If you’ve had close dealing with cancer, this episode’s for you. The show’s guest, Matt Newman, shares his cancer journey. He ended up writing his bestselling book “Starting at the Finish Line: My Cancer Partner, Perspective and Preparation.” Matt discusses with Patrick Veroneau that the book’s underlying message is to get your financial planning in order. Today, Matt’s on a mission to help others through his book and his voice. Tune in and start at the finish line!
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Matt Newman Discusses His Bestselling Book And His Cancer Journey
Matt Talks About A Community Of Warriors That He Loves Being Connected To
If you’ve experienced cancer yourself or you know somebody that experienced cancer and been a part of it, you know how stressful that can be on all those that are involved, not only the person dealing with cancer but also all the caregivers around them. My guest is Matthew Newman. He wrote a book called Starting at the Finish Line. It is a memoir that talks about his own experience being diagnosed with cancer and having three small children at that point. He talks about the journey that he and his whole family went through together. In this episode, he talks about the book and what’s interesting is he is very honest about saying that this was a book he wrote for himself but it has such a profound impact on so many other people that read this, especially if you’ve experienced this.
He talks about things such as expectation, gratitude and discipline in regards to how he dealt with this journey. It’s one that you’re going to want to read. I’m not only obsessed with interviewing individuals whose actions are inspiring others to do great things such as Matt Newman but also in uncovering the research that demonstrates that we all have the ability to lead like no other and it starts with ourselves. When we lead like no other, we succeed like no other. Let’s get into it.
Matt, I want to thank you for being on the show. We connected through mutual connections. I saw a lot of the work that you’re doing. I heard you on a show with Tim Alison.
First of all, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here, to be able to share perspective, looking at life through different lenses and embracing that instead of objecting to it. When I wrote my book, which is called, Starting at the Finish Line, I have no problem telling you this. I literally wrote it for myself. I wrote it because when you go through difficult times or challenges in life, it’s hard often to find that catharsis out that you need. That way that you can get things off your chest and feel better. I was never a writer. I never thought about writing. My mom was a teacher. My dad was a financial advisor. I would write book reports in school when I had to and all that other stuff.
Once I got sick, writing became my catharsis. I needed this outlet, a way to get things out of me and cleanse myself. I started writing these messages and emails to friends and family. I would give them my newfound perspective on life. My understanding and appreciating of the moment and living in the now. It’s not about yesterday or tomorrow. It’s about this given time that’s special right now. I would send it out to friends and family. It was like vomiting. I got it off my chest, and I have no prompt. I never read one after that. It was like, “I feel better.” Something had to trigger it. It was usually I’m in the hospital. I’m getting a test or something which I will go through. I would send those emails out and get all these responses every day of, “Could you put my brother-in-law on there? Could you put my friend on there? Could you put my sister on there?”
I started to understand cancer differently. Cancer is like buying a car. When you buy a car, you leave the lot, and you’re driving around going, “I see this car everywhere.” The reality is the car was always there. You never noticed it to get a direct connection. That’s what happened to me in cancer. Within four years of me sending these messages out for myself to make me feel better with all the testing and everything I have to do, I had 20,000 people on an email chain. I wasn’t on social media. I never thought about it. I was like, “I’ll put them on there.” I decided, “Maybe I’ll write a book. Maybe people like my perspective. Maybe they are getting the difference between the shtick and honesty, connection and realness.”
I wrote my book and it came out on March 23, 2018. I did the whole thing myself. I did it for me. It made me feel better. I called my mom in Parsippany, New Jersey. I go, “My book is coming out today.” She goes, “No one’s going to buy it.” I go, “No one cares about me.” She goes, “You’re going to put three copies in your safe and when your kids are old enough, they’re going to be able to read it and understand what happened.” I said, “That’s awesome.”
One week later, we are number one on Amazon in four categories. My jaw dropped and I went, “Wow.” It gave me a better understanding of what people are looking for. They’re looking at another, not alone on their journey. They’re looking for inspiration that comes from honesty. That doesn’t come from some canned speech by somebody who is doing the same thing over and over from town to town. They want to know that they can connect and all of a sudden, those glasses that I look through, those new lenses, they became clearer today.
When you talk about that and I’m sure this was the experience when you’re going in for treatments into whatever cancer facility that you’re going into. There’s a sense of belongingness. In the research behind it that we see we need that belongingness. That’s exactly what it speaks to is all these people reading your story feeling as though they’re part of it. They’re connected to what you’re doing.It's not about yesterday. It's not about tomorrow. It's about this given time. Click To Tweet
I have a line I use all the time and every day. It’s, “We’re a family of warriors.” I started to get these messages from people I’ve never met in my life. I probably get five-date messages a day from people all over the world that I’ve never met when that first started to happen, “We read your book, saw you speak and on YouTube.” I was like, “This is weird. I don’t know much about social media.” I started to get it. We’re all one big family. We might be headed in different directions but we’re on that same path and family is supposed to be there for each other. It’s one thing when you hear that pity from the person going, “I hope you’re okay.” There’s another one you hear from the person on that same path that you need to go, “I’m following that guy right there. We’re in this together.” Clarity sunk in through that. I realized that we’re all in this. We are one big family of warriors and warriors look out for each other.
Along those lines, if we go back thousands of years, we are pack animals along with this community basis. What was the worst thing you did? If you voted somebody outside of that circle, that was a death sentence. You could not survive on your own and although we don’t have saber tooth tigers roaming around that, I would argue that when you’ve voted outside of a group, when you’re isolated, it looks different but it’s still a death sentence when we don’t have that sense of connection.
It’s funny you say that about the pack because one thing that happened to me, and you see this in a lot of the stuff I’ve put on social media is I became very attracted to lions. I never cared about a lion. They never meant anything to me. I put a lot of my thoughts, perspectives and quotes of honesty and integrity together. I shared them and I never expected to get the response that I was going to get. I was never on social media years ago. I didn’t want any parts of it then you realize what a tool it is to connect with other warrior members, with other people that have family members going through things where like I said, “It’s a journey, we are all similarly on.”
One day a friend of mine sends me a picture of a lion because you have the heart of a lion. He goes, “I love reading your stuff and it inspires the hell out of me. You should use this picture of a lion.” I’m sitting at my desk and going, “A lion, the hell do I care about a lion for him?” I was putting my thoughts together and I was putting them down because that was my outlet. I wasn’t sitting down with the plan to write. It was, “I need to get this out. This is how I feel. I’m seeing life differently. I want to share this with other people. They’re not alone.”
That picture of the lions on my computer screen, I’m looking at it and I use this line all the time. “This is my journey.” Cancer is along for the ride. Looking at that picture of the lion and the lion’s got this look on his face, “I’m the king of the jungle. I’ll kick your ass if I don’t like it.” I’m going, “Let me put these two things together.” I realized we are a pack alliance. That’s what we are because we have the heart of valley, fight of the warrior and heart of a lion. Sometimes we need another warrior to poke us and remind us that we can do it because cancer may take us physically but it will never take us spiritually. We own that, our destiny and how we are defined. If we allow the disease to take that over, that’s on us. We gave it to them. “It may take me away but I will leave my definitive memories to other people that I control and I’m not handing that over to anyone.” That’s the heart of a lion and the fight of a warrior.
That’s your legacy. Along those lines, when you start talking about those cancers only along for the journey, take us back to the initial diagnosis when you’re in the room and you hear what’s coming.
My father-in-law had been fighting pancreatic cancer. He got diagnosed at 60 years old. My wife and father-in-law were like two peas in a pod. My wife and I grew up in very different situations. I’m a Jewish guy. I grew up right outside New York City in Northern Jersey. My mom was a school teacher. My dad was a financial advisor. My wife grew up in Minersville, Pennsylvania, which is an old mining country. Her father was a highway construction worker. Her mom was a janitor. They lived in a small little home. We were two completely different lifestyles but we got along perfectly. We did something clicked. I heard all these negative things about in-laws. They are great people which is different but yet we were the same. When my father-in-law got diagnosed at 60 with pancreatic cancer, my wife was pregnant with our third child and made it her full-time job to be there for him every step of the way.
She would drive him back and forth, 45 minutes every day to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. For his Whipple procedure, chemo and radiation. What I saw was inspirational. They didn’t care about issues, problems this, it was you tackle the issue at hand and you’re there for the family. I watched the warrior. I remember my father-in-law with pancreatic cancer which has a very low survival rate and a short shelf life said he wanted to see all his grandkids born and my wife was pregnant with the third. He wanted them all to be old enough to have real memories of him. It was amazing when I watched it. They were there for each other and they fought. That was in 2010. In 2013, he was still fighting.
I got a car accident in Bridgewater, New Jersey. It was one of those icy, slushy crappy days. My car hydroplane into the car in front of me and I started to get these brutal headaches. My wife suffers from chronic migraines. I never had one before, so I figured 1 or 2 days later, these headaches would go away. I came home and my wife goes, “Did you go to the hospital?” I go, “No.” She goes, “I told you to go to the hospital, get checked out.” I’m like, “No but my head is killing me.” I remember my wife looking at me, “Go track in chronic migraines. I don’t want to hear about it. I got to take my dad to chemo.” Then she walked upstairs. Over the next two weeks, the pain got worse. Within weeks, I lost all ability to sleep but the focus was on my father-in-law, watching his fight, being there for him and supporting him. As this got worse, about a month into it, I was giving a speech. I speak publicly all over the place.
As I went to make a point, I felt a hot flash hit me in the face like a pregnant woman would feel. Once that hot flash hit me, slur and gurgle poured out of my mouth. I didn’t know where it was. I didn’t know what was going on but I remember seeing myself standing outside of my body saying, “You are having a stroke right now.” I got myself together. I thought it was an eternity. It turns out it was 5 to 6 seconds. I said, “Let’s get back into this. Let’s go.” I finish my presentation, walked back to my car. I was scared out of my mind. I started to have these strokes somewhat often. My wife and I were training for the Broad Street Run in Philly, the largest 10-mile in the country.
We’re running on the Towpath on the Delaware River. Beautiful, covered bridges, running along. My wife likes to talk when she runs out. I like to put a headset on and not talk to her when I’m running. As we’re running, she asked me a question. Stroke hits me. Gurgle comes out of my mouth. She stopped. She was like, “What the hell is wrong with you? I asked you a question.” I had another one of those. That was about the 4th or 5th one I had. I went to a doctor and they told me it was sinus infections. In May of that year, I had my 11th stroke and that’s when I decided at that given moment. I’m like, “I got lost but right now.” I finished my presentation, got in my car and went to the hospital. I met my wife there.
My wife has been shopping in King of Prussia, taking care of her father with chemotherapy, who was like a rollercoaster. He would go up and down. We get there. I tell them I got in a car accident and all this other stuff that happened. I can’t sleep. My head is killing me. I’m having these strokes and they give me all these CAT scans and tests. They tell me they know the problem. They said a lesion on the left frontal lobe of my brain. To me a lesion is a cutter or bruise. I’m thinking, “Freaking car accident. I probably bang my head and don’t remember it.” They told me it was causing massive pain, the ability to not sleep and I wasn’t having strokes. I was having seizures on the left frontal lobe of my brain, which affects speech and memory. This sounds difficult for a 39-year-old to take.
I was good with it. I’m like, “That’s the issue? Diagnose it. Let’s fix it now, come on. I feel better. I know the deal.” “We’re going to have to give you MRI or MRA.” At 3:00 in the morning, I have to go in for my fifth MRA or MRI. My wife says, “Matt, I’m going to go home. I make lunch for the kids.” I had three kids under five years old. “I’m going to get my dad a ride to chemotherapy and I’ll be back in an hour.” A woman comes in with a wheelchair. She goes, “Mr. Newman, jump on in the wheelchair. We got to bring it down for your MRI or MRA with contrast.” I got to run the Broad Street eight days ago so I could walk down there. I’m very into fitness. She goes, “Liability, you got to in the wheelchair.” I get in the wheelchair. This woman grabs the clipboard from behind me. He goes, “Mr. Newman, MRI or MRA with contrast, we need to see how big your brain tumor is.” That was the moment at 39. I was diagnosed with brain cancer.
By yourself at that point?
Just me. They put me in a machine. I was in it for 1.5 hours. My mind was all over the place. Brain cancer usually means you’re going to die. They brought me back, plugged me into a bunch of machines and tell me I wasn’t going anywhere. It started a fresh perspective on my life. I think about my kids. I thought about my wife. I started to cry and started to think, “Something must have initiated this.” I’m a good dad, a good son and I’m going through my mind and strength is not how big your arms are or how much you bench press. Strength is something that’s located deep down in our bellies that at the deepest and darkest of times, we can grab, find and own it.
I didn’t know I had this in me but I saw it, reached out, grabbed it and started cursing my brains out. All these nurses who still tell the story to this day come running and they go, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “I’m fine.” That was my pity party. If I was going down, I was going down swinging and there was no looking back. I didn’t know I had that in me but sometimes we have to find it at these difficult, nasty periods that we go through. The question is, “When we find it, you get to grab it and own it or let it go by you?” Once I saw it, that was not going anywhere.
What you’re speaking to talks about your own expectations. To me, “There’s not a pity party anymore. I’m taking this thing on.” How do you deal with that at that moment? This isn’t about expectation like Law of Attraction, “Think good things and this thing will disappear on its own.” This is realism in terms of the expectation of saying, “I’m going to fight this.”
One of the things I try to talk about is that when you see that strength, you grab and own it and it’s deep-rooted down in our stomachs. We all have it. I don’t know how it got there. I don’t know how it came up but when it was there for that instant, there was no doubt in my mind. “That’s mine. I’m taking it. I’m running with it.” I’ve always been into fitness, strength, running and tough mudders. That’s not strength. Strength was bringing it on. I also feel that taking that angle of owning that and making it my own allowed me to push a lot of that negativity down. “That negativity doesn’t go. I love people go, I didn’t think about it.” That’s not true.
You got to find someplace to put it and at some point outlet it someplace else. I understood that more looking back on it and I did well. I was going through it but I remember thinking that, “I’m not going anywhere and if I am, my legacy is going to be, ‘He fought like a son of a bitch.’” That’s the way it is. I didn’t know I had that in me. There’s a human component to that we all don’t know that we have access to but once you have access to it, go get it.
I’m a fitness guy. I have a tough mother. I love them. It’s discipline but a different discipline. What’s the discipline that you’re talking about that you needed to deal with what you were going through?Appreciate the time you have here, be thankful for it, and spend time with your children. Click To Tweet
The discipline I needed was to know that this is going to go one way or another. I’m not going to sit here with regret, resentment, negativity, cry and be all lethargic about things. I’m going to give it everything I got to be for my children, maintain their dad, not do damage to my parents that their son is gone, that everything pointed to me, fight and worry about everything else later. You could say, “Matt, that’s easy to say here or there.” It’s not easy to say but there’s a lot of things I don’t control. I control that and that’s what I was taken advantage of. Are there nerves? There is. Do you get scared about certain things? Yes, but once I bought into that, I didn’t look back and I’m no one different than anybody else but I realized that if other people can do it, I can.
Let me give you a point of what I’m saying. I had to get an EEG done. What they did is they put all these things all over my head. It takes them about three hours to put them all up and tape everything around my head. They had to monitor me for 24 hours because I’m going to go through major brain surgery and get a craniotomy. They’re going to pull part of my jaw off, take the tumor out and then they will find out the severity of it about ten days later. This woman’s got a tape all this stuff on my head put everything. My wife says she goes, “I’m going to leave the room. My parents are calling and I got to call your parents. They’re going to be here in a little while.” I’m like, “Okay.” This woman is standing behind me, putting all this stuff on so I can’t see her. I’m lying in a hospital bed. It is connected to 30 different machines and this woman, when Rebecca walks out the door, my wife, she goes, “Mr. Newman, can I talk to you?” I go, “Yes.” She goes, “I had a brain tumor 7.5 years ago.” I go, “Really?”
The next thing you know, she’s answering all my questions. I’m rubbing the scar on her head and you know what’s going through my mind? If she can do this, I can do this. She’s telling me her deficiencies, what she can’t do, what she could do but the other component I started to understand was that I’m not alone. There are other people out there that have dealt with this. There’s no pity party. She could do this. She inspired me and that was the moment I stopped believing in irony. I started to realize, “There is no way this woman in this huge hospital is in my room doing this if it wasn’t meant for a reason. I can embrace that reason, take it and make it mine or I could let it walk and there’s no way that was going to happen.” I’ll never forget that. There’s a picture of her in my book.
I’m a believer in that too that the things are put in front of us. It’s our decision on whether we’re going to open the door and let those things in or let it keep going by. As you look back over that process, is there a moment where you looked at that from the standpoint of gratitude?
The biggest gratitude moment I had is probably one that I’ll never forget. After I went through everything and ten days later, I’d find out the severity of it. There were hopes that it’s 2.5 centimeters and maybe it’s not that big deal. When I went in, they told me I had grade three astrocytoma, which is an aggressive form of brain cancer. It’s not a glioblastoma which is very difficult but the next level down is an astrocytoma and it was a higher grade. They’re like, “Matt, you’re going to have to go through chemo and radiation.” I prepared myself for that. I figured it. I was put in my place very quickly when I started chemotherapy. I thought I was this badass, I remember. I was wearing a tank top.
I was like, “Bring it on.” I’m going to work out every day. This is never going to change me and that happened. I did work out every single day, regardless of what I was dealing with chemo and radiation but I realized how strong chemotherapy was and how difficult road it was going to be. When I would go through radiation, I would go there and told them I wanted the earliest time they can give me. They started at 7:00 AM. They said, “Mr. Newman, we have a 7:15.” Radiation only took about 8 to 9 minutes. It was almost like getting an X-ray. It’s the lethargy and the beating you up would build up over time, like stacking blocks, so you get into it a few weeks and would start to feel it but I was appreciating the now. I was living in the moment.
I was seeing life through these other lenses and I would go there with my suit on. I was going to work and enjoy life. I could work all day long and beat up. I’m going to go home and like, “This is mine. I’m going to appreciate the time I have here, be thankful for it and spend time with my children. I’m going to take these lessons and own them.” The woman who went before me was about 4’11. I’d say 70 to 75 pounds. She was a little Mexican woman. Her son who was probably in his 50s would walk her in every day. She could barely walk. He would walk her to get her radiation. He would come back in the room where I was then when she was done, he would get her. I would go in and get my treatment and I was going to go, “This is my day. I’m going to do the things I want to do.”
I’m two weeks into it. They came up to me and go, “Mr. Newman, the woman who goes before you, her six weeks are done. Would you like the 7:00 AM time slot?” I said, “I’ll take a 5:00 AM time slot. If you’ll give it to me but 7:00 AM sounds wonderful.” They said, “If you’d like, we do a ceremony after people go through radiation here and they finish. It’s an amazing accomplishment. We sing songs, say prayers and ring a gong. We’re about to do that in the hallway. Would you like to join us?” I remember looking at this woman and my suit and tie going, “I’m okay, thank you. I’m going to sit here and do some work on my iPad but when you’re ready you come get me and let’s go.”
She left the room and I opened my iPad up to get back to work. I saw my reflection and I’ll clean my language up. I said, “Who the hell do you think you are? We are a family of warriors. You couldn’t support your family for what she’s been through? Shame on you.” I got up, walked outside of that room and I saw this macerated woman where I knew everything was going with the biggest smile on her face, grab that gong, ring that thing, see the happiness and appreciate and I start to cry. I called my wife up. I said, “You will be at this with me.” This is real and that’s where I learned about gratitude, strength, life and I’ll never forget that moment. I’m beyond thankful for what that woman taught me.
I immediately think of empathy of what that must provide you in looking at other people. You said you were a group of warriors and you could feel what she was feeling.
I will never forget seeing my reflection in that back on. “Who do you think you are? We’re all in this together.” That’s one of those moments where I could have stuck to old ways or said, “No, I need to be a part of this.” I cried. I was like, “That is the lesson that says it all to me right there and that was real.” It’s something that the respect I have for all the employees who get together, to do this every day for people as they been on this journey with them, I don’t think they’re lauded nearly enough for the commitment that they put in and the help that they provide to people.
To have to see that on an ongoing basis. In terms of the victories but also the ones that don’t make it, that’s a tough place to be.
That’s one of the reasons I talk about the, “Defining of our legacies and what we own,” because if we look at it as a life-death situation, we’re all going down the same tube at some point but there are things we can control that once we’re not here physically that people remember us by. It’s hard to look at that sometimes but when you do, when you take a peek at that, you realize you have a lot more say in defining yourself than you realize.
There’s something else that I think about too as you talk about that situation where you’re saying the nurses, staff don’t get enough of how important it is. We’re all in this together. We need to support each other through very difficult times. I do a lot of work in healthcare now on the leadership side, team building and I realize that without that support, that unit to hold each other up it’s very exhausting to be in that and feel like you’re on an island that you’ve got to figure this out on your own. We’re not meant to have to do that.
I also think that there’s power in numbers and having the support of other people. What I started to have a better understanding of was people want to not generally think about things. My catharsis came to write, share, put it on social media, email and all this stuff that I was referring to. Do you know what I started to better understand? Whether it’s cancer or other issues families have taken on, most people only want to talk about it with people who have been through it, “I would get mad. Thanks for sharing this shit.” “No, I’m doing this for me. That’s great you say that. This is my angle I found to alleviate a lot of the fear and anxiety that we pushed down into our stomachs.” I started to have a better perspective that when someone needs to talk, that’s the obligation. That’s what family does. They may not have friends or family that know what they’re going through but if they know somebody else’s, they feel comfortable having that conversation. It allowed me to look at life a little bit differently.
You put this all together after a period of time writing a book about it. To me, that speaks to your desire now to almost pay this forward or to share your experiences to help other people. What are your thoughts on that? How do you do that?
That’s a very good question as well too because I wrote the book for me. I am so glad about what it’s doing. I couldn’t be prouder, more excited to be helping people and meeting people all over the world on a daily basis and letting them know they’re not alone. Having conversations where someone’s not talking down to them like, “How are you feeling?” I hated when people did that, “Treat me like me. This is not defining me. I define myself.” I did it for myself and the reason it’s done so well is because people are looking for honesty. We are so sick of this shtick in the garbage that we see on TV and people have no education is trying to educate us on certain topics.
They want honesty. They don’t want some guy paid by some company telling you why you should use this deodorant. They want to know that I’m not alone and that other people have been through it. “If you could do this, maybe I could do this. Maybe we share something in common. Maybe it’s not the end of the world.” The reason it’s done so well is because there was never a business plan. I never sat down and was like, “Let’s write a book.” That was my outlet to deal with the anxiety I was putting in a different spot. That’s all that it was and what that created was purity.
It sounds like the book also has a very important role in terms of helping people to take a look at which something that can be a life-altering event. How do you prepare for that financially?
One of the things I point out to people is that I was born into the financial services industry. My dad was a financial advisor. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, you learn a lot of lessons in life that you get them at this young age but they don’t make sense until much later on. When I say the term financial planning and I talk about people having preparation and planning, they immediately think it’s about money. It’s not about money or investing. It’s about having a plan in place to give a family good news when they need it the most. It’s having a plan in place so I cannot deal with regret, resentment and take on the fight at hand instead of going, “I should have done this or that.”Find something to inspire you because you'll inspire other people. Click To Tweet
The basics of having a plan in place is for one thing, power of attorney. My wife will have the ability to make all the necessary decisions on everything that we have so I could focus on the fight. I can go on legal Zoom and do that for $20. Having a will or how do I want things distributed. Basic little things, Life insurance planning. I go, “You need a lot of money.” No, you don’t. You can do it through your company a lot of times, depending on who you work for. I did a TED Talk and part of one of the talks that I did says, “Our US education system is flawed.” We prepare people for the real world. We teach them subjects where some go to high school and then they go into their lives.
Some go to college then they go into their lives. Some go to grad school. They go to become doctors or lawyers. We teach them nothing about what an employee benefit or nothing about a 401(k) is. When you make money, when you’re doing, “Go use a financial advisor or use a professional like use a doctor or a mechanic,” but we have to give people some basic information when something bad happens, they can go, “That’s done. What are we going to do? Let’s fight. Let’s get it. I don’t have to worry about that.” That’s the downside of our education system from my perspective.
Was that part of your thought as you get the diagnosis? I’m guessing your brain goes to, “What’s going to happen to everybody else?”
When I got diagnosed and went through everything, I was laying in the bed, I had my pity party then my wife and the surgeon come in and tell me they’re going to do full surgery. My wife turns to me, she goes, “My parents and your parents are on the way over.” First of all, her dad wasn’t my father-in-law any longer. Here’s my cancer partner. He was showing me the way I handle things with independence and dignity. It happened for a reason but I also know this. When your parents hear that your son has brain cancer, he’s going to die. I knew my parents were going to come in, be supportive and give me that fight but I also knew I’d see the look in their eyes of anger, anxiety and fear.
I turned to my wife, “Give me the iPad really quick.” She goes, “They’ll be here in like minutes. Do you want to watch a movie?” “Give me the iPad.” The first thing I pulled up was my will. The only person not in my will was my daughter. My two sons were and my wife but for those with does not understand comprehensive planning. She didn’t have to be in it. Everything would funnel through my wife and then she could make changes later on. All my life insurance planning was done. My power of attorney was done. The basics that everything would be taken care of was done. I remember going, “Every speech I ever gave was about me. I didn’t know it yet. I was the shoemaker’s kid who had shoes.” What it allowed me to do is avoid this downward spiral of negativity. This would have, could have, should have. People want what they can’t get. When I talk a lot about how financial planning help, it’s the basic structure to make sure everything had a box checked so I could focus on the issue not wish I would’ve focused on the issue.
I do believe that’s it. It allowed you to take all that energy and focus on the enemy. We’re coming into the start of a new year, a new decade. Everybody has resolutions. They’re going to do all these things. “This is going to be different. I’m going to get healthy this year.” Does any of that creep in for you? Having gone through this in terms of looking at I’m not going to take advantage of this situation anymore. I’m going to appreciate it all the time. Did you ever catch yourself at moments of saying, “How do I make sure that I don’t fall back?”
I wrote a blog on this. If you go on my website, you could see it. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. It’s temporary. I believe in life changes. You change something in your life. You’re changing it for good. You do a New Year’s resolution, go to your gym. Now it’s packed and go in six weeks and you’ll see there’s nobody in there. Everybody makes this resolution and it goes right the other way. I tell the surgeons this all the time, I wish they weren’t so good. TI had a huge C-cut in the side of my head, a massive scar.
You could barely see it now unless I shaved my head. I told the surgeon, Dr. Mins, one time, “I wish you guys weren’t so good” “What the hell is that mean?” I go, “I can’t see my scar at all.” He goes, “I know we did amazing work.” It was a huge scar. He said, “We did great work.” I go, “I wish it was a big ugly scar and I could see it every day.” He goes, “What?” I go, “If I’m in a bad mood, business problems, kids are annoying, I want to look in my rearview mirror and I want to see that scar. I want to take a deep breath and go, never give back the lessons you were given.”
I had to find an antithesis to do that. What I found was I need to find something that I will see on a daily basis that will never allow me to give these gifts that I have taken from cancer. That’s what they are back that will always remind me of them and to go back to what we talked about with the lion. I got my whole shoulder done in a lion tattoo. Every day, when I get out of the shower, I will look at it. Every day, when I changed my clothes, I will be reminded that this is something that I’m going to take advantage of for the rest of my life not for a short period of time.
I don’t have a tattoo on my arm that does that but I do believe we all need one of those things that’s the trigger that reminds us of don’t go back. For me, in our bathroom, my tagline is, “Rise above your best,” and a lot of my work in my own belief is I spent a younger part of my life looking at what other people had and struggling with, “I didn’t have that,” as opposed to looking and saying, “I can get that too. I’m going to put the work in. Don’t measure myself against them. Measure it against myself.” It’s rise above your best and I have that on my mirror in my bathroom that I see every day and the idea is to say that whatever happened yesterday, there’s an opportunity for me to get a little bit better on something today but it’s nobody else’s. It’s my best.
We try to create these generalizations of, “Here’s what’s going to do this.” You got to make it yours. I use this foolish analogy. For anybody who’s a Yankee fan on here, you would never teach somebody Don Mattingly’s batting stance but it worked for him. He won an MVP. We have to find some things and translate them into, “How does this work for me?” If you would have said to me prior to call this that you’re going to tattoo up your left arm with warriors and lions to make sure you never get those back because I’m going to wear a suit and tie every single day, who is in finance, I would have said, “Are you out of your mind?” That became my thing.
The difference was I didn’t resist change. Change does two things. It breeds opportunity or complacency. This furthered my belief that I’m open to new stuff. I’m not set in my ways. You shouldn’t have to go through a difficult time to learn some of these basic lessons of life but change was something I looked at and I embrace it greatly now because if I see something else that will help me go in a different direction, it helped me maintain these gifts that I’ve been given. I’m willing to give it a try.
It’s hard at times if you’re not that person to look at other people and think, “If you pushed a little or explored a little, you could overcome this.” You realize that you can’t do that for other people that they need to figure this out themselves. You can support.
I started to realize through these speeches that I was giving, book and social media, sometimes people need the lead on someone else to push them through when their goal is not to push them through to share their experiences. I never thought twice about telling anybody what to do in any way whatsoever. It made me feel better to get my stuff out and then to hear, “Thank you. I did this right. I tried,” and I found, “You didn’t do what I did but you had a reason to find your thing, whatever it was going to be.” Sometimes people need that push but what works best is when there’s no intention to push them. That’s what I found. That’s what people are attracted to, when someone’s not looking for something. They’re not looking to sell them on something. They’re finding pure belief.
There was a person that I’d worked with years ago that once said that, “Unsolicited advice can be worse than no advice at all.” I try and remember that often when I want to tell somebody, “This is how you should do it. This is how you get out of this.” If they haven’t asked specifically or reached out to me with the challenge that they’re looking for, something to help on because I know that there are times where people aren’t necessarily looking for you to give them the answer but to listen.
One of the mistakes we make, whether it’s in sales, being a professional, often being a friend or family member, we talk first, listen later. Sometimes it’s good to sit there and let someone talk to you. I’ve had conversations with people where I said three words in an hour and you get a hug going, “I needed that talk.” You’re going, “I didn’t say a word right there.” We have to be better receptive. That’s not about us. If we make it about the person we’re with, they don’t forget that.
To me listening is the greatest superpower that we have. You know and I know that when somebody listened to you, it feels different as opposed to somebody that humors you, to just listen.
It’s something that you always have to work on and be reminded of because our minds can go in all these different directions but it’s okay to focus on somebody and let them feel appreciative of the time you’re spending with them.
Anything that you’ve looked at in your own life that you’re surprised about how you’ve reacted or where it’s gone?
I deal a lot with people who have been through various diseases. I told you every day we talk to people and you would think it’s about brain cancer. It’s not. It’s any type of cancer. People who’ve been through divorces, suicides. People are looking for a person they could have a conversation with which has no dog in the fight that wants to support them that’s taken on their challenges. I’ve seen a lot of people that have been through some difficult times, going through cancers, who’ve had the same stuff that I’ve had passed away, who can’t remember as well, can’t drive or talk as well. They’re still there, still experiencing, still sharing life but it’s changed much differently. May 2013 is when I was diagnosed. I don’t have any side effects. Why me?
I went through chemo, radiation, massive surgery. Every five months, I get an MRI and they tell me it’s most likely going to grow back but it’s not there went from 3 to 4 to 5 months but I don’t have any side effects. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say there are times I sit there and go, “How did I get through this?” I can go back in May and they could say, “It’s grown back.” They tell me, “It’s most likely going to grow back.” Up until that point, I don’t have deficiencies. I’m healthy, the same person I was. To be honest, there are times I started to wonder, “How am I that guy?” Most people I know may start to move back up in their ability to be better but they never get back to where they were.
My memory and speech are the same. I don’t feel any different. Fitness-wise I’m the same. I can’t see my scar and it made me somewhat question why me but I try to look at it as it happened for a reason. It happened so we can continue to do the things that we’re doing but I wouldn’t be honest with you if I didn’t say I thought about, “How have I had no problems?” Other than not including anxiety and fear but physically, I haven’t had any issues and the majority of people you see have something.
If there’s somebody reading that’s going through this, what would you offer them if they came to you and said, “Matt, help me through this?”
Number one, you’re not alone. Reach out to people. There are support groups. We’re all here for each other. Don’t ever feel bashful or ashamed. Shoot me a message. If you need a text, call, whatever it’s going to be. That’s what family does. We are a family of warriors. Number two, don’t read anything on the internet about your disease. Zero, no one has any idea whether it’s right or not, deal with great doctors, find people that will take care of you and work with them and listen to them.
If you need second opinions or one that’s fine, go to other doctors, but whatever you’re going to read on the internet, when it comes to cancer is going to say death. You don’t need to hear that. Work with people. Don’t waste your time building up this fear, angst and scaredness. Deal with people you trust and believe in. That will help you overcome a lot of the obstacles that are out there. I’m sitting in my kitchen. First day, I came home and I had like a second head on me. I’m a mess, appreciating life, seeing my children and home is where the heart is.
I’m so happy to be there because I never thought I’d be back. I looked up brain cancer on the internet. I was sitting in our kitchen at the island and my wife’s cooking. I pulled that up and 30 seconds later, she heard the laptop close and go, “What the bleep was that?” I go, “Everything I read about was, ‘You’re going to die.’” I have never looked it up since many years. I’ll look up things on other people, ways I could help them this. When it comes to the medical component of it, I’ll deal with the doctors at Capital Health in Hopewell, New Jersey. I don’t need anybody else telling me anything.
How do you help somebody that’s not going through this, but a family member or somebody else because that to me is a whole different involvement of stress and anxiety for those that are caregivers of the person going through this? From your own experience, what would you suggest on that?
One, they are not alone as well too. When I say, “We’re a family of warriors,” they’re included in that family. Let me be abundantly clear on that. This is not for the patient. This is for the family because we’re all now being affected in some fashion by this awful disease. I get a lot of people that write notes to the books. They buy books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I’ll tell them I’ll buy it on there to send it to them and not charging anything for that. “Just send me the shipping.” I’ll write a note to someone. Sometimes they need that personal connection to go, “I need inspiration.” It comes from unintended inspiration.
If you’re trying to get up there and give the win one for the Gipper speech, maybe it doesn’t happen. Who our real inspiration comes from is for someone who is trying to share something out of honesty, showing integrity. That’s where it comes from. I never wrote my book to inspire soul and of all our reviews. It’s inspirational that I’m going, “Do You know why it says that? Because that was not the point. The point was to feel better, share my story and get it off my chest.” I would tell those people, “Find something to inspire you because you’re inspiring other people that you might not know but you are especially when you’re there for people.”
Matt, what’s the best way for somebody if they wanted to have you come into their organization to speak or to get in touch with you?
The easiest way is my website it’s MatthewSNewman.com. On there, we have everything. Our podcast, TED Talks, our interviews, my interview on ESPN. We also have all the things we do, ways to get the book which is mostly through Amazon for the most part. We have ways to find out information about our speaking and we speak all over the country and in multiple different venues, it originally started off doing finance and helping people like the necessity of planning and the realness of what we go through in life. It’s gone into everything from pharmaceutical companies to large church congregate, things you never expected because you realize everybody’s dealt with it in some fashion or another. That’s what they’re looking for.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated this conversation and you sharing your journey with me. It’s certainly inspirational. Thank you for that.
Thank you and the honor was mine. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity and whatever we can do to help people, let them know they are not alone. That’s our mission.
We need each other. Thanks again.
Matt Newman is a beast. That was such an incredible interview and so inspiring to talk about his journey, the perspective, where he has come because of that and what it has done. It’s one of those things that we all have an opportunity to take, pause and look at these things in terms of when these happen in our own lives, “What does that do? Do we get stronger? Do we get weaker because of it?” From Matt’s own experience, he got stronger because of it. There are things that he’s taken away, things that he wants to make sure that he doesn’t forget. It was interesting as he talked about the scar in his head saying the surgeons did too good a job.
It was one of those that he wanted to look in the mirror and see that. Even though he says that, it sounds to me from our conversation, he’s doing a pretty good job of keeping this thing front and center in regards to how he lives his life going forward. If you know someone you think would find this episode helpful, I ask you to forward it to them. It would mean the world to me if you’d leave a rating or a comment because that’s how this message continues to get out there. Until our next episode, I hope you can do two things. One is lead like no other and the other is to rise above your best.
- Starting at the Finish Line
- Show – Change Breeds Complacency Or Opportunity with Matt Newman on Apple Podcasts
- Barnes & Noble – Starting at the Finish Line: My Cancer Partner, Perspective and Preparation
About Matt Newman
Matthew S. Newman is a father, husband and financial services wholesaler by day. Matthew authored Starting At The Finish Line and now travels the world delivering keynote talks to audiences of thousands. His battle with brain cancer at a young age coupled with his financial planning expertise helps audiences learn and be motivated by Matthew’s preparation for the unthinkable and his successful battle with cancer.
If you want to be a leader that is well respected and has a good influence, you need to lead like no other. Join your host Patrick Veroneau as he explains how you can do just that. Learn how to create an environment where others are inspired, empowered, and compelled to say yes to your requests. Join in for the ultimate blueprint on how to be a great leader that has the ability to inspire those around you.
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Why Leading Like No Other Is A Blueprint For Gaining Followers
How To Inspire, Empower And Compel Others
What does it mean to lead like no other? If you’ve seen any of my posts and if you’re reading this, you know that that’s the name of it, Lead Like No Other. This episode is about explaining what it means to lead like no other, and it’s not to say that there’s only one person, “I’m the only one that can lead like no other.” There’s a different approach here, and also a different approach to what is involved to create an environment where you learn to lead like no other because in the environment that we’re in, it certainly is something that is necessary.
In regards to leadership and the development of leaders, we’ve missed the mark in many areas in regards to what it means to lead. We’ve overcomplicated it. Hopefully, this model will help to shed some light in terms of a blueprint or a diagram of what it means to lead like no other. I’m not only obsessed with interviewing those whose actions are inspiring others to do great things and to lead like no other, but also to uncover the research that demonstrates that we all have the ability to lead like no other. As you’ll find out in this episode, it starts first with ourselves. When we lead like no other, we succeed like no other. Let’s get into it.
If you’ve seen any of my posts on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook, the tagline that I’ve used quite regularly now is around the ‘lead like no other’ blueprint. I talk about it in terms of leaders are learners. There are three things that I’m going to talk about in this episode that are going to help identify what it means to lead like no other, and what’s created when we do lead like no other. When we lead like no other, we do three things. We inspire others, we empower others, and we compel others. This is not about only one person who can lead like no other. It’s not, “I’m the only one that can do this.” It’s deeper than that. It’s more about learning who you are yourself. There’s not a cookie-cutter to leadership. There are certain behaviors that transcend whatever personality you are that are beneficial, but there’s not one way to lead. It’s important from that standpoint that when you understand how to lead like no other, you do a couple of things first. One, you focus on self-awareness and secondly, you focus on an awareness of others.If you're going to inspire, empower and compel others, then you need to be able to do that with yourself first. Click To Tweet
When I talk about self-awareness, if I’m not in a good place myself as a leader, it certainly makes it much difficult for me to inspire others to follow where I want to go. To start with, if I’m going to be an effective leader, if I’m going to inspire, empower and compel others, I need to be able to do that with myself first. There are four components that we need to address personally to put us in the best place that we can lead. Those are physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual. When we talk about physical, there are episodes where I talk about the importance of exercise, that if we’re not physically in good shape, it can be a deficit for us. Spiritually, I talk a lot about mindfulness and meditation. If we’re not in a place where we’re able to calm ourselves and be aware of ourselves to pause and calm down, I think that’s another area where it becomes a deficit for us to inspire others. There’s the emotional component, whether it’s dealing with emotional intelligence or intelligently emotional behaviors. That’s not meant to be manipulative, it’s simply about understanding my emotions. Intelligently, how do I manage these?
The other part of that in regards to emotion is understanding personalities. I am a proponent of DISC but certainly, there were other models that are out there that could be valuable or are valuable, but it’s important to understand personality as well. Lastly, it’s around intellectual. Self-awareness of intellectual, and that’s the cognitive component of our being. It could be our ability to be decisive, to analyze things in a way that helps us to when we’re able to do that, inspire others. We can develop that skill as well through learning. Again, leaders are learners. Once we’ve understood ourselves, we can apply that same approach to being aware of others. That becomes important in terms of how we inspire others. First, we have to be aware of how others operate. Personality and emotional intelligence are very important. From there, when we look in regards to the inspiring, the empowering and the compelling, what I’ve done is I’ve created a Venn Diagram that the intersection of all three of these is necessary to lead like no other.
The first part of this in regards to having followers around us that are inspired, what they say is, “I want to do it.” Whatever it is that I proposed, I’ve been able to position it in a way or treat them in a way that those people that are following where I want to go want to do it. I have provided them with the insight or the why as to why we’re doing this, but also it comes down to behaviors in terms of how I have treated this individual over a period of time. One of the models or blueprints that I use quite often is around cables. I speak about that in several of the episodes that I’ve done around the six behaviors that build relationship bridges: congruence, appreciation, being for others, listening, empathy and in specific, setting clear expectations. Those behaviors create an environment where we inspire other people to trust that they can follow where we want to go.
When we move on past the inspire part, “That’s great. I want to do it, but then am I empowered to do it?” We can think of that as the, “I have the ability to do it.” Not only do I want to do it, but also I am empowered that I have the ability to do it. There were a couple of things that come into play here. One is skillset. Have I highlighted this person’s skills? Have I given them clear expectations in regards to understanding how they’re going to be able to do this? There are multiple behaviors in there. Again, clear expectations is the most important in terms of making sure that people understand what is it that I’m asking them to do. As important as well as do they have the autonomy to be able to do it? Do they feel empowered or do I micromanage them or watch over them, or I don’t give them the space to be able to make a mistake or to make a decision on their own. I’m on them all the time. We know when we do that, it creates an environment where people lack engagement because they don’t feel as though they have any autonomy.
The second part of that second ring within the Venn Diagram is around empowered. Have I created the ability where the person says, “I have the ability to do whatever that is that I’m asking them to do?” Lastly, in regards to the Venn Diagram is around compelled. What that says is, “I will commit to doing it.” What’s important here is that if we think back to the inspired component to this where somebody says, “I want to do it,” there are many things that I want to do or I might say, “I want to go to the gym.” That doesn’t necessarily mean I am going to be motivated or committed to going to the gym. I want to go to the gym but is that final piece there, that mortar between the bricks of all the things that I need to do, is that holding this thing together? To me, that’s the compelling part, that’s the commitment to this.
We need all three of these things. When we talk about the compelling component to it, a lot of the work that I do in terms of helping leaders develop skills or behaviors that create an environment that’s more compelling is around influence and understanding both influence and irrationality. There are multiple episodes that I’ve produced that speak to the importance of understanding influence and ethical influence is what’s important here. This is not about manipulation or coercion. This is about how I understand the natural principles of influence to be able to lead people into a place that they want to say yes to whatever my request is. We need all three of these. Leading like no other is about all three of these. It’s creating an environment where somebody says, “I want to do it. I have the ability to do it, and I will commit to doing it.” When we’re able to develop an environment that involves all three of those in our followers, we are leading like no other.Leaders are learners. Click To Tweet
When we looked at one of these rings being missing, I’ll give you a few examples. One is if I have somebody that’s both inspired and empowered, but they’re not compelled, oftentimes we will see this within organizations or individually. We’ll call it the flavor of the month where people certainly say, “I want to do this. I’ve been to a one-day workshop that we had, and I have the ability to do it because the tools that we learned there are great.” What happens if there’s no ability to develop this habit and over a period of time, that commitment, that being compelled to want to stick with this dissipates and deteriorates. Without that compelling component to it, we have a flavor of the month. Most that have worked within organizations are very familiar with the new direction we’re going to go with a new initiative and it fades off quickly because there isn’t a real compelling reason to do this.
The next one that you could run into, though, you could have somebody that is inspired and compelled but they don’t feel empowered. They don’t have the ability to do it, maybe they don’t have the skillset. They’re committed to it, “I want to be able to do this, but I don’t think I’ve got the skills or I haven’t been given the autonomy to be able to go off and take a risk or a chance or be allowed to be in a place where I will fail.” When we don’t have that empowerment component to it, when we only have the inspired and the compelled, I believe we’re set up to fail. That’s what happens when empowerment is missing or there’s a setup to fail component there.
Lastly, when I have somebody that is empowered and also compelled that they could say, “I’m empowered. I know that I have the skills. I’ve been given the tools to do this. I have the autonomy, but maybe it’s something that has been directed to me. I’m committing to doing this, but it’s not something that I willingly wanted to commit to do this.” We know when that happens, what are we missing? We’re missing the inspiration where the individual has their own why behind this. The motivation behind this is an external motivation that’s put on us by somebody else, by our manager or our leader, but it’s not something that I’ve internalized. For real effective outcomes, we know that if we can get to the place where people are internally motivated to go, where we’re asking them to go, the likelihood of not only the quality of the job but also the likelihood that it will be finished is far greater than if it’s me telling somebody what to do.
That is the diagram or the blueprint for what it means to lead like no other. When we were in a place where we were able to, through our actions, create followers that are inspired, empowered and compelled, the likelihood that we’re going to be successful in whatever undertaking that is, is exponentially greater than if we don’t have all three of those components to it. Part of the leading like no other is it starts with ourselves. It starts with our ability to be physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually at our best. If we don’t focus on ourselves first, how can we ever expect to inspire anybody else to want to follow us as well?
I hope you found this episode valuable. If you know somebody you think might benefit from this, I would ask that you forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, I would ask you to please subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you’d leave a rating and a comment on either this episode or any other episode that you found helpful in your own growth or direction and learning to lead like no other. Until our next episode, I hope you do two things. One is to lead like no other and the other is to rise above your best. Peace.
John Lee Dumas, the Host of EOFire, joins this episode to share his mindset and perception in making a daily podcast possible despite all the warnings of those around him. He explains the power of expectation, especially if coupled with discipline and gratitude. John also talks about how social media masks all the hard work and effort that happens behind the scenes to raise awareness that creating content isn’t as easy as it seems. Learn how he took his experience in the army and incorporated it in his strategies as an entrepreneur and his tactics in overcoming stressful situations with gratitude. Know and understand the importance of having a plan as he emphasizes that a goal without a plan is nothing but a wish.
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EOFire host John Lee Dumas Talks About Expectation, Discipline, Gratitude and His Success
John Lee Dumas or otherwise known as JLD, is the host of the podcast Entrepreneurs on Fire, which when it started out was a daily podcast. For anybody that has put together a daily podcast, that’s a lot of work. The mentors and those that were helping him put his podcast together, told him, “John, you’re crazy to do a podcast every single day that you’re going to burn out.” He took that challenge on and clearly has been successful at it because he’s had over 2,000 episodes. He has million-plus listeners a month. He’s generated business out of this that nets over seven figures of income every year and has done some incredible things.
He interviewed some amazing people. Everybody from Gene Simmons to Tony Robbins, which was in an episode that I love and certainly he’s been much more involved with. In our episode, he speaks about three important things. One is in terms of how he created his success or God through his challenges. We talked about expectation, discipline and gratitude and how each of those, in his own words, he has leveraged to as help to get him to where he is and how those things based on our conversation will probably continue to propel him toward future success in his business and in his life. I’m not only obsessed with interviewing those whose actions are inspiring others to do great things such as John Lee Dumas does, but also in uncovering the research that demonstrates that we all have the ability to lead like no other and it starts with ourselves. When we lead like no other, we succeed like no other. Let’s get into it.
Thank you for being on the show, John. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me in terms of me starting up my show. As I was thinking about us talking a lot of the background behind you, everything that’s out there is all about your success and how well you’ve done. To me, that’s the curse with social media at times is that we don’t see all of the work that goes in behind the scenes, the struggle, the challenges, and my hope was to be able to talk to you about a couple of different words. One is the expectation, another is discipline and another is gratitude. See how those fit into how you’ve succeeded, where you are. First off, thinking back to when you first started your own podcast and expectation, how does that wordplay into your success?
One thing that I do look back of my life and one area that I continually have a similar outcome on is playing to win. I did it when I was a little kid and when I was playing with my little sister, no matter whether it’d be a game of cards, I was a one and a half year older than her. I should have let her win, but I was always like playing to win the same thing in athletics, in college and in the military. My expectation when I launched Entrepreneurs on Fire was, I was playing to win. I was planning to come into the podcast game and completely dominate.You’re not going to be good on day one, but with consistency you can get good quickly. Click To Tweet
I wanted to be the first person to successfully launch a daily podcast, interviewing the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. I did it from a place not too far where you are and that’s 99 Silver Street, right in the Old Ports in Portland, Maine. That’s where I launched Entrepreneurs on Fire. I remember I hired my mentor, Jaime Masters, and I joined Cliff Ravenscraft, who’s the Podcast Answer Man’s Mastermind. I told both of them, as well as the other people in the mastermind, what my goals were with Entrepreneurs on Fire, which was a daily podcast, interviewing an entrepreneur seven days a week. Both of them said, “We love your passion, love your excitement, but reel it back because you’re not going to be able to continue with that schedule, finding guests, you’re going to get burned out, your listeners will get burned out. It’s a lose all the way around.”
My expectations were to come into dominate. Not to come in and do what everybody else was doing, which was a weekly podcast or at most, a couple of days per week, I wanted to come in. Go all in and have the expectation that I was going to become the number one podcast that interviewed entrepreneurs daily. I was also going to be the worst podcast that did it daily. That was the only podcast I was going to do it daily interviewing entrepreneurs. That was my expectation from day one was to come in, to blow the doors off, and another thing that was going to be attached to that was important was, I was bad at my craft.
I didn’t know how to interview people, to podcast, to host a podcast interview, nor to direct a question and answer session with another individual human being. I didn’t know any of these things. It was I going to get good at it, doing it once a week. I don’t know the things that you consider yourself good at, but you didn’t get good at them doing them 50 times a year. You got good at doing them 50 times a day. You didn’t go out and practice one foul shot when you were playing basketball and go home. You practice 500 foul shots and then you went home. That’s the attitude I wanted to bring to Entrepreneurs on Fire was the expectation that, “I’m not going to be good from day one, but I am going to get good quick because I’m going to do it consistently. I’m going to have repetitions. I’m going to go all in. I’m going to put in those reps.” My expectations from day one were not realistic. They were to come in and blow the doors off, make things happen, but sometimes those unrealistic expectations have a way of coming.
It’s interesting you say that because we think of expectation, the law of attraction. Maybe, you certainly had a belief that things are going to work out, but on top of that, you have the discipline, which is that next word that I talk about, making it happen. I hear you talked a lot about stoicism. How did those things play into your success?
Let’s break down that word discipline. When I look at the word discipline, I’m hearing the word disciple. When I hear the word disciple, what am I being? I’m being a disciple of a plan of action. You hear a lot of people run the New Year they have this goal or that goal and all these different things. I ask them, “What’s your plan to accomplish that goal?” They step back and they say, “I don’t know.” I’m like, “A goal without a plan is a wish.” If you want to go ahead and a wish, that’s okay. I know that most people want more than that.
Going back to my military days, when I got disciplined, instilled into me. I was going to war. I was going to Iraq for thirteen months as a tank platoon leader. That means a 23-year-old Second Lieutenant in charge of four tanks, sixteen men, and a platoon of tanks in Iraq, in a war. I knew that if I wasn’t disciplined, if I didn’t take what I was doing seriously and creates a plan of action, then I was going to fail. Failure in that situation meant either myself possibly getting killed, my soldiers potentially getting killed, and putting other people in real harm’s way. I was able to take that real world, scary war environment, and apply entrepreneurship. I didn’t pretend that I was putting people’s lives at risk, but I took that same discipline, create a plan of action, and said, “This is how I’m going to win.”
When Jaime Masters and Cliff Ravenscraft, the best by the way, in the industry and podcasting back in 2012, when they looked me in the eye and they tell me, “This can’t be done.” I say, “If they say it can’t be done and I figured out a way to do it, the world is my oyster.” That’s exactly what I did. I didn’t do an interview every single day, which is what everybody thought I was going to do. They’re like, “You’re going to have to wake up every day and find somebody to interview and interview that person that day.” I’m like, “I’m going to find eight people on one day and I’m going to interview all of them. I’m going to batch like a baller. I have six days,” I was working seven days a week and I still do at times, “I have the other six days of the week to do other things, to grow my business, grow my website, my email list, courses, create content, do this, do that.” That’s where they came into focus.
The last thing that is important here is as I see it from your successes, things don’t always go the way you want, or there are struggles and setbacks. To me, where does gratitude fit in terms of that dance between you expect you’re going to get where you need to go, but not at the point of not being grateful for the process and learning along the way?A goal without a plan is just a wish. Click To Tweet
Two of the best things that I’ve created since I launched Entrepreneurs on Fire are my journals, The Freedom Journal, and The Mastery Journal. Both of them start with the day one task of, “I am grateful for.” I want people to say, “There’s a lot of things that are going to stress you out. There’s a lot of things that are going to go wrong. There are a lot of things that are going to happen to you that you don’t have necessarily control over, but let’s start the day with something that you’re grateful for.” Let’s be honest, Xavier, they’d be grateful for win in the Big East.
Providence 401, they’re pretty grateful for being at the top of the Big East in the best conference in college basketball. There are things to be grateful for. I watched the St. John’s game. I am grateful that I got to watch that game from my bed in Puerto Rico. I get to continue to watch the team and a sport that I love. That’s something to be grateful for that’s unique. When you wake up every morning, you’re like, “I’m grateful for my kids.” It loses meaning. Not that you’re not great for your kids because you are, but spice it up. Be grateful for them in a verbal way once a week, once a month, but take the things uniquely that you’re grateful for, like that comfortable chair that you’re sitting in right there, or the fact that you can be here.
I can be in Puerto Rico and it’s like, we’re in the same room. Audio quality is great. All this stuff is great. It’s amazing. That’s the power of gratitude. In my military days, what helped me is it gives me perspective. As bad as things sometimes got at Entrepreneurs on Fire, when this happened or this happened or that happened whatever it might be, I can be like, “I’m not getting shot in the deserts at 115 degrees sweating my butt off and doing all of this.” It’s perspective. I can always find gratitude and something because that’s not happening to me.
John, if there was one word that you would leave for anybody that’s out there, either starting a podcast or taking a risk to do something that they feel passionate about, what would you say to them?
Focus. That’s the one word. Follow one course until success. Many people come out with that one great focus and they fail because they lose the focus. They let other things take over in their life.
Disciple and focus. Two value bombs that you left me within my audience. Thank you for taking the time. Love you. Take care.
What a great job with John in terms of talking about expectation, discipline, and gratitude. We talked about discipline as being a disciple about focus as following one course of action until success. Those are certainly value bombs that he lives by. I hope you were able to gain value from those as well. John’s website, EOFire.com is filled with many valuable offerings, whether it’s podcasting or goal setting. There are certain things on there that you’ll find valuable. There’s a journal that he puts out called The Freedom Journal. It’s one that I’ve used with many of my clients to help them set their goals and track those to success. If you know somebody who would enjoy this episode, I’d ask you to forward it on to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please go ahead and subscribe. That’s how this message continues to get out there. It would mean the world to me if you’d go on and leave a reading or a comment on this or any other episode, and until our next episode, I hope we’re able to do two things. One is lead like no other and the other is to rise above your best.
How do you find happiness? What is the route, the path to happiness? We discuss this question in depth in this episode as our host, Patrick Veroneau, interviews podcast host, performance coach and the founder of Next Level Podcast Solutions, Kevin Palmieri. Kevin shares his personal journey of chasing happiness and what it actually took to find happiness. He speaks to his mission in helping others navigate what can seem like a hopeless path at times, and shares insights on what it takes to gain happiness.
Listen to the podcast here:
Kevin Palmieri Talks About Helping Others Find Happiness
Chasing Titles, Money And Material Things Is Not The Path To Happiness
This episode deals a lot with not only purpose but also self-confidence and finding out what makes us happy. My guest is Kevin Palmieri. He’s the co-host of a podcast called Next Level University. He talks about how the podcast was inspired through his own experiences. If you’re out there chasing titles and income or material things to find your happiness, and you’re finding that’s not working for you, then this is an episode worth reading. Let’s get into it.
Kevin, thanks for being on the show. We had the opportunity to meet on a whim for dinner. I loved what you and your partner Alan are up to in regards to trying to make a difference in youth and college from the standpoint of helping build confidence in kids. My guess is your drive to do that comes out from your own experiences in those age brackets of probably how you struggled or struggles that you had to overcome and you’re trying to find a way to help.
I even still struggle with confidence. It’s easy to see me on a podcast, on stage or wherever it is and think like, “He has it all figured out.” I always want to be authentic, transparent and tell people like, “The reason I talked about the stuff I talked about is that’s the stuff I’ve struggled with the most.” If I can get to where I’m at and battle these insecurities, low self-esteem and low level of confidence, I want to use my story to help others and I don’t want them to limit themselves.
What was it about your story that you think is impactful in terms of you being able to help kids going forward?
The story I always tell is how I had it all. I had everything that anybody could ever want, and then I realized that I placed so much emphasis on external validation. I never looked at what was inside of me and why I’m insecure. I’m 5’5” and insecure about that. I’m open, honest and transparent that I don’t like my height. That’s always bothered me. I always used to play it off as a joke and I would never own the fact that it does sting when people make jokes about that. For me, the earlier you become aware of what is, the more control you have. I was 28 years old when I realized I was insecure. You can’t do anything with it until you realize what it is. If I had that information at fifteen, somebody to look up to and who was talking about this, my trajectory would have changed a lot honestly.
What happened at 28 that finally turned?The earlier you become aware of what your insecurity is, the more control you have. Click To Tweet
In 2015, I had what every single person would say is a success. A lot of people said I was living the dream. I had a beautiful girlfriend and she was a model, a brand-new sports car, a high-paying job, a brand-new apartment and the body of my dreams. It seemed like I had everything. At the end of 2015, my girlfriend left me. This was when it was like, “You lost one of the things that you value the most.” You’re starting to question like, “Why did she leave me?” She left me because I was insecure, depressed and anxious. I was going through a lot of things. To this day, I still say thank you. She did the right thing because it was her job to take care of her and not to take care of me.
After she left, I went through this dark time. Everything you thought you felt about yourself were lies. The car in the driveway is great and nice, but it doesn’t make you any better, more secure and successful because when you go to bed at night, you don’t feel good about yourself. How is that success? I got into personal development after that. I went through this dark period and I was like, “I’ve got to change something.”
I remember I started saying these positive affirmations. Every night before bed, I would say, “You’re handsome, talented and confident.” I wanted to make more money so I said, “This year, you’re going to make the most money you’ve ever made in your entire life.” I said that for two weeks every single night before bed. When she left me, it was in October 2015. We were getting ready for the next year. 2016 started with a bang.
I was a construction foreman who traveled up and down the East Coast, making state and government-owned buildings more energy efficient. I was always on the road. By the time that year ended, I had been on the road for 10 out of the 12 months in 2016. I stayed in New Jersey. I went to Virginia, Connecticut, New York, everywhere all over the place. It was always crappy hotel to crappy hotel. We weren’t staying at the Ritz. It was great because I wanted the money. I was making $100 an hour. I don’t care, put or keep me on the road, I’m making money. That’s all well and good.
I get to the end of the year and that final pay stub is like, “Did I do what I said I was going to do?” I did and nothing changed. I still was insecure, didn’t have any confidence and didn’t believe in myself. I realized again like, “You did it again. You did the same thing that you did the first time. You put all the emphasis on making this money. You made it and nothing changed.” I was laying in bed that night and I was thinking, “It doesn’t matter what car you have, who’s laying in bed next to you, what the house looks like and what you did today or doing tomorrow. The only thing that matters is what’s in your head.” That’s how the podcast was born and how this journey started for me.
I started the podcast as a hobby and in 2016 is where I was incredibly busy. Being on the road took me away from the podcast. You know how hard it is to podcast when you’re traveling all over the place. You want to be at your studio. The job that gave me so much opportunity and financial benefit from being on the road was now taking directly away from my dreams and what I wanted. I wanted to help others. I have a gift for that.
We were probably eight months into the year and it was too much. I got burnt out, depressed and helpless. I felt hopeless. I was in a hotel in New Jersey and I was sitting on the edge of the bed. It’s 5:45 AM and I was lacing up my boots for work that morning. I remember having this overwhelming amount of noise in my head. The best way I can explain it is there were ten televisions that are on and every single one was on a different channel. There was noise saying, “You’re never going to make it. You’re stuck at this job. You can’t leave this job. You make $100,000 a year. You would be crazy to leave. You can’t be a successful podcaster. How is that going to happen?”
In those moments, I thought the best way for me to turn off all this noise was to end my life. I figured if I was gone, my problems would be gone as well. Here I am, six hours away from home and across the hotel room. It’s this dark and lonely feeling of like, “I don’t even know who to talk to about it. Nobody understands what I’m going through at this moment.” I reached out to Alan, who’s the co-host of the show. He talked me through it and said, “It’s going to be alright. This is why you’re feeling this way. You’re overwhelmed. It’s time to make a change.”
It’s easy now because it’s been a while but looking back on that day, it was the best day of my life because I realized that I do have a purpose, passion and mission. I want to be the person that I needed when I was at my lowest point and even more, I want to help prevent people from getting to their lowest point. I left my job and a few months later, I went full-time into podcasting. Now I’m a full-time podcaster, professional speaker, peak performance coach and podcast consultant.
A lot has changed for me in the last several years. I always want to leave people with the understanding and the transparency that I’m still working on myself. The only reason my circumstances changed is that I changed and I worked on myself, my own personal development, insecurities, mindfulness and mindset. That’s the biggest takeaway. I went through a lot of stuff and had a lot of pain but the pain went away when I started to change who I was. It’s good that I have the problems that I have. Back in the day, I felt like I couldn’t control them. Now I need to keep getting better as a human.
It’s interesting when you talked about the job, making more money, the nice car, even the girlfriend or the house. One of the terms for that is called hedonic adaptation. What that says is that’s great for no more than three months and then that wears off. The new car that you notice the scratch initially, a year later, you don’t notice it as much anymore. It loses that value if we have to keep feeding ourselves for something else that takes away from what we need to be addressing in the first place. You speak to that in terms of what’s going on.
It’s funny because I used to base my value as a human on what I had to show. Now I base my value as a human on what’s inside. I can’t even explain what kind of feeling that shift was. I was walking around my kitchen one day and thinking that I don’t have the “results” that I used to have but what I do have is this knowing and pride in the person I’ve become. I don’t think I ever liked myself growing up. I don’t know why. Now I am proud of who I’ve become through this journey. It makes me happy.
What do you think about the word purpose around that?
Your purpose is your reason for doing something and your vehicle is how you get that message out. The purpose is the most important thing because when you find something greater than yourself, it’s easier to find you. Most people don’t have that. If you’re going to a 9:00 to 5:00 just to pay the bills, you probably don’t have that much purpose unless your purpose is to take care of your family. You can do it that way but there are one billion other ways to do it. The purpose is going to give you motivation, drive and ambition that you’ve never had.Your purpose is your reason for doing something and your vehicle is how you get that message out. Click To Tweet
If you look at the research as well around money and happiness, it’s always about yourself. I don’t care how much money you make but if that’s the case, at some point there’s an emptiness. We know that there’s an internal drive where people want to feel as though there’s a purpose to what they’re doing and that purpose is often about others. “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t care what my bank account says. I’m still taking up space unless I’m out there doing for others.” It can be difficult for people in the world that we live in where you might think people are all about themselves.
At the end of the day, every single one of us wants to be significant. Me pulling up in a Ferrari makes me significant at that moment. I don’t know what those people are thinking. I assume they think I have a nice car. I gave a speech in Florida and after the speech, I’m headed down to lunch with my girlfriend, Alan and our team. This girl pulls me to the side and says, “Can I take a minute of your time?” I said, “Yes, that’s what I’m here for.” We proceeded to talk for 45 minutes about how she was on the verge of suicide and how she’s been through all of these things. I felt more significant at that moment in terms of her sharing her life story with me. She’s being unbelievably vulnerable and connected with what I said on stage. That is a level of significance that I couldn’t explain if somebody said, “Here’s all the money in the world.” It’s different.
It’s an honor. Somebody trusts you enough to have that conversation. There’s a statistic that I’d come across that there was an alarming number of youth in terms of either attempted or have committed suicide. I know that’s an area that both of us share a strong interest in terms of youth and helping them develop themselves. How do you address that?
It always has to go to the root. We have to figure out what are the details of the situation. For me looking back, why did I think suicide was the only way? I felt hopeless and helpless. Most of all, I felt trapped and there was no other way out. When you’re in that frame of mind, you’re not thinking logically. You’re thinking emotionally. You’re in a bad emotional place so you’re not going to come up with good stories for sure. Especially in young kids, you have to get professional help. For a long time, parents would say, “I understand you’re getting bullied. It’s not that big of a deal. That happens to everybody.” A lot of people got bullied many years ago but when you went home, the bullying ended. The bullying doesn’t end now because we have these phones in front of us.
It’s strange. We interviewed my ex-girlfriend’s mother. She and I are very close. She’s a teacher in the town that I grew up in. She said that what happens when the kids are being bullied, your first reaction is to pull them off of social media but then they get FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. They get more anxious that they’re not on social media than the pain that they were feeling when they got bullied. You have to set some limits for the connection. The connection is amazing. The fact that we can podcast over a cell phone and share our stories is ridiculous and amazing. There has to be a time and a place where you turn off the phone, YouTube and all these things that make you not feel good about yourself, especially if you’re comparing yourself to others.
I find the impact of belongingness, especially around this topic on our own wellbeing. We are pack animals in many regards, and we need to feel a connection with other people. Thousands of years ago, if I voted you outside of the tribe or you did it to me, what do we know? That’s a death sentence. I will not survive out here without the rest of the group. That’s not changed. If we’re voted outside of the group in the sense of belongingness whether it’s at work, in school or community, there’s a psychological toll that plays on us because we’re not connected with others. We need that.
Many people go to Instagram or Facebook. You are not going to get the same level of connection. It doesn’t work that way. There’s something about being in-person, seeing facial expressions or a hug. That level of connection versus over the screen is not a prescription to fill that void. It’s an interesting time because technology blesses us with many opportunities to do things we can never do but I don’t think that we’re capable of taking the downsides yet. I don’t think we understand. It’s been around for many years. I don’t think we’re capable of understanding what kind of damage is being done in the short-term and how to negate that moving into the future yet. I know we will.
I don’t want to sound negative on social media. Social media is amazing in the fact that children’s brains are not the same as adults and they’re always playing the comparison game. There’s so much more social pressure. If you make a stupid post, everybody sees it. It’s hard to not be judged. Everybody’s being judged. This show will be judged. People will judge me and you. If you don’t understand and know how to go about that judgment, make sure it doesn’t become part of your identity. It does for a lot of kids.
We had this conversation about how we fall victim to that too as adults. In the work that we do, we’re still even questioning our abilities in terms of what we do and because we benchmark it against somebody else, not understanding what they do. I truly believe that. I see that on social media all the time. How many times does somebody take a picture and filter it six times before they post it? We look at the finished product like, “Oh boy.”
For many on Facebook, you’ll have individuals out there that post a vacation that they’re on about how awesome things are and they’re having such a great time. Yet if you know the backstory behind a lot of these families, there’s so much dysfunction going on. Everybody looks around and says, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be like the Smiths? I wish our family were like that. They’re all hugging.” Before that picture was taken, they were probably all being yelled at for not getting in the picture and looking. There’s this false image that gets put out there.
I’m sure you find this as well. Alan and I have interviewed 100 and something people for our show. Most of the guests have been amazing. Who they portray themselves as is who they are. We’ve had some people that it’s like, “I see that you say you’re all these things on social media but you’re not a good person.” The closer you get to somebody, the closer to reality you get. The problem is I’m never going to meet Kim Kardashian. I may never see what is and I’m totally fine with that, trust me. The people that we or a lot of the kids look up to are not real. We should base who we value on their character over their results. Character matters so much more than your results do because character is what makes people feel good and results are what make people jealous.
Along those lines, what you say and what you do is your integrity right there. That’s your congruent. Whether it’s as a leader in a company or the company itself, what do we say we stand for and do we do that? It’s easy to pay lip service to stuff. If people are around you long enough, they start to see, “This person is good about what they say but they don’t do it themselves.” I don’t care whether that’s at home or in the community. I can’t tell my daughter to drive safely when I’m in the car with her and I’m going down the highway looking at my emails as I’m driving. She’s going to say, “You’re a fool of it. You don’t do it yourself so how can you lecture me on it?” There’s a lack of integrity there.
It’s easier now than ever to see because everything is transparent. If you say something, it’s coming out eventually. It’s interesting because Alan and I always say this, “I want to be the best podcaster, speaker and coach in the world. More than that, I want to be the best man I can be to my girlfriend and future family. I want to be the best man where you call me and you know I’m going to give you the truth. I’m dependable, reliable and trustworthy.” Those are the things that I value. I don’t always have the right answers. I’ll tell you if I don’t but I always want to help. That’s important.
If you walked around with a score that had your character out of 100, how good is this person out of 100? We’d all be acting differently. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Our cars get us a lot of value. When you tie your wellbeing, success, future and potential to building your character, it’s rewarding. It’s exponential growth too. You’re only going to get better because as you get better, your connection, results and abilities get better. Your potential grows more.Purpose is the most important thing. When you find something greater than yourself, it's easier to find you. Click To Tweet
I want to take a step back as you were talking about that day that you were lacing up your shoes and wondering like, “What’s this all about?” I’m going to ask you from the standpoint of a male because males have been duped in many regards in terms of what it means to be a man and masculine, especially in the industry that you’re in. You’re in good shape and a muscular big guy. People think, “You can’t be soft, fluffy and talk about feelings.”
From the standpoint of not being able to talk about these things and have people that we can lean on to say, “I’m struggling right now,” like you did with Alan. He was your lifeline. He was another guy that you could do that to. We need to do more of that in terms of teaching kids from an early age that it’s important to talk about feelings, to cry and show emotion. We need to do that because if we don’t, all we do is teach kids to not be authentic.
If your kid is crying and you say, “Don’t be soft,” it’s not a good example to set. Think of our parents and how they were raised. This is the generation where it could start to change. I’m sure you’re doing this too. My mom is great and I love my mom to death, but she doesn’t know anything about emotional intelligence, habits and mindset. She doesn’t know much about money. I want my children and family to be in the greatest position they can but that starts with me and my level of awareness.
Going back to the friendships. The level of your friendship depends on the level of vulnerability you have with that person. Many people get burned for being vulnerable that they’re afraid. We have to figure out a way to let people know that it’s like love. You’re going to get your heart broken. If you don’t, you’ve never been in love but it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be like that. You gave your heart to the wrong person. You can give your vulnerability to the wrong person too.
Our listeners are mostly women. Why? Because Alan and I are two muscle dudes who talk about our feelings. I’m convinced that’s why it’s mostly women. Most of my clients have been women. It’s because we’re vulnerable and authentic. I’ll talk about anything that will help somebody else. I’m used to it at this point. If somebody is going to reach out and talk trash, I used to say, “For every punch in the face, I’m getting ten kisses.” I don’t do it for the kisses. That’s my analogy.
I often find the unkind acts or behaviors speak to somebody in their own sense of unhappiness. That’s it. Nothing else. Other than that, I have no reason to want to troll somebody else or slam them for what they’re doing unless I’m unhappy with who I am and that makes me feel better. Bullying is another topic that we haven’t got on but is relevant to youth. How do you deal with it even at the college level when you’re doing talks with them? What does that conversation look like when you talk about that?
It’s interesting because bullying is one of those things that you’re rarely going to hear in a group. A college kid most likely is going to raise their hand and say, “I’m bullied by all of these people because there’s so much social pressure.” It’s about connecting and feeling like you’re a part of something. If you’re getting bullied, there are a couple of things. It’s easier said than done to say, “This is somebody else’s projections on you of their negativity.” That’s what this is. You have to start asking yourself why.
Alan and I did this on an episode of the seven why’s. Let’s say, for example I have a baby blue shirt on. Steve comes up to me and says, “Kevin, you’re an idiot because you’re wearing a baby blue shirt.” “Why?” “Only idiots wear baby blue shirts.” “Why?” “It’s a girl color.” “Why?” “North Carolina basketball is baby blue.” “Why?” When you start asking why from each side, you start peeling back the layers like, “What is your deal? Why are you coming at me with this?”
That’s like some bad cartoon and you’re like, “Forget it.”
If your kid came home to you and said, “Steve said I was stupid because I asked the question in class.” “Why do you think he said that?” “I asked a question and he probably thought it was stupid.” “Why did he think it was stupid?” “I don’t know.” “Do you think maybe Steve was afraid to ask that same question or he didn’t know that answer?” “Maybe that’s one way to look at it.” You have to reframe it because we always say it’s the person’s projections upon you but there’s a difference between saying that and trying to figure out what those projections are.
I know this is deep for a first grader but we have to become aware that it’s not that you can always run and hide because there’s nowhere to hide anymore. It’s about, “Let’s get to the root cause of this problem.” I say professional help. If you have a young kid who’s getting bullied, it’s time to pull them into some therapy or some counseling. That’s something that I did when I was dealing with some dark thoughts. I always recommend that. It doesn’t make you less of a man or a woman.
We’re stigmatizing people that need help as weak. What does that do? It props up this image of, “You can’t figure this out on your own.” We all need help from each other. I have my own coach that I go to and speak to talk about how do I become better and what are the things that I’m dealing with that are a challenge? We all need that. At the youth age bracket, we need that even more. Somehow, they need to find that support.
I don’t know how to put this in place but who are the kids looking up to that they can talk to? There are so many people to look up to on social media but if there’s somebody that you can see in person and say, “I look up to that person because I admire this,” let’s get kids around them. It used to be baseball coaches. The problem is, are these kids playing sports? If not, who do they go to? The guidance counselor? From my experience, guidance counselors aren’t always the best people to talk to about that stuff.
It’s all about changing your circle. If you’re in first grade, your circle is the one that you’re thrown into. As a parent, you have to help these kids get around positive people. It’s so much easier said than done. I’ve never had to deal with it because I don’t have any kids. The other thing is when you break your leg and go to the doctor. Nobody calls you weak. Why? It’s because I’m not a professional surgeon, psychiatrist or psychologist, family counselor, therapy counselor or couples counselor. You have to go to the people who know. Sometimes when you go to the people who know, the people who don’t know are going to give you crap for it but you’ll be better off in the long-term than they will.Character matters so much more than your results because character is what makes people feel good. Results are what makes people jealous. Click To Tweet
We have three kids. We’ve certainly made many mistakes in terms of approaches that we’ve taken but we’ve done a good job of trying to develop their abilities to navigate challenging situations. We’re not trying to solve it for them when we feel like there needs to be a little bit of struggle on their own to build up their muscle to be able to deal with what’s coming in life. There’s a dance there. We’ve had to do that before too. This is beyond our ability as parents to address this that we need to look to outside sources to be able to intervene on this. You’re right that we can’t push things under the rug either in terms of what’s going on and ignore when there are challenges.
I’ve never been a parent. Some people didn’t want to admit it. Do you take it on yourself like, “Did I not raise them right that they’re getting bullied? Did I not raise them right that they have anxiety, they’re depressed or having suicidal thoughts?” That’s fine to take ownership. “Did you do something wrong?” Sometimes, it’s stuff that you don’t even know about and your kids might not open up to you because you’re their parent. Getting them to open up to a counselor is probably not easy either but that’s their job. They’re professionals at that.
We don’t have all the answers. I used to think when I was 30 that I was going to know everything. I’m like, “That’s not how it works.” For the questions that I don’t have answers to, I have people that I can reach out like mentors, coaches, somebody to look up to, I trust, confide in, I can be transparent and vulnerable with. They don’t even have to have the results that you want. They just have to be somebody who will listen and that you can trust. They’re there for you. Some support is needed for sure.
I find that the older I get, the less I know and the more open I am to not gravitating toward any one answer. I look to things around training that are very helpful in those areas that even years ago, we weren’t talking about things like emotional intelligence. Mindfulness is powerful. My youngest in the fourth grade had a period of the day that was all around teaching mindfulness in class. To me, those things are invaluable when we talk about, “How do you take a thought?” Before I react to it, I can think about it for a minute. I can pause to think, “Is this what this means? What else could this mean?” Rather than going down the rabbit hole of, “My life is terrible. I’m a bad person,” maybe this isn’t about me. Maybe this is about the other person.
That’s incredible that they have it in schools. I didn’t learn anything about finance in school. I learned how to balance a checkbook. That doesn’t help. I didn’t learn anything about fitness. I learned how to play dodgeball. I was good at it but I didn’t learn about muscles, calories, carbs, fat and protein. I didn’t learn about interest rates on credit cards or about any of that. Most of all, I didn’t learn anything about mental health. I don’t think I heard the word stress once when I was in high school.
We’re preparing kids to do well on tests but not in life. It’s a different game. I don’t know the Pythagorean theorem anymore or any of those things. I learned that mindfulness and a lot of the thoughts that I’m having aren’t the way it is. It’s my thoughts in regards to like, “You’re insecure, that’s why you think everything is the end of the world,” like when you get broken up. Why? It’s because it’s in this microcosm of the moment and everything, feels like it matters. It’s not a huge deal. Mindfulness, mental health habits, goal setting, kids need to know way more about those because that’s what life is at the end of the day.
If you look at where things are going organizationally, that is one of the things that you continue to hear. It’s the soft skills which to me are the strong skills that continue to play a more prominent role in terms of individual success and organizational success. You need to understand these things in terms of, “How do I navigate and what I don’t know about myself?” Lead like no other. The purpose behind that is to say that from a leadership perspective, we have gone down the rabbit hole of tactics, decisiveness and not focused enough on internally, “Who am I? If I don’t know myself and I’m not comfortable with myself. How am I ever going to be able to inspire other people to want to follow where I go? It won’t happen. I might be able to do it because I’ve got the title but that’s not leadership.”
Even being conscious of what you’re not confident in. I’ll give an example so it makes sense. I was in Florida with Alan and two of our good friends. We were talking about an event that we were going to put on. We’re working out. When I’m in the room working out, I feel great and confident as hell. I’ve been to the gym many times. That’s my spot. The second we started talking about business and back-end business models, I felt myself get tense, small and insecure. I started questioning like, “Do you even belong in this room with these people?” This was in a matter of seconds. It went from feeling like the man to feeling like nothing and I didn’t belong.
I start going through the checklist of, “What are you feeling? You’re feeling overmatched. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s a good thing because that means you’re learning. Do the people in this room look at you differently because you’re overmatched? No, you’re still coming to them. It’s just a different topic.” It’s like a sickness but it’s the best sickness you can have. I’m always running this throughout every conversation. When Alan’s ego goes up, my insecurity comes out. It’s how it works. I can balance that and aware of that so I can start saying, “It’s not Alan, it’s you. It’s your reaction to a feeling.”
I will often use the analogy when I’m doing talks around this of the smoke detector in your house. To me, our amygdala is like a smoke detector. It’s our internal smoke detector. The example that I will always use is, let’s imagine that we’re in the kitchen and we burn something on the stove. There’s not a fire. We just burned something on the stove and the smoke detector goes off. What do we do? We generally go over and wave a towel in front of it. Maybe we have to unplug it. Nobody in the room that we’re talking runs into the street, calling 911, saying the smoke detector is going off. Why? Because we know that’s not a real emergency.
Our brains are wired the same way with one exception. Every time the smoke detector goes off, unless we step in and intercede to say, “This is not a real emergency. The fire trucks are on the way,” that to me is what you deal with when the conversation starts coming up around the back end and finances. Your amygdala starts going off saying, “This is a threat. This is uncomfortable for you.” Unless you slow it down and say, “It’s not a real fire,” then what do you do? You treat this thing like a real emergency. You either fight, flight or freeze. You’re like, “I’m going to pretend I’m not part of this conversation.” To me, the challenge in mindfulness becomes relevant here. I do this when I talk to these youth groups around, “How do you slow this thing down to be able to say, ‘This is burnt food on the stove. This isn’t a real emergency.’”
Questions are the answer to everything. I love asking questions, especially questions that nobody else has ever heard before. That’s how I start some of my speeches, “I don’t want to inspire and motivate you. I want to ask you questions that make you think of things that you’ve never thought of before. I want you to work on that. Why am I showing off pictures of my girlfriend? I was showing pictures of my girlfriend to random janitors at the schools. I wanted significance. That’s how I got my significance by having a beautiful significant other. A lot of people do that. Recognize it and then you can change the behavior. Why am I afraid of approaching a girl? Because I’m afraid of getting rejected straight up. I don’t like the feeling. How do I get over that? I go approach the girl and I got rejected. Knowing that was my biggest fear and if that was the worst thing that happened, it’s still a great day.”
For me, one of the biggest things that I tell people is you have to fear chase and see your fear. You have to look at it and say, “I’m afraid of that.” You have to logic your way into doing it because it’s never as bad as you think. That builds confidence because it didn’t kill you. Another thing for kids is to change their association with failure. If you don’t win, you’re not a failure. You just didn’t figure out how to win yet. You’re only a “failure” if you let that be your final. If that’s the final step that you’ll ever take towards that, then you’re not in the game anymore. Changing our association with “failing” is such a big thing because it’s not the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a new chapter.
You can and need to leverage it. There’s a dance between expectation and gratitude. The expectation is about believing, “There’s more that I want to do. I want to go higher, rise above my best and do more.” With that also comes, one, you’ve got to do the work to make that happen. The gratitude comes in for me and I also need to be happy with where I am right now as well as the challenges or things that go wrong because when I can find a way to be grateful for something not working out the way that I hoped it would work out for me, then it provides the power of saying, “This doesn’t define me. I’m grateful for this. Here’s what I’m going to do because of that.” There’s a dance there.We're preparing kids to do well on tests, but not do well in life, which is a totally different game. Click To Tweet
We call it grateful dissatisfaction, “I’m grateful for what is but I know I’m capable of so much more in the future.” It doesn’t have to be right now. If you ask me what I want my life to be, I want it to be this exponential. I love my life. I love podcasting, coaching, speaking, being on podcasts and doing everything. I want that but exponential. I have to be somewhat dissatisfied to keep going but I’m always grateful for what is along the journey. Several years ago, all of this was a dream. Now I get to do this. I remember one of my big goals when I first started was to be on other podcasts. Now I get to be on other podcasts every week. It’s like, “Don’t forget how bad you wanted that.”
You start out on the gratitude but it’s the same dance that we’re talking about.
Tango versus foxtrot.
Even gratitude, in general is something that needs to be practiced more. If you woke up tomorrow with only the things that you said you were grateful for today, what would you have? Most people wouldn’t have anything.
There’s a study that was done by Shawn Achor out of Harvard. It was a 21-Day Happiness Challenge. Two of the things in there that people were asked to do was one activity was, “Write down three things you’re grateful for every morning.” To me, the real benefit comes in about day ten on that because you couldn’t write down the same things. Especially when we look at our lives and things aren’t going well, you start to have to take an inventory of like, “There are a lot more things going well for me than I thought. There are 30 different things that I’m grateful for that I thought there were only 3 or 6.”
The other thing that people were asked to do was, “At the end of the day, write down 2 to 3 sentences about what went well for the day.” To me, it’s like a bookend. You start the day out in a place of being grateful for what you have and you end the day in the space of gratitude as well. Most often, what I will hear is people go to bed dreading either what happened during the day or what’s to come the next day. If we think about that from a health perspective in terms of restorative sleep, it’s like filling my mind with junk before I have to ask it to do restorative work.
I’ll give a hack to the readers. I do a gratitude game with my girlfriend every night, whether we’re together or apart. If we’re together, we say to each other. If we’re apart, we send an audio message or a text message. At least three things I’m grateful for about her. A couple of things happen. Number one, you figure out what you’re doing well because she’s telling you. He or she depending on how you’re doing it. They’re giving you the cheat codes. Also, I’ve noticed so many intricacies that I appreciate like the way she gets excited when she sees a dog. I’m grateful that she’s that excited and gets happy about that. It means the world to me.
Telling her that keeps you grateful for that relationship. Many people are in relationships but they’re not committed to making that relationship great. Gratitude is a way to do that. I always tell my clients and everybody that reaches out, “End your night with wins because most people, especially if you live on emotions, probably do not give yourself nearly enough credit for your wins. You’re only focusing on your losses and lack of progress versus your progress and wins.”
It goes back to awareness of we’re naturally wired to look at the negatives. I’m even thinking of that hack in terms of you could use it in an office setting with people that aren’t getting along. Ask them to think about that for a week, “What can I be grateful for about this person?” We know that what it trains us to do is look at the positive on the person and not the negative.
You search for it. If I said, “Set the intention, walk in this room and find something you’re grateful for at the end of the night.” The whole night, you’re going to be like, “I’m grateful for that.” Setting intentions when you enter rooms is another thing that changes the experience entirely. You go from self-conscious to result-conscious. You’re looking to match that intention that you said.
As we wrap things up here, you’ve got a big event coming up in Boston. I wonder if you want to give a little shout-out to that.
January 25, 2020 at the UMass Lowell Conference Center. We are bringing a fire line of speakers. Alan and I are speaking. Mark Metry, who has a top 100 podcast is speaking. Brant Pinvidic, the producer of Bar Rescue and Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser. He is well connected in Hollywood. He’s a great dude. We have four other speakers as well. It’s going to be a full-day event where everybody sets intentions. Everybody’s getting their intentions fired up like, “It’s going to be the best year of our life.” It’s only going to be as good as you make it. We want to give you actionable steps that you can take away from this event so you can make 2020 the best year of your life. That is our goal.
2020 is a fun year. You could make it a fun decade when you think about it from a vision standpoint. What do we want for a 2020 vision? It’s 20/20. How clear is your vision? You can play with that. Kevin, this has been awesome. I enjoyed our conversation together and I’m sure the readers will benefit from this as well. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.The level of your friendship depends on your level of vulnerability you have with the other person. Click To Tweet
I appreciate you having me on, the questions and you as well, Patrick.
You, too. Thanks a lot.
Kevin did such a great job talking about his past, how it led up to where he is now with his Hyper Conscious Podcast and the mission that he’s on in terms of helping other youth especially to be able to navigate a better situation for themselves. I loved him talking about the seven why’s for dealing with either negative comments from others or negative thoughts from ourselves. That was powerful. It’s something that I certainly took away from that.
If you know somebody that would benefit from this show, I’d ask that you forward it on to that person. If you haven’t already subscribed, go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me as well if you’d leave a rating or a comment for this or any other podcast because that’s how this message helping people to lead like no other continues to get out there. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to do two things. One is lead like no other and the other is rise above your best.
About Kevin Palmieri
Host and Podcast Coach
Kevin is the Founder & Host of the Next Level University, a Global Top 100 Self-Improvement podcast with more than 600 episodes reaching over half a million people in more than 100 countries on how to improve your life, love, health & wealth.
Kevin is a Podcast Consultant specializing in helping CEO’s & Entrepreneurs grow, scale & monetize their podcasts.
Kevin believes in a heart-driven but NO BS approach to inspiring, motivating & educating others on what it REALLY takes to get to the Next Level!
Do you want to succeed like no other in 2020? Then you need to help others succeed! Patrick Veroneau discusses in this episode five keys to succeeding on a higher level. With these keys, you not only develop an environment where you can succeed. It’s an environment that benefits everyone. You can remember these five keys with the acronym EDGES. Tune in to find out what it stands for!
Listen to the podcast here:
The 5 Keys To Help You Succeed Like No Other in 2020
Helping Others To Succeed Is Important To Our Own Success And Is Part Of Leadership
I have been chomping at the bit to do this episode as we come into the new decade of 2020. To me, it’s so fitting. When I think of vision and where you want to go, we think of perfect vision as being 20/20. How we set ourselves up is very much the same thing. What are our visions? That’s what this episode is going to look at. It’s going to look at success, not only from the perspective of how do I succeed but on a deeper level, how can I succeed but also along the way, I’m helping other people to succeed because when we reached that level, that’s succeeding like no other. It falls directly in line with what this show speaks to, which is about leading like no other and we all have that ability. I’m not only obsessed with interviewing those whose actions are inspiring others to do great things, but also uncovering the research that demonstrates that we all have the ability to lead like no other. As I continue to go through this, leaders are learners and if we’re learning, we always recognize the ability to get better. Why don’t we get into it?
You probably could hear in the intro my excitement in terms of doing this episode. The reason for that is because I’ve spent so much time thinking about and experiencing 2020 with those clients that I’ve worked with in terms of looking at success. Although I truly believed it before, it’s become more evident to me the importance of helping other people get what they need and that when we do that, our ability to succeed ourselves is so much greater. There’s so much research around that now in terms of purpose, belonging and all of these things in terms of attainment. I think it’s so important that we speak to that. There’s a model that I put together called EDGES, which is about five keys to how we develop that environment where not only we succeed but we help other people to succeed as well.We have to believe that where we want to go is possible. Click To Tweet
EDGES is an acronym for each of these five behaviors, which is what the purpose of this show is about. The first one around EDGES is Expectation. Some would look at it in terms of a Law of Attraction. What do we think about? Obviously, for success, for us to get where we want to go, first, we have to believe we can get there. I know that sounds so obvious, but many people lack that ability to believe in where they’re going. From a coaching standpoint, I will often experience it in terms of limiting beliefs that somebody might say, “This is what I’m going to do.” Then all of a sudden they think, “I’m not smart enough. I don’t have the right education and experience. I’m too tall, too short. I’ve got too much hair, too little hair,” whatever it is. We are our own worst enemies in terms of holding back where we can go.
This is all around limiting beliefs that we put on ourselves. Maybe it was stories that we were told in terms of how we were brought up and that have played forward into where we are. I think the other part of expectation that often can hold us back is if we’re working toward going in a certain direction and we start to find some success that this imposter syndrome starts to creep in of doubting. Do we have the capability or the authority to be able to deliver on what we say we want to do? Certainly, that’s something that came into play many times for me, in terms of the work that I was doing in terms of saying, “Am I capable of doing this?”
It was only through continued success and feedback. I think not only seeing the results but hearing other people speak to that as well that I was able to overcome that. Expectation is important here in terms of that first key. I have to believe or you have to believe, we have to believe that where we want to go is possible. Oftentimes, especially when we hear the Law of Attraction, people will think, “You sit on the couch and think good thoughts while it happens.” We know that’s not the case. That’s where the next letter comes in here, which is around discipline. There’s a model that I put together, which is in the form of a Venn Diagram where I talk about the 3Ps of Goal Setting. The 3Ps are Planning, Practice and Perseverance.
In that first P, Planning, I talk about set goals. Set goals are very similar to SMART goals but in my own experience, they’ve obviously been refined. That’s what I did was I took SMART goals and tried to refine these and make them easier for people to be able to follow through on them. What set goals stand for is one, the goal is specific that there’s something either a number and activity attached to it but something that says, “Here’s what I want to do.” In the example of if it was money, maybe it was to say, “I want to make an additional $100,000 this year.” If it was to lose weight it was, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds this year,” whatever that is, but there’s specificity to it.
The next part is the emotion, and that’s the why behind this. As it relates to SMART, that’s the piece that I often found was missing and to me, the most important part of a goal, which is around the emotion. What’s the why behind this? If the why isn’t strong enough, the excuse will be in terms of why we don’t do it but when we come back to that why, it becomes so important. You can drill down on the why if you follow what is often called Root Cause Analysis, and that’s around the five whys and you can do the same thing for a goal. If I set a goal of, “I want to be healthier,” then I ask, “Why do I want that?” “Because I want to spend more time with my children.” “Why is that important?” “Because I know that they’re getting older and not being active and able to do the things that they’re doing limits my contact with them.”
“Why is that important to you?” “Because they’re getting into high school now and I know that I want to be able to coach my son or help my daughter out in terms of helping them practice outside of their practices. If I’m not healthy, I can’t do that.” “Why is that important to you?” “Because at some point they’re going to be out of the house. If I don’t build that relationship with them now, it will be much harder to get that later on because I know that 95% of the time that I’m going to spend with my kids sadly happens by the time they’re eighteen years of age.” Now, I’ve taken a goal of losing 10 pounds, and the real why is about legacy and interaction with my kids. There’s much more mortar there to hold those bricks together of what I’m trying to do.There is abundance out there for all of us. Click To Tweet
The last of the set goals is around time-bound, that there’s got to be a time to this. In the case of losing weight, if it was 10 pounds, then I want to do it by 1st of January or 1st of June. If it’s maybe not a timestamp but it’s a lifestyle change I’m going to make, then maybe I’m going to exercise 3 or 4 days a week, whatever that is but there’s a number to that. The next part of the Ps after Planning with our set goals is around Practice. We know all the research out there around work that was done by a researcher, Anders Ericsson, and certainly in a book that was popularized called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He talks about not only practice but deliberate practice.
Once we have set the goal, we need to put in the time to practice. What are the things that we need to do to make that happen? What are the skills that we need to develop? The last part of the Ps is around Perseverance, that is about our level of grit. Things are going to be difficult. They’re not always going to go our way. How do we maintain focus and drive on a goal when maybe we’ve experienced some failure and setbacks? We don’t do that one without having a strong why but also without the ability to leverage our perseverance, that sense of grit to be able to do that. When we move on from discipline in regards to the EDGES, living life on the EDGES as I often call it, is that we move on to gratitude. Gratitude is the dance between expectation of drive to where I want to go and accepting and be happy for where I am, and it’s a dance.
What I mean by that is that gratitude is about being happy for the place that I’m in. Gratitude on a deeper level to me involves also being grateful for my challenges, for those struggles, the things that I know are the shaping tools of where I’m going to go because, without that struggle, it’s going to be much harder for me to get where I want to go. I look at struggles like sandpaper and that they are roughing out or smoothing out the rough edges, and helping me to get where I want to go. When I take those challenges and look for ways to be grateful about those challenges, I take that power away from the challenge and I add it to the power of how I’m going to overcome that because, in a sense, I’ve harnessed that.
To me, that is the dance between expectation and gratitude. Expect that I’m going to get where I want to go but also, I’m grateful for where I am, and we can have both. We can go between both places. Those first three keys that I have talked about are very central to my own development and growth. I think the next two are much more about how I help other people and how I connect with other people. In the EDGES model, the next E in that model is about Empathy. This is about overcoming the biases that we have toward other people. Maybe looking at somebody else that isn’t where we are rather than judging that they’re not successful or they’re lazy or whatever but trying to understand what is it.
We all have different stories in terms of how we have got to where we are. When we can take a step back and be less judgmental about other people and more empathetic, wondering that maybe if I was in their shoes, I wouldn’t even be at the level that they’re at. If I know what they’ve had to overcome to get to where they are now, that plays powerfully into our ability to not simply be for ourselves but to be for others. We move on the last of the five keys in the EDGES, which is around sharing. This is to take whatever gifts we’ve been given, whether it’s financial abundance or intellectual abundance, whatever it is that we have when we can look to how we can create an environment, where we share this with other people through generosity. We know that creates a ripple effect.
Also, we know in terms of the research out there in terms of what makes people truly feel fulfilled and happy. It’s about purpose. Sharing is something that provides a fundamental and foundational approach on how we create purpose. It’s about sharing what we have with other people. When we are successful ourselves, we are out there trying to find ways that we can help others to succeed as well. We create an environment where we all benefit. Oftentimes from what I’ve experienced myself, and I’ve seen out there, when we come from a position of scarcity, we only think that there’s so much availability, then we’re not able to do this. We can’t share. We need to, “There’s only so much. I’ve got to make sure I’ve got my piece as well.” When in reality, there is abundance out there for all of us.
Not to make this a religious show, but the story of the fishes and the loaves, if you haven’t heard that before, to me it is representative of this. I don’t believe you have to be religious to understand the meaning behind that story. It’s to say that the fishes and the loaves speak to the ability where there was a huge crowd of people, and there was only a limited amount of food in terms of fish and bread. Yet, when everybody broke off a piece and handed it to the next person, the miracle was that everybody had enough to eat. I look at that to say that when we realized that there is abundance for all of us, when we give what we have, there is enough for everybody. When we hoard it, that’s when the scarcity comes in but when we share it openly, everybody gets a piece of this. I do believe that’s a responsibility, especially those when we reach levels of success. We have a responsibility to share that with others.
That is the key of living life on the EDGES. That is where life is lived at its best. That’s when we succeed like no other. When we live life at the EDGES, expect to get where we want to go, have the discipline to follow through in terms of how we set goals to get there, we’re grateful for where we are and where we’re going, we’re empathetic to those around us and look for ways that we can share the gifts, talents, abilities and abundance that have been presented to us. When we do that, we have truly set ourselves up for life, success, leading all of those things to me like no other.
Life is about choices. You are going to do one of two things – you are either going to escape that pain into a vice that does not make you better, or you are going to develop a virtue. Patrick Veroneau’s guest, Alan Lazaros, chose virtue over vice. Although he’s been in deep emotional pain, he believed in his own brighter future enough to turn his adversities into an advantage through fitness and personal development. Alan is a peak performance business coach and the co-host of Next Level University Podcast, a Global Top 100 self-improvement podcast. Today, he discusses the 5 pillars of health and how they impact so many aspects of our life. He breaks down each pillar and how we can benefit by understanding its importance.
Listen to the podcast here:
Alan Lazaros Outlines The 5 Pillars For Health
Health Is The Key To A Long And Successful Life
We are going to talk about fitness and the five pillars of fitness. My guest is Alan Lazaros. He’s a performance fitness coach. He also co-hosts a show called The Hyper Conscious Podcast. In this episode, he goes through and breaks down the five pillars of health. I learned several things in this episode. Let’s get into it.
Alan, thank you again for taking the time to be on the show. We met for the first time and I loved our conversation. We went to dinner together. A mutual friend of ours invited us to dinner and the volume kept going back and forth in regards to personal development. I knew I wanted to have you on the show to talk about your area of expertise because you bring so much depth to what you are doing.
First and foremost, thank you for having me on the show. Our mutual friend, Mark Metry, it was nice to meet him and some of his associations. Like attracts like. It’s clear to me that I like that you do leadership. I remember asking you at dinner, “When did you get into personal development?” You said, “Honestly, it has been forever.” To me, personal development and fitness have saved my life. My father passed away when I was two years old. I lost something near and dear to my heart from an early stage in life but I did gain something else.
I was raised by two mothers. I had an older sister who was three years older than me and my mom. From a young age, she said, “Alan, you can be a CEO or farmer. Life is about choice. The problem is that if you are a CEO, you can wake up one day and decide to be a farmer but if you are a farmer, you can’t wake up and decide to be a CEO. If you are smart enough, you will have choices.” I think she didn’t feel like she had choices, especially when her husband passed away. She always instilled that in me, “Life is about choice.” That has been such a common denominator in my life.
I remember I was eight years old. We were driving past WPI because her older sister is seventeen years old that lived in Holden. WPI is Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It’s in Western Mass. At the bottom of the hill, there’s the sign WPI. I remember it to this day. My mom said, “You should go there one day, Alan. You are smart. Smart people go there. Again, life is about choice.” I was good at Mathematics and naturally gifted at that time, even that early on. She thought that I should be an engineer. In hindsight, this was so gutsy. She said, “You can take eighth grade off if you promise me that when you go to high school, you will get straight A’s and the President’s Award.” President’s Award is you cannot get a 95 or lower GPA out of 100 on any report card for all four years.
She let me take eighth grade off. If you were to look back at my academic career, you would see in eighth grade D’s, C’s, B’s and then everything else, you would see straight A’s. I’ve got one B plus in Honors English 1 and I never took Honors again for English. I’ve got the President’s Award. She helped me get into WPI. I’ve got into WPI and going to that school was one of the best decisions I ever made because it’s interesting. You are in high school and you are the smart kid. Academics always came fairly easy to me but then you go to WPI, which is like a mini-MIT, and you realize quickly that you are not all that smart and that everyone is as smart as you.Life is about choices. Click To Tweet
I remember what we did in Physics. I’ve got a Physics Award at the award ceremony in high school. I took Physics-Mechanics at WPI freshmen. I remember in two weeks, we did what I had already known and I was so over my head. I had to surround myself with these ridiculously smart people to learn from them. I was the fun one, they were the smart ones and we helped each other. It’s funny because, to circle back, I’m good at Math. I wanted to make a lot of money. I have always been super ambitious. I’ve got an Electrical and Computer Engineering degree, which still to this day is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I didn’t like Engineering all that much, even though I did persevere and get that degree. I went back to school for a Master’s in Marketing and Technological Innovation. I’ve got my Master’s and then I went into Corporate America. I did a lot of jobs out there. I was all over the place.
Eventually, I landed at a company called Cognex. Cognex sells industrial automation equipment and I started an inside sales team there. Now up to this point in high school, college and sales, alcohol was a big part of the culture. My kryptonite and I say this to people on the show all the time like, “We are all a warning and an example of something.” I always ask people, “What’s your kryptonite?” For me, it’s arrogance and alcohol. I always try to stay as humble as possible. I also try to stay out of vices and in virtues. This is the moment that shifted my mentality, made me start living a more hyperconscious and intentional life, and focusing on my own personal development.
I was in the Providence Place Mall, I’m watching a movie, 300: Rise of an Empire. I was 26 at that time. We were paying for parking. There were little kids around. We were not out at the bar. We were not doing anything crazy and I’ve got punched from behind. I turned to my right and I saw the evilest eyes I had ever seen and knew in that instance. If you have ever been in a life or death situation, in a moment, it’s a fight, flight or freeze. It was like, “I knew this dude was trying to kill me.” I can’t explain it. I just knew it. He either thinks I’m someone I’m not like a Providence gang or something or he’s crazy. It turns out he was a schizophrenic who hadn’t taken his medication.
He tried to fight me and my buddy Kiki pushed him off me. I ran away and Kiki didn’t run. Fight, flight or freeze. I chose flight. He chose to freeze. Kodo, that was his name, beat the hell out of my buddy. We ended up pulling the fire alarm. The cops detained him. He told the cops we were trying to kill him but it turned out it was a schizophrenic rage. This messed with me. I often say to people, “If you have ever had the death of a loved one, near-death experience or illness that has made you question your life, it shakes the snow globe.” Everything you think you know gets shaken up. You start to question everything, “Have I been living congruently with my highest purpose? Have I been chasing my dreams courageously? Have I been loving fiercely and openly?” You start to question like, “What if that was it?”
I had that shake and snow globe experience. I had a lot of shame around leaving Kiki behind because to this day, if Kodo had had a knife, I know for a fact that we would both be either deathly injured or dead. He punched me from behind and he was trying to kill us. That was the first real snow globe shaking that got me to question the way I was living. To me, I was so ashamed. I’ve got made fun of by my friends for leaving Kiki behind. “You are such a coward. You ran away.” I decided to hit the gym. At this time, I was 160 pounds, 6’2″. What I often say is skinny, fat alcoholic. I don’t like that label but I drank too much and too often. Again, Cognex was work hard, play hard. I did well in sales and the culture was a lot of socializing. I know you know the atmosphere.
That’s a sales atmosphere too in most places. That’s my environment. I always say it.
Work hard, play hard. I used to say, “Work hard, play harder.” I gained 60 pounds in six months. I went from 160 to 220. I do not recommend that since I’m a peak performance fitness coach. That was too much fat that I gained but I also gained a ton of muscle. I decided, “If anything like that ever happened again, I’m going to be stronger and be able to defend myself. I’m not going to run away.” This is where the real snow globe got shaken.
I was up in New Hampshire. I was with my little cousin. He was seventeen years old and we were going to TGI Friday’s. The road was supposed to stay right. I thought it stayed left. I was looking down at the GPS. This was a weird intersection. It was a cold winter night. It was one of those bad winters where the snow was all the way up near the signs. I ended up on the wrong side of the road when I was looking down at the GPS. I was only looking for a second. I looked up and I remember seeing the biggest lift-kitted truck with the brightest lights I had ever seen. I remember thinking, “That was it.”
Remember, I was 26 at that time. My father was 28 when he died in a car accident. This messed with me a lot. Fortunately, I was driving a 2004 Volkswagen Passat, which is an absolute steel trap. I used to call it The Tank and the airbags went off. Neither one of us was direly injured but that got me to question everything. In my speeches, I show this car and the accident. It was completely totaled but fortunately, we are okay. I hurt my face on the airbag. He hurt his knee but he was still seventeen with that invincibility complex. He was tweeting about it. He was okay. He was not questioning his life. I was sitting in an armchair at my little cousin’s house. I was drinking a glass of whiskey and contemplating everything. I was like, “What if that was the end? Would I have been proud of the man I had become? Would I have been proud of my contribution?”
Here’s the interesting thing. A lot of people talk about legacy and the impact we have on others but I spent my whole life hearing stories about my dad. What I find the most fascinating, now reflecting, and what I tell people on the show and speeches is like, “They don’t talk about how he died. They talk about how he lived.” I have a very emotionalized version of the impact we have on others. It’s more profound than any of us can fathom while we are here. The one word that I focus on is legacy and I live from that place every single day. I say to people the following quote that resonates so deeply with most people, “You cannot see the stars during the day. They are always there but sometimes it takes the darkness to see clearly, which we simply could not within the light.”
What did I see clearly after my snow globe was shaken? I saw a couple of things. Number one, there’s a book by Bronnie Ware called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. To this day, I have a flashcard in my pocket with all five of them. The number one regret of the dying is, “I wish I had lived a life true to myself and not what others expected of me.” Here’s the cool part. I’ve got to interview Bronnie Ware. She’s from Australia. She came on the show and I’ve got to ask her about these things. That was one of the things that I found. The other thing I found was Tony Robbins’ TED Talk. It’s called Why We Do What We Do. It’s one of the best speeches in the world. It’s my second favorite speech ever of all time. The first one is Steve Jobs at Stanford address.
The third thing I found was my peak performance fitness coach, Nate Smithson. He’s a dear friend of mine. This was when I started to turn it all around. I was in the dark. Here’s what I have figured out that I want to bring to the world. When you are in deep emotional pain, you have a decision to make. Life is about choices. You are going to do one of two things. You are either going to escape that pain into a vice that does not make you better or develop a virtue. Here’s the interesting part. Why would Warren Buffett invest in a stock he didn’t believe would grow? It all comes down to belief. I realized that the reason why I normally chose virtue over vice is that I believe in my own brighter future.
What I have come to realize speaking at colleges, podcasts listeners, hosting events and co-hosting events, people struggle with self-belief. If they do not believe in themselves on a subconscious level, they are always going to escape pain rather than use it to be better. Every single time I’m in emotional pain, I know I have a choice. I can either try to escape this and distract myself with alcohol, Netflix or marijuana. I’m not against any of those things per se but the reason why you are doing it, if it’s to escape your life, I would argue it’s a vice rather than developing a virtue. That’s my long story of how I became the man I am now. It’s because I was in deep, emotional pain but I believed in my own brighter future enough to make those adversities become an advantage through my own personal development.
It’s interesting as you were talking about mindset or a choice that people can make. There was a book that I read every morning as part of my ritual meditation. It’s by a gentleman named Emmet Fox who has passed. He died in the 1950s. There’s a reading in there every day. One of the lines here said, “Doubt and fear are the cruelest things that can come into the life of man.”People won’t talk about how you died. They talk about how you lived. Click To Tweet
When you are doubting yourself, you are going to choose vice over virtue. The day is always filled with that choice.
Your story plays into this. As we come into the new year, that’s not when you need to set goals but that’s symbolically when most people do it as they say. If it was just about intellectually setting a goal, that would be a piece of cake. Everybody would do it. You wouldn’t have January 15th and most people not following through on what they had said they were going to do. Health plays an important role in so many aspects of our lives. That’s a great place for us to start. I know in one of the promotional videos that I was watching of yours, you talked about the five pillars of fitness. I would love to know what those are and how those come into play for you.
For a long time in my life, I often say to people, “If you are grateful for your gifts, prove it by developing them. Make sure when you develop them, you use them to serve others.” I do have several gifts. I’m blessed to have a powerful mind and a capable, strong body. The problem was I wasn’t developing those gifts and using them to serve. The five fundamental pillars of natural fitness are what I use to help my clients achieve the greatest life they possibly can. If you were to go to my Instagram bio, it says, “I help you design the life and body of your dreams.” That is, in a nutshell, what I do in one sentence. What are the five fundamental pillars of natural fitness? Sleep, hydration, nutrition, training and mobility. That is holding up the whole building. If you had to pick a sixth one, it would be oxygen but that’s automatic.
Even that one, I would argue, can be done inefficiently.
It can if you are not breathing well 100%. They are all connected. Here’s the cool part. They are in order of most importance based on what you will die without. Let’s throw oxygen in here. You will die without oxygen quicker than you will die without sleep. You will die without sleep quicker than you will die without water. You will die without water quicker than you will die without food. You will die without food quicker than you will die without exercise. You will die without exercise way quicker than you will die without stretching and mobility. This is holding up the whole building.
I like to think of life as a pyramid. You have your true North at the top. That’s your mission, your desire to serve something greater than yourself. The bottom of the pyramid is your core values and fitness. If you are out there now, what is some of why power to get better sleep? A lot of people set goals and know of these. One of the first things I want to say is, “The reason why these are so important is that they are fundamental. You can’t sell these.” The fitness industry personally is a tornado of misinformation because it’s predicated on trying to sell something. To be completely honest, health is free if you do the right things. The right foods cost money but generally speaking, you have to eat food anyway so you can be strategic.
I’m not trying to sell anyone anything other than their own health and well-being. These sleep, hydration, nutrition, training, and mobility, you can’t sell those. Those take time, investment and energy. They are not sexy. They are boring. The industry doesn’t talk about them because they are too boring but those are the fundamentals that make the big difference. I recommend to my clients that they get at least seven hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep. It’s not the amount of time you spend in bed. It’s the amount of time you spend in REM. I’m a big fan of earplugs, making sure you are not interrupted constantly throughout the night. New mothers would tell you, “I can spend ten hours in bed but if I’m woken up by the baby throughout the night, you are still exhausted when you wake up.” It’s all about REM.
Here’s the interesting thing about sleep. We have a lymphatic system in our body, where if I were to jump up and down, it would flush out the junk of my cells. It’s like the sewage system of the body. The problem is the brain doesn’t have that. We are having an intellectually stimulating conversation that takes focus. Our brain cells are creating plaque, gunk and waste. The only time that gunk gets washed out is when we sleep because when you are in REM, your cerebral fluid flushes that stuff out. What they are finding in all the Neuroscience is that people with Alzheimer’s have histories of poor sleep. If you want to be long and healthy, sleep is so fundamental. It’s critical. Get quality, uninterrupted sleep.
When you talk about sleep, for me, I listen to a delta wave when I go to sleep.
Any tactics that I do personally are earplugs and face masks. Make sure that there’s no light before bed. Start winding down an hour before bed. If you can, try to turn your devices off. A lot of people have heard this before but few people do it. The other thing too, I listen to books before bed but a specific book. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a soothing voice to me. I put a timer on it so that it shuts off at fifteen minutes. People who have the TV on in the background, are priming your subconscious with the wrong stuff. Remember that your subconscious is going to chew on whatever you gave it right before bed, which is critical. I also think journaling practice is huge and also hard copy books. Let’s be honest. When we are reading a hard copy book, how easy is it to doze off? Pick a boring one. Hard copy books are the cheat code to go to sleep quickly.
Also, you bring up a great point when you talk about journaling before you go to bed because I’m a firm believer in that as well. I speak to it from the sense of, “What do most people do when they go to sleep?” If they are not doing that, they are thinking about either what went wrong during the day or what they are going to have to deal with tomorrow that they are dreading. If we can, at the end of the day, write down what went well during the day, it forces you. I believe in that restorative aspect of it. “I’m going to go to sleep with a positive sense as opposed to dread. I have to believe that has some impact on my restorative sleep.”
If you have ever read a book called The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, he talks about how the subconscious mind is 40,000 times more powerful than the conscious mind. In my speeches, I use an analogy. Imagine a 4K TV. One of those pixels is your conscious mind. The other 3,999 pixels are your subconscious mind. Technically, you would have to 10X that. The one pixel that is your conscious mind is the general. That’s steering the ship. The problem is you have to prime your conscious mind. You have to use your conscious mind to cry on your subconscious before sleep. For example, I asked myself four questions. Number one, “What did I learn now?” Number two, “What am I going to do differently based on that?” Number three, “What am I most grateful for about now?” Number four, “What are my top three strategic focuses for tomorrow?”
Do I do that every single night? Sometimes I miss it. The compound effect of that over time will change your life so much. I also do a gratitude game with my lady where we never miss. We always say at least three things we are grateful for about each other and we read them to each other. If we are together, we read them live from our notes app. If we are not together, we voice memos. She loves to hear my voice before bed and vice versa. That’s another wonderful soothing thing. Here’s the cool thing. For anyone willing to do that with their intimate partner, it’s going to give you the cheat codes of what she values so that you can do them more and vice versa. It’s the best thing. We haven’t missed since we met, which, believe it or not, wasn’t all that long ago. We never plan on missing. We will not miss it.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools in the human condition, especially before bed. I will get a new client and they will say, “Don’t worry about hydration. I drink a lot of water.” I will say, “What does that mean in terms of numbers?” We can tell ourselves a story but numbers never lie. I remember one time I had a client and I will keep it anonymous. She was very obese and struggling. I have nothing but compassion for someone who has let themselves go physically because I have been there as well. She said, “Don’t worry. I drink a lot of water.” I said, “How much, though?” I’m a numbers guy. I have this all graphed. Every one of my clients has a full spreadsheet.Health is free if you do the right things. Click To Tweet
She said, “Thirty-two ounces.” In my mind, I went, “This person is 270 pounds and they are getting 32 ounces a day. They believe that that’s enough, which is not even close.” What I recommend to my clients is 0.6 ounces per pound of body weight. I’m 190 pounds. That’s about 110-ish. For me, I usually get about a gallon a day. The point is you want to be drinking water consistently. I tell my clients, “You will never catch me without water on my person.” I have my water right over there. It’s always within arm’s length.
I took your number down here. I’m not there and I know that’s something that I need to pick up on. I have never heard the 0.6 ounces.
I like to pride myself on understanding why people do what they do and don’t do what they say they are going to do. What’s the bottleneck? This is a common pattern. It’s because I’m a fitness coach, I start to notice these patterns. Everyone gets sick of having to pee all the time.
For me, it’s more a habit of not having my water bottle with me at all times.
That will do it because that’s the trigger when you see your water.
When I’m working out, I’m drinking the whole time I’m there constantly but it’s in certain spaces that I don’t have that water bottle with me and I need it.
I tell my clients, “Don’t let me catch you without your water.” Even at nice dinners, I’m going to bring my water bottle. I always have it with me.
You had it at the night we were at dinner, I remember.
Here’s the thing, too. Some people will say, “I’m getting 8 ounces a day.” “Are you drinking 64 of them during your workout?” It’s not just about the number. It’s about consistency throughout the day. You can’t take 1 hour out of 16 hours you are awake and drink half of your day with water.
That’s like watering plants that you only water them on Monday but you can’t spread the water.
It’s like, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away but what if I eat seven on Sunday? Does that work?” No, that’s not how the universe is set up. Trust me. I’m a Math guy. It’s all about logarithmic differential equations. Nothing is linear. Third, we’ve got nutrition. This is a big pillar. To me, what I rate my clients are is simple. Are you hitting your daily caloric intake that we have set in advance? Are you keeping your plate colorful in terms of micronutrients? The biggest bottleneck I see under this pillar is people are way too focused on what they are eating and not focused enough on how much. If I were to ask you openly, just transparency, do you know how many calories a day you get?
A lot of people are afraid of the scale and mirror. Whenever I get a client, I always notice they have an aversion to the scale, calories and mirror. I know why. It’s because when human beings don’t feel like they are in control of their own outcomes, it causes emotional pain and they avoid it. If you are not good at finances, then chances are you are avoiding spending money. You are scared to spend money. You are avoiding your bills when they come in and that interest rate. The problem is if you keep avoiding the feedback, you are not going to learn how to master it. What I tell people is, “I can get that scale within reason to say any number you want. Give me enough time.” That’s why I have spreadsheets for every client.
To add value to your readers, in the fitness arena, if you feel like you are not in control of your own body and physique, it’s because of this primarily. If you are in a caloric surplus, which means that you eat more than you burn on a given day, you will gain weight no matter what you eat. If you are in a caloric deficit, which means that you eat less than you burn on a given day, you will lose weight no matter what you eat. I go in phases. My clients are either building muscle or burning fat. Never both. Most people are trying to do both simultaneously. Chase two rabbits. You will catch neither. Most of them are in a muscle-building phase. Why? It’s because it’s winter and they want to prepare for next summer. I make sure they are eating at least 300 calories more than their body burns in a given day and their weight training so that most of that is muscle.We can tell ourselves a story, but numbers never lie. Click To Tweet
Here’s another bottleneck in fitness. You cannot gain muscle without also gaining some fat. You cannot burn fat without also burning some muscle. The key is to maximize muscle gain and minimize fat gain and then to maximize fat burn and minimize muscle loss. I know that this is a lot. If you are out there now and you want to get serious about fitness, the only wrong answer is to not educate yourself. The whole industry is trying to give you a fish. I want to teach you how to fish. I tell my clients right up front, “When you work with me, my goal is to teach you why everything is the way it is so now you can make your own educated decision.”
I have one client. He’s a C-Suite executive, multi-millionaire and sold a company in the billions. He told me, “Alan, red wine doesn’t have a lot of calories.” I immediately sent him a screenshot of WolframAlpha of 9 ounces of red wine, 212 calories. I will keep the name anonymous. We will call him John. “John, who told you that crap?” We don’t make bad decisions. We have bad assumptions because we have low awareness. He is a CEO of a multinational tech company. He has been going into all of his decisions of what he is doing based on a false assumption. “Red wine has fewer calories. Therefore, I drink white wine.” How much progress has he left on the table because of that one misbelief? That’s the thing.
My goal with my clients and all of your readers isn’t to work with me. It’s to raise your awareness. Your success will come down to your ability to make intelligent decisions consistently but you can only make intelligent decisions predicated on your awareness of what an intelligent decision is. We had a man by the name of Micheal Burt on the show. His name is Coach Burt. He’s a world-class speaker and an unbelievably prolific person. He said, “Alan, success comes down to good decisions but your decisions are predicated on your understandings. You are not bad at fitness. You just have low awareness in this arena.”
What you can do is get around someone who has high awareness and let their awareness rub off on you so now you can eventually make intelligent decisions yourself like in finance. In investment, how do you go invest in the right assets when you know nothing about personal finance? To me, raising your awareness is everything. That’s what I’m trying to do for all your readers. Before I go down another rabbit hole, that’s the nutrition pillar. Focus more on how much you are eating, not as much on what you are eating. If I were to ask you how many calories are in a banana, would you know?
It’s 120. I’m speaking on natural health and fitness on January 25th, 2021. I speak on natural health and fitness a lot. What’s cool is I pick the in-shape people in the room and I don’t tell them that I’m going to call on them because I want everyone else in the room to realize they look like that for a reason. It’s not because they’ve got lucky. I did this and said, “Matt.” He’s the most in-shape in the room. I picked him and said, “Stand up. How many calories are in a banana?” “120.” “How many calories in an apple?” “90.” “How many calories in a piece of bread?” He was like, “What kind of bread?” I said, “He looks like that because his awareness is higher than yours.”
I said this, “What’s your current weight?” He told me, “Two hundred fifteen and seven.” “What’s your goal weight?” He said, “Two hundred twelve.” It’s awesome because I tell the audience, “I didn’t know. I didn’t ask him ahead of time. I just knew he knew his weight because you wouldn’t look like that otherwise.” Life is a numbers game. How did I know he would know his exact weight? What you measure improves. That’s what I love. If you want to improve in a given arena, the first step is to raise your awareness in that arena. We have all heard of Pareto’s Principle, 20% of your inputs are responsible for 80% of your results. If you don’t know what that 20% is, you are going to be spinning your wheels. You are not going to have a system and going to struggle.
Next is training. This is a big one. I remember I was at a Brendon Burchard event. To this day, the person who spoke on fitness is a close friend of mine now, which is so cool. It was called High Performance Academy. Physiology was one of the topics. He had us do a breakout session where we’ve got into groups and Brendon asked us a question after the fitness speaker went up, who is now a dear friend of mine, Anthony Trucks. He’s a great guy. Brendon asked, “I want you to write down the top three health decisions you have ever made and share them with your group.” I went through my whole group. They all told me theirs. I said, “Honestly, guys, weight training three times.”
What bothered me is you didn’t talk about weight training once in your whole hour-long presentation. Weight training is the most important part of fitness, hands down, bar none, especially if you want to look aesthetic. Most people don’t admit that they want to look well but I have heard a lot of the studies about how the number one form of shame for women in this country, in particular, is body image. For men, the number one form of shame is lack of success or competence. These are generalizations. These are just studies that are done.
The point is that if you don’t admit to yourself that you want to look better, feel better or be better, then chances are you are going to keep avoiding feedback. You are never going to master that arena and feel in control of your own body and life. Before I get too morbid, the point is this. This still bothers me. When I go into a gym, the cardio machines are all taken and then you go over to the weights and it’s empty. It depends on the gym but generally speaking, most people focus on cardio. I think that’s a huge mistake. Why? The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn in a day, even at a resting rate. Therefore, your metabolism will be better and the negative effects of overeating won’t be as drastic.
I saw a short video of a guy that was saying what you were saying. It was like, “If you want to get in shape, left. Use weights. Don’t do cardio. I can do far better just lifting weights and burning more than you can do in cardio.” It’s counterintuitive because you are thinking, “I’m both. I’m a runner and I will lift weights.” If I were to choose the two thinking, “Which is going to burn more?” I would be thinking, “I need to go out and run again.”
I’m so glad that you said that. Thank you for that. That’s full transparency. Let me break this down for your readers because this will be quick. Let’s say there are two versions of you. One of them runs and one of them weight-trains. Tomorrow, you are going to weight train or run for one hour. Let’s say, hypothetically, you burn 500 calories in both instances. One of them is an investment and the other one is a savings account. One of them is the stock market that will grow. One of them is a savings account where it stays the same. Here’s why. Let’s say you burnt 500 calories and you lose weight doing cardio, person A. Person B loses weight doing weight training. One of them is going to retain more muscle. What does that mean? The retention of muscle is a long-term investment in burning more calories ultimately. If you and I go on a run together, the same distance at the same rate, I’m going to burn way more calories than you. Do you know why?
You have more muscle.Success comes down to good decisions, but your decisions are predicated on your understandings. Click To Tweet
When you build or retain muscle, it is a long-term investment, whereas cardio is a short-term calorie burst. If you switch those and get good cardio workouts in while weight training, you are merging the worlds and you are going to be unstoppable. You saw me eat at the dinner. People see me eat now and they think, “How has he stayed in shape? He must be genetically gifted.” No, you should see me years ago. The point is I have more muscle mass. Every action I take has a compounded effect of calories burnt. You have to find someone who understands where you are at because they have been there and learn from them because they have to give you the cheat codes of you at that level. If you try to eat like I’m eating, you are screwed. If I eat like I’m eating years ago, I would be fat instead of fit. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to anything. It’s all customizable based on principles. You have to understand the principles.
Mobility is staying pliable. I will give you the short version of this. You have joints, ligaments and tendons that when you weight train, take too much of the load when you become less pliable. All of us are aging. We all have a calendar age and biological age. I look young. My biological age is far lower than my calendar age. I turned 31, I looked 12. I hit puberty late. I’m still hoping to hit puberty soon. The point is that when you age, your muscles naturally become less pliable. Here’s the problem. When you weight train and get stronger, your muscles also naturally get less pliable. This is why I’m trying to bring yoga and foam rolling to bodybuilders because as you get stronger, your muscles become less pliable.
I will give you an example. If you have ever read Tom Brady’s book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, he’s big on pliability because he’s still the best quarterback arguably. Why? It’s because he spends most of his time focused on pliability so that when he gets hit, it’s much less likely to injure him because everything is loose. This is my biggest issue too because when I’m not doing my mobility work, I’m much more likely to get injured, especially because I’m lifting such heavyweights. What are some practical tips for people for mobility? Every single day, when I first wake up, I jump on the foam roller. I do my morning mindset workout and then I do my posture work. I have these bands that I will use and stretch. I will try to do all of my stretches. Usually, it takes me about fifteen minutes. I will focus primarily on my foam rolling on the muscle group that I either trained yesterday or I’m going to train that day.
To jump back to the training pillar, if you are going to start weight training, start small, put the ego away, don’t let anyone laugh at you, and form first. The fundamentals consistently done over time are everything. Michael Jordan practiced the chest pass when he was still the best basketball player in the world because the fundamentals are what matter most. I taught all five. Other than oxygen, breathing is the whole game of your health. If you take care of this body, imagine how productive you are going to be for the rest of your life. Imagine waking up every single day, feeling good physically, you are going to have more belief in yourself, more capability, more self-esteem, take bigger chances, and your whole life is going to snowball in a positive direction. Fitness saved my life because I remember when I was not taking my health and fitness seriously, I was very unhappy. Now, I like to bring that to people.
Alan, this has been such a good conversation, especially on those five pillars. I have learned a couple of areas that have the potential to be game-changers.
Thank you for having me on. I hope that your readers took a lot out of it. If you have any questions or need anything, be sure to reach out. Honestly, you and I hit it off. I want to help you in any way I can, Patrick.
With that said, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
I’m on all of the Big Six, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat. The best way to get in touch with me is Instagram, which is going to be @Alazaros88. If you type in Alan Lazaros, I will come right up. Thank you so much.
It has been awesome.
Alan had so much energy in this show. It was great to know his five pillars of health. I learned a lot in regards to muscle and burning fat, as well as the amount of water that I need to be drinking. As we start a new year, we all have goals about getting in shape and this is one of those episodes that can help you do that. If you know somebody that might find this interesting, forward it to them. If you haven’t already subscribed, please go ahead and subscribe to the show. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or comment because that’s how the message continues to spread. It has been awesome to know the feedback from people from all over the world that read this. It blows my mind. Until our next episode, I hope you can go out there and not only lead like no other but rise above your best.
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About Alan Lazaros
Alan is one of the Founders & Hosts of the Next Level University, a Global Top 100 Self-Improvement podcast with more than 700 episodes reaching over half a million people in more than 100 countries on how to improve your life, love, health & wealth.
Alan is a Business Consultant specializing in helping Business Owners & Executives maximize their growth, impact & profitability.
Alan believes in a heart-driven but NO BS approach to inspiring, motivating & educating others on what it REALLY takes to get to the Next Level!
We are in a leadership crisis where prescriptive authority persists in our workplaces. We can do better by harnessing the superpower beyond leadership – believership. Believership brings a good heart, inclusion, diversity, and caring to leadership. The show’s guest today is Mike Vacanti, the founder of HumansFirst. Mike discusses with Patrick Veroneau how powerful believership is in inspiring others to follow. Listen to this episode and become a great leader!
Listen to the podcast here:
Mike Vacanti: What Is The Superpower Beyond Leadership?
Believership Is A Powerful Driver That Inspires Others To Follow
In this episode, we are going to talk about leadership but specifically, we are going to talk about it as it relates to believers or believership. My guest is the author of his new book, which is called Believership: The Superpower Beyond Leadership. What I think is so incredible about that title is that it’s saying it is a superpower and it explores leadership on a deeper level in terms of where we want to go. One of the points that he makes here is to talk about believership is awakening and the conversation continues to go throughout that in regards to different areas where all of us can improve our ability to lead and personal development plays such an important role. I’m not only obsessed with interviewing those like Mike Vacanti, whose actions are inspiring others but also in uncovering the research that demonstrates that we all can lead like no other. When we lead like no other, we succeed like no other so let’s get into it.
Mike, I want to thank you for taking the time to be on the show. As I mentioned before we started this, I’m not sure how we first linked up. I think it was through HumansFirst and then I saw what you were doing with your book, Believership. That struck me without even the tagline, which is The Superpower Beyond Leadership. You were kind enough in terms of reaching out to send me a manuscript of this earlier to get a chance to read this and I loved it. I was hoping we could jump into it. I would love to hear how you came about the idea of Believership as a book.
It’s great to be here with you, Patrick. First, I appreciate being a part of this. The work you are doing is extraordinary. The great experiment of HumansFirst, that has been an interesting year of my life. The HumansFirst Club, which some people are calling a movement now but that’s not a comfortable term for me at this point but I certainly am pleased that others feel it’s gaining momentum and growing. I think that open conversation came out of the soil of Believership, which is something that I coined and created through some coaching a few years ago. I was at a crossroads. I was in another transition after doing my fifth merger and acquisition over the past several years.
I would move out to Seattle for a couple of years and I came back to Minneapolis and I was searching for what was next and feeling a little bit stuck. The transaction wasn’t coming naturally. Somebody asked me in a job interview, “Mike, you are showing these extraordinary results every time there was a merger and acquisition. Why did that happen?” I think I lowered my voice in an octave or two and probably gave my best business BS and I didn’t believe a word of it. I was like, “I don’t know how to answer that question. I should find out.”
It was that deep dive journey, getting a lot of feedback from bosses, employees, people that worked for me, I worked with, partners, customers, 40 big packets of information that a coach took me through. What I learned or emerged through that was people believed in what we were doing together. That’s why it worked. While other business units do those mergers and acquisitions, there are a lot of fear, doubt and chaos. A lot was falling apart but my teams were thriving and succeeding. Believership was the best descriptor.
How about the tagline of this, though, the superpower? Everybody that I have talked to as they have written their books, there’s an intentional reason why that’s in there. I’m curious from your own perspective, that wasn’t by mistake.
No, it’s not. I believe that Believership better describes what’s happened with our great leaders over time. It better describes it than an adjective followed by the word leadership. Instead of the adjective, whatever that would be, leadership, I think that when people were able to create leadership and either the person, the mission or the product that they attach themselves and they committed. It was aligned to their thinking their values and they can show up whole.
Many years ago, I had come across the quote by John Quincy Adams that says, “If your actions inspire somebody to do, dream, learn or become more, you are a leader.” That has always stood out to me because that’s what you are talking about is I hear it. From a standpoint of Believership, is that it was your actions that inspired somebody. It wasn’t, “I’ve got the title. You are going to go this way.” Your actions inspired people to do those things, whether it was to learn, dream, become or do more. They decided to do that. Not you saying, “This is where we are going,” because we know what happens when it’s the title that’s creating the change. It’s not durable.Create value and let people grow and develop. Click To Tweet
I love that quote. That nails it. The beauty about that is we have known this through time. I don’t know why we threw away the wisdom. We doubled down on what I call in the book prescriptive authority and is basically saying, “I’m in the big chair. You do what I say.” We are brilliant people. Over the last 100 years, with the few industrial revolutions we have been through, we became experts at driving efficiency and maximizing profit. Through that process, we dehumanized the workplace. We doubled down on more oppression to extract the value from people than to create value and let people grow and develop. My big view of the future, Patrick, is we are coming into a time of great change. It’s going to be more significant, rapid than any time before. It’s a non-industrial revolution. I don’t think we are preparing people for it and the research supports that.
That’s exactly what I loved as I was reading this and you talk about all these advances that we have made. My background prior to this was in biotech, pharmaceuticals and always the advances that were made. We see advances in so many other areas but you said, “Leadership is one of those that we were using a model that doesn’t fit anymore.” There is so much research now in regards to many different areas that impact our ability to lead.
There are a lot of studies out there and they have been saying it for a few years. Creativity and ingenuity will be the great advantages of a leader going forward and that we need more of that in our organizations. I don’t think we know how to get there. We have built containers that gave us the skills, the characteristics, the traits of a leader, which keeps repeating the same pattern of people that haven’t been able to lead very effectively.
You mentioned in the book that we are using a flawed process to identifying leaders. I was wondering, could you maybe talk a little bit about that? What is that flaw and how do we correct it?
In my experiences inside organizations and they are at the executive level so I jump in and sit on that executive team, we are going through change management, significant change, merger and acquisition. What was amazing is the person with the authority dictated the direction. When there was opposition in thought or idea, then that person was pushed aside. Those that would follow the command were the ones that rose to the top. I think that we built that through our ATS systems, job requirements. I will go through and look at the job descriptions of a senior executive or a leader in companies now. None of those tell me that that’s a leader that they are hiring. It’s a person with a bunch of experiences, certain skill levels, and a lot of degrees and letters after their name. There’s nowhere in there that talks about the quality of the person, the character, their adaptability or their ability to truly lead others.
You said your favorite interview question. Tell me about the relationships of the people you work with.
It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? Nobody has ever asked me that question. I asked that question when people were joining my team when I was doing interviews because I wanted to know you get a lot out of their descriptive quality or the way that they approach it. Are they going to talk about business and the relationships based on the outcomes of their interactions together or are they going to talk about the human being, the person? That type of information describes a lot of how they approach the world, teaming and who they believe they are themselves.
It’s an interesting one. As I read that, I was like, “That I think exposes a lot. It probably throws people.” I’m thinking this is going to be, let’s talk tactics and decisiveness. All of a sudden, tell me about relationships and the soft side of them. There are a lot of power to that.
We can lead beyond our ability to follow directions or find those that will follow directions. What I believe, Patrick is if we step outside of the transactional nature of employment, I’m going to get my car, I’m going to show up and I’m going to trade my time for that paycheck. We are going to do good work together and that’s fundamental. That’s a good thing. I’m going to get my car. I’m going to come in with some enthusiasm. I can’t wait to engage with these people. We are going to go explore possibilities, not try to find the finish line and fall over each other at the end.
On a whole different level, if you are in a work setting, you spend more time with those people than you do, probably with your own family continually. Even if you are at home, you are not in the same room all the time. That’s where you spend most of your time. Wouldn’t it be nice to show up there and want to be there? It is through relationships.
A true leader, I believe, can create that environment to a strong degree. It is by acknowledging that each individual is an individual. We have bought into again the container, the industrial model of sameness. With that idea that everybody is the same or equal, we don’t look at their individual strengths. I like to encourage people to double down on their strengths. Your weaknesses are low priority strengths.
We don’t like to work on our weaknesses. Marcus Buckingham’s First, Break All the Rules talked about the idea that we want to double down on our strengths.
There’s a growth mindset in that. When one of my weaknesses becomes an anchor for me, then I will want to go address that. I will get support around it but change it because it makes me different than others, it doesn’t seem to be a good reason to do it.
You mentioned in regards to the character being much more important than skills. I certainly share a similar thought around that but I would be curious as to what your thoughts are on it. Why do you think that is? What is it that makes a character more important than the skillset?
Skills can be learned. They can be learned and applied. I didn’t have a finance degree at all but you go through the business for a little while and I can pour through a financial report pretty darn quickly and find opportunities and holes in the budgets and do all kinds of things. It’s not a skill that I came in with but I became rather expert at it. Is that important? It helped me perform the job. Character, as opposed to skill, is about the experience. How consistently do I show up? How authentically do I show up? We can get into definitions around that. I know that’s one of the adjective leadership categories. Do I value other people? What is the purpose of getting things done? Is it to collect more money and move on? Am I willing to discard humanity for personal gain? Those are the character issues. In the end, those are the things we experience. That’s my big definition. Some people will say soft skills or human skills. I don’t think that treating people well, being able to operate mind, body and spirit, operate from the soul is character. It has nothing to do with skills.
It’s interesting because my perspective on that is very similar in regards to the things that you bring up. My guess is in a role that you had, if you didn’t know how it was done, if you treated others around you the right way, then they would want to help you out to get what you needed. To me, that’s where I see a character as being so important that if I do the right things, then people naturally want to help out those people that they feel like care about other people. Skills can always be a deficit. If I do the right thing and treat other people, they are going to help me figure out and get the answers I need because they know that I’m the kind of person that will help them out as well. For them, too. I think we are much more forgiving in terms of people’s inadequacies when we feel like they come from a place of goodness.
I think that when that environment exists, when a person of high character is involved in the environment, leading the environment, that when people have skill deficits, they will embrace going after and changing them because it’s a safe growth path. I don’t have to hide my deficiencies. It’s like, “I don’t know how to do this but I know I can get you there.” We will give you 90 days. You are going to be good at it.Create learning and development opportunities for young and emerging leaders. Click To Tweet
That allows you to have vulnerability.
I think that changes the game and my belief now, Patrick, looking forward, putting myself in a feature mindset is I believe we need to get there. Change is going to happen more significantly and rapidly than at any time in the past. These are the important foundations I think we need to put in place.
One of the questions or certain obstacles that I tend to see out there as we talk about vulnerability especially is maybe managers that are looking to be leaders and about connection and this fear of, “I can’t be too close to the people I work for.” I’m curious about your thoughts. If you hear somebody say that, like, “I can’t get too close to the people that report to me,” what goes through your mind?
I have a personal experience with that, Patrick, and I will run through it quickly. During one of those transformation times, my team hit it out of the park, 150% of margin, 137% of revenue. I’ve got the big bonus check in the bank and I’m down in Cabo collecting my little glass trophy. One of 12, 13 people out of tens of thousands of people in the company, we are down there with the executive team. I always joke. It’s like, “We are going to go on the awards trip. It’s three days with the executive team. Second place is a week.”
We were down there and I’ve got pulled aside by the commander who was a consultant next to the CEO. He pulls me aside and he said, “Mike, congratulations on the win and your team and everything is great stuff but we don’t like the way you do it. You don’t look like the rest of us on the executive team. That’s not the way we operate our teams and our people. Your results are great but your team seems to be having too much fun,” is what they are almost saying. When we get together for company meetings, they are all excited to see you, like they hug each other. They said, “You are too close to your people and you need to start detaching.” In other words, you need to become more like us that don’t care about people, which again is throwing up prescriptive authority.
What I knew is my team hit it out of the park because of that environment. I left Cabo after those three days, knowing I was leaving the company. I had no intention of becoming like them. When somebody says to a young manager and emerging leader that you can’t get too close to people because you can’t make the hard decisions, when you are close to people, you can have all of the difficult conversations. You both know where everything stands and can go deep with that. I have no idea where that idea came from but I believe it’s absolutely wrong unless we are playing cards and there’s a discard pile. You don’t want the attachment to the discards but I believe in building people up and taking them with us, not throwing them away.
Oftentimes when I hear that, to me, it speaks more. I feel like there’s an insecurity in regards to that individual’s own ability to have their actions inspire. They feel like they are not able to have clear expectations of other people and be able to have radical candor or those kinds of conversations that somehow, I’m going to be taken advantage of. It says more about the individual than it does about the situation. As I have seen it in organizations, that have been part of this prescriptive of your executive team. I’m sure there are many out there at different companies that do the same thing. Don’t get too close to your people so that’s what they learn. I will be taken advantage of. To me, it’s counterintuitive that you won’t be taken advantage of because they will feel like they can come to you and you can tell somebody, “I think you are taking advantage of our relationship now.”
Think of it in a different context, Patrick. Imagine if you believe that philosophy and it was right at work so we are going to take that into our family lives now. How does that work with your children? Believe me, I have seen families that operate this way, especially coaching sports. You see all kinds. Now you have to put money aside for college tuitions, weddings and therapy because it’s like, “Here’s the deal. You have to follow my direction. When you are 25, you’ve got funds waiting for therapy.” Why would we treat people that way? That has been a mystery to me is I don’t understand the logic in treating people.
I think your example of a family is very valid and it’s one that I would oftentimes use in that situation with you. I have been telling this story for a number of years but I would say my oldest son has been my best friend without question. That said, when push comes to shove, he knows that I’m his dad. If there are decisions that need to be made, it’s not, “I hope you like me and I can be friends with all your friends.” If he was under-aged, “Can I buy you guys beer so I can be part of the guys and be friends?” That’s not where we are at. There’s a line there and I don’t feel taken advantage of. I do think that can be the same thing in a work setting where you can care deeply about somebody but also there can be a line where you can say, “Now is a time where there needs to be some accountability.”
I believe in looking at where we can take leadership. I love that example. Getting close to people is magic. Given the opportunity, people will amaze us. One of the areas that I like to focus is on the new era of leaders and part of it is, I enjoyed coaching youth sports and watching growth through a period of time. The other thing is how much time are we going to spend mud wrestling with some executive hoping they will have an epiphany along the way. I like to focus on the possibilities for the future. A good place to go is to create learning and development opportunities for young and emerging leaders.
Along those lines, when we talk about new opportunities, when should we start developing leaders?
It seems like that would be a natural thing to bring in from day one. The hard part in the past to make that happen is I don’t think people could clearly identify what that leadership philosophy was to put it in front of you, to ask you to start learning it, embracing it or find your way into it as you go along in your career. We have an apprenticeship. You watch the person before you. You learn to do what they do. You become that person. You follow that pattern. I think that we focus on outcomes and you find the best way to do it. Maybe you can create more possibilities than finding the most efficient way to repeat what has been done before you.
When I hear you talk about this, I have been a fan of saying, “I think we need to put leadership as part of onboarding,” right from the get-go because if we talk about behaviors, actions that inspire, why wait two years to find out if somebody is capable of that? When we miss an opportunity from the get-go of saying, “Let’s help people identify what the behaviors are that create the environment that we want to see here and decide who takes this and runs with it.” That, to me, is the start of developing your bench strength.
Here’s the other great advantage if that became the case. Culture would start from day one because that person would know what they are contributing to and feel that they can grow within instead of, “I stay outside of the Petri dish and see if it’s safe to jump in.” It’s a completely different environment.
You were talking about where we are in such a changing world now in terms of complexity, and I would be curious about your thoughts, at times you think maybe we have overcomplicated leadership. Even though the environment around us has become much more complicated but are we going the wrong way?
I think we have mischaracterized leadership. That’s what I try to explore in the book and the book intends to start the conversation. I have very little interest in being right but I certainly would love to be better, start the conversation and invite everybody in is how we can be better. I don’t think the path we are on now is either desirable or sustainable. The mischaracterization of leadership has a lot to do with that. We still live in a world that is built around the ideas of stack ranking. You throw everybody into a bucket and you climb over each other to see who gets out at the top and then you wash the 10% carnage at the bottom away.Becoming a growth engine comes through personal development. Click To Tweet
It’s like General Electric.
Who’s thrown it away since they have moved off? Microsoft moved off it after Balmer. Other companies that adopted that practice have set it aside. Google was one of them that, at one point, interestingly. What I always wonder is how many great people who cared about the person next to them and maybe gave them a little bit of a boost, got washed down to the bottom because they were good human beings?
That’s exactly my thought on this onboarding for leadership development is what if somebody right out of the gate said, “This is what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to be there for whatever in terms of development.” They have been washed out of the company because of some arbitrary metric that said, “Somebody had to get a needs improvement and you did well but everybody else is a little better.” That, to me, is what always blew me away. It’s like, “How can the whole team be doing well and somebody still gets a needs improvement?” It doesn’t fly.
We didn’t honor the role that they played on the team, which is a myopic vision of things. On the leadership piece, I also believe that we are going to continually struggle to get to the diversity and inclusion that we so often read, hear, talk about and see the positive information around the benefits of a diversified organization. If we continue to believe leadership is men that can take their countries to war, the conqueror, we are not going to solve that. What I believe is that when we create a different environment and vision of leadership, Patrick, we will allow the best people to rise.
For those best people, in selecting a leader, I would start with the one that people are following. Often, we promote the person that’s way out on the fringe. People don’t enjoy working with them. They follow the prescriptive manner of the people before them. I would take a look at the team and say, “I’m going to take the natural leader, the one that people are already following,” and then I will put the financial genius on their team. I will fill their team with their gaps but I’m going to promote the leader into leadership. I think it’s a good plan.
We are back to the character again over skills. A couple of things that you mentioned in the book that I wanted to make sure of. One was, again, as I read this, it was like an a-ha moment for me around best practices. We always strive for best practices, yet not looking in that is that could almost be our downfall.
Best practices were always a challenge to me. I was in technology implementation and software development. Understanding methodologies, I have been trained in many of them. I understand the world of repeatability, agile and methodologies and how important they can be. It’s not out of ignorance or lack of awareness. I think that every time we enforce the best practice, we are saying, “This is the way we have chosen to do it, ask no questions, do not improve. We don’t want innovation, no imagination, follow orders.” We say that without knowing it. We have been bought into this, “That’s definitely a best practice,” where I assure you that the merchandising people at Toys”R”Us had a best practice about maybe not even to be a good one.
They had an eCommerce and the supply chain practice. Maybe it wasn’t very good. I had hip surgery. I like that the surgeon knew what he was doing and followed the format to put that artificial hip in place. That would be an exception where best practice. I was probably the benefactor. I like when people run the safety check underneath an airplane before we go up in the air. That is an exception to best practice. When we can end up operating business best practices become a limiter. It is a way to shut down conversation, imagination and exploration in a better way.
I would even argue that your hip surgery, there were better ways to do it. The procedure has advanced over what it was that somebody didn’t accept that this was the best practice, that you always need to be it’s about better practices. It’s constantly looking at how do we do this? It was the best that they knew at the time but it’s still not the best. I thought about this a lot as I read this over and over and I said, “Is the best practice may be about curiosity or our best practices that we are always going to be curious about exploring better?”
The best possibilities are the way I love to say it. What’s great about that is you gave an exception to my exception on the surgery piece, which shows what’s possible. You said, “There are new ways to explore. There could be a better way to do it.” What’s funny about best practices is I was offered to speak at an event coming up in 2020. They sent out the invite and they said, “These are the eleven best practices that we are going to be covering on this one topic. Is there one that you would prefer to zero in on?” If there are eleven best practices to choose from, are there any at all? What does the word best mean? Here are eleven best practices around one thing. If there’s two, there’s none but we are at eleven. I declined to speak. I can suggest people for you but believe me, I would blow this place up. You wouldn’t want me there. That’s theoretically. I would blow it up with ideas.
Speaking of blowing up theoretically, when we talk about HR, as it is now, human resources, is this an area that needs to have happened to it? In the environment that we are in and dealing with a lot of HR organizations or when I go in there to work with an organization in dealing with HR, the world is so different now in terms of HR and nobody wants to be a resource. I responded to a post that you were on in terms of looking at this in terms of HR, to me, it’s about human relationships and not about resources.
I absolutely agree with that. The nomenclature certainly is one barrier. I have implemented HCM systems so Human Capital Management. There are operational pieces to having employees and orchestrating along with compliance regulations. There are a lot of complexity to that. It’s definitely an area of skill, need and knowledge that needs to exist but it’s business operations. Where I think HR has failed is learning, developing and allowing people to connect to the vision, mission values of a company with their own vision, mission and values. It has been this everybody is the same. You have to adopt what we are giving you. We are going to measure you against that.
I have a lot of friends who are brilliant practitioners and good thinkers around HR and HR change. It’s so funny because for decades, Patrick, Peter Capelli and the others, the academics have been saying, “HR needs to sit at the table and they keep relabeling themselves.” I look at it and say, “I’m not sure HR has ever left the table.” I look at an organizational structure and HR seems tight right in there with the executive group. What I think the opportunity, the need is, and this is probably the greatest time of need and opportunity, is to break out of that isolated chamber of sitting in the operational group and getting out into the business.
Until you can get out to the fringes where more of the people are, where business is truly being conducted and not be the governance but be the growth engine, that comes through personal development, it’s about relationships. HR is most effective out on the fringes, not in the center or in the core. That’s a great opportunity but the model definitely has to be blown up to get HR out to the fringes, the client edge or the business environment. They are sitting in an isolated pod, out of the structure.
One of the things that you mentioned in that was personal development and you mentioned that in the book as well. To me, I look at that as is a different shift, too, in terms of leadership development of people having to take responsibility for their own development. As we are sort of wrapping things up, I would love if you could touch on that.
My belief in personal development is to let the individual human being develop into the best they can become based on where their goals, desires lead them, what their intentions and ambitions are. It’s amazing to me when we bring people into organizations and give them a learning and development plan. It’s teaching them the things that we already hired them for. “Congratulations. We spent all this time interviewing you and you are the most proficient. You are the best person with all these capabilities. Now that you are here, we are going to teach those to you.” I have always been baffled by that. It’s like, “You hired me to do that job. I already have those skills.” What I think is we want people to be open-minded and always growing. If there’s an area of interest and there’s a $500 budget for me through a year to play on learning and development, don’t send an accountant to learn more about accounting.Pursue better instead of trying to prove you're right. Click To Tweet
Don’t send a salesperson to learn more about sales. Let them explore what they want to explore. Psychology would be a good thing. If somebody will allow themselves to stay in a growth mindset, they will grow in all areas of their life. If we invest in influence and let those people develop into who they believe their best self will be, we will then be the benefactors of them bringing their best selves to work and giving us their best efforts. It has been a missed opportunity built on a flawed philosophy.
I totally agree with you there in that regard. I’m going to fall all the way back to onboarding as part of this. People that have the opportunity to say, “I like this. This is of interest to me and I never knew about this before. I would like to go in this direction.” To me, those are the self-identifying people. How do I improve my skillset? “You are not telling me to do it. I’m naturally gravitating in this direction.” To me, it’s like, “I’m throwing my resources at that person because I know that they want this. This isn’t a forced fun exercise or a course you’ve got to take. You are doing it.
I love self-identifying. Isn’t that an emotion unto itself? Allow the best people to rise.
Provide them the resources and let them go.
I believe in people. I think given the opportunity, people amaze us. When we try to conform and put them into buckets and push them along a path in a very prescriptive way, I think we only get pieces of them and not always their best pieces.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this. The book, for me, has been very thought-provoking. As somebody that spends a lot of time in this space, it’s always nice to get different perspectives and things that I would take for granted. This provides an opportunity to reflect on so that’s how it’s helped me. As you have put this out there, what are you hoping for the reader?
I would love to spark the notion that we can do better. We don’t have it figured out. This is not the end because I think that gives us little hope. It’s bleak in this environment. When we look at where we are from a mental and physical health situation within workplaces, we can do better. Here are some ideas that I’m presenting for discussion, again, in hopes of let’s pursue them better instead of trying to prove we are right. If we can take the notion of improving rather than prove it, we start winning.
About being right, I think you are completely on it, especially around conflict where if we can come to the table with the idea that maybe both of us are right here, think of what changes when that opportunity presents itself. I don’t have to come to this thing locked in with, “I think I’ve got the answer here,” because I miss opportunities. We all miss opportunities when we do that, thinking, “I’ve got it all figured out.” None of us have it figured out.
Patrick, imagine if we wanted to solve it in that way. What if it’s your idea and my idea, and we go make the best of our beliefs and what we have? Imagine how much political strife would come out of organizations? “I don’t know. Patrick thinks so, I’m going to go and make sure I have dinner with the boss.” You know how people act. I’m going to feel my side. I’m going to build my case. I’m going to rally people around me. I’m going to beat Patrick instead of like, “Patrick, what if we could both blow through this, bring everybody with us and we all get our bonus?” That would be a beautiful thing. That’s called teaming.
That’s a whole other episode. What’s the best way to get ahold of you?
My website is MJVacanti.com. You can find me through the HumansFirst Club, which is HumansFirst.club. That has been an enjoyable journey for me. Also, I’m on social media and I’m very open so please reach out. I want to be here, discuss these ideas and help as much as I can.
This book is a great add to that. Thank you for taking the time. I appreciated this. It’s going to be very well received.
Thank you, Patrick. This is a great joy. Also, I want to, again, commend you on the ideas and the work that you are doing to open the doors to what’s possible for all of us.
Thank you. I appreciate that. That’s what this is about.
That episode with Mike was so powerful. There were many pearls that he provided in terms of how do you create believership and it truly is an awakening. What I enjoyed most about this is that Mike said that this book is not about providing definitive answers, even though answers are there in terms of how do you create believers. Even he would admit that this is about sparking a discussion so that we can talk about how do we do a better job of leading. This is probably the first evolution for him and there will be more that he will develop from this. If you know somebody that you think would benefit from this, I would ask that you forward it onto them. If you haven’t subscribed, I ask that you please go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode because that’s how this message continues to get out there. Until our next episode together, I hope you are able to lead like no other and rise above your best.
You have to practice gratitude every day. If you’re struggling with something at work or at home, you need to find a way to embrace it. Learn how to develop gratitude for everything that comes your way. Gratitude can affect our lifestyle and well-being, so it is a good practice to start learning gratitude today. Join your host, Patrick Veroneau as he explains the multiple ways how you can practice it every day.
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Why Is Gratitude Great?
Being Grateful Has Benefits In Many Aspects Of Our Life. This References Shawn Achor’s 21 Day Happiness Challenge
In this episode, we are going to talk about gratitude and some of the research behind the power of gratitude. While in the US, we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, gratitude is something that should be demonstrated and exercised on a daily basis regardless of where in the world you live. There are many benefits to gratitude as it relates to navigating challenges that we might be experiencing in our lives but certainly, of taking the time to appreciate where we are and how much we can be grateful for. It’s easy in the world that we live in to think about all the things that are going wrong. We don’t take enough time oftentimes to reflect on how many things we can be grateful for. That’s what I want to talk about.
There’s so much research around the power that gratitude has. I’m going to talk about one particular study that I had pulled up that I’m using in a journal that I’m creating called the POWER Journal, which is around five behaviors for creating happiness and wellbeing. In there, one of the letters is around gratitude. This article that I’m going to speak to was co-written by Randy and Lori Sansone. It was in Psychiatry 2010, Volume 11. It was pages 18 to 22. It starts to talk about from an abstract standpoint what is the definition of gratitude. As defined in this article, gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness or appreciation. There are many words in there. The keys to think about are meaningful and what it represents, thankfulness and appreciation of where we are.
One of the first studies that it talked about was looking at the empirical evidence of gratitude and wellbeing connection. They cited two researchers, Emmons and McCullough, who examined gratitude and wellbeing under three different experimental conditions. Participants in this study were divided into three groups. One was asked to journal about negative events or hassles. The second group about the things for which they were grateful. The third group about neutral events. You had one talking about what they weren’t happy with. The second group journaling about the things that they were grateful for. The last group was neutral. What they found at the end of this was across the various study conditions, the gratitude subsample consistently evidenced higher wellbeing in comparison with the other two study groups. There are several other studies that go on looking at all different age groups.Find time to reflect on the countless things that you're grateful for. Click To Tweet
The second article was involving 221 adolescents. In this study, they were assigned either to a gratitude exercise, which meant that they’re counting one’s blessings, or they were part of a hassles condition. The authors of the study concluded that from their experience, counting blessings seems to be an effective intervention for enhancing wellbeing in adolescents. Not just adults but here we are as adolescents. I’ll give you one more. There was a sample that was done with 389 adults. This was done by researchers whose last name is Wood. What they did was they examined gratitude and wellbeing in the context of personality style. In this study, gratitude was most strongly correlated with personality attributes related to wellbeing. The researchers concluded that gratitude has a unique relationship with life satisfaction.
What we find with that in terms of where gratitude is beneficial is when we look at wellbeing. What was found in those studies when they looked in terms of gratitude? They found that, generally, those in the groups that were grateful tended to have better coping styles. Also, in this study with 389 adults, it was determined that higher levels of gratitude predicted better subjective sleep quality and sleep duration. In the same article, they listed a table and they called it psychological strategies that may enhance feelings of gratitude. They talked about different things that individuals could do or did do as it related to gratitude. One was journaling about things for which to be grateful. One was thinking about someone for whom you are grateful. Another was writing or sending a letter to someone for whom you were grateful. Another one could have been meditating on gratitude, and they listed this as present moment awareness. Another one was undertaking the count your blessings exercise. At the end of the week, writing down three things for which you were grateful.
We know in the 21-day challenge that was mentioned with Shawn Achor, participants were asked to do this every single morning, write down three different things that they were grateful for. Next was a suggestion of practicing saying thank you in a sincere and meaningful way. Another was writing thank you notes. Another was if people were religious to pray about gratitude. There were so many different ways that we can practice our gratitude. In the journal that I’ve developed, I talk about a number of different things. From a standpoint of gratitude exercises that we can do. One is to identify three things that you feel grateful for and appreciate in your life. What’s important here is they don’t all have to be positive or large things. You might be thinking, “Why wouldn’t they be positive if I’m going to be grateful for them?” What I mean by that is that you can have things that you’re being challenged with in your life.
I would challenge you to look at those challenges and find ways to be grateful for them. When we can find ways to be grateful, maybe for a struggle in a relationship or a business setting, we know that if we stick with it and if we’re grateful for that challenge, we embrace it. When we embrace the challenge, it allows us to open up in terms of opportunities and possibilities for how we’re going to overcome that. The next thing that you can do regarding gratitude is to ask yourself, what things do you take for granted but you’re grateful for? This could be your health, your intelligence or your family. Maybe it’s a roof over your head.
Next, you can identify three things that you appreciate about yourself. How often do we take the time to do this? Look at the negative things about us but maybe say, “I’m a good listener. I’m compassionate around other people.” Whatever that might be but identify three things in that space. The next might be around asking yourself, “What am I grateful for right now?” Immediately. This could be as simple as, “I’m grateful for the sunshine right now. I’m grateful for the smell of the ocean if I’m on my boat. I’m grateful for the cup of coffee I’m drinking right now.” Whatever that might be, but at the moment, “What am I grateful for?”
Next might be to identify three people who had significant and positive experiences in your life. Maybe it’s a parent, teacher or mentor. Maybe you either are grateful yourself but you take it a step further and you send them an email or write them a note, a card or send them a letter. Let them know that. We know the power that gratitude can have in our lives because it forces us to think about the positive things and not the negative things. We’re wired in a way to gravitate toward the negative first. Only when we consciously take the initiative to be grateful or to practice gratitude are we going to be able to overcome that.Gratitude has a unique relationship with life satisfaction. Click To Tweet
When we do that, it allows us to show up much differently when we’re able to look at things that we’re grateful for, especially our challenges. If you’re celebrating the holiday of Thanksgiving, I certainly hope that you find an opportunity to think of several things that you’re grateful for. More importantly, after the official holiday of Thanksgiving is over and for the remainder of those reading to this outside of the US, we all have the need and the ability to be grateful on a daily basis. When we do that, it will enhance many other areas of our lives. My challenge for you is, what are you grateful for?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief episode around gratitude. It’s a short episode but certainly very valuable. What I would hope are some practical ways that you can exercise gratitude in your own life. If you know somebody who would benefit from this, please forward it on. If you haven’t already subscribed, please go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me. I would be grateful as well if you would go on and leave a comment and a rating because that’s what helps to expand this message and increase its reach. Until our next episode, I hope we’re able to do two things. One is to lead like no other, and the other is to rise above your best.
Death can come in many forms throughout our life. It is something that we all inevitably experience and pick lessons from at some point. Patrick Veroneau shares his experiences of death in three aspects: physical death, death of a relationship, and death of a career. While loss can bring great despair, Patrick has learned that it also creates an opportunity for growth. In this episode, He opens up about these three losses and shares the invaluable life lessons he’s learned in the process.
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How 3 Deaths Have Continued To Provide Life Lessons
Loss Can Provide The Greatest Lessons To Move Forward If We Are Open To Them.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about the lessons we can learn from loss. I know it’s painful when we’re in it but if we look back, oftentimes those are the areas where we have grown. I’m going to talk to you about three losses or three deaths that have continued to provide learning opportunities for me as I’ve grown. One is the death of my parents at a very young age, one is the death of my first marriage in my late twenties, and the last is the death of my career in my late 30s or just about turning 40. Each one of those is a lesson that has been learned. Let’s get into it.
Physical Death: Loss Of A Loved One
This episode is about the lessons that we learned from loss. Particularly, I’m going to talk about three different losses in my own life or as I’ve come to term them, three different deaths that I’ve experienced that continue to provide me with learning opportunities throughout my life. The first one was the loss of my parents. I was seventeen when my mother passed away of breast cancer. I was a junior in high school. About a year and a half later, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which was in August of 1987. I was on my way to Fordham University for my freshman year. Anybody that knows anything about pancreatic cancer knows how vicious that can be. It was certainly a very short period of time before he passed away to that cancer in December of that year, my freshman year, while I was in New York City.
As I reflect back on that now, there were a couple of things that I learned through that and continue to learn lessons from. One was in regards to loss. That was my first experience with the loss of that magnitude, especially a year and a half apart. It was a very difficult time for me. I reflect back on these things now, even when my mother was passing away. I vividly remember she had been sick for a little over a year and a half. I remember as a sophomore, every night going to bed, on my dresser, there was a record player and the record that I had was George Winston. It was an instrumental record. I remember listening to one particular song, which was Thanksgiving on his album December, and crying every night as I was getting ready to go to sleep, as I was in my room in the dark, thinking about that loss. I never talked about it with anybody or my parents as well. It was never a conversation. It was this thing that I held to myself.Accountability is taking ownership of your actions or lack of actions. Click To Tweet
Going on, losing my mother on St. Patrick’s Day of 1986, was a tough time, and then going only a year and a half later, losing my dad to pancreatic cancer was devastating to me at that time. As I look back on that now, what did I learn from that loss? Certainly, I learned the importance of not taking things for granted in regards to family. I look at that with my own family and certainly with our siblings and I am very conscious of that now. Certainly, I don’t always take advantage of those opportunities. I think sometimes I lose sight of the importance of that but overall, one thing that has been very important to me in my own family is how important are these little things. As many times as we can sit down at the dinner table and eat together when sports or something else doesn’t seem to get in the way. How important is saying grace at dinner and being thankful for the time that we have together.
That was certainly something that’s important to us as a family growing up. We certainly didn’t eat a lot of times together because of all the different directions that people were going in. One thing that I learned from that is to appreciate family. The other thing that I learned through that process, especially after my dad passed away and I was at Fordham University, was how to deal with loneliness. I look back on that now and prior to my dad getting sick, in my senior year in high school, I felt I had the tiger by the tail. I was president of my class. I was captain of the hockey team. I had won numerous awards in regards to my last year playing football in Academic All-State. I had a lot of popularity. I ended up at Fordham partly because of the circumstances I was under.
I had no friends. I had no interactions with a lot of people there. I had a roommate that went home during the weekends and I was alone most of that time. I had a sister that fortunately lived in Bronxville, which was only about twenty minutes away, taking the Metro-North. I would spend much of my time there and she was a great support, her and her husband, Peter, my brother-in-law. I can remember being on campus, and for the first time in my life realizing there was a sense of loneliness. This was not just about being alone. This was a real sense of loneliness of sitting at a lunch table by myself and not having conversations with anybody, which was so contrary to who I was.
What I learned from that was how important it was to get comfortable with Patrick and who I was. That was the first time that I had ever had an opportunity to reflect on who I was. I learned so much from that in terms of being comfortable and reliant on myself, and also being comfortable in my own skin. That was the start of it. It’s continued through then in terms of becoming more comfortable, but that was the beginning of it. It was a recognition of not relying on other people as much, not in a bad way but realizing that for my own happiness and wellbeing, I had to figure this out for myself too. It was very important. Loss and loneliness were the two things that I’ve learned most from the loss of my parents, how to deal with both of those and the importance of how to appreciate what you have.
Relationship Death: Loss Of A Marriage
The next was the death of my first marriage. I had a ten-month-old son, Josh at that time. This was something again that I had never expected. I never saw it even coming. The two things that I learned from that experience and in some regards, the loss of that first marriage at that point in my life was more devastating than the loss of my parents. The reason being was that this was a death that was living still. There was a failure that was recognized from that. What I learned from that loss at that point were two things. One was the importance of listening, a skill that I didn’t do a very good job of in terms of understanding how to listen. I could hear really well as it related to how to make my argument but I didn’t listen well. The other part was around accountability. It’s taking responsibility for my role in the failure of that relationship.
A couple of things come to mind. One, I had been involved in a retreat with a priest named Father Vincent Youngberg. It was shortly before all of this started going down in regards to me realizing that I was going to be getting divorced. He was out in New York City specifically. I remember calling and explaining to him the situation that I was under. I was looking at him to take my side. I will never forget he said, “You’re both at fault for this.” It hit me right in the gut when he said that. I wanted to blame my ex-wife for the problems that we had in going through this divorce that it wasn’t me, but I’d shared in that. I had responsibility for that. That was a beginning for me to understand accountability in a way of taking ownership for my actions or lack of actions. As it relates to listening or understanding how important it is to listen, not just hear but listen to where the other person is. Do I do this all the time?
Am I a perfectionist or an expert at listening? No, I’m human but I know certainly when I’m not really listening, I see the results or lack of positive results that come from that. It gives me an opportunity to realize that I need to do a better job of that. Unfortunately, that’s something that I’ve learned in my relationships. I remember as soon as that conversation happened with Father Vincent Youngberg, I remember getting a book called, His Needs, Her Needs. I’m not even sure who the author was at this point, but that was an opportunity for me to take accountability to say that any relationship I was going to go into next time was not going to look the same way. I was going to take responsibility for creating a positive relationship. That was going to be my goal. That was in my late twenties when I went through that.
As I look back on that now with my wife, Cindy, we’ve been together for many years. I know that because of that first experience that I had, I am certainly a much better husband, partner and teammate than I could have been, had I not gone through that. It was a lesson in a loss that needed to happen for me. I’m happy to say that we’ve been together happily with my oldest son, Josh, and two other siblings, Noah and Grace. Those first two losses, my parents and marriage, have created a much stronger family bond that I have.We create the environment that we’re in, either positively or negatively. Click To Tweet
Career Death: Losing A Job
The last is the death of my career. I came from the biotech industry and I’d been in that industry for almost fifteen years. I was so focused on success and improving my skillset. I would read constantly different studies and different approaches. I would dig deeper than I had to or than I was expected to in regards to understanding disease states, but also understanding behaviors, relationships, communication, and how would we effectively get along with each other in an industry that was very suspicious. Physicians certainly, were not ones that were very trusting of the pharmaceutical industry, yet I managed to maintain very strong relationships that I continue to leverage in my own business. It is because of the skillsets that I learned while I was in the industry in terms of focus.
Losing my job at that point in 2008 during the crash made me focus on control of myself. I had always been in a place of thinking if I do the right things all the time and work hard, I’ll be taken care of at this organization. I realized after that one event that you couldn’t rely on an organization. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t work at an organization and have loyalty to them, it forced me to think much differently about what I wanted for my future and how I want it to grow. I recognized at that point that I had the opportunity, the ability and the resourcefulness to leverage the strengths that I had and go out on my own. That’s what I did.
I learned in that period the power of relationships. That has developed a lot of the models that I use. One is C.A.B.L.E.S that I am continually referencing. That is a model that is certainly backed in research but also, is backed in a lot of personal experiences in regards to the relationships that I’ve developed with clients, my family and my community. Those behaviors that I speak to are ones that I believe are essential and timeless to helping us navigate conflict, to gain agreement, and inspire others to lead.
In the loss as well of that career, I learned about possibilities. My eyes were opened to all of the other things that were out there that I could do to make an impact on. If there’s one thing that I struggle with or disappointed with or saddened by at times is when I see individuals that have so much to offer and they allow themselves to talk themselves out of taking risks. They diminish their own value when they don’t do that. That’s one of the other things that I do in my work. It’s to try and help people to understand how important is their mindset. They create their environment, we all do it. Like it or not, we create the environment that we’re in either positively or negatively.
Certainly, that doesn’t mean that things have always gone my way. As you’ve seen, in my 20s, 30s, 40s, all have had challenges and I’m sure there will be more. The importance of this is that I can look back on these things if I were to equate this to my GPS and know that I’ve dealt with these things before. My past is my power here. I have an opportunity with my internal GPS to recalculate the challenges that will come up in the future, whether they’re relationship challenges with my children, with clients, with my wife. I have the choice of what do I want to happen next. What behaviors will I model to create the environment that I want to see happen within that? That’s about many of those things. Appreciating loss, being comfortable with who I am, being able to listen, holding myself accountable for my actions and responsibility in the situations that I’m in, and recognizing that I have control over this. I might not always feel it at the moment but I do have control over this, and you do too.
I’m sure all of you reading this right now have your own deaths that you’ve experienced in your life. As painful as they are, my challenge to you is to look back on those things and tease out what the lessons are that will help you to navigate forward to create a better environment for yourself and for those around you. I hope you found this episode helpful. I hope there’s a pearl that you were able to pull out of here. If you do know somebody that you think would benefit from this, I would ask, forward this on to them. As always, if you haven’t subscribed, please go on and subscribe. It would mean the world to me as well if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode that I have because that’s how this message continues to get out there. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to lead like no other and you’re able to rise above your best.
Contrary to popular belief, your past defines your future because the past is all you’ll ever have. We make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean we have to be stuck there. Patrick Veroneau talks about how we should use our past as a guide in making better decisions for the future. We should not let it stop us from reaching our final destination. This episode explores how we all can make our past our ultimate power to become the best version of ourselves. Furthermore, he shares personal experiences that shaped the growth and learnings he acquired along the way.
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Why Your Past DOES Define Your Future
Your Past Is Your Power, And When You Leverage It, It Will Positively Dictate Your Future.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about something that I believe goes contrary to what we often hear. That’s around your past. We often will hear people say that your past doesn’t define you and I couldn’t disagree with that more. I think your past absolutely defines you. You want that to be the case because our ability to decide what that definition looks like is all about our past, whether it’s in the present or future. Let’s get into it.
It seems like I’ve been hearing a lot of different comments, whether I was listening to other podcasts or interviews, where people kept going back about their past. Somebody would say, “Your past doesn’t define you or don’t live in the past.” I would agree. You don’t want to live in the past, but I do believe that our past does define us because that’s all that we have. If you think about it, we have nothing else but our past to decide what we are going to do going forward. What I mean by that is whatever mistakes we’ve made, challenges, heartache, or hardships that we’ve undertaken, it’s understanding that what happened in our past will allow us to make different decisions going forward.
There are three things that are worth mentioning here that hopefully will help us understand. They’ve helped me to understand how I put this into context. One that I mentioned is the GPS. Before that, when I talk about your past as your power and that we need to know our past to be able to move forward, the analogy that I would often use is prior to GPS if you were to think about getting directions from somebody to go somewhere. You head out in your car and follow their directions, but you miss one of the streets you were supposed to go down. You go down the wrong street. You get turned around and get lost. You finally are able to get reacclimated and make it to where you’re going but it took you longer to get there.
The reason that’s important is because, let’s say, I have to go to that location again from my house. When I leave to go there, if I pass that same street that I made a mistake on the last time, I know that’s not the right street to go down. I don’t drive by that street thinking, “I’m so dumb. I can’t believe I went down that street again. I went down that street the last time. I’m not going to be able to get where I want to go going forward from here because I made that mistake. I went down that wrong street.” We don’t do that. We go past that street. It’s like a GPS. Now, we all have GPS on our phones. If we think about this the same way, we need to equate our brains or thought process the same as though it’s a GPS.
What I mean by that is if I were to leave my house to go anywhere and somewhere that I didn’t know how to get there and I plugged it into my GPS or I went down the wrong street, it would simply tell me to recalculate and it would put me on the right direction. If I then got to that next street that I was supposed to turn and miss that street again, it would simply say recalculating again and it would put me on a new path. The time that it was going to take me to get there would probably increase, but at no point would it say to me, “Why don’t you pull the car over? Put it in the driveway. You’re not going to be able to get to where you’re going.” It wouldn’t do that, yet we do that to ourselves.Always ask yourself how you could be better going forward. It will miraculously change things for you. Click To Tweet
We make a mistake. There’s a roadblock in the way. Maybe we experience a traumatic loss in our lives and somehow, we get derailed and think we can’t get to where we want to go. If we think about ourselves as the same as a GPS, then it allows us to always look at the mistakes and all of those things as an opportunity to recalculate. “I know that wasn’t the right decision. Here’s what I’ve learned because of it and how I’m going to get back on track to where my destination is.” That provides us that opportunity.
The next piece I’m going to talk about is around antique furniture. Anybody that is familiar with antique furniture, a lot of times, what we know is that the patina, which is the dirt on this piece, is oftentimes where the value comes from. I’m reminded when I watched one of the episodes of the Antiques Roadshow. There was a couple on there and they had this beautiful dresser that they had refinished. The appraiser was asking about the history of the piece. They said it had been in their family for a long time and that they finally decided to go ahead and refinish it. It looked like showroom quality. The appraiser said, “In its current condition, it’s worth about $5,000.” They were thrilled. He said, “However, had you not refinished this, it would be worth 5 to 10 times that amount.” Their faces dropped when he said that. To me, it’s no different than our own lives.
After I saw that episode, I started thinking about, “How are we similar to antique furniture as it relates to patina?” I came across this quote by an auctioneer who said, “Patina is everything that happens to an object over the course of time. The nick in the leg of a table, a scratch on a tabletop, the loss of moisture in the paint. Patina is built from all the effects, natural and man-made, that create a true antique.” When I think about that, I think natural and man-made. Those are the things that have happened to me that I didn’t have any control over but also the man-made problems that I created for myself and my past. Both of those things create my value going forward. It goes on to say, “Patina is what 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 to restore. It has the unintended consequence of reducing the value of the piece.”
I think about this so often. We make mistakes. What do we do? We want to hope that nobody notices that we made those, yet that’s where our value comes in or the struggles that we’ve had, the disappointments and failures. Those things provide us the richness and value of going forward. Those do dictate and define who we will become but it’s our choice. We choose how that’s going to impact us. We live in a social world that oftentimes skews that. We look at Instagram or Facebook, where the picture is taken six times before it gets posted and it has got three different filters on it. The person that we’re seeing oftentimes isn’t even recognizable because there are so many different filters. This is about taking off the mask and being transparent. That’s where our value comes in.
The last piece that I would like to mention as it relates to this idea that your past defines who you are is around the smoke detector. We generally all have smoke detectors in our houses. Most of them are probably hardwired at this point. The analogy that I will use is that if we had food that burnt on the stove. It was just burnt food on the stove. There was no real fire and the smoke detectors were going off saying that there was a fire. I don’t think anybody would run into the street calling 911 because you know it’s not a real emergency. You would simply go over to the smoke detector. You might wave a towel in front of it or unplug it for a minute until the smoke clears, but it’s not a real emergency.
Unfortunately, our brain does not operate the same way. Our brain is similar to that smoke detector. The difference being is that it always sets off the alarm. We can imagine it as though it’s hardwired to an alarm company. What I mean by that is every time there’s burnt food on the stove, the amygdala part of our brain would look at that as smoke on the stove might be something that somebody says that’s threatening to us or offensive. Maybe it’s a decision that we decide we’re going to make, a risk that we’re going to take or we’re going to do something out of the ordinary from what we would normally do. Our brain says, “Don’t do it. This is going to cause a problem.” It sets off the alarm. When in reality, it’s not a real emergency.
If it’s in your house and it goes to the alarm company, as anybody knows that has a system like that, if they burn food, what do they have to do? They’ve got to call the alarm company quickly with a code to say, “This is not a real emergency.” We have to do the same thing to our brains. We need to pause and realize that those things that seem the scariest to us that we want to go away from or shy away from, oftentimes, it’s our brain trying to protect ourselves from something that is not a real emergency. It’s just smoke from burnt food on the stove. That’s it. We need to quiet that and remind ourselves that this is not a real emergency. When we think of each of those things in terms of your past defining your present and future, we have that ability.
If we think about it as the GPS, we’re going to make mistakes, go the wrong way and do the wrong thing. If we take that as it relates to the GPS and recalculate and find a new direction, then we’re going to overcome that. It’s not going to be an issue. If we think about even after the fact we’ve recalculated, we’re back on track is then not to beat ourselves up because we went down the wrong way. We’re not going to be able to get there the same way to look at it as though it’s antique furniture and say, “That’s where our value is going to come from.” It’s from oftentimes the nicks, dirt, and the things that are not as flattering that we’ve had to go through. Those are the things that are going to provide us the real richness and value going forward.
Lastly is when we’re in places where we’re looking to break out of a situation that was safe for us or not making a decision that we aren’t sure what’s going to happen. We want to play it safe to know that oftentimes is our brain trying to protect us. It’s going to tell us all the reasons why we shouldn’t do this but it’s no different than smoke from burnt food on the stove. It’s not a real emergency. We need to push through that, convince ourselves and talk about all the reasons why whatever we’re going to attempt to do, we will be successful. Not that we can’t.
My own personal experiences deal with each one of these, the GPS, antique furniture, and smoke detector. It’s the GPS for me from the time I was a young kid. I gave a talk where I mentioned how I was smoking cigarettes in the third grade. I was stealing them with a group of kids in the neighborhood that I was in. I jokingly say that, fortunately, it didn’t last that long. I went cold turkey and quit the habit early on. I got that out of my system, but it went onto other things from there. In eighth grade, I was drinking. In high school, I was drinking a lot through college, the same thing. I look back on those environments now and the challenges that I went through in terms of, I lost both of my parents at 17 and 18 years old, about a year and a half apart from cancer. That forced me to recalculate with my GPS. Where was I going to go?The past is all we ever have, so we should use it to bring positive value to our present and future. Click To Tweet
I come from a large family. I’m the youngest of ten with many caring siblings, but in many aspects, I felt as though I needed to figure this out on my own. I wasn’t going to be able to rely on other people for that. I had to navigate that on my own on many levels, even though I did have the support. We’re never self-made on things but you need to be self-motivated. That’s what I had to discover from that. From there, in my late twenties, I went through a painful divorce. I had a ten-month-old son that I had primary custody of at that point. Again, the GPS needed to recalculate. What was that going to look like going forward in each one of those?
From there, I lost my job back during the 2008 crash. That was a career shock for me, which fortunately happened because that allowed me to recalculate again and provided me with the opportunity to do what I’m doing now. That’s the GPS component of this. Each of those, whether it was the death of my parents, the problems that I got into as a kid, going through a divorce, or losing a job, all of those things from the standpoint of value have provided me so much positive value. Would I want to experience them again in that order? No, probably not, but I know how much benefit I’ve received from each of those things.
Moving on, looking at my life from the standpoint of the smoke detector, there were many times where I questioned my ability, the direction I was going to go in, and the chances that I was going to take. It was always the smoke detector in my head, trying to protect myself, saying, “Don’t do it.” Each time to overcome that, it required me to be able to say, “This is not a real emergency. I will survive this. This is my mind trying to protect myself from something that I don’t need protection from right now.” Each one of those instances, the past challenges of my life, I’ve defined who I become if it wasn’t for those things and me looking back, especially on the decisions that I made that weren’t very good decisions, was to say, “How am I going to be a better person going forward? What am I going to do the next time I’m in that situation to make a better decision?”Learning about your past will help you get back on track to where your destination is. Click To Tweet
That’s what I’ve done and what I continue to do, whether it’s recalculating, trying to find the value in the struggles, and also keeping my mind straight in regards to understanding what’s a real emergency and what’s just burnt food on the stove. When I look at how this relates to the work that I do, both coaching individuals and advising organizations on leadership and team behaviors, my background and experiences allow me to connect on many levels with people that if it wasn’t for those experiences, I don’t think I would be able to do it the same way that I’m able to do this now.
I’ll challenge you going forward. If you’re in those situations, challenge yourself to be like the GPS. Simply recalculate. When something doesn’t go your way, say, “I’m just going to recalculate.” After you recalculate, challenge yourself to say, “I’m going to learn from this. There’s going to be richness and value that’s going to come from what this event has cost.” Lastly is to constantly challenge yourself when you’re reluctant to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone. Know that most of the time, it’s not a real emergency. It has been fabricated by your brain to try and protect you against something that, quite honestly, you don’t need protection from.
I hope you’re able to take something away from this episode as it relates to your past does define your future. If you know somebody you think could benefit from this episode or any other, I would ask that you forward it on. It would mean the world to me if you would go on leave a rating or comment as it relates to this. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and not only lead like no other but also to rise above your best.