a way to come out of provocative and become clear. That’s the antidote to provocative. So, when we are clear, we understand where the boundaries are “Okay, this person’s my business associate, this person is my secretary, and this person is my lover, and those things are very different, and I’m going to act very differently with those different people because I’m clear.”

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

And the final one I call constricted. So, this is when during that time of proto-puberty when we’ve got all this exciting mojo coming through our little bodies, and we are no longer these chubby toddlers, but we want to run and jump and play and, “Tag, you’re it” and “Come, chase me” and be competitive and excitable during this time, how our parents respond to this animal-alive part of us determines how we feel about this part of us.

Whether our parents are overly controlling of that, they say, “Don’t do that. Put your head down. We don’t do this. This is bad. Aggression is bad,” whatever that is, or, if we had parents who were overly amorous, and we saw that that animal part of them got them in trouble in either case, if they were overly controlling, us or if they were out of control, in either case we learned that the animal instinctive wild part of ourselves is bad, and that controlling that part of ourselves is good, and now we’re constricted and we’ve got to hold everything in.

We can’t spill out. We can’t make a mess. We can’t be too wild. We can’t be aggressive. We can’t be expressive. We can’t be tender. We’ve got to keep it all held in, because if we don’t keep it all held in, maybe someone would judge us as weird, or bad, or wrong. And in all of those cases, we would feel humiliated, possibly shunned, and none of that feels okay to us. So, we’ve got a tight lid on ourselves. We have to be hyper-controlled. So, in the same way, an omnipotent person tries to control everything and everyone outside, a constricted person tries to control everything inside, like, “I should never fart,” “I should never scream,” “I should never do anything weird. It’s all got to be held in.”

And the antidote to constricted is to become free. And when we’re free, we get to trust our animal nature, and trust that everything we do and everything that we are is innocent, and that no judge out there has the right to decide what’s innocent or guilty, that we can have an inner authority, and we know that we’re innocent, and we know that our instincts are actually holy and beautiful, and will lead us exactly where we want to go. We don’t have to control them.

It’s actually the repression of them that causes them to act out. But when we know that all these animal parts of us are so good, there’s nothing to restrict or constrict around, then they only do good.

So, when we’re coming out of constricted, we become free. We’re able to express and desire and follow our instincts, and be more animal and alive and vibrant. And when we would stop resisting the flow of life, we can finally feel all the pleasures of being alive. And how this shows up in work is that things start to be a lot more creative, and flowy, and less literally constricted. Like, all the ways that it was like, “Uh-oh, we can’t do this, and we can’t do that, and we can’t do this.” It’s like, “Wait, the sky is the limit. The world is our oyster. Let’s do anything that we feel like doing. I’m free.” And it’s like, “Oh, my God, the workplace becomes so different and the results become so different at work once we’re free.”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, beautiful. Well, I really appreciate you going into the full rundown of the dozen here. And what I like about this lineup is these are patterns I think that we can recognize, like in ourselves or others, like, “Oh, yeah, I know someone who’s kind of like that. I know someone who’s kind of like that,” and it’s sort of handy to have some language and some categories to operate with.

I’m curious, beyond just sort of listening and reflecting, how do we know which ones are active in us? And then what do we do once we know that?

Dr. Sam Rader

Yeah. So, you can go to my website, DrSamRader.com, and take the free quiz, it takes like two minutes, and that’ll give you your “top coping style,” your most prevalent one. And once you do that, there’s like a really sweet little $11 mini course you can take to start unraveling and dissolving and resolving it. And then you can also take, once you get inside that mini course, you can take a full-length test. They can give you all of your coping styles and to what degree you have them, and you can start working on all of those as well.

But it’s funny, you also mentioned the thing about people at work, because once you start to understand the coping styles – and, by the way there’s also a free pocket guide on my website that describes all of them so you can kind of have that handy – you start feeling less annoyed with other people when you understand that it’s just a coping style and where it comes from.

So, for example, if there’s someone at work who’s frictive, who’s always like, “Hey, hey, hey, can I have your attention? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and they’re really like needy and intense, and you’re like, “Oh, that person won’t leave me alone,” you can be like, “Oh, they’re frictive. They didn’t have enough physical containment as little ones. Maybe I can just give them a squeeze and a hug, and, wow, they’re much calmer now. Wow, they’re bugging me a lot less.”

So, once you start to understand the motivation of other people’s behavior, it also causes really great team building, you’re much easier to manage others, and be managed by others when you understand what makes them tick, and how you can support them in being a little less in their coping styles and a little more in the antidotes.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, now could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Dr. Sam Rader

One of my favorite studies was of a troop of orangutans in Africa, who, all the alpha males contracted a disease from eating from a garbage pile that was infected, and they all died. And so, traditionally, when new adolescent males join a troop, they’re sort of hazed by the alpha males and the females are not allowed to groom them. But once all the alpha males died out, when the new adolescents would come from other tribes, because that’s what happens to adolescents, leave their troop to go to a new troop so there’s no inbreeding, they would be welcomed by the new matriarchy who would groom them and touch them and welcome them. And they created a completely peaceful, egalitarian, anti-hierarchical troop that survived for nine generations forward that just had a completely different culture.

And why I love that study so much is that even though things can seem so effed up right now on the planet, all it takes is one shift in how we treat one another to create an entirely new culture here on Earth, and that’s my wish for humanity.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite book?

Dr. Sam Rader

I love the Hafiz, the Sufi poet, and this book translated by Daniel Ladinsky called The Gift. It’s Sufi poetry.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Dr. Sam Rader
“There are no bad people, only hurt people hurt people. And we all need more love, not less.”

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Sam Rader

Come to my website, www.DrSamRader.com, or you can follow me on Instagram @drsamrader. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to DM me. I’d love to chat about what you loved about this interview or not. Or, I’d love to just meet all of you.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Sam Rader

Yeah. See if you can spot any patterns, the things that are bugging you about your vocational life. See if you can spot a pattern in that that is familiar, that it’s not just now, it’s not just in this job, but it’s been haunting you and with you for as long as you can remember. And then see if you can trace that pattern back to actually your early experience as a little one, how that’s actually in a reenactment of a drama from home.

And when you do that, sometimes just that awareness and seeing that it is a pattern, it’s not just this one thing that’s happening today at work, but it’s actually the pattern, that once you recognize that pattern and just hold it for what it is, sometimes that alone can start to dissolve and resolve it on its own.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Lovely. Well, Sam, this has been fun. I wish you much luck in transformations with you and your clients.

Dr. Sam Rader

Thank you for tolerating my woo, and it’s been a pleasure.

949: How to End Miscommunications, Unclarity, and Endlessly Repeating the Same Conversation with Marsha Acker

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Marsha Acker reveals how to break free from the cycle of miscommunication and misunderstandings.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The root of misunderstandings and miscommunications
  2. The four actions of every conversation
  3. The more effective way to disagree with someone 

About Marsha

Marsha Acker, CPCC, PCC, CPF, is the host of the Defining Moments of Leadership podcast, the founder and CEO of TeamCatapult, and the author of two groundbreaking and thought-provoking books:  The Art and Science of Facilitation and Build Your Model for Leading Change (a workbook). Marsha has an international presence and reputation as a facilitator of meaningful conversations, a host of dialogue, and a passionate agilest. She coaches leadership teams to grow their collective leadership and to build the capability of achieving true, sustainable behavior change through dialogue.

Resources Mentioned

Marsha Acker Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Marsha, welcome.

Marsha Acker

Thanks, Pete. I’m happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m excited to talk to you, hear your wisdom. And first, I got to know, your pitch claimed you had the answer for “Why do organizations have the same conversations over and over again without getting anywhere, feeling frustrated?” So, I’m just going to put you on the spot right from the beginning. What’s up with that and what do we do about it?

Marsha Acker

Well, I think that so much of what we do every day is about having conversations with one another, and I think many of us would look at conversations and communication as not something that we need to go get any kind of development around it because we already do it. I mean, we do it all day every day, and I think many of us likely think we’re good at it.

But what, in the work that we do, I have found there’s a model that we use to help all of us look at the structure of conversations, and the structure can actually predict the outcome of the conversation. So, maybe a quick litmus test would be to think about “How often do you feel like you have the same conversation over and over again?”

Like, you had a conversation a couple weeks ago, and now you’re back in a conversation, and you’re starting to have that kind of Groundhog Day moment where you’re going, “Hey, wait a minute. I think we’ve been here before.” So, a lot of times I think many of us have those moments, but we don’t really know what to do about it. So, real quick, I think what we could do is, if you want to play with me for a moment, we could lay down a little bit of the theory, and I can tell you a story about how I apply it.

Pete Mockaitis

Yes. Well, I guess, first, I want to tee up the stakes here. Is it, in fact, possible to exit this? Because I think it was Dr. John Gottman who was talking about married couples, he’s like, “You’re going to be basically having the same couple arguments for decades until you die,” which, in a way, was heartbreaking. But in another way liberating, like, “Oh, okay. Well, then I guess we’ll need to figure out how to disagree in an effective, loving kind of a way.” But are you suggesting that, “No, we are not doomed to this fate”?

Marsha Acker

I think that if we notice that we keep coming back around to the same thing, the way I think about conversations is there’s likely something that, each one of us is thinking, but not really saying, or not saying it in a way that the other person can hear it.

And so, that leaves both of us, in some way, kind of leaving the conversation with a piece that we’re thinking but not saying. And I think that’s part of the work to do, is, “Can we be in the conversation and actually be authentic and be effective in how we’re communicating with one another?”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So, is it your premise that should we find a means of effectively articulating the unsaid, then we will escape the groundhog loop?

Marsha Acker

I think when we’re able to really fully name what’s happening for us, yes, because we can escape the groundhog loop because both of us are able to work with new information or new data that comes into the conversation. So, that’s partly what enables us to change the nature of the outcome.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. And so, you said then, in order to pull this off, you want to cover some conceptual territory?

Marsha Acker

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, go for it.

Marsha Acker

So, it’s work that comes from David Kantor in his theory of structural dynamics, theory of face-to-face communication. And, basically, what it says is that everything that we’re saying can be coded, and if we can code a conversation, that’s partly what will allow us to change the nature of it. So, there’s quite a bit of depth to it, but the very simplest way to start is in action. So, really, everything that we’re saying can be coded into one of only four actions, everything in conversation.

So, the four actions are, one is to set a move, which is to set direction in a conversation. So, move often points. You just made a move when you said, “Let’s hear what you have to say about the theory.” That would be a move. The second action is to follow. So, the follow gets behind or supports what’s happening in a conversation.

The third is to oppose. So, oppose offers correction. It says, “Hey, hold on. Stop. Wait a minute.” And then the fourth is a bystand. And a bystand offers a morally neutral comment about what’s happening in a conversation. So, to bystand, I might say, “I’m noticing I’m really engaged in a conversation right now.” It just puts some data into the conversation.

So, someone could make a move and say, “Let’s go get ice cream.” Someone could follow and say, “That sounds good to me.” Third person might say, “Nope, don’t like it, don’t want to go.” And a fourth person might say, “Well, I’m noticing we have two different ideas about what we’re going to do. What do we want to do next?” So, it’s sort of prompts for a new move.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m fixating on the, I think, did you say innocent? Or maybe I just added that myself, because innocent bystander tends to go together, like in comic books or something, “Innocent bystander.”

Marsha Acker

Yeah. No, just to bystand.

Pete Mockaitis

To bystand, you said that it’s just an observation. It doesn’t have judgment to it. But I got to know, in some ways, I don’t know, it almost feels like it can, like, “I’m noticing that your eyes are dimming and you are growling.” It’s sort of the implication is almost, like, “You’re behaving angrily and inappropriately in this context.” So, I don’t know, maybe I’m missing too much detail.

Marsha Acker

No, it’s great. So, here’s what’s really great about it. So, what you’re naming is, a lot of times, I think in conversation, what happens is we say one thing, so we voice one thing, and if you were just simply coding the conversation, you might code that as a bystand. But I’m on the receiving end of it and I’m going, “Hmm, that doesn’t feel…” like, I’m not experiencing it as a morally neutral statement because it feels like it’s loaded up behind it.

And so, a lot of times when that’s happening, what we’re doing is we’re saying one thing but we intend another. So, I’m speaking a bystand, but I’ve got judgment behind it, and so I’m really intending an oppose.

Pete Mockaitis

I see. Okay. Levels and layers.

Marsha Acker

Well, that’s the tricky part. So, I’ll tell you a quick story. My daughter, when she was much younger, I called it our Groundhog Day conversation, but it would be the, “Get your shoes on, please” conversation. And I would make a move, and I’d say, “Hey, Lauren, the bus will be in here in 10 minutes. I need you to get your shoes on.”

And her response will be, “Okay.” Walk away. Come back. “Bus will be here in five minutes. Need you to get your shoes on.” “Okay.” Five minutes later, at the door, and when I would turn around and say, “Lauren, the bus is here. Let’s go.” And there’s a little girl at the end of the hallway screaming because she says, “I don’t have my shoes on.”

And so, we had this pattern. I was making moves, and she was voicing a follow. She said, “Okay,” but she intended an oppose. It’s not what she meant. And it sets up this pattern of we’re saying one thing but we mean another. And it creates what we call, in the structure of coding it, it creates a covert action. So, what happens is the oppose, both in your example of you are bystanding, but what’s really behind it is a covert opposition.

My daughter was doing the same thing. She would voice a follow, but she would intend an oppose. Now, you know, why is that? Well, somewhere along the way, I might have laid down the expectations that “You’re not allowed to tell me no,” or, “I need you to do something different.” So, what I learned was that was really much more about…she’s a teenager now and we can still get into this pattern because every time when…so what happens is that we’ll have one or two of these actions that we can tend to do more in our behavior, particularly in different systems. So, in my home space, I’m often the one with her making moves, and I’m sort of expecting her to follow. But what’s not helpful is that she’s quite independent, even as a little person, definitely as a teenager, she’s quite independent.

And so, one of the ways that I started to change our stuck conversation, our stuck Groundhog Day conversation, was I stopped being the one making all of the moves, and I’d start to enter that conversation differently with the intent to give her the space to make the move that I could follow. So, our conversations would sound a little different, I would start to do more bystands, and I would say, “I’m noticing it’s 10 till 7:00. The bus is going to be here in 10 minutes or 15 minutes. What do you need to get done?”

And she’d think about it for a moment, and she’d be like, “Well, I need to put my shoes on.” And I’d be like, “Great. So, do you know where your shoes are?” So, I started to bring more bystand into the conversation and allow her the space to make a move. And it took a little bit more conversation in that way. But eventually, what she would come around to do is say, “Well, I need to get my shoes.” I’m like, “Great. So why don’t you do that? You’ve got 15 minutes. So, when do you want to do that?”

So, where I could, I began to shift the conversation, and it helped to change the nature of how we were engaged in that conversation. And I use that because I think it’s just such a really simple example, but it happens so often in leadership teams, across our workplaces. Particularly in American business, I think we have managed out or trained out the voice of opposition.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s intriguing on so many levels. And you said this happens thousands of times. I was like, “Yes, I have asked my children thousands of times to put their shoes on.” What’s intriguing in a number of dimensions, like one, just general coaching principle. If you pose a question and they think about it, then that is more active and engaging and more likely to feel rewarding. Like, “Oh, I figured out that I need to get my shoes.” And then they did, and like, “I’m taking care of things.”

It’s funny, my kids right now, they’re five and six, and one and a half, but the five and six-year-olds, it seems like they’re relishing these little tastes of independence. They could say, “I’m going to make some toast.” All right, you go for it. And so, they’re into it. They really just plow through bread because they enjoy making toast and it’s delicious.

But I think, even more than that, they like that, hey, they can’t use the stovetop on their own, they can’t use the oven on their own, but even the microwave can be dicey. But the toaster is like, “Okay, I push the button and then I walk away, and then there we go.” But in many ways, I think, Kwame Christian said, he was on the show, he’s awesome, Negotiate Anything is his podcast. In many ways, we have an inner toddler within us, and so that’s strong.

And I’m intrigued by, when you say covert action, with the shoes, I think that sometimes what’s going on is that they’re thinking, “Well, I’m not opposed to putting on shoes. But at the moment, I’m very engaged with this little mouse character or whatever.” And so, I think that’s funny because covert action makes me think of, “Okay, I’ve got a spy who’s like sneaking into enemy territory.”

But I guess that, too, can run a whole spectrum associated with, “How much am I willfully saying yes when I mean no because I’m hoping they’re just going to shut up and forget about it,” versus, “How much am I like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure. Cool, yeah. Sure, I mean I’ll get to that soonish, so it’s fine, yeah’?”

Marsha Acker

What I’m often going for is wanting leaders to become more aware, more self-aware, of their behavior, how does their behavior, it’ll likely be different how we behave at home, talking to our children versus how do we behave in our leadership team, versus how do we behave in our development team when we’re collaborating with eight, ten peers.

I think it’ll be different, there will be spaces. And I think a lot of it happens, it gets laid down for us at a very early age, in our formative years, we develop. One of my childhood stories is not to oppose because it’s rude. And so, that got laid down very early on for me. The way that translated into adult and business life is oppose has often been my least used. It’s been the one for me to work on the most. Regardless of the role that I was in, it would be the one, kind of unconsciously, that I would use some of the other actions.

Or, sometimes I’d just make a new move. If I didn’t really want to directly oppose you, I’d just change the subject, which is another pattern that sits underneath of this. Or, many teams fall into the place of they’ll just agree, they’ll say, “Yes,” or, “Sure.” Or, they’ll say, “Sure,” and then they go out of the room after they finished talking to you, and they tell six other people what they really think of your idea, but they don’t bring that conversation in the room.

So, ultimately, what I’m all about, because I think it’s what changes the nature of the conversation, is, “Can we bring the offline conversation online? And can we be more aware of what our behavioral tendencies are, and where we go to say one thing, but we actually intend something else?” and catching sight of the difference between the action and the intent.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s intriguing. And I guess, as you have this language and you can start to view conversations in this way, that’s intriguing. So, your goal is to get the offline, online, and get it in there. I think sometimes I follow, maybe often, I follow, I use the words okay, and I do the thing. But internally, I’m thinking, “This is so stupid.”

And I don’t know if that’s valuable, but I guess I’ve also had the internal conversation of, “But it’s pointless to bring this up because it’s not going to affect anything. So, the most efficacious, expedient thing for me to do is to just comply, even though it’s going to result in a worse outcome, but fine.” And I guess maybe sometimes there’s a time and a place where that’s just the reality, and so live it, but go ahead.

Marsha Acker

You and many, many, many, many other people. I watch it over and over. And I often say to folks if you’re in a group of people, and you’re not going to be with them for an ongoing basis, you’ve stepped in, somebody’s made a move, you’re following, like the juice doesn’t feel worth the squeeze, so you just say, “Yep, I disagree or I see it differently, but I’m willing to do it.”

I think doing that intentionally is one thing. Doing it out of a habit is another. And I think those things that you are thinking, what I would offer is those things that you’re thinking are actually quite valuable. But it definitely takes a system, like it takes a group of people that you’re working with on an ongoing basis. Because I think what matters is not that it happens one time or in one moment or with one group, but when it gets to be a stuck pattern, like when it’s a Groundhog Day conversation.

Because I think that’s where you’ll, if you talk to people, all the things that are in the news today about quiet quitting, and people are just burnt out, and they’re tired, and they’re exhausted, and they don’t feel connected, and it’s super hard to connect on Zoom. I hear all of that, and I go straight to this model of, “Yep, because we’re not having the real conversation.”

And people get really exhausted, “At the end of the day, if all I’ve done is have surface level conversations, I’ve not really been able to say what I think, I don’t think anybody wants to listen, so I just sort of fall into this victim mode or this apathetic mode, and I get into doing this sort of I’ll just show up and do the thing until I can do something better.” Like, none of us want to work in that kind of setting or in that kind of situation.

So, I always bring it back to, “Well, I wonder what the pattern is. I wonder which of these actions is being voiced and which are missing,” because those patterns, like things that keep recurring, there will be data in that. And so, I’m a huge advocate for teams, leaders at any level, building the muscle of, “Can we have the real conversation? Can we bring the real conversation online?” And it takes time. It’s not a one-time fix.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. So, that’s the main thing is having the real conversation. This reminds me, we had Amy Edmondson on a couple times, talking psychological safety. Any pro tips for how we can have the real conversation more often? One, so we got some coding, we got some awareness, that’s cool. Anything else in terms of building our own conversational courage and/or creating an environment where people feel more comfortable speaking up?

Marsha Acker

Well, I think the work is highly correlated to Amy’s work. Actually, Amy Edmondson and David Kantor worked together at Harvard, so both of their theories are quite distinctly linked. It does take container-building or creating the space. I often say sometimes it can be just helpful to introduce your team to the four-player model as a way to name that, actually, we need all four of these actions in a conversation in order for them to be effective. So, sometimes just all of us starting to gain awareness that we need all four and be watching for when we’re not hearing one of them. So, I think that’s one way.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s great. That’s pretty simple. You just highlight, “Hey, this is what’s up.” And then someone might say, “Hey, I noticed that nobody opposed anything over this whole three-hour meeting. That’s interesting. All just coincidentally in unilateral consensus agreement? What are the odds? Or is someone not saying something that needs to be said?”

Marsha Acker

And, actually, Pete, what I love about what you’re doing is that you’re doing it with a little bit of humor, and I think that that is key to some of this work is to find a way to make it light and humorous, rather than…I realized really many years ago as I was starting to introduce this model to teams and leaders, so they’d take it and they’d be so excited, and then go off to the next meeting, and it was like, “You, you have made too many moves. You need to stop that,” with a bit of finger pointing.

And I was like, “Well, that’s not really what we’re after.” Like, it’s a model to create awareness, but I don’t think it’s really effective if we use it to sort of poke people in the eye with. So, I love the way you’re sort of tongue-in-cheek saying that.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. And when it comes to opposing, I’m curious, do you have any, because I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I imagine for many, that might be the spookiest of the four to step up and do. Any pro tips or any magical words or phrases that are great for opposing? I imagine you’re like, “No, you’re wrong!” is probably not the best way to do it.

Marsha Acker

Well, actually, there is. Well, so two things I’d say. One is we likely all know someone who’s really good at it, so just think about the person. It won’t be hard for everyone. It is definitely based on our behavioral model, like our viewpoint of how we grew up and how we think about the voice of oppose and what it does. So, likely there’s at least one person usually in each group. We sometimes load them up and we call them the devil’s advocate or the naysayer, which I’d encourage everybody to just stop using the labels because I don’t think they’re helpful.

But if you find someone who’s really good at bringing oppose, you can just watch and listen. Sometimes, though, for people who are stuck in opposition, the thing that will be challenging for them is to make a new move. So, they can be really good at opposing, but not good at the suggestion.

So, a really effective oppose, like a way to bring a really effective oppose, is to actually start with more follow and bystand because those are the actions of more inquiry. They’re also the places that, so if you’ve made a move, and you’ve said, “I think we need to switch all of our computers out, and go from Macs to PCs.” And if I want to oppose that, if I just come right back and say, “Nope, I disagree,” it’s helpful because it’s a really clear oppose, so that’s great.

But really, if I just say no, and I push back without voicing anything else, then we’re kind of stuck because now you’ve got an idea and I’ve got an idea, and we’re actually put ourselves in this debate or clash about, “Which one of us is going to have the winning idea?” So, a more effective way for me to oppose that might be to start with a follow, so what’s something about what you’ve suggested that I actually do align with.

So, I might say something like, “Pete, I really appreciate, and I actually share your value about keeping us up to date in technology. I’m with you on that.” I might bystand and say, “You know, I’m noticing that that would create…it would be really expensive. And it’s the first part of the year, we’re not quite sure where our revenue is at.” What’s my clear oppose? “I disagree with doing all of them right now and in this time frame.” But my new suggestion, my new move would be, “What if we looked at it, doing it five at a time?” or something like that? So, what’s my new suggestion? Then it would be back over to you.

And now what’s happened is I’ve actually put some of what I’m seeing, what I agree with, into the conversation, and the idea is that now we can continue a dialogue because I’ve put new data in, and it gives us something to build off of.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. Thank you. All right. Well, in your book, Build Your Model for Leading Change, you spend a good portion talking about self-awareness. And I wanted to hear your perspective on why self-awareness is important for change, when, really, Marsha, it’s the other stupid dummy heads who are the problem.

Marsha Acker

I know. I think life would be so much easier if everybody else would change, and then the world would work according to how we view it and what we want to do.

Pete Mockaitis

Exactly.

Marsha Acker

Yeah, I’m a big proponent of self-awareness. And I think that there’s so much to be gained from even just building on…so one aspect of Build Your Model for Leading Change is having a way to look at behavior because I think that behavior drives, like everything that you and I’ve been talking about, behavior and how we’re showing up in communication. Everything starts and ends with how we work with other humans.

And knowing, “Why do I do what I do? And where did I learn to do that? And why do I have such an affinity for following and bystanding in a conversation? And, more importantly, where can I grow my leadership range? Where can I expand my behavior so that it’s more effective?” And I think the way to go about doing that is through getting to know ourselves in various ways, and how we change based on the different contexts that we’re in, because I think context matters.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, so you actually delineate seven critical junctures of functional self-awareness. Could you give us the one-minute version of what are each of these critical junctures?

Marsha Acker

So, the junctures actually expand on the theory of structural dynamics. And without going through each of them, what I would say is they’re about “Where are you able to identify what you do? Are you able to expand your behavioral range? And are you able to notice, kind of growing the muscle for noticing in the moment, when the conversation isn’t working, like, when you’re clashing with someone?”

There’s another piece of it is “Beginning to understand when the stakes rise for me and how my behavior changes when the stakes are high.” We talk a lot about what’s happening today in leading from high stakes, which I think many of us are doing, and how when we’re not at our best, so, “How do we lower the stakes?” And then I think the big piece of it is, “How do we expand our tolerance for difference?”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, sure thing. Well, I’d love it, so there’s a lot that we could dig into. Could you share with us, I believe, was it Tasha Eurich, we had on the show, who says, “You’re not as self-aware as you think,” is her assertion? Can you tell us, is there a particular zone in which many people overestimate their self-awareness? And how do you recommend we get after that?

Marsha Acker

I watched many leaders believe, like even if we just look at the four actions, many leaders believe that they are good at communicating, number one, with others, and that they are being clear in their communication. And I think the biggest gap that I watched people discover is where they’re not being clear. So, just the small examples, like we talked about today, where I think I’m saying to my daughter, “I need you to get your shoes on.”

Like, I think I’m communicating, but really, I’m doing something entirely different. It happens to me all the time, even with my own team. I’m fascinated. I’ve built a structure where we can give one another feedback in the moment about that. And so, I think it’s noticing when I think I’m doing one thing, but I’m actually doing something else, and it’s being interpreted really differently than what I intended.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, could you give us an example of a common way this unfolds?

Marsha Acker

So, we have a monthly team meeting, and often the purpose of that monthly meeting is really for us to carve out some time and actually slow down our conversations so that we can talk about how we’re working together. And so, I had come in with a move around some reflection questions that I was actually teeing up for everybody to think about as we led into the conversation about thinking about how we were working together as a team.

And I have a colleague who would have agreed that the purpose of our meeting is to align on how we’re working together, talk about how we’re working together, but this particular person at that moment wanted to be involved in creating the agenda for the conversation, not to have me come in with some pre-canned questions. And so, the feedback to me in that moment was, you know, I hold on, “I think we set out with the intention to have a conversation about how we work together, and I feel like I’m being driven to your agenda, not a collective agenda that we would create together.”

And I think the stakes were pretty high for that person because it’s risky to say that. I think it’s really risky to name it. I, in that moment, so the stakes were pretty high for me in that moment because I kept thinking, “It’s not what I intended.” I felt quite misunderstood, and I felt like I was being accused of something that was really not my intent at all.

And so, it was in the moment of actually being able to park any further forward movement and talk about where the mishap was, where the misunderstanding was, that we were able to take what was a fairly high-stakes moment, and then I began to realize, “Okay, so it’s not so much an opposition. It was an oppose but not necessarily the intent, but it was definitely an oppose to how I started it off.” And it became a really, really fabulous conversation afterwards, so that sort of friction moment led to a much deeper conversation about how we work and where some of that pattern, even that dynamic that showed up, how it shows up in other places. But it was really challenging, and I am fascinated by the number of times that I watch that happen in teams.

So, when teams have the ability to name it, high stakes are happening all the time for us, and it either leaves us to keep talking about, like, I think about it, it’s like moving deck chairs around on a sinking ship versus talking about what’s really going on.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, it’s intriguing. And it was cool that they voiced it, and so you got to go there. And I remember, it is fascinating, one time I was coordinating in this leadership conference, and I just said something like, “All right. Hey, guys, now we’re off to the sketch session,” and then one of the volunteers, their mom, I heard this third hand, their mom said, “Oh, I think Pete just lost Matt as a volunteer for next year.” I was like, “What? What? I just said now we’re going to walk over here.”

But apparently, for Matt, it was rather an important tradition that he – I think he was dressed in a costume of some sort – like, I marched them over, and that was one of his favorite things, and I’m like, “I had no idea.” I looked at the clock, I said, “Oh, it’s time for us to go there.” And then I was completely oblivious that that mattered. And had I known, I’d be like, “Oh, well, let’s wait for a moment for Matt to return with his costume.” Just kind of a goofy camp kind of vibe.

So, you’re right, like we can just be utterly clueless about such things and, yeah, that’s really eye-opening to make sure that we’ve sort of built in those checks associated with asking questions in that context, like, “Hey, what’s the most important for your volunteer experience this weekend?” It’s like, “Okay, good to know.”

Because, I mean, hey, they’re volunteers, right? I owe them everything in terms of when this event occurred, I want to make sure that they’re getting what they need. But I was like, “Oh, I just didn’t make the agenda in terms of the weekend.” So, I’m just rolling the dice, basically. You don’t know who you’re alienating and why if you don’t take the time to get the info.

Marsha Acker

And I love your example because, here’s the thing, none of us will ever be able to plan or attend all the places that we could just make a mess. And unless we have people around us who have the communicative competency to really raise their hand and say, “Hold on a second. Like, that’s not what I thought we were doing,” or to say it rather than go out of the room and stew about it. We will never know, and I don’t think we can ever plan for all of that.

So, I think about navigating all the change and the turmoil that exists today. Like, we’ve got to have people around us that can say, “Hold up, we’re about to go over the edge,” or “I really see something differently here. I think we’re about to miss something important.”

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great. Well, Marsha, tell me anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about your favorite things?

Marsha Acker

No, I think we’ve covered a lot, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Marsha Acker

It comes from James Humes, and he says, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Marsha Acker

I ran across this research, actually, a couple of weeks ago, and it really resonated, still along the same lines, but it was done by ZipDo. So, I think you could go to Google and search it, it was done July of last year. They found that 85% of employees at all levels experience conflict to some degree, and that 60 to 80% of difficulties in organizations come from strained relationships. So, I found that information fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite book?

Marsha Acker

There’s a book by William Isaacs, it’s actually been around for some time, called Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Marsha Acker

A journal.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite habit?

Marsha Acker

I wake up each morning before everybody else, I have a nice cup of coffee, and I journal.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Marsha Acker

I’m known for saying this phrase a lot, “Awareness precedes choice, precedes change.”

Pete Mockaitis

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

Marsha Acker

You can find me on LinkedIn, Marsha Acker, so I’m happy to connect with folks. And then you can read about the book at BuildYourModel.com, and you can also find me at TeamCatapult.com. And if you go to TeamCatapult.com, there is a Re-D-Room, so re, dash, d, dah, room, you can download a handout about what we’ve been talking about today.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Marsha Acker

Find a way to elevate dialogue.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Marsha, this has been a treat. I wish you many enriching conversations.

Marsha Acker

Thanks, Pete.

943: Crushing the 9 Barriers to Taking Action with David Nurse

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David Nurse reveals how to identify and overcome the roadblocks preventing you from taking action.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to bridge the gap between knowing and doing
  2. The nine reasons why we don’t take action
  3. The force that’s more powerful than motivation 

About David

A former professional basketball player, David Nurse is today a mindset coach who has trained over 175 NBA athletes including seven-time All Star Joe Johnson, “Linsanity’s” own Jeremy Lin, NBA champ Brook Lopez, Domas Sabonis, Norm Powell, Keegan Murray, and Top 10 player/All Star Shai Alexander. As a coach, David also took the Brooklyn Nets from 28th in three-point shooting percentage to 2nd overall in the NBA in just one season.  

David is also the author of the best-selling books Pivot & Go, Breakthrough, and the 2023 release, Do It: The Life-Changing Power of Taking Action. He was named by Real Leaders as one of the Top 50 Motivational Speakers in the World, and his podcast, The David Nurse Show, is one of the fastest-growing podcasts on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. David resides in Marina del Rey, California, with his wife Taylor Kalupa. 

Resources Mentioned

David Nurse Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

David, welcome!

David Nurse

Pete, it’s an honor to be here, man.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom. But first, I’d love it if you could kick us off with a super riveting tale of your adventures with folks in the NBA.

David Nurse

All right, here it is. 2018, it’s the summer, it is NBA pre-draft. So, NBA pre-draft is before the players are superstars, they have to go through the draft process. Some players get the benefit of having great hype and potential and not having to do NBA pre-draft, but there was a kid who walked through the Santa Monica gym doors, his name was Shai Alexander. Shai Alexander from Kentucky, no one really thought he was going to be this top player, like he would have a good career and people thought maybe, you know, middle of the first-round draft pick.

Now, with pre-draft, I always like to crush the players on the very first workout. You got to test them, “How much do they have? Are they able to go through this grueling process of working out for team after team? Do they have that insatiable drive?” The insatiable drive, I slow down to say that term because I think that is the factor that nobody looks at for NBA players to determine their greatness. I’ll tell you more on that afterwards.

So, Shai walks in and I put him through this workout. It’s like two and a half hours and he’s soaked in sweat. It’s grueling. It’s difficult, and most of the time, at the end of the workout, the players, they kind of, you know, just lay down on the court, or they go to the locker room. The last thing they want to do is more drills. But Shai comes up to me after that workout, he says, “Coach, when are we going tonight?” And I knew from that moment Shai Alexander was built different. I knew he had insatiable drive. The desire to continue to improve even when somebody’s not making you.

The desire to improve even when it’s not on social media. Nobody knows about the workout. It’s the unseen hours put in. Shai Alexander had that. We went every morning, every night, throughout pre-draft. Now, currently, four or five or whatever years it is later, Shai is on pace to be the MVP of the entire NBA. He is arguably one of the top three players in the entire NBA. This coming from a guy who did not have the hype, he did not have many people who knows who he is, he’s also created this incredible brand, he’s like the fashion guy of the NBA with millions and millions of followers.

The point being is, if you have a desire for greatness, you have to have that insatiable drive. You can’t become great at something without this internal fire burning inside of you, and I can tell within the first five minutes of working out with an NBA player if they have it or if they don’t have it.

Pete Mockaitis

Intriguing. Intriguing. Okay, so he said, “Coach, when are we going tonight?” was the indicator to you that it’s there. But it sounds like it may be even beforehand, you witnessed what’s happening within the minutes of the workout. So, can you paint a picture for us for what does a “having it” workout look like like versus a “not having it?”

David Nurse

Well, there’s also a term that I’ve developed over working out with NBA players and training them for 12 plus years, it’s what I call the 17-second rule. It’s mental dictatorship, basically. So, this goes back, and then I’ll bring it back here, of training players for 12 years, I would bring a stopwatch with me because I was interested. I always thought at first that every NBA player loved training, they loved practice, but that’s far from the truth.

So ,when they did not want to work out that day, I would press the stopwatch to see how long it took them to be able to get past that moment of, “Oh, I don’t want to do this,” and then they’d be okay, and on average, it was 17 seconds, meaning by the time I said, “Start the workout,” and I could tell they weren’t feeling it, they did their first few drills, they did their first few shots, then they were okay. They got past that initial sticking point, and that’s huge for people. Like, think about it, most people won’t go work out because they don’t want to start. Most people won’t do something because the start is hard.

After you start, after you do the first couple of reps in the gym, it’s easy. Your body gets in the flow. Your mind gets in the flow. After you make the first few cold calls, if you’re a salesperson having to make cold calls, the first suck. They’re not easy, but after that, you get in the rhythm. So, coming back to the workout with Shai is like I had my stopwatch ready, but there was no need for that. He had the desire. You could see it just in his body language, in the way that he attacked the workouts, the way that he was present, the way that he was asking questions.

And the workout, I mean, I don’t remember exactly what the workout was, but it’s every difficult drill, like defensive slides, all these different conditioning drills, shooting when you’re tired, physical body contact. I used to have this big BOSU ball, if you can imagine doing ab workout in the gym and the guys would have to drive to the hoop, and I would just level them with that ball to see if they could take the contact and finish. All types of physical, mental, the most challenging drills that I could do. And when I knew that a player was able to embrace those, and want more of those, and not shy away from those, then I knew it was different.

And then it goes on to their competition against NBA current players. So, this is going on past the workout when you can tell, like, “Okay, this guy, does he have the killer instinct?” because that’s another one of the attributes that I don’t think you can really teach somebody. I’ve tried to teach it for years in all different fields. You either have the killer instinct or you don’t. You can probably increase it a little bit, but killer instinct meaning, “Do you want this so bad that you will give anything for it?”

So, when Shai was in workouts with the NBA, the current NBA players, like NBA All-Stars and Superstars, a lot of times young players will kind of shy away, like, “I’m not there yet. These guys are the authority. I better just play my role.” Not Shai. He was trying to win every single drill. He was going for their throats. He didn’t care if they’d been a nine-time NBA All-Star. He was going at them. That’s the killer instinct. So, there’s two aspects. You can help somebody develop them but you can’t give somebody these if they don’t have them, and that’s the insatiable drive and the killer instinct.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Understood. Well, so you’ve put a number of this wisdom in your book, Do It, or, “Don’t Quit,” depending on how you read the cover. Very clever, David. So, when I read “Do It,” I can’t help but think of Shia LaBeouf’s video in which he’s screaming, “Do it!” So, is that what you had in mind as you were assembling this work?

David Nurse

Yes, I wrote the whole book based on Shia LaBeouf and his…No, actually, I did not know that about that until you told me about it. But I will take any type of marketing that comes to it. Anytime somebody says “Do it,” or “Don’t quit,” you now think of the book. I’m planting that seed in everybody’s mind.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, we will link in the show notes to Shia LaBeouf’s screaming, “Do it!” repeatedly in front of a green screen, very meme-able, and you’ll think of this book.

David Nurse

I love it. But the reason that I chose that title, I mean, I’ve got to give credit to my wife who is the creative genius in our family, for sure. She’s an actor, a producer, has done a lot of big work, and I always look to her for creative advice. But the reason it’s “Do It” and “Don’t Quit,” if you look at the cover of it, people are motivated in different ways. You’re either motivated by you want the positivity, you want to see what the gains can be, or you’re motivated by the resistance of failure. That’s the “Don’t Quit.”

If somebody say, “Hey, you got to do this. You can’t quit.” That will motivate somebody. Or, “Hey, go do it. You can achieve this.” So, it’s either the positive or the negative side. People are motivated by different things. So, if you read it, you see it in the way that you read it.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So, is it fair to say that the difference between taking the action and not taking the action makes all the difference in terms of other results? Is that kind of your main thesis here?

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely. I think it’s the biggest misnomer today in society, is there’s so many people that are just taking up so much knowledge. There’s content, content, content, YouTube, podcasts, going to Masterminds, events, and you soak in all this knowledge, but the huge disconnect is the difference between knowing and doing. So many people will know and know the right thing to do, but very few will actually do it because this bridge between knowing and doing, there’s a valley. And in that valley, there’s roadblocks, there’s resistance, there’s the unknown, the uncertain, and ultimately everything is based on the fear of the results.

So, “If I take this chance, if I actually take action on this, what will happen? I don’t know. That’s uncertain.” And true taking action, confidently taking action, is taking the step without knowing where it’s going to land. It’s having the faith that if you do take action, something positive will come from it, but most people hold themselves back based on the nine different archetypes that I outline in the book. And what I mean by an archetype is, “Which type of action-taker are you? What holds you back from taking action?” Everything is rooted in fear. That’s literally why people don’t take action. They are afraid.

And the different reasons, some of those reasons are what I call the allodaxophobic, and that simply means fear of other people’s opinions, “Do you not take action because you are worried what other people will think of you?” Fear of the being burnt by the past, meaning, “Do you not take action in the present because something of your past did not go the way that you wanted it to, so you are taking that past example, bringing it into your present?” There’s a thing called traumatic age regression. That means somebody had something happened in their past, they have not addressed it, they have not forgiven that situation, and it holds them back from actually taking action in the present. Seventy percent of Americans have this traumatic age regression.

So, like, hey, you got dumped by somebody you thought was going to be your spouse. You’re not going to put your heart on the line again because you got burnt in the past. That’s a very common one. And there’s many more. There are seven more archetypes that I outlined. And the point of this is you read through, and you see which ones you align with. It tells you what’s actually neurologically going on in your brain of why this is happening, these are real things. And what is going on in your heart or the feeling of it so you’re able to see, “Okay. Well, yeah, you know, what I suffer from perfectionism. That is what’s holding me back. I think it has to be perfect,” or, “I underestimate myself,” “My parents never did anything great,” “I come from this small town. Like, why should I have something?” And you align with these.

Now, the great thing is, on the other half of it, you’re able to see a tool for, “All right, if this is what I struggle with, if this is what’s holding me back from where I am today to where I want to be tomorrow,” that ultimately is the mission everybody is on, whether you know it or not, you are where you are today currently, that’s obvious, and there’s somewhere you want to get tomorrow. In between that is this radical strategic action. So, you read through it, you understand, “Okay, this is what I struggle with, this is how I get over it,” and there’s also a story from some historical figure that you probably haven’t even heard of honestly.

When I first read Malcolm Gladstone, everybody probably knows Malcolm Gladwell, I was really intrigued with the way he told stories of historical figures, you’re like, “Where did you find this story? Who the heck is this person?” I did something similar where I found somebody who struggled with this exact fear archetype, each one of the nine, and I told their story leading up to the point where they had this decision to make, the decision, “Do I go for it even though the odds are stacked against me? Or do I just go with the flow, and do what everybody else is doing, and don’t change the world?”

They obviously make the decision to go against any of the easy route, and they end up changing the world and I show how that is done. Like, for example, a guy named Lewis Latimer, probably haven’t heard of him. Lewis Latimer was the person who pushed forward Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone and Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb. Without him, he was the guy who made this happen. It was an incredible race. It’s a fascinating story. They should make a movie about the race for the incandescent light bulb, and Lewis Latimer was the one who pushed it forward for Thomas Edison.

But he also had been burnt many times in the past. So, he was the action archetype of the burnt. He thought about it. He debated it. He talked with his wife about it. He almost did not take on this challenge. But he did, Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, because of Louis Latimer.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, so let’s talk about the nine archetypes here. You say all of them, they’ve got a fear of results, and it sounds like there’s a different kind of a result that each is fearing. So, the allodoxaphobic is fearing others negative judgments; the burnt-in-the-past person is fearing, “Oh, this bad thing that occurred last time I did something like this is going to happen again, and it’s going to hurt and suck all over again, just like when I was dumped or whatever.” So, could you unpack for us the other seven types and what it is they’re fearing?

David Nurse

Yeah, the inopportune. So, the inopportune is you just think it’s not the right time, you thought, “You know, I’m just too young for this,” or, “Ah, I’m just too old to start this.” It’s never the right time and it will never be the right time. So, there is no right time to take action, you’re not too old, you’re not too young. And a great way to take this away from your mentality is just do a Google search of people over the age of 50 who have done something great, and it’s an incredible list, or people under the age of 20 who have done something great, so you can align with either side that you’re on.

The blamer is another one where you’re blaming somebody for your situation. You’re blaming your parents. You’re blaming where you were born. You’re blaming God. You’re blaming somebody. It’s so easy to blame and it’s not very often that someone’s going to come back at you, and say, “You know what, that’s actually wrong.” It’s like in the court of law, there’s always a cross-examination. In the game of blaming, there’s not a cross-examination, you’re just pointing the finger at somebody else.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s a good point. Folks will rarely just interrupt you to tell you that you’re wrong.

David Nurse

Yeah, they won’t.

Pete Mockaitis

Like, “I can’t do this because my dad never believed in me and dah, dah, dah.” It’s like, because people you’re talking to have little to gain and much to lose by saying, “No, actually, you’re full of malarkey, sir. And this has nothing to do with your father.” It’s like, “Whoa, dude, who are you?” as opposed to the reaction will very rarely be like, “You know what, thank you. That is a wakeup call that I really needed, and you were a bright light of truth for me.” Probably not going to be received that way if you were to speak up.

David Nurse

No, it really isn’t. I mean, you can blame and people are going to let you off the hook. Unless you have a group, and I say this, like, seek wisdom from the wise. Have people in your life that you know that you can come to with something and they’ll give you the honest truth. That doesn’t mean it’s your mom or your dad. They’re going seek your safety. They’re not going seek your best interest.

So, have people in your life that you can say, “Hey what do you think of this?” and they’ll say, “You know what? That’s terrible, that sucks. You shouldn’t do that,” or, “That’s great.” Seek wisdom from the wise. Don’t just seek wisdom from anybody that’s going to agree with you, or be your yes-man, or feel your remorse in your blaming situation.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So, now with the inopportune and the blamer, the inopportune says, “It’s not the right time,” the blamer blames parents or God or someone. So, what is it that they fear? They fear that there’s just no way this is going to happen for them because of these circumstances?

David Nurse

Yeah, their fear is there’s no way it’s going to happen for them because it’s almost, too, that they’re afraid of success. Have you’ve been around those people that they just blame themselves into a way that if they find success, they’re going to work their way out of it? It’s almost that they’re scared of this success. They’re scared of, “Well, what happens if something does good happen to me?” And they fall into this rut of constant blaming. Or they just really don’t want to put in the work, and it’s easier to blame than it is to actually go through the process.

Pete Mockaitis

And, David, tell us about this fear of success. I mean, why would we fear success? Success is a good thing we want, isn’t it?

David Nurse

It is until you get it, and then a lot of people don’t know how to deal with it. That’s why so many people crash and burn when they do taste success because they don’t know how to appreciate it, and they don’t know how to live with it. Like, an example that I give is one of my close friends is Jeremy Lin, and he went through this time called “Linsanity.” And this was when he was almost cut from the NBA, and he got put into the game, and he just blew up.

He took off. He had an amazing game and he was going on game winners, and 30-point games, and this incredible streak, and he was the number one trending thing in the world. He was on top of the NBA world for weeks and weeks and weeks, and he’d never had that success. He never tasted that, and when he got there, he didn’t necessarily live in the appreciation for that moment. He was living in the what-ifs,
“What if I can’t keep this up? What will people think of me?”

So, when people reach success, who aren’t ready for it, that’s what they think of. They’re like, “Okay, well, what if this goes away?” They think worst-case scenario thoughts and the “what ifs” that ends up eating them alive, and they normally self-sabotage.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Understood. Well, let’s hit the rest of the archetypes.

David Nurse

So, the fifth one is the test believer. And the test believer, it sounds kind of ironic saying the test believer when this kind of looks like an Enneagram type of test that we’re going through, but far too often, people will see, “Oh, it’s there,” they read their zodiac or their Myers-Briggs or even their Enneagram, and they label themselves with that’s who they are. That’s how they have to act because that’s what the test says.

Similar to the example that I give is, “Are you an extrovert? Are you an introvert?” So, people will say, “No, I’m introverted so I can’t go talk to anybody.” But introvert doesn’t have anything to do with, “Are you able to go talk with people in communication?” It has everything to do with how you recharge. So, it’s an excuse people make that they’re not able to connect with others because they say they’re introverted, and that’s just a label somebody has given themselves and they live into.

So, if there’s a label that you’re giving yourself, whether it’s a test believer, or it’s you label yourself according to your profession, you think you are what you do, that’s where you need to eliminate that from because that will never fulfill you. It will ultimately fail you. So, that’s the fifth one.

Pete Mockaitis

How about the perfectionist?

David Nurse

So, the perfectionist, I think a lot of high performers, this is the one that they struggle with that holds them back. I think they have to have everything perfect before they even start, but you can never achieve anything great unless you actually start. And people will hold themselves back, they think, “Well, I can’t put this out there into the world if it isn’t perfect,” and, really, it will never be perfect. It’s always a work in progress, anything that you do. Perfectionism also goes hand in hand with the term procrastination, which has been actually something that people have said, “Oh, I’m more creative when I procrastinate. I can think better if the buzzer is coming up.”

Well, actually, there’s been many studies done, and there was a study done on thousands of people in Canada, that they found that 90% of people that procrastinate are much more stressed and anxious than those who don’t. So, yeah, maybe you’ll produce a better-quality product at the buzzer but you’ll also live a life of increased stress and anxiety, which I don’t think anybody wants to do. So, the perfectionist just comes down to the mindset of “Ready, fire, aim,” where it’s never going to be perfect. You put it out there and then you continue to.

Refine and define it, and that’s like anything with life. It’s never going to be perfect. You just got to start, and it’ll continue to work its way there. But it holds a lot of people back, especially high performers.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And then the scarcest.

David Nurse

Yeah, so the scarcest is this mindset of you’ve got to hold on to whatever you have. It’s there’s a 100% of the pie. If you’re looking at a pie with a 100%, you got to take your little slice and you got to hold on to it. This was the whole mentality of hoarding, or people in 2020, they went to the grocery store to get toilet paper and just hold on to it because there’s never going to be any more.

It’s the same thing when they think of opportunities, why people will just hold on to what they have and not give anything else to anybody else because they live in this mindset of there’s a scarcity amount when, in reality, there’s an abundant amount. So that pie that you were taking, that little slice of, and holding on for dear life, like it’s only yours, think about a pie that’s a double-decker pie, or you put a la mode ice cream on top. Like that is why these burger chains, In-N-Out and McDonald’s, and why they’re all together next to each other. It’s not because they’re competing against each other necessarily, but they’re actually competing with each other.

If someone knows, “Hey, this is the area of town to go for a burger,” they’re going to get more traffic there. So, my concept here is what I’ve seen worked so many times, is not the competition directly against somebody else. It’s competition with, “Can you get other people within your industry, in your market, to be on the same team you compete with, and you end up completing with each other?” So, completion through competition leads to more abundance than it will actually the scarcity mindset.

It’s the same thing with if you have the scarcity mindset with money. Usually, if you’re just trying to hold, hold, hold, hold, hold, that’s the best way to never actually earn any or gain any revenue or long-term money by just holding on to it and hoarding it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And then the distracted and the underestimator.

David Nurse

Yeah, so the distracted is, this is the one I struggle with the most. And when I say distracted, I don’t necessarily mean it’s distracted by notifications, or your phone, or your tablet. But more so the distracted for this is distracted from, “What is your great? Like, what is the thing that you are on a mission to do?” That is your vision. That’s “great.”

Now there are so many shiny objects that are going come along the way, these opportunities, there’s all these goods that can take you away from your great. That’s what the distracted is. And I feel this a lot, like, I get blessed with many, many opportunities, like, “Hey, do you want to do this business?” “Hey, do you want to go to this mastermind?” “Hey, you got to be here.”

It’s almost like the FOMO that sets in. And if you continue to take these opportunities that you off the path of the mission that you’re on, you’re never going to eventually get to that mission because it’s not the enemy of great is bad. That’s pretty obvious. The enemy of great is good, and that’s the distracted that keeps you away from what you were called to do.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And the underestimator?

David Nurse

And the underestimator is simply the mindset of you’re either a person who views life as a why-me person, or “Why do I deserve this? Why little old me? I don’t deserve anything great.” Or, you’re of the mindset of, “Why not me?” Somebody’s got to do it. Somebody has to be the top in their field. They have to be the best at what you want to do. Someone’s got to do it. Why not you? And it’s simply looking at any kind of decision or anything that comes upon in your life of which way do you view it?

Do you underestimate yourself? Do you already count yourself out? Do you self-sabotage before it even happens because you view yourself as a why-me person? Or do you view yourself as, “Well, somebody’s got to do it, why not me?” And there’s a lot of things that can go into being an underestimator, but ultimately it comes to that and there’s only two camps of people. You’re either in “Why me?” or “Why not me?”

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, so now, David, as I think through this lineup, I’m trying to categorize myself. And my situation is I just don’t feel like doing a thing. So, let’s just say watching the calories and the weight. I think I have successfully gained and lost 10 pounds, maybe five or six times. And so, I know what it takes, and I think, “Okay, the name of the game is tracking those calories and eating less food. That’s what does the trick.” And so, I think, “Okay, that’s what I can do. That’ll make it happen, I think, but I don’t want to.” That sounds unpleasant and annoying to do that, and it’s more comfortable and enjoyable to not do that. Where do we plug this one?

David Nurse

Yeah. So, the question I would ask you is, “Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to lose the 10 pounds, or get in better shape? What is the end result of that?” So, you say that you do, but why do you want that?

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m a bit more energetic, a bit more confident. I like the way I look in the mirror. I could enjoy not stepping on the scale and not being labeled overweight, according to the body mass index, which makes me kind of feel like a loser. I am overweight by two pounds, David, because of the body mass index said so, and I don’t like underperforming in anything.

David Nurse

Yeah. Well, there you go. I mean, there’s two things right there that you just said in that sentence, which could go into the allodoxaphobic, fear of other people’s opinions. It doesn’t actually have to mean just people. It could mean the society norms and what they have placed upon it, and also the perfectionist, where you don’t want to underperform in anything. So, there’s two that can work together in that one.

But I also would say there’s three different levels to it as well. There is the motivation, which will show you the “there,” which is the motivation is there to lose weight, get in great shape. There’s also the discipline, so that’s the second level of it. The discipline will get you there, and you’ve got there. You’ve said it before, you’ve got there before. So, you have the discipline.

Now, the third level to this is devotion. So, devotion means, “Who are you devoted to? What are you devoted to?” That’s the next level of it. Like, “Are you doing this for a bigger purpose?” If you’re only doing this for yourself and the aesthetics of it, it’s probably going to waver. But if you’re saying, “Hey, I am going to get in great shape and stay in great shape for an amazing example for my kids,” or, “Because I have to be the healthiest and most energetic, I can possibly be at my job.” It’s the devotion that’s the long-term.

Motivation is a spark. Discipline is an up-and-down kind of riding the waves but devotion is the long-term. And once you make that commitment to devotion and you understand why you’re holding yourself back, “Is it, okay, this is the society says this, or I need to be perfect in this, or maybe I’m blaming something in the past of, well, I did it before but this happened?” And you work your way through that.

Now, you decide, “All right, I’m devoted to it,” and you make that devotion, you make that declaration of devotion, it’s almost signing a contract with yourself, and you’ve got a much better chance. I’m not saying it’s not going to still waver but you’ve got a much better chance.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, that’s interesting. So, it seems like what’s going on there for me is more, like, “I don’t actually care all that much about this outcome.” It’s like, “Whether the body mass index says I’m three pounds overweight, or I’ve got three more pounds to go before I hit the threshold, I don’t actually care that much about what the BMI has to say about me.”

David Nurse

That’s good, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

And so, when push comes to shove, it’s like, “Well, I could track all my calories but I don’t feel like it so I won’t.” And it sounds like that that, too, can be an acceptable choice. It’s like, “Go pick something that’s more worth your time and effort.”

David Nurse

It’s exactly it. You can’t be devoted to everything. If that’s not the thing, like it’s the difference between if you see a bodybuilder, who is literally tracking every single macro, and weighing on the scale, like, to me, that looks miserable. It sounds like that sounds miserable to you as well. So, that’s not your choice of devotion. You can’t be devoted to everything.

You pick and choose what’s the most important things to you, and you’re choosing lifestyle, life rhythm, over being an incredibly crazy person out to eat where you can only eat broccoli and chicken breast, let’s say. Yeah, you’re not that interested in being a bodybuilder, and I don’t think you’re performing on stage at the World’s Strongest Man competitions coming up.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m insulted but…

David Nurse

Maybe. Maybe.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, thank you. Well, now maybe could you share with us a story of someone who went through this process, in a professional work type of context, in terms of they weren’t doing it, they were quitting, and then they had some insight, like, “Aha, what’s going on? This is the category I fit into,” and what unfolded?

David Nurse

Yeah, totally. So, I’ve been working with a CEO for the past year, and when I started working with him, he’s at a massive company, runs an amazing Fortune 500 company, and he was going through a very difficult time, and just feeling really down, personally in his life and in the business, so we had to figure out, like, “Okay, why? Like, what is the cause of this? You grew this amazing business. Now, what is happening?”

So, we realized that there were certain people that had been hired and they looked like all-stars, they came from other great companies, and they brought the business down. They weren’t on the same mission as he was. It was more for, okay, how much money can they make, but they didn’t really care about the end result product. So, he found this out and now has become blaming-the-past situation that he couldn’t get past. So, it’s very hard especially for someone that successful when you get hit with this, when you have a major roadblock in your career and your life.

So, really, we just had to forgive this situation, had to address it and had to say, “Well, you know, what did we learn from this?” So, one of the most important things from the blaming situation is not just go over it and pass through it, but it’s, “What did we learn from this situation?” So, we really went in depth on this, and the takeaways, the positives that came from very incredibly big losses and negatives that could have driven somebody to just quit or give up altogether. So, worked through the blaming situation to find out, “Okay, now I need to figure out the right team that I have.” So, that was one of them.

But it was also a part of underestimation, too, where there had been repeated history of these types of failures, if you want to call them, and just come over the fact that these don’t have to happen, like, “People aren’t always going to fail. You don’t have to underestimate you or your team.” He built this amazing company despite having these types of action archetypes holding him back from living the life he’d want to live.

And when I say that in terms of the underestimating, it was also the underestimating of giving himself permission to enjoy the journey. That’s a really important one for high performers, or any driven person, giving yourself permission to enjoy the journey. Even if the journey is a struggle moment, if it’s difficult, if you’re going through a fire, you can still enjoy the journey of it because it’s never going to be easy. God never said, “Hey, you’re just going to have this easy life.” No, it’s going to be difficult, but it’s going to be worth it.

So, having that underestimator, working through the underestimator, individually, personally, in his own life, and also the blamer, the things that had happened to the company in the past, to be able to move through it, knowing that there was going to be, you know, it’d be difficult to work through that, but they’d eventually get through it, and now he’s thriving, the company is doing amazing, stock prices are up.

So, it was a, yeah, working through those two archetypes, and I’ll continually go back through all of these with them to make sure, “Are you good here? Or, is this one coming in?” because it can change. It’s very actionable. That’s the example that I give it’s an actionable version of kind of like the Enneagram.

Pete Mockaitis

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

David Nurse

Just check out the book. I think it’s helped a lot of people. It’s a fun read and it can really show you, “Do you have any roadblocks?” I always go back through it because there’s different things that will come up in my daily life and I’m able to identify it, the self-awareness, and then work through it. So, I would just encourage you to check out the book for no other reason than, honestly, it will help you. If it doesn’t, please reach out to me and tell me it’s the worst thing ever and I’ll get you your refund.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, now can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

David Nurse

“What would you do with your life if there is no way that you could fail?”

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And could you share a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

David Nurse

I’ve got another book coming out in, I don’t know exactly when it’s going to come out, but it’s a very immersive study that I’ve started into now on the focus and flow, putting those together, and how you can find the deepest flow state, and tap into it more regularly and for a longer time. So, now that’s becoming my next study and research project.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite book?

David Nurse

Essentialism, Greg McKeown, has been one of my favorites; The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer, it’s a great one; The Energy Bus by a good friend of mine, John Gordon; any of my other books that I wrote, of course, are at the top of the list. Those are some of the best.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

David Nurse

I use the power of the “I am” statement. So, I start my morning off with coffee because I love coffee, prayer time. I’m reading something from the Bible or a devotional, and spending my first time in the morning, the first few minutes in the morning with God, but then I write down “I am” statements.

And I think these have been really powerful for me because the doubt comes in the morning a lot, “Can you make it through the day? Can you do what you want to do? Is it really going to happen?” And when I write down “I am” and then I fill in the blank with what I’m voting for in that day, it gives me a lot of confidence, it gives me a lot of boosts, a lot of self-belief.

It eliminates these self-talk negative thoughts, which they say there’s 50,000 self-talk thoughts daily, and 80% of those are negative. So, I’m eliminating those from the start. So, I’ll simply say, “I am courageous,” “I am brave,“ ”I am going for this dream,” and it’s a vote for myself in the morning. So, that’s one of my favorite tools that I use, have been using for years.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, and a favorite habit?

David Nurse

A favorite habit of mine also is, in that morning routine when I’m writing, I write, “How can I pour into my wife? How can I fill my wife’s love tank, Taylor’s love tank?” So, I write in there, when I’m doing this morning journaling, of one thing a day that I’m going to do to fill my wife’s love tank.

Pete Mockaitis

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

David Nurse

Website, DavidNurse.com has everything on there. Podcast is right there too. I have daily confidence boosts that I put out five-minute episodes daily on the David Nurse Show. Social media, DavidNurseNBA, or come out to Los Angeles and, you know, we can kick it and eat some great food.

Pete Mockaitis

Yum. And a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

David Nurse

I would say, “Just what is that thing that’s been on your heart that you want, that you’ve wanted to do, that you keep putting off, you keep finding an excuse for why not to do it?” Just do it. Take that first step. The first step is so powerful. The momentum of one step forward daily, I mean, think about this. I’m not a math major, but the one math equation that I do know is 1 to the power of 365 is 1, but 1.01, 1% more, one step forward, to the power of 365 is 37.8. That’s how powerful just taking one step forward a day is. Sometimes it’ll feel like you’re dancing on clouds with that step. Sometimes it’ll feel like you’re trudging through mud, but just keep taking that step forward.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. David, thank you. I wish you much luck and fun with all the things you’re doing.

David Nurse

Thanks, Pete. Appreciate it, man.

933: How Building a Habit of Bravery Transforms Everything with Todd Henry

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Todd Henry shares how to build the courage to chase after opportunities amidst uncertainty.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to muster courage in the moment 
  2. The biggest myth that holds us back 
  3. Five steps to feel braver every day 

About Todd

Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of seven books: The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code, Daily Creative, The Brave Habit, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

With more than fifteen million downloads, his podcast offers weekly tips for how to stay prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

Resources Mentioned

Todd Henry Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Todd, welcome back.

Todd Henry

Pete, it is so good to be back on the show. Thanks for the kind invitation.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. You’ve got a fresh book, and you’ve said a lot of interesting things, and written a lot of cool books. I’m curious, why bravery as the topic now?

Todd Henry

10 years ago, I wrote a book called Die Empty. It released, and did really well, but there was something that I overlooked in that book, and it always plagued me. There was one topic that I didn’t write about. And it was kind of one of those forehead-slap moments when I realized, “Oh, there’s kind of an important thing I overlooked here,” and that topic was bravery.

Because I talked about all the ways that we can overcome these hurdles we encounter, these pitfalls, when doing difficult creative work, and some strategies for doing that, but the one key element that I found in people and in teams who were willing and able to do that was that they exhibited bravery. And so, I kind of committed to looking into, to investigating that topic of bravery.

And my ingoing assumption was that, “Well, some people are just wired for it. They’re just more risk-tolerant and some people aren’t.” But the more I researched the topic, I realized, actually, bravery is exhibited in all different kinds of places by all different kinds of people, and people who historically had not exhibited bravery suddenly started exhibiting bravery, and vice versa.

What I realized was that bravery is not a baked-in personality trait, that bravery is actually a habit, it’s a discipline that we can train ourselves to exhibit. And so, that was kind of the initial source of the book.

And so, for the last six years, it’s been a passion project. I’ve been working on this book, and it took me six years to kind of pull it all together, and now it’s finally here. So, it’s called The Brave Habit, and it’s about how to develop the habit of bravery as you approach creative work, leadership, relationships, and everything that you have to do in life.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, tell us, what impact does having upgraded bravery deliver for us?

Todd Henry

So, I think that we often conflate two things. We conflate bravery with boldness. And we also conflate cowardice with wisdom. And what I mean by that is we all have moments in our life where we recognize an opportunity, where we see that there’s something possible for us if we were willing to act, but there’s a little voice inside of us that says, “Well, maybe it would be better if…” or, “Maybe someone else is better equipped to…” or, “You really don’t have the skills to…” or things of that nature. And that’s really cowardice whispering in our ear, but we often conflate it with wisdom. We think this is wisdom speaking to us.

And what I discovered was that there really are two things that comprise bravery in those moments. There are two core attributes, two core traits, that people who consistently ignore the voice of cowardice that comes disguised as wisdom, and, instead, choose to engage in brave action. There are two core attributes and they tend to exhibit in those moments. The first is they have an optimistic vision of the future, meaning that they have a vision of a better possible future that they could be navigating toward. And the second attribute that they tend to exhibit is a sense of perceived agency to bring that better possible future about.

So, think about a team. When I look at the teams who are consistently doing what I would consider to be brave work, they are teams who have a vision that they’re navigating toward, they have a very clear North Pole that they believe in and that they’re willing, if necessary, to sacrifice on behalf of because they believe deeply in that vision.

Versus people who have kind of a pessimistic vision of the future, “Well, I really don’t know what the future holds. And who can really tell anyway, right?” And so, that’s sort of the opposite of what I’m talking about. And they tend to have a sense of agency, meaning, “We believe that we have the platform, the proficiency, that we have people around us who can help us accomplish that vision.”

So, when you have those attributes, you’ve created a fertile field within which bravery is likely to occur. Now, it doesn’t mean it will occur but you’re creating a fertile field within which bravery is likely to occur. So, how does that play out for us as individuals in the workplace?

Well, we all have to confront uncertainty, we have big projects we’re working on, ideas maybe that are noodling around the back of our mind, and we’re thinking about bringing them into the world, but that little voice of cowardice is whispering in our ear, “Well, maybe somebody else would be better suited to do that,” “Well, maybe you should wait and let somebody else step up,” “Well, maybe you’re not the right person to lead this,” or, “Well, maybe you need to do a power grab because you need to prove that you’re the right person.” Well, that’s not necessarily bravery. That’s just boldness.

So, we have these little voices whispering in the back of our ear. In those moments where we’re tempted with cowardice, we can ask ourselves, “Okay, am I afraid to act because I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m going, or I don’t have a vision of a better possible future? Or, am I afraid to act because I don’t trust that I have agency to be able to create meaningful change in the direction of my vision?”

And simply by asking ourselves those questions consistently, by putting some qualifiers on what we feel, inherently, that self-protection instinct that we have, we can, a) develop a better narrative to help ourselves get through those moments, and, b) identify any areas where maybe we are lacking. We tend to think bravery is, “Well, just do it. Just leap. Just jump from the cliff, right? Just say the thing. Just have the conversation.”

That’s not necessarily always bravery. Sometimes it’s boldness. Boldness and bravery are not necessarily the same thing. Sometimes bravery means waiting until the right time. So, when you ask yourself those questions, “Do I have a clear vision of where I’m going? And do I trust that I have the agency to be able to bring it about?”

If the answer to either of those is no, maybe the bravest thing you can do is wait as your vision is clarified, or wait until you develop the skill necessary to bring it about. That doesn’t mean you’re being a coward. That means you’re being strategic. And so, when you ask, “How does bravery benefit us?” It benefits us by giving us a sense of the places in our life where we can act in a meaningful way to develop our capacity to do work that is surprising, valuable, and, ultimately, contributive to the body of work that we want to build.

Pete Mockaitis

Now, I think there’s a lot of interesting tidbits here in terms of the voice of cowardice can be sneaky, and we may not even recognize that that’s what that is. I remember we had Kwame Christian say once early on the show that fear masquerades in many forms. And I thought that was really clever in terms of it’s procrastination, or, “You know what, maybe this isn’t the right time,” like, any number of voices. And it’s good to just say, “Oh, no, what’s really happening is I’m scared. What’s really missing here is bravery.”

And you’ve done a cool segmentation, so, “Is it a matter of vision or is it a matter of agency?” And help me out, when I’m feeling un-brave, I think what’s going on is I think, “There’s a substantial chance that this is going to go badly for me.” And so, do we categorize that as a vision matter, or an agency matter, or where does that fall into your schema?

Todd Henry

Well, that’s a really great example. Can I tell you a story of how that’s playing out actually for me right now? I think I mentioned to you, so before we started recording, I’ve been doing The Accidental Creative podcast since 2005.

As I was writing this book, I began challenging people, in the book, to ask some really brave questions and very dangerous questions, maybe. And among those questions that I began asking myself was, “If I were starting over again, would I be doing things the way that I’m doing them right now?” And the uncomfortable answer that I came to, Pete, was, “No. No, I wouldn’t.” Like, it’s fine, it’s working, people seem to enjoy it, it’s great, but would I be doing it this way? No.

Why? Because I have a vision of a way that things could be better, and I was feeling a little bit of discontentment around the way I was doing things. Well, there’s a lot of costs involved in changing something that has a substantial audience, and that has been successful, and that’s financially contributive to the bottom line of my business. There’s a substantial risk involved. And, to your point, you asked the question, “Well, what if this goes badly for me?” Yeah, there’s a lot of risk involved in doing something like that.

What compelled me to make the change that we made, which was basically completely rebranding the show, redoing the format, and eliminating thousands of back episodes of the podcast, and starting over with Episode 1 on January 1st, what compelled me to do it was that vision. I knew I had the agency to bring it about because I have created a podcast, I know how to do this, I know how to do creative work and make audio shows, but the vision was what compelled me. I had a very clear vision of what this could be.

And so, the question I asked myself was, “If I fail, will it be worth it if it’s in pursuit of a vision that I care about?” And the answer was, “Yes.” And like Seth Godin likes to say, “This might not work,” and it might not work. It still might not work. But the vision superseded my fear of failure in this case. And so, what my response was, “If it fails, I want to go down doing the thing that I believed to be the right thing. I want to pursue the vision for the work that I think is the best possible manifestation of this kind of work that I’m trying to do right now.”

And so, I think the answer to your question, that you have to be able to say, “It’s worth failing in the pursuit of this vision. It’s worth sacrificing something in the pursuit of this vision if I believe it’s the right direction.” And that doesn’t mean it’s always the case for everyone. In my case, it was, but the problem is we often don’t stop to ask the question because we just assume that the goal of life is to protect, to be comfortable.

Khalil Gibran said, “Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning the funeral.” So, when we succumb to the love of comfort, the lust for comfort, we murder our own soul. And so, the challenge I would have for listeners is, “Where are you falling prey to the love of comfort?” Not comfort itself. There’s nothing wrong with comfort, but when you fall in love with comfort, you’re inherently going to compromise what’s possible because nothing great is ever done from a position of comfort.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So, then it sounds like the fear I have that things are going to go badly, in your categorization system, that’s a matter of the vision may not be clear or strong enough to overpower, in the internal tug of war, the reluctance or internal fear.

Todd Henry

Yeah, that’s right. Or, in some cases, like in organizations, it could be that that vision just hasn’t been communicated clearly enough, or people don’t understand how they play into that vision. There are a lot of organizations with people who are more than willing to be brave, and to do brave work, and to have brave conversations, and to confront uncertainty, but they don’t really understand how their efforts would matter because the leader hasn’t given a compelling vision for where the organization is going.

And so, the result is you have all these people who are at the ready, they want to do something, but they don’t really know what to do. Or, you have organizations where the leader is casting vision constantly but they’re not reinforcing the agency. They try to be overcontrolling in their organization. They step in and do the work for people instead of equipping people and giving them agency to do their own work, to come up with their own ideas. And the net result of that is people just feel powerless, they just succumb, and they say, “Okay, fine. Just tell me what to do.”

Well, are they going to do brave work? No, of course not because they’ve been robbed of a sense of agency. And so, as leaders of organizations, the biggest gift that we can give to people is to position them in places where bravery is likely to occur, which means being very clear about our vision but also speaking agency into them, speaking encouragement into them, giving them the ability to try things, to experiment, even to fail in small ways that aren’t fatal to the organization so that they have that sense of agency to act bravely in the face of uncertainty.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, let’s maybe zoom way in. Let’s say we have an individual, and they want to say something that’s maybe uncomfortable, unpopular, because they are going against the status quo, they’re challenging someone so they might get offended, outraged, create some political rifts, etc. Help us out, Todd. What are the key steps to follow in order to speak up when bravery is required?

Todd Henry

So, you have to be absolutely certain that your action is in the service of a vision, of a better possible future. It’s not self-serving, it’s not bold, because boldness is mostly self-serving. Bravery is always empathetic. So, how is speaking up going to be in service of a greater vision, whether that’s creating a better environment on the team, communicating something to the leader that maybe they’re not aware of, and they need to be aware of because this is impacting everyone else around us?

So, if the answer to that is yes, and the second question you have to ask is, “Am I the right person to have this conversation?” Because if a random person at a low level of an organization decides to ambush the CEO in the lobby of the building one day and say something, well, you have no agency, you have no platform. You’re doing something but that’s just boldness. That’s not necessarily bravery because what impact is that going to have? Probably very little impact. And, in fact, it could be detrimental to the overall cause.

And so, those are the two questions you have to ask, “Am I doing this in the service of a better vision, a greater vision? Or, am I just doing this to be self-serving for my own political purposes?” And the second question you have to ask is, “Am I the right person to be able to do this? So, do I have the agency? Do I have the platform to be able to do this?”

And if the answer to that second question is no, “Well, then who does have the platform? Who am I connected to who I might be able to, then, have this conversation with and we can go together to the leader, we can go together to whoever this person is and have a conversation together because the other person has platform, they have relationship, they have credibility that maybe I don’t have?”

So, again, this framework helps you in those moments where you have to make a brave decision, it helps you sort of gauge and diagnose places where, “Well, why do I feel hesitant to do this? Oh, it’s because I don’t really have the agency to do this. I could just go ambush this person with a conversation but they’re not going to listen to me because I don’t have the right platform, but I do know someone who does, so I’m going to go to them. We’re going to have a conversation, and we’re going to go together to them, and then we’re going to have a higher probability chance of creating the change we’re trying to create.”

So, two questions, again, “Is this in service of a greater vision or in service of me?” That’s the empathy question. And then the second one is, “Do I have the credibility, the platform, the proficiency to be able to have this conversation? If not, then how can I gain that agency in order to create this meaningful change toward the vision that I’m pursuing?”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, could you maybe share some stories in which we’ve got a professional who is finding they would like an upgrade to their bravery, and then they walked these paths of upgrading the vision, or upgrading the agency to make it happen?

Todd Henry

Yeah, so this example I shared in the book of a guy named Scott. Scott was a commercial real estate agent, and it was the very fortuitous time of the late 2000s, so right around 2008, and you can kind of imagine where this story is going because we experienced a tremendous collapse in the real estate industry, and, thus, the entire economy in 2008, and so Scott was really in danger of just being without livelihood.

And so, he was talking with his wife, and they were expecting their first child, and it was obviously a really kind of nerve-racking time for them. And he was considering the possibility of making a transition into doing residential real estate but he didn’t really have a tremendous amount of experience doing residential real estate, so he had a job offer to go sell office furniture, and he was thinking about just going to sell office furniture because, “This is something that can pay the bills with our first child on the way.”

And as he was talking about this with his wife, his wife said, “Hey, listen, you have all of this experience in the real estate industry, you have some connections in the real estate industry, albeit not in the residential real estate industry, and you have a very clear vision of how you could do this differently, how you could be a different kind of real estate agent that could be more attractive to people, that could actually be kind of a partner with people rather than just sort of being the go-between in these transactions.”

And she said, “Let’s do this. Let’s establish some time, a timeframe, let’s call it six months, and why don’t you try this, let’s see what happens. And if we see some momentum, then we’ll keep moving forward. And if we don’t, then you can always go take the office furniture job, and we’ll just say, ‘Okay, now you’re an office furniture salesman,’ or whatever.”

And so, he did. So, he decided to launch his real estate practice, and it did not go well for the first handful of months, and it was a really difficult time in the market. But just in the nick of time, he did make his first sale, and that was enough to generate some cashflow and kind of keep the business moving forward. And the way that he did it was because he was following his vision, his vision of a better possible future, the way that things could be different in the real estate industry.

And the reason I share that story is because his instinct in the moment was, “Well, I just need to retreat to the easiest thing I can do, which is go take a salaried job to pay the bills.” Someone else came along, someone who had a very vested interest in his success came along and spoke agency into him, said, “Hey, you could do that. That’s fine. But that’s not what you’re capable of.”

“You don’t even know what you’re capable of yet. We haven’t even tried yet. You have agency you haven’t even tapped into. So, why don’t you go try this? I see what you’re capable of. I know what you’re capable of. You have a vision. Go try this.” He had someone, his wife, who spoke courage into him. And so, Scott did because she put him in that very fertile field where brave action is likely to occur, that place of agency and vision.

Now, 10 years later, his real estate practice is one of the top real estate practices in the country within his company, which is remarkable. But even if it hadn’t worked out that way, would he have made the brave choice? Even if it hadn’t worked out for him, would he have made the brave choice?

The answer, I believe, is yes, absolutely, because bravery has nothing to do with outcomes. You can make a good decision, Pete, that has a bad outcome, and you can make a bad decision that has a good outcome. That’s why it’s so difficult often to analyze our decisions because we tend to associate our outcomes with our decisions. But the reality is we make decisions with the best information we have at the time, and we can’t always control where those decisions are going to lead.

And so, even if Scott had failed, he still made a brave choice, and it still was probably a good decision for him to try it to see if he could make it work. And that’s part of the thing that I think leads us to succumb to cowardice, is that we are constantly analyzing our past decisions through our present understanding, and the net result is that we think that things were bad decisions, when, actually, they may have been good decisions, they just had bad outcomes. We made the best decision we could at the time.

So, I think that story of Scott is one that kind of illustrates what it looks like to have someone speaking agency and optimism into you in those moments of uncertainty.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s lovely. Thank you. And we had Annie Duke, a professional poker player, say a similar point in terms of you may have made the best decision though the outcome didn’t work out, and that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the best decision. So, that’s good to consider. I’d love to hear the counterpoint to that in terms of we may be more likely to regret what we didn’t do. How do we judiciously, astutely, wisely, prudently determine, “Ah, this harebrained scheme of mine, I should kill right now rather than pursue it to my detriment”?

Todd Henry

Yeah. So, interestingly, we’re doing an episode of our podcast that kind of deals with that, how sometimes we get frozen in these moments. And as part of the interview, we revisited the conversation with Seth Godin about his book The Dip. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with the book but in the book, he talks about…

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, yeah, it’s short. I read it. It’s fun.

Todd Henry

Yeah, the fantastic. The two ways that we get stuck. The first way is what he calls a cul-de-sac, which is basically a dead end where we’re just going round and round and round and round the cul-de-sac, and it feels like we’re making progress but, really, we’re just stuck, we don’t really have a vision. And the best thing to do in the cul-de-sac is just to quit because you’re never going to get anywhere if you’re in a cul-de-sac.

And then he said the second thing, the second kind of place where we get stuck is in what he calls the dip. And the dip is that inevitable difficult moment after we’ve started a creative project, and we have all this energy at the beginning because it’s new, and it’s fresh, and we have a vision, and then it gets really hard, and so a lot of people give up. Scott Belsky calls this the project plateau. It’s the moment where it starts getting really hard but we don’t have the same excitement about the work, and so we tend to want to quit. But you don’t quit in the dip.

If you have a vision, of the way things could be, and you can see a path to get there, you don’t quit in the dip. You keep pushing. You keep going because there are rewards on the other side. So, when we talk about a vision of a better possible future, and the agency to bring it about, that’s really kind of where I’m playing as well, is when you get into those moments where you’re in the dip, and it’s uncertain, you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know if you really feel like pushing forward, if you have a vision, you need to push forward.

If you believe that you have the agency, the will, the capability to bring that about, you need to push forward. Not only do you need it, we need you to push forward because that’s how the world moves forward. So, if you’re in a cul-de-sac, quit. If you have no vision, quit. If you don’t believe you have the agency, just quit. Or, develop it, develop the vision, develop the agency, but if you’re in the dip, the brave thing to do is to keep moving forward.

Pete Mockaitis

Alrighty. Okay. Well, Todd, I would love to get your perspective. Do you have any top do’s or don’ts for folks looking to be awesome at their job as they are contemplating this bravery stuff?

Todd Henry

Yeah, the main thing, and this is why the book called The Brave Habit, is that bravery is a habit, which means that we can build practices into our life to prepare us for moments where we need to be brave. So, the main do I would say is have some time that you block off in your life, and I walk people through this in the book, where you basically follow B-R-A-V-E. Which is basically block time once a week to look at your calendar, look at your commitments, look at everything coming up in your life that week, conversations in your life, projects you’re accountable for. So, block the time, and the reason I say that first is because it seems like an obvious thing but we don’t do it, we don’t plan time for the things that are most important.

The second part is review. Review upcoming conversations that maybe you’re a little nervous about. Review client projects, conversations, that you’re going to be having, and review them for points of uncertainty, for tensions that you know are inevitably going to be there. The third is claim agency, meaning assess what agency you have in those moments. What are you bringing to those moments that you uniquely are able to contribute? Why are you right person to have that conversation? Why are you the right person to do that project? So, re-root yourself in your sense of agency.

The fourth is vision. So, what is your vision for each of those relationships, for each of those projects, for your work as a whole, your vision for your life, your vision for your relationships? What is your vision? Re-root yourself. And then, finally, express your intent, E, that’s the E part. Express your intent, meaning, “Here is the outcome that I am committed to for each of these areas.” By doing this, what you’re doing is getting ahead of those moments.

We’re often surprised by these moments where we have to be brave. We come into a conversation, and we’re completely ill-prepared because we haven’t done the pre-work to set ourselves up for bravery, for exhibiting bravery in the moment. But, again, as we get ahead of it, and as we build practices to prepare us for those moments, then, in the moment itself, we’re not reacting. We’re simply enacting the plan that we’ve already put in place, that we know that we’re going to enact. And then as we do that consistently over time, it becomes more of a habit for us.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Lovely. And any don’ts?

Todd Henry

The biggest don’t, and this is, by the way, true of anything that we do as creative professionals, people have to solve problems, is don’t wing it. Talent gets you in the game but your practices keep you in the game. Talent is the price of entry. People think that they can wing their entire career based on talent alone. You cannot. You will, eventually, fail. You’ll eventually succumb to the negative drag forces of the marketplace.

You have to have practices in your life to prepare you for those moments and to help you be successful. And so, that would be the biggest thing, is don’t wing it. Have practices in your life to prepare you for critical moments.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, Todd, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Todd Henry

I think the biggest thing that I would encourage people to consider is, listen, your life is comprised of moments, and how you approach those moments is going to define your life. We tend to think of life as a passage of days, and years, and months, and whatever, and that’s true but the reality is some of those moments are weighted far more significantly than others.

And how you respond in critical moments in your life is going to determine the arch of your life, and, ultimately, the body of work that you build, the relationships you have, and the degree to which you have deep regret later in your life. So, your moment is coming, make sure that you’re prepared for that moment when it arrives.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Todd Henry

Thomas Merton is one of my favorite thinkers, one of my favorite writers.

And he once wrote, “There can be an intense egoism in following everyone else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular, and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they are in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they justify their very haste as a species of integrity.”

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Henry

So, one thing that is really interesting to me in researching this book, I came across the work of a couple of key people. One was Martin Seligman, who’s kind of known as the father of positive psychology, and the other one was Albert Bandura, who did significant research into agency, and how agency affects us.

And one of the key tidbits that came out of the research was that people who live with an optimistic mindset versus a pessimistic mindset tend to outlive people who have a pessimistic mindset in their life, to the extent that people who live with a generally pessimistic mindset exhibit health effects that are similar to smoking packs of cigarettes a day in their life. Those are the kinds of health effects that they experience. Pessimism has such a negative drag on your physical health that is the equivalent of smoking packs of cigarettes a day. So, I thought that was pretty fascinating, actually.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite book?

Todd Henry

I was watching a video of a guy who was talking about the five-foot shelf of books, which is the complete Harvard Classics which were assembled like in the early 1900s by the president of Harvard. And he said, “If you read these books, this five-foot shelf of books, you will have all that you need in terms of, like, a Western liberal education.”

And so, I decided to commit myself to reading the complete Harvard Classics.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Can you share with us a couple titles that we’d recognize in that and a couple titles that we wouldn’t?

Todd Henry

Absolutely. So, right now, I’m in the midst of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which is the very first part.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s so good. All right. And a favorite tool, something you use to help you be awesome at your job?

Todd Henry

The tool that I use more than any other tool right now, as a podcaster, as a content creator, is Descript. It has radically changed my world, and I don’t say that very often. I’m not, like, a big jump-on-the-bandwagon-of-a-tool kind of guy but Descript has completely changed my world. If you do any audio or video creating, you 100% need to be using Descript.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Todd Henry

The one that I see circulating the most, because it got picked up by some of the, like, habit apps and things, is, “Don’t let your rituals become ruts,” and so, I think, every so often, or I know, every so often, it’s important to do a review of your rituals and make sure that they’re still serving you, and they’re not just there for you to serve them.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Henry

So, ToddHenry.com is my personal website. You can find all my books. Our podcast is called Daily Creative with Todd Henry. We just started over with episode one. So, you could listen to the podcast where you get podcasts. My books are at ToddHenry.com or wherever you buy your books. The Brave Habit is available now.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Henry

It’s really important that we understand that your time is finite, and this is almost something we say so often, it becomes cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason, it’s because it’s true. And so, treat today, treat this moment, treat your next conversation, treat the project you’re working on not as if it’s going to be your last, but as if it’s going to be your legacy.

We often hear this advice, “Live every day as if it’s your last,” and I think that’s terrible advice because if it was my last day, I’m going to eat donuts and do whatever I want to do because I don’t have to worry about my health. Instead, I like to think, “What if today was my legacy? What if this was the only day? What if a biographer was going to follow me around today and look at everything I do, and then was going to write the story of my life based on this day? How might I approach this day differently? How might I approach that next conversation or that conflict differently? How much effort might I put into this project I’m working on?”

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Todd, thank you. I wish you much fun and bravery.

Todd Henry

Well, thank you. And thanks so much for having me on the show, and thanks for the great work that you do.

931: How to Overcome Obstacles and Kickstart Change with R. Michael Anderson

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

R. Michael Anderson shares how vulnerability can be your greatest strength as a leader.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why to be more open about your struggles
  2. The drivers behind your worst decisions
  3. The key relationship that everyone overlooks

About Michael

Michael Anderson, MBA, MA has a striking combination that creates truly impactful transformation in leaders – he has the real-life business success of founding, scaling and exiting three software companies, plus the educational background of a Masters Degree in Psychology.

 This combination gives him the unique ability to connect to other leaders as a peer, then teaches evidence-based leadership skills that genuinely drive behaviour and performance. 

With his background in psychology and neuroscience, he transforms managers into true leaders with high-performing teams in high-growth companies. He’s written two best-selling business leadership books, contributes to Entrepreneur.com, and is a former radio-show host. 

Resources Mentioned

R. Michael Anderson Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michael, welcome back.

R. Michael Anderson
Pete, good to be here again. It’s been forever.

Pete Mockaitis
It has. And I was looking at our last conversation, and we moved pretty quickly past your story, which I really want to dig into, into some detail, to hear about your dramatic rise and fall, and rise again, and what was happening on the outside, as well as what was happening on the inside because, I think, when it comes to a Leadership Mindset 2.0, and impostor syndrome, all this stuff, I think there’s gold lessons along your journey if you’re ready to go there.

R. Michael Anderson
I am, Pete. I share it very freely, and it’s nice to be here with you and have some time and I appreciate you asking about the outside and the inside because, as we all know, they’re related but, often when I share this, a lot of people will say that it really resonates. And a lot of times, it’s nice to know that other people go through some of the crazy stuff that we all go through as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, start us, how about you just wrapped your semi pro basketball – that’s a whole another conversation, another story and you’re getting in the business game? Let’s start from that beginning.

R. Michael Anderson
Yeah, I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then I moved out to California. I joined a software company. They moved me around the world. And then I moved back to California in my mid-30s. There was a gap in the marketplace, and I don’t want to say by accident, but a couple of my old clients asked me to come help them.

I come from enterprise software, so Microsoft Dynamics and SAP, and so there were some big, large former clients that just needed help because the company that I used to be with that got bought out wasn’t giving a good service, and so I started servicing these clients. And then, a lot of the other clients found out that had this software, and next thing you know I had a proper business, I had to deal with offices, there’s these $100-million-dollar companies that used our software to run their business, and was being all managed by little me, and I was not emotionally ready to do all this.

And what happened is, all of a sudden, we have a payroll in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, million, per month, and I was a good business person, I understood management, I understood the industry, but I didn’t understand leadership. And I never knew what emotional intelligence was, and I didn’t have a lot of great leaders to look up to. So, you can imagine, Pete, it was really difficult around those years.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I’m intrigued. Now, your success was driven just because, well, by golly, there was a gap in the market, and you have exactly what these folks need. And word spread, and, bada-bing, bada-boom, a lot of revenue, a lot of responsibility, a lot of clients, a lot of employees real quick, and you were not feeling so great on the inside in the midst of this external success.

R. Michael Anderson
That’s so right. Because the funny thing is, from the outside, everything looked great. We were so successful, I was on the frontpage of the newspaper.

Pete Mockaitis
Congrats.

R. Michael Anderson
To be quite honest, I had some substance abuse issues around in the early part of my life, and the pressure made them get worse. My father was an alcoholic, I had alcohol problems, I was doing hard drugs. And as this pressure mounted, that became more of a crutch, and so that was getting worse, not getting better, by any means.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you zoom actually way in on the alcohol and hard drugs? What were you thinking and feeling? And what did the alcohol and drugs do for you in those moments?

R. Michael Anderson
That’s a great question. I think I did that to not think because I didn’t have any, I’d say, tools. Like, I didn’t know who I was, and all this stuff was happening so fast. And I was working, like, crazy hours. I would bill my own. I was a consultant so I would bill myself out for eight or ten hours, and go home and do the administration or any or all of it. A couple off hours I’d do sales, and then I hired my friends from the industry.

And it’s, like, there was so much going on. And, Pete, I remember back then, my only goal was to get to the end of the day, get to the end of the week. I was so stressed out and burnt out. I wasn’t even burnt out. I could work massive hours. Burnt out is not the right word. It’s like life was just happening around me, and I was doing my best to hold on.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, there’s that sensation of, “Boy, just got to get to the end of the day. It’s tough. Life is happening.” And then what did the drugs and alcohol do for you?

R. Michael Anderson
Well, I think it just gave me a little respite. It’s like stuff was out of control, and my personality really likes to control. And with the substances, it was like I would have a little bit of time that would just numb everything because I couldn’t take everything that was going on, so it was like a little oasis. As bad as that sound, in a way, like I needed it because I didn’t have any other tools.

Pete Mockaitis
No, I totally resonate with that, and I haven’t used illegal drugs much in my life to resonate, but I think there are other times we seek out some kind of oasis, retreat, respite in a way that’s not so helpful, whether it’s overeating, or Netflix bingeing, or whatever. It seems like a break, but then, unfortunately, it doesn’t really satisfy, as my experience, and that of many others.

So, tell us, back on the outer world, you’ve got a lot of busyness, a lot of revenue, a lot of employees, and a lot of drugs, what happens now?

R. Michael Anderson
That’s it. That’s where it ends now. No, I was joking. Well, of course, like anything else, not like anything else, but it started just everything got worse. And I had a key employee who I gave some equity to, pretty much just out of my insecurity. He was doing a good job, and he was taking on some responsibility, but I felt so lonely, and we worked a lot of extra hours together so I gave him some equity, and he had some substance abuse issues, too.

And we ended up getting into an argument one day. It was Wednesday, it was 10:00 a.m., he came in my office, he asked me a question, and tensions were high because I wanted to keep growing the business, and he wanted to just have a bit of a lifestyle business. There was a couple things that we didn’t agree on, so tensions were high.

And he asked me, just like an everyday customer question, an operational question, I don’t remember what it was. And I gave an answer he wasn’t expecting, and he didn’t really want, and so we started to get into an argument. I’m pretty cool, I was just watching him get angrier and angrier. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen when somebody gets so angry, they get red and start shaking and yelling. That’s what he started to do.

And I said, “Look, it’s Wednesday, 10:00 a.m., there’s employees around. Why don’t you go back to your office. Let’s talk about this after everybody leaves.” And I thought that was the end of it. He went away down the hall back to his office, but then he popped his head back in, and he goes, “I’m going to wipe that smile off your face.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy.

R. Michael Anderson
And then I watched him come around my desk, and he cocks back, and, with all his might, he hits me.

Pete Mockaitis
Whoa!

R. Michael Anderson
Yeah. I saw it coming, so I turned away but I felt the blow on my shoulder, and then we just sort of looked at each other, and then he left. And I got up and shut my door. And people asked me, like, “What were you thinking back? What were you feeling?” I’m like, “I think I was a bit in shock.” If you’ve ever had something so crazy happen to you, and you know there’s going to be big repercussions, I think that what was going on.

And I kept asking myself, “Did this really happen?” because I knew if it did, that there was going to have to be some major things going on, obviously, and I didn’t want to go down that path, so I was trying to do a reality check to see if what just happened really happened.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. You know, Michael, by crazy coincidence, I, too, was, one time, punched completely unexpectedly but it was by a total stranger in Chicago, at the Chipotle in Belmont and Broadway. And I had to say, it was so weird, I, too, had the same response. I was, like, looking at other people, just like, “Did that just happen?” And I’m okay, thank goodness, but it is.

When something that crazy happens, you doubt your own senses. Like, I’m pretty sure that just happened, but I would like some kind of a confirmation from somewhere that that really did occur. So, I hear you, it is wild. It’s out there.

R. Michael Anderson
Yeah, that’s a good phrase you used that I never heard before – doubt your own senses. That’s what I was doing. And then I called up a business owner who I met recently, closest thing that I had to a mentor, and I’m like, “This just happened. What do I do?” because I was, like, “Nothing prepared me for this moment.” He was like, “Dude, if this happened once, this is going to happen again. You got to address this. You can’t blow this off.”

So, I went down to the police station, I go, “I’m here to report an assault.” They’re looking at me, they’re like, “What?” I’m like, “Well, my business partner just assaulted me.” And they said, “Oh, do you want us to arrest him?” I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. No, I don’t think so. What else can I do?” They’re like, “Well, you can’t do much else. You can write…”

And so, I logged it, so I wrote it in a book, the date and time and what happened, just so there’s a record of it. And then the next day, I called my attorney, and then the next day, when he came to the office, I had an armed guard hand him a restraining order, a termination letter because I still owned the majority of the company, and then a copy of the lawsuit.

And then, as each one of my employees came up, I had to sit them down and tell them, “My COO, my business partner, so and so, is no longer here because he hit me.” And most of the people reported to him, and then I had to call all of our customers, and he was the executive project manager on a lot of the big projects, and I said, “Hey, the guy you’ve been working with every day for a year, on your multimillion-dollar project, he’s no longer here, and I can’t tell you why.” So, that was a crappy day.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so then, shifting into the internal game, like what were you thinking in the midst of having to share this news with your clients and employees?

R. Michael Anderson
I don’t even know how I got through it. I do remember I joined a peer group of entrepreneurs around that time, and when they found out this happened, because I think it happened, I had the weekend to, like, prepare all that stuff. But one guy called me every morning, he’s like, “How are you feeling?” I’m like, “Well, I feel like crap.” He’s like, “Get out of bed,” because I’m basically in depression at that point, that everything just came crashing down.

And, luckily, I had some people that really helped me think through things because I think, often, that happened during a crisis where the most important things you need to do, or within the first 24, 48 hours, and, luckily, Pete, I had a couple people around me that really, really helped me and supported me in that time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Okay. Well, so then what happens next?

R. Michael Anderson
Well, you talked about the internal, so that evening after I got through that day, I’m sitting on my couch, and I was about to go in my normal methodology of escape, and smoke some weed, do some coke, and drink some whiskey. But I just paused, and I started reflecting on my life, and I’m like, “What’s going on? I’ve always wanted to own a business. And I own a business, and I hate it. It sucks. It’s not fun at all.”

And it’s not becoming more fun as it gets larger, and I’m like, “Maybe I should just go back to being a programmer. I’m good at that. And it’s easy. I made good money, etc.” And I’m like, “No, no way. I did the hard part. I got a successful company. I got to figure out what’s missing.” And I realized I was a good doer.” When I saw other people successful and happy, and I’m like, “Am I broken? Is something wrong with me?” I think I got angry at God and I didn’t even know if I believed in God. It was a really weird self-reflection but really deep and really powerful.

And then I’m like, “Look, I’m a good doer. Why don’t I change my goals? My goals must be wrong. Why don’t I set my sight on becoming happy and becoming a successful business owner?” And I made two life changing decisions that day. Instead of self-medicating, I went for a jog so I went away from my escape, and I met things head on, and I did something healthy for myself, and I made a commitment to myself that I’m going to figure this life thing and this business thing out. That was a turning point in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. So, you went for a jog, then you just made the firm decision. All right. So, often, in such moments, things are easier thought or said than done. Tell us, what did you have to go do to get in a healthy groove with your responsibilities?

R. Michael Anderson
Well, right around that time, I briefly mentioned earlier that I joined a group of entrepreneurs, and two of the entrepreneurs had just a real peace and calmness about them. And until that part of my life, I’ve achieved a lot but I’d never achieved any peace or calmness. And I got to know them, and both of them went through a really unique program, and I found out about it and I signed up for it, basically, because I know I needed to do something or I was going end up dead.

It was a Master’s in Spiritual Psychology. And when I say spiritual psychology, it had nothing to do with religion. We learned six different psychoanalysis techniques from a place of pure compassion, and that’s the “spiritual” part of it. And we take the assumption that we’re all loving beings, and if we have behaviors that aren’t loving, like we get jealous or angry or sad, which we all do, that’s part of the human experience, we don’t judge it, but we say, “There’s an opportunity for healing.” And we use psychology to go in and heal that part of us so that we are more in line in with our true selves, or our soul, if we choose to believe we have a soul.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so could you share with us, perhaps, some of the most effective practices, interventions, approaches that came forth from that?

R. Michael Anderson
One thing we had to do was, we call it history of loving, so we start with a genogram, which is a family tree, but then we do the family tree, but then we mark down all the alcoholism, the substance abuse, divorces, enmeshments, re-marriages, etc. So, it’s like a whole map of your family.

R. Michael Anderson
And so, once we did that, and there’s a way based on a book called Family Secrets by John Bradshaw. There are ways to follow it up. And, for me, I go after my father’s unresolved issue. He goes after his own father’s unresolved issues. So, my grandfather, his dad, was a failed entrepreneur, multiple marriages, alcoholic. My dad was a failed entrepreneur, multiple marriages, alcoholic. I was getting divorced, alcoholic, and owning a business, so my story wasn’t written yet.

But, Pete, just to see the patterns so obvious in my past, in a way, I knew that, but once I wrote them down and saw how specific these patterns were, it really stopped me in my tracks.

So, then the question is, “I know what the pattern is. How do I heal it?” So, in this case, what I did, and, again, this was over a little bit of a period of time with some great guidance. My father was, when I went through this, about 10, 12 years ago, he’d already been passed away for over a decade. So, what I did was I wrote a letter from my younger self to him, and then I wrote a letter from him back to me on his behalf.

R. Michael Anderson
And just to give you some context, my dad, he had a corporate job, and then he started his business when he was married to my mom and had me and my sister, and the business didn’t go well. And as the business didn’t go well, he started to drink more and more, and disconnect from my family, and just not be available. And then they got divorced, he left, and he really wasn’t in my family much after that at all.

And I know, intellectually, he didn’t leave because of me but I realized it deep down, like, there was unfinished business. And so, I got into this really, I guess, meditative place, and I wrote a letter to him. And the letter said, “Dad, can you help me understand? I really am confused because we had the family with my mom and, Amy, my sister, and it seemed like we’re doing okay, but then, all of a sudden, you left.”

“You never told me you love me. You never told me you’re proud of me. And I don’t understand, is there something that I did wrong? Is there something I could’ve done? Is there something? What happened there? Why weren’t you affectionate? Why didn’t you give me love the way I was looking for? It was really difficult growing up without you and having no relationship. I just wanted to understand more about it.” And it was very, very emotional getting that out.

And then, again, me writing the letter from my dad to me was amazing because he wrote, he said, “Hey, Mike, you don’t understand. I love you so much. I’m so proud of you. And I love your sister. I even love your mom so much. But the fact is, I’m the male, I’m supposed to be the breadwinner. I’m supposed to provide for my family, and I failed in that.”

“And as the business went bankrupt, and I got into tax problems, etc., I just was so disappointed in myself whenever I was around you and the whole family that I figured you all were better off without me, and so that’s why I left because I knew you all were better off without me. And I’m so sorry, and I love you so much, and I’m so proud of you. And I see what you’re doing now, and you’re really amazing.”

And, after that process, I quit alcohol and drugs, Pete, because I had a belief that, deep down, I had this belief that my dad didn’t love me. And I realized in this process, which I know is the truth, in my heart, that he did love us so much that he actually made, I think, a pretty stupid…it wouldn’t be what I ask for, but he made a sacrifice, and he thought he was doing what he thought was best for the family. It wouldn’t be what I chose but he did love us, and he loved us a lot. So, I had a belief that I wasn’t lovable, and then I realized that I was lovable, and my dad did love me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. And so then, I’m curious, thinking about how that could be applied in their domains, I suppose it might be we zero in on a wound, a challenge, a difficulty from an earlier time, and then write the letters both ways. Have you seen this manifest in other ways? Is it usually the parents or could it also be to, I don’t know, former lovers, or siblings, or business partners? What else have you seen in application here?

R. Michael Anderson
Yeah, that’s a great thing to bring up like that. And what comes to me is that this a lot about unfinished business. And when we have unfinished business, it’s because, internally, we’ve made different agreements, or we made assumptions, or we made decisions. And part of all of us know what that decision is but it’s subconscious so we have to get to it.

So, this two-way writing can get to it, and you can do this two-way writing with your ego, with a part of you that feels scared, and maybe you do two-way writing with the part of you that feels scared. And maybe you do two-way writing with the part of you that feels scared and then Superman, or somebody who has great empathy or compassion or strength, so there’s some creativity that can go into this. but what you really want to do is make sure you’re in, like, I want to say meditative, like a very present state, maybe you go to somewhere special to do this because your mindset, your presence is going to really affect whether this is successful or not.

And then really find out, and the big question is who you have to talk to, or what needs to be healed or released, and then that can be a really, really therapeutic process.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Thank you. Okay, Michael, so you did that exercise and it was super powerful. What happened next?

R. Michael Anderson
Well, that’s what people do. Some people ask me, like, “How would you describe your…?” and this is how we’ll bring it back to people in their careers and their leadership, for example. If people ask me, “How would you describe the changes that happened during that?” because I went for the Master’s and then went another two years over this, four years.

And I say that, “I really got to know who I am, know, like, and trust myself,” because I realized back then I was so insecure and I really wanted to be liked, and I wanted to be respected, I wanted to be looked up to that I was spending all my time being the person I thought people would like and trust and respect, and all those things, which wasn’t authentic, and it was taking a lot of my energy to be that person.

And then through this process, I really got to understand, know who I am, and like who that person is, and have the trust to show that. And when we talk about leadership, and this is why I work with leaders, and the last thing I’ll say, Pete, is once I started applying what I learned there, and knowing who I am, and bringing them to my businesses, because one time I owned three, two in California, one in Singapore, then we really started to thrive.

We’re on the Inc. 5000 list a couple years in a row, we won the Number One Best Place to Work, and I won Social Entrepreneur of the Year. That was externally but internally I was finally having fun as a leader because I was bringing my full self to that leadership position. I was showing people who I am and what my values are, and then people would get energized by that.

And then I was creating great relationships with them. We’re creating great value to our clients. And we were giving back to the community, which I think we all want to do but sometimes we get off track. And that switch, Pete, was so instrumental to my life that, if I had to summarize it, that’s really what I help leaders do now in the workplace and in their personal life.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. So, the core there is you have a deep, clear, profound conviction of who you are and you’re able to just sort of step in that, and own it, and feel it, and love it, and believe it. Is that accurate?

R. Michael Anderson
Yes. Yes. And I’m actually okay when I make mistakes or if people don’t like me because it’s like, “Look, here I am. You may like me. You may not like me. You may like part of me. You may not like part of me.” And sometimes there’s parts of myself that may not be ideal but I have this massive compassion for myself, and this acceptance, that sort of trumps everything else.

Pete Mockaitis
Massive compassion and acceptance. Okay. Well, so now you got the Master’s Degree, you did some exercises with the letter-writing. Can you illuminate for us, are there any other particularly powerful interventions or things you did that got you to that place?

R. Michael Anderson
There’s tons. I’ll give you a quick bite-sized one. So, I learned what a judgment is, because a lot of people don’t. They heard the word judgment but they don’t really know what that is. And the way it was defined to me is a judgment is assigning a positive or a negative thing to something, so I judge something is good or I judge something is bad.

Now, the Buddhist, they say there’s only one truth in this world, that something is, it is. There’s no good or bad. That’s something that humans assign. And the example I give is, say, I’m dating a girl and she breaks up with me. And the only truth is she broke up with me. I could judge it as bad, like, “Oh, I’m a loser. Nobody likes me. I’m never going to get married,” or I can judge it as positive, “Oh, great. She wasn’t the right person for me anyway, blah, blah, blah, blah.” But those are both human-created, the plus or the negative. The only truth there is that it happened.

And I come from a bit of a judgmental family, to be honest, so once I realized what a judgment is, and let’s say it’s just healthier not to judge, I realized that, through the work day, my life was just one big judgment to the next, like, I’d have a good call with a prospect, and be, “Oh, my gosh, we’re going to get this deal.” And then somebody would come in, and they’d say, “Hey, I’m going to take next week off,” and I’ll be like, “Oh, my gosh, how are we going to survive without them?” It would just be a real rollercoaster of emotions the whole day, and so by the end of the day, I’d be exhausted.

So, for about two months, I really, really worked on just looking at things as they are, just like data, like not this plus or minus, and it was amazing, Pete, because, the end of the day, I would have so much more energy because I wouldn’t go on this rollercoaster, but my decision-making skyrocketed because I wasn’t making emotional-based decisions. I was just looking at what happened and taking it in a very calm, collected, rational way. Because, I don’t know about you, but all my bad decisions were made when I was in a real emotional state.

And by just keeping that level head, and just realizing any time I’d say, “Oh, this is bad,” or, “This is good,” that that’s a judgment. Look, we’re humans, we’re actually, in a way, naturally make judgments here or there. But the more that we can be aware of that, and just take things as information, that can help our mental health, that can help our leadership abilities, that can help our decision-making, and that can help how people will see us as a calm, cool, collected person.

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

R. Michael Anderson
Yeah, for everybody, if I can give one message for everybody, it’s just to give yourself a break. I know, Pete, we talked before. I know there’s a lot of high-achievers and people that are really driven listening to this who want to get ahead in their career and everything, and chances are, you’re like me, listener, that you’re your own hardest critic, and just give yourself a break. You do so many amazing things. Just focus on them. And when you mess up here or there, because you probably will because you’re a risk-taker, just give yourself some slack.

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

R. Michael Anderson
Yes. So, a guy named Viktor Frankl, you’re familiar with him, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, Man’s Search for Meaning.

R. Michael Anderson
Yes. And for listeners out there, he was a psychiatrist during World War II, a Jewish one in the concentration camps. And he learned, he says that the only thing that people can’t take away from you is the ability to choose. So, we all have the ability to choose, and nobody can take that away, and that’s the most powerful thing we have. So, him just reminding me that we have the power to choose is something that I find very inspiring.

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

R. Michael Anderson
Well, what they’re finding now is our DNA can be changed. So, what that means is when we live, for example, a more conscious life, that changes our actual DNA. So, there’s this whole thing about how we’re wired. Nothing is that hardwired, so we can change anything we want in our personalities and our life.

Pete Mockaitis
So, are we talking about epigenetics here?

R. Michael Anderson
Yes. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Which I think is one of the coolest things ever. So, can you expand on that just a smidge in terms of, like, what’s a thing we might do that would change how a gene is expressed in a means that is helpful for us?

R. Michael Anderson
Whoa.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, the name of the gene, the letters, and the numbers.

R. Michael Anderson
I’d just say something like pessimism. I think a lot of us can be brought up in a very pessimistic environments and households and things, and we can be very critical to ourselves and others. And with work, we can be rationally optimistic. So, I don’t mean painting a blue sky when things are difficult. Also, finding the good in things and focusing on everything that we have.

Our grandparents came out of a lot of world wars and things, and brought up in depressions, and that went to our parents, so I see just a lot of criticalness and negativity. And I really believe that, with some mindfulness, we can really change ourselves to really live a much more peaceful positive life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

R. Michael Anderson
Favorite book. I like Mindset by Carol Dweck is one. That might be one you get a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think Mindset is excellent. And maybe, since you talk a lot about this kind of thing, I want to give you a follow-up on Mindset. Okay. So, I think listeners may have heard it before. Hey, you’ve got a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. And the fixed mindset is you believe that your strength, your skills, your abilities are locked in, like, “I’m smart,” or, “I’m not smart,” “I’m good at this. I’m creative,” “I’m not good at this. I’m not creative.”

Versus growth mindset, “Hey, I’m always capable of learning, growing, developing.” And all sorts of good things happen when you have a growth mindset in terms of the effort you exert and all that. So, I’ve heard that a few times, and I’m all about it. What I find interesting, though – help me out with this, Michael – is sometimes, even though I know that’s true, and I want to have a growth mindset, I have fixed mindset stuff creeps in a little bit, like, “Ugh, I just suck at this.”

And so, my alarm bells go off, like, “Oh, no, that’s wrong, Pete. That’s not the most productive helpful thought,” but, nonetheless, it pops up. What do you do in those moments?

R. Michael Anderson
It’s interesting because I was trying to think, because I caught myself. The funny thing about this is we can learn and understand, and learn it really well, but then there’s parts of our life where it hides, and then later you’d be like, “Oh, I’m doing it there.” I was trying to think if I found a couple lately. And the big thing is awareness.

Pete, I think once you have awareness, you’re halfway there because it’s where these things hide, and we don’t know they’re there, and that’s why it’s so hard. We’ve got to keep looking at ourselves. But, again, we want to learn at ourselves compassionately, not, “We’ve got to fix ourselves. We’ve got to fix ourselves,” because that’s just gets us right back to the non-compassionate view of ourselves, and back in that downward spiral.

I’ll give you an answer, Pete. You want to laugh at yourself. That is it. You want to chuckle, and be like, “Ah, there I go again. It’s going to happen again because you’re never going to be fixed to that.” But if you can take it with a little bit of humor, and instead of, like, “Gosh, darn it. There it is again,” you can just be like, “Huh, there it is again,” and bring a lightness to it. That’s, by far, the best thing you can do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now can you share with us a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

R. Michael Anderson
My favorite tool is going to be simplistic, but just listening and listen to your intuition. As a leader, I work almost exclusively with leaders that have teams, and I’m telling them, if they’re talking more than a third in a meeting, even if it’s a one-on-one meeting, they’re talking too much. And, over the years, I feel that I’ve become very wise, and the wise is my intuition, and I access my intuition by listening and really tuning into people.

And we’re all back-to-back meetings, and we’re all running around, but when I can take some time out, and if I have a big meeting, I’ll go for a half an hour walk before it, for example. So, when the meeting starts, I can be tuned in. And I like to be the person in a meeting that doesn’t say anything through an hour meeting, except for 10 minutes left. I say the one question, or the one statement, that brings everything together. I want to be that person that brings the powerful question or statement out, but potentially says the least.

And we do that by really listening and tuning in. And so, that’s my tool, is really tuning and just listening to everybody, seeing what’s not being said, maybe having the courage to say what’s not being said, but to do that in service to really getting the team forward.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

R. Michael Anderson
Again, it’s going to be common, but meditation. That’s probably changed my life. It’s the single thing that’s changed my life more than anything because it helps everything slow down. And when I don’t meditate, I realize how grouchy I can get and easily upset.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say meditation, what specifically are you doing?

R. Michael Anderson
Well, I’m a big silent meditator so I go on silent Buddhist meditation retreats, more normally twice a year. But every morning, for 22 minutes, I kneel down on a meditation cushion and do silent meditation. Guided meditation is good but nothing beats silent meditation. And people say, “Oh, I can’t meditate.” I’m like, “I don’t understand.” And they’re like, “Well, my mind wanders.” I’m like, “Well, that’s like saying ‘I’m trying to jog but I get tired.’” It’s like that’s going to happen. That’s a byproduct of trying to quiet your mind.

And the goal of meditation is not to have a quiet mind. It’s to have the awareness. I meditated this morning, and probably 30, 40 times I caught my mind wandering. I just brought it back to center but that’s the muscle you need to strengthen, it’s that one that has the awareness and brings it back to being present. So, I think there’s a lot of confusion about that, and guided meditation is good but I don’t think it’s a replacement for silent meditation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a key nugget you share that really connects and resonates with folks; they quote it back to you often?

R. Michael Anderson
So, once they hear it two or three times, they get it, but your relationship with yourself, your leadership mirrors relationship with yourself. So, your leadership mirrors the relationship with yourself. And what that means is all I really help leaders do is work on that relationship with themselves, make them really understand who they are, make them know, like, and trust that person, make them have compassion with that person.

And leadership is a lot about putting yourself out there, and it’s really about trusting yourself. You have to have this inner confidence. Confidence isn’t that you know things are going to work out, whether you know it all. The confidence is, no matter what’s going to happen, that you and the team are going to be okay, and you’ll solve it, but that means being okay with the unknown. And the only way you have that is to really trust yourself.

So, what I do is I work with leaders to develop that relationship with yourself, because, if you talk about impostor syndrome, that’s not having faith in yourself. And, look, when I say we all, pretty much everybody runs through impostor syndrome. I even get it every couple of weeks, but the thing is I have the tools now that I know what to do with it. So, it’s about coming back to yourself. And if you don’t have trust in yourself, it’s about building that trust up with the relationship. So, your leadership is a reflection of your relationship with yourself.

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

R. Michael Anderson
So, my name is RMichaelAnderson.com. And my new book, Leadership Mindset 2.0 is at LeadershipMindsetTheBook.com.

Or if people find me on LinkedIn, drop me. Tell you what, if anybody finds me on LinkedIn, R. Michael Anderson, and says, “I’m connecting with you from Pete’s podcast,” I’m going to send you a free gift. So, there you go.

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

R. Michael Anderson
Yeah, I tell you what. Everybody listening, think about how you were five years ago, like, as a leader. Look at where you are now, and compare yourself five years ago. Chances are you’re calmer, you make better decisions, you trust yourself more, you have better confidence, etc. Now, that just goes to show you that leadership can be learned. It’s a learned skill.

And so, if you want to progress in some of those areas, whatever it is, you got to work on them, and that’s really what I like teaching. So, it’s that confidence, it’s that presence, it’s having difficult conversations earlier and better. It’s all those helping people overcome their impostor syndrome and step into their true powerful selves. All that stuff is learnable.

So, just like we talked about, epigenetics or whatever, set your sight, if you want to move ahead in your career, and that’s what’s stopping you, go out and learn those tools.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Michael, thank you. This is a lot of fun. I wish you much luck.

R. Michael Anderson
Pete, you got have me back in another six years.

Pete Mockaitis
You got it.