Your Past Is Your Power: Learn How to Successfully Leverage It for Today Episode 008

Patrick:            Hi, everybody. I’m Pat V. and thank you for listening to another episode of the Rise Above Your Best podcast. Where I’m not only obsessed with interviewing people that have achieved great success and finding out their habits, but also an understanding and uncovering the research that proves to all of us that we’re all capable of the same success and it all starts with believing in your ability to rise above your best.

Patrick:            I’m really excited for today’s episode. It’s something that I’ve coached on for a number of years now, as well as one that I’ve had to continue to remind myself the importance of. And the topic of it is your past is your power. So often I think we spend our times trying to avoid our past and look in the other way and certainly, we’ve all done things that probably if the light was shined on us or if the book was opened up, we wouldn’t be real proud of them. But I think oftentimes those are the things that if we look at it in the right light, the right frame of mind, that we really can leverage those things.

Patrick:            And I think our past really should be less about learning to live with it and more about trying to find ways to leverage it. That challenging time we went through or the disappointment or the loss that we had. Whatever that might be. There’s always an opportunity to go forward and say, “What can I take forward from this?” And that’s really what this episode is about. It’s about a few examples. There are things that are around us every day, a GPS, antique furniture or the Patina on antique furniture, a broken smoke detector or a malfunctioning smoke detector, and also the example of Chinese bamboo.

Patrick:            All things that are certainly around us that I think we can draw analogies from in terms of how we can go about leveraging our own past and it’s a talk that I do for youth in terms of helping them to learn to look at their past as their power and more and more I seem to use it in coaching with adults too. So I hope you enjoy it and you’ll gain the benefit of this because your past is your power and it truly is there to help us rise above our best. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s jump into it.

Patrick:            The first example I mentioned to you earlier in the introduction was this idea of the GPS and we all either have a GPS on her phone or one in our cars and I’ll often ask, “Let’s pretend that we have just punched in into our GPS a destination that we’re going to go to, and we’re driving down the street and we get distracted as I’m sure we all have and we missed that street.” Well, what happens? Some type of voice comes on and simply says, “Recalculating,” and it quickly does a calculation and gives us the next street that we’re going to go down. Now, if we were to drive past that street, the same thing would happen. It would simply recalculate and if we went past the next street that we were supposed to go down and missed that one, it would simply recalculate. Even though I’m in Maine, I could do this all the way to Florida.

Patrick:            I could continue driving and my GPS will just continue to recalculate and all it’s doing is telling me that my destination is further and further away, but at no point does my GPS or any that I know of at this point say to me, “You know what? Just go home. You’re not smart enough to get where you want to go. You don’t have what it takes. You’re stupid. I don’t know why you thought you could go here in the first place.” Or, “Just pull over and park.” At no point along the way does the GPS to that. It is always telling me where to go, how to get back on track. Yet think about our own lives that we don’t do this. We’ve got this faulty GPS and us that a mistake that we make we begin to doubt ourselves. “Wow. I guess I should just pack it in and go home,” or, “I couldn’t do it in the first place,” or somebody else plays with the GPS on us and they tell us we can’t do something so we want to turn around because they said we can’t do it.

Patrick:            The challenge for us is to treat ourselves like the GPS in our car or on our phone is that we always have the ability to recalculate. It’s at our discretion and our ability, but it’s always there for us regardless of what the challenges or the loss we always have that in us. My own personal experience, I lost both my parents about a year and a half apart. One when I was 17 and the other one I was 18 and I look back on those now and those really are about my past being my power and not that it was easy or that I would wish going back to experiencing that again, but I know that my ability to recalculate and certainly not right after that, it was many years later but still recalculating. Having the ability to get back on track.

Patrick:            I was able to do that and we all have that ability. So when we move on from there, the next analogy really is around the antique furniture and specifically with antique furniture is what’s called Patina and actually that’s just a fancy name for the dirt that’s on Patina that and the other things that happened to it over a period of time that gives it its value.

Patrick:            I was once watching the Antiques Road Show and somebody had brought on a chest of drawers and they were going on about how it had been in their family for so many years and they had finally taken the time to refinish this piece and the auctioneer was telling them basically what the value was. He said, “You know, in its current condition it’s probably worth about $5,000.” And he said, “Had you not refinished it and left it in its original condition, it would probably be worth 10 times that,” and the couple, their faces just went white almost as they thought about how they’re cleaning this thing up, had actually taken the value away from it.

Patrick:            And it’s often the struggles in our own lives that create the true value of what we are and what we have to offer others, it’s really that dirt, that Patina in us and too often we try and do the same thing. We try and get rid of it. Again, we try and live with our past at best as opposed to how do we leverage this? There was a great quote that was by an auctioneer and he was talking about a gentleman, Israel sack, and he said about Patina. “That Patina is everything that happens to an object over the course of time.” He said, “It’s the nick in the leg of the table. It’s a scratch on the table top. It’s the loss of moisture in the paint.” He went on to say, “That really Patina is built from all the effects, natural and manmade,” and when you think about it, that’s no different than our lives.

Patrick:            That we have natural things that we do to ourselves and then things that just happen, that we make happen ourselves because of our choices. Things that we can’t control, the natural things that we can control, the manmade, but our lives are made up of both of those. I couldn’t control losing my parents when I did, but I could certainly control the natural components of what I did as a result of that and he goes on to say that, “Really, that’s what creates a true antique. It’s Patina that oftentimes gives a piece of furniture or an artifact its value,” the process by which people attempt to remove the Patina from the furniture, or “restore the artifact,” has the unintended consequences of reducing the value of the piece.

Patrick:            And again, we think about that in our own lives. How many times do those things that really if we just looked at them differently, the struggles, the failing grade, the relationship that went sour, the disappointment that my behavior had on, on somebody else? That if we just looked at those things differently, that, that’s really, that’s the value in us and not to try and restore that or gloss over it or paint over it, but to leverage it.

Patrick:            Well, once we understand about our GPS and that we have the ability to recalculate and then we can take a look at those mistakes that we made and leverage them and say, “That’s really where our value comes in.” There’s going to be that part of us that’s going to say, “You still can’t do this. You’ve made too many mistakes, Patrick, you’ll never get to where you want to go,” and that really gets us to this third example, which is the smoke detector and the smoke detector really is representative of our brain and that portion of our brain, that’s the amygdala.

Patrick:            And the amygdala is set up for us to do one of three things. It’s fight, flight, or freeze. It’s the primitive part of our brain that really if it didn’t work as well as it did, we wouldn’t be here today. Unfortunately. Now, it overreacts. It looks at all things that are not necessarily a threat, but it tries to put us in a self-preservation mode and it really holds us back if we allow it to and it’s no different than a smoke detector in our house and I’m sure most of us can think of a time where there was food that burnt on the stove and what happened?

Patrick:            The smoke detector goes off and all we need to do is we go over to the smoke detector and we waive something in front of it to make it stop or maybe at worse, we’ve got unplug it for a little bit. At no point does a sane person with smoke simply from burnt food on the table as long as there’s no fire moving up the side of the house or the side of the wall, at no point do you run out of the house with your phone calling 911 saying, “We have an emergency, the smoke detectors just went off,” because you know that it’s just burned food and that it’s not a real emergency.

Patrick:            It’s the same thing with the amygdala. That part of our brain, it’s oftentimes the smoke detector that’s going off simply for burned food. It’s me saying, “It’s me saying I’m going to attempt something new,” and that part of my brain saying, “What are you thinking about? You can’t do that,” or somebody says something to me in a way that I perceive it to be offensive and that part of my brain, the amygdala looks at this and says, “It feels like a threat, self-preservation mode time to activate. Do I fight? Do I flee or do I freeze?”

Patrick:            When in reality, maybe it just takes a pause to say, “Is what that person said to me really what I think they said, maybe there’s something else. Maybe I’m reading into this too much.” I give myself that space and realize that, “You know what? This is just like burned food on the stove. This isn’t a real emergency. I’m not going to get worked up over this. I’m not going to let this sort of hijack me.” Unfortunately, what happens when we don’t take that time as we have already called the fire station, the trucks are on their way and were fully engulfed in whatever made up thing we have created in our mind in terms of the threat that is probably not even real that’s in front of us.

Patrick:            So while we’ve talked about the GPS and we’ve talked about the Patina and the value coming from the mistakes we’ve made and now we’ve talked about realizing that our Amygdala is almost like a smoke detector and really not to just take off every time we smell smoke, but to realize that it’s probably not a real emergency.

Patrick:            That to do this takes practice. It takes changing behaviors and I realize that, that’s not always easy for us because it’s taken us a long time to get where we are. The behaviors that we have now, they’ve served us. That’s why we continue to do them, but if we really want to see change, if we want to be able to leverage our past and not just live with it, then it’s going to take work and no more than reading about exercises in Muscle and Fitness magazine. I will never get any stronger by reading about those exercises in there. The only way I’m going to get stronger is by getting down on the ground and actually doing the work, doing the pushups. Then when I do that, I’m going to get stronger. My life is going to be, it’s going to be better. I’m going to be healthier.

Patrick:            Now, in this sense, it will be physically I will be healthier, but in this work that we’re talking about here, mentally, spiritually, and probably even physically will be healthier, but it’s going to take getting down on the ground in a sense and doing the work. Not just intellectually understanding that, “Yeah, I get how the GPS relates and I get the idea of Patina and the value is in our, the struggles that we’ve had and I get the smoke detector.” Well, that’s great that you get it intellectually, but it’s not until we start doing that we change and I know that for myself that I think intellectually I understood a lot of this stuff and there are times that I still do today and it’s not until I do the hard work that after I do it, I realized it was completely worth it. The strength that I got from it has been worth that little discomfort that I felt along the way.

Patrick:            So the last part of this is the Chinese bamboo, and the idea here is that even doing the work and understanding all of this about the GPS and the value, that they’re still going to be struggles. You’re still going to look at this and think, “Well, I’ve tried so many different ways and I’m not seeing the results are as fast as I want.” So the example that I will leave with is the Chinese bamboo and this is a story that’s been retold many times, but it’s an important one. And it says that in year one we can water, fertilize and give this potential tree all those things. And it doesn’t grow, and in year two, the same thing, nothing happens. In year three, the same thing, nothing happens. Year four again, nothing happens and that it’s not until year five, that in a period of only six weeks, this grows between 60 and 80 feet. In six weeks it grows 60 to 80 feet. It’s almost unbelievable.

Patrick:            The question really comes in is when did it start growing? Was it in year five? Really it started growing the day we started watering it because if any point along the way we stopped doing that, giving it the water, the sun or the fertilizer that it needed, it probably would have died and it’s very similar to the changes that we’re trying to make within ourselves. That we’re giving it the things that it needs to make that change happen, but we may not see it right off. You may try some things that don’t work out and you have to have faith and belief that internally you’re changing and that at some point along the way, those internal changes will reflect themselves on the outside. And that’s really what we’re what we’re about here. That’s really what this whole process is, is to make that happen and when that does happen, we really are able to leverage our past, our past really does become our power if we allow it to and when we’re able to do that, we truly do rise above our best.

Patrick:            So I hope as you’re out there and maybe the next mistake that you make or difficulty that you’re under, that you realize or remember the GPS and that you simply recalculate and that if it’s something that you’re embarrassed about or uncomfortable about or ashamed about, is that you find a way to leverage that. To have that be more value in you. How do you go forward from there? If it’s at the very least to say, “I know that, that’s not a direction I’m going to go in the future,” and as long as you’ve done the proper things to try and repair those mistakes that you’ve made, then you move forward and that if you’re telling yourself you’re going to make a change and inside saying, “Don’t bother. You’ve been this way for too long. You can’t change.”

Patrick:            Don’t listen to it, realize that it’s just protecting yourself or trying to do what it thinks it’s supposed to do, but it’s not, that’s burnt food on the stove. Recognize that and move through and move on and push yourself because you can do it, and then lastly, give yourself the patience to know that you are growing inside, that things will change. Just like with the Chinese bamboo tree.

Patrick:            I hope you found this helpful, or maybe you know somebody else that’s in this journey right now and you think that this might be valuable to them. I’d ask that you forward this on to them. Allow them to listen and hopefully gain value from this. I thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this. If you have found this helpful and valuable, I would ask that it would mean so much to me, in the work that I’m doing. If you would leave a rating or a comment on iTunes or simply to forward this along and until our next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best.

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How To Avoid or Reverse Burnout in Your Career with Peter Atherton Episode 007

Patrick:            Hi everybody. I’m Pat V and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast, where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals that are achieving great success to uncover their habits, but also in uncovering and presenting the research that proves that great success is available to anyone. It all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best.

Patrick:            My guest today is Pete Atherton, who is the owner of ActionsProve, which helps high achieving individuals win at work and life. He’s also the author of the book, Reversing Burnout: How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow. Pete had been a hard charging, successful engineer and partner of a hugely successful engineering firm.

Patrick:            It was late into his ascent to the top of his field that Pete began to sense that something was missing for his own growth. It was at this point that Pete engineered his own exit as an engineer and partner, and began to focus on helping individuals and organizations design better strategies for maintaining engagement and eliminating burnout.

Patrick:            I hope you enjoy listening to Pete as he talks about the stages of our own careers, how to be on the lookout for burnout in our own lives, and how to take advantage of the seasons, as he calls them, of our professional careers. Why don’t we jump into it?

Patrick:            Pete, I want to thank you again for taking the time to meet with me. I had the opportunity to meet with Pete several months ago and started talking about some of the initiatives and things that he was involved in. It just really resonated with me, especially this idea of the book that you recently put out, Reversing Burnout, and the subtitle of it, How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow a Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners.

Patrick:            Certainly, Pete, you and I are in the similar age bracket and I think in terms of … Both of us have very similar experiences, although in different professions, of feeling like there was more for us to do. In the current professions that we were in, even though we were very successful, that there was just something missing. I’d be curious to have you give a little bit more about your back story. How did you get to where you are and then, really, how did Reversing Burnout come to be?

Peter:              Yes, well first of all, it’s great to be here and thank you so much for having me, Patrick. It has been a little bit of a process to get to the point of recognizing that I had burnout and overcome that, and moved into something that was a little bigger. For the first 20 plus years of my career, I was a practicing, professional engineer and, by all standards that I had in my mind, as far as success, I was able to check the boxes and rise to a place where I was a senior executive in the firm and one of the major owners.

Peter:              As I continued to progress in my career, I noticed a maturing of my interests, and even a peaking of my interests, when I was considering what role and what I wanted out of my career for the next 20 years, and realized that I was looking for something different. I was perplexed and puzzled by that, and just went through a process of trying to figure out why.

Peter:              Part of it was I had sort of lost my efficacy, my interest and my passion in that, but I also discovered that I was just physically burnt out. I was mentally burnt out and I was feeling some regrets about missing out on things. I had said, “Okay, well I’m an engineer. I’m going to figure this out. How did I get to this point?”

Peter:              Then, once I understood what went into getting me to this point, I’m going to figure out how to leverage this moving forward, because there had been some things that were peaking my interest now, but how was I going to move forward and do that and really have the biggest impact I can have, again, leveraging where I had been and figuring out, again, what will the next 20 years look like.

Patrick:            Which doesn’t seem like a lot of time when you’re in it, but how quickly it goes in terms of career and, all of a sudden, I know, as I read your book and tried to put that into my own perspective, in terms of how I made the shifts that I did to go off on my own. How would you say that this idea of burnout, or disengagement, why is it so prevalent today?

Peter:              I think it’s just that work has changed and life has changed. The big culprit is we’re busy and we’re always on and we’re always connected, even just in a work sense. I mean when I started my career in the early 1990s, the new thing was a fax machine and, oh no, we need to respond within a week now. We can’t receive a letter and actually think of a response and cultivate a response and have that sent out over the next week or two. It’s the instant gratification of emails and text messages.

Peter:              It’s like we’re just always on, in that sense. We bring the work home with us. That technology is great and there’s a lot of efficiencies to be gained from that, but when it’s with us all the time, it is very consuming in that sense and expectations. All of a sudden, we’re always doing work and, even when we’re not doing work, we’re thinking about that email or bringing it in bed with us or bringing it to the kitchen table.

Peter:              I think that is one thing, that consuming nature, and it’s so ubiquitous now that for a long time it was sort of acceptable. Thankfully, it’s becoming less acceptable now, but people are recognizing some of the damage that’s been done. Traditional business was a little bit more hard charging. If you want to succeed, you got to put in your time. What time do you put in now when you’re putting in pretty much all of your time, and you’re thinking about things all the time?

Peter:              The badge of honor now is how are you able to integrate things together and have some better balance and succeed at work and succeed at life? I don’t think the executive who has thrown away their entire relationships outside of work is held up to the high standard it might have been in the ’80s. I think the leadership that is taking root today, and that really inspire people, are the people who have a much better balance and are able to get it all done in an integrated fashion.

Peter:              I think there’s going to be a little bit of a shift now, with leaders stepping out of that pull of the recent tradition without a crisis. I mean change is hard without a crisis. The traditional norms have a strong pull to them.

Patrick:            I couldn’t agree more. I think one of the things, and you and I spoke about it at one point, was this idea of the next generation coming in. Many might say that they are lazy or less focused and, in many regards, I think they work as hard as we did. I think they’re just much smarter about it, in terms of how they try and balance the two. Along those lines, I’m just wondering was there a specific point in your career where you just said, “This is it?” I mean is there any defining moment that you can think of where you said, “This is not going to work anymore. This is the path I’m going in.”

Peter:              I mean I had had discontent for a while. When I had recognized it and spent the time to work through what I was feeling, why I was feeling it and come to the conclusion that more of this isn’t going to work. That was a pivotal point, trying to figure out what I wanted to do was a pivotal point. It really was over a period of years, just being aware, I guess, it’s increasing my self-awareness, that emotional intelligence, getting feedback from others, not necessarily directly but indirectly, and defining what I wanted out of life. Those were all series of pivotal moments that just built up my courage to actually pull the trigger.

Peter:              I think Gen Xers, and I’m squarely a Gen Xer, we’ve seen issues when people are focused on their career. I know a lot of people who are latchkey kids and seeing family issues, because the focus is on work, and want a little bit more today. I mean I think there’s a generational change that I don’t want that for my family that I [inaudible 00:08:21] it’s good or bad. It’s just want something different than what business and career focus all produced in certain pockets, I don’t want that now.

Peter:              I think millennials come in never really wanting that in the first place. Boomers themselves have reached the point where they want to make a difference and leave a legacy. They’re actually thinking about things a little differently. Generationally, I think work has changed and the millennials and the younger folks just come in already wanting that change to happen. Really, it’s the Xers that are making it happen, because they’ve had to live the old life.

Peter:              Now, they’re at the point, they’re 40, 50 years old in leadership positions and it’s dawning on them that I can make the change. Not only the change that I want, but it’s actually a change that’s going to keep top talent my age fully engaged. It’s going to help me attract and retain and grow the next generation. It’s actually things that I’ve been wanting for a long time.

Peter:              I think, as far as in the workplace [inaudible 00:09:23], I think not only attracting and retaining the next generation is important, I think more and more organizations are realizing that they need to give a reason for their Gen Xers, their emerging leaders or current leaders who might be just disengaged with golden handcuffs, more invested into the organization so they don’t develop side hustles. There’s no impact at work anymore.

Peter:              I don’t love my job, I’m just doing the same old thing. I got to do that for 10 more years to get my kid through school. Not saying that everyone thinks that way, but if you think through it, why am I just going through the motions? Why can’t I love this again? Why can’t I love it like I did when I was 35 at the age of 55, and not dream of having an encore career or dream of having an early retirement, dream of I wish I could do a side hustle. Or, you know what, for the next 10 years, I’m going to go to a competitor because they’re just offering something that gives me a little bit more growth and a little bit more impact.

Peter:              The business owners and the executive teams that I work with, it’s like that’s your bottom line today. Those are the people who have your client relationships. Those are the people who know your products. Those are the people who are making your company work in this quarter and next quarter. Yes, you have to be concerned with the millennials, but they’re your quarter five years from now and 10 years from now. That’s important, but maybe not as important as focusing on the people with the 20 or 30 years experience.

Patrick:            When you made the decision to go off and do your own thing, you’re super successful. You’re a partner in an organization. What were people saying to you?

Peter:              I fell into the trap that a lot of people do, and my success defined me. It was my identity. It took me … Once I worked through that, I think other people had a harder time. They still identified me with certain things. There was a period of what do you mean you want to do something different? Why would you ever want to? The people who knew me the best got it, but it took me a while to articulate. The people who care for me, they’re like, “What are you going to do forever? Why don’t you just hold on a little longer and do this?” They were caring, but didn’t get it. Other people were like, “You know what? You could get hit by that bus tomorrow.”

Peter:              At the time, I had done several years of personal financial planning, because I had seen this, I had felt it coming. After a year or two of working through the process, I had, okay, it’s here. It’s coming. How am I going to get my financial ship in order? How am I going to start the process of talking to my wife and my family about I want to do something different? That is a process in and of itself. People are giving me great counsel, like you’re talking about possible lifestyle shifts. The things that people were banking on for 20 years might be a little different moving forward. It could be much better, or it could be a period of not much better.

Peter:              I had worked through that process with people. I mean it is, again, without being more self-aware, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate to people. Even still, I think some of the people that I knew in a business sense, the day I sold the rest of my shares and resigned from the board of directors, I still think probably half the people were like, “I don’t get it. This is nuts.” Again, the people who were interested in … And that’s the thing. It’s like you’re going through these life transformations. You want to have greater impact and significance beyond how people have defined you and maybe how you’ve defined yourself.

Peter:              Actually, few people really care to know why. Those few people, and partly because they’re just nice people and partly because they’re feeling something themselves, I knew some people got it, whether they’re at a point later on to pull their own personal trigger. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change. I mean for me, it got to the point where I knew I wanted to do something different. For other people, it’s a refresh of mindset. It’s a refresh in place, start doing something a little differently at work. I’m going to focus more on the mentorship at work and not so much of the other aspects that grind me.

Peter:              Some organizations are helping people say, “Okay. You want to make a difference, you want to start mentoring. Okay, let’s put that as part of your job description.” It is a process. Again, I didn’t set it up so that I needed other people to affirm. I mean it’s always nice when people affirm what you’re doing. It was that process of really being aware of what I wanted and taking the steps.

Peter:              Again, none of this stuff happened in a vacuum. None of this stuff happened quickly. It was really over a seven year, when I went back and mapped it all out, it was a seven year process from the time that I was sitting in a strategic and succession planning meeting saying, “You know what? Something feels different,” to, “I’m done. I’ve fulfilled my commitment as a partner. I fulfilled my [inaudible 00:14:28] part-time. I’m done. I’m 100% in this new venture.” That was a seven year process.

Patrick:            At any point during that, do you remember that time where maybe you thought, what am I doing? Is this really the right decision?

Peter:              No. There’s no regrets. In fact, I was motivated more by regrets of missing out and staying in that. I loved my profession. I love the people. I love the products. I love what I was able to accomplish from an engineering perspective. None of that was bad. I just knew I had changed, and a new season was upon me. It wasn’t like I didn’t like it anymore and it was bad.

Peter:              I just knew, you know what? If I’m going to rise above my best and do the things that I feel like I’m gifted towards and I can leverage my skills and talents for, I need to have the courage to make a change and not just wait for it to happen, because it won’t happen until I take action to prove that I’m going to live the life, I’m going to help people live the life and have the organization that they really want to have.

Patrick:            I love, as you mentioned, this idea of seasons in your book where you talk about both our work and our life seasons. How do you use that when you’re working with individuals or others to help them to see where they are in that space? I think it was very powerful, as I read it, as we talked about, I saw myself in part of this letting go phase during the family season with my oldest son. Also, feeling it during almost from a sense of the work that I was in before, from a making a difference season on the work end. I’d be curious, how do you use that with the people you work with?

Peter:              It’s interesting because I developed this. Maybe this is somewhere and someone’s done it in a research, but I mean this was … I developed this based on my experience and my understanding of what professionals and what business owners go through, really high achievers, what they go through as far as the four work seasons of mastering your craft and making a name, and then transitioning at the halfway point through our career to really wanting to make a difference, and then towards the end, leaving a legacy. I had interviewed and talked to so many people who that’s what they were saying and feeling. It wasn’t quite articulated like that.

Peter:              Mapping that and then just thinking through someone’s life journey, and then bringing those both together. Part of it … Again, this was 100% done in my I get up early. I start working between 06:00 and 07:00 a.m most mornings. My work starts with, and I started this several years ago, five years ago now, trying to make myself have some time. The first 30 to 60 minutes of my day is reading, journaling, strategic planning and thinking about things like this. During that season, I had gone through that, I want to understand my work and life seasons.

Peter:              My wife and I had our family pretty early. We were on an accelerated path as far as working through the raising family phase and letting go and empty nesting. I felt a lot of things probably 10 years before I should have felt a lot of things. To answer your question, when I talk to people about that, it resonates right away intuitively. Then, I map it out. I draw it or they turn to that page in the book.

Peter:              When they think through it, okay, years of experience and then my age and just meshing out the realities of this is my work. This is what I’ve had to invest to be good. This is what I’ve had to invest to build that business. This is what’s been going on at the same time family-wise. Wow, I haven’t seen it put together like this, but it resonates with me. Again, it’s that piece of I’m a little bit more aware of something. I’m seeing dots connected in a new way. It’s just there’s that power and the awareness.

Peter:              Now, it’s like, “Okay. What am I going to do?” Just the thought of that, a season ends and transitions into something, number one, we always love a deadline, I mean as far as getting work done. Number two, it makes it okay that things change. Let’s now relish the moments we have, because our kids won’t be around forever. We can get sad about it or we can take the advantage of that. Employers that help employees take advantage of hey, my kid’s in high school. That’s not going to be this way. They could be in California, [inaudible 00:18:54] Florida for college.

Peter:              Employers who provide that flexibility to let that happen, I tell you, they win loyalty. People who are like, “I was so zoned in. I didn’t realize, I mean I realized but I didn’t really realize, my kid’s leaving. Or I have to rebuild a relationship with my wife or we need to connect on new levels, because we’re going to be empty nesters.” I think those types of issues, work and as far as, also, my success at work, me being a keynote speaker at the so-and-so and being employee of the year, making my name, well that’s a milestone too. That’s not a destination.

Peter:              Eventually, you’re going to want something more. I think just laying it out and seeing it is so pivotal. I think people always internalize it and go through that process of the awareness. Then, they want to take it out and say, “Okay. How are my relationships going to be different now at work? How are my relationships going to be different now at home?” There’s that empowerment. I felt that when I got it. It’s really cool as someone who is developing content for other than my industry content for the first time, for someone to get inspired by something you’ve done.

Patrick:            Let me ask you, if you’re starting a company brand-new right now, what things do you think you would do, as it relates to your book, to prevent this sort of burnout?

Peter:              I think it would be acknowledging that in order to build something successful, in order to achieve a certain status in a profession, I mean there is going to be a degree of all in. I mean you don’t become a star basketball player without hours and hours and hours practicing your game. Same thing with a physician, same thing with the head of whatever in corporation X. I mean you have to master. Now, keep in mind that that will be a milestone when you master that, when you bring in the first client, when you serve that client.

Peter:              Don’t lose sight of the fact that there’s other dimensions to your life. You’re going to have to say, “Okay. For the next six months, this is a big deal,” and still have those connections with your family. Make sure the expectations are lined up, and don’t let it last 10 years. Make sure you can integrate things in. I mean there’s some degree of balance to be able to put things down and pick other things up. More and more, it’s more about integration.

Peter:              I think, ultimately, yeah, we want to be able to provide for ourselves, provide for our families, be productive in the world and build great products and services. That’s one aspect of life. I mean the other aspect is I need to be connected to others. I need to be connected to community. It can’t be about my work. Then, there’s a relationship with ourselves that we need a sense of purpose. It’s not going to be our job. We’re going to want to make an impact outside of our immediate family and outside of my certain skill set. We’re going to want to be part of something greater.

Peter:              I think there’s seasons is number one. You have to be dedicated. I mean I have that discussion with young folks, like, “I want all of everything.” You can’t. You really have to have seasons where you really have to dedicate yourself to something if you want to be good and have an impact that way. You just don’t want that to be your whole life. You just want to maintain the balance and the focus.

Patrick:            What would you recommend to an employer? What things can they do to help support this?

Peter:              I think if they … Yeah, just understanding. I mean most organizations are into talent management, instead of I’m a division of employee growth and impact. They’re thinking that at any given time, our employees want the same thing. It’s not. I mean early in people’s careers, they want opportunities. Again, they want to master a craft, make a name. That’s what employees want. The top leaders and top organizations are going to craft an engagement strategy, a growth strategy around that.

Peter:              When employees might be in their family years, it’s flexibility. I mean they’re still going to be wanting to gun it at work. They got college to pay for. They want to take the kids to vacation. They still want to succeed, but they also have a family and obligations. More and more, if you’re asking someone to choose between their family and their career, they’re going to [inaudible 00:23:25] career and figure out how to make it work.

Peter:              Organizations, the most forward thinking or the growth oriented industries who really want to retain that talent, because that talent’s going to be more important five years from now and 10 years from now, they’re thinking of, okay. Your family years, flexibility. That’s the biggest thing I can do for that.

Peter:              Then, as employees transition into those empty nest years, how do I reinvigorate their careers? How do I give them more growth and impact when the thing that they’ve done, they’ve done for 25 years? How am I going to allow them to grow in that? Maybe how do I leverage my organization into the marketplace, something new, because I want to keep them around? I want to keep them engaged. Again, they’re making [inaudible 00:24:11] money now. I need them to train the next generation, because they’re craving that type of attention.

Peter:              If organizations just blindly say, “I’m going to motivate a 55 year old the way I motivated when they were 30,” it’s just not going to work. They’re just not going to have that engagement. It’s really not going to attract the millennials. They’re not going to feel like they can grow from that type of talent either. I think understanding what the dynamic is and what does the organization need, which really is what do the employees need to be able to love their jobs and contribute?

Peter:              I think that’s where the organizational mindset, okay, you’d be an okay company. If it’s an employee growth and impact mindset, I think, okay, that’s a great company. That’s going to attract people to that company who are going to give their best efforts, because they’re going to want to be part of that.

Patrick:            Completely agree. I certainly see that in my own work. Are there any books or mentors that you would look to and say they had a profound impact on the direction that you’ve taken in this work?

Peter:              I mean as far as books, I mean when I was going through … Again, when I had sensed, okay, I’m reaching a peak. That is not going to be my peak. I’m reaching the peak of my career, but that’s not going to be the peak of my life or really what I want out of my efforts from a work perspective. A little bit struggling with that, and it was struggling with it had become my identity. I was in that phase. Someone had recommended a book to me called Halftime by Bob Buford.

Patrick:            Which you actually reference in your book.

Peter:              I do. I reference that in my book, because it was so pivotal before me. Really, he was the first person. He had a tremendous relationship with Peter Drucker, big management guru back in the ’80s, late ’80s. Through Bob’s book, it was the first one that said, “Listen. We have two halves to our adult life,” which made it okay. I mean I was thinking that what I agreed to do, to be an engineer, to design water treatment plants and major municipal infrastructure projects and help the environment and all that stuff, I made that decision when I was 18, 19 years old.

Peter:              I have to carry that through until I’m 70. He sort of gave me the license, the okay, to say, “Well we have a first half of adult life, which probably most of us are pretty over prepared for. Then, there’s this second half of adult life which happens in our 40s, when certain events happen, that we’re, by and large, under prepared for.” Partly because it’s a new phenomenon. We’re living longer, we have more knowledge workers. We’re not physically beaten down and golfing. I mean no one wants to do that for that long when they retire.

Peter:              Life has changed, society has changed. The way Bob, in this book, talked about that but then just shared his journey, his words from success to significance, super resonated with me. The fact that it was 25 years ago, just [inaudible 00:27:14] wow, we’re all human. We really don’t change that much. I was able to see things that happened in his life through the lens of, “Well I remember when I was this age when that happened.” That was a really pivotal book for me.

Peter:              As far as mentors, I mean on a professional sense, I mean I had just super great managers and mentors that I worked for. They were able to show me so much. I was also in the orbit of people who were 180 degrees from that. They were able to show me so much too. I think both are great examples to learn from. I’ve always been attuned to figuring out what makes somebody successful, or what makes the opposite happen, and adjust accordingly what I’m involved with today. It all comes down to taking action and understanding do you want to live a different life? Do you want to be a different leader? Do you want to have a different organization? Take action.

Peter:              Where I got into my life, it’s like I wanted that. I wanted that. Then, it’s like, “Well prove it. Take action and move towards that life that you desire, to being that organization, being part of that organization.” Ultimately, we’re in control. We can make things happen if we take the time to figure out what we want to have happen, and actually have the courage to do something different, to take action. That’s if we really want to make it happen.

Peter:              A lot of people don’t have that sort of courage. That was part of my naming of my company, ActionsProve. It was they’re going to be the reminder to me that I’m going to take action to prove what I want out of life, to prove what I want to do to help individuals, to help organizations. Then, people who I’m working with, to help them take that action to prove really what they want to be organizationally or individually.

Patrick:            I do love that. It reminds me, I heard a coach speak to a player one time, not to the player but to somebody else saying, “That person has a lot of potential.” He said, “What I mean about that is that they haven’t done anything yet.”

Peter:              [crosstalk 00:29:24].

Patrick:            That’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s this idea of talk is cheap.

Peter:              Right. It’s opportunities. We all have opportunities. We have opportunities to be different and better, personally and professionally. We have opportunities organizationally to attract people to us, to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace, but we got to take action. Enough talk. It’s not on the list, on the list isn’t making it happen. Actually, taking action is what makes it happen.

Patrick:            Right. It’s that line of we always will lack a resource, whether it’s time or money or I’m too tall, I’m too short, whatever that might be. It’s speaking to what you’re saying right now is we all have the same ability for resourcefulness. That even though I might not have the resources, we all have equal access to resourcefulness if we want to tap into it, which is exactly what you’re speaking to, which I think is great.

Peter:              Right. It’s the difference [inaudible 00:30:22] age-old difference between leadership and management. I mean I’m going to lead my life or I’m going to lead my organization. I don’t need to know every answer to every question. I just need to know [inaudible 00:30:33] feel it in my gut, it’s the right thing to do. I’m going to move forward. I’m going to have people around me or I’m going to have the confidence to know we will figure this thing out, but we got to move. Let’s go, versus a management mindset with, well, we need everybody to be onboard and build consensus.

Peter:              I’m not saying there aren’t appropriate ways and situations where a management approach to leadership isn’t important. When it comes to making decisions, a leadership approach to leadership, and not having to know all the answers but knowing we’re right, I think is an important distinction.

Patrick:            So true, so true. As we sort of wrap things up here, who is somebody that you can help the most?

Peter:              I’m working a lot with business owners and executives and executive teams to help them from an employee engagement perspective, from coming up with a corporate impact design. How [inaudible 00:31:34] organizations can be different and better from an internal employee engagement perspective, from a marketing perspective and how do I do something that is not just producing great products and services and good for our shareholders, but how do we do something more that keeps us engaged and helps us be attractive to others in the marketplace?

Peter:              That’s really interesting and fun. I love that whole design aspect. Another interesting element to this is that it’s the personal level of people saying, “Before I leverage this organizationally, we need to work on an individual basis so that I’m loving things again. I’m making sure my personal life is in order before I can really have that authenticity to leverage things on an organizational level.” There is that little bit of push, I want to do these things. I want to do these things organizationally. Again, it’s high achieving professionals, executives and business owners who want to do more organizationally.

Peter:              They just realize that they’ve been trapped in the pull of the consuming nature of their career. They need a personal, little timeout and they need to personally work through what they want. They got to identify needs. They’ve got to bring partners onboard, people who are like, “Business is business. Tradition is tradition. Why would we do something different?” There’s this little bit of an individual process, this bringing executive teams together before they can, ultimately, have their impact organizationally.

Peter:              The problem is the clock is ticking for organizations to really differentiate themselves and attract. There is a process of bringing the executive team on the bus and getting them in [inaudible 00:33:25] in their right seats. Again, time is the difference. Forward thinking and growth orientated organizations and leaders are making it happen now, and they’re attracting the best talent. Other organizations are just taking a little bit longer.

Patrick:            Off of that, how can people reach out to you? How can they get a hold of you?

Peter:              My hub, I’m using my website. has access to the book. It has access to my weekly blogs and a lot of content that way. I’m on social media, I’m doing that more and more over the last couple of years. Peter Atherton, I have an LinkedIn profile there and, also, have an ActionsProve page. I’ve been doing more on Facebook also.

Patrick:            Great. I will tell you, whether you are an individual looking for certainly ways to identify when burnout might be starting in your own professional career, things to identify and how to deal with it, or you’re a business and you’re trying to identify as we look to maintain top talent, what things can you do to help out those employees that you have that are potentially going to burnout, this book is a great opportunity. Reversing Burnout is certainly something that I would recommend. Pete, I really appreciate your time and, certainly, the conversation has been great. Certainly, an area that needs a lot of attention, so thank you.

Peter:              Thank you. You’re very welcome. Again, it’s been great to be here. I appreciate all you do with getting the message out that you are, and what you do to help leaders and organizations rise above their best.

Patrick:            I hope you were able to walk away with some pearls from Pete talking about the seasons of our careers, how to take advantage of them, how not to miss out on opportunities. If you’re the owner of a company, maybe strategy that you can use to try and prevent burnout in those people that are most important to you within the organization.

Patrick:            As well, I hope you’re able to gain insights and value from how Pete talked about his own company, ActionsProve, that talk is cheap, that it really is about hard work and putting the time into make that happen, which Pete certainly, by his own examples, has shown the benefits of hard work and what that can do for you. I hope you find a way to use what you’ve heard here to go out and rise above your best. I hope you have an opportunity to read Pete’s book, Reversing Burnout.


Actions Prove

Reversing Burnout

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Special thanks to Pete Atherton for joining me this week.


How to Prevent Dysfunction at Work or Home by Applying CABLES – 006

Patrick:            Hey, everybody. I’m Pat V., and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best Podcast where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals that are achieving great success to uncover their habits, but also in uncovering and presenting the research that proves that great success is available to anyone. It all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best.

Patrick:            I’m so excited for this episode today in regards to talking about really two things. One is dysfunction in teams and individuals, and although that’s not the part that’s really exciting to me is the dysfunction, it’s more the ability that we have to overcome or prevent dysfunction. Whether it’s in a workplace setting or at home based on just a set of behaviors that I developed over 10 years ago and have continued to refine in terms of model that I use really as a cornerstone for a lot of the work that I do because I find that there’s so much opportunity that we have in terms of improving the relationships that we have, again, whether it’s at work or at home. It all comes down to behavior and how we interact with one another.

Patrick:            As part of this podcast, what I’m going to do is first talk about what are the dysfunctions as they were presented by an author, Pat Lencioni? Then, what are six behaviors that have been bundled into a package called CABLES? How can you use those to create the best relationships possible? Let’s get started.

Patrick:            Oftentimes, when I start presenting this work on dysfunctions and CABLES, I use a quote by Samuel Johnson that says, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” This is certainly one of those things because you’re going to listen to the six behaviors that I talk about and think that seems pretty basic, pretty common sense. I would agree, but as we all hear, common sense is oftentimes not really common application, and that’s what we need.

Patrick:            Intellectually, we understand this. It’s the application is where we oftentimes struggle. As you visualize what I’m talking about, I want you to think of two bridges. One is a rope bridge that’s all broken down and the rope is all frayed and the boards are all broken, and then right next to it as an image of the Golden Gate Bridge, this majestic, strong, long spanning bridge that runs this huge cable from tower to tower.

Patrick:            Really our relationships are one of probably those two things. Either they’re the rope bridge that every cable has just continued, would abuse the relationship or somebody has abused a relationship with us, and it’s just taken and taken and taken until finally there’s not a bridge there left. The other is the Golden Gate, which if I were to go up to the Golden Gate Bridge and somehow manage to cut 100 of those cables out of the thousands that are individually wrapped around that huge cable, nothing would happen to that bridge. It would stay as … Its integrity would stay there.

Patrick:            That really is just like the relationships we have with others that if we built enough cables in terms of positive behaviors, we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to do the wrong thing. We’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings or neglect them. Something is going to happen. If we’ve built enough goodwill with that relationship, then there’s always the ability for us to come back and repair that. It might not be easy at times, but we always have that opportunity because the structure is strong enough because of all the previous behaviors that we had that were positive with that individual or with that team.

Patrick:            Now the problem comes in is when we look in terms of dysfunctions. Pat Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, really talks about, again, these five dysfunctions. He lays them out in terms of a pyramid type structure. At the first or at the base of this really is absence of trust. I would ask if you think about this and we go through it, you can think whether you’re at work or at home, this absence of trust can be in either places and often for the same reasons. If I’m at home and I go to speak and either I’m dismissed or I’m ridiculed or I’m embarrassed or made to feel embarrassed about what I said, then I probably am not going to speak up. If what I say is used against me at some point, then I’m less likely to really want to say how I’m really feeling.

Patrick:            The same thing happens in a workplace setting too. If I’m in a meeting and I make a suggestion or if I see somebody else make a suggestion, and I see somebody roll their eyes at them or they get ridiculed or they get blackballed or whatever it might be. If it’s not received positively then what have I learned? Don’t trust that I can say what we really want to say here, so I keep quiet.

Patrick:            When that happens, we don’t have real conflict. I think that’s oftentimes where people get confused because within an organization, we need conflict. At home, we need conflict. The problem is that we don’t have the right kind of conflict or we have conflict that’s unhealthy because it often gets personal as opposed to having healthy debates and dialogues over issues that we can speak our mind. As long as we’re doing it respectfully toward each other then we can agree to disagree, but it can be done in a way that I feel as though I can say what I really want to say and you’re not going to use it against me.

Patrick:            If we don’t have conflict, then we don’t really get buy-in, which is the third dysfunction. It says that I didn’t really trust I could say what I wanted to say. I never really felt as though I could challenge what we were doing or make a suggestion, so I’m really not going to buy into this. I’ll go along with it because quite frankly, it’s the safe thing to do. I think oftentimes, you’ll find in organizations, and this may happen at home too, that either you put your head in the sand or you put your head on the block. Anybody that’s been with an organization that has seen somebody put their head on the block, they know what happens. That’s probably a vacancy coming up so you learn quickly.

Patrick:            That can happen at home too. You see the negative effects from somebody else speaking up and you say, “I’m not going to do that myself.” It’s almost self-preservation. We have avoidance of accountability where it says that I’m not going to call you out on what you said that you were going to do because I haven’t bought into this in the first place, so why would I take that risk? I’ll let you just go about not doing what you said you’re going to do and ignore it.

Patrick:            When that happens, we go to the last dysfunction, which really is about siloing. It says that I’m just going to take care of myself. Maybe it’s at home. I go to my room or I withdraw from the family. If it’s in the community, I do the same thing with friends. If it’s at work, I take care of myself. I show up. I work from 9:00 to 5:00 or I take care of my team and then I’m gone. I’m not investing any more time in this because I can’t trust the people that I’m with. I haven’t bought into it. It goes on and on.

Patrick:            How do we turn this around? How can we prevent dysfunction within a team or within a family or within the community? Well, the model that I put together here is this idea of CABLES. The idea here is that each one of these behaviors that when we add on top of each other builds trust, and the ability to be able to have conflict, and to get real buy-in and hold each other really accountable. Also, rather than work siloing is that we collectively are able to work as a unit, and that benefits you wherever you are.

Patrick:            The first of these behaviors, so to speak, and again the model is CABLES, which is an acronym for the six behaviors, and the first one is congruent. It’s this idea of walking the talk that that is a pillar of trust, and we can all think of those people that we’re around or the organizations we’re part of. If they said one thing but didn’t follow through on it, there was no trust. An organization that says it values its employees but acts in a way that’s incongruent with that loses trust. At home, if I hold somebody accountable to something but I don’t follow through on it myself, then there’s a lack of trust because I’m not walking the talk. I’m not doing what I am expecting others to do.

Patrick:            The next one that we move on to is the A, which really has two behaviors to it. One is around appreciation, and that says that we’re all different, and that if I can find ways to understand maybe why you behave the way you do or to look at maybe some of the things you do as a positive, then the likelihood is I will find more of those things because we often find what we’re looking for in somebody else. If I go in with a negative attitude towards you and why I don’t like you, then I will find more and more reasons why I don’t like you.

Patrick:            The other part is around accolades, and that’s recognizing people on your team or at home or in the community for the contributions they make, the positive things that they do. A quick way to think of this is in what I call RPMs, recognizing positive moments. Just like when you’re in your car and you look at your RPMs, if they’re running too low, your car probably stalls out. If they run too high, your engine probably burns out.

Patrick:            Recognizing positive moments is really very much the same thing. It’s that when we recognize people too little for their contributions, they become disengaged, and there becomes dysfunction. If we recognize people too much and it’s seen as insincere, then we create disengagement as well. That’s where that RPM is too high. It’s almost seen as manipulative, but there’s that sweet spot that you can recognize people, and it does create trust and engagement when we do that.

Patrick:            From there, we move on to the B and that’s about being for others. Gary Vaynerchuk on his podcast talks a lot about the 51% rule. I think it really does apply here, this idea of any relationship I go into, if I can try and provide 51% of the value, I’m always giving a little bit more than I’m getting. When I do that, a couple of things happen from an influence standpoint. One is I activate reciprocity, and that’s that internal drive that we have to want to do something for somebody that’s done something for us. The other is this idea of liking that we tend to like people more that we find as more like ourselves and more generous. We went on two fronts there when we do that.

Patrick:            Moving on from there, we go to the L, which is around listening, which can be one of the most difficult. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, he often talks about seeking first to understand. I think with listening, that really is so critical that we do that. Listening really involves not just our ears but listening with our eyes and our mind and really our heart as well. When we listen with our ears, it’s what’s the tone? When we listen with our eyes, it’s what’s the body language, facial expressions of somebody? When it’s listening with our mind, it’s that idea of what might be missing or what might I be missing is more like it in terms of what this person is trying to say? Rather than just jumping to a conclusion, is there something more to this?

Patrick:            Listening with the heart really is about trying to say, “If I was sitting where they’re sitting and they were speaking to me, how would I want to be listened to?” Trying to provide that, and that’s really where we build trust, and we can all again think of whether at home or in the community or at work, when we had been around people that truly are trying to listen to us. They’re demonstrating a real commitment to listening, not just hearing, but really listening. We trust them more. It creates a better relationship when we do that. Again, that’s building CABLES.

Patrick:            The next one is empathy. That again is listening with the heart. It’s certainly trying to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. We hear a lot today about vulnerability. Really when we talk here, vulnerability, that’s even not good enough. The work that I do, I challenge people to say, “You really have to almost be intentionally vulnerable.” What that means is that you’re actively looking for those opportunities where I’m going to almost put myself in harm’s way. I’m going to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I don’t know,” before I’m going to try and think of, “Well, what’s the excuse or what’s the rationale that maybe I wasn’t wrong or I am right or you’re the one that should be saying you’re sorry?” Looking at it from my perspective first when we do that.

Patrick:            Again, we can all think of those people who have been around that, those people that are open about saying, “You know what? I don’t know the answer. Guess what? I was wrong here. You know what? I want to let you know that what we did here, the decision I made wasn’t the right decision at that time and I’m sorry. I know it had a negative impact on you.” That goes so far in terms of building trust going forward.

Patrick:            The last one is the S, which stands for specifics, which really is about clear expectations. Again, when we don’t have clear expectations, it’s very easy to lose trust in somebody else because we don’t know where we’re going. You and I may think that we understand what we need from each other, but without clear expectations, we get to the end and find out that, you know what? What I wanted and what you gave me was not really what I had expected. There’s so much room for disengagement and dysfunction when we have ambiguity.

Patrick:            The other part of clear expectations is the accountability piece to it. It’s that we can set clear expectations, but if we don’t hold each other accountable to those expectations, then what we do is we train each other that it’s not really that important. That’s really what we do, is we train people how to treat us. By not holding somebody accountable to what they said they were going to do with clear expectations that were established, then all we’ve done is basically almost in a sense gone to congruence again. We’re not walking the talk. We say this is important, but we don’t hold each other accountable to it.

Patrick:            When we look back on this model of CABLES, really the ability for us is to … The challenging relationships that we have is to ask ourselves, what part of this do I own? Because as right as we think we are, generally the other person does as well, and there’s probably somewhere in the middle there where we both share responsibility for this. If I can look at those behaviors and say, which one of those do I own? Because I probably do own at least one of them that’s creating the disengagement or the dysfunction that we have, again, whether it’s at home, in the community or in the office. If it’s congruent, am I not walking the talk or maybe I’m not being perceived as walking the talk?

Patrick:            If it’s appreciation, have I really made an effort to understand the other person’s back story? Have I recognized them enough for what they are doing? Maybe that’s part of the problem here. If it’s the B in being for others, maybe I haven’t done my fair share of the work here, and that’s what’s causing the problem. Maybe it’s being perceived that I’m not doing enough of that 51%. Maybe it’s listening. Have I really listened to this other person and not just listen so that I can give them my point of view? Have I truly listened with especially my mind and with my heart in this conversation? Have I shown empathy? Have I really shown empathy for this situation in terms of where this other person is coming from?

Patrick:            Lastly, are there really clear expectations here? Do we each really know what we want from each other? What does a good relationship look like going forward? If that’s said, how do I make sure we hold each other accountable to making that happen?

Patrick:            As you look back on these six behaviors on CABLE, you can always ask yourself, have I added or have I taken away CABLE here? Because when it comes right down to it, you’re the engineer, the architect and the builder of essentially your relationship bridges; and those are work relationship bridges or personal work relationship bridges, but they’re relationship bridges. The CABLES that you choose will determine the stability of that bridge that you travel on. It’s your behaviors that will either build bridges or create barriers with others. It’s truly in your hands.

Patrick:            I hope you found this podcast helpful on the dysfunctions of a team, again, whether a work team or a personal team. I hope you have found value in the CABLES model in those six behaviors and how you can apply them in your own situations. I promise you that if you do the work and you look to the situations that you’re in and you ask yourself those questions right down the line of which of those behaviors are you responsible for, you will have unbelievable relationships on teams, at home, and in the community.

Patrick:            If you found this helpful, it would be such an honor for me if you were to rate this and leave a comment on iTunes because that’s how this message continues to get out. It allows me to help other people to rise above their best. Until our next podcast, I hope you were able to gain value from this and rise above your best.

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Dava Davin from Portside Real Estate Group Discusses the Journey from Pharma to Owning a Multi Office Real Estate Group Episode 005

Patrick:            Hi everyone, I’m Pat V., and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast, where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals who have achieved great success to uncover their habits, but also when uncovering and presenting the research that proves that great success is available to anyone. It all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best. My guest today is Dava Davin, who is the owner of Portside Real Estate Group. She started out in pharmaceutical sales, as a representative working for companies such as Eli Lilly. She moved to Maine and realized that she wanted to make a professional change, and entered real estate where she successfully learned the business, started her own agency, and has grown this into what today is a multi-office powerhouse with over 60 agents.

Patrick:            If that’s not impressive enough, she is a four-time triathlon finisher, she’s a philanthropic presence in the local community, and most recently she was recognized by Mainebiz as one of their women to watch in 2018. I hope you enjoy listening to her discuss her recipe for success, both personally and professionally, because it is pretty impressive. She is totally a rock star. Let’s get started.

Patrick:            I’m here today with Dava Davin, and what an honor to be here. I’ve had an opportunity to know you for a number of years now, and watch your meteoric rise to the top in terms of what you’ve been doing. I thought it’d be a great opportunity for you to come in and just really talk about how you’ve been successful. Starting off, what did you do before you got into real estate.

Dava:                Thank you so much Patrick, it’s really an honor to have this conversation with you. Before I got into real estate, I sold pharmaceuticals, I did that for about 10 years. Then my husband and I moved to Maine, and that’s really when I had a life change. I wanted to make a career change morally and ethically, I felt a need to make a change, I felt changing doctor’s prescribing habits so I got a bonus was just weighing on me, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. We moved to Maine, and I wanted to get a job at a nonprofit, but since I wasn’t particularly skilled in anything other than sales, I was unsuccessful in finding a job. Just really didn’t have a skillset, couldn’t find a job that would really make sense financially. So I switched careers and got my real estate license.

Patrick:            Did you know anybody that was in real estate before? How’d you make the decision for real estate?

Dava:                On a wing and a prayer. I had done some flipping, I’m doing air quotes, in younger years, and had some success with that, and I just took a stab at it to be honest. I told my husband, “Let’s give it a year, let’s see if we can make this work.” It was 2008, so the real estate market was hitting its bottom, I didn’t know a soul in Maine other than my husband and some connections that he had. I didn’t even really know where I was going. So I think it has really helped to get to where I am now, because I did have to be very scrappy and probably work harder than my competitors to gain the business, and really, truly just a lot of grit and determination.

Dava:                We had built a house that year, while the economy was failing, and we literally didn’t have a dining room set, we had all of our resources tied up, so I had to make it.

Patrick:            Sounds like a pretty strong [why 00:03:25], on your end, if this is gonna happen.

Dava:                Yeah, I left a career where you have a pension and a company car, a salary, so I had to-

Patrick:            I was gonna say, being a former pharmaceutical rep myself, I know how cushy that can be in terms of, you went from basically having everything supplied for you to, you’re on your own, eat what you kill in terms of real estate.

Dava:                Correct.

Patrick:            In 2008, you certainly picked a great time to come into that, really make a risk of it. My understanding is that you started your own company in 2012?

Dava:                Correct.

Patrick:            What was that decision for you?

Dava:                I had at that point been in real estate for about four years, and at that point I had learned the lay of the land, and had been able to make some good connections, and grow referral-based business. I had worked for a large franchise, and the same way I felt around the pharmaceutical industry, I just wanted to have something that was a little smaller, that could be a bit more nimble, that didn’t have a lot of layers, had a bit of personality. So I decided to start my own.

Patrick:            What was that like?

Dava:                So exciting, definitely a really fun time. Of course, it comes with overcoming some fears of going out there and doing it, but just being able to be true to myself and do things the way that I really saw in my head, and to watch it grow over the years, it’s been awesome.

Patrick:            Certainly talking about successful people, most will tell a story of challenges that they’ve gone through and how that’s shaped them. Just curious, in terms of your own experience, are there any moments that you can look back on, that you say, “These were the biggest challenges”? And at the moment they seem really difficult, but now you look, and those are probably your biggest leverages?

Dava:                That’s a great question. Obviously in real estate, every day is a challenge. We have a lot of challenges, I think overcoming that fear of, the first fear is switching careers and going into the unknown, are you gonna be able to replace your salary in a year? And then I think going from a large franchise and opening your own company, are people gonna come, are people gonna get what you’re doing, is the consumer gonna relate to it, or does the consumer want something that appears to be safer, because it’s backed by a national company?

Dava:                So starting out that first year, signing a lease, doing a build-out, and crossing my fingers and hoping that agents will come, definitely was challenging. But just having that inner gut, knowing what I was doing was right, and simple. I tried to break everything down to as simple as I can, I think working hard, treating people right, and doing the same thing every day, day after day, it just grows. I’ve been very fortunate in that way, even when you feel like, “Oh my gosh, how long is this gonna take, are people really gonna come? They say they’re gonna join, then they don’t.” Just showing up every day and pushing forward.

Patrick:            When did you maybe get to that point where you were like, “I’ve made it, this is what I wanted”?

Dava:                I think you never make it, I would tell someone, don’t expect to ever get there, again I’m doing air quotes. Because once you’re there, then there’s another there. So if you’re not enjoying every day of what you’re doing, it’s not worth it, because you can have a gazillion goals and meet them all, but there’s always gonna be more. So for me, I’m not there, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten there, or that I’ll ever get there. I frankly don’t care, because I feel that I’m doing good work, I just want to be better than I was yesterday, and give to this world more than I’m taking. If I can do that every day, I think I’m there every day.

Patrick:            You mentioned going off on your own in terms of wanting to keep a certain culture, and you certainly have just continued to grow. How many agents are you up to?

Dava:                There’s about 60.

Patrick:            And how many different locations?

Dava:                We have three locations.

Patrick:            How has that been in terms of trying to keep that culture, as you continue to grow, how do you manage that?

Dava:                Great question. I believe in growing by the law of attraction, so for all you business people out there, you might be rolling your eyes, but I have never recruited, and I never will. I will never call an agent that works for another company. I think people are watching what I’m doing, and they’re reaching out to me, so we’ve been growing by the law of attraction for two of the offices. The third office, I did acquire an existing business, and what happened there was one of the agents called me and said, “Hey I’m thinking of making a change, I’d like to come to Portside.” And I said, “Oh I don’t know, your current owner is a dear friend, this is really awkward, I honestly don’t know.” And he said, “What if we all came?” Then the next day, the previous owner called me, we went for a mile swim, and we started the conversation.

Patrick:            I’d say that’s a serious law of attraction right there, you take it all. You mentioned that it was on a swim, let’s go on a different direction for a minute, I know that you’re pretty much a beast when it comes to doing triathlons.

Dava:                Very kind, Patrick.

Patrick:            When did that whole thing start, how do you fit that in with being an owner of a growing agency, with a family and all the other responsibilities you have?

Dava:                I think they go hand-in-hand, I think exercise is a great stress reliever. I have done four full Ironman triathlons, and several marathons around the same time. I did my first Ironman in 2013, but I think that discipline helped me to grow my business, because getting up at 4:15 is a non-negotiable, I can’t get everything done unless I do it. In a way, it makes it easier, because it makes the schedule set, and I certainly have had my very best ideas as a result of a long run or a long bike. I can’t get home quick enough to get a piece of paper and write everything down, so I definitely think they go hand-in-hand.

Patrick:            Along those lines, you mentioned 4:15 you get up, any rituals that you keep for your business as well that are things that you tend to consistently do?

Dava:                I do, it’s boring, but I do. I get up at the same time every morning, and I go to bed at the same time, sleep is very important. Even though my day is very busy, I run a company, I also have my own personal sales business, my family, my hobbies and endurance races, but I never, I pride myself, I shouldn’t say never, but I never miss a meeting, I’m very regimented. My schedule is booked by the 15 minutes, Patrick and I went back and forth to try to schedule this, and I wanted to make sure that I had enough time, so I booked two hours. I think I’m really disciplined in planning my schedule, and time-blocking for doing the things that I need to do to keep my business going over the long haul.

Patrick:            Great. You’d mentioned you also had a coach at one point, how has that played into where you are? Do you have a coach for sports as well?

Dava:                Yes.

Patrick:            Of course, you do.

Dava:                I’m very coachable, I love having a coach. Yeah, I’ve worked with several business coaches, I believe everyone should have a coach or a mentor, and I’ve also had a coach for endurance races ongoing as well.

Patrick:            Nice. What do you think is the difference for you, in terms of that you’ve gotten out of a coach that maybe you’d say, “If I was on my own, I wouldn’t have gotten this out of it”? Anything in particular?

Dava:                I think, that’s a loaded question, I have a ton to say about that. Let me break it down, for an athletic coach, based on my busy schedule, it’s just awesome to be able to go in my app and know what I need to do that day to reach that goal, that’s scientific and I think fairly straightforward. As far as a business coach, you get so many benefits from that, and really helping you to think in different ways, to continue to challenge yourself, we all need someone to bring us different ideas or ask us the right questions that will bring out something that we already know.

Patrick:            What I love, obviously we’re in the same community, so I get to see a lot of stuff that goes on, on social media as well, in terms of what you’re doing. There’s always that phrase that if you want something done, you ask a busy person to do it, and I think of you philanthropically, all the different things that you’re involved with. How does that feed into your philosophy, your business? Because you really have done a great deal for the community, in that regard.

Dava:                Thank you. It is definitely a big part of our culture here at Portside, I believe every member of our team here is involved in some kind of charity or volunteering. When I had mentioned, when I had my life enlightening, I really wanted to find a way where I could serve people, and I was so fortunate, now being a business owner, to bring that into our company. It gives us a way to be involved in our community, because we sponsor or host events that bring people together. I think right now, technology has taken over that human connection in a lot of ways, so it’s multipurpose. It brings us together, but we also are making a difference directly to nonprofits that are right here in our community.

Patrick:            Any agencies or groups that are closer to your heart, how do you decide who to support?

Dava:                That’s a great question, because there are so many causes. We have an event coming up in a couple weeks that’s going to support Girls on the Run-Maine, it’s gonna be I believe the only rooftop bootcamp in Portland. That’s obviously an organization that speaks to me, we’re empowering our daughters to become strong women, and to boost their self-confidence, so that’s a no-brainer in line with my love for running, so it all comes together.

Patrick:            Any mentors, I know you have a coach, but is there anybody in terms of mentoring that you’ve latched onto or look to them for direction?

Dava:                I do, I have a mentor right now that is from another region, but has a similar business to me, so I’m so fortunate to be able to contact him with questions, have him look at my business and help me to keep pushing it forward. In the same respect, I’m blessed to be a mentor to some other agents in the area as well.

Patrick:            If you were to look back in terms of starting your business, is there anything you’d tell yourself now that you didn’t know then?

Dava:                I think that’s a great question. I think we talked about this before, just knowing that you’re never gonna get there, that it’s such a journey, there’s not one milestone that’s gonna make you feel like, “I’ve made it.” There’s always gonna be another one there, and just to truly try to take the time to step back and be grateful every day, for this awesome life that we have, and the opportunity that we have. When you own a business, to be able to surround yourself with people that you love and you care about, and truly just to recognize that, and just be grateful and enjoy it.

Patrick:            How about this one, what’s the best job you’ve ever had, aside from now?

Dava:                Aside from now? I would say, I have always worked, I worked since the day I turned 14, and looking back, I’m gonna say being a restaurant server. Being a waitress I think has such transferrable skills, you’ve got to multitask, you’ve got to do a little sales, you’ve got to negotiate with the chef, you’ve got to use all these skills, certainly transferrable to real estate sales. I think that’s a job that everyone should have, it’s profitable, we have to be humble, I think that’s probably the best job I ever had.

Patrick:            Let me ask you a question on that then, were you one of those that you could take somebody’s order without writing it down?

Dava:                Absolutely.

Patrick:            Oh my god.

Dava:                People used to ask for my section.

Patrick:            I would want to move around where I sat to see if you could still get them right, that’s why I never served, because I knew that I would just screw up everybody’s food, I could never get it right. Not something that I had the ability to do. When we look in terms of what motivates us, in terms of quotes often can be motivational for people, is there any quote or saying or inspiration that you look to, a mantra or something that you would say, “This speaks to who I am”?

Dava:                This might be perceived as a little cheesy, but Oprah Winfrey said, “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate of what you don’t have, you will never, never have enough.” This is such a simple thing, but it just goes back to gratitude and truly being thankful for every day, every experience that you have. Right now, I’m so grateful to see Patrick, someone that I’ve known for a long time and I really care about. It’s just an awesome moment, and I think we just can so easily go onto the next thing and the next thing, and not really capture it.

Patrick:            I don’t know if you’re familiar, Shawn Achor, who’s a Harvard researcher, he did a study, 21 day challenge, and it was only five things that people had to do, and one of those things that somebody had to do every day was write down three things that they were grateful for. Every morning, just three things that they were grateful for. And you’re right on that it does, it sparks us to think outside of … Try to be sad and grateful at the same time, it’s difficult to do.

Dava:                I think it’s a great stress reliever for my agents, they’re running around, they’re getting beat up, different times of the day, and I always tell them, “Take a minute, think of something else that you’re grateful for.” And it just re-centers you and lets you go on, all healing, it’s super therapeutic.

Patrick:            I totally agree with you. We’ll shift a bit, I’m just curious in regards to, we live in a social media world now, in terms of real estate, how has your business pivoted or moved based on social media, what things are you tapping into to continue to grow your business?

Dava:                A great question, and it’s changing all the time. We use social media daily, not only to promote our listings, but also to try to connect with our client. For some agents, I’ll set goals, try to connect with five people a day for a certain amount of time on social media to grow your sphere, so there’re different ways you can do that. We, some secrets, can get to know a lot of people through Facebook, if we’re about to meet a client, so we can get to know what their interests are, so we can make sure we bring those up to develop a relationship that way. It’s a great way to connect with people that are past clients, because they can follow what we’re doing on social media, and still stay front of mind. So all kinds of different angles as far as, in a business sense we can target sponsored ads for certain properties to outside of Boston, if we think that’s where our target market will be, so it’s definitely a daily part of our life.

Patrick:            In regards to social media, we’ve talked about podcasts and the rise in those, we’re talking on one right now, is there a particular podcast or two that you’re dialed into now, that you really enjoy?

Dava:                I love NPR’s How I Built This.

Patrick:            Nice. What do you like about that one?

Dava:                I love hearing entrepreneur’s stories, and like Patrick had mentioned earlier, I don’t know if we were live then, but they always start with a challenge. I just love hearing the whole story, from their childhood until the conclusion of what they develop.

Patrick:            Somebody wants to get into real estate, what would you tell them?

Dava:                I would ask them why.

Patrick:            What’s the right answer, do you think? What are you looking for as you hire somebody, that comes to you? Because it’s law of attraction, how do you decide who fits and who doesn’t?

Dava:                Oh, that’s easy. I am looking for someone that is looking to do this for a long time, that’s looking to do it full-time, and who sees it as a form of service. I really don’t see being a real estate agent as a sales job, the sales part is in the first few minutes that you meet someone, and they learn to like and trust you, but the rest of it is servicing that client throughout the process. I’m really looking for people that want to offer that to someone, and that they get fulfilled by providing that level of service.

Patrick:            I’m gonna take a step back to the triathlon stuff, because I know how difficult, I’m just a runner, I can only imagine the swimming and the biking combined all at the same time. What’s your best story in regards to triathlons?

Dava:                I was doing the Lake Placid 2014 Ironman triathlon, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and then a marathon, 26.2 miles, and lightning struck the lake during the swim. Sirens went off, we were pulled out of the lake, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, because I didn’t complete the swim, I was just about done, so I ran to my bike, it was pouring rain, thunder and lightning. I got on my bike, rode for 112 miles, didn’t even know if I was still qualified for this race or not. People were dropping out left and right, got to the run, the sun came out, it ended up being a beautiful day, and they did count it as a full triathlon, even though I missed a bit of the swim. But it was scary.

Patrick:            Along those lines, how many times along the way are you like, “I don’t think I can do this”?

Dava:                Many times, “I should just get off right now, this is ridiculous, why am I even doing this?” But somehow, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Patrick:            Last question, if you were to part, what would be a book that you’d recommend to somebody that you’ve just read?

Dava:                I’ve read this several times, A Slight Edge.

Patrick:            A Slight Edge.

Dava:                Have you read that?

Patrick:            Who’s the author? No.

Dava:                Oh Patrick, you’re gonna love it. Jeff Olson, a great book, the premise is doing, making small changes in your life in any aspect, but doing them repeatedly over time can make a huge change. So for a sales person, if you made that one extra call every day for six months, what would that look like to your business? If you gave your kiddo one extra hug and kiss every day, how much more love would they feel? Just doing small little changes over time to grow, great book.

Patrick:            So obviously the title of this podcast is, as we talked about, Rise Above Your Best, it’s that idea of, you can do one more thing, what’s one more thing you can do to rise above your best wherever you are? A perfect segue and way to end this, so thank you so much, I really appreciate the time that you’ve spent. It’s great to watch all the success you have, and looking forward to continuing to watch it and share with it.

Dava:                Thank you so much Patrick, this was so fun, I appreciate it.

Patrick:            What a great conversation with Dava, I hope you were able to find inspiration and ideas in terms of how you can look at your own personal and professional career, and find ways to rise above your best.


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Special thanks to Dava Davin for joining me this week.




How POWER Can Bring You Happiness Episode 003

Patrick:            Hey everybody, I’m Pat V. and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals that are achieving great success to uncover their habits, but also in uncovering and presenting the research that proves great success is available to anyone and it all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best.

Patrick:            I’ve really been looking forward to this episode. A lot of the work that I’ve done individually and with groups is around leadership and what I’ve found is that to be a good leader really requires us to be in a good place ourselves. I think it’s hard for us to inspire other people, through our actions, if we’re not happy with who we are. One of the workshops, that I put together, is a workshop that goes by the acronym of Power. It comes out of some research that was done by Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher, and I first read about it in a study, or actually in an article, that was written in Harvard Business Review back in January of 2012. And the title of it was Positive Intelligence and I thought it was so interesting because it really spoke to this idea that success does not precede happiness.

Patrick:            It’s almost the opposite, is that you can’t find success, true success unless you find a way to be happy first. It’s not about the car, or the house, or the private jet, or whatever it is. However, much you have in your bank account if it’s not something more simple, and that’s what I love about the work that Shawn Achor did. He really tried to prove that in his book. Obviously, the happiness advantage certainly speaks to that.

Patrick:            The challenge that I find when I work with individuals and certainly myself is to say, “How do I put this in a very easy-to-follow process where I could remember how to do it?” So this is what I did is I developed this model called the Power Hour. And the reason I call it the Power Hour is because the five action steps that Shawn Achor suggested in the model that he put together, or the 21 day happiness challenge that he speaks of it really involved only five things and all of them added up came to less than an hour a day of invested time.

Patrick:            To me that says we all have the ability to do that, and it wasn’t even one hour that had to be all at the same time. This is spread out over the entire day. Some, in the beginning, some in the middle, some at the end. We all have the ability to do this and truly it is a recipe for finding happiness in our lives. Especially when we exercise it over and over, day after day. We find that these things will just rewire our minds and it doesn’t say we’re never going to be in places where we’re not happy or we’re dissatisfied where we are. That’s part of life, but what we’re going to do is we’re going to find ways that, more often than not, we’re going to find ways to overcome some of those challenges and things that might get in our way.

Patrick:            So what is the happiness challenge, or what are these five strategies that Shawn Achor spoke about in his work? Well, first I think it’s important to understand that training our brain to be positive, as was mentioned in this article, is no different than going to the gym and I’ve heard it before. You’ve heard it before. This idea that we can read about exercise, but we don’t get any stronger by reading about doing exercise. We only get stronger when we actually do it and we still don’t get stronger if we do it once. I’m a runner. If I only ran once a month, I’m never really going to get any stronger. As a matter of fact, probably for the next two days, after that one run, I’m going to feel worse than I did the day that I ran and certainly the day before, and I’m going to tell myself “Why? Why do I want to keep doing this?”

Patrick:            So where did Shawn Achor research this idea of behaviors and happiness? Well, according to the article in Harvard Business Review, it was with KPMG in New York and New Jersey, and this was in tax season and with tax managers, so certainly it seemed like the deck was stacked against him in terms of trying to create a happy environment.

Patrick:            But what he did was he asked them to do five things. Well, really he asked them to only choose one of the five things that correlated with positive change. He asked the participants to perform their activity every day for three weeks, and then a number of days after the experiment had concluded he went back and looked at both the participants in the control group. And he looked at them over a number of different metrics. One, how engaged were they? Were they depressed? What was their general sense of wellbeing? And on every metric, what they looked at or found was that the experimental group showed significantly higher scores in regards to optimism and life satisfaction.

Patrick:            What’s important here is that this life satisfaction scale, it’s a metric that’s widely accepted to be one of the greatest predictors of productivity and happiness at work. A life satisfaction scale as being one of the most accepted in terms of being a great predictor of our level of happiness at work. I think that’s incredible. Well, in this group it moved from 22.96 on a 35 point scale, before the training, to 27.23 four months later. That’s a significant increase and that really came from just one quick exercise every day that helped these managers to become happier. So what were those things and how do you put them together in your own life?

Patrick:            Well, as I said, I use a model called Power and Power addresses each of those five activities that were addressed in the study. So the first one is P and P stands for praise.

Patrick:            And that was in the study asking participants to, every morning, write down three things that you’re grateful for. Just three things. Could be, I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for another day. I’m grateful for maybe good weather today, whatever it might be, but just three things every day. Now, as I read into that in terms of, well, where do you put these things? My recommendation would be, do at the beginning of the day. When you wake up, do you three things that you’re grateful for every morning. And I’ll tell you why as we go through this.

Patrick:            So the next part of the study, participants were asked to do something for somebody else, more specifically there were asked to basically send a positive message to someone in their social support network. Could be an email, could be a note, just something recognizing somebody else. In our acronym, Power, that really is the o for others. Do something for somebody else every day, sending somebody a note, words of encouragement. Because what does that do? That provides an opportunity. One that sets up a ripple effect where when we do something good for somebody, chances are they’re going to do something good for somebody else, it puts them in that space, and we can often think of reversed when it’s us, we do the same thing. Somebody does something for us, we generally want to pay it forward.

Patrick:            So one of the next activities, that Achor had asked his group to undertake, was to take two minutes to describe, in a journal, the most meaningful experience over the past 24 hours for them. In the Power acronym that’s W for writing, so just two minutes. Now, when I coach individuals, I will recommend doing the gratitude at the beginning of the day and the writing at the end of the day and that way it bookends.

Patrick:            You start your day out in a great place and you end your day in a great place writing about what went well, what was the most meaningful experience of the day? And certainly right before you go to bed, what a great place to sort of jump off from to go to sleep for restoration in a good place. How often do we maybe go to bed and we’re thinking about what didn’t go well for today or certainly may be what’s coming for tomorrow and it’d be nicer to think about what we’ll write down, what went well by our standards? Wouldn’t it be better to write about what went well for the day and to go to bed on that thought then what we didn’t do right?

Patrick:            The next thing that Achor mentions out of the five habits, or the five tactics, was exercise for 10-minutes, just a minimum of 10-minutes of exercise, and that obviously is the E the Power. We can do that anywhere. I don’t care how busy you are, we all have the ability to find 10 minutes. To set the alarm 10 minutes earlier. To go out while we’re eating our lunch or to take a break. Just 10 minutes a day, that’s all that was required. And what’s interesting is there’s even research that backs this up, that’s more recent, that said that as little as 60 minutes of exercise a week had a positive impact on people’s wellbeing. So it certainly falls in line with what we’re seeing here from 2012.

Patrick:            The last thing that people were asked to do was to meditate for a minimum of two minutes every day. This isn’t asking people to levitate off the ground or anything crazy, but think about it just from a standpoint of mindfulness of just closing our eyes, and in a quiet place for two minutes, and just trying to reflect again, maybe on what’s going to go well during the day.

Patrick:            Maybe it’s a mantra that you have, that you say something over and over to yourself over those two minutes, “Every day in every way I’m getting stronger.” Whatever it might be, but just for two minutes, we can find that space. And that really is the R. Sorry folks, that was as close as I could get to meditation to put the R in terms of relaxation.

Patrick:            But when we think about that now, we think we have the ability to almost manufacturer happiness by our behaviors. That power, when exercised, really can provide the happiness we need. It’s up to us to exercise that model and to try and find a way every day to really have a power day can always have that space to do that.

Patrick:            So as we recap, we think of Power. How do we find three things to praise ourselves for every morning to be grateful for? What can we do for others each day? At least one thing. At the end of the day, can we write two to three sentences about what was meaningful that day? Can we find 10 minutes of exercise every day? And lastly, can we find two minutes, a minimum of two minutes to meditate somewhere to find that quiet time?

Patrick:            And I promise you if you do these things, not only will you be happier at work, you’ll be happier at home, you’ll be happier in the community. It doesn’t matter where you are. You will gain the full benefit that this can provide for you. And the research backs up that when we’re happier, our life satisfaction score is higher and we benefit wherever we are.

Patrick:            Hopefully, you are able to use this to rise above your best and if you know somebody out there that’s struggling with how to find happiness in their own life, pass this on, give them the power to be able to find happiness in their own lives.

Patrick:            If you found this valuable as well, it would mean so much to me. If you would go on iTunes and rate this podcast. Better yet, to share it with somebody else or to subscribe to it if you already haven’t done that, and help me to get the message out to others on how they can rise above their best as well.

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Get Ready to Have Your “Last Bad Day” with Micheal O’Brien, Author of SHIFT and Owner of Peloton Coaching -002

Patrick:            Hi everyone, I’m Pat V, and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast, where I am not only obsessed with searching out in interviewing individuals that are achieving great success to uncover their habits, but also in uncovering and presenting the research that provides the evidence that success is available to anyone, and it all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your past.

Patrick:            My guest today is Michael O’Brien. He is currently the founder of Peloton Coaching. He started his career in sales, selling copiers. And anyone that has sold in that environment will tell you, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. From there, he entered the world of pharmaceutical sales, and quickly moved his way up the ranks. In his final role before breaking away from the pharmaceutical industry, he was managing a national sales team and responsible for a budget, as he says, included more money than he ever thought he would be responsible for.

Patrick:            While attending a pharmaceutical sales conference in Arizona, Michael’s life would be transformed in ways that he couldn’t even imagine. But out of that tragedy started his journey to help himself and others develop strategies to help them have, as he calls it, their last bad day. Listen as Michael relives his accident and his transformation to executive coaching, authoring his incredibly powerful book “Shift,” and how he’s using the proceeds from that book to make an impact on the lives of others.

Patrick:            Let’s jump right in. Michael, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me this morning. As I mentioned, I loved reading your book “Shift,” and certainly had known you before you started your company Peloton Coaching, and was really hoping maybe to start this off by asking you to sort of talk about your professional path leading up to Peloton.

Michael:           Sure thing, Patrick. Well, first of all, I just want to say it’s an honor to be with you, and know listeners will understand that we had a working relationship and a friendship prior to this interview, and the fact that you are now the developer of people and now this podcast Rise Above Your Best. There’s a lot of pride and a lot of like great, like warm fuzzy emotions that I have just joining you in this conversation today. So I just want to like tip of the hat to you for taking the bold move and changing lives in a different way. So congratulations, sir.

Patrick:            Yeah, thanks and I appreciate that. And certainly from a coaching and a mentoring standpoint, I certainly have drawn a lot of strength from you so I appreciate that. Thanks.

Michael:           Cool. No problem. Well, to go back to your question, so before this, before our conversation, my early days I spent in sales, marketing and operations, but mainly sales. I started off in actually copier sales out of college, and I wanted to get into healthcare sales. The desire was to get into pharmaceutical sales, as I left James Madison University, but they said, a lot of the recruiters, companies like Merck where like, hey buddy, you don’t have any experience. Go out and get some sales experience and then give us a call back.

Michael:           So I sold copiers for about 20 months in Washington DC, 100% commission type of job. Very Glengarry Glen Ross type of world, you know, coffee is for closers. So that’s like, people watch that movie who are not in sales. That doesn’t happen. I’m like, oh no, no, that totally happens. We had a quota board with everyone’s quota up. And if you didn’t hit quota, you got called out, right? So, makes some interesting, interesting things that were said back then sometimes pop up in today’s conversation in 2018 in terms of stability and stuff like that.

Michael:           And back then it was like, it was like there were no barriers. But eventually I left that and got into pharmaceutical sales, and started off as a representative in Washington DC, and then work my career forward, moving to New Jersey eventually. Mainly to diversify my resume. I wanted to make sure I was building a career that was as diverse as possible so I could see things from multiple perspectives, a theme that’s in shift. And I also wanted some career like insurance, right? So I could go into a lot of different fields if something unfortunate happened, like a downsizing and whatnot.

Michael:           So I moved our family to New Jersey, and then began sort of life in corporate America, and eventually moved my way up to executive leadership. So the last six years in pharma, I served as the vice president of sales, marketing and operations. The title changed within those six years. But in essence I was responsible for a lot more money than I thought I would ever be responsible coming out of college, and many more people than I ever thought as a head of a business unit for a Japanese multinational company that, you know, obviously we share experience with.

Patrick:            I have to chuckle when I hear you talking about your copier beginnings, because I didn’t realize that I started out as well, tried to get into pharmaceuticals and was told you need sales experience. I ended up working for a company called ADP doing tax and payroll. And very similar, you know, this sort of. Actually the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. We watched in a sales meeting one time, just the part on coffee and closers. And this was on a week that our numbers were down. That was the motivator.

Michael:           It’s like, yeah, no, it’s classic. I actually interviewed with ADP, I was about a year into copier sales. I’m like, this is tough, and I went to ADP and I’m like, that’s just as tough. This is crazy. But yeah, some man, some of the stories that I could share, I won’t go into them today, but like it would make a lot of people blush in terms of like what was said and just sort of behavior of really crappy leaders as a way to motivate people. And your movie as a motivator. It was one of those classic stories.

Patrick:            Right. Obviously we joke about those, but probably there are things that you have taken forward of either things that you saw that you didn’t like and certainly strengths that you built because of that tough environment. What are some of those that you think have sort of stayed with you?

Michael:           Well, so certainly you know, you learn a lot from good leaders. You also learn a lot from, you know, your not so great leaders. I think some of it comes down to, some of the things I learned from not so great leaders as far as like not connecting and listening to folks and making it all about themselves or the whole, they value the me over the we. And so, some of the, one characteristic of all, sort of the bad leaders I’ve had to work with over the years, and we all have them right on both sides of the coin, the good and the bad.

Michael:           But a lot of the bad ones made it all about themselves. They led with ego. They weren’t effective listeners. They were more directive and less collaborative. And I know you’ve heard the whole term command and control, right? And so a lot of people think it ties back to the military, and that’s an easy leap to make. But the great leaders out there have more of a command and collaborate type of approach. There are times where you need to be directive, you need to be in command. But there are many times, probably more than we realize, where we can be collaborative.

Michael:           So the best leaders to sort of flip that me over we, they valued the we over the me. And it’s more about power with as opposed to power over, and they’ve had a versatility or an agility or a flexibility, whatever ility you want to actually point to that allowed them to flex their style based on the situation. And I took so much from them. But also their ability to be empathetic and really listen. And this is before, you know, empathy was a big popular buzzword in corporate America. It was well before Brené Brown and TED talks and vulnerability.

Michael:           They were just able to admit when they trip and made a mistake, and they were open about that. And they realize and they shared that those trips, those stumbles, made them stronger and better as leaders. But going back to empathy, they just had a beautiful way of listening to truly connect and understand their employees, as opposed to listening to reply, which is right now what most of our society is doing.

Michael:           And so I from them just how to be an effective listener, how to value the we over the me, and make it about your people. And if you make it about your people, because it’s a people business regardless of whatever business you’re in, if you have a good vision and you have a good attitude around accountability and responsibility, you can do a lot of wonderful things in business.

Patrick:            Yeah, I would totally agree, especially around the empathy piece. It’s interesting, you know, this is 10 years since I certified and went through a program around emotional intelligence and I would agree at that point, the idea of emotional intelligence was really very fluffy kumbayish type of stuff. Hold hands. Yet I think as people start to see the data that continues to come up, they realize that this is not a nice to have or a soft skill. It really is a need to have and a strong skill.

Michael:           Oh absolutely. This is, these are like secret sauces. But yeah, it’s more of like these are the tickets to the dance now. Like it’s the how, the how piece is so important. Everyone focuses on a what, but how you get things done in today’s world is so vitally important, that if you don’t have it, you’re not going to move your career forward like you want to.

Patrick:            Yeah. And I don’t know if you would agree with this, or certainly I’d love your thoughts on this. When I first came across the term emotional intelligence as somebody that was in sales and looking at what it involved, to me it just seemed like these are selling skills in some regards, in terms of understanding your customers.

Michael:           Absolutely, yeah. They are selling skills. And what’s really funny, because I was thinking about this, this morning as I was trying to write a future blog around selling models, and how most selling models out there don’t speak to any of this, right? It’s just, it’s so crazy. But you know, and you know, we had a selling model back in our day and those selling models cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars and the license for them, and they don’t really address that real heart of selling around emotional intelligence and connecting with people. So companies spend all this money on challenger and all his other stuff, but it’s the same old, same old, just dressed up a little bit differently.

Patrick:            Sure, foundational behaviors.

Michael:           You bet.

Patrick:            Sort of shifting now. So you went from sort of a corporate career, and then what prompted you to sort of make the shift to say it’s time for me to go off and do something on my own?

Michael:           Well, so it was, as you know from reading my book, there is a moment in the ICU that I mentioned this guy’s name, [David Kolb 00:11:11], also a guy from Maine by the way, lives up in Portland, and he was the first guy that I ever knew as an executive coach. So this is, you know, circa late 2000. So we hired him at our company to become a team coach, and about six months prior to my accident, which I know we’ll get into here in a bit. And he, for whatever reason, he left a mark. Well actually I know the reasons why he left the mark. He really just sort of spoke to me.

Michael:           But I didn’t realize what type of mark he left. I mention his name, and again I don’t remember this at all, but my wife took notes. I kept on telling her, find David, he will, basically, he will show us the way he’s our leader. And after I came out of the ICU she was like, who’s David? Who is this guy? And I’m like, why are you asking me about him? I’m like, I’m all bandaged up. I was still in traction. I was a mess. You know, you’ve read, like I was a big mess.

Patrick:            [crosstalk 00:12:07]

Michael:           You know it was, why? And she was like, you kept on mentioning his name. And I was like, oh wow, that’s a seed. So that seed was planted back in 2001, that I knew one day I would follow in his footsteps and become an executive coach and a builder of people and helping people slay the negative stories in their head just so they can achieve complete success and be the better version of who they can be it. It just took 13 years of watering and tilling the soil, a little fertilizer, until I was ready in 2014 to make it happen. But I knew, like I knew when the conditions were going to be just perfect to make that move. And that was some of the watering and fertilizing process over the 13 years. Just clearly defining, and then also deciding when it was time to start my firm.

Patrick:            Obviously you were talking about what happened that sort of led up to part of that, which obviously then leads up to the book “Shift,” which as I mentioned to you before this that I absolutely loved that book. I devoured that thing in about two hours and I told my wife, there aren’t many books that I will pick up and won’t put down all at one time. And yours is certainly one of them, because the story was so intense the way it was written. I’d be curious, so from your perspective, what prompted you to write “Shift,” and then what’s the story that speaks to it?

Michael:           Yeah, sure thing. So what prompted it? You know, it’s interesting. A lot of people, that when the, I call it my last bad days, you know, so it was still in 2001. So I’ll share a little bit of the story, and then we’ll get into the genesis of the book. On July 11th, 2001, I was the marketing director for my company’s, you know, our company’s flagship drug. A lot of pressure, you know, if we missed the mark, the whole company missed its mark. So I tell people, if my drug sneezed, the whole company caught the flu, because it was so important. So vital for the financial health of the organization.

Michael:           And I was in my early 30’s, I was a new dad. My oldest daughter was three and a half years old. My youngest was seven months old. Linda and I had been married at the time, seven years, we’ll be married 25 years next year in next May. And I was trying to juggle it all. I thought I had to be superman at work. I thought it had to be superman at home, and I was trying to mask all my stress. And what I did is I just sort of poured it inside, trying to repress it and restrict it and control it. And I was really good at chasing happiness.

Michael:           And I know a lot of your listeners will, this will resonate with them. I would always finish that sentence. I’ll be happy when, I’ll be happy when I got promoted, I’ll be happy when I buy that new car. I’ll be happy when our big sales meeting is over because it’s really stressful planning it. I would go home and I would tell my wife like, it’s just busy right now. It’s going to slow down in a bit and then I’ll be happy. And she was like, yeah, right buddy, you say that all the time. I’m like, I don’t say that all the time. And she’s like, all the time, you say that. And I was really good at saying that all the time.

Michael:           And every now and again, I would catch, it just like some of the listeners out there. Like you touch happiness, you buy that new car and you feel pretty good, you feel accomplished. But then someone drives up with a nicer car a few weeks later, and then it’s like, oh wow. Or you have to put the car in for service and you have to pay the service bill. All that jazz, right? So the happiness is fleeting. And so we had a meeting out in New Mexico, north of Albuquerque, south of Santa Fe, out in the middle of nowhere. I decided to bring my bike out, because I wanted to ride my bike in all 50 states. It’s still a goal of mine, still pursuing that.

Michael:           So I brought my bike out, figured I would avoid the hotel gym. It was July, it was like New Mexico. I was like, this is great, you know, do a few miles before the meeting. And on that morning, July of 2001, it took my bike out and on my fourth lap, I found a little loop that went out the back of the hotel up the main entrance, it was about two miles in length. Came around the bend, and around the band was a Ford Explorer coming right at me. He had crossed the center line of the road, he was traveling about 40 miles an hour. Hit me head on.

Michael:           I remember everything, the sound of me hitting the grill into the windshield, the screech of his brakes, and you know, the sound it made when I came off his hood and was knocked unconscious. And when I regained consciousness, the EMT were all a flurry trying to save my life. And I asked them, only a question another cyclist can appreciate, I asked them, how’s my bike? You know? And they’re like, what? And I was like, yeah, how’s my bike? And I was, you know, Patrick, I was trying to cut the tension with a little humor as I often do, and they’re like, don’t worry about your bike, sir.

Michael:           And I didn’t have any ID on me, but I could tell from the energy of the scene that my life was in balance. And I just remember willing myself, and I shared this in the book, not to fall asleep. I was like, whatever you do, Michael, don’t fall asleep. Because I thought if I fell asleep I would lose control over the situation and I may never ever ever wake up again. And they said, hey, we got to call a helicopter to take you to the trauma center in Albuquerque. That was the only trauma one center in the state. And as the helicopter landed, I remember saying, hey, you know, if you live Michael, life is going to be different. You’re going to stop chasing happiness.

Michael:           And I wanted to live, you know, I wanted to live a life that was more present, more filled with gratitude. I didn’t necessarily have that definition or those desires right on the accident scene, but I knew I wanted to stop chasing happiness. And what happened in the accident, this whole life and death thing was a real thing that I felt. So I broke a whole bunch of everything, as the readers will find out. But the major injury was when the left femur shattered, it lacerated the femoral artery. So in a lot of ways I was bleeding out in the middle of the desert.

Michael:           The doctors told my wife if I was 10 years older or not in shape at the time, I certainly would not have made it by the time we got to the hospital. So, I feel very fortunate to be alive. I feel lucky to be alive and yeah. So then I went to the ICU. The first surgery took 10 hours. I needed 34 units of blood product, and the next four days I spent in the ICU. So an incredible last bad day to say the least. But to your question about writing the book. So back then that was a big story at our company. Like Oh my God, Michael might not make it.

Michael:           And then I stopped sharing the story in a lot of ways, it was like we expanded and new people came in, and people didn’t even realize that something as tragic and horrific happened to me. Because by just looking at me, they’re like, oh yeah, just a normal guy, the kind of guy that we’d see, you know, at Whole Foods. So it was like, oh, you’re just another corporate executive, and they didn’t know the backstory. Because I wasn’t necessarily sharing it. But when I left my corporate job, my executive job, and I met a whole bunch of new people, everyone said, hey, you got to write this book, man.

Michael:           This is an amazing story. It’s going to be great for your business and speaking gigs and all that jazz. And I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Intellectually Patrick, I knew that what they were sharing with me all made sense. You know, people they get a book, they go out on the speaking tour. It’s great for their business. Ad I had all these notes and journal entries from my journey, if you will, with my recovery. So I had all the makings of the book, like all the emotions were captured, all the different surgeries, different events, all that jazz.

Michael:           So I got to work trying to write this book, but I would write it and stop and write it and stop, and it just didn’t feel like, like the motivation behind writing it, was like about my business and making money and speaking. There was something missing. And so I took a course with Seth Godin, who I’m a big fan of, and he asked the first question in the course, like what’s it for? And so I used the idea of the book as like the big project. I was like, okay, what’s this book for? And then it came to me, the book is for my girls who are too young to remember pre-accident daddy, and really for anyone going through a challenge. Their version of their SUV, their last bad day, if you will.

Michael:           And I wanted to help inspire them and motivate them in a very relatable way. Not a fantastical type of like you’ve got to climb Mount Everest as the definition of success, but in a very relatable way to help them motivate themselves, and get inspired, and shift their perspective so they can create the life that they wanted. And to further that, because it wasn’t about making money for me. It was about this message, and I realized I live for a reason, and one of the reasons why I lived is to share this message.

Michael:           And because of that, we decided to give all the proceeds away to charity to World Bicycle Relief, and they help young girls conquer the challenge that distance by giving them mobility. And I thought it was a perfect charity to donate the proceeds to, because I had lost my mobility for a while until I regained it. So “Shift” is really about the message, not about making money. It’s not about my business. Obviously it’s tied to it, but it’s not about that. It’s about really helping people and sharing, sharing this story about what happens in life and how you respond to it and how you can get past your obstacles.

Patrick:            Yeah. It’s interesting, as I was reading, especially where you spoke early on of even the sort of maybe a feeling of resentment toward the person that hit you, that how that had changed your life. But really you go onto talk about, especially one of the dates was August 21st, was this new beginning, and this idea of perspective. And it made me think of certainly a TED talk and work done by a Harvard researcher, Dan Gilbert.

Michael:           Yeah.

Patrick:            Where he talks about how we manufacture happiness, that we take all of these situations and we have the choice. And to me that’s, it seems like that date that you mark there is sort of a stake in the ground, where it’s your choice to say this is all going to be for good.

Michael:           Yeah. So that date, Patrick, was key. And as I share with the readers, it sort of sounded like a big lightening bolt moment. But I do believe it was more of a drip by drip pedal stroke by stroke in the days leading up into that moment, where I decided that if I was going to be the best person I could be, the best husband, the best father, leader, just a overall person, that I had to shift my perspective and tap into my beautiful network, which I affectionately call my Peloton. That I could, you know, I get choice in the matter.

Michael:           You know, there’s a great Victor Franco quote, sort of just like the Dan Gilbert TED talk, is that we’re not defined by our life events, but rather how we respond to them. And I knew, I finally realized I had choice in the matter, which is so empowering and powerful that we get to wake up every day choosing how we want to show up, choosing the ripple of energy we want to put forth in the world. Like we can put forward really powerful, growing community, compassionate energy. Or we can show up in more of a woe is me, in order for me to win, you have to lose, looking at the world through a lens of scarcity type of energy too.

Michael:           And certainly there are a whole bunch of people doing that current day. But back then, that day in August, in 2001, I realized I finally had choice. I didn’t have to be sort of a victim to my victim story I was telling myself. I could shift my story, shift my self narrative, and start leading the type of life I wanted to live.

Patrick:            Yeah, and again, it comes out in that story. You know, when you talk about this idea of chasing happiness, it’s funny, it’s one of the things that I think of. It’s similar to chasing our shadow that we run as a kid. You never catch it, but it’s always right there with us. If we just choose to see it, but we don’t have to chase it. It’s inside of us. And I think that’s certainly what you speak to here, is that we all have that ability. Unfortunately, we overlook it for something else at times. The book is now out there. What do you want sort of a legacy, or for the reader to really walk away with? If you look at it and say, this did what I wanted it to do?

Michael:           Well, when I write my blog and even with “Shift,” I want people. I’m a big believer in the power of the pause. So after someone gets done reading it, obviously they put it down, and I want them to pause and have moments of reflection in terms of how they’re living their own life. In the last chapter, I share 20 ways of being, 20 ways of showing up. And my hope is that maybe they won’t take all 20, because that’s a big bite to swallow all at once.

Michael:           But maybe they take a few and start incorporate them in their lives so they can create the life that they want, create a better tomorrow as I like to say. So I’m hopeful, and I know through stories I’ve heard from people who’ve read the book that they’ve done just that, they’ve paused, they’ve had moments of reflection. They’ve tried to think through like are they chasing happiness too? I have so many people who’ve come to me and said like, I felt like you wrote the book just for me. And when I go out there now to speak, you know, and there might be lots of people in the audience, or a very small number.

Michael:           It runs the gamut as you know, where people have come up after, like I thought you were speaking right to me. And to me that’s one of the most powerful compliments someone can give, because in that moment I feel like I’ve reached them in a very relatable way. That what I’m putting forth out there is not, you know, my definition of success. It’s not like you have to climb Mount Everest or do an Ironman triathlon to be successful or get to the C suite. What I try to share with folks is like, your definition of complete success is your definition, and it’s having a great career.

Michael:           It’s also having all that success within, the peace, the happiness. All that stuff that you can manufacturer, that you can create. I want you to have that too. And if that speaks to them and they start to make subtle changes in their lives, then wow, that’s so powerful. Or they have more awareness how they show up and how they interact with people. Because I believe if we have awareness and we’re mindful and thoughtful, that interaction by interaction, right? Drip by drip, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, we can make the world a better place.

Michael:           And I’m hoping that “Shift” does that in its way. I know all the people who read it, and because all the proceeds go to World Bicycle Relief, we’re changing lives halfway across the world. When one of those girls that benefits from WBR. World Bicycle Relief, gets their bike, well their lives change in measurable ways. And it’s a cool book to read, and I know I’m biased in this way, where like by buying it you change a life somewhere else, but by reading it you could change your own life and the lives of those around you.

Patrick:            And it’s right on the cover, World Bicycle Relief. I think if you read below that, there’s a sort of subtitle, this idea of creating better tomorrows, not only for the reader but for somebody that’s going to be the recipient of what’s to come. So I would agree. You mentioned mindfulness in the book in your introduction to that, and powered that, and I see that almost in line with emotional intelligence where that is going in terms of being seen as a must have for people. Are there any other rituals that you follow?

Michael:           Well, one of the big ones around nutrition. So every morning, I’ve been doing this for years. First thing in the morning, Patrick, is 20 ounces of water. I’m a big believer that hydration leads you down a certain path each day in terms of your overall energy and nutrition, so that’s big. My mindfulness and meditation practice, meditation in the morning, but also something that I call grabbing a PBR, which does not stand for Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s pause, breathe, and reflect. These are micro moments of mindfulness throughout the day.

Michael:           Just to hit the pause button, slow that heart rate down, sort of ease your blood pressure. Quiet the mind a bit before we rush onto the next task. The other part of my ritual is gratitude. I didn’t know anything about gratitude back in 2001, many of us didn’t. You know, again, it goes into the whole category of like all the things that we didn’t know about. Emotional intelligence, to vulnerability, to gratitude. And so every night before bed, I spent a few minutes just in quiet thought on the things that made today really great, the things I’m grateful for.

Michael:           And they can be small wins or big wins, and even what I stress to people is that we can be grateful for our struggle, the struggles in life. Because when we get through them, not if but when we get through them, they’ll make us stronger. So you can even be grateful for some of the tough times in your life. And I try to do that, actually I’m pretty successful at doing that piece. That’s a must have in my life every night before I go to bed.

Patrick:            I’m so happy to hear you say that. The idea of gratitude, especially for the difficult things. And I think we often lose sight of that and we give too much power to the difficult things. Whereas to me, I think our past is our power. Whether it’s positive or negative, those are the only things that we can leverage is the good and the bad and how we choose to do that, again, is gratitude for those experiences. So I’m right there with you. I think that’s great.

Michael:           I love that. The whole our power is in our past. I love that notion, Patrick, and I totally buy into it. These experiences build us into who we are today, and if we can just accept them and honor them as opposed to ignoring them and not accepting them, we can be so much better off.

Patrick:            Yeah. I don’t even want to learn to live with my past. I want to learn to leverage it. There is a dance.

Michael:           Yeah, no I agree.

Patrick:            So this has been great. And in regards to what you have done and what you’re providing other people, if somebody wants to get the book for themselves, where’s the best place for them to go to find it?

Michael:           Well Jeff Bezos will say Amazon. So you can go to, and you can pick up avocados and all your produce at Whole Foods while you’re at it. So you can do that. It’s on as well. If people want to get an autographed copy, they can go to my website, which is, and there’s a bookstore there. They can buy an autographed copy, and I ship those autograph copies throughout the United States and up into Canada.

Patrick:            I think I went with the Bezos route.

Michael:           Yeah. Hey Jeff, he needs a little bit more money. And to all the listeners out there, there’s a whole, like Amazon reference in the book. We won’t share it today, but you’ve got to read the book to understand or discover my prediction that I shared with my wife during the ICU.

Patrick:            Is it cryptic.

Michael:           And again, I don’t remember any of this at all, but she took copious notes, so I’ve got to make Jeff Bezos happy.

Patrick:            Well that’s good, and I didn’t get any avocados with it, I just want you to know.

Michael:           It’s an avocado free “Shift.”

Patrick:            Very nice, listen, I want to say thank you for this, Michael. I really appreciated this. Your guidance for me, our friendship, being able to read this book and get more texture into you as an individual and how you help other people to rise above their best. I really appreciate it, so thank you for that.

Michael:           No problem, Patrick. Thanks for having me on, and tell the listeners, I hope you got a pearl or two out of our conversation today.

Patrick:            I hope you enjoyed listening to Michael talk about his incredible story, speaking about his journey to his own success and how he has risen above his best. Michael truly is a builder of people where he is focused now on helping others to slay the negative stories that are in their heads and also to help people stop chasing happiness and recognize that happiness is right in front of them if they just recognize it and do the work necessary to bring it about. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please help spread the word, and help others to rise above their best. A rating in iTunes would be hugely appreciated on my end. Until our next podcast, take care.

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The Most Effective Way to SET Goals – 001


Patrick:            Hey everybody, I’m Pat V., and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast, where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals that are achieving great success to uncover their habits, but also in uncovering and presenting the research that proves great success is available to anyone, and it all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best.

Patrick:            I’m so excited about today’s podcast. Today doesn’t involve a guest, it involves really some of the science and some of the understanding behind how the guests that I’ve had on the show, and will continue to, have really followed this recipe, and understand that the research that backs up the importance of goal-setting to get where you want to go. This isn’t going to be just about normal goal-setting, this is gonna be a simple model that’s gonna be not about just setting objectives and what you want to do, but it’s really going to dig down into the why. Why do you want what you want? That really is going to be one of the key things that’s going to help you to get you to where you want to go and really to rising above your best.

Patrick:            Goal-setting is one of those things that can be really difficult for people, maybe not just the setting of the goal, but certainly the follow-through of the goal. I think we’ve all been there where we’ve tried to set something and life gets in the way. It takes over, something more important comes along. This is what we’re going to talk about, how to set goals. This is work that I do with a lot of my clients, and I call it Going for the Goal: To Achieve or Not to Achieve.

Patrick:            We’re really gonna look at three things. We’re gonna look at what are the three Ps that we need for goal setting? It’s Planning, Practice, and Perseverance. What’s the research behind that, and then how do we go about setting a goal? Most have heard of SMART goals, but I think there’s a better way, and we’ll talk about that, that I think eliminates two steps and makes it easier for us to hold ourselves accountable to the things that we do.

Patrick:            When we talk about the three Ps of goal setting in terms of planning, practice, and perseverance, those really are the three things. The planning is what we’re going to talk about today, the set of the goal. We’ll also talk about the practice of the goal, and not just any practice but deliberate practice and what’s the research behind that. We’ll also talk about perseverance and the research behind that in terms of grit and the ability to grind it out. Without those three things, the ability to set the goal, the planning, the practice, the deliberate practice of the goal, and then the perseverance, the grit to stay behind what we say we’re going to do, it’s very difficult or very easy I should say to fall off what we want when we don’t have those three things. There’ll be a PDF in the show notes that will break out these three things in a diagram showing you planning, practice, perseverance.

Patrick:            First off when we talk about goals, what are the purpose of goals? In research that was done back in 2002, it was a study called Building Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation. This was a 35-year odyssey, and what they looked at was hundreds of settings, 40,000 participants, eight countries in both lab and field settings. What’s interesting is what they found was that difficult goals produced the most satisfaction for people.

Patrick:            In terms of commitment for following through on the goals, what they found was those that were most difficult, they were reached because they had the strongest “why” behind them and also that that “why” provided the strongest self-efficacy, which meant the person’s own confidence in the ability in themselves to do that.

Patrick:            There are many other psychological and practical benefits that come from goal-setting. On that first [inaudible 00:03:14] we talked about practice. We’re again talking about deliberate practice, and this is based on research that was done, people are familiar with the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He references a lot of the research by a gentleman named Anders Ericsson, who was a researcher that came up with this idea of 10,000 hours, and did the research behind it. And what’s interesting, a couple quotes from that, it says, “New research shows that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not any innate talent or skill.”

Patrick:            As I like to quote Gary V. now, to me this is part of that “suffocating out excuses”, that the research clearly shows it’s practice, not innate talent or skill. “This person’s better than me because they grew up here or did that,” and it’s shown more and more now. It says that the development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, open, often painful, self-assessment. And I think that’s where certainly I know I’ve struggled, and many of the people that I work with will say the same thing, that is a tough thing to do, that struggle, sacrifice, and painful self-assessment.

Patrick:            He goes on to talk about deliberate practice involves improving current skills and extending our reach and range of new skills. What’s important here as well is when we talk about deliberate practice this is specific, this is working on certain things over and over again. When we talk about habit-changing, we will generally hear things around 21 days, but the research actually will suggest that it’s more like 66 days, or over two months, before you actually develop a habit. Which gets into certainly the importance of practicing over and over again.

Patrick:            The next part of this is looking at perseverance, this is the grit component to it. There is a great quote by a man named Dwight Hillis who said, “Man must take his choice between ease and wealth. Either is available, but not both.” We look at research done on grit, I referenced a study that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology back in 2007. The title of it is Grit: Perseverance and Passion. It says that, “Not talent alone, but sustained and focused application of talent …” So we’re back to what we spoke to first, deliberate practice, “that’s what was needed for attainment. And that in every field grit may be as essential as talent to high accomplishment.” Once again, suffocating the excuse that somebody’s more talented than me or they’re from a better family, it’s bologna, and it keeps coming up.

Patrick:            So the last part is around the planning, and this is the goal-setting part. I used to find SMART goals were the thing that I worked with clients on, and I always found that there was ease with understanding the S and the T about specific and timebound, but when we got to the middle letters it got a little fuzzy at times. So what I did was I developed a model that I felt was much easier, at least as a starting point to get people to understand how to set goals.

Patrick:            And it was an acronym based on SET, so are my goals Specific, are they Emotional, and are they Timebound? And what I have found is that when those three things can be answered in a positive way, are my goals SET, are they specific, emotional, and timebound, that the likelihood of follow-through on those things is very good.

Patrick:            So when we talk about the first one, specific, that’s really asking the question, “What is it that I want to achieve?” So if it’s weight loss, let’s say it’s “I wanna lose 10 pounds.” Whatever it is, it needs to be as specific as possible.

Patrick:            So then we move on to the next part which is around emotional, and that really is the “why” to wanting the goal, and that’s the part that SMART tends not to address as much. The emotional part is probably the most important for achievement, and one of the things that I will work with clients on is to say, “What are the five whys?” Because when you can answer why I want to lose 10 pounds five times, and not the same five times, the likelihood of you really drilling it into your head that this is really important, the less likely you will be when you come into the kitchen and go to the cabinet and see the Oreos, you’re gonna leave them there, and maybe you go below on the counter where there’s a fruit bowl and you grab an apple.

Patrick:            So as an example, if we were to say, “I wanna lose 10 pounds. Well, why do I wanna lose 10 pounds? I wanna lose 10 pounds because I need to be more active. Well, why do I need to be more active? I need to be more active because I wanna coach my son in football. Well, why do I wanna coach my son in football? Well, he’s getting older and I don’t wanna lose the relationship we have, and if I’m out on the field with him that’s more time that we can spend together. Why is it important for you to spend more time together? Well, because as he gets older I wanna continue to have a great relationship. Well, why do you wanna have a great relationship with your son? Because that’s my legacy.”

Patrick:            When we get to that point on anything that we’ve done, if we answer that exhaustively five times, the likelihood of us staying the course is really gonna pretty good.

Patrick:            And the last one is obviously about being timebound, so when, if we’re going off of weight, when do I plan on losing this 10 pounds? Say it’s August, and 10 pounds I wanna realistically say I’m gonna lose 10 pounds by November 1st. Now I have a date, I can’t keep pushing this thing off, and that is really important. Because if we don’t have that, then things will just continue to linger.

Patrick:            That’s probably the reason why, if you look at a lot of the statistics around goal-setting or New Years’ resolutions, I believe it’s most people stop that, go back to their old habits, after January 15th. That’s why if you’re in the market for weight equipment or exercise equipment, probably March is the best time because people then realize that they’re not using it anymore, and it’s just an expensive coat hanger.

Patrick:            So a couple things that I wanna leave you with in terms of inspiration on how do you stay the course. The first is the story of the Chinese bamboo tree, and the Chinese bamboo tree is one that says that, “In year one, when I water and fertilize and give it sun, it doesn’t grow. When I do the same thing in year two, water, fertilizer, and sun, it doesn’t grow. In year three, water, fertilizer, sun, still no growth. Year four, the same thing, no growth. It’s not until year five that this thing finally grows. But when it grows. it grows 60-80 feet in only six weeks.”

Patrick:            And really, we’re no different than that in some regards. In the initial stages, we can be working and working and working and we’re not seeing the results of the effort we’re putting in. We need to have that faith and belief that we’re doing the things that need to get done, and that eventually it will come out.

Patrick:            The next is the marshmallow story. The marshmallow story is about a researcher named Walter Mischel who did a study with five-year-olds, kids in kindergarten basically. This was done back in the 70s, and what they did was they had kids in a room with an instructor, and they told the child, “I’m gonna leave the room for 15 minutes, and if I come back and this treat,” could have been a marshmallow, a cookie, a piece of chocolate, “if that’s still here you’ll get two of them.”

Patrick:            So as the instructor left, the children had to sit there. Some decided to get up and go into the corner so that they didn’t have to look at it. Other children maybe pretended to lick it and smell it, but didn’t eat it. And obviously some kids ate it.

Patrick:            Well that’s just the beginning of the story, because then what they did was for the next 40 years almost they tracked these kids, and what they found was upon follow-up after follow-up that these kids were better-adjusted in schools, better grades. As they became adults, financially they made more money, they rated themselves as happier, there were fewer divorces, and in many other measurements they came out higher than the children that ate the marshmallow.

Patrick:            The reasoning behind this was simply looking at it and saying that it was all about delaying gratification, and that really is part of goal-setting too. Any time we can delay gratification on something, “I’d love to not go to the gym, or to run when I get up first thing in the morning, or skip it, but I know that by doing that it’s gonna cost me more. I’m better off to delay doing something else, take the time to go for the run, or go to the gym, that by doing that I’m gonna feel so much better after, and I always do.”

Patrick:            So as you look back on your own development, think about planning and practice and persistence, those three things that are needed overall for your goals. And then ask yourself, “Are my goals SET? Are they specific, are they emotional, and are they timebound?” And I promise you that if you do those three things, and you can answer those three questions, it is without question that you will rise above your best.

Patrick:            Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Rise Above Your Best. I hope you found the information in regards to goal-setting, the research, the strategies that I’ve set out to be helpful, either to yourself, or maybe there’s somebody you know that can use this. My mission truly is to help other people to rise above their best, not somebody else’s best, but their best, and I’m asking for your help on this. If you found this valuable, or know somebody else that will benefit from this, I’m gonna ask you to forward this on, or to make a comment, or to go on iTunes and put a rating on there.

Patrick:            Everything that I’ve talked about today will be in the show notes at the end with the links with further access to my material. And again, I thank you, and I hope that this will help you to go out there and rise above your best.


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Learn the Power of Mindfulness with Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom from Break Together – 004


Patrick:            Hi, Elizabeth. Thank you so much again for taking the time to speak with me on the podcast Rise Above Your Best. I have been looking forward to this for quite some time in regards to talking about your company, Break Together, and all the work that you’re doing in regards to mindfulness, whether its with companies or with individuals because I think in the environment that we’re in and the research that sort of backs up what you’re doing and the mission that you’re on, the benefit that that has to us is so great. So, again, looking forward to really hearing more about your company and what inspired you to start Break Together.

Elizabeth:         Patrick, I am so excited to be here and I absolutely love the name of your podcast, Rise Above Your Best, and I know that’s at the heart of the work you do, so thank you for inviting me.

Patrick:            Yeah. Thank you for that compliment.

Elizabeth:         What inspired me to start Break Together actually resulted from working in well-being and health and wellness benefits for employees for the last 20 years. And I was working with a large national company and we were spending about a half a billion dollars a year on health benefits for employees. So that’s about $4,000 per employee-

Patrick:            That’s amazing.

Elizabeth:         …just for health benefits. And what I was noticing was that we were doing all the things that we were supposed to be doing, trying to manage trend, it’s what it’s called, trying to manage your healthcare spend. And I’m looking outside of my office and people are stressed. I was literally on call getting approval for a budget, looking out of my office one day, and a woman was crying. And so, I thought, oh my gosh, something must have happened to her family, right? Or someone. As soon as I could get off the call I rushed out to find out what was going on and what I learned was that it was work-related. She had been working on a project for a really long time, for several months, and a file had not been transported properly from one system to another and that was enough to put her over the edge. And to me, I was like this isn’t brain surgery that we’re doing here. This is work, and it’s important work, but I was just struggling with, you know, a lot of people, if I was really paying attention, were really at that edge, at that edge of just one thing could set them off.

Elizabeth:         And so, I began researching that and at the same time, our CEO had gone to a resiliency or a mindfulness retreat and he came back and shared that with us, with our team, and said gee, how can we look at introducing our population, which was like 26000 employees, to mindfulness? And at the time, back in 2014-15, there weren’t a ton of programs out there. Google’s had Search Inside Yourself and there are many wonderful programs out there now that are focused on leadership development. I really didn’t have a lot of resources at that time focused on the individual and I’m on smaller teams and getting out of the t-suite and that really inspired us to do a pilot at the company I was at that was a very successful pilot. We put in some really simple practices. We partnered with our vendors to help educate people about the importance of pausing and of taking breaks.

Elizabeth:         Breaks have been something that, from a research perspective, back in 1908, Sydney Chapman wrote a piece and did a study on the hours of labor and it was very fascinating because he identified that after eight hours in a day and 40 hours in a week, we human beings lose our productivity rates. And so we stop being as productive as we think we are. And so that was something that helped feed our own pilot, is we need to make sure people are taking their breaks, and what we noticed was that they might be taking breaks, but they’re going straight to another source of stress, which is our addictive telephones.

Elizabeth:         And so we really started this pilot by just helping people unplug. And it turns out that was in alignment with all the science out there about being mindful and unplugging. And that, to me, was really inspiring, is that this is not complex, but it takes action, and when we were at the end of our pilot, what happened was is that there were some other really important projects that needed to happen before we could get to this larger work at that company, and by then I felt like this is my mission, this is what I need to help other companies do, because not everybody like Google can afford a chief mindfulness officer, right? So that was how I began and my focus is on small and mid-size companies.

Patrick:            It’s interesting, when you talk about the work around mindfulness, when I think of it in regards to controlling stress. And to me, that’s really what stress is all about, is stress comes from our lack of control, whether it’s lack of financial control or lack of business control, right? That’s what brings about stress, and to me that’s the beauty of what you talk about in terms of mindfulness. I think it gives us that sense of control back.

Elizabeth:         That’s exactly right, Patrick. And after three years of doing this research, one really simple observation is that we have spent 30 years building ways of connecting people, right? When I started in the workplace, I had a typewriter and a phone and mail. And all the things that we’ve added in terms of how we connect with email and IM and texting and all those other layers, have not replaced anything else, so we have all these things coming at us and I think we’ve become really, we’ve impressively adapt technology to help us streamline work. The piece that is missing is helping people and human beings adapt to that technology. Helping them understand that these are tools and that we are not machines, that we have to pause and have these breaks in order for our human machines to perform their best.

Patrick:            Yeah, ’cause you can look at it and think, I now have all these additional resources, yet I still don’t have control over this.

Elizabeth:         Yes. That’s exactly right.

Patrick:            In the opposite direction. Now you mentioned, obviously, you had a CEO that was behind this. As you’re going out to organizations now, how do you deal with that in terms of making sure that this is gonna be adopted, because we certainly work in similar areas around development of organizations is there’s an intellectual understanding of it and then there’s the doing piece. How do you bridge that?

Elizabeth:         You’re good, Patrick. That is the biggest challenge. So, I’ve had companies, I’ve had the owner of a law firm actually, call me in and say, I want you to do this for my people. I like what you’re doing, I’ve read about it, I want you to do it for my people. And this person wasn’t willing to be engaged in it. And so, permission is huge, as you know, in behavior change. You can say anything you want, it’s like this at work, it’s like this in our families, when we’re raising our kids, if you’re not walking the talk and if you’re not demonstrating the behavior you wish to see, then it’s not going to be widely adapted, right? There are always gonna be the early adopters. You’re gonna bring something into a company and you’ll have like 20 people out of 100 say, oh my gosh, I’ve been waiting for you to do this, right? And they’ll try it and they’ll be there. But to get that other 80% really has to be strategic and the leadership has to be engaged to deliver the vision and to demonstrate the behaviors that are desired.

Elizabeth:         And so, I actually make sure that when I’m doing this work, if it’s just, not just, but if it’s with a team and not an entire organization, then the leadership of that team is engaged, and if it’s with an organization, then all of the leaders have to be engaged in order for it to be effective.

Patrick:            Total congruence. You need to walk the talk. I see it on my end as well of organizations that say, this is important for you, but I won’t be doing this.

Elizabeth:         Exactly. And I get it. You and I are not making light of that situation, right? It is really hard when you feel like everything is on your shoulders and you’re just trying to stick it out and do the best thing you can to run your company, that is stressful work and I think what we’re learning today is that that boss leadership in this, it might’ve been effective in the past when we were doing different kinds of work, but in a, they call this a knowledge worker society because people are really using by and large their brains to get their jobs done in a way that’s less manual to some degree. And even then, if you’re working with a machine, there’s technology involved today so everything’s engaged. And so I think what we’re learning is that the power needs to be pushed out from that singular leader and so we’re bumping up against a shift in the way our companies are gonna be structured over time.

Patrick:            I would agree. I think our landscape continues to change in a lot of areas as it relates to this. So when you were going into an organization, what’s the first thing that you do?

Elizabeth:         The first thing I do is have a conversation and really get to understand how the organization works. So let’s say I’m working with a team, I’ll start there, what are the roles on the team and how is the team functioning today? Because the specific work that I do is teaching people how to find just two minute intervals throughout their work flow and that work flow looks like one thing for a CEO and looks a little different for somebody that’s sitting in a call center being monitored every moment, so I help people look at where are their natural stops and starts and pauses in the day and their particular work flow. We look at setting a vision with the leaders to say, or the manager to say, this is how we want people to have permission to take time for thinking and for refueling. And then there’s a whole process of setting forth the communications and the training and then giving people tools to practice. So, it’s a flow.

Patrick:            So if I’m listening right now, I’m with an organization that hasn’t adopted mindfulness or the ability for somebody like yourself to come in, what are some things that I could do on my own that you’d recommend just to help get me into a better place?

Elizabeth:         So, number one, I would Google mindfulness or you can go to my site, at There’s a resource page that has the research. Because I feel like once you start reading about it, it helps you to understand how it impacts professionals, how thinking and giving yourself pause really is scientific and there’s a millennia of research behind it. In terms of individual things to do each day, I start with just when you get into your office, think about how your day is structured. So when do you go from meeting to meeting? When are you stopping one email or one project and moving to the next? Those are the perfect places to just try a moment of reflection. And a moment of reflection looks like, it can be a couple different things.

Elizabeth:         I really like people, most of us are sitting too long during the day, so I like to people to maybe just stand up, anchor your feet to the floor, and take three deep breaths. And it might sound, oh that’s so simple, how could that matter? If you take a deep breath into your diaphragm, you’re really triggering what’s called the vagus nerve and that is an immediate trigger to reduce cortisone, to reduce your stress hormone, by taking a few deep breaths. So that’s a wonderful place to start. And by and large, even after hundreds of people providing me feedback on the practices each day, stretching and deep breathing are the number one activities that the find helps them manage their work.

Patrick:            So simple.

Elizabeth:         It is simple. It’s just behavior change, right? That’s hard.

Patrick:            Right.

Elizabeth:         In our minds, we make behavior change hard.

Patrick:            I am always reminded, I listen to a podcaster, Gary Vaynerchuk, and he speaks about reading about pushups you don’t get any stronger, you have to do the pushups to get stronger, and I think it’s with any of these behaviors, right? Intellectually I think we understand this, it’s making the space for that to happen.

Elizabeth:         Exactly.

Patrick:            And really, to me, I had heard somebody else say this is about to be’s and not to do’s. To do’s are sort of checklist things to do whereas to be’s, you start out the day with a place of how can I find time to be more mindful today? As opposed to a checklist.

Elizabeth:         Exactly. I love that.

Patrick:            So, to be’s versus to do’s.

Elizabeth:         That’s exactly it. Just trying.

Patrick:            So with that said, how do you find time to apply mindfulness in your own life?

Elizabeth:         That is challenging for me just as it is for anyone. The places that I’ve found really are three areas. So, when I wake up in the morning, I have decided to just set my alarm clock for 15 minutes before when I used to wake up. So instead of six, it’s 5:45. And I use an app call Whil, w-h-i-l, and I actually also represent that. So just to be fair, but they have a tool, Headspace is a free one for individuals. Whil is an employer-focused tool they have reporting it, et cetera. So I like to track it, I like to track what I’m doing, and so I use a meditation each morning and you can choose what you want to think about. So I wanna be calm, I want to lower my stress, I want to practice self-love, there’s all different things you can choose and then you plug in how long you want to do that thing. So, I try to do 10 minutes. And so I do that first before I get out of bed and before I start checking anything.

Elizabeth:         And then I’ve been trying to also incorporate five minutes of yoga poses, or just any kind of stretching, just to get your body moving. My grandmother did that until she was 95 and I really think it makes a difference in how we age. So that’s a great place to start because hopefully it’s before anyone is able to get to you, that wake up time.

Elizabeth:         The other times for me is in between activities, like I said. We automatically seem to schedule meetings for an hour. Why do we do that? Or half an hour, right? There’s no reason you can’t really, if you’ve prepped, to get a meeting done in 20 minutes or 40 minutes. And so I try to use that time in between for taking a walk around the building or just thinking and allowing my mind to drift, because that’s when we do our best problem-solving. And so those are the places where I practice really every day now and then I also try to get out into nature every day.

Patrick:            Yeah, I think routine is so important in terms of being able to … Because then once you’re in it, it’s like anything else, right? It just becomes part of who you are. It’s not to say you don’t miss certain days, but all in all you do the same thing every day.

Elizabeth:         Yes.

Patrick:            Which is important.

Elizabeth:         And it’s better for my family. My relationships are so much stronger now that I’m applying some of these practices in my own life, like listening.

Patrick:            Yeah. You mentioned another great point there, Elizabeth, in terms of the transferability of this practice. And I see it in my own work in terms of what I’m doing, is to say that we’re not compartmentalized or we really can’t be in terms of what we do at work and what we do at home, and I’m just curious, do you hear that quite often in terms of the work that you do and people say, it’s certainly helped me at work here but my life at home, I’m hearing it there too that I’m a different person when I show up?

Elizabeth:         Absolutely. I actually find that sometimes, depending on the work situation, people may experience it more quickly at home because a lot of people work independently today and so they’re not necessarily interacting with other people. So there’s two areas that you’ll see immediate impact as you start practicing. One is just the quality of work that you’re doing, the ability to maybe break through in creative thinking. The other immediate impact is just how you …

Elizabeth:         Mindfulness to me, I’ll just go back to that definition, is around self-awareness and being present with yourself in any given moment. And if you can take that pause and be present with yourself, it gives you space to really allow others to do the same, to just maybe listen to your husband when he’s walking through the door, or your partner, or your child when they’re walking through the door, and instead of being ready to pounce and get everything out that you’ve been waiting to say to them all day, and I have found that to be really amazing. Like, just be quiet as the person comes in the door and allow them to … ‘Cause I work at home sometimes, right? And so sometimes Jeff would walk in the door and I’d be like, [inaudible 00:17:43] here’s all the things that happened ’cause I didn’t have another human being in front of me that day. And now it’s like so nice, I plan to do something else while he comes in and just gets his space. It’s amazing.

Patrick:            Yeah. So, as you know, a lot of the work that I do is in leadership while dealing with emotional intelligence too, and certainly mindfulness is a key component to that idea of both awareness of self, emotional self, expression and awareness of others, this space that you’re able to get out of mindfulness, so I can totally see that.

Elizabeth:         Yes.

Patrick:            It’s great stuff. So, a question for you. Any particular book that you think too that has really sort of shaped who you are? Anything that you’ve read that you’ve said, these one or two books are two that I think have been instrumental in what I do or certainly ones that you recommend to other people?

Elizabeth:         Well, communication is one of my favorite things, and behavior change, kind of neck and neck. And so, have you heard the Heath brothers? Chip and Dan Heath?

Patrick:            I have, yeah.

Elizabeth:         They have three books that I’ve read that I keep going back to. Made to Stick, which is really about sticking messages because I’m really always interested in communication and how we communicate our ideas and our visions. The other one is, well their newest one is The Power of Moments, and that is just a fantastic book around the ability that we have, because I always, most of my work hinges around the power of one or two minutes, two for you, The Power of Moments is beautiful and the impact that we as human beings can make when we’re serving other human beings in just a minute. And so those are newer books, but I use them all the time because their vision and the examples that they use are really powerful that we can apply really quickly to the work that we’re doing.

Patrick:            Yeah. I haven’t read their latest book, but I did read Made to Stick and the whole concept of stickiness, I think it was a great book.

Elizabeth:         It’s good.

Patrick:            Very good stuff. Another question is around the idea that as I do this work and listen to what people do and how they’ve gotten to where they are, sort of their journeys, most often it comes back to the challenges that they’ve faced at some point in their lives, and found that those are really the points of our lives that are our power. I say, our past is our power, and those are the things that often have shaped who we become later on and I’m just curious, from your own experience, is there any one or two sort of challenges that you look back on and obviously in the moment, not something you’d want to experience again, but you look at it now and say, those things really were defining moments in terms of who I am?

Elizabeth:         Yes. Of course. If you’re anywhere in life, if you’re paying attention, there are things that are happening. And not to be flip, but for me there are probably 500 of those moments, but the two that really always rise up for me are … The first one was that I, for a variety of reasons, had to leave home very early and I wasn’t able to go to college right away, and so I was a secretary. And when I moved to Maine 30 years ago, the president that I worked for, I was his executive secretary, really saw something in me that I had not yet seen, and inspired me to go back to school and to take courses and to move from being a secretary. By the way, I was not that great of a typist, but I really loved working with the customers, which he noticed, and so I moved into sales and marketing and that was his vision of me that I didn’t have and I love working within communications and relationship development.

Elizabeth:         And then that, over time, over many years, led to a job that really put me in a position to do what I’m doing now is I was responsible for a national insurance company, responsible for building a program and having a relationship with a large private equity firm in New York City and helping to oversee a multi-faceted program that was health benefits for several of the companies that the equity firm owned. And I was really nervous about my ability to basically work with people that I viewed to be many levels up from the work that I had done previously, and that lesson, just going in and using the same tools that I use for everything else, right? Like if they say, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, right? And so, it looked to be this enormous project and I was feeling like oh my gosh, why did I say yes to this? And then I realized that the tools are the same. You break the project down, you collaborate with others, and then you march through and get the work done. And I was just really lucky to work with a phenomenal group of people. There were 70 different work groups on that project and now I feel like I really could handle any project that came my way and that would not have happened without the trust of those two leaders that I worked for.

Patrick:            It’s interesting, we rely on that primitive part of our brain so much, this self-preservation part for fight or flight and it often overreacts to protective ourselves. I liken it to a broken smoke detector.

Elizabeth:         Yes.

Patrick:            It goes off all the time but there’s really not an emergency. And unless we understand that, which it did now, of saying that I’ve been there before, this isn’t really a threat, I can do this, this is like burnt food on the stove. I don’t need to call the fire department. I can take care of this myself.

Elizabeth:         Exactly.

Patrick:            We can recognize those, so that certainly is a great example. So if you were to go back to that 20 year old person, what would you tell yourself today?

Elizabeth:         I would tell myself to read more, listen more, and just get in and do it. Sometimes I would get in and do things when I was 20 without any research and now research is at our fingertips. And it’s so much nicer to start at a place where you at least have some idea of what you’re trying to go after. So, I would say that and the doing is so important. Trust that inner voice and follow it because it’s there for a reason and the pausing allows us to actually hear it and then to listen to it and possibly even act on it, ideally.

Patrick:            Good advice. So, as we sort of wrap things up, any one saying or quote that you tend to rally around?

Elizabeth:         Yes. Every human matters. Every single one. And I find that my vision and my work is around helping empower individuals so that work does not feel like work. We’ve just, I think, come a long way from … You know, there’s a lot of folks at the different levels of the organizations that don’t feel empowered and I believe that it’s not hard. It takes effort to bring everybody into a place where they do feel empowered and that they matter and that’s my mission.

Patrick:            Well, it’s a great mission, and helping people understand that you always have the ability to do just a little bit more than whatever you did today, this idea of rising above your best falls directly into what you’re talking about here in terms of mindfulness and just being able to do a little bit more every day to get where you need to go. And thank you for the work that you do. It’s exciting. I love hearing about the stories and the success that you have and the environment that we’re coming into where I think this is becoming more mainstream and understood as not a nice to have, but really a need to have, both organizationally and personally. So, thank you for that and I look forward to speaking with you in the future, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth:         Thank you so much, Patrick. I really appreciate the opportunity and I love the work that you do and I believe that one day that if the companies that are not doing this work will be the anomalies, so thank you for your journey in this.

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Thank you to Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom for joining me this week.


Break Together

Emery Leadership Group