Patrick:            Hey everybody, this is Pat V. and you’re listening to the rise above your best podcast where I’m not only obsessed with interviewing those that have achieved great success to uncover their secrets and habits, but also in exploring and uncovering the research that demonstrates that great success is available to all of us and it all starts when we rise above our best. I had the opportunity to have on Phil Giordano from Walden Woods Leadership Group on this podcast and it was so much fun.

Patrick:            He really is such an inspirational individual and we really were talking about his book that soon to be out called Discovering Significance and he just had some great points in terms of the one that sticks out to me is this idea of going all in and how often we probably don’t go all in and the impact that that has when we don’t do that, and also he speaks to really how do we do that on a more consistent basis that we’re able to put ourselves in that place. And I think his view and discussion around significance and what that means really plays into it. I know you’re going to enjoy this podcast, so let’s get started.

Patrick:            I want to thank you today for taking the time to speak with me, Phil, regarding not only your company, Walden Woods Leadership but also the book that you recently wrote on Discovering Significance, which I think I sent you the picture of my last day reading this book. I was in Jackman, Maine on a lake that you could only get to by boat and it was just, it was a magical place to sort of finish up on what was really just a very powerful book. So I thought what might be a great way to start this out was to say, what was your life prior to starting your own company, Walden Woods?

Phil:                 Let me just thank you for having me on the podcast today and helping me get the message of discovering significance out and I can picture you sitting at the lake in a self-reflective mode because that is what Discovering Significance is all about and helping people to just open up and face their future with such positivity and enthusiasm knowing that they can accomplish anything. And in some ways, that’s the same catalyst that helped me start Walden Woods Leadership. For a long time, Walden Woods was a theory in my mind, having spent 25 years or so in the financial planning and banking industry.

Phil:                 My success, my good success in that industry came from listening to people’s stories, helping them overcome their limiting beliefs and truly living into a future that they wanted. And what I’ve learned through the process of helping people with their money was the quality of the relationships their lives was all affected by money and Walden Woods Leadership started as an idea to help put out a kind of retreat process to unleash the potential in others. And finally, everything moving toward the dream, one thing after another. It became a reality and do a lot of one-on-one coaching retreat and pieces that really help people discover their unique, authentic self so they can go have the impact in the world to do whatever they need to do to live their passion and make this world a better place.

Phil:                 I guess I see myself as the catalyst of making other things happen. I know I’m rambling here, but one of the things that comes to mind is a question that was asked to me years ago by my coach. One of the first questions he asked me was, “If you could do anything, absolutely anything knowing you wouldn’t fail, what would it be?” And this is a question you can find in Tony Robbins’ books, a common question out there. And I struggled with answering that question in the beginning was I could cure cancer, I could cure major diseases, I could end world hunger.

Phil:                 And then I started looking at the strengths that I had as a unique individual. My strengths to listen to people, my strengths to help people discover their stories, help people see the patterns in their own lives. And I realized that if I could do anything, it would be open Walden Woods Leadership and become a leadership and communication coach because then I can unleash the potential in others. So the cures to cancer can be found. Cures to world hunger can be found, conflict or especially violent conflict can be eliminated and my place in that role in the place in the world is being that person right behind the scenes to make that happen. And that’s my motivation is to unleash people’s potential and see how together we create to make this world a better place.

Patrick:            It’s such a great analogy because, in my head, when I hear you say that I think of this ripple effect, right, of you being a part of that, what goes out, right? I can’t cure it myself, but I can certainly have an impact on those around me that may have had a hand in that directly. So I think that’s a great way to look at it. One of the things that comes to my mind too when I’m thinking about the industry that you were in prior to this is oftentimes it’s not a very trusting environment, right? You’re dealing with people’s finances and you hear these stories of people having their life savings pulled away from them because the person that they were dealing with directly was unscrupulous. So I would think it was a natural training ground for you to say, “If you can build trust and really look at other people’s best interest,” it seems to be like a natural progression.

Phil:                 A very natural fit. So I started in the financial planning arena when I was 22 years old and at 22, I was asking people to trust me with their money based on this theory that I knew as opposed to me actually having a penny. I mean, at that point I was in a commission-based financial planning sales job. My wife wasn’t working and I had two kids at home. So if there was $5 in a bank account, we were lucky. And overcoming that limiting belief and learning that the theory works if you build trust. And I quickly learned that if I can connect people to their values and what they value the money for, that it’s not, you don’t save all of this money for college and get excited about paying a college bill, but you save all of this money so your child can walk across the stage and you can be there, and participate in that moment, that’s what the value is.

Phil:                 You don’t want to sacrifice and not go on vacations and put more money in an education fund if you’re not connected to the motivation of why this is important that you want to give it to your children. And as soon as I started connecting those values and those things together, there was always a story behind it. And as you listened to the stories, it was, “Why do you want to do that for your child?” “Well, because it wasn’t able to be done for me.” Or, “Education is a great example of how I can pay the world forward,” or, “What type of parent would I be if I’m not able to do this?”

Phil:                 And understanding that story of how that belief comes into play was how trust was built. And you’re right, there’s so many instances in banking and finance of skirting the system and not putting people first, but the true advisors out there and the true salespeople and the true people that you just say, “Hey, that’s a very authentic human being and I want to trust them,” and part of it I think comes from knowing your own story and part of it comes from being willing to just accept people for where they’re at and help get them to where they want to go.

Patrick:            And it’s interesting, once again, as you speak to that process, it’s the same thing in regards to the coaching and for leadership. If you don’t have a strong enough why in terms of where you want to go or there’s always an opportunity to sort of steer away from that because why am I doing this? It is difficult. Saving money is difficult.

Phil:                 Absolutely. And that goes within the industry and what do we all need to look at is what is our motivation? And as a leadership coach and being in this industry, it’s what is the intrinsic motivation, the piece that’s coming from inside of you living into that passion that keeps you going forward, especially when you get faced with adversity? And then there’s the outside motivation. What are the things that are coming from the outside that keep you on your path?

Phil:                 Many times the outside motivation is, especially in businesses, sometimes looked at as a bad thing it’s the boss that manages out of fear is kind of a good example of an outside motivator. But some people need that piece to get going. Or sometimes there needs to be that outside force that use of a coach that use of an expert in the industry. We talked a little about that, of getting up and running as an author. Me having to use the expertise of editors to make the final process better. Outside motivation to get it done, versus just an internal motivation to keep moving forward. And we’ve got to balance the two. And you’re right, when we know why we’re going someplace, we have a better chance of getting there.

Patrick:            Yeah, and certainly as you mentioned, using resources around us to help us get where we need to go. If it was as easy as just reading about it, well, then Google is all we’d need for everything, right? We could just-

Phil:                 Absolutely. But it’s life’s experiences. That’s the thing is we got to read about it, but we got to put it in action. Just as theory with financial planning, I needed real expertise to move it forward.

Patrick:            Which brings me right into, obviously, this podcast. The title of it is rise above your best. Most of our successes are not built on our successes but are built on our challenges. And as you look back on your own life, in terms of where you’ve been, and where you’ve ended or landed so far, what have been some of those challenges for you that you think have had the most impact on the direction that you’ve gone in?

Phil:                 So the challenges, looking back with the knowledge that I have now versus the knowledge that I had in the middle of those challenges, I think the biggest source of the challenges came from some type of self-imposed limiting belief. So just as I talked about the financial planning. That was a very real thing for me of feeling like I didn’t have enough mastery for somebody to trust me. When I look at different pieces of my own health being diagnosed with diabetes or overcoming my food addictions. It’s the challenges of that self-imposed limiting belief that it has to be this way because and there’s no other option.

Phil:                 And I think the biggest growth that would come and comes out of some of those things is once you recognize that this is somewhat a made up belief, it becomes a possibility of a new script to be written, a new path to go down. In the book, I detailed my life. I mean I put my life out there for everybody to see that details, the challenges of getting married at a very young age, having kids young, education and some other very personal pieces that are in there that I’ll let readers and let podcast listeners kind of dive into the book to find what they are, but we all have those. We all have those deep dark secrets and I think once we understand them and put them out to the world, we completely open up possibility for ourselves. So free.

Patrick:            Yeah, I would agree. A couple of things on that point in regards to the book, which I guess we’ll sort of go right into that now, which I loved the layout of it, where to me as I was sort of making notes, it provides a framework, tools and a quote along the way to sort of help. That’s why I found it, really it was almost like a coach in a book in terms of helping me apply what I was reading. And one of the stories, in the very beginning, that I found it really stuck with me was this idea of all. Have you finally said, you know what? You really started to question what am I gone all in on before and feel as though you hadn’t. It forced me to look back on my own life and remember those times where I didn’t go all in.

Phil:                 Yep, and what did you gain by looking back and starting to question?

Patrick:            It made me realize myself, opportunities that I probably did miss out on when I didn’t go all in and those events and looking at who I am today, taking those risks, that it really opens so much more possibility and I’m right with you, that we hold ourselves back. Nobody else does. We hold ourselves back.

Phil:                 And that’s the point of the book. It’s written in a way that I tell a story. I put out a concept in the very beginning going all in and think about the big things that we can go all in with. A young person going off to college can go all in into their studies and really learn mastery, or the entrepreneur going all in and really putting everything on the line, the athlete putting everything on the line. I mean, we romanticize that concept of going all in when we see the outcome on the other side, not all the blood, sweat and tears and practice that it took to produce the results, but it’s the little things in life. Can I go all in, in a conversation? Can I say, “Hey, I’m just going to let my inhibitions be free and be all present. Can I be all focused? Can I use active listening?

Phil:                 Who do I need to be in this moment that allows me, in this moment, in this podcast, in this, whatever we’re doing right now, to go all in? And I think it’s a great question to always ask. And it’s one thing when I started writing the book that wasn’t the premise, but it became one of the first premises of the book because, as I looked back at my life, I said, “Man, imagine if I did things differently if I went all in here or I thought I went all in and I hit a point of not getting the results I wanted and I stopped and changed direction. But what if I just went a little further, would I have pushed that boulder up the hill, far enough to roll down the other side and I think it’s just a great place and a great starting point of getting a feedback loop and asking a question.

Patrick:            I think of that primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, which is always about self-preservation and it’s almost like a broken smoke detector at times where this is just burnt food on the stove. Yet we, our brain, treats everything as though this is a threat for survival. And it really holds us back. It’s like, “Oh, what are people going to think? What are they going to say? Am I going to embarrass myself?” And it really is this idea of, as you talk about to me, I would say it’s intentional vulnerability where you just have to say, “Sure, I’m going to put myself out there.”

Phil:                 But think of all the mindset patterns that we put ourselves through as we’re in situations and we don’t even realize that our brain is holding us captive. And the process of this book, this process of self-discovery is to override some of those things when you need to. And that’s why it has a journaling, it has a Phil’s coaching section at the end of every chapter that I kind of take out some leadership and communication pieces that I talked about in the chapter. And then we have the journaling questions and whether someone takes time to actually journals them a really takes the time to ponder to them, the important piece of starting to think about your life story, the different ways you have formatted different beliefs. And then I always like putting in some quotes at the end to help inspire that process.

Patrick:            Yeah, it really does prompt self-awareness. You’ve got to start with just sort of seeing how you connect the dots. And I feel like I’ve done a lot of this work and as I read this, things came up that I revisited myself. It was really very powerful.

Phil:                 Absolutely. And that’s what it is life-long learning, how story continually evolve and our beliefs about something continuing evolves and our stories change, as we frame them in different ways.

Patrick:            As you were putting this book together, when did you really feel like I’ve got something here like this is something that needs to get out?

Phil:                 It was a long, long process, so I started writing the book back in 2007, and it really came with the concept of measuring success and I wanted to change the corporate culture from a measurement of success to a measurement of significance because the corporate cultures I was part of, sales goal started over every year. It was driving towards the numbers. It wasn’t people-orientated and I thought they needed to be more of that people-orientated, more emotional intelligence in the measurements of what we did and I wanted to completely shift where we needed to go and measure of significance as a measurement of impact. And then along the way, with leadership studies and other pieces I was involved in and trying to find the right wording and the way to get this message out, I realized quickly that we needed a message of both. We need to be able to measure our success, which is a measurement of achievement, is very much time-bound.

Phil:                 I mean, success for me today is having a great conversation with you in the podcast. Significance for me is measured today by all the work I’m doing on this book to get it out to the public. So it’s my impact on the world. One is time-bound, the other one is measured over time. And when I start to look at those two measurements as coming together as a Yin and a Yang and a whole. I kind of knew that the world needed a paradigm shift. Then I also wanted to use my strengths of leadership, coaching, stories, storytelling, and somehow, in the last year, year and a half, it all came together in a way. And what the difference was is my editor looked at me and she kind of stripped it down and we took all the coaching pieces out of it, and throwing pieces out of it.

Phil:                 And she said, “Write a conversation between you and your daughter. And in that conversation, there’ll be power.” And that’s what we did. And then my wife read the version of that and she said, “This is powerful, but it’s missing those questions. You have powerful, powerful questions and you have powerful insight the way you frame out the coaching.” She’s like, “Add those back in after the stories to give people a break in the conversation.” And as soon as that happened, it was like, “I can’t get this to print fast enough.”

Phil:                 It was a life of its own and it felt good. It felt like there was enough of not just telling my life story for the sake of telling my life story. It was telling my story as a roadmap to allow someone else the space to tell their story. So the book wasn’t a memoir though it could be. The book is really about how do I help Patrick V. connect into any little bit piece that will help you be more productive, more sense of success, more sense of significance in this moment? And just keep going. So yeah, long journey, long answer, but it was the accumulation of driving toward the passion, going all in and finally coming up with a product that said, “Hey, the world needs this and you need to be vulnerable enough to put it out there.”

Patrick:            Yeah, and I would say from, I think the first thing I mentioned was on page 13, so right out of the gate. I think in this book, you’re able to sort of put yourself in that place of like, “I’ve experienced that or have thought of that,” and it reads well. Provides just some great direction. As you were finishing up any surprises yourself in terms of maybe things you really hadn’t thought of or you looked at differently after finishing it?

Phil:                 There was kind of that moment of as the final product came together. It was, “Man, I can trust this with my inner circle.” I mean that’s the type of stories I tell. Can I trust this with the world? Do I want to be that vulnerable out there? And it was, “Well, if I can free myself to tell these stories to the people that know me, I just got to accept the world to see the story and see what’s there.” If I didn’t go that in-depth, I don’t think the book would be as powerful as a connector for people.

Phil:                 So there was, there was a moment of pure, absolute fear of what am I about to unleash in terms of changes to my life, the changes my personality and even some respect, the changes to my family because again, I wrote it as a conversation with my daughter and I, I’m like, her life is affected by the release of this. So once I got over that and comfort from family to say, “You got to do this, you got to put it out there.” It became freeing. It became empowering and it became kind of a mission to put this in as many people’s hands as possible. I think it’s a great gift.

Patrick:            Yeah, I would agree. As this gets out there as a gift. What do you hope people to walk away with?

Phil:                 That they have a new sense of who they are. They shed their limiting beliefs and they enter the next time they hit the cliff of kind of fear of going all in. They do whatever it takes to take that leap of faith to make this world a better place.

Patrick:            I know you had mentioned several people in the book that we’re sort of people that you looked up to. Any story in particular that you look to somebody that that has inspired who you’ve become and shaped you?

Phil:                 So I mentioned, and I talk about three very distinct mentors and centers of influence in my life. So the first one was my grandfather that I affectionately called Papa, and that is now my name for my grandson. So kind of come full force, and his ability to ask that question. Look at details. I mean he was a machinist, he was an engineer. He lived through the depression. He saved everything under the sun, but he had a compassion for people that was second to none. Giving you your shirt off his back in a moment’s notice, always there to help out.

Phil:                 And I look at the mentors in my life from a very young age like my grandfather and know that, that profoundly shaped the person that I grew into. And then later in life, I mean, one of the people I talk about a lot in the book, especially in terms of the influence on my leadership and coaching is my mentor, Doug Kotter, who runs Kotter International Training out in California and a lot of the things that I experienced this and a lot of the things that I teach a directly related to what he taught me in being a coach and what I experienced to free me up.

Phil:                 So there’re stories, I mean there’re stories with each of these people and there’s power in that story. So I encourage you to pick up a book and find out why each of those people mean something very unique to me.

Patrick:            Any rituals that you have?

Phil:                 I am not a huge ritual guy though. My morning time is sacred. So for my day to happen and happen productively, I have to have a cup of coffee in the morning.

Patrick:            That’s a ritual.

Phil:                 It is a ritual and it really is a ritual because it’s 10 to 15 minutes and I have to have the cup of coffee alone. I can’t have my first cup of coffee in front of the computer with the TV on. I typically go out to my deck, or in the winter time, I sit in the kitchen. If family is home, I either get up early enough for them to be in bed or if it’s during, my wife’s a teacher, so she leaves early in the morning. I wait for her to go.

Phil:                 And that 10 to 15 minutes is all about I ask one question, “What do I need to be looking at that will make me feel like today was successful and how does that play into my significance?” And on the mornings that I take the time to ask that question, review how I did the day before, with just a thought process, nothing judging, nothing putting there and usually it has to be in nature of some point. I mean, I love looking at the birds. I love looking out at the water. There’s that sense of wholeness and when I start my day with that ritual, I typically end with a great day.

Patrick:            That’s a pretty solid ritual.

Phil:                 I like it.

Patrick:            So you mentioned a lot of quotes in your book. Is there anyone that you have is sort of a Go-to that inspires you?

Phil:                 So my Go-to quote comes from my mentor, Doug Kotter, and it’s, “The quality of your life is directly proportional to the quality of your relationship. When your relationships are in good order, the details don’t seem to matter and when the relationships are not working, the details seem to get in the way.” So as a leadership and communication coach, as a human being, as a person that wants to help eliminate conflict, especially violent conflicts because I think conflict is a good thing. Looking and examining the relationships of our lives and how we can become better communicators drives most of what I do and that quote is a quote that I come back to. I would say I’m saying it to somebody at least three to five times a week and continually come back to.

Patrick:            That’s great. I’m going to go back and listen to that again after we end this because I do think that was very powerful and I would also agree with you in regards to conflict. I think conflict is positive. We need to learn how to leverage conflict as opposed to manage it, which is oftentimes what I think we fall into the trap up, but without understanding how to effectively have conflict, we never really get to issues that need to be addressed in a productive way.

Phil:                 In a productive way, and what I teach when I try to get to is how do we keep conflict at the frustration or resistance stage as opposed to always entering it when it’s at the revenge stage and everything is going haywire because it was very poor communication skills that brought it to that point.

Patrick:            Right, which oftentimes will be lack of trust.

Phil:                 Usually starts with lack of trust or some triggering event that made the lack of trust develop.

Patrick:            This has been such a great conversation, Phil. If people want to get in touch with you, how do they do that? What’s the best way?

Phil:                 So the website for discovering significance is and all the information for the book is out on the website, pre-order information and all information will be directly at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all major bookstores and retailers are out there. So the best way is to look up Discovering Significance. You can find my phone number there. If you want to call me directly, email me directly. All the info is on the website to be able to do that.

Patrick:            This will be in the show notes as well and it’ll be on the blog to your links to this so there’ll be able to get it there as well.

Phil:                 Perfect.

Patrick:            As well.

Phil:                 That’s the best way.

Patrick:            This really has been wonderful. Again, I hope listeners will have an opportunity to pick up the book Discovering Significance because it really has an opportunity to take wherever you are to help you to rise above your best.

Phil:                 I agree, and that’s what it is. How do we get to the next level? And we all have a next level to get to. So once we obtained something that’s always something more to attain, no matter what age we are together will help people make that happen.

Patrick:            That’s a good thing. Alright, well, Phil, listen. Have a great day. Thanks for your time.

Phil:                 You too, Pat. I appreciate it so much. Enjoy.

Patrick:            I hope you enjoyed listening to Phil talk about his own journey through self-discovery and gained inspiration from his process of talking about basically looking at the impact of significance on us and what does that mean? And most importantly, how do we challenge ourselves more times to go all in? If you found this valuable, it would mean the world to me if you go on iTunes and rate this podcast. Better yet, if you know somebody that could benefit from this podcast, if you’d forward it along to them so that they can listen to it. Until our next episode, I hope you were able to go out there and rise above your best.


To reach Phil Giordano go to:

Walden Woods Leadership


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Special thanks to Pete Atherton for joining me this week.