AGP Ep 33: Jeff Haden—From Upworker to global thought leader. How to maintain your motivation all the way to the top

by | Feb 15, 2018

Jeff Haden is a world-renowned writer and ghostwriter. Much of what he has written about is in the leadership, influence and personal development space. We talk about some of the key leadership lessons Jeff has picked up from interviewing hundreds of the best in the world.

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“People learn better from a story than the case studies and citations and research you bring along with it”—Jeff Haden
“I like where success and achievement intersect with happiness. It's not about money, it's about a job well done.”—Jeff Haden
"Motivation isn't something that strikes you one day. Motivation actually comes from trying something and improving bit by bit. It becomes a virtuous cycle."—Jeff Haden

Topics/Transcript

[00:03:30]

Andrew Ramsden:

Good day, Jeff. Thank you for joining me on the show.

Jeff Haden:

Oh Andrew, it’s my pleasure.

Andrew Ramsden:

Now Jeff, you’ve written for Time and Huffington Post and Business Insider and CEO.com. And you’re also a contributing editor for Ink. And I mean hundreds and hundreds of articles that you’ve authored or ghost written. Not to mention the 60 or so books you’ve personally authored or ghost written for others.

How did you get into writing in the first place?

Jeff Haden:

Wow. How much time do you have? I’m sure we’ll talk about this later, but I [00:04:00] actually worked my way through college in a manufacturing plant. And when I graduated, I interviewed for some jobs; and they were all with 40 year old men, working in cubicles. Which, I wish I was a 40 year old man, now.

But, I just didn’t … That didn’t appeal to me. So, I got a job at another manufacturing plant nearby, and started at the bottom and worked my way up. So I spent 20 years in book manufacturing, actually. And worked my way up until I ran [00:04:30] manufacturing operations for a plant; which was kind of my dream and my goal. And I thought was what I wanted to do. And as dreams and goals tend to go, once you get there, you realise that sometimes it’s not what you had thought.

And so, after about three years, I was kind of burned out on it and tired of it and wanted to do something else. I’d married well, especially in terms of support and emotional support. My wife said, “You know, if you want to do something else, try. Why [00:05:00] not? Give it your best and if it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to what you did.” And so I thought that I wanted to write. But all I’d ever written was like proposals and you know, work stuff. She actually got me my first job. It was writing a press release for a startup. And I had never written a press release before. And so I found a bunch of them and tried to figure out what the style was.

And it was the … Easily the worst paid by the hour job that I have ever done. ‘Cause it took me forever. But I did it. [00:05:30] And that was cool. And then ended up doing some more work for that gentleman and … I think it’s now called, oh, I don’t know what it’s called now. There was a site called Elance, now it’s either oDesk or something like that.

But basically, it was a place where people could post jobs that they wanted done. And then people could bid on those jobs. And it was like a middle man type market place. She actually would write proposals for jobs and get me jobs. Because I was still too afraid to do so, [00:06:00] because I thought I was basically an imposter.

So she would get me jobs and she would say, “Hey, I got you another one.” And I would look and go, “I don’t know how to do that.” But then I would figure it out. And so, it kinda grew from there. And then I reached a point where I was doing pretty well ghost writing. But the problem with ghost writing is that it’s a little bit like fight club, where the first rule of fight club is you can’t talk about fight club.

And the first rule of ghost writing is that you can’t talk about the people you’ve done work for, or even share what you’ve done.

Andrew Ramsden:

So you’re to be heard but not seen.

Jeff Haden:

Yah. [00:06:30] And it makes it really hard to market yourself when all you can really say is, I’m a ghost writer.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yes, absolutely.

Jeff Haden:

So, she said, you know you really need some stuff in your own name and I said, nobody wants to read anything by me. Clearly self confidence is an issue. And so, I cast around and looked at what the biggest business sites were, thinking … Because most of my clients were businesses or business people.

Because I did have the management, leadership business background. So, that was [00:07:00] my wheelhouse in terms of ghost writing. Because people could talk to me about what they wanted and we could talk in shorthand, because I understood. So, I tried some of the major business sites. I pitched, I think 10 of them. Only one responded.

And I basically said, hey. I’ll write for you for free. I just wanted a way to have some stuff in my own name. That if somebody read it and said, “Hey, that’s pretty good,” that they would then see that I was a ghost writer and say, “Hmm, maybe I should check him out.” If they needed a ghost writer.

That was the real goal. But it turned out that [00:07:30] somehow I had a talent for that. I went from being unpaid to paid within about a month. Because I did really well in terms of page views and so I started doing more of that. So, it still is a way to advertise the fact that I ghost write, but it’s also a pretty lucrative venture for me in itself.

And that’s really how I got my book deal. Because I … Through that, built up a nice audience on Ink. I average about, [00:08:00] somewhere between a million and a half and two million page views a month. And then, that allowed me … Through another long story, that I won’t bore you with, I ended up being a LinkedIn Influencer, and you know, that’s gotten me 900 and some thousand followers on LinkedIn.

And so, all of that platform is what publishers now look for. You know, the quality of the idea is important. But your ability as an author to market what you’ve written, is also important to publishers. And so, I found myself in this [00:08:30] nice little intersection; where are those little pieces and parts came together.

I would like to say that that was the plan. But it was not. There was nothing planned about that.

Andrew Ramsden:

No. Yah. Wow. Well it worked out really well, then. And I mean, there’s lots there I’d like to pick up on. But I know you talked about, in a number of your bios … You talk about this idea that mistakes have been a really important part of your journey. And I sort of got a sense of that from you telling your story, there.

I gave a talk earlier this week at a conference, around the importance of experimenting, and most importantly, being okay with failure if [00:09:00] we want to nurture innovation and learning in the workplace and in ourselves. I shared some of my own failures. But it was hard to get other case studies and other perspectives to share.

Because, I just think we don’t like to air our dirty laundry. And we try very hard not to make mistakes or fail. Or even in small ways, it’s this source of shame. And I believe that’s counter productive. But as I say, I noticed that you sort of talk about it, warts and all. So, why do you think that is? What is it about those times that we all stumble over that are [00:09:30] so important to you?

Jeff Haden:

Well, part of it is because I have tried to build an audience. And you can go a number of different ways when you do that, if you’re trying to be authentic and at least somewhat genuine. Without totally self disclosing. Which, I don’t think anybody wants. I don’t think anybody likes when you talk about the things that you’ve done well.

There’s nothing to learn from something someone did well. But there’s a lot to learn from something that someone did wrong. And they learn from. So that hopefully, [00:10:00] you can take that advice and not have to learn that lesson yourself. That was kind of the start of it. But I don’t think there’s a way to get really good at anything without having a bunch of times along the way, where you failed.

Because you can’t be taught … Well, let’s take leadership; which, you talk about a lot. You can go to school as long as you want to learn to be a leader. Really, what you come out of, if you’re in some kind of leadership training and that’s all the experience you have … You come out as more of a supervisor or manager. [00:10:30] You’re a person who ensures that certain things get done.

Leaders are the people that make sure the right things get done. And they inspire people to do so without having to be managed and supervised and directed. It’s like we’re all going together. And the only way you learn to do that, with people, I think? Is you have to do it and mess up and figure out what you did wrong, and say, okay. I see where that didn’t work. This is what I’ll do differently next time.

That experience part of it? You can [00:11:00] only get by trying things and doing it and failing, sometimes. And so, if you’re trying to teach someone something about leadership and you don’t talk about the times that you fail. And then explain why that mattered to you, then nobody really learns anything.

I can’t learn … If you tell me the 10 things you did right to get a team to go to a really great place, that’s kind of fun. But I don’t know if I can always recreate those. But if you tell me the three things you messed up and you had to adjust and adapt and correct, in order [00:11:30] to get people moving forward, those are things I can really learn from.

Because I can say, oh, okay. I’ve either done that or I’ll make sure I don’t do that. So, I think … I know, that’s a really long winded answer and I apologise for that, but-

Andrew Ramsden:

No. It’s a good answer. I mean-

Jeff Haden:

Experience is the one thing that we all can get if we try.

Andrew Ramsden:

I mean, a lot of what you write is … I’m trying to think up a better word than pedagogical, it’s teaching people. It’s imparting knowledge and wisdom.

[00:12:00] Do you tend to focus on the things that people should be doing or do you focus on those mistakes or is it a bit of both?

Jeff Haden:

Sounds like a Guardians of the Galaxy reference. I would say a bit of both.

Sometimes, I don’t think you have to specifically reference each time, hey, you should do this because I learned that, by doing this wrong. I don’t think you have to do that. But there are times when it’s something that isn’t necessarily intuitive or pretty easy to figure out. There are times when you can [00:12:30] say, this is why I am saying that. Or this is how I learned that. And I think that’s a lot more instructive.

And I also just think people … If you are trying to teach, people learn better, I think, from a story, then they do from the four bits of research and the three case studies and the citations that you bring along with it. Or maybe that’s just me, I don’t know. But I glaze over when people do that.

But if you tell me the story, there’s a lesson inside of it? Then [00:13:00] that I can relate to and remember. And usually, you can actually relate something that you have done in your own life, to that.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yes.

Jeff Haden:

And it resonates.

Andrew Ramsden:

You can understand, not just that you shouldn’t do that. It’s why you shouldn’t do that. Or, not just that you should do that, it’s why you should do that. You get the why from the story, I think.

Jeff Haden:

Yah. I think the best stuff like that is when, like say, if I read something and I go, ooh, I’ve been there. And I’ve done that. You know? Then you can relate and that’s something you can actually apply. As opposed to just some knowledge [00:13:30] that you put on a shelf somewhere and hopefully remember some day, when you need it.

Andrew Ramsden:

Very true. I think stories … We seem to be wired for stories. They’re just more compelling, as well, aren’t they, then a list of facts or a list of rules.

So, I’m really fascinated by this learn from failure. I agree. I think we learn better from failure. I feel like we get given so much advice and a lot of it’s good advice and it’s good advice for different scenarios or different situations. But sometimes it’s conflicting advice; in fact often, it’s conflicting [00:14:00] advice, because there’s some much advice out there.

In some respects, I feel like you kind of have to just experiment and go through it and make the mistakes and learn for your own scenario, where you’re at currently, what’s going to work for you.

Jeff Haden:

There’s a NASCAR team, it’s a racing team in America, and their slogan is: Win or Learn. And since there are 40 teams usually competing and only one can win, then clearly you’re not going to win all the time. Or even occasionally. Their mantra is always, [00:14:30] you know, we’re going to win or learn.

And really, it probably should be win and learn. ‘Cause then if you win, there are things you can learn from that. But that really is their goal. They go into a race with every expectation and hope of winning; and if they don’t, then the debrief is focused on … Not what mistakes did we make so we can point out people’s failings. But did we do that we should do differently next time, so that we have a better chance of wining.

You know, if you think about it, failure and mistakes is just training. If you look at it that way, and [00:15:00] say, okay, I made a mistake. That’s not a horrible thing. That’s training. Because I learned something from that.

I had a boss one time … I said I worked in manufacturing, and an employee made a mistake and it cost, I don’t know $60-70,000. And this was back in the eighties, when $60,000 or $70,000 was a whole lot of money, still is, but you know what I mean. And there were people that said, you know, aren’t you going to fire him. And he said, “No, I just … He just learned a really expensive lesson. I’m not going to waste that.”

[00:15:30] And it was true. Because he learned a couple lessons. One, he learned, hey, I should not do that, that was a mistake. But then he also learned that organizationally, if you’re trying and if you’re doing your best and if it’s an honest mistake, then, you know, we’re not going to throw you out. Because you matter, and you know, we’re an organisation that tries to do the right thing, both in what we create and with our people.

I know that’s a broader application of it. But there’s a lot to be said also for … I don’t know, let me take a step back. I do like [00:16:00] the idea of failing is okay. But I definitely don’t think that you set out to fail. And there are some people that have taken the failure thing to that point. Where it’s almost like, well we can try anything, because it’s okay. Because failure’s something we embrace, you know, it’s how we move forward.

Well. You should try your best to succeed. And if you fail, figure out what you can learn from it so your chances next time of succeeding are better. But I have been around organisations where it’s almost like, hey, do anything. Because we [00:16:30] love failure and we embrace failure.

Wow. Dude. We up to. So …

Andrew Ramsden:

Failure is an end in itself.

Jeff Haden:

Yah. Well, sometimes that is the case, I think. And failure can be a good thing if you use it properly. That’s all it comes down to.

Andrew Ramsden:

Hmm. Absolutely.

I would say, in my experience, I see more of the former rather than the latter. What do I mean by that? So, I don’t see many organisations that have really embraced failure to any degree. In fact, most of the organisations [00:17:00] that I work with, failure is something that they try to avoid at all costs.

And I think that can be very, very crippling. Especially in the public sector. What would you say to organisations … How do you shift that culture or how would you think about shifting that culture to help people be less risk adverse and a little bit more open to failures, even small failures and experimentation, as part of the process?

Jeff Haden:

I think the best way to do that is that your leaders have to model the behaviour that you’re hoping that the employees will display. And [00:17:30] by that, I mean, if you make a mistake as a boss, then you should be the first one to stand in front of your folks and say, hey, I thought this would work, it didn’t.

Here’s why it didn’t. I messed that up, so here’s what we’re going to do to fix that and move forward. And so, if you’re the person that is saying, hey, I tried this and it didn’t work, but here’s what I’ve learned from it, here’s where we’re going to go … Then you create that environment where it’s okay to for your people to be able to come to you and say, [00:18:00] hey, I tried this, it didn’t work. Either, can you help me fix it or here’s my idea for how to fix it.

But it opens that up to where it’s okay for people to say that. You can tell people all you want, here’s how I want you to act. But if you act the way that you want them to act, then you have a much better chance of that happening.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yah. Transparency, communication, stepping up and really owning the mistake; I think that’s a huge source of credibility. We often think that that’s going to impact our credibility [00:18:30] negatively by talking about a mistake. But I think it does the opposite.

Jeff Haden:

When I was a new supervisor, I worked … Again, in a manufacturing plant … And we had a number of production lines. And I was in charge of a few of them. And I looked at the way work was scheduled and how it was flowing to different lines. And I sat down with a lot of paper and kind of mapped things out.

And decided that if I shifted the production flow some, and moved a couple crews to different shifts, like work shifts, then [00:19:00] our productivity should go up eight or 9%. Which, was a huge number in a very well established place. Where two or 3% gains were celebrated. So, I said-

Andrew Ramsden:

Wow.

Jeff Haden:

Well, hold on. There’s no wow, yet.

So I explained it to the crew, said here’s why. Put it all on the board, mapped it out. Which is fine. And it … On paper, it was great. But ’cause I was so excited by my idea, I didn’t take into account the fact that I was disrupting a lot of people’s lives. Changing [00:19:30] their work schedules.

You know, the people part of it? I didn’t pay enough attention to. And so, we put it in place and there were some gains. But from a morale point of view, I had definitely done the wrong thing.

So, about month into it, I got everybody back together and said, “Look, I messed up. I know you told me we shouldn’t do this and I wanted to do it, anyway. And I thought I was right. And it was wrong. And I’m going to put you back on your shift the way you need it to be. But, so I messed that up. But we still have to [00:20:00] find some ways to makes some gains. So that I don’t mess you up again, do you guys have any ideas?”

And they did and things went well. And I was afraid coming out of that, that I had lost any credibility as a supervisor. And that, you know, my career was over. Because I’d made this big mistake. And it was embarrassing and all that stuff. And a guy came up to me later and said, “You know, I didn’t really know you, but the fact that you stood up there and said, ‘hey, I screwed up’. And he said, the fact that you owned that, that was really cool.

And I thought, okay. [00:20:30] Maybe I’m on to something. So I didn’t try to think of other things I could mess up so that I could gain even more credibility. But I did realise that if you stand there and say, hey, I messed it up. ‘Cause everybody knows you did, anyway. So, by not talking about it, you’re not getting anything out of it.

You might as well just say, I messed up. Here’s what we’re going to do to fix it. Can you help? I’m sorry.

If you do that, then people actually respect you for it, and they are more likely, like I said earlier, to come [00:21:00] to you and say, hey, I think I messed this up. What can we do, how can we fix that? And how can we get to a better place.

Andrew Ramsden:

You’ve seeded that culture, then? And that becomes the norm? Yah. That’s really excellent. And I think you raise a good point there about, you know, you’re not now looking for ways to stuff up so that you can earn more credibility points in that way. To me, that really speaks to authenticity, which I think is really important.

Because when you start thinking more and more about the leadership space and you find all of these leadership lessons, it becomes like [00:21:30] a series of rules or tools or buttons or levers that you push and pull to try to … You could even say, manipulate the situation to be the way that you want it to be.

And I just think that’s a trap. If you start using these techniques as levers or buttons … You know, in a really disingenuous way, people see straight through that. So I think that authenticity is really important.

Jeff Haden:

Sure. And the … To get back to the failure thing again. And to follow up with what you just said. If you’ve seeded that culture [00:22:00] of, it’s okay if you made an honest mistake and you’re willing to work to fix it, then that’s okay; you have implicitly said, we’re okay with some failures, without having to have some big programme and slogan, you know, that you roll out as a programme.

But then if you also take it a step further and say to people … Not hey, it’s okay if we fail. But hey, here’s some things that we’re trying to do … Do you have some ideas? Do you have [00:22:30] ways that you can think of? If you open that up to people to be the ones to help to drive the changes? And then they feel that they’re in a culture where making a mistake is okay if it’s honest and well intended?

Then you’re creating that drive towards innovation and creativity. And you’re giving them room to make a few mistakes along the way. Which, they will. All without ever having to talk about the fact that it is okay to fail. And coming up with some slogan that you put on your wall. I’m convinced [00:23:00] that wall slogans are the death of whatever it is you were trying to do.

Andrew Ramsden:

Right. Fantastic. I think there’s a good quote around that. I can’t remember what it is.

Jeff Haden:

Yah. Programme acronyms, they’re the kiss of death, so …

Andrew Ramsden:

Right. I’ll have to look that quote up and put it in the show notes. But I’m sure there’s a quote, something along the lines of, once you print it out and stick it on the wall … I can’t remember. I’ll look it up.

Jeff Haden:

I know what you mean. And it sounds … Whatever you’re driving towards, I know what you’re saying. You know, the mission statement. Once the mission statement gets plastered [00:23:30] everywhere, it is no longer a mission, it’s just words.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yah. Absolutely. Now, you’ve written about so much, I’d be really keen to hear … What is it that you geek out about, these days?

Jeff Haden:

Ooh. Yah. What I most enjoy, either writing about or thinking about … And it’s why I wrote the book that I did, is … I like where success and achievement intersects with happiness. [00:24:00] Because I do think that there is a lot to that. There’s all kinds of research that shows, at least in US dollars, if you make more than $70,000 a year, then your happiness does not increase.

That other things like relationships and personal achievements and other things that are fulfilling, matter much more. There’s research about how planning a vacation is actually just as satisfying. It leads to feelings of happiness as actually taking the vacation.

There’s all kinds of stuff about new [00:24:30] cars do not make you happy and a new house only makes you happy for a month. All of that other kind of stuff. And I think that, you know, if I think about it, at least for myself and the very successful people that I know and have talked to. They get, aside from family and friends, not to discount those. But that’s not something I can control …

They get the most happiness out of trying to do something, working hard at it, and seeing some success. Because at the end of the day, you sit back and say, you know, I worked hard today. I had some things I [00:25:00] set out to do. I accomplished many of them and I feel good about myself. And that motivates you the next day to get up and do it again.

But it’s that feeling of job well done, whatever that job is that you’re trying to do. And maybe it’s just raising family, not just, but you know what I mean. Maybe it’s raising a family. Maybe it’s volunteer work. Whatever it is you’re doing, if you feel like you have done well with that, and you’ve made a difference for yourself and other people? That seems to me to be a sustained way to feel happier. And happiness [00:25:30] is something that we’re all looking for, obviously.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yah. Absolutely.

Jeff Haden:

That is a universal goal. We may not all want to be rich. But we do want to be happy.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yah. And I think it’s self reinforcing. I think happiness leads to success, as well. And I mean, there’s a wonderful book and ted talk by Shawn Achor, called The Happiness Advantage. I think that’s absolutely true, let’s start with happiness and the success and achievement will follow. Not the other way around.

Jeff Haden:

Yah. Well, and I apply the same thing in my book. You know, my premise [00:26:00] in the book is, that motivation isn’t something that just strikes you one day, and that you have to wait for. Where you find your life’s purpose and you know, you have all the motivation you need to carry forward. I think motivation actually comes from trying something and improving, even just a little bit, and feeling good about the fact that you did.

Which makes you feel happy. Which creates motivation to do more of it. And it becomes this really cool virtuous cycle, where, as [00:26:30] you work at something and make small improvements, you feel good. And that motivates you to keep going. And it can go on for a lifetime. Or you can use it in different pursuits. If you accomplish one thing and then decide to accomplish another.

You’re a rock climber, so if you climb K2 and decide that you’re … Well, that’s probably not the kind of rock climbing you do, but let’s see … El Capitan and Yosemite …

Andrew Ramsden:

I’m not there, yet.

Jeff Haden:

If you did that and then looked around and said, you know, I’ve really enjoyed rock climbing and I’ll always do that, but I’ve decided I want to do … I [00:27:00] don’t know. If you want to surf, next? Then you can apply the same framework to that. And so, you don’t have to have that one passion, you can be, what I like to call, a serial achiever. Where you have multiple things through the course of your life that you work at and get better at and feel good about. And get happier from.

So that’s all that virtuous fly wheel of success and happiness and motivation.

Andrew Ramsden:

So, there’s a motivation momentum there that gets built up in inertia.

Jeff Haden:

Yep. [00:27:30] And you can feed it every day by … It is as simple as saying, today, I want to do, whatever it is you’ve set planned to do. And actually doing that and if you have accomplished what you set out to do, then you feel good about it. And that gives you motivation to come back around.

It’s the old marathon example, where … If you’ve never … If you’re starting from square one, which is your couch. And you decide that you want to run a marathon. If you go out and run a mile today, when you get home, you’re [00:28:00] probably exhausted. And the distance from here, which is you feeling exhausted after a mile, and the 26 miles that you eventually have to run? Seems incredibly daunting. And it’s too far. And so you quit. You’re going to give up.

But if you just say, hey, my plan … Because it’s all about having a plan and a process that you’re going to follow. My plan today is to run one mile, because that’s all I need to do to get myself going for my [00:28:30] plan. If you do that, and you come home, and you ran your mile? You get to feel good about yourself. You don’t have to feel bad that you can’t run 26, you get to feel good because you did your one.

And maybe three weeks from now, you’re running two miles. Long as you do that two miles, you still get to feel good. So you create a process that allows you to make those incremental gains. Feel good about the incremental gains and that keeps you motivated throughout. So, I like to say, the best thing for people to do when [00:29:00] they come up with a huge goal, is to set it and then create a process that will help them achieve it. Which, I’ve got a number of different ways in my book …

And then forget the goal. You have to almost put it aside and say, I’m not going to think about the 26 miles. I’m just going to think about tomorrow and whatever my plans says, that I need to get there.

Andrew Ramsden:

Interesting. I like that distinction, because sometimes I must admit, I find big goals demotivating.

Jeff Haden:

Mm, hmm. It’s that distance from here to there [00:29:30] on a big goal, is massive. And it’s a killer if you’re just starting out. Or even if you’re half way there and you look back at all the effort you’ve put in? And you look at the gulf that is still between you and where you’re trying to get? It’s too far. But if you can put that aside and say, you know, I don’t have to worry about that. I have a plan that will get me there, as long as I follow it.

So, what do I need to do today? And let me do that to the best of my ability and I’ll feel good about it. And I’ll go to bed [00:30:00] feeling like I’m … I don’t know, it always works for me … If I do what I said I was going to do, I always feel better. And then, some day, you pick up your head and you look around and you say, wow, I have come a really long way.

Almost without recognising it.

Andrew Ramsden:

Absolutely.

Jeff Haden:

And without having to have that, oh my gosh, I gotta get up today and I’ve gotta run, because I’ve gotta someday be able to run 26 miles, and all that.

Andrew Ramsden:

So that’s a real “ah ha” moment for myself. So thank you for that. So I mean, I probably run most [00:30:30] of my career using more of a purpose of drift type of approach. I think that’s another book, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it.

Jeff Haden:

Yah, I am.

Andrew Ramsden:

I guess it’s that idea that without having a specific end goal in mind, I’ve taken opportunities along the way and it’s been more of an organic sense of progress. And it’s definitely been momentum there. And I’ve really enjoyed that. I’ve always pushed myself pretty hard, but I’ve not really had a specific big goal in mind.

But then I really admire the people that do have those specific end goals. And then they [00:31:00] work towards them. And I just don’t know how they sustain that momentum to get there. And I see the power in having a goal. Especially when you’re working with others. The power of having that shared vision is incredible. And you absolutely need that.

But then if it is a significant goal, you’re starting by thinking big; which I think is really, really important, it can be demotivating. So, I like that. You sort of have the goal and then you almost switch modes. You put that goal out of your mind and just focus on the [00:31:30] short term goals.

Jeff Haden:

Yep. Absolutely. And if I give you one more tip … ‘Cause you talked about team goals. It only sort of relates. But nonetheless, it made me think of it.

There are a lot of people that feel that, not peer pressure, but the power of their peer group will help them stick with something that they’re trying to do. So, you tell your … I don’t want to belabour the marathon example. So we won’t.

Okay. There’s a hike in the United States, on the east coast. It’s called the Appalachian Trail. And it goes from Georgia to Maine. It’s like [00:32:00] 2200 miles. It goes through national forests the entire way. And so, lots of people have managed to do that. It takes about four, four and a half months. Because it’s through mountains the whole way.

It’s kind of an iconic thing, here. And so, we’ll pretend that you’ve decided you’re going to come here and spend the summer and do that. If you tell all your friends that you’re going to hike the Appalachian Trail, research shows that you are much less likely to actually accomplish that goal. Because in the process of telling people, [00:32:30] you’re starting to visualise yourself already having done so. You’re seeing yourself there. You’ve got your trail nick-name, ’cause everybody on the trail gets a nick-name, they don’t go by their names. You know, you’re thinking about the gear. You’re enjoying the mental side of, hey, I’ve accomplished this, without ever having done it, and that takes away some of that motivation to actually work. So if you feel like you need your peer group to help keep you on track, the thing to do is, not say, I’m going to [00:33:00] run a marathon. The thing to do is say, hey, I’m thinking about running a marathon.

So, for the four weeks, here’s my plan. And if you talk about what you’re going to do, and not about that end goal, then people can hold you to the … hey, did you go running today? Hey, did you do your three miles? Hey, did you do your core work? Whatever it is that your plan was, that’s the better way to use peer pressure.

Because if you just talk about the end result, you get some of the fun of it … It’s kinda [00:33:30] like the planning the vacation thing. You get some satisfaction, just about planning it. Because you picture yourself there. And people that talk about what they want to achieve, often … Well, they’re much less likely to achieve it.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yah. And I guess if you’ve got the right things that you’re focusing in on as your targets … And that’s where it’s tough if it’s something you haven’t done before. And I guess you need to lean on the experience of others. But if you find those critical drivers, or those performance indicators that are more the leading indicators, rather than the outcome indicators? [00:34:00] And you’re doing the work, you’re putting in the effort, day after day, then that is going to lead to the right result, isn’t it?

So, yah. That’s what you want to focus on.

Jeff Haden:

I should have talked to you about a year ago. Because when I was coming up with my book and how I was going to actually structure it? I had the motivation side and I was trying to figure out how to turn that into real world. And so I finally realised that if you’re going to have those daily successes that make you feel good, you need programmes that will allow you to actually achieve those daily successes.

[00:34:30] So, that’s the second half of my book, is different strategies you can use. But it took me awhile to figure that out. So, if you had told me that a year ago and said, you know, you need these things that are programmatic in leading indicators, I would have been a lot farther along. Should have talked to you sooner.

Andrew Ramsden:

Well.

Jeff Haden:

When I get ready to write my next book, we’re getting on a call.

Andrew Ramsden:

That sounds good. I’d look forward to that.

So, the second half of the book. We haven’t really addressed this, and I can talk about it in the introduction. So this is, for those of you that are listening in, I’ll have already talked to you about this, so you’ll have already [00:35:00] heard this. But, I guess we’re talking about Jeff’s new book, now. Which is called the Motivation Myth. So, the second half of the book talks to some of that more step by step practical …

Here are some of the leading indicators?

Jeff Haden:

It is very how-to. The first part is very much premise driven and here’s how I think motivation works. The first part comes from … One of the cool things about my job is that get to talk to lots of incredibly successful people. And I realised after awhile, the people [00:35:30] in my regular life, who were talking about wanting to do something different with their lives, but were waiting for that lightening bolt to strike?

They were waiting for something that none of the incredibly successful people that I talked to, ever waited for. You know, from Richard Branson to Kirk Hammett … He’s the guitarist in Metallica. To Olympic champions. All these people, none of them woke up one day and said, oh my gosh, I want to do this one thing.

They sort of drifted into [00:36:00] it, got a little better at it, realised they enjoyed it, and kept going, because they got those small doses of motivation from small successes.

And so, that’s the first part. But then the rest of it is very, very granular. How to … Here are strategies, whether it’s to advance in your career, or whether you want to achieve some kind of personal goal, or whether it’s a professional goal. To where you can actually look and say, okay, I need a way to guarantee that I’m going to have these small [00:36:30] successes that will create motivation; and so, here’s how I can apply these as a blueprint to whatever it is I’m trying to achieve.

So, that’s the second half. And again, it’s what took me a long time to realise that I needed to provide people. Or else I was just giving them a theoretical book and I’m not really into theories, I like things that actually work.

Andrew Ramsden:

Yah. That’s wonderful. I think the theories are really useful and really satisfying, but sometimes I find it difficult to then translate that into reality. And it takes my own trial and error to [00:37:00] do that. Which is still a useful process. And I find the theory helps me get there faster. But no. That’s wonderful.

I’m looking forward to reading it. So, it’s released in January?

Jeff Haden:

January 9th. And let’s hope it goes well. It’s the first book that I’ve ever published in my own name. And my kimono is open. Or something like that. I don’t know. It’s the first book that I’ve ever written in my own name and so it’s a very public thing. And so I’m proud of it, but I’m also nervous, because …

One, I hope people like it. But two, I hope people [00:37:30] actually gain something from it. Because the things that are there, I’m an average guy, who has managed to do a few things that are at least slightly above average. And it’s because I created processes that will allow me to get there.

And I think anyone can do that. You may not turn out to be the best rock climber in the world, but you can be a pretty darn good one. And you may not be the best leader in the world, but you can be a pretty darn good one. And you can feel really good about it at the end. Which, to me, is what it’s all about.

Andrew Ramsden:

Well. [00:38:00] I think you’re being incredibly humble, but it’s a very admirable quality. Look, I’m really looking forward to reading that.

Jeff Haden:

Thank you.

Andrew Ramsden:

We talked about endurance, athletics, and marathons; and this is a little bit of a segue. But I know that you’re an avid cyclist and cycling is surprisingly popular in the technology community. So, for example, many CIOs I know are cyclists.

What does cycling do for you and what do you get out of it? And why cycling?

Jeff Haden:

Well, I’m by no means in the tech community, nor that smart. [00:38:30] But my understanding for people who are, who also enjoy cycling, is because it’s both physical, but it can also be very analytical and very data driven and very … You know, bike technology has advanced a tonne. And so, you know, if you’re into …

You can geek out on cycling pretty easily, compared to say, jogging or some other pursuit. I got into it just because I reached a point where I felt horribly out of shape and from past things [00:39:00] that I had done, my knees were in bad shape. And so I couldn’t handle the pounding of running. And I begrudgingly decided that maybe I would try riding a bike.

Because I knew that was good for cardio and it was low impact? And I hated it for the first few weeks, because I felt really out of shape and really uncomfortable and it just was awful. But then, I reached this moment where I was able to ride a little farther and a little faster. And I thought, that’s kind of fun.

And it got … It was cool. And so that made me … Here we go again. But that made me want to keep trying. [00:39:30] Then, as I got into it, I realised that there was bike technology that had some interest. And I started to learn how to work on my own bike. And I thought that was kinda fun. And I woke up one day and realised that I’d gone from, at least in my mind, I had gone from a guy who would get on a bike and ride it for fitness, to a person who saw themselves, however faintly, as a cyclist.

And that was a really cool feeling. And that is one of the fun things … You see yourself as a rock climber. As you should. When you first started, [00:40:00] you were a guy-

Andrew Ramsden:

Well. I do now.

Jeff Haden:

Right. When you first started, you were a guy trying to figure out how to do it. But now you’ve become that and so that is part of your identity. And that feels really good when you are part of something. You’re part of a community, you have common interests with other people, you can talk about that stuff.

And so that shared sense of identity, I think, is really fun.

Andrew Ramsden:

It is. It’s fantastic.

Jeff Haden:

Yah. You don’t have to be the best. Nobody cares. If you’re there trying and if you’re consistently trying, people accept [00:40:30] you as what you are … You are part of that community. There’s no other way to put it. So, I really liked that. But I enjoy … It’s clearly one of those things that if you like numbers and you like challenges that have some kind of number or some goal at the end of it? Then it is one that you can definitely do.

You know, if you decide you want to … You climb mountains with your hands and feet and body and I do it with a bike. So, it’s very different. But when you get to the top, there’s definitely a goal there. And so, I really like that part of it. But also, I think for cycling, [00:41:00] it’s just fun.

Because you’re on a bike and you get to go fast and it’s a little bit like being a little kid. And I’m so far from being a little kid, now. But it is a way to kind of go back to that.

Andrew Ramsden:

Did you ride bikes when you were a little kid?

Jeff Haden:

Just like every other kid in my neighbourhood. There was no BMX thing or … I don’t even think that existed, I’m that old.

Andrew Ramsden:

But, you have positive associations from your childhood-

Jeff Haden:

Like, I’m sure one of the things that you enjoy when you’re climbing, is that you have to focus totally, you have to [00:41:30] only do what’s in front of you. You have to strip all that other clutter away in your mind, or else you can’t flow and you can’t do what you’re trying to do. And you can do that on a bike. But if you’re doing something really hard and your fatigue levels are high enough and your heart rate is high enough, all that other clutter just kind of goes away. And it’s just you and it’s your pedals and it’s your breathing and it’s the bike … It’s an odd form of escapism that is actually good for you. If that makes sense?

Andrew Ramsden:

Yes. Yah. [00:42:00] Absolutely. It’s really interesting hearing you talk about that and the fact that you never used to be fit. And I can really relate to that. That was certainly my experience growing up as a geek. I didn’t really prioritise exercise. I did very, very little, and it wasn’t until the last, sort of handful of years or so, that I’ve decided that I need to treat my body better.

And it’s made a huge impact in my life. Having much more energy, just that physical fitness, as you say, I’ve gravitated towards rock climbing. And that’s just what worked for me. It was [00:42:30] something that I enjoyed. Something I found fun and it resonated with me enough that I kept going. And it wasn’t the inconvenience of having to get up and leave my man cave and go and exercise and go through the pain of exercising and then come back and shower and all the rest of it.

Was easily outweighed by just how much I was enjoying it. So, it sounds like cycling is that for you. And I believe there’s probably others in the audience that’s listening to us, who are in a similar boat. Where they’ve struggled to [00:43:00] find that exercise that resonates for them.

So, I’m really interested to understand why cycling for you and how our listeners might be able to find whatever it is for them. And for me, I certainly have really positive memories of climbing as a child. I was very lucky that my dad actually built a trapeze swing …

We were climbing and swinging on a trapeze and climbing trees in the back yard and down the park. So, that’s certainly something for me, is that positive association from childhood. [00:43:30] So maybe that’s the common thread.

Jeff Haden:

I think that … If you’re someone who is looking for something that will help you with health and fitness … One of the things that I’ve done for the last six or eight months on Ink, is I’ve found, again, really successful people who see health and fitness as a key part of their success.

So, it’s not that … That’s not their profession, but they feel that is a driver of their success. And-

Andrew Ramsden:

Absolutely.

Jeff Haden:

All of that. I found those people and then [00:44:00] what I’ve done, is I’ve asked them, you know, what do you do for a week? Map it out for me. And I try that. And so, I’ve done Dick Costolo … He was the CEO of Twitter for five years, I did his. He’s big into Cross Fit. There’s a guy that’s a NASCAR, car racing. He’s a seven time champion here, Jimmy Johnson, and he does triathlons. So, I did his. I did Phil Collen, he’s the guitarist in Deaf Leppard. I did his.

So, I just picked people out [00:44:30] who … I guess the point of that is, they do things that I don’t normally do. And so, just trying it, caused me to say, well that was interesting. I might like to do a little bit more of that. So if you’re someone who is …

Who doesn’t want to just pick out whatever the hottest or trendiest programme is and try to force yourself into it. Which, to me, that never works. Just look around at the people around you that do things. And ask them what they do. And just [00:45:00] try it. But don’t try it just for a day. Try it for like a week. Or a week and a half. Commit yourself that you’re going to do this for that long.

Because that’ll get you through that first few days, where it feels really foreign and awkward and uncomfortable and alien. And where you hate it. That’ll give you enough time that you can at least get a little bit better at whatever it is. Whether it’s more skilled or fitter. And you can say … Then you have a better shot at saying, do I actually like this and might I want to keep going?

Or, should … This does [00:45:30] not work for me. If you only do it once, you’re going to say it doesn’t work for you, because you’re going to feel terrible doing it and you’re going to feel horrible about yourself. And you’re never going to try. So, you have to give it at least a week or a week and a half.

But I … My advice is to try stuff. And sooner or later, you will find something that you will actually enjoy for itself? And that health and fitness benefits get to ride along with it. And that’s how you will do it for a long period of time. Because you won’t have to force yourself every day. It’ll be fun. You like to go [00:46:00] do your climbing. It’s fun. It’s hard. But it’s fun.

Andrew Ramsden:

Absolutely.

Jeff Haden:

But if I told you that you had to go swimming every day? I don’t know if you’re a swimmer or not, but you may say, ooh. Not doing that.

Andrew Ramsden:

Exactly.

Jeff Haden:

There are all kinds different kinds of ways to find activities. And if you can make it more play, with the work component, then so much the better.

Andrew Ramsden:

Well, I think that’s the secret that no one told me, is once you find it, you’ll get the endorphin rush from the exercise, but you’ll also enjoy it so much that [00:46:30] you’ll want to be there doing it every day. All day, every day.

Jeff Haden:

Yep. If it feels only like work, and you are just slogging your way through, it requires a massive amount of will power each time to get up and do it. And as soon as you miss a few days, the will power required to get you going again, is too much. It is for me. I’m not … That’s for other people-

Andrew Ramsden:

Oh. Absolutely.

Jeff Haden:

It is too much for me. I told my wife the other day that if I could have learned this a long time ago, [00:47:00] I would have been much better off … I need to stop starting over. Let’s say you’ve been jogging for a few months and you’ve gotten in better shape, and then you, for whatever reason, you don’t do it for three weeks, you’re kind of starting over. And that starting over is so painful.

And so, my goal with stuff now, is at least to try to stop starting over.

Andrew Ramsden:

Love it. Very good advice.

Now. I know we probably need to let you go, soon. I just wanted to [00:47:30] thank you for sharing so openly about your wisdom and what you’ve learned. And also your mistakes. I think that’s very courageous and I’ve just learnt so much through that process. So I really appreciate that.

Jeff Haden:

You’re welcome. But you know, it’s … This’ll sound odd, but I think it actually takes more effort to pretend that you’re perfect, than it does to just be who you are. And I’m not saying I’m perfect [00:48:00] at that, either. Because we all have egos, we all have armour that we try to wear. But. If you just say that you did something poorly and you learned from it, people respect that. They actually respect that as opposed to pretending that you didn’t.

Andrew Ramsden:

This is very true. This is very true.

Jeff Haden:

And you’ll make much better friends.

Andrew Ramsden:

So look. I really wish you all the best with the book. We’re going to link to where you can grab the book from the show notes.

Where can listeners find out more about what you’re up to, now?

Jeff Haden:

I’m in the process … Because I’m not a very good self marketer, [00:48:30] I’m in the process of finishing my website. It’ll probably be next week. So I don’t have that up, yet. But the easiest way is just to go to Ink.com, search my name, Jeff Haden, and I’ve got about 1300 articles there.

Or if you go to LinkedIn and search Jeff Haden, then I’m all over that, too. And I’m happy to connect with anyone that would like to.

Andrew Ramsden:

Excellent. Well, we’ll link to your new website. This podcast won’t be released before your new website, I’m sure. And yah, we’ll link [00:49:00] to LinkedIn and Ink.com, as well.

So, thank you again for being so generous with your time.

Jeff Haden:

Oh, you’re welcome. I hope it was good.

Andrew Ramsden:

It was wonderful. Thanks, Jeff.

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