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Self-Care

393: Freeing Up Extra Time Through Optimizing, Automating, and Outsourcing with Ari Meisel

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Ari Meisel breaks down his secrets to greater productivity…from virtual assistants, to the best productivity apps, to easier ways to make decisions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How working at your peak time makes you many times more effective
  2. The power of the 20-second rule
  3. Why you should consider using virtual assistants

About Ari

Ari is the best-selling author of “The Art of Less Doing“, and “The Replaceable Founder.” He is a self-described Overwhelmologist whose insights into personal and professional productivity have earned him the title, “The Guru’s Guru.” He can be heard on the award-winning Less Doing Podcast, on international stages speaking to thought leaders and influencers, and for those who prefer the written word, Ari’s blog posts on Medium offer immediate and actionable advice for entrepreneurs seeking replaceability.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ari Meisel Interview Transcript

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

Ari Meisel
Well, thank you for having me Pete. It’s good to talk to you again.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Well, I think we’re going to get into so much good stuff. I am all about less doing. But first I want to get your take on what’s the story behind you being on the cover of a Rage Against the Machine album?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, it’s the 20th anniversary of that. It’s funny. It’s been coming up a lot lately. The Evil Empire album from Rage Against the Machine, I was 11 years old and Mel Ramos, who is a famous artist and was a friend of my father’s, who’s an art dealer, made that painting for me as a birthday present when I was 11.

The band saw it a few years later in one of his books and they just liked it. They used it for their cover. I never met the band. I was never a fan of the band. I had a billboard of my face in Times Square when I was 15 years old.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, check you out. Well, and your fame has grown since then.

Ari Meisel
Yes, totally. I think it all stems back to that very moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, starting early, that’s good. Can you give us a little bit of a quick background on your company, Less Doing? What are you all about?

Ari Meisel
I empower entrepreneurs to become more replaceable. That’s what I do. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the ones that get excited by that are the ones that I usually do the best with. Essentially we’re teaching people how to optimize, automate and outsource everything in their business in order to be more effective. We do that through a number of systems that we teach and processes and methods, but essentially we teach people to be more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we love effectiveness here. Most of our listeners are not entrepreneurs, but I definitely thing that there are some applicable tidbits. Now, you unpack a number of these in your book called The Art of Less Doing. Is there a unique spin that the book takes?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. Originally when I got into this sort of world, the focus was on individual productivity for the most part. I was helping individuals be as effective as possible. Over the last several years, this has developed into much more of a business methodology for growing faster with less pain basically. The Replaceable Founder really takes that framework of optimize, automate, outsource and applies it to businesses.

The goal is to make people replaceable. The reason we do that is so they can have more focus, freedom and flexibility. The way that we do that is through looking at the way that they communicate, the way that they manage and execute processes, and the way that they have their project management system set up.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. I like your alliteration here. You’ve also got the three D’s. What are those?

Ari Meisel
That’s for email and decision making in general, which is to deal with it, delete it or defer it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, tell us, how do we navigate? When is it best to choose to do versus to delegate, to defer?

Ari Meisel
We use email to teach the concept, but it’s not about email. The email problem for most people is not an actual email problem, it’s a decision-making problem. The first thing here is to understand that the three of them are there because those are the only three choices that you should have to make.

Most people treat not just email but decisions in general as if it’s a unique opportunity to make a thousand different decisions every time. It’s not.

If you limit yourself in your choices to three, then you can say deleting is saying no, dealing with it means you can deal with it right now, which could include delegating it, so you get in that sort of habit as well. Then the third D is for deferral, which is the most interesting because that’s really taking into account how you use your time and when you’re best at different things.

Every one of us has a different time and sometimes place where we do different kinds of activities better, such as podcast interviews for example. You would not have gotten this energy from me a couple hours ago, which is why I try not to schedule a podcast interviews before noon my time. It’s something I’ve learned about myself.

Not to mention that my peak time, which is a period when any one of us is 2 to 100 times more effective than any other time of the day, that peak time for me is usually between ten and noon. I can’t do creative work before eight o’clock at night because there’s just too much going on in my head and I can’t write or be really creative.

Knowing that is really powerful because you can make an active decision. You’re not procrastinating; you’re saying, “No, I’m going to do this more effectively at this time, so that’s when I want to look at it.”

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that. We had Dr. Michael Breus on the show talked about the power of when and just some fascinating stuff associated with circadian rhythms and there’s actual biochemical things going on in your body at somewhat predictable regular times that point you to different states that let you be excellent at different sorts of tasks. Can you lay it on us again? What are your times and what are the capabilities you find you have uniquely available at those times?

Ari Meisel
Again, for me, the peak time for me is ten to noon.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say peak, you just mean, “I am unstoppably energetic,” or what’s peak mean for you?

Ari Meisel
The research basically says that for every person it’s different. There’s a time of the day that’s usually 90 minutes and you are 2 to 100 times more effective in that period. What they mean when they talk about effectiveness in that situation is that you’re most able to easily drop into a flow state.

Flow state for most people, that generally equates to a dilation of time. If you’ve ever found yourself in an activity where it felt like minutes had gone by, but it was an hour or two, that’s a flow state. We want that because our brain is just firing on all synapses in that moment.

My peak time is between ten and noon. In theory, I should be using that time for my highest and best use, which in my case is usually coming up with content or really interesting problem solving for whatever the problem might be.

Now, I know that I’m not good on the phone or podcasts before noon. That’s just something I’ve learned about myself. It’s not because I’m not a morning person, but maybe it just takes me a little while to sort of get in that mood or that mode.

Creatively, I can’t do creative work before eight o’clock at night because there’s a lot going on in my house first of all, but also we tend to be more creative when we’re tired because we’re less likely to sort of shoot down the bad ideas and things can flow a little more freely. But it’s different for every person. Some people, their peak time could be five in the morning. I’ve seen that. Some people it’s eleven o’clock at night and that’s when they do their best, best, best.

We all work out at different times or we should. We eat at different times. A lot of that you can see in Dr. Breus’s work. He’s been on my podcast three times because he’s so awesome. A lot of people think, “Oh, that’s interesting.” But you really can dial it in and use that timing to your advantage.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m right with you there. The peak then is you’re most likely to drop into a flow state. The creativity is a different animal than the peak?

Ari Meisel
Right, right, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. That’s nice. I guess we’re already digging into a little bit. You talk about optimizing, automating, and outsourcing. One of the components of optimizing is knowing thyself. We’re already talking about some knowing thyself in terms of the times that you’re best for different sorts of activities. Are there any other key parameters you really recommend folks zero in on knowing thyself/themselves well?

Ari Meisel
Sleep I think is another one too. Not everybody needs to sleep eight hours a night in one block. Many people should, but not everybody needs to. That’s not the optimal thing for everybody.

In fact if you look back at old research, well even new research now, the natural pattern of human sleep seemed to be these sort of two different bulk sleeps, where you got this core amount of sleep, then you’d wake up for a little while in the middle of the night and do things, and then go back to sleep for what was then became known as beauty sleep.

Understanding that just because the rest of your team or your environment or your friends or family, whatever, might be on a nine to five work schedule and a ten to six or ten to seven sleep schedule, it doesn’t mean that that’s what you should be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, so get clear on your real sleep needs and what’s optimal for you and not just sort of caving to the norms around you.

Ari Meisel
It’s so individual. It’s so, so individual. That’s the big thing. Understand that you can figure it out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Any other knowing thyself things to know?

Ari Meisel
I think a lot of people are just generally unaware of how they use their time and their space and their resources and their money and everything. There’s usually a huge benefit in just tracking sort of anything that we do. You can track things like with RescueTime, you can track how you’re using your computer or your Apple watch and see how you’re moving around or not. That kind of information can be very powerful if you just take the data that you’re producing all day every day and actually look at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us an example of let’s say Apple watch or Fitbit, you’re looking at your steps or movement data and how that can inform a useful decision?

Ari Meisel
One thing I would say is just challenging what you might inherently think you know about yourself. There’s so many people – there’s a lot of people who when they use these tools, they can guess the number of steps they’ve taken in the day and they’re probably pretty accurate.

Most people before they do that kind of thing are very – they’re usually pretty off. Somebody might think that they were on their feet for ten hours; it turns out they were only on their feet for two hours. Or they think that they walked five miles, but they didn’t even walk a mile.

That in itself, being aware of the unawareness I think is huge and the discrepancies because once you get into this and you sort of get to know your body and you sort of inherently understand these things a little bit better. We can make better decisions or we can even understand when we shouldn’t be making decisions because if we’re tired or not in a good place to mentally do things, a lot of people just sort of power through it and then make bad choices. Then those sort of build on each other.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. Can you recall a particular bad choice you made when you were tired or poorly resourced?

Ari Meisel
I mean a lot of it usually comes out with my wife and arguments that I wouldn’t normally have. But there – it’s funny actually. I think about a month ago my wife and I had a fairly aggressive argument. It was so out of the norm that she actually stopped and she’s like, “You’re acting like one of the children right now. You should go take a nap.” I can usually operate on pretty low amount of sleep, but this was a bad few days for some reason. I stopped and I realized I was acting like a toddler.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s well said. Cool, that’s a little bit about knowing thyself. Can you dig into a bit of the concept of the external brain? What is it and how should we tap into that power?

Ari Meisel
For the external brain is the idea that we really can’t use our brains the way that we think we can. The human brain is really, really bad at holding onto information. It’s great at coming up with it, but really not so good at keeping it. We try to use working memory for something that it really isn’t, which is long-term storage.

If we have systems in place – and when I say systems it’s important because a lot of people have tools or methods maybe or gadgets, but a lot of people lack systems. If you have a system in place to actually track your ideas, capture your ideas and put them in a place where not only you can save them, but actually act on them later, that makes life a lot less stressful and a lot more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, I’m so with you there. I’m thinking back to David Allen, episode 15 here for us. He said it very well, I might not get it perfect, but says, “Your brain is for having ideas not for holding them or for remembering them.”

Ari Meisel
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s been so huge for me is getting it out of my head and elsewhere. Personally, I love OmniFocus for the actionable things. Someone said, “Oh, this is a great restaurant,” “This is a great podcast.” “You should check out this church,” or place to go. I was like, “Oh cool. I will.”

It’s sort of like all those rich little life ideas don’t float away. They land somewhere and they can be acted upon in sometimes a year plus later, like, “Oh, I am going to watch that movie someone recommended a year ago. I’m so glad I had that recommendation ready to be accessed.” I dig OmniFocus for that and Evernote for more words basically in terms of maybe paragraphs plus. What do you dig for your external brain?

Ari Meisel
Trello.

Pete Mockaitis
Trello?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, I use Trello. I was a really big Evernote user for a long time, but I sort of fell away from it because with Trello it’s more speaking to that idea of having a system. I might capture things all day long from various sources, whether it’s a voice note to my Amazon Echo device or to Siri or a picture of something or a screenshot or I’ll forward an email, and they all go to one place. They all go to one list in Trello as an individual card, each one.

Then at the end of the day, it’s one of my sort of nightly routines is I look at that list and I can sort those ideas into various places. One might be for someone on my team to deal with, one might be for my wife to look at, one might be for me to read later, whatever it might be. But that sorting process is very important to me. You can’t really do that in something like Evernote. With Trello you have that sort of visual idea, like moving things around. It feels very congruent for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Can you unpack for us the categories? They start by getting dumped into a singular kind of inbox, collection bin. They then go to, “Hey, read this later.” They go to teammate or wife or another person. What are the other kind of categories that it might fall into?

Ari Meisel
Let me think. It could be assigned to a virtual assistant. That’s certainly one. It could be something that I want to talk about in one of my webinars. That would be like, I do a tech talk Tuesday webinar, so it could go to that. There’s not too many. That’s the thing is you don’t want to have too many different options.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then I’m wondering over time I imagine, if you’re anything like me, you have way more ideas that you’re excited about than you can take action upon. Let’s talk about some of the automate components, the decision matrix. What is that and in particular how might you apply it to, “Hey, do I do this or do I not do this?”

Ari Meisel
Well, that decision matrix is the three D’s. Saying no, for example, there’s just a lot more things that we should say no to. If anything, for some people it needs to be the default is to say no. If it’s not a heck yes, then it’s a heck no kind of a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for the children who listen to the show.

Ari Meisel
Yeah, right. That’s one thing. Dealing with it means you can deal with it right now like in the next three minutes. If you can’t – and in dealing with it right now, that could include delegating it – but if you can’t do that right now, and you can’t say no, then you have to defer it. At that point you pick a more optimal time for you to do it. That’s the point of it is you don’t have to put too much thought into what, when and why.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious to hear then when it comes to the heck yes and heck no, it sounds like that’s kind of a visceral your whole person is resonating with something is what lands you at a heck yes or do you have a more systematic approach by which you are determining “Yes, I shall pursue that and no, I shall not pursue the other thing?”

Ari Meisel
One is just understanding your resources, knowing if something is even possible, which part of that comes honestly from having that clarity of thought that comes from having a system like this. It sounds very circular, but it’s true. That’s the big one.

But the other one is also having the places to sort of delegate into that can possibly deal with it. What I mean by that is I have a number of virtual assistants. I have people on my team that I might think it’s a yes, but I have a system in place to sort of send it over to one of them to then validate that idea or at least move it a little bit farther down the field.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. You’ve also got a concept called set it and forget it. How does that work? Is this an infomercial?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. That’s how I think through automation. Automation to me should be something that we just sort of set up and then it just runs in the background and we just don’t have to think about it anymore. That could be simple things like a trigger through an IFTTT, for example, that if something happens here, then do something else over here. Or a process that is in place that people can go through a very detailed checklist, but it’s still that – that’s how you should be thinking about automation.

It’s not something that you should have to monitor or watch. I forgot who it is actually, but somebody, a friend of mine describes automation is just something that means he doesn’t have to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, automation means I don’t have to do it, which is great because in a way, that expands your mindset or how you’re looking at it beyond that of software, robots. Automation can very much include people, people engaging processes, which include a high or low-tech application there. If you don’t have to do it, then that means it’s been automated as far as you’re concerned.

Ari Meisel
Right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, you mentioned IFTT, if this, then that. It’s so funny I’ve looked at this app several times and thinking, that’s just cool. I’m sure I could probably find some use for it and yet I haven’t. Tell me, what are the most game changingly useful things you’re using IFTT for?

Ari Meisel
First of all, any time you find yourself in a situation where you say ‘every,’ so like every time this happens, every time a customer signs up, every time I book a podcast or video, every time I record an interview, every time I send a Tweet, every time I hire or fire someone, that ‘every’ should be a trigger to think about automation because typically that should mean it’s something that’s repetitive.

That’s one way of thinking through it. All those things that we do on a regular basis, on a repetitive basis, those are things that should be automated. I’ve automated hiring processes, content dissemination, even using machine learning to segment out potential customers from people on my email list. All of those things can be done with automations.

But at a really simple level, if you want to look at the things that you know you should be doing, but not you’re not doing them, that’s a great case for automation, like, “I’m on Facebook and I know I should be on Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not.” Okay, well you can automatically at the very least post all the things you put on one place into all the others.

I know that I should have consistencies so that if I change my Facebook profile picture, I should probably change my Twitter one as well. But those are the kinds of things most people are just like, “Ah, I’m busy so I’ll just let that one go for now.” A lot of those things where you should be doing them and you’re not, you can pick up the slack with automation.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say things you should be doing, I think one of the first things that leap to mind could be exercise, meditation, and sort of things that are boosting your effectiveness across the board. You talked a bit about attaching a new habit to an existing one, how does this work?

Ari Meisel
There are a lot of people who are way better about habits than I am. My friend James Clear, who wrote Atomic Habits, is one of the better ones to be honest.

But if we have a good habit in place already, like most of us probably brush our teeth, then you – and you want to bring in a new habit, then you can associate it with the existing habit. That’s like an anchoring effect. It just makes it a lot easier to implement that habit.

The other thing that I like is generally if you make something 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder, you can make or break a habit that way as well. The most obvious example of that is if you want to drink more water throughout the day, have a big thing of water at your desk, you don’t have to get up and go get water. If you don’t want to eat cookies, don’t have cookies in your house.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice, so 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder can make or break it. Well, then I’m wondering then if there’s a threshold number of seconds that’s like beyond that, “Ah, it’s just too much,” like “If it’s 35 seconds, okay, okay, fine, but if it’s 55, forget about it. Ain’t going to happen.”

Ari Meisel
Yeah, all the research I’ve seen is around 20 seconds.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good. That’s helpful. Okay, cool. That’s a bit about the automation side.

Now let’s talk about the outsourcing. You mentioned virtual assistants a number of times. Most of our listeners are employees and not entrepreneurs or business owners, but I can tell you that when I was an employee, I used virtual assistants to great effect. Can you unpack a little behind this? Virtual assistants, what are they really, really good for and where do people go wrong when they try to make good use of them?

Ari Meisel
Even in your personal life you should be using virtual assistants because it allows you to focus on what you do best and delegate the rest as has been said before. I use the VAs for over 100 hours a week in my personal life with my four kids and booking travel for me and my family and signing up for after school things and insurance.

You have to understand the return on investment there is not necessarily something that you’re going to be able to directly measure in dollars. It’s just going to make your life better.

The biggest problem with outsourcing in general is if people try to do it as a first step and they can’t. If you take an ineffective problem and you just hand it over to somebody else who has less information, less context than you and expect some magical result, it’s just not going to happen. You have to start with the optimizing first, then the automating, then you can get to the outsourcing.

Because also if you give work to a human being that an automation could do, then you’re effectively dehumanizing them, which doesn’t work either. We have to get better at communicating what our needs are. A lot of that comes from going through and creating an optimized process to begin with.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great point in terms of “I don’t like this. You handle it,” often doesn’t give you some great results on the other side.

Tell me a little bit when you talk about that optimization, what I found is some of the hardest thinking that I do, which has been just tremendously rewarding in terms of the return has been how do I take this gut feel type decision and turn that almost into an algorithm that we can use to determine – to get pretty far.

For example, I get tons of incoming podcast guest pitches. It’s like, “Oh my gosh.” One by one by one, I was sort of looking at them is like this is nuts, but every once in a while there were some really amazing people who came in. I thought “Well, I can’t just ignore them all.”

I really had to stop and think. It’s like, I want guests who are relevant, who are authorities, and who are engaging. Now, what exactly do I mean by relevant? What exactly do I mean by authoritative? How would I assess or measure or evaluate that? What exactly do I mean by engaging? Now, I can have that – it just goes in terms of the pitch lands and someone evaluates it per all my parameters and then I only look at a small set of finalists.

That’s been huge for me. Is there a particular way that you think about turning things from, “Okay, I can handle this,” until it’s so darn clear that someone else can handle it repeatedly?

Ari Meisel
Delegation is a muscle. You need to practice it and do it and it becomes a lot more natural. It’s not necessarily even so much that there’s an algorithm. But if you say there’s only three choices in these situations and that’s it. There’s only three choices. You sort of create innovation by artificially restricting your options.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, I dig. Can you give us an example of that in practice?

Ari Meisel
I mean, that’s one, the three options. If you say there’s 20 different things you could do, but you say, no, you only have three options. That’s a good one.

For me, if you artificially restrict time. A lot of people say “There’s no time in the day. There’s no time in the day.” It’s just not true. It’s just that priorities are messed up and people don’t have good systems.

If I told somebody that works a nine to five job what would you do if you could only work till four, you had to leave at four? For most people that’s pretty straightforward. That’s a fairly easy way to think through it. “Oh, I would skip lunch,” or “I’d take one less meeting,” or something.

But if you say to the same person, “What would you do if you could only work an hour a day?” that’s a very different question. That creates a whole different – you need a totally different way of thinking to make that work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You’re already getting the wheels turning for me. It’s like, “Well, I would have to figure out how to have other people do the things that I’m no longer doing,” is what I would do with that hour, kind of like wishing for more wishes, if you will.

Ari Meisel
Yeah, right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. When it comes to these virtual assistants, boy, how does someone find them? Where would you recommend they go, they research, they explore? What are some first steps there?

Ari Meisel
I’ve worked with over 20 different virtual assistant companies over the years, including owning one myself. In that time my favorite one is a company called Magic. People can go to Less.do/Magic to get connected with them. There’s a reason for that. There’s dedicated assistants, which I think create just another bottleneck that you give to somebody else. Then this is what’s more of an on demand model.

Magic has 15 people. Half of them are in the States. Half of them are in the Philippines. They work seamlessly as like one giant entity that really knows your preferences, understands what you need, and their response time is about 30 seconds 24/7. They can do all the different things. They charge I think it’s like 51 cents per minute or something like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. I’ve seen ads for Magic, but I’m like, okay, well, I’ve used a lot myself. Are they any good? It sounds like you’ve been around the block. You say, “Oh yes, Pete. They are legit.”

Ari Meisel
Oh yes, Pete. They are ….

Pete Mockaitis
That’s valuable information. One of my favorite places I’ve gone to is OnlineJobs.ph, which is for hiring people in the Philippines, but you’re going to significantly more work upfront in order to select that winner. That is a bit of work, but I found that on the backend it’s oh so rewarding when you have those champions.

Ari Meisel
Right, yeah. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. You also talk about outsourcing your outsourcing. What does this mean?

Ari Meisel
I’ve had Magic manage other outsource reliers. In outsourcing we generally have the generalist and we have specialist. Generalist would be the admin sort of VA. The specialist is more like the graphic designers and the programmers and stuff like that. I’ve had Magic manage them in some cases, so then I’m not even having to deal with them. I can have sort of one point of contact.

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

Ari Meisel
No, that’s the main thing. We have a couple different programs that we offer. We have something called a Replaceable Founder, which is a really great online course and now a one-day intensive workshop that we actually offer here in New York City. That’s something that I would recommend people checking out at Replaceable.fr.

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

Ari Meisel
Yeah, I sure can. I just have to pull this up. Too long, but it’s long enough that I can’t remember it. It’s a Robert Heinlein quote, if you’ve heard of Robert Heinlein.

Pete Mockaitis
I think I see his name in text in my mind’s eye, but I don’t recall anything more.

Ari Meisel
He wrote Tunnel in the Sky. He wrote some of the – he was sort of an Isaac Asimov contemporary.

But anyway, he said, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

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

Ari Meisel
Oh, that’s a good one. The Zeigarnik Effect probably. Bluma Zeigarnik in the 1920s in Berlin was a Russian doctoral student. She discovered this part of the brain that not only pushes us to complete the uncompleted, so it’s like the voice in our heads that pushes us to complete the uncompleted, but it’s also where we sort of process open-ended information.

Pete Mockaitis
So we know that that part of the brain exists. Are there any kind of key implications for how we live our lives differently knowing that?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a really important understanding for us because we actually are more able to recall that kind of information than in any other setting.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Ari Meisel
My favorite book ever is Emergency by Neil Strauss.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Ari Meisel
Favorite tool. That would be Trello, really Trello.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Ari Meisel
Favorite habit. My nightly sort of brain dump, sorting of ideas that I do in Trello. It’s huge for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your folks, that gets them nodding their heads and retweeting and telling you how brilliant you are?

Ari Meisel
Well, I hope so. I think just this concept of being replaceable. It opens up a lot of ideas and philosophies and emotions for some people to understand that that’s a really good thing. It’s not just about replacing yourself in terms of the functions that you do and bringing other people to do them and empowering them, it’s also about re-placing you to the sort of glory and comfort and happiness that you once had.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s clever. Re-placing, to place again yourself.

Ari Meisel
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s profound. Thank you.

Ari Meisel
Thank you. There we go.

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

Ari Meisel
They should go to LessDoing.com. We’ve got this really cool little free mini course that people can go through. That’s a bunch of videos. Actually, if they go to Less.do/Foundations, they can get into that.

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

Ari Meisel
Seek replaceability in everything that you do. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well Ari, this has been a real treat. Thank you for taking the time and good luck in all you’re up to.

Ari Meisel
Thank you.

389: Recharging Your Career with Beth Benatti Kennedy

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Coach Beth Benatti Kennedy shares actionable ways to recharge your career and beat burnout.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five focus areas for recharging your career
  2. How to use a Purpose Mind Map
  3. A more exciting way to introduce yourself

About Beth

Beth Benatti Kennedy, MS LMFT brings more than twenty years of experience to her role as a leadership and executive coach, resiliency-training expert, and speaker. With an extensive background in career development, she coaches high-potential individuals on how to use their influence strategically, collaborate effectively, and focus on innovation. Her clients include Gillette Company, Nike, Converse, and many others. Her new book, Career Recharge: Five Strategies to boost Resilience and Beat Burnout, was published in October.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Beth Benatti Kennedy Interview Transcript

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear your story. I want to start when you were eight years old working at the family moving company. Were you hauling some furniture? What were you doing at eight years old there?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I was one of these kids growing up, my dad came from an entrepreneur family, Steinway Movers. As a little girl I would always – I was always very interested in like whenever the truck would come to our house and asking him a lot of questions and what are you doing Saturday morning because he was definitely a workaholic.

I used to get to on Saturdays go to some of his big jobs. He used to – it’s in New York, so he used to move really big companies. One of them is Pan American airlines when they used to be around, which was one of my favorites. I used to go with him.

He would always bring breakfast for all of the workers, so they would get these fresh New York rolls and soft butter. I would be in charge of making sure they were cut in half because he didn’t want the guys being messy when they’re touching the equipment etcetera, etcetera.

Pete Mockaitis

That is attention to detail.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
No crumbs on the client’s goods.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Exactly, exactly. His trucks were so clean; you could have a picnic on the floor. He is the word passion till – he’s passed away – but was the work passion 100% plus, plus, plus for his career. Anyway, I got to see – that was my job. I’d go around make sure everyone if they needed coffee, would have their coffee and get their rolls.

But I got to do a lot of observing and I got to see a big piece of my model – the Benatti Resiliency model – is connection. A lot of that came from him because he had this gift of connecting with everyone whether it was the gentleman driving the elevator or whether it was the person in the hallway cleaning the garbage. He connected with everyone. It didn’t matter what level you were. I think that was a big, huge part of the success of his business.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well, just taking the time to provide the rolls and the coffee is pretty cool. At the times, we’ve had movers just two or three people showed up. It’s like, okay, I guess it’s on. Yeah, a little extra touch.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
These were like giant, giant moves, where they had just like five trucks and lots of men, lots of different directions, so it was super exciting for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, so I want to hear a little bit about this model and your book, Career ReCharge. What’s sort of the main thesis here?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’ve been a leadership coach for 20-something years. I started off as a career coach for the first 10 years. One of the things that I learned being – mostly doing corporate work was that people could – they so wanted to move on with their career or do something different, but what I found was many people were just completely exhausted or burnt out or bored. I had to recharge them so that they had the enthusiasm and the energy to really make that career change.

It’s a model that has developed over the years. That’s where the book came out was actually about four years ago I had a few clients that said you have to share this. I hesitated because it’s really hard being self-employed writing a book.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I hesitated the first year and then the second year I really got involved in a very committed program. It was so exciting to share my clients’ stories who really were even fine with me using their name because they really wanted to share the success of the model.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Well, could you give us a success story right now?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure, sure. One of my favorites is a gentleman named Eliot, who was an engineer and I coached him many, many years ago. He was – actually designed razorblades. I was in this company in Boston coaching a lot of employees. Again, a lot of my internal coaching was just helping them be more successful in their job.

At the time he really liked what he was doing. It was exciting, cutting edge company. They get bought by another company. He gets moved to another department. At that point, I actually am not coaching him anymore. I get a call from him. He’s in this new position for about two years and just miserable, not using his strengths. He says to me, “I need to meet with you again. I need to start up coaching again.”

We start up coaching and I realize he is completely burnt out. It was amazing for me to see this gentleman who used to be so – like one of the top in the company as it’s called a modeling simulation engineer, so he could actually design the razorblades – seeing someone who used to be so phenomenal just completely affect flat and just exhausted. Basically he really wanted to start the whole process.

It begins by this five areas. The first one is I zero in on their wellbeing, taking a look at physically, emotionally what’s going on and then starting to offer some – having them actually figure out some good strategies that will work for them.

Then we go into self-awareness, which is really getting clear on what their purpose is, how is their mindset, because we all know if you have that awful mindset, it’s not going to really help you if you’re trying to do a career change. Then one of the my expertise is personality types, so really looking at how is your type showing up and do you need to do any tweaking. We started with those two areas.

One of the things we found when we did his purpose was he was really ready for a change, but it’s scary. He wasn’t even 50 and he’s like, “Am I crazy to leave the golden Hancocks?” With my support and with working through the rest of the model, getting – which the next piece is brand, so we figured out when he did my brand exercises that he could take this amazing skillset he has and market it as a consultant.

The exciting part of the story is he did leave this Fortune 100 Company and now has his own consulting business. He’s actually – one of the organizations that he consults for is the US Olympic Skating Committee. He used his-

Pete Mockaitis
How clever.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah, he used his passion of ice skating to now he was actually able to predict what pairs in the Olympics – what country was going to have a better chance of winning from analyzing their strokes on the ice.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
So once you know who has a better chance of winning, what do you do with that?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Basically what the US Olympic Skating Committee is doing with his kind of research is to be able to say, “Okay, let’s figure out who are the skaters we really want to work on for next year? What are the things – why is this particular country doing so well? Oh, we need to – the ice skaters need to work on this to really make it to that first or second or third place.”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so fascinating, when you said ice skating, I was like, okay, I can see the carryover, like the blade going to the skates, but no, you went in a totally different direction.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
He went a totally – his doctorate degree was in this – now it’s a big thing, this modeling simulation, I guess like baseball players. He could actually if he wanted to work for like a professional football team or a professional baseball team, where they do this modeling simulation and they can predict “Okay, you’re holding a bat this way, this is what will happen.”

It was really exciting because till this – I still coach him and he weekly goes through the five areas. The two areas that I didn’t get to talk about – the fourth one is called connection. That’s why I have all my clients every week really take a look at are you proactively connecting with people that nourish you, excite you, enrich you.

This was a huge piece of him being able to make this transition to a whole new career field. He just surrounded himself – I call it ‘who’s in your boat’ – getting really great people to support you. One of them was back to working with a coach because sometimes you can’t do a huge – that is such a huge change he made, you just can’t do it by yourself, even with the most supportive partner.

Then the fifth one is innovation. That’s when you challenge yourself to kind of really just learn and do different things. This is – the innovation for him was he actually had to go back to Northeastern University and take some more courses on some of this technical modeling stuff, I couldn’t even explain to you because I don’t even understand it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. It’s called the Resiliency model, but it seems like it’s bigger than just being able to weather the difficulties that come your way.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yeah, yeah. My definition of resiliency is a little bit different. I think a lot of people think of resiliency as just bouncing back, but my – I really see resiliency also as being proactive in your career because I think a big issue right now is people – we get kind of set in our ways and we forget that we can’t just start working on career development once we hate our job. We have to proactively be doing things for our career on a weekly basis, even little tiny things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to hear, what are some of those little tiny things that make a real big difference?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Basically what I’ve done in my book, I have these little boosters at the end of every chapter, so I’ll just share some of them from brand. Brand, when I think about brand, my definition of brand is what are your strengths, what are your attributes, what do you bring to that position or that company, what’s the impact you’re making and what’s your reputation.

A little tiny thing you could do once a week is spend five minutes on LinkedIn. Take a look at your profile. When’s the last time you updated your profile? What about connecting? Is there someone you just had a meeting with two days ago? Did you connect with them?

Because I think what happens, again, LinkedIn for many people they think that’s a job searching tool. It’s really a pro-active career development tool. It’s one of the – a great way to kind of stay up to date in your career. That’s a little example of a tip.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’d love to hear a few more of these.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Why don’t we start in the realm of wellbeing? What are some of the things that make a world of difference?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’ll share a few for each booster. The first for wellbeing one of them is how important it is to make sure you’re not doing everything yourself, so having the gift of time. Another one is thinking about – with all the stress going on at work – what are the things you can control and what are the things you can’t control and making sure you’re focusing on things that you can control because it’s so easy to get stressed out  by everything.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to not doing everything yourself, what are some of the top things that people find that, “Hey, sure enough I can get some help with this,” or “I can outsource this,” or “automate this.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
You’re going to crack up, but I would say probably once a month I will say to someone, “Have you ever considered getting your apartment or your house cleaned?” Now these are people with big jobs like this audience that’s listening and they’ll say, “No, I just can’t do it.” Then I’ll say, “Okay, just try it for three months.” They’ll say, “That was the best thing.”

Even if they have someone come every – like once every three weeks, they fit it into their budget, they’re like, “That is the best thing I’ve ever done,” because now they have more time and energy to do the things that they need to do for their wellbeing like get to the gym for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or go for a walk. That’s – believe it or not, that’s a big one that people really like.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that a lot. What’s cool there is that doesn’t just mean that you’re cranking out another hour of work, but rather that is sort of precious home time – I guess the time you spend in cleaning is sort of a privileged category of time because you’re outside of work and you’re not doing sort of immediate family responsibilities because in a way, cleaning isn’t super urgent. We’ve got a little bit of leeway with it.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
When you get to it, it’s kind of coming at the expense of maybe any number of rejuvenating things from seeing a friend or going for a walk or exercise or massage or whatever that might be for a boost.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right, exactly. Exactly. Then in the area of self-awareness, for self-awareness, kind of the vibe words I call them, are knowing your purpose, getting aware of your mindset, like I mentioned, your type.

Some of the boosters that I have for that is I have my clients really think about what are there values and are they living them personally and professionally. Sometimes individuals will say, “I cannot get my values in my job or my career. It’s just – this is – I went to school to become a lawyer and I’m in a really tough practice. I’m not living my values.”

Then I will say, “Okay, let’s figure out a way that you can get them personally. Maybe you want to get involved in a non-profit or maybe you want to get involved in another volunteer organization. It’s amazing how that’s instant recharge for your career when you can get your values at somewhere in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us examples of values that folks often come up with that really resonate and are meaningful to them and yet also are frequently not being met in the workplace?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure. It’s interesting because I just did this this morning with someone. Some of her values were family, friends, innovation, learning, making a difference. She had problem solving. She had career satisfaction. She had financial security. Those are values that are really, really important to her. She was presently working at a consulting – a really, really competitive consulting company. Through our work now she has decided that she’s actually going back to nursing school.

Part of the reason she’s making this change is to get more of these values in her career, but when she was working at the consulting firm, I was sharing with her, there’s ways – like the one making a difference, maybe it’s that one person, that junior person in your organization that you can mentor. That’s a great way to make a difference even if you’re in a competitive environment.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess when we talk about values there’s a number of ways we could define them. I’d love to get your sense for how do you know you’ve really hit upon one that’s like, yup, ding, ding, ding, that’s a big one. That is resonantly important. Because as you brainstormed or shared those lists there, I guess I might be able to generate dozens upon dozens of such things that would be meaningful. I guess it’s kind of tricky with regard to time, money, attention, energy prioritizing and zeroing in on the biggies.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah. That’s such a good question. I always – I actually when I teach I have a full day class, corporate class, that goes with the book. When I do the class I actually have cards, value cards. I let them select 8 cards. They often say, “Oh my gosh, I want to have like 20.”

What I say to them is what are – if you thought of your life like a compass and these cards were going to direct your life and your career in a certain way, which of the cards or which of the values are like your compass? How do you want them? That really helps people because you’re right, you could say, “Oh my gosh, all of these are important to me.” But if you only could have eight, which are the ones that are really calling to you.

This is something else that I also have to clarify is that sometimes people will say, “Is it work or is it life?” It’s an overlap. I think that any coach that says your values do not hit on both, it’s incorrect. You’re really – our values are shaping our entire life. We have to look at career slash life when we’re thinking about our values.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious. They chose eight. How big is the deck of cards they’re choosing out of?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Believe it or not, it’s so funny, I had to just order a ton more of them. There’s like 52 cards. … huge.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah, just like a deck of cards. You say you ordered them, is this from a product one can purchase or how do you get them?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yes. I have – I’m just grabbing it because I have a few different – I’ve been reviewing a bunch of different vendors. Dick Knowdell is the vendor that makes these.
K-N-O-W-D-E-L-L.
They’re called the Knowdell Card Sort Career Values.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
They’re really designed for career coaches, but I find – people like them so much I often – I give them away at my classes because they’re like, “Oh, I want to do this when I get home with my partner.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is cool. I’m curious in terms of the hard thinking, in terms of which eight get selected – I’m sure you’ve seen this process many times, what are some of the thought processes like when they choose one over another? What sorts of things do you hear? It’s like, “Well, I’ve got,” we’ll just say, “adventure and I’ve got problem solving,” how do they get there?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s funny too because people will often say to me, “Oh, I have to be practical.” I’m like, “No, this is your time. This class is called career recharge, so this is a time for you to recharge your life and your career. You don’t have to be practical. What are the eight cards that you – what are the eight values that you really want to have?” It’s really funny. It’s almost like people, especially in corporate America, really need permission to say, “Oh, so I can say-“

I was just trying to think of one – there’s one that often people say, “Oh, I can select this one?” It’s like, “Yeah, this is your life. That’s – it’s like I decided 27 years ago to be self-employed. That’s a strong value for me. What are the values that are calling to you?”

Sometimes – then this is an important piece of the exercise is then I have the individuals look at those eight cards and put a plus sign if they have it and put a negative sign if they don’t have it in their career or their life. Then if I have a class of say 30 people, I’ll say, “Okay, who has more than five negative signs?” Sometimes it’s one-third the class.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
How can we recharge? How can people really be engaged in their work and really do their best if all the – there’s lots of research that shows people that are following their purpose are happier and healthier and more engaged at work.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say purpose are those sort of – what’s the relationship between purpose and values here? Is the purpose consisting of values or are you thinking of these separately?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah. I’ve designed an exercise. I call it the Purpose Mind Map. This also helps people with their branding. What I have individuals do is the first step is figure out what your values are. Then when I think about purpose, what I want people to think about is what is the contribution you want to make in your career. What’s the difference you want to make in the world?

Sometimes it could be – let’s just say you’re an accountant that my purpose is I want to work at this top accounting firm in New York City and I want to be a partner in ten years. For that person, that’s their purpose. But for someone else it might be totally different.

It might be I want to make – I did a lot of consulting for Bright Horizons, which is a daycare company. For those individuals, a lot of times their purpose is I just want to – I want to have an organization that makes the best difference for children and for their providers. It’s so interesting when you think about purpose, it’s really – it goes back to, again, that legacy question. What’s the difference – when you retire someday, what’s that difference you want to make?
It’s a little bit messy because it’s not like a math equation where someone can have an easy answer. It’s something you really have to do all these little steps.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. I want to get your take on when someone says this is their purpose, I think about the accounting firm example, how do you know that it’s the real deal as opposed to, “No, no, no, no, think harder?”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
That is a – that’s a great question. One of the – that actually – something that I will ask that person is “What’s the impact you’re making?” or “What’s the impact you want to make?” and “What’s the reputation you want to have?”

One of the things that happened to me was my first career I was a school counselor in the Boston Public Schools. Our purposes change. At that point I was right out of graduate school and I wanted to just change the world. That was my purpose. I wanted to go in there and I wanted to get these kids going to college.

But after seven or eight years, it was like hitting my wall against a brick because I couldn’t get any impact. I was running programs for parents, no one was showing up. It led me to get burned out because I had this purpose, but I couldn’t make the impact.

Then I was really fortunate. I – by, again, my – I write about this in the book, the connection piece of my model. In graduate school I was sitting next to the training manager of the Gillette Company who gave me a little opportunity to do a little gig at the Gillette Company and do some career counseling.

All of the sudden the light bulb went off. I was like wow, I want to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not working in the schools right now because this was 27 years ago. I could probably make it in organizations, helping people figure out – making them more satisfied in their careers.

I didn’t even know what outplacement was then, but I was lucky enough to find a graduate degree program in human resource counseling. That was where I got trained as a career counselor. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a really great distinction there because you’ve got the purpose and you’ve got the impact because some people might say, “Well, shucks, this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m doing it, so what’s the missing link?” It’s like, “Oh well, it’s not going anywhere.”

This kind of reminds me of Stephen Covey with begin with the end in mind and thinking about your funeral and what you’d like people to say about you and that kind of hits it there in terms of the contribution and the impact and what you’re about and what you’re like. That’s good stuff.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with – you probably are – Dan Buettner. He has this study; it’s called Blue Zones.

Pete Mockaitis
About the people who live longer.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yes. His – that study is just fascinating because he – it consisted of 73,000 Japanese men and women. This was in 2009. What he found was the individuals that had a strong connection to purpose and I think the word is hysterical because I always have to catch myself if I’m saying it right, but it’s I-K-I-G-A-I, ikigai. What he found was those individuals with a sense of purpose, live longer. Then if you look at the other research that’s part of that, he also talks about how important connection is, being with a community.

For some people their purpose could be – it could be something like “I want to make the world the better place by introducing-“ like I work with a lot of doctors trying to cure cancer so that’s their big purpose. Even though 80% of cancer molecules don’t work; it’s still for them so exciting because they are every day trying to make an impact on their purpose, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. That’s good. I want to make sure we get to touch on the mindset a bit. What are the habits of thinking that are really helpful and not so helpful?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
For the boosters for mindset, one of the – what most people find most helpful is paying attention in the morning and giving themselves a daily intention. For example, it might be – like with this crazy – when things are crazy with the holidays or with it being a new year, it might be I’m going to start my morning off and stay relaxed and focused. They give themselves that morning intention. Some of my executives that get really anxious, they give themselves the intention in the morning of calm and confidence.

Mindset, that’s probably the number one booster is giving that morning intention. Then you can do it throughout the day.

The other booster that people find helpful is what I call the pause breath. Sometimes when you’re just having one of those days where it just feels like everything is going wrong, everything you touch, you just feel this – you can feel the stress through your body, I recommend just take two seconds, do a nice inhale, do a nice exhale. I call it the pause breath.

Do that even before you send a charged email because that’s the other thing that starts to happen with mindset is the negatives start outweighing the positives and all of the sudden we’re emailing someone and we’re saying, “Oh my gosh, what are we doing?”

Carol Dweck has out her book, Growth Mindset. She really talks about how important it is to really – in today’s day and age, we have to be so adaptable to change. What her research shows is the more we’re open to being adaptable, having what she calls this growth mindset, we have greater success at work, greater productivity, greater impact if we’re a manager.

I can notice – it’s interesting, when I interview a client before they start coaching with me, I can tell sometimes they’ve had so many negative things happen that they’re just like – they’re just done. Sometimes that can be the beginning of burnout, that mindset just gets really negative.

It’s not that we can’t have negative feelings, but it’s kind of that 80/20 rule. When 80% of your day is just awful, then you really have to worry about it. But you’re going to have – we all have a Monday or a day where it’s just a horrible meeting or a challenge.

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Let me see. Did you want to hear the – I think the brand boosters. But just to emphasize another one that people like is that when you think about branding, like when you’re at a networking event and I know people don’t really like the word networking. I talk about that in my book to call it connection and think about building relationships.

When you meet someone instead of me just saying, “Oh, I’m Beth Kennedy. I’m a leadership coach.” Think about how can you tell a little bit of your story. I might say, “Hi, I’m Beth. I’m a coach, but I really focus on resiliency and preventing burnout in employees in organizations. That’s my passion. I also really encourage people to figure out what they can do so that they’re more motivated, excited and driven in their career.” Isn’t that a lot more excited than saying, “Hi, I’m Beth and I’m a leadership coach?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah and it sort of lets the conversation go into some interesting places, like, “Oh man, I remember when I was burnt out a few years ago I could have used you. I was-“ and then you go. You’re somewhere as opposed to, “Oh, you’re a leadership coach. Okay cool. Well, I am an accountant.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s sort of – it’s less of a connecting conversation.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I think for – sometimes attorneys will say to me or engineers will say, “Oh my God, what am I going to – there’s just no way to say that.” There’s always a little tiny story you can share even if you say something about your organization, so “I’m an engineer at this company. One of our specialties is this,” just to add a little bit to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I think engineers often have some fascinating things to say. All sorts of engineers like, “Oh yeah, I work on manufacturing equipment for a Skittles plant.” Okay. I’m all ears. Let’s talk about Skittles.

Or even if it seems maybe less interesting like logistics, like moving stuff around, I can get fascinated by that. It’s like, “Man, that’s a lot of stuff you move around. How do you do that? I find it challenging just to answer all the questions FedEx has for me before I send out a package.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right. Exactly. It’s so nice to hear you say that because I think most – I think the clients that have the most difficult time with that are scientists, engineers and attorneys because that’s what they say they are. It’s like just bring a little bit of that story into it.

Pete Mockaitis
Attorneys have such good stories. Someone is getting sued for something, whether it’s criminal or civil, I think it’s really juicy.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah, even if you’re a corporate attorney, again, some people think, “Oh, that’s just so boring,” well, no it’s not. There’s something about that organization that will just make people learn a little bit more about you.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
So that’s just an example of another brand booster.

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure. It’s so interesting because I love quotes, but I think one of my favorite one is by Thoreau and “It’s go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Pete Mockaitis
….

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I just think that gosh, with life being short that – I love that it ends with “live the life you’ve imagined” because whatever some of those dreams are, whether it’s career or travel or whatever it is to just keep plugging along. I feel like too that’s to me what resiliency is about is about moving forward even when you – for some-

I share in the book many years ago I applied for a doctorate psychology degree program and I didn’t get in. I thought my world was over. Then now I have this career that I couldn’t imagine doing anything better. I couldn’t imagine sitting in an office every day listening to people’s problems. I just think that we just want to – we have these little challenges come, but somewhere there’s a spark of wonderful thing that’s going to keep coming.

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s interesting because one of my favorite research studies is – I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. His name is George Vaillant.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
What he shares – he was a Harvard psychiatrist. He did the Harvard Grant Study from 1972 to 2004. He found strong relationships to be the strongest predictor of life and career satisfaction. What was interesting is his research showed that feeling connected to one’s work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.

I have seen that a lot in doing 25 years of coaching is that when people feel really connected to their work, they are just – you can just see this level of energy and happiness.

Sometimes I’ll meet with people that are making incredible amounts of money and I’ll say to them “What is your career satisfaction out of a ten?” and they’ll say a two. I’ll say, “What is your life satisfaction out of a ten?” and they’ll say like a four.

The other thing that happens when – and there’s lots of research that’s been going on about this is as we connect with others we get the – they call them the feel-good chemicals. The dopamine and the oxytocin and that’s the other reason why connection is so important, cultivating relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. How about a favorite book?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I was so happy to hear your quote because my favorite book is 7 Habits of Being Highly Effective by Steven Covey. I have to say I quote him every time I train a class I’m always bringing something in from his class. It’s one of those oldies but goodies.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s interesting. My favorite tool I would say is a meditation app, which is called Calm.com. As part of my career recharge class I piloted five different meditation apps myself. Then I had about 30 clients just try different ones. I learned with meditation apps, it’s so interesting. People – it depends on the person’s voice.

One of the things I love about Calm is it’s ten minutes long, which is perfect amount of time for me. Some of my other clients like Headspace. There’s so many out there right now. 10% Happier. But for me, that’s probably – that is something I use five or six days a week.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
My favorite habit is what’s part of actually my resiliency model. It’s called the Friday Five. In my phone every Friday I have a little thing that pops up and it says recharge. I spend five minutes to think about what I’m going to focus on for the next week.

What is that one thing I’m going to add, whether it’s I need to watch that podcast or whether it’s I need to call a good friend that I’ve been out of touch with, but – and I teach that to all my clients that if you can’t find five minutes to nourish your life, then we have to really start to worry. I call it my Friday Five process.

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I think the nugget that people seem to really like is I have this little saying. I call it spark success. What I mean by that is to start really small to pick something you want to work on and drive it down to the smallest possible doable activity.

For example, a lot of my clients are trying to figure out before the new year begins, okay, how can I regularly exercise. I’ll say to them, “Okay, what’s the smallest thing that you can do?” Maybe it’s getting off the train and walking to work.

It’s really – they really like that idea of I’m about – we’re not looking for perfectionism. We’re just – what’s a small habit that you can start. Then all of the sudden you like it so much it turns into 15 minutes, 20 minutes, going to the gym, doing yoga classes, but starting really small.

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I would point them to my website, which is BethKennedy.com. I’m also on Twitter, which is CoachBKennedy. If you’re on LinkedIn, again, you can see I’m a big LinkedIn person, connect with me on LinkedIn. I have a lot of great stuff going on. There’s been some really awesome posts about some of the exciting things that have been going on with the book.

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

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I would say the call to action is the importance of connection, so to really think about that who is that person, who is the friend or who is the colleague that really supports you and making sure you have time with them together on a regular basis because recharge, it can be so isolating in today’s – everyone’s working so hard and it’s so important to have people on your boat that nourish you and that aren’t toxic.

My call to action is today think of that person you’ve been out of touch with and give them a call or set up a time to meet them for a drink or lunch or dinner. It’s just amazing, it’s amazing what relationships can do for our career and for our productivity.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Beth, thanks so much for sharing the good stuff. Good luck with the book and all your adventures.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Thank you. Very nice to meet you.

333: Better Negotiation with Greg Williams

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Greg Williams reveals several secrets to negotiating for what you want effectively and respectfully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three points to remember when negotiating with bullies
  2. Six common body language cues in American culture
  3. How to get productive outcomes through open communication

About Greg

Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert, has studied and practiced negotiation tactics and strategies for more than 30 years. He’s spent over 20 years studying the way body language can affect negotiation outcomes. Greg’s education and experience come from formal negotiation settings, universities, governmental municipalities, seminars, and the school of hard knocks. He’s served on numerous corporate, business, and governmental boards.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Greg Williams Interview Transcript

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

Greg Williams
Hey, you’re more than welcome, Pete, and thank you for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have many credits to your name. It’s like the Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert is right next to it. But even more so, I saw you were honored as the Business Man of the Year by the United States Congress. I didn’t even know Congress issued such honors. What is the story here?

Greg Williams
Actually, that was several years ago. When one does a lot in the community, one gets recognition for what it is that the value add happens to be.

At one particular point in time I had been appointed chairman of the New Jersey Development Authority by then governor Whitman. That authority addressed the needs of small, minority- and women-owned enterprises throughout the state of New Jersey.

That was part of the catalyst, the activities that I engaged in during that time, that actually allowed Congress to bestow such an award upon me of which I was very honored to receive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s just fun to hear you tell the story. Your voice has some music in it and the word choice is distinctive, so I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable conversation. Congratulations and thank you for your service. That’s really cool.

Greg Williams
Thank you very much also, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so you’re a negotiation whizz. Can you share with us maybe to kick us off, could you maybe give us a fun story of how a negotiation got transformed or how someone was really worried things were not going to go so well, but then with some pro-tips, things turned out amazingly?

Greg Williams
Well, first of all, one should always understand the mindset that one possesses before entering into any negotiation situation because if you experience a sense of angst, you need to identify why you have such feelings.

Is it because you perceive the other entity as having so many more resources than you do that there’s no way you can actually come out ahead or even even with them? Is it the fact that there is something else that’s causing you to have the feelings that may disallow you from being as vibrant in the negotiation as you otherwise would be?

Once you identify those feelings, deal with them and deal with them to the point that they are reality or just thoughts in your mind. The reason it’s so important to do so is because the feelings you carry into a negotiation will to a great degree determine how you will negotiate in that particular situation.

Let me tell you of a story real fast also, Pete, to actually highlight the point. I recently stayed at one of the five star hotels. I thought, “Hm,” one day they didn’t clean the room. I had called down and I came back to the room at three something in the afternoon. The room had still not been cleaned. I had a black-tie event to attend at night.

I told them, “Please clean the room after six o’clock in the evening.” They said it would be taken care of. Well, I returned something after ten that evening and the room had not been cleaned. You know how people tell you, “Oh, we value you as a customer.” My response to that is “Okay, I’m from Missouri. Show me.” I’m not from Missouri, but that’s the cliché.

First of all, when you’re negotiating you always plan for what might occur and how you might respond. I thought to myself, “Okay, well these guys are saying I’m a valued customer to them. How would I like to position them, first of all, such that they have the opportunity to show me through their actions that I’m a valued customer?”

What that also means is I’d have to come across in my own mindset what it is that I would want from them versus what they might actually offer. I weighed those thoughts.

I called the front desk. I asked to speak with the service – the front desk manager and told him the situation that I had just cited a moment ago. Sure enough, he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer of ours.” I’m thinking to myself, “Are you serious? Okay.” I said, “Well, what does that mean?” He said, “I beg your pardon?”  I said, “What’s your definition of a valued customer?”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Greg Williams
Yes. Here’s the thing, Pete. When you ask such a question, people usually get caught off guard because people usually say, “You’re a valued customer,” and they’ll usually take the floor.

Listen also when people start to talk to you as far as the cadence, the pace in which they speak, because you’ll also be able to glean insight per their nonverbal communications, the pauses, as to what their thought process might be.

Anyway, he said, “Well, that means that we want to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with your stay at our property.” I said, “Very, very good.”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what would really make me happy in this situation.” He said, “Well, what would that be, sir?” I said, “If you could just deduct a night’s stay as a result of this mishap because after all, you’d expect something like this,” and I’m not denigrating any hotel chain, but I said, “You would expect something like this or could possibly expect something like this at a Hotel Six, but definitely not at-“ I named the other hotel.

What I did there was positioned in his mind a Hotel Six, and again, not denigrating Hotel Six chain, but in comparison to this particular hotel chain, they were substantially at a higher end as it were.

I heard the pause. He didn’t say anything for a moment and I thought to myself, “Okay, he’s in thought mode.” He said, “Sir, I can definitely do that.” Well, that allowed me to get a few extra hundred dollars that I otherwise would not have had.

Now, that’s one particular way that you can position someone, number one, as far as what you wish them to compare themselves too based on what they’ve already said, thus to get them to show in action what it is that they mean by in this case a valued customer.

But even more so had he said too quickly, “Sir, no problem, we’ll definitely give you that,” and I was someone that wanted to take advantage of the situation, I then could have said, “Oh, and I’ll have a bottle of Dom Perignon also if you don’t mind sending that up to the room.” I state that simply to say, you have to always be aware of how quickly someone responds to a request or a concession that you made.

That’s just a short story just to highlight those points.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Now, in the course of that conversation, when did you explain the problem? They mentioned that you’re a valued customer, was that sort of before or after you kind of laid out the picture?

Greg Williams
I had laid out the picture and then he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer.” You’re right about that because you also have to set the stage as it were for how you would wish the negotiation to progress. By setting the stage, by telling him of the circumstances that had occurred earlier in the day and the evening, I also had positioned him to think, “Oh God, this guy has really gone through a whole lot.”

Mind you, oh boy, again, never try to take advantage of any particular situation in a negotiation because it could always blow up in your face and you can have all kinds of retributions to pay as a result of doing so.

Mind you at check in time, and this particular hotel had one organization that had about two or three thousand folk from a different organization that was already there. I was part of an organization that had another fifteen hundred people or so. Even at the check in I heard the day before it was a 90 – 9 – 0 minute wait just trying to check in.

I had already invoked that when I did check in. Mind you, I was checking in the day after that, but I had already invoked that thought process and got upgraded to the executive suite as a result of doing so. Again, don’t try to take advantage of situations, but when they are there for you to address, if you choose, do so.

Pete Mockaitis
With the room not being clean, so I mean in a way that could be a big deal or not at all a big deal.

Greg Williams
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
How’d you go about describing that it was substantial?

Greg Williams
Well, all I said to him was – first of all, I talked about the fact that I had arrived earlier or I should say got up earlier in the morning and left around nine o’clock or so and did not come back until something after three in the afternoon. I paused. Then I said, “And the room had not been cleaned at that time, which surprised me.”

Now notice how I said, “which surprised me.” Again, I paused just to let it sink in. Number one, I let it sink in and I also wanted to hear how he might … respond.

He said, “Sir, we can send someone up right away.” I said, “Well, no, I have to get ready for a black tie event a little later on this afternoon and I need to take a quick nap. How about if you get the room cleaned after six PM?” He said, “Okay, well that will be fine also.”

Again, after all of that did not occur and I talked to – then it was the night … was actually on, night desk manager, front desk manager. I told him about the whole scenario of what had occurred and the fact that the room was supposed to have been cleaned after six o’clock between the time that I left after six and returned. It was positioned just right, just right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s also interesting the comparison to a Motel Six, which I have stayed in once or twice in my day as situations warranted it.

Greg Williams
Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
I think is probably has a strong reaction … “Whoa, no. Never us. Not that.” That’s interesting because it’s not aggressively cruel to say that, but it’s honest. You might expect that from a Motel Six and you wouldn’t expect that here, so you’re just sort of sharing that honestly.

Tell me a little bit about your tone. You sound friendly as we’re speaking. Did you deliver the message in a similar tone there?

Greg Williams
Yes, because I did not want to come across as being overly demanding or be someone that was perceived as a jerk. I basically – I almost used the tone that I’m using right now. Number one, this type of tone will elicit empathy from the right person because had this been –

Had he, as an example, Pete, had he said, “Sir, okay, we’re sorry, the room didn’t get cleaned. I apologize. That’s the most I can do.” I would have adopted a completely different tenor and tone with him.

First of all I would have let a pause hang out there to see what else he would have said, to get him to negotiate against himself. “Well, sir, are you still there?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m here or not. I heard what you said, but even the tone at which you said to me depicted the fact that I guess customer service really doesn’t mean a whole lot at this fine chain that I’ve been very accustomed to having top-notch service at other property. Is it just your property that I’m going to have a challenging situation this time?” It would have been completely different.

With my latest book, Negotiating with a Bully, I talk about just that, using the right tonality in a situation such that you don’t become overly confrontational initially unless you have to be, want to be perceived as such.

You always want to match the tenor of the individual with whom it is that you’re negotiating such that you don’t … push them away or push them too hard or whatever be the case because if you push someone into a corner that’s mild and meek, they may come out of that corner doing unexpected things that you were not/are not prepared to deal with and thus you have to be very mindful of that also.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say matching the tone, that’s your perspective that if they come at you aggressive, that’s appropriate to respond with an aggressive tone?

Greg Williams
Well, it can be. What you need to do first is find out exactly what they plan to do with that tone. Some people may use it just to back you down. “Well, Greg, I tell you, I don’t think there’s anything that we can do.” “Oh, really?” “Yes, there’s nothing that we can do in this case.” “Hm.”

“Well, Greg, are you still there?” “Yes, I am, but I’m trying to decide to whom it is that I should speak since you can’t satisfy this particular situation, that might be able to lend me some form of satisfaction. Can you tell me the general manager of the property or better yet, the regional vice president of the property? I’m sorry, let’s just skip the small steps. I’ll go right to the president of the chain. Can you tell me who that might be because I need to talk with someone that can get this done?”

Now what I have implied with that, like, “Uh oh, maybe this guy’s not going to be the pushover that I thought he may have been and this guy appears to be willing to take this to higher levels that may cause more trouble for me than is warranted because I really do have the ability to go ahead and address the situation.”

I’ll tell you I’ve used the situation in a lot of situations, even with the products that were on sale whereby the sale had ended.

You walk into an environment and you say to a sales clerk, “I’d like to have this item.” “Oh, no problem, sir.” “Oh, no, no, no, I mean for the price that it was advertised.” “Oh, well sir, that sale ended yesterday.” “Oh, well that’s fine. You’re empowered to give me this at the same price, right?” “No, I’m not, sir.” “Oh, so I know that means your manager can give it to me at that price, right?” I shake my head yes as I’m saying right.

The salesperson will usually say, “Well,” if he says yes, okay, he’s backed himself into a corner because – and, again, I never try to get anybody into trouble, but now he’s put his sales manager on the line for being able to deliver this. Again, it goes back to how you wish to position someone such that you let them know you’re going to be somewhat persistent while not being overly bearing ….

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. It reminds me – I was once a consulting with a call center op situation. I remember it was interesting that inside the customer service reps scripts, it was like, “If a customer says any of these magic words, then they will get immediately elevated to someone else to help out.” I think some of the magic words were, ‘lawyer, FCC, FTC, media.’

Sometimes – I’ve done this only a couple of times just like, “Well, if you can’t do anything, who would I have to reach out to to get resolution? Would it be the FTC, the FCC, the lawyer, the media?” and just throw them all into one sentence to see what happens.

Greg Williams
Exactly. You know Pete, to that end you have to be aware to whom you’re making such a statement because if you’re dealing with someone that really either can’t or doesn’t care about what you do, you’re wasting time. … when you’re negotiating, you always need to be negotiating with an entity that can really give you what you need or want or at least provide a stepping stone to the resource that can do something.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Greg, thank you. Well, so your specific book here is called Negotiating With a Bully. I’d like to get your sense first of all, how do you define bully and how do you know if you’re dealing with a bully?

Greg Williams
It goes to how you feel. Each and every individual has to be able to sense to a degree the way he or she feels as though he or she is being bullied because here’s the thing Pete.

You and I may be engaged in a negotiation. I may all of the sudden drop the tone of my voice and because of some trigger that that reacts or I should say that that creates in your thought process, it may remind you of a time when you were in school and someone with a deep voice did such and such to you and thus you may think subliminally, “Uh oh, I’m getting ready to be bullied or something to that nature.”

Meanwhile, someone may drop their tone with me and I may think “Okay, so the guy has a frog in his throat,” or something like that.

I say that to say, when you feel as though you’re being bullied, you can do one of a few things. You can actually say to the other individual, “You know, I feel like something has changed all of the sudden. I sense you’re being more aggressive at this time.”

That person may say, “Oh,” and just I know you can’t see me Pete, but I literally as I did that, I genuinely touched my chest near my heart, which is a sign of sincerity saying, “Oh no, that was not my intent. I apologize.” Even if you noticed the tonality of my voice offered ever so slightly too.

Well, that individual more than likely was not really trying to be – not attempting to be a bully in that particular case. The person may have been passive aggressive at that particular time, but nevertheless, once you told that person what you were sensing, if that person’s intent was not to convey such actions or sentiment, that person will change his or her behavior.

Okay. Let’s take a situation where someone says to you, “Yeah, okay, so what?” Well, that’s – now you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Pete Mockaitis
“You’re darn right, Greg. If you’re going to come after my company’s reputation, you’re going to have me gunning for you.”

Greg Williams
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now you have a better idea of exactly what you’re dealing with and the intent of that person.

Another scenario that you could adopt at that particular point and time is – okay, … the exact same … said to me … role play.

Pete Mockaitis
I said, “You’re darn right, Greg. If you come after my company or my reputation, you’re going to get me fighting right back.”

Greg Williams
“Oh, Pete, can you tell me more about what it is that you mean by that, ‘fighting right back’? What does that mean?”

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m going to make your stay as obnoxious as possible.”

Greg Williams
“Oh wow. Well, Pete, I really don’t want you to do that. What might I do to avoid that?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Well, you can conclude this conversation and we’ll go our separate ways.”

Greg Williams
“And that will satisfy you?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Yes.”

Greg Williams
“Okay, well I’ll tell you what, Pete. How about if I tie you down instead and now that I know exactly what you want, I’m going to make you give me everything I want before I let you go. How does that sound to you?”

Now, let’s break out of the role play for a moment. That was a little quick scenario. What I just found out through the words that you made a moment ago was the fact that. You want to exit.

Suppose you were in my environment and I’ve been in environments where some folks have done some real sneaky things to the other negotiator. Turn the heat up when the person was not being agreeable to the negotiator in whose building or environment the negotiation was being held. Turn the air up so it can get cooler, more comfortable when things are going good, etcetera, etcetera.

Literally put time blockages in front of someone. If I know you have a deadline to get a negotiation finished with me because before another session segment … be created with your team members you have to wrap this up and all of the sudden you come at me the wrong way as it were, I will start speaking a little slower, I’ll become a little more ….

I may do the exact same thing if I know you’re one of those individuals that love to talk fast and try to show a lot through movements of your hands and your body language displays that you’re really ‘let’s get it done move, move, move.’ I may intentionally slow you down to irritate the heck out of you.

There are all kinds of mind games that can be played. Some verbally, some non-verbally, but the point is you need to know what that other person’s restrictions are. … he … of the negotiation, the timeframe in which he’s willing to engage you to do so.

Here’s something else also Pete that I’d like all of your listeners to always remember, my tagline is ‘Always be negotiating.’ That means what you do today influences tomorrow’s outcome.

Even if you’re negotiating with a bully to the degree that you let … push you around and you don’t do anything to push back on him, you set yourself up to be pushed around tomorrow, the day after that, … in any environment you’re in with him and thus you have to set the stage properly to deal with people not only for today, because in so doing today, you … tomorrow. That’s point number one.

Point number two, I don’t care who you’re negotiating with … see yourself as being so insufficient, so lacking of resources that you immediately feel as though you have to subjugate yourself in order to get what it is that person is negotiating with you for because if the person is negotiating with you, there’s a purpose that they have in mind.

If you uncover the purpose, if you understand who’s not at the negotiating table that’s motivating that person to enact the actions that that person engages in, you will have a better insight also as to how to manipulate that person. By the way, manipulation is not a bad word, so just keep that thought in mind too.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, well, can you – let’s hear about that a little bit. Manipulation is not a bad word; how should we think about it?

Greg Williams
Well, we think about it based on what action is performed.

In theory, you’re in New York City. Traffic is whizzing by. You’re looking at your phone and you’re just sending text messages or whatever, not really paying attention. You go to step off the curb right in the flow of traffic and I manipulate your body out of the path of oncoming traffic. Have I done a good thing by possibly saving your life? I think you’d say yes.

The point is the definition that you give to a word or words has specific meaning at the time that the word is being implemented. I use the word manipulation sometimes knowing that some people have a negative connotation of that word and I may say something along the lines of, “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Now did you even notice how my voice went up a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Greg Williams
Just to explain, when we get a bit excited, our voices will tend to rise. “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Again, you can’t see my body language, but my eyebrows became somewhat furled also.

Again, … I’m focusing on this particular situation, so again, nonverbal cues and body language play an added role to give additional leverage to the words that you use, but by doing that, you give more insight about what it is that you’re thinking of.

If used the word manipulation in that particular situation and that person has a negative connotation associated with that word, that person then knows that, “Wait a minute now, he thinks I’m trying to negatively influence or impact him, his thoughts, his decisions, his actions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” That’s one mild way of really pushing someone back away from you.

Again, you need to know what certain words mean to someone. I said a moment ago, my tagline is ‘you’re always negotiating.’ There are times I will be in environments where I will just observe who is sitting with whom, just to observe the relationships that are formed by those individuals knowing later on that I have to engage with either those parties.

If I know that X is associated with Y, I then know that hm, I may be able to get Y, use Y as a leverage to influence X also. I’ll go into an environment sometimes and I’ll just watch how people use their body language.

Pete, I’ve consulted with large corporations I appear to be the person sitting off to the side taking notes, meanwhile what I was really doing was observing the body language of who it was that was supposed to be leading the opposing groups negotiation efforts and what … that person was taking from someone else at the table that was the real source of power for that particular team or that particular side of those that were negotiating.

Again, you can pick up on so many different cues if you but pay attention to what’s going on in you environment. If you’re going to be in a negotiation environment, get there early also, just so you can pick up on some of those cues.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, talk about cues. I also want to get your take on – body language can be a little bit tricky and ambiguous subject, what do you see are some of the most reliable body language signals, like if I see this, it quite probably means that?

Greg Williams
Well, let’s set culture aside for a moment. The reason I want to set culture aside for a moment is because I want to speak generically first.

In let’s say the American society, taller people will usually be perceived as being more influential etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, than people that are not as tall as they are. Attractive people will also be perceived as having this extra oomph as it were than people that are not as attractive.

If you’re negotiating with someone that’s taller than you and you’re literally standing face to face, one of the things that you can do is literally stand closer to them and see what they do with that. Basically what you’re saying with that little, small gesture is “I’m willing to come into your space because I’m not afraid of you.” You … take notice to whether or not they take a step back or something of that nature.

Now, if they take a step back, dependent upon where you are in the negotiation – and that body language, by the way, of taking a step back, literally says, “You’re in my comfort zone. I’m not comfortable with you standing this close as I am and therefore I’m going to put a little bit of distance between the two of us.”

You as the shorter of the two individuals send a signal, as I said a moment ago, of “Hey, I’m not afraid of you. You have more resources than I do, but so what? I will still come into your environment.”

Shaking hands. I don’t want to get into presidential politics, just take note – well, take note, first of all, when you’re shaking hands and if both hands are perpendicular to one another, the two individuals are saying, “Hey, I’m equal to you. You’re equal to me. I recognize that fact in you. You recognize that fact in me.”

If one hand is on the bottom and another hand is on top, literally the hand on top is indicating, “I’m hands above you.” That indicates a power position in that particular situation. Thus, I always take note of when any political leader allows his hand to be on the bottom as opposed to on the top because that also signals – now, it can be a ploy from time to time too.

Again, in positioning you can literally let someone have their hand on top of yours as you’re shaking their hand just to see exactly what they will do after that.

A lot people, especially politicians, know about the … handshakes, the hidden signals in handshakes so forth and so on. That’s one particular body language gesture that you can look at.

The other that you can look at and you see politicians doing this a lot is while they’re shaking hands, they’ll have their other hand on the person’s elbow or something of that nature. Well, that’s a power move that’s even above the fact that somebody has their hand on top of yours. You’re saying to them with that hand on their elbow, “Okay, I’m going to be in control in this particular situation.”

The counter to that is to literally place a hand on the person’s shoulder. There are also these hidden meanings in body language and those were some just with the handshake of itself.

Here’s something else to note via body language, especially when you’re either standing up – well, when you’re standing up, take note of how an individuals feet are placed as far as their relationship to one another.

When feet are aligned, the two individuals are aligned per what they’re discussing, how engaged they are in that particular conversation, etcetera.

When one foot points in one particular direction by one individual, right then, that person has mentally begun to disengage from the conversation and more than likely that person is going to exit the conversation in the direction that foot is pointed, in the direction that that foot is pointed.

Those are some quick clues. Eye contact, eh. Again, it goes back to culture. But just because someone looks away from time to time does not necessarily mean they’re trying to avoid whatever it is they’re discussing, but you do need to note when they look away.

If someone says to you, “I think you’re the best person I’ve ever met in the world. I think you’re really fantastic,” meanwhile, they’re looking off to the side. Well, hey, the sentence may not convey exactly the meaning the body language is sending because they’re not really sending that to you.

Anytime you have doubts about whether or not someone’s words and body language happen to be matched with – or the two are synchronized, always follow the body language. The body attempts never to lie because the body always wants to be in a state of comfort. Telling a lie puts the body in a state of discomfort. The body will try to adjust.

The wringing of the hands sometimes is the fact that somebody is experiencing some form of angst, some form of anxiety and that’s the way the body tries to calm itself. Touching one’s elbow, one’s wrist, one’s hands, one’s nose, ear, again, those are signals that “Well, I’m a little uncomfortable at this particular point in time.”

Here’s something else to take note of. When people are trying to recall things, they will – and some folks say it depends on whether or not they’re right or left handed, but again, you establish the base with how they act with this action that I’m about to describe in a non-threatening situation first and then you’ll know to what degree they’re really speaking truthfully or not.

But people that are trying to recall things will tend to look up and to the left. If someone says to you, “So Pete-“

Pete Mockaitis
Now, their left?

Greg Williams
Yes, their left. I’m sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
Their left, okay.

Greg Williams
Yes, exactly. Thank you. Thank you. Their left.

If someone were to say to you, “So Pete, what did you do last night?” You say – you look to the left and you go, “Well, I went out to dinner with my wife,” and yada, yada, yada. Okay, that’s one thing.

If on the other hand, the same question was posed to you and you looked up and to the right, your right, that’s the direction in which people look towards the future and thus they are in the process of trying to formulate what they think will really happen to a question that you’ve posed that was supposed to have occurred in the past.

If you take note of that, again, as a negotiator, you don’t necessarily have to say anything, but you can take note of the fact that wait a minute, that person looked up to the right. That’s the creation mode in most cases, so why in the heck was he looking up to the right. You can pose a few more questions towards the same type of environment – about the same type of environment I should say, to see exactly what the person does with his or her eyes.

Then, later on in the negotiation, I might come back to you, Pete, and I say something about, “So Pete-“ now this is called an assumptive question what I’m getting ready to project. “So Pete, you said three nights ago you and your wife actually went to a movie. What was the movie you say?” Then watch the person. If the person then looks back up to the right again, oh my gosh, have I ever caught this person in one heck of a whopper.

Again, you don’t have to let the person know at that particular point in time, but you do know that person is definitely not being 100% truthful with you at that particular time.

Those are some body language gestures that you can take note of. In my prior book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, I go into a lot more tactics and strategies that one can uncover just by observing body language.

Pete Mockaitis
You used the word definitely there. Is that sort of after you’ve established a baseline associated with their behavior and the other body language signals?

Greg Williams
Yes. That goes back to what I was saying earlier about the fact that I’ll go into an environment and just observe how someone reacts in different situations where those situations are nonthreatening. Again, when you’re using small talk to gain such insights, you might say something about “So where are you from?” Okay, most of us know where we’re from so forth and so on.

They’ll … say something and … ask a question about “How long have you lived there?” They may look up and to the left because what they’re trying to do is “Gosh, how long have I lived there?” They’re going through that thought process as opposed to looking up and to the right.

Now if they look up and to the right and they say, “You know, I think it’s been about 21 years.” Okay, take note of that. Take note that they didn’t look up and to the left, but instead they looked up and to their right to reference something that occurred in the past. Then you pursue it. You may something along the lines of “Did you play baseball at the high school in such and such a place?” Now let’s say he looks up and to the right again.

Now, notice that’s supposed to be the opposite when they’re doing their recall, but if you notice that they keep looking up and to the right for recall and to the left when they’re trying to think of future things that will occur, you then have the baseline for which to then place your emphasis per whether or not they’re being 100% truthful.

But that’s why it’s so important to understand and establish that baseline, which is why I love to just go into environments and just observe how people are using their body such that they’re conveying different sentiments in nonthreatening environments.

Then I have something to compare their actions to when we enter into what they think is the formal negotiation, but in theory, in reality, you’re always negotiating. You’re giving off clues as to how you will react in different situations any time you’re in an environment where people are observing you.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about some of those dominant signals or gestures. I want to get your take on what strategy is optimal because if someone is doing a lot of dominant stuff with me, I just don’t like that. It makes me feel less rapport because like okay, you have to be in charge.

I think that can really be harmful because in terms of establishing liking, rapport, trust, it’s like, I don’t like this person. But I guess there can be other times in which a dominant strategy is helpful. How do you think about that?

Greg Williams
It definitely can be helpful. Again, dependent upon the individual that you’re dealing with. Pete, some people want to be led because they feel more comfortable being led by others such that they don’t have to make decisions.

Other individuals are the type that you just mentioned a moment ago. “My gosh, hey, don’t be putting my hand on the bottom. Don’t be touching my elbow.” If you sense that type of person, again, you need to match the modality of the person that you’re speaking to in order to get them to do what it is that you want per the outcome that you seek.

Thus if you are too overbearing – if I use the tactics that you just mentioned a moment ago, putting your hand on the bottom, touching your elbow, etcetera, etcetera, even putting my hand on our shoulder, I’d be pushing you away with my gestures and running the risk of turning you into someone that might really come back and undermine my efforts later on, which … be very understanding of how someone wants to be treated and how they want you to interact with them.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. The degree that you do so per how they perceive you doing so is what you have to be very much aware of. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll scare some people away, other people you’ll make come closer to you because truth be known, they get off on that as they say. That’s what they like. But in other cases, you may just repel someone.

Again, you never want to do so to the degree that you push someone into a corner and have them become irrational because then you truly don’t know what it is that they may do, especially when you’re negotiating with them.

You make a person make one concession after another, after another, after another, after another. Next thing you know they say, “Oh the heck with it. You know what? I don’t give a heck about this whole doggone deal. I’m out of here.” You go, “Whoa, what just happened?”

Well, what just happened, the incremental small steps that you pushed that person into to make them all of the sudden say, “You know what?  The heck with this. My self-pride is at stake at this particular point in time and that’s more valuable to me than the outcome of this negotiation. You go negotiate by yourself.”

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

Greg Williams
Well, again, it was my mother many years ago that used to say to me – because I watched her literally, Pete, negotiate for everything. As a little kid I remember one time saying to her, “Mom, that’s embarrassing. You’re always asking people to lower the price, to add a little bit more, my gosh, won’t they think we’re poor?”

She said to me, “What do you care about what other people think of you as long as it is that you’re getting what you want? The more money you save, the more money you’ll have to do with as you choose and please.”

As a kid, seriously, I quickly got over the embarrassment and I learned to ask for whatever it was that I wanted. You have to have a certain thickness of skin not to necessarily allow the thoughts of other people to influence your actions to the degree that they do so and those actions become detrimental to your own well-being.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think a large part of it would be a matter of just how important is this sort of long term relationship for you in terms of are you going to see this fancy hotel person. In a way, if he thinks Greg is the most demanding, unreasonable customer I’ve ever encountered based on you wanting a free night for the room not being cleaned and how much is that a downside to you versus your boss or your spouse. It’s a very different game there.

Greg Williams
Pete, you know what? Oh my gosh, you are spot on. Here’s the other potential downside to that.

In that particular situation if I had been so … the individual thought, “Oh my gosh, no problem. Yeah. I’ll give you one night’s remittance. No problem.” Then he puts some remark in my file, in my record that said whatever and then that stayed with me as I went from one particular chain or I should say one particular property in that chain after another.

I go to check in and people are looking at me like I have a third eye in the middle of my forehead. I’m wondering why. I say that to say that’s another reason why you don’t want to be mean or nasty to somebody because you don’t know to what degree they’ll get you back behind your back.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Greg Williams
Oh, Lord knows I already gave it. You’re always negotiating.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Greg Williams
Yeah. The reason that’s so inspiring is because it keeps me grounded. Okay, we all go through days … at times we may have an up day, a down day, but life is truly what you make it. Thus, it’s nothing more than perceptional. If you’re the one making it what it is to you anyway, why not choose to make it the greatest that it can be. You’ll live a lot better by doing so.

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

Greg Williams
There’s all – everything in life revolves around negotiations. If you really wanted to read some additional books on the topic of negotiation, one that I really love is Getting to Yes by William Ury. My gosh, that book is old, old, old, but nevertheless, there’s still some great insights into that.

His more recent book is Getting Past No. A lot of us don’t know what to do when someone says no. Remember no only means no for the moment. Life is ever changing, ever evolving, so be persistent in achieving the goals that you seek to acquire. Don’t let no stop you for the moment.

Another book of mine that I think you may be able to tell that I love negotiations, but Difficult Conversations is another particular book, another old one.

Here’s something, here’s one that I recently started listening to. It’s actually an online course, Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. Boy, oh boy, you can gain a lot of insight as to why people do what they do based on the emotions that they experience and in the moment and how it is that you can incite certain emotions, certain triggers within someone to get them to either abide by what it is that you’re requesting and/or back off of you if that be your outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Greg Williams
Always negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff. I will ask for some of the most mundane things just to see the results from time to time. The reason I do so is because I’m always collecting data. Okay, I did this in this particular situation and it worked.

I’ll pick up pennies off of the ground and there have been times when I’ve asked people, “So, you try to achieve wealth. How many of you in here will pick a penny up if you see it lying on the ground?” People will snicker from time to time.

But the point is, we make progress in small steps. A penny is yet another small step towards an overall wealth outcome if that’s what you’re really receiving. Don’t be too pride – don’t have much pride in order to subjugate yourself to goals that you seek because all you’re really doing is holding yourself back.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you?

Greg Williams
Well, I love it when people that I haven’t seen for years will come up to me and say things along the lines of “Oh Mr. Williams,” and when they say Mr. Williams, I always say, “No, no, my father is nowhere around right now, just please call me Greg.” They’ll say, “You have helped me so much by teaching negotiation strategies that I’ve been able to use to get a lot more in life.”

… to other individuals, serve other individuals. I attempt to give back to those, especially younger than myself because I’m at a point in life now where one day they will be the rulers of the world that I will have to live in. I hope by giving them insights, instilling in them the knowledge that they can use in order to not only look out for those that they care about, but for other individuals in the world, that the world will become a better place.

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

Greg Williams
Well, they can go to my website, which is www.TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can send me an email to Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can also reach me via phone at 609-369-2100.

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

Greg Williams
Yes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Go out there and negotiate every doggone day because if you want a raise tomorrow, start positioning yourself to get that raise – I’m sorry if you want a raise in six months, next year whatever, start positioning yourself today to do so.

Understand what it would take from your boss such that you become such a valuable resource that he has to give you the raise that you ask for simply because you are that valuable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. No only means no for the moment. The more persistent you are about achieving a goal, the more goals you will achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Greg, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck in your negotiations and all you’re up to.

Greg Williams
Thank you Pete … and much more success for you in life because it’s waiting for you.

309: Preventing Burnout in Yourself and Your Whole Organization with PwC’s Karlo Siriban and Anne Donovan

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PwC employees Karlo Siriban and Anne Donovan share their story of preventing burnout within themselves and transforming a whole work environment to prevent it for others.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key signs that burnout is looming near
  2. How to talk to your boss about your burnout
  3. How PwC rolled out a broad flexibility initiative and saw retention soar

About Karlo & Anne

Karlo Siriban transforms businesses. He understand companies’ missions and develop strategies to achieve and frameworks to execute their visions successfully. He is a strategic, creative thinker, not afraid to challenge the status quo to achieve more effective and efficient results.

Anne Donovan is the U.S. People Innovation Leader at PwC. She’s responsible for strategy and innovation around culture change. She has a strong background in operational effectiveness and in engaging and supporting the firm and its people in leading positive change, including a variety of initiatives related to the work environment, workforce demographics and business model change.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Karlo Siriban & Anne Donovan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Karlo and Anne, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Karlo Siriban
Thanks for having us.

Anne Donovan
Happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this one. A little different and but different good. First Karlo, I want to hear where are we with the Hamilton audition process? What’s the tale here?

Karlo Siriban
Do you want the whole background of it?

Pete Mockaitis
I’d like to hear – you’re into music. How did you say, “You know what? This is a thing I’m going to go for?”

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, I’ve always been into performance, particularly in stage musicals and singing. I used to do it all throughout my schooling, from elementary school all the way through college. Then when I started work it all just stopped. Work was my number one goal and wanting to do well was what I wanted to do. I found myself just wanting to – naturally wanting to go back into performing.

Hamilton, this was I think two and a half – three years ago, Hamilton was just becoming big in New York and they were having open casting calls. Unfortunately, I travel for work Monday through Thursday, Monday through Friday every week, so I couldn’t go to the open calls. My fiancé, my now fiancé, luckily saw some fine print at the bottom that said if you can’t make it please send in a video audition.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Karlo Siriban
I was very hesitant to. I didn’t want to, but she pushed me to do it. My video was sitting out there for a couple of months. After about three – four months I got a call that they wanted me to attend some callback auditions. About 12 auditions later I was at the final callbacks for Hamilton.

Pete Mockaitis
12.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man. Well, they’ve got to do something to justify that high ticket price.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. The excellence that goes into it. 12, wow. What happened after the 12?

Karlo Siriban
After the 12 unfortunately my journey ended there. I’m still in contact with some of the casting agents there.

But for the past year I’ve really been focusing on my career and getting a promotion. That was my goal this year, which fortunately I’ve gotten.

Karlo Siriban
Now that I’ve achieved that I’m going to be going back into auditioning for shows, not just Hamilton but Off Broadway and Broadway shows. Luckily I’m based in New York, so makes it a little easier.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Talk about career. Can you orient us a little bit to PWC and your role within it?

Karlo Siriban
Yup. PWC, big four public accounting firm. We structure ourselves within three lines of service. Assurance, which offers your basic accounting services. You have tax and you have advisory which covers consulting. I work in our advisory line of service. I’m an advisory consultant and I focus on large-scale business transformation.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Well, I worked in strategy consulting at Bain. You say you travel a lot. You’re on the client site and you’re meeting with executives and such and plenty of slides I imagine.

Karlo Siriban
Oh absolutely. My life is on PowerPoint.

Anne Donovan
You know it well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so I see the picture there. I want to hear the story of you notice you were starting to feel kind of burnt out. Can you share with us what was going on and what were sort of the indicators like, “Uh oh, something needs to change here?”

Karlo Siriban
Yeah. This was about three years ago. Just the general travelling every week it started to take a toll on me. Waking up on Monday mornings to go catch a plane wasn’t as enticing anymore. I was having trouble focusing at work. Then even outside of work in my personal life, I found myself not as willing to go try new things, willing to go out with friends and family.

I realized something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was. I think most people when you hit that point, you sort of think, “Oh, what are the stressful things in my life.” For me that was work. I realized here’s my burnout. Something I don’t think a lot of people realize is yeah, there may be things stressing you out, but sometimes adding things to your life can help alleviate that burnout.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Karlo Siriban
For a lot of people, and I think this is said very often, is “Oh, go, wake up in the morning and go exercise.” That can really help you gain more energy and more happiness throughout the day. I tried that for a little bit, wasn’t working.

I realize what makes me happy. What is it? It was music. I turned back to music. It started with joining an a cappella group and just practicing and playing music in my house, finding time to play music in my apartment and at some pubs around New York City.

Slowly that just added up to the Hamilton audition and getting involved in more and bigger things. But I found myself having added that to my life, it was giving me more energy within work and it was helping me focus. It was just keeping me happy and keeping me satisfied, keeping my whole self-satisfied.

Pete Mockaitis
That is an awesome insight because when you’re in that mode, that zone of burnout, overwhelm, there’s too much, the thought of taking on an additional thing is like, “Are you crazy? I’m just trying to keep it together right now? I can’t imagine adding something.” You’re saying, “Oh, no, no. Adding something, in fact, is an improvement as opposed to more overwhelm.”

Karlo Siriban
Mm-hm, absolutely. I think it’s because when you add something that you’re passionate about, you’ll naturally find time to make it happen. That means saying no to things and managing your time a little more effectively just by the nature of wanting to do something you’re passionate about.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. I want to hear about the part in which you shared this with some folks at PWC, like I imagine that could be a little nerve-wracking in terms of saying, “Hey, I’m feeling burnt out.” You’re just like, “Oh, they’re going to think I’m weak,” or you’re not up to the high standards of performance or not an achiever, high potential.

What was going on inside your head and how did you have that conversation?

Karlo Siriban
I think that’s a very natural thought to have. You described it perfectly. Just going – the way PWC is structured, it’s a partnership structure. The partner is the be all, end all to your group and feels like your career sometimes.

I was saying to myself, “I need to make this – I need to have protected time for myself to be able to do this, to be able to pursue this.” Because traveling every week and working 40 to 60 however many hours a week, it becomes a lot.

My partner, very high performing, very focused on results. My career up until that point, I had also been focused on that. I had been very aligned with the firm first and work first and wanting to be a high performer. I thought that my idea of making time for myself wouldn’t gel with what I thought was the firm’s idea of what an employee should be.

I had spent time talking to a coach during one of our leadership conferences, talking to a coach about how I structure this and how I can present this. A week afterwards after some intense structuring sessions and messaging sessions, I went up to my partner and talked to him about it expecting the worse. It ended up being extremely easy.

He was extremely supportive of what it is I wanted to do and the passion I had. I think what helped that conversation was the fact that he knew I was devoted and dedicated to work and still performing at a high level. He also knew how passionate I was about music, and about singing, and about performing. He saw that as a way for me to sort of flex my creative muscle and flex my professional muscle.

I think the coaching that he received and the coaching that I received, it’s just a – there’s this culture of everybody’s a person. Our number one piece of capital or our number one investment at the firm is people. If you don’t keep your people happy, if you don’t keep your people trained, if you don’t keep your people whole, then what good is having them in a firm like this at PWC?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I’m intrigued. This coach, that was provided by PWC?

Karlo Siriban
Yes, my coach was provided by PWC. There is a – when you make senior associate, so this is about three – four years into your career, you’re sent to a leadership conference to sort of develop – it’s called Discover.

It’s to develop yourself, to discover within you what drives you, what motivates you, why are you here and what best parts about you can you bring back to your professional life and to your personal life to improve everything.

In that session, it’s about a week long, they assign everyone a career coach to help talk to you about those topics. Your career coach is – most of them I believe are non-PWCers if not all of them are non-PWCers. Anne, you can keep me honest on that one.

Anne Donovan
Yup.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, they have a very objective point of view in how you can develop yourself, which I think is refreshing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Karlo Siriban
That the firm would do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I’ve done some coaching and I would love to be participating in that. That sounds really cool. Were there some follow-ups then or it all happened within the context of that one event?

Karlo Siriban
That one event is where it – where that idea blossomed. Towards the end of that week I had a formal discussion with my coach. Probably four weeks afterwards there were follow-up sessions, where we just spoke to each other over the phone, over Facebook, over text to help me build up the courage to actually have that conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. You said you worked a lot on the structuring and messaging. Were there any choice words, phrases, sentences that you thought, “Oh yeah, that’s perfect. I’ve got to make sure to say that,” and you thought that they landed outstandingly when you had that conversation with the partner?

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, actually in forming my thoughts and my message, initially I had completely neglected to address the fact that I still wanted to be at the firm and I still wanted to be a high performer. Initially it was all about I need to go into music and I need to spend my time making music.

He helped me form it in such a way that I do want to make music but it doesn’t mean I want to leave this behind. It doesn’t mean that I – that you should expect less from me. In fact, you should expect the same from me and this will help me focus and help me deliver for you and for the firm.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice turn of a phrase. You should not expect less from me. In a way that’s kind of inspiring on multiple levels in terms of 1) you’re making a commitment and so you want to rise up and live up to it and 2) it’s like oh good, this doesn’t mean – “Karlo’s great, but hey, I guess not everyone can be the hardcore rock star, all-star, so I guess I’ll have to put him in the sort of maintenance mode as opposed to gunning for it mode.”

That’s really cool. You had the conversation, went super well. Any kind of pro tips when it comes to if others are feeling the burnout kind of beginning to settle in, how should they go about doing some reflection or engaging in that conversation?

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, I think everyone should take some time to slow down first. When people are approaching burnout mode it’s often when they’re very stressed. When you’re stressed you get into this panic mode and you need things to happen fast and you want things to happen fast. When that happens, you have a tendency to take missteps or to make decisions irrationally.

I think when that happens it’s important to take some time to breathe and to, like you said, reflect on everything about your life, not just work, but home and your friends and your community, and your spirituality, reflect on all of that and understand where your life stands on all of those places. Once you have that view, then try to build a plan about how you try to improve it. It’s all – just take that breath.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good, yes. When it comes to the fear, I guess bosses come in all shapes and sizes and varying levels of receptiveness to such a conversation, so any thoughts in terms of – that was a great sentence in terms of “don’t expect less from me” but any other thoughts to address the fear like, “I can’t tell my boss that?”

Karlo Siriban
That’s a tough question because you’re right every boss is different. I think if you build an open, honest – if you’re lucky enough to be able to build an open, honest relationship with your boss, that conversation will always be easier in real life than it is in your head.

If you have a challenging boss or if you have a challenging work environment, regardless I think it’s important to be open and honest with yourself first and to assess how your view of what will make you happy in the future fits in with your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

Anne Donovan
Pete, can I add something here?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Anne Donovan
I just can’t help myself. What I always advise our staff is if they don’t step up to ask for what they want, the end result is they’re going to quit the firm. They’ll go along and keep doing what they’re being asked to do and do it really, really well, and get into burnout mode. Then the end result is they quit the firm. Then the firm ends up being the loser.

I actually believe in most cases the staff ends up being the loser too because they end up quitting the firm at the wrong time. Because I do believe that most people end up quitting the firm. We don’t have a partnership that has thousands, and thousands, and thousands of partners. Ultimately we know people will end up leaving the firm.

But you want to leave the firm, and I tell staff this including my family, who are staff, you want to leave the firm at the right time, when it’s the right time and you have the right job. If you leave the firm at the wrong time, you’re the loser.

If you don’t ask for what you want and get the work environment that you need, then you’re going to end up leaving at the wrong time. There is absolutely no harm in asking for what you want, no harm at all. You might get a no, but probably you’re not going to. But if you don’t ask, the answer is always going to be no.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Anne Donovan
I just – I say this every single time I sit in front of anyone who will listen to me. You must ask the question. You must ask for what you want because probably what you’re asking for is absolutely not unreasonable. You’ve got to ask for it. You’ve got to create the work environment that you need to make your life happy. It will more than likely be accommodated.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, that’s extremely true, what you said. The worst that happens is they say no. What happens there is now your want and your passion is out there and people are thinking about it and people have talked about it rather than you’re in the status quo and nothing changes.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly and you have some more clarity for your own decision making. It’s like, “Okay, well-“

Anne Donovan
Absolutely. Now you know.

Pete Mockaitis
“I need this and I can’t get it, so maybe I should-“

Anne Donovan
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
“-put a little more effort towards …”

Anne Donovan
That’s exactly right. But at least you know as opposed to making up in your head what the answer is going to be.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Anne Donovan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Karlo, can you give us the lay of the land now in terms of your burnout-ness in terms of – the Hamilton audition has come and gone but there will be new opportunities? How‘s your day-to-day in terms of energy and stress and motivation?

Karlo Siriban
It’s – I’ve become much better at identifying when I’m getting close to burnout. I’m happy to say in the past two years I haven’t approached burnout at all.

Also, just having put out wanting to perform out there, I’ve been more involved in internal PWC initiatives for performance. For example, this summer PWC has what they call a Promotion Day, where everybody who’s getting promoted gets promoted at the same time.

In New York they throw a large event and I’m leading a band, a band of about 12 of us. We’re playing a 45-minute set for all of our colleagues in New York.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. That’s really cool. Could you unpack a little bit of what are some of the early wanting signs? Before full burnout is upon you, what are the little indicators like, “Uh oh, getting kind of closer?” What is that for you internally?

Karlo Siriban
For me it’s if I find myself waking up later and later.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s very specific. Thank you.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, very specific.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Any other indicators?

Karlo Siriban
It’s waking up later. I find myself being unable to focus at work. Just little things. If I have a quick – usually I’m pretty good about if I have a five-minute task that’s something that I can complete right away. I take that time out of my day. If I find myself those tasks are taking longer, I push them off further and further, then I find myself I need to reassess what’s happening in my life and refocus.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Cool. Awesome success story. So glad to hear it that you came to the brink and came back and you’re wiser for having done so and have a more fun work and life situation going on there.

Anne, could you maybe broaden the scope of the conversation a little bit, so beyond Karlo’s story. You’ve got a full blown flexibility initiative. What’s the story with that at PWC?

Anne Donovan
Yeah, we are in year six of that initiative. I will tell you that seven years ago we could not spell the word flexibility at PWC. We did some work, did lots of focus groups, kind of travelled around.

Actually we did a lot of work studying our Millennial population and did some actually pretty scientific work, taking a look at what our Millennials wanted verse our Gen-Xers and got some pretty good data around the kind of top three things our Millennials wanted.

We’re pretty – got some pretty solid information that although they certainly wanted to be paid well and wanted stuff that the rest of us wanted, flexibility was in the top three things that Millennial wanted out of the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
What are the other two things and how did that compare to the other generations?

Anne Donovan
Yup. Top three things Millennials want out of the workplace based on our study: flexibility, appreciation and support from their supervisors, and teamwork. They wanted to work on teams that they felt worked well together. It was really about the work environment for Millennials.

For Gen-X it was about having control over their work, working on good stuff, so really good kind of developmental stuff, and pay. For Gen-X it was about the real kind of traditional stuff that we had set up the work environment around, the traditional work environment which was like, “We’re going to pay you well and you’ve got a lot of autonomy. We’re going to give you good stuff.”

Then Millennials come into the workforce and they’re like, “Well, we want to feel good and we want you to appreciate us. We want flexibility.” Those two things had a – there was a big gap between those two things.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood.

Anne Donovan
We had this data and said, “Whoa, we’ve got to change the work environment.” Because we had autonomy, we had good pay. We still have good pay, but we had this setup that was appealing to the prior generation and we had this entire set of workers who said that we want to feel good. We changed the entire – we shifted the entire environment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. What are some of the prongs or components of the flexibility initiative?

Anne Donovan
Well we started our work. We started at the top. Got our partners all understanding the business case for it, all understanding that if we wanted to keep this entire new generation of worker, we had to really completely turn the environment on its head.

It all was based on trust, first set of rules was you didn’t have to earn flexibility. You walked in the door earning flexibility. Everyone is trusted with the work that they’re set out to do. You don’t have to have face time to earn your stripes.

We’ve got all the technology in the world. You can do it sort of whenever, wherever, however. I say however, we have all of our standards, etcetera, but what I mean is you don’t have to sit next to the guy to get your work down.

Now, that doesn’t mean that every single day we’ve got people working all over and wherever they want. But it means that in general if you’ve got to go leave tomorrow at 3 o’clock and our people work hard, but if you’ve got to go leave at 3 o’clock and you’re going to come back online at 7 o’clock to make your life work.

By the way, making your life work doesn’t mean you have to have a doctor’s appointment. It means I’m going to go play softball. We were very careful about that, Pete, because we don’t – it doesn’t have to be an emergency.

It doesn’t also have to be childcare. It doesn’t have to stuff that’s another job, that’s another thing to do. It can be because I want to do this thing that’s fun. I want to go audition. We were very careful to make sure that people understood that. It’s because you want to have life. We were very explicit about that.

We just started talking about it. We started making the leaders and the partners and the managers understand that that was how it was going to be from here on out. It really did take us three – four – five years to get the culture sort of inculcated with these messages, but we’ve done it.

I will tell you, flexibility is on every single person’s lips in the firm. You do not have to ask for it. You do not have to apply for it. You don’t have to plan for it. It’s just there.

I work from home. I don’t – I don’t hide it. My dog barks in the background. I don’t care. It’s where I am. I get on video. I’ve got bed hair. It doesn’t matter. It’s just the way it is. I’m so, so proud of it. It’s just fantastic because it’s who we are. We trust each other. We don’t have to slap on a uniform to get the job done.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. I’m curious to hear during that kind of transition time, were there some key kind of rocky moments or rocky obstacles or leaders who weren’t on board or abusers of flexibility? How did that emerge?

Anne Donovan
Actually we had less abusers than we had leaders who weren’t on board. We definitely had guys and gals who took a long time to come around. But that’s just – that’s the way life is. Change is hard.

It just took – it really took our leaders at the top, our senior partner was all about it and he pushed us hard to – he made every day a flex day. We actually changed our time reporting system that you didn’t have to report time every day. He pushed us hard to really change processes and procedures and to just push the firm to make things happen.

Eventually – I suppose there’s some pockets out there where we’ve still got holdouts, but they’re pretty few and far between. I will tell you, we have not had a – we have not had abusers.

I now speak too in front of groups frequently and I speak to clients who are interested in what we’ve done. We get asked about what policies we put in place and what are the written rules. I’ll tell you, we were lucky. We did not put policies in place. We did not put written rules in place. Like I said, you don’t have to apply for anything. It’s all based on trust.

Now, we are lucky, Pete, we don’t – these are all salaried employees, so we don’t have a lot of wage and hour laws and things like that. We don’t have union workers because we’re a salaried group of people. We didn’t have a lot of those kinds of things to worry about in our work environment.

But we really – we didn’t deal with a lot of rules. We left people up to their own devices and we let groups of people out there on client engagements make their own rules and make it work for themselves and just hit their own deadlines. It magically worked very, very well.

Karlo, I will ask you to hold me accountable if that was not true on the ground, in the field.

Karlo Siriban
No, I think definitely the adoption took a while. You are absolutely spot on. But yeah, at this point, you’re right. It is on everybody’s lips. It’s on everybody’s mind. It holds true.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to hear a little bit more about – so previously there was a policy or rule to report time every day. What’s the new situation with regard to time reporting?

Anne Donovan
The new situation is you report your time in a week. As long as – if you’re a 40-hour worker, and most of us obviously report way more than 40 hours, you just have to cover your 40 hours some time over the week.

If you happen to cover those 40 hours in a two-day timeframe, the other three days don’t have to show the 40 hours. In other words, you can flex your time however it flexes for you. It used to be that you had to show how you covered those hours in five-days’ time so that you had to account for where you were. Now it just doesn’t matter. It’s just flexibility.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Anne Donovan
I know. It’s really cool.

Pete Mockaitis
You said many are reporting more than 40 hours.

Anne Donovan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s kind of the – I know, hey accounting, right? Folks can get fixated on numbers.

Anne Donovan
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a sense – maybe either of you can tackle this one in terms of a number of hours that is good or too few versus too many or is it just kind of like, “Hey, it’s different every week and we’re all good with that?”

Anne Donovan
It is different every week. In general I would say most of our employees work more than 40 hours a week. It’s just how we run.

But if you’ve got weeks that aren’t as busy, certainly we want you to work 40 hours. That’s – we want people to take advantage of times that aren’t as busy knowing that if you’re working on a deal and you’re an advisory or if it’s busy season and you’re in auditor or tax, insurance or tax, you’re certainly going to work more that. It’s kind of an up and down business.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. For the non-intense weeks are you still shooting for a 40 hour minimum?

Anne Donovan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Or it’s kind of like, “Hey, last week was 70, so this week 20 is cool?”

Anne Donovan
No, I think we in general shoot for the 40.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. I’m with you there. I’m curious to hear any other kind of pro tips or best practices if you say your clients are starting to ask, “Hey, how’d you pull this off?” in terms of having success with this kind of a shift or intervention.

Anne Donovan
Well, I just think that I have not met a group of workers and I’ve not met a client group that was not interested in this topic.

I think and I say this to these groups, if you can figure out a way to bring this to your organization, it’s really important. It is free to offer your employees. Again, if you can bring this into your workplace and you’ve got the kind of workforce that makes it easy. Again, not dealing with hourly employees or employees that clock in, I recommend it because it is free to offer and it means a lot.

Giving your employees the freedom to have some kind of flexibility in their work day, it really – it hits home. It’s a home run. Again, it doesn’t cost money to do it.

I will tell you, we took flexibility to the next level when we introduced flexibility of dress. We have what we call dress for your day now at PWC. That includes jeans. We just got rid of that whole concept of sort of the uniform. In all of our PWC offices we’re a jeans firm now.

We’ve always been a you’ve got to dress like your client. When we’re out at a – we-wear-suits clients, then we have to wear suits. But when we’re in our offices, we wear jeans too. That was a big home run with our staff as well.

Because, again, whatever kind of breath of fresh air you can bring to your staff, why not do it? Again, a freebie. We can bring it and make our staff happy, so we did it. We’ve kind of brought that in under the flexibility umbrella as well.

Just trying to – life is kind of hard enough, work is kind of hard enough, anything you can bring in that just breathes some air into the place, that’s what we’re trying to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Can you share a little bit from all of these efforts, are you seeing – what’s the lift looking like in terms of before/after attrition or retention rates?

Anne Donovan
We’ve got really – we’ve had some really good impact on our retention. That’s one of our – both our retention and our engagement scores on our annual survey. For us retention is a big deal. Turnover is very costly in a firm like ours. We’ve had a big hit on our retention rate. We’re seeing actual very nice dollars flow straight to our bottom line, which makes me very happy.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Could you give us a rough sense of what kind of proportion lift you’re talking about here?

Anne Donovan
Yeah, well. Yes. The sort of conventional wisdom is then when someone walks out the door it costs the firm about 100,000 dollars. Every head that stays around is a savings to us and that’s all – that includes all kinds of things: training costs, replacement costs.

When you can keep someone around it saves a lot of money. We have 50,000 people, so when you think about even saving 1% of your people, that’s – on 50,000 people that’s a lot of money.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. Roughly what extra percentage of your people are you saving as a result of all this?

Anne Donovan
Well, we’ve certainly seen a good – probably – my boss probably wouldn’t want me quoting our retention rates, but I will tell you that we’ve seen some really good savings on retention rates. I better leave it at that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, then. Well, any final thoughts before we shift gears to hear about some of your favorite things?

Anne Donovan
No, again, I just – I think we’re afraid – we’re afraid of change. We as leaders think that these kinds of changes are going to wreak havoc because we’re going to see abuse in the system.

I guess my advice to leaders is that I think you’ll see less abuse then you think you’re going to see. I would take the leap on something like flexibility because I think you’ll see much more benefit than you’ll see abuse. I guess that’s my big piece of advice.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. Thank you. Well, now Anne or Karlo, whoever’s feeling it in the moment. Let’s hear about some of your favorite things. Is there a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Anne Donovan
Karlo, I’ll let you go first.

Karlo Siriban
The quote I always say is, it’s a Rolling Stone quote, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Anne Donovan
Oh, I love that, Karlo. It’s so much hipper than anything I was going to come up with.

Mine’s not a quote. I just try every single day to remember what I’m grateful for because I think we can get caught up in how hard life is.

I really – before my feet hit the ground in the morning, I don’t let myself get out of bed before I remember the things for which I am very, very grateful. However small those things might be, that might be my wonderful soft pillow, but I have a lot to be grateful for and I just really, really try to live in that gratitude.

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

Anne Donovan
Oh my gosh, mine is the Millennial study. I’m happy that is a public report. I’m happy, Pete, to make that available if anyone wants to take a look at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, please. We’d love to link to that.

Pete Mockaitis
Fair enough, fair enough. How about a favorite book?

Anne Donovan
Mine is Maya Angelou, Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Karlo Siriban
Mine is How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston.

Pete Mockaitis
I met him at a book signing and I have a signed copy of How to Be Black on my shelf.

Karlo Siriban
Really?

Pete Mockaitis
I did, yes.

Karlo Siriban:
Oh you lucky duck.

Pete Mockaitis
He’s good friends with my buddy, Mawi, who was episode number one. Small world. He’s a funny guy. He deliberately said the opposite of what I asked him to say in the inscription. I said something like, “Can you say that I’m tough or a baller.” I don’t remember what I asked for, but he said, “You are so not a baller.”

Anne Donovan
I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I have to get rid of this book now. Very good.

Anne Donovan
I love it.

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

Anne Donovan
My phone. I can’t live without it. My phone, which I look at every day for everything.

Karlo Siriban
Mine is my new ergonomic mouse.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, tell us all about it. What is it? Where can I buy it?

Karlo Siriban
I got it off of Amazon. Without plugging too hard, it’s an Anchor mouse. It turns your wrist so it’s like you’re shaking a hand.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, right. Yes.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool.

Karlo Siriban
My arms feel so much better now.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good move. Yeah. Let’s link that too.

Tell us, is there a particular nugget that you find yourself saying often that really connects and resonates with people?

Anne Donovan
Breathe. Just breathe everybody.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Anne Donovan
Oh I actually – no, I shouldn’t say this on the air. I have three staff and they are all women. They all happen to be women. I have two grown kids. I have 21-year-old twins.

Every time my kids irritate me I always type to these gals in text #don’thavekids. These three women all have young babies at home so that’s our team motto #don’thavekids. We always laugh at each other #don’thavekids. That’s our motto – team motto to all of us who have a bunch of kids.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s too late I have a five-month-old.

Anne Donovan
Oh my gosh, Pete, I’m going to put you on our Twitter – on our tweet #don’thavekids there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m honored. Thank you.

Karlo Siriban
I have one from my grandfather. He always says “ayos lang” which is Tagalog. It’s the Filipino language. It just means it’s going to be okay.

Anne Donovan
Lovely.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you.

Anne Donovan
Lovely.

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

Karlo Siriban
Anne, I leave that to you.

Anne Donovan
Well, follow me on Twitter because I’m always tweeting about staff that we’re finding interesting. I’m going to send the study, Pete, so I’d like you to take a look at that.

I just think keep plugging away on the flexibility stuff. I guess that’s it. I think you’ve got to keep trying and ask for what you want people. Ask for what you want in your workplace because you have to be happy at work.

Pete Mockaitis
Karlo, any final thoughts in terms of a challenge or call to action?

Karlo Siriban
I challenge everyone to be more mindful of everything outside of work and outside of the things that stress you. You’re a whole person; treat yourself like a whole person.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Karlo, Anne, this has been a whole lot of fun. Kudos for the good work that’s producing good results for people and profits. Keep it up.

Karlo Siriban
Thank you.

Anne Donovan
Yay, thank you for the opportunity.

Karlo Siriban
Had a great time.

306: Taking Care of Your Brain With Dr. Mike Dow

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Dr. Mike Dow speaks on how to keep your brain healthy and continuously improve its functionality.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key foods that keep your brain healthy
  2. The types and benefits of different Omega-3s
  3. How and why to practice mindfulness every day

About Mike

Dr. Mike Dow is a psychotherapist, bestselling author, brain health expert and television personality. Inspired by his brother who suffered a massive stroke when he was just 10 years old, Dr. Mike made it his personal mission to help others in their quest for health and happiness. In his new book,

Heal Your Drained Brain: Naturally Relieve Anxiety, Combat Insomnia, and Balance Your Brain in Just 14 Days (Hay House), he shares information, actionable steps and guidance to naturally relieve anxiety, combat insomnia, and balance your brain in just 14 days. Dr. Mike has hosted series on TLC, E!, VH1 and Investigation Discovery. He is a recurring guest co-host on The Doctors, one of The Dr. Oz Show core experts and makes regular appearances on Today, Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, The Talk and more. Dr. Mike holds a Master of Science degree in marriage and family therapy and a doctorate in psychology. Other bestselling books include The Brain Fog Fix and Healing the Broken Brain.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Mike Dow Interview Transcript

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

Michael Dow
Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get started a little bit – normally we have sort of a fun opener, but your opener is kind of intense. You’ve got a tale of how your brother had a stroke at a young age that really shaped your whole path. Can you share a little bit of that with us?

Michael Dow
Yeah, so when my brother was just ten years old, he had a massive stroke. One doctor told us that his stroke was just too massive, the damage in his brain was just too bad, that we should just put him in a nursing home for the rest of his life, that physical and speech therapy probably wouldn’t help enough.

I saw what you can do if you use your brain in the right way, if you challenge yourself. Today, I can tell you that my brother – he still can’t use his right arm – but my brother is living a happy, independent life. He travels, he drives, he walks, he runs, all the things that people told us – one naysaying doctor told us that it would be literally medically impossible.

My brother did some of the things that I recommend in Heal Your Drained Brain and also my other books, like The Brain Fog Fix and that the book that my brother and I – my brother is also, by the way, now a published author because we wrote a book about stroke recovery, Healing the Broken Brain, omega-3 super foods, high doses of omega-3’s, challenging your brain each and every day in your work, in what you do.

You have the power to rewire, to work your brain each and every single day in novel and challenging experiences. That’s why I became a brain health expert because I saw what you can do in the little, the mundane, the challenges, in the spreadsheets, in speech therapy.

But it’s not just these formal therapy modalities; it’s what you do at your Mac, in front of your – in that Excel document, in challenging, in rewiring the brain. It’s kind of cool.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s already so much I want to follow up on here. I’m an Excel enthusiast myself. I have fallen off the train of taking my morning fish oil. Let’s maybe just very quickly touch on these before we lose the moment. Omega-3’s are a big deal, huh?

Michael Dow
They’re huge. Most Americans aren’t getting enough omega-3’s. There are two types of omega-3’s that are usable for the brain. In Heal Your Drain Brain, which is my latest book, there are two usable forms. People get really confused and most omega-3’s on the market – I was just having this conversation with a tech enthusiast the other day.

He was like, “Well, I’m just taking an omega-3.” I’m like, “Well, what kind of omega-3?” He’s like, “Well, I’m just going to start taking massive doses.” I’m like, “Well, are you taking a high EPA or are you taking high DHA?” He’s like, “Well, does that matter?” I said, “Well, yeah, it matters because there are different benefits for both.”

In Heal Your Drained Brain I talk about EPA as your stressless omega-3. In The Brain Fog Fix, I called it your feel better omega-3 because EPA is associated with better mood and less stress. If that’s your target – it also helps you to fall asleep because you have less anxiety.

If that’s what you want and that’s your problem, you want to look for an omega-3 supplement that has very, very high levels of the omega-3 EPA and very low levels of the omega-3 DHA. You want like a seven to one ratio. On the back of the bottle, you’d want something that says like EPA, let’s say like, something around like 700 milligrams and something around let’s say like 100 milligrams – or that’s the ballpark because they’re all a little bit different.

But if you want to think better – so in Brain Fog Fix I think I called DHA your think better omega-3 because that book was more about dementia prevention and brain fog. In Heal Your Drained Brain, I called it your sleep soundly omega-3 because DHA does two things. It’s all about cognition. It’s about dementia prevention and it’s about deep sleep.

If you’re somebody who is not sleeping soundly – so EPA helps you to fall asleep if it’s anxiety, but DHA in research helps to improve deep sleep. DHA if that’s what you want, then maybe you want an omega-3 that has higher levels of DHA or maybe you just want like a –

If you want both, then just get one of the vanilla supplements – not a vanilla flavored, but just an everyday omega-3 supplement because most supplements on the market have like a one-to-one ratio of EPA and DHA or a two-to-three ratio or a three to two.

But if you’re specifically targeting one of those targets in mood or cognition that I just mentioned, you may actually want to go higher on one or the other.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now is the ratio what makes the difference or is it the dosage, that thought from the buddy you mentioned who’s just going to take massive doses, would that give me everything I want? I want better mood. I want better stress. I want to sleep faster and sleep deeper and think better.

Michael Dow
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
… bunch of both, would that do the trick or is the ratio important?

Michael Dow
Yes, yes. That’s a great question. It is both because they compete for space in your cells so that’s why the dose and the ratio matters.
We know from research that if you want the mood benefits, you can’t just take a ton and just think, “Oh, well, I’ll just take a ton of both because then I’ll get both benefits,” because the DHA actually sort of in your brain cells pushes the EPA out.

Then you can take a very, very high EPA dose of – let’s say for anxiety the research shows that you need if you want really potent anti-anxiety effects, you need about 2,000 milligrams of EPA, but you also need a seven-to-one ratio of EPA to DHA.

This is all in my book because I know it’s really confusing to people who are just listening to this really, really quickly. It’s all written down. I know you probably have show notes or something or they can get this transcribed.

It’s about both. It’s about the dosage but also the ratio because they compete for space in your cells. These two omega-3’s can sort of push each other out.

I’m also going to give you one more thing that is going to possibly confuse people and that is if you’re vegan, you’re probably not getting enough DHA because the vegetarian sources of omega-3’s like walnuts and flax seed convert to EPA but hardly any of that converts into DHA. You’re probably not getting DHA at all. The way to remedy that is to take a plant-based, algae-based DHA supplement.

I coined a phrase because it’s sort of my dietary philosophy that I preach in my books, it’s what I follow. I follow a Keto-Terranean diet, which is a Ketogenic plus Mediterranean, so Keto-Terranean.

The Mediterranean is the best diet for brain health, but I do a little bit of intermittent fasting and lower carb principle, so it’s Keto-Terranean. If you sort of put those two philosophies together or if you’re vegan, I would do a Kegan, sort of a Mediterranean but also a lower carb, sort of a Kegan diet.

Americans are really all or nothing thinkers. We get really obsessed with one thing and we use a lot of black or white thinking.

We get obsessed with like one thing and we do that, like it’s all Atkins all the time. Then okay, we’re going to throw that out the window. Now it’s all vegan all the time. There’s all of these different strategies make sense, but we kind of have to take a little bit of everything. We have to use a little grey area thinking.

This is very true for work too because I think there’s a lot of people out there who say, “Oh, just quit your job and just follow your dreams,” Well, yeah, but I also have to pay the rent and feed my children and have health insurance.

I think we have to sort of click all the boxes, which is why I was really excited to be on this podcast because I know that’s what you really talk to your listeners about. It’s how to click all the boxes at the same time, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Yes, thank you. Boy, we just went deep right away in terms of the EPA and DHA and all that.

But maybe could you paint a little bit of a picture in terms of just how much of a difference does this stuff make? Is it like I’ll be able to think 10% clearer or it’s like night and day, my cognition is transformed because of omega-3’s?

Michael Dow
You will feel a difference. There are some things – in Heal Your Drained Brain, some of the things you’re going to feel right away, some of the practices, some of the tools and tips and tricks and hacks that I give you, some of them are in the moment, here’s a little hack.

I just talked about identifying when polarized thinking shows up in your life. Let’s say you’re at work and you see some YouTube video and you’re like, “Yeah, I need to follow my dreams and quit my job,” and you realize, “Oh my God, that’s black and white thinking and I need to nip that in the bud.”

I need to realize how maybe I can – a great example is how can I use grey area thinking and have a side hustle and build my side hustle until that is generating enough income so that I can – when I left – I used to work for the Department of Mental Health in LA.

I heard this quote that I loved and it was, “Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on the way down,” but I didn’t jump until – I was building a private practice while I was working for the Department of Mental Health.

For me, to just jump – I would say I did jump, but I had a soft landing. For me to jump and leave the department of Mental Health and leave my health care plan and all that would have been really sort of, it would have been sort of foolish. But I also believe in people following their dreams.

Then I jumped from private practice into writing books. I help people to follow their dreams all the time. But if you have three kids, I’m not going to tell somebody to quit their job with nothing built. I’m going to help you to sort of create stepping stones. Oh gosh, I digress.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. I was just wondering, how substantial is the impact of some of these interventions?

Michael Dow
Yes, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Is omega-3’s the big one to start with?

Michael Dow
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Or is it the black and white versus grey thinking-?

Michael Dow
Yes, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
-that will give you the most bang for your buck?

Michael Dow
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to hear some hard-hitting numbers from the research and like, “Holy smokes, if I do this, I can see that.”

Michael Dow
Yeah, thank you. Omega-3’s – and I have a chapter in Heal Your Drained Brain about – I call probiotics the new Paxil. Both omega-3 dosing and just simply eating a probiotic and combining that with a prebiotic, like the prebiotic fiber in a banana or onions. By the way, Heal Your Drained Brain also has recipes in the appendix that helps you to do that.

We know from research – there was a really groundbreaking study at UCLA that had people – and this was not placebo effect. What they did to make sure it wasn’t placebo effect, they gave women in one group a dairy product that contained probiotics, so like yogurt that had those good gut bacteria and then they gave another group a dairy product, but they sort of took out the probiotics.

After a month, they scanned their brains and they assessed for their anxiety and they found that the women who consumed one – dairy products, like something as simple as drinking kefir. I say kefir. Some people pronounce it the fancy way, but-

Pete Mockaitis
Like Keifer Sutherland?

Michael Dow
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Drinking Jack Bauer.

Michael Dow
Yeah, exactly. But just doing that will help to decrease your anxiety after 30 days in this research and they saw the changes in brain scans.

Similarly, omega-3’s after 30 days there was this research in Canada.

There are some people who need prescription medication. I’m not going to tell somebody who’s diagnosed with bipolar one disorder or schizophrenia to manage their symptoms with nutrition and exercise. I’m not going to do that. But most Americans are getting prescription anti-depressants from their primary care physician.

Here’s a study that came out of Canada. They gave people diagnosed with major depressive disorders, so we’re not talking about, “Oh, I just feel a little blue,” and they gave half of them the high EPA omega-3 that we started on. They gave the other half a prescription SSRI.

Pete Mockaitis
A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor?

Michael Dow
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, we’re on the same page.

Michael Dow
So all these really popular medications, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, all these medications that are so popular with Americans. They found that the high EPA, so it has to be that seven-to-one ratio that we talked about, was as effective in treating major depressive disorder as the prescription SSRI anti-depressant.

That to me is groundbreaking, like what. Why are so many Americans still taking these anti-depressants that cause weight gain, sexual side effects, emotional blunting.

There was also another study I believe that was out of Australia that was just published in the past year that found that the Mediterranean diet, of course I modify it as the Keto-Terranean diet with a little bit of lower carb intermittent fasting thrown in, not just prevented, but treated, was effective in treating major depressive disorder.

Are Americans, are they trying diet? Are they trying omega-3’s before they’re trying Paxil and Lexapro. Are they trying probiotics? Because listen, probiotics manufacture – there are different strains that manufacture GABA, serotonin in your gut. Those are the same two neurotransmitters that are manufactured by Xanax and Paxil.

To me it’s just – for lack of a better word, it’s crazy that we’re taking so many medications, which is why the subtitle in my book is – the word natural is in there because my book is chockfull of natural approaches to treating anxiety disorders, which are by the way, twice as common as depression.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. Not shocking because Americans are more stressed out than ever.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well then that’s the anxiety side of things. Can you give us a perspective for when you’re talking about healing your brain drain, what are sort of the primary culprits of our brains getting drained in the first place and some of the other kind of really high leverage intervention?

It sounds like bad diet is big, but maybe could we get a little bit more precise, like these are some foods that are really troublesome.

Michael Dow
Yeah, well sugar shrinks your brain.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Michael Dow
Here’s the thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Shrinks your brain.

Michael Dow
This is crazy. It shrinks a part of the brain, the hippocampus that makes you more resilient to deal with stress in the long term. It’s sort of a vicious cycle because the crazy thing is that when you are stressed out, you are more likely to crave sugar and flour and then you eat the sugar –

Okay, so let me – you’re sitting at your desk and you have an awful co-worker who gets on your nerves.

Pete Mockaitis
She’s the worst.

Michael Dow
And you have a boss. She is the worst. Then your boss calls you in for this meeting. You have this deadline and your kid is texting you or mom is texting you. You have stuff going on. It’s called life. Then what do you want to do? You want to reach for that bag of chips or you want to reach for that candy bar, whatever – that blood sugar spiking junk food.

Repeatedly – and listen, we all have our little cheats. My cheat food is macaroni and cheese. But what repeatedly when we spike our blood sugar with sugar, flour, soda, you name it, these junk food coffee beverages, so we put skim milk, high-sugar skim milk in our coffee or these sugar coffee beverages that have like 400 calories.

We shrink that part of our brain that in the long term helps us to remain resilient, so now we’re less likely to deal with stress and now we need more sugar and flour and pasta to deal with the stress and the cycle goes on and on and on.

I think the thing that really helps is cognitive behavioral therapy. I think in 2018 people are less likely to go therapy once a week just because we’re busier than ever and we have so many balls up in the air.

Listen, I have a private practice and I think people need it more than ever, but if you can’t go this week to your therapist, I think we need to realize that the way we interpret the events in our life, affects the way our brains are going to release what I call our three brain draining stress hormones, which are adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol.

I showed this on The Rachael Ray Show. I showed my graph. You want your cortisol levels – cortisol levels in general, we want them to be low, but we also want them to rise 50% when we wake up. That’s called the cortisol awakening response.

In a healthy brain, that stress hormone cortisol should rise 50%. That helps to wake you up. Then cortisol levels should slowly go down throughout the day.

For example, we can use high levels of vitamin C to bring down very generally high levels of cortisol and just one of the – I have hundreds of interventions in my book, but if the cortisol is not rising and falling at the appropriate time of day, we can use – there’s a chapter in my book, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or CBTI, we adjust your circadian rhythms because there is an inverse relationship.

Cortisol rises when melatonin falls and vice versa. At night, when cortisol is falling, melatonin is supposed to be rising. Let me give you an example. It’s 10 PM and – so what are you doing at – let me ask you a question. What are you doing at 10 PM? Have you ever been doing something that you’re not supposed to be doing at night? Watching TV or checking your iPhone for emails?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m usually asleep, but it does happen sometimes Netflix, etcetera, 10 PM.

Michael Dow
Yup, I’m guilty.

Pete Mockaitis
With … of course, but still Netflix.

Michael Dow
I’m guilty of that as well. Netflix is bad, but checking your phone is even worse. If we’re checking our phone and a work email pops in. Americans are guilty of this.

We’re going to wear our work polo’s everywhere we go. We’re going to email – they’re going to email you at 11 PM and they’re going to expect you to work on a clock. That’s a cultural thing.

What happens when you get that email from your boss at 11 PM, your cortisol levels rise when they should be falling. Number two, the blue light from electronics sends a signal to the pineal gland in your brain to suppress melatonin production, so melatonin goes down when it should be going up.

Which means that you can’t fall asleep, which means that your circadian rhythms are off, which means that you have insomnia, which means that the next day when you go to work and you’re groggy, you’re much more likely to experience high levels of stress and anxiety and then the cycle, and then you’re more likely to drink a lot of caffeine, and then you’re less likely to fall asleep the next day.

You just feel cranky. Then the cycle gets worse and worse and worse.

When we can test for this with a simple saliva test, it gives us a little snapshot. I recommend that people test – because it is a one-day test, test it on a normal day. Like if you sleep terribly the night before and you have a kid and your kid didn’t sleep the night before, don’t test on that day. Test your saliva on a normal day, so we get a good snapshot of your cortisol levels.

But I think it’s really interesting that so many of these strategies are so natural so that people don’t have to rely so much on Xanax and Ambien and anti-depressants and we can rely more on probiotics and vitamin C and vitamin B rich foods. I’m obsessed with B vitamins and foliate and vitamin B 12 because they’re just so incredible for the brain.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. So given all of these potential levers, I’d love to get your take. If you’re a professional and if your brain is drained, and tired, and stressed, and stressed and not creative as a result of all these things, what would be sort of your top three, okay, this is easy and if you do it, you’ll feel a huge difference recommendations?

Michael Dow
Yeah, I think changing your diets is number one.

Pete Mockaitis
Less sugar.

Michael Dow
Less sugar. Well, can I give you my top three diet and then two others?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, let’s do it.

Michael Dow
My top three diet recommendations because diet is – it’s just the most important thing we do. Less sugar, more omega-3’s and more B vitamins.

Of the B vitamins foliate – so get those – not folic acid. Folic acid is just terrible for you. If you’re supplementing, you want to look for methyl-foliate. Foliate converts to methyl-foliate. You want to get the more expensive form of foliate, so methyl-foliate.

The same thing goes for vitamin B 12. You want to get – you want to look at the back of the label. You want methyl-B 12 or what you can just do is get the natural forms of both by eating lots and lots and what I recommend in my book is seven servings of vegetables and whole fruits a day, lots of dark, leafy greens and remember, drinking fruit juice is like drinking a soda in terms of your blood sugar.

Don’t forget to eat your fruit, so whole fruits. If you want, you can just remember the little phrase, “Eat your fruits, drink your vegetables.” You can also eat your vegetables, but it’s okay, so I love drinking vegetable juice. Of course lemon and lime make a great low calorie – those are the fruits that it’s okay to squeeze lots of great lemon juice to cut that bitter vegetable flavor.

In terms of the three top practices to heal your brain, I love, and this is a chapter in my book, it has a sort of a funny – I actually got to – I don’t know if any of your listeners got to see it. This episode aired recently and hopefully it will replay and people can Google this, but I got to hypnotize Dr. Oz on his show.

Now hypnosis is really fascinating because it moves the brain into fast – from fast beta waves – and if you’re working on that spreadsheet at work, your brain on an EEG would read very fast – it would show very fast beta waves, which are associated with anxiety. Hypnosis moves it into very slow theta brainwaves, which are the brainwaves that you’re in when you’re dreaming.

No surprise, your dreams are usually very creative. Well, guess what? When you’re in hypnosis you tend to be very, very creative.

If you’re trying to solve a problem doing a little self-hypnosis and I have a script in the book that can help you to be really creative. If you are a tech executive or you’re an ad executive or you want to write a chapter in your book and you’re a little stuck, do a little self-hypnosis.

A little anecdote is when Thomas Edison was inventing the light bulb, when he tried to solve a problem, he would hold these ball bearings and he would take a nap. When we fall asleep we pass from beta down into alpha, which is in between, then into theta, then into delta, which is dreamless sleep.

But in order to get from awake to sleep, we pass through theta on our way down into dreamless sleep. At that point our bodies sort of go limp and he would drop the ball bearings and that would wake him up.

He knew that he would be in that creative state and he would then wake up and he would be more creative. We could say that that theta brainwave that you’re in during hypnosis helped Thomas Edison to invent the light bulb. Isn’t that cool?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is cool. I’m curious then, so there’s different brain states. The beta, I suppose, is useful if you were doing sort of the high-alertness, less creativity stuff.

Michael Dow
That’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a way to get to there quickly if that’s what the situation calls for?

Michael Dow
Yeah, there is. You can put your – if you’re in a shared work space environment, if you’re working at a WeWork or a space like that, if you’re in one of these tech offices with no doors and no one has offices, you can put your Bose noise-cancelling headphones and you can put on hard rock music or any sort of like really fast music.

If you want to slow the brain down, you can put on really slow classical music. Because really slow heavy metal will help the brain go into a beta wave state. Or you can just think about something really stressful, but I don’t recommend that because sometimes those brainwaves are hard to get out of and you’re probably also going to release a lot of adrenaline and cortisol, which is not only cardio toxic, but also depresses your immune system.

But listen, beta brainwaves are great in small bursts and for shorts amount of time. They can be really helpful while you are trying to stay really focused.

What’s also interesting is that patients diagnosed with ADHD have too many theta brainwaves and not enough beta and patients with anxiety disorders have too much beta and not enough theta, which makes sense, right? If you’re brain is too fast, you’re anxious. If your brain is too slow, you have inattentive ADHD.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us the one-minute version of how does one do a self-hypnosis?

Michael Dow
Yeah, so the one-minute version is take yourself to a relaxed state. Imagine in your mind’s eye you’re going down an elevator from the tenth floor down to the first floor. See yourself in a really happy, peaceful place. Then see yourself solving whatever creative problem you need to solve.

Then once you have that answer, take yourself back up that elevator and then crack that computer code or that ad sale that you need to solve or that new chapter in your book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, good. So we’ve got the diet. We’ve got the self-hypnosis. What else?

Michael Dow
Mindfulness. I’m going to give your listeners a mindfulness hack. Some people think they have to go to some really fancy yoga meditation studio and pay 26 dollars. But the way, I love these new meditation studios and I love meditation apps.

But if you want to do something and you’re really busy just the next shower that you take, make that your meditation because all you have to do to be mindful and I have a little section on mindfulness in the book, is mindfulness is simply paying attention on purpose to the present moment.

We all, hopefully all your listeners shower, so all you have to do is pay attention to the smell of your soap or your shampoo and you have to pay attention to the temperature of the water on your skin and all of the skin receptors telling you that the skin is feeling the water running down the back of your neck. That’s sort of a shower meditation.

If you don’t have any extra time to take the L train into the city and to the yoga studio, then you can just take a five-minute shower, which hopefully you’re going to do anyway and you can make that into a meditation.

Then you can take a walk. You probably have to walk from your car or from the train into your office building and you can make that your meditation. You can put down your phone and turn your ringer off and on your lunch hour today. You can take a mindful walk. That will allow your brain to unplug.

A little hack, remember that – listen, I’m not somebody who – I’m a little bit of a hippy. I believe that we should choose natural strategies whenever we can, but I also love my iPhone and I love apps. But the electric signals are not great for our brain.

Instead of just turning your ringer off, what I recommend is give yourself a 20-minute practice over work and put your plane on airplane mode, turn of the Wi-Fi, turn off the towers because then your body is not getting all that radiation, the electrical signals and you’ll get a little break.

Take a 20-minute walk that will help you to actually be even more mindful. You can actually stop checking Instagram and you can just take a walk around the park and be mindful for those 20 minutes. It will just really change your brain and actually thicken the most human part of your brain, which is your prefrontal cortex, which is kind of cool.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say mindful, part of it is not looking at technology. What else makes a walk mindful?

Michael Dow
It’s simply using your five senses. Pay attention to three things that you see, two things that you can hear, one thing that you can taste, maybe another thing that you can smell. Maybe there’s even a taste landing on your tongue. Just pay attention to those five senses.

Those five senses that you are perceiving in the only moment when your life is unfolding, which is right here and right now as you’re walking will suck you into that present moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Tell me, anything else you want to make sure to cover before we shift gears and hear a few of your favorite things?

Michael Dow
Yeah, I think just the power of relationships and connections. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, just remember – I’m actually doing this interview with you and Rocco is on my lap and I’m actually – he’s very high maintenance, so I actually prevent him from barking when I’m doing podcast interviews from home by petting him.

Oxytocin is an incredible – in Heal Your Drained Brain, I have those three brain draining stress hormones, which I already mentioned, but I also have the brain balancers. Those are the feel-good neurotransmitters, which include GABA, serotonin, and also oxytocin and some others that I mentioned in the book.

Remember that connection is potent. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, there are many ways you can release feel-good neurotransmitters. I’m releasing oxytocin just by petting Rocco right now, my little rescue – my tough guy who I rescued from South Central LA. It’s just – it’s amazing there are natural strategies we can use each and every moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh absolutely, it’s so exciting the stuff with oxytocin. We had Paul Zak, a big researcher in the field back in episode 124 and it’s so huge.

I’m curious when it comes to say petting the dog, is there a certain dosage. Like if I were to take a break and hang out with my precious baby Jonathan, just how much touch kind of releases a dose?

Michael Dow
Well, I would say the more the better. I don’t have a dose specific. I should measure that.

Because when it comes to the brain and also anxiety disorders, one of the pieces of research that I was most excited that I had to put in my book was the fact that intranasal oxytocin given to people who went through a trauma actually prevented them from developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s just really incredible that these so-called hippy airy fairy quote natural strategies are maybe really potent medicine. I can’t – I’m just so excited about them. I have to – it’s why I was so called to write this book because I think people just need to know how incredibly potent and powerful they really are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Michael Dow
Yeah, I think it really was that quote, “Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on the way down,” but the other quote that I really love that helped me was that, “It’s that intersection where preparation meets opportunity.”

I think that’s so true for all of us. I think the success that I’ve had in my career – this is really interesting. My first book was published by Penguin. It was a huge failure.

Then I’m now about to publish my – I just published Heal Your Drained Brain, which was my fourth book. This fall I’m releasing – I’m writing the next Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s called Think, Act & Be Happy, which is my fifth book.

What’s so crazy, after my first book was – I got a very sizeable advance and it was a very huge bomb. Then my second book was – I had to take – it was very hard for any – my lit agent said, “Mike, it’s going to be really hard for me to get any publisher to take a chance on you after the huge disaster that was your first book, but I’ll try.”

We went directly – the first book we did like bidding war and all that nonsense. I – she said, “Who-“ even that first time around there was one publisher that I really loved. The second time around I said, “I really want to be a Hay House author,” so we went directly to Hay House.

We didn’t do the bidding war thing. I just took a small advance relatively speaking. It wasn’t like 10 dollars or anything like that and I was very, very grateful for the advance that they gave me and that book became a New York Times bestseller.

It’s crazy when preparation meets opportunity. I feel like everything in my life now looking back sort of makes sense. You just have to be ready and you have to look at the failures, the so-called failures, I guess, to me I have reframed as learning opportunities.

I’ve learned – I think I’ve – I’ve definitely learned as much or I guess probably more from my failures as I’ve learned from my success. That’s kind of cool. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite book?

Michael Dow
The Alchemist. I think as a – looking at my own neurochemistry, I’m an explorer. I’m an ENFJ. I like the way dopamine feels in my brain.

I have a chapter in my book in Heal Your Drained Brain that helps people to really understand their neurochemistry and their personality type. Just giving you an example, people who are like me, if you are a sensation seeker, you’re more likely to be diagnosed with addiction, but less likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

The opposite, the converse is true if you’re an introvert or a sensation avoider. That sort of makes sense. I think it helps people to understand the intersection between sort of your genetics and epigenetics and sort of this whole nature and nurture question.

For me, The Alchemist really helps to keep me – for me The Alchemist is sort of – it’s this story of this seeker who like has to like seek, go around the world, but then he sort of realizes that everything was sort of here all along. That’s for me as an explorer and a sensation-seeker, that’s a message that really grounds me because as somebody who really my brain chemicals are really the way dopamine feels.

My only problem with that is sometimes I can just never be happy with what I – not that I’m not happy with what I have, but I can – I sometimes have to realize I can just want more and more and more.

I have to also realize that – I’m the kind of person who gets really excited about things, so I could literally try to write like 18 books a year. I have to realize that the book that I’m writing now is the book that I’m meant to keep my focus on and I can’t get distracted and write 18 books because I have to focus on this book because this book is important too. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Michael Dow
Yeah, I think for me I’m just generally obsessed with apps in general. I love workout apps and I love all apps these days. I think Uber was the first app that sort of like landed on the general public’s sort of – on the public stage and was sort of like first app that your grandmother has heard of.

But for me now, I love Audible. Audible has allowed me to read, or listen to I guess you would say, a new book a week. It has allowed me – every time we challenge our brain, we’re forming new neurons.

Before it was – a car ride was just music. I love music. Music is great. Music is good for your brain in a different way, but for me to hear a book without advertising and I’m challenging my brain and learning something new, I can increase my productivity with the time that I already have and I don’t have to carve out any new time. My time is so limited. That app has allowed me to take the time that I have.

Also workout apps have allowed me – I love – I have ClassPass, so I can take – instead of belonging – I used to belong to all these different classes, but it’s like okay, well they have classes at 12 and 4 and 6, but if I have a call and that conference call goes over and then I have to be in my private practice and I need to treat these people at this time or I’m doing a talk show and it goes over.

Well, I can either look at ClassPass and find a class that starts an hour later or I now can go on my phone and do a workout at a gym and still have a trainer talking to me and music playing in my ear so I can still get a great workout anytime I want. I think apps have really sort of helped me to grow my own brain in really cool ways.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted frequently?

Michael Dow
Yeah, use it or lose it. It’s sort of for stroke survivors and for people that’s a brain health little nugget but I think it’s not just for people who are recovering from a stroke. I think all of us need to realize that all of us have a brain.

Listen, we all have brains that are actually, and listen, of course we talked about this, if we are eating sugar, we’re actually doing this more rapidly, but if you are an adult, your brain is actually shrinking a little bit just with age every year, but if you are exercising, if you are consuming a lot of omega-3’s and B vitamins, you can prevent your brain – and learning new things.

There’s something really cool, we’re talking about – there’s all this new research on stem cells, but guess what? Stem cells are already here and you don’t have to go to a university hospital. There’s this really cool stuff, BDNF, Brain Drive Neurotropic Factor.

We can boost this through the power of exercise, omega-3’s, all of these cool things that we know help to increase neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells. We do it with our everyday tasks.

I always go back to this nugget of use it or lose it when it comes to the brain, but I’m going to – I take it one step further which is use it and improve it. We always have to look at the brain, which is our most important organ and always be looking for opportunities to use it and improve it because yes, –

When my brother had a stroke 20 years ago, my brother is now in his 30’s, they thought that neurogenesis was something that didn’t happen after you were 18 or in your early 20’s. But we now know that you have the power to make new brain cells throughout your adult life.

Yeah, everything that I recommend in my book is always geared towards use it and improve it, create new brain cells, use exercise, use omega-3’s, use – consume turmeric every day. These – and combine them with – I call them probiotic boosters, these anti-oxidants, make sure you have lots of curry in your diet because they work synergistically.

Coffee, turmeric, they work synergistically with the probiotics and the prebiotics to make sure that your brain is improving every day. It’s just incredible that if we really get on board with these sort of actually new strategies, that we can quote use it and improve it, it being our brain.

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

Michael Dow
I love Facebook. I do a lot of Facebook lives because I love long form. I do a lot of 20-minute videos, like backstage from the doctors and Dr. Oz. I do a lot of stuff on Facebook, so I’ll go to my Facebook page or DrMikeDow.com.

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

Michael Dow
Yeah, I would say that to be awesome at your job, use your brain to  – just figure out a way that today you can use that adage of use it and improve it and by doing so you’re probably going to be a little bit more awesome at your job and you’ll probably also be a little happier too.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Dr. Mike this has been really fun. I wish you so much luck as you continue to spread the good word and heal drained brains and appear on all the cool shows and keep it up.

Michael Dow
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, that’s the recording.

Michael Dow
Awesome, Pete.