Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan

Self-sabotage is how we hurt ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, and keep ourselves from achieving our plans, goals, and dreams. Many, if not all of us, have sabotaged ourselves in one way or another. But the good news is, we can overcome sabotaging behaviors, it just takes self-awareness and effort.

There are five common self-sabotaging behaviors that we need to be on the lookout for.

Negative self talk
When you make a mistake or fail at something, what does your self-talk sound like in your head? Do you build yourself up or do you tear yourself down. A lot of us struggle with negative self-talk, the voice in your head that says “you’re dumb, how could you do that” or “you will never be able to figure this out”. It is easy to default to this kind of talk, but if you don’t work to overcome this it can hold you back and keep you from success. No one is going to be your #1 cheerleader in life but you.

If you struggle with this it is important to be aware of it and every time you realize you are thinking something negative, change it and be positive. It’s also important to surround yourself with the right people. What are the people around you saying about you? Do they encourage you and support you and build you up? Or are they always negative and pessimistic? Another thing to be aware of is how you spend your free time. If you are spending hours on social media comparing yourself to others, you may want to redirect your focus to something like reading a book or meditating or going for a walk.

You have to be as loving to yourself as you are to the people in your life that you love and care about. How do you talk to your kids, or your spouse, or your best friend?

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be positive, happy, and full of joy 100% of the time. There are times when we all feel down or upset about something, but it is crucial that we pay attention to how we are talking to ourselves.

Another big self-sabotaging behavior is procrastination. You cannot produce great work if you always wait until the last minute to get things done. Waiting until the last minute also causes you to have unnecessary stress and anxiety. A lot of times we tend to start our days getting the easiest things done first and we put off the more difficult projects. But actually it should be the other way around.

Use the beginning of your day to attack the hard things so that in the afternoon, when most of us tend to crash, you only have easy things left to accomplish.

It’s always difficult to get started on something, and a lot of times we let anxiety paralyze us. But if you feel stuck the best thing to do is just take action. Take the first step in completing the task.

Lashing Out
There are times at work or in your personal life when you feel overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious, tired, etc...and as a result, we lash out at the people around us. I’m sure many of us have experienced this at one point or another over this past year as we have had to work and live at home with our immediate family 24/7 throughout the pandemic.

But reacting to people out of anger, whether it’s a co-worker, a boss, or a family member, usually does not end well. And both sides end up hurt and feeling bad. So it is important that we all figure out how to overcome this self-sabotaging behavior. In order to conquer this behavior, it is crucial for us to be in a good place emotionally, mentally, and physically. That means that we need to be getting enough sleep, taking care of our bodies, eating properly and that we have methods to turn to when we get overwhelmed.

What works best for you when you are stressed out? Maybe you like to take a walk, or meditate, or talk to a friend, or have some alone time. Whatever it is you need to do to feel more in control, make sure you do that when you feel yourself getting to your breaking point.

Some people may view perfectionism as a good thing, but for most people trying to have everything perfect all the time can be debilitating. It can stop you from taking action and it can really hold you back from moving up in your career.

It is not possible to have things perfect 100% of the time, we are all human and we have faults. If you don’t allow your work to be submitted until it’s perfect it may never see the light of day. It could cause you to miss deadlines, it can frustrate the rest of your team, and it can take up time that you could be spending on other things.

We all want to strive for excellence, but we can’t become obsessed with being perfect. Not only is it impossible, but it makes you less likeable to the people around you. People want to know you are human, that you’re real and down to earth. Mistakes are a part of life, so don’t be terrified of them.

Not Standing Up For Yourself
There are going to be times in your career when you will need to stand up for yourself. This doesn’t mean you need to get up in people’s faces and cause a big scene. But if someone is criticizing you and making it personal, or if a client is trying to get your rate down to something unreasonable, or you help a coworker out once and then they try to take advantage of your kindness--in these moments you need to stand up for yourself.

Business is about relationships, it's about human beings. Most people at your organization are not purposefully trying to hurt you or take advantage of you, but it’s okay to speak up and let them know how what they are doing is making you feel.

You also shouldn’t feel bad setting boundaries at work. Whether you can’t attend meetings before 9am or you need to pick up your kids at 4pm--whatever it is speak up and let people know.

The key to standing up for yourself is doing it in an artful way and not making it a big argument. Make sure you are being empathetic and you understand where the other person is coming from. And always approach people in a kind, yet firm way.

Strategies you can use to overcome self sabotaging behaviors
Dr. Alice Boyes, the author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit, wrote an article for The Greater Good Magazine on seven strategies and tips for how you can overcome self-sabotaging behaviors. They are:

  • Know your typical thinking patterns and factor that into your judgment-- For example, if you default to a negative mindset when things happen, take a step back and realize that your default may not be reality
  • Prioritize one-time behaviors that reduce your stress over time--Be consistent in the tactics you use to reduce stress. Don’t just eat healthy for 24 hours or workout once a month.
  • Use heuristics--Have shortcuts in place to help you make decisions quickly
  • Learn to Love Incremental Improvements--You don’t have to completely change overnight, appreciate small gains and improvements.
  • Strategize to Overcome Procrastination--Create processes for yourself so that you don’t avoid things or hide from them.
  • Understanding Seemingly Irrelevant Decisions--Pay attention to the decisions you make, even if they seem small and unimportant. Every decision has an impact on you and the people around you.
  • Practice Acceptance and Self Care--It is important to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Find things that help you in each area, and don’t feel bad about taking time for yourself

One way to practice self-awareness is with meditation. It slows down your breathing and thinking and allows you to be more in tune with how you're thinking, how you're feeling, what's going on around you, and it really helps make you more self-aware.

Meditation can also help you take breaks. This can serve as your rest when you are stressed or tired from work. The goal is to be able to meditate for 20 minutes straight.

Personally, I find it hard to meditate for 20 minutes, so I started with shorter meditations and try to increase my focus and time.

Have you tried meditating?

Direct download: Using_Meditation_to_Practice_Self_Awareness.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 1:25am PDT

Jeff Immelt is the former CEO of General Electric and author of the new book: Hot Seat: What I Learned From Leading A Great American Company.

Jeff has had a lot of critics over the years and stepping into a role after the legendary Jack Welch was not an easy task. In his 16 years leading GE as the CEO he had to lead the company through 9/11, the financial crisis, and the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima’s nuclear reactors--which were designed by GE. He definitely knows what it’s like to lead under pressure.

Why Jeff wrote his book (he almost didn’t)
Jeff admits that his career didn’t end the way he wanted it to. As he shares, “I was just unhappy, I felt like the whole narrative around GE had been lost. And that, you know, truth equals really facts plus context. And I felt like the context had been lost. So one of the reasons why I wrote it is, I wanted to tell a more complete story. I didn't want it to be defensive, I wanted it to be complete.”

Jeff, who is also a Lecturer in Management at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, says that his students don’t want to learn from a perfect leader who has everything figured out. These students have lived through financial crisis, Covid, and turbulent times---they want to know how to survive through volatility and what to do when things don’t work out. Because of this he felt like there was also an audience for his book that wouldn’t necessarily care about GE.

Those are the two main reasons he wrote his book.

If there is one message that Jeff would like his critics to take from the book it would be that there were people in the company that tried their best and did perform well.

“If you look at cumulative earnings, market share, you know, if you go back to 2016, this was a top 20 market cap company. It was number seven on Fortune most admired, it was number one on companies to hire leaders. We were leaders in digitization and globalization, you know, but the stock didn't work. succession planning didn't work, there were things that didn't work.”

He says it would be one thing if the criticism was just about him, but there are thousands of people that have been hurt through this process, and this book sets out to correct that.

What was it like working with Jack Welch
Jack Welch, who passed away in 2020, is still considered one of the most famous CEOs of the century. Jeff was actually the CEO that took over after Jack left. So what was it like working for Jack?

Jeff says Jack was challenging, giving, and creative. He was someone who liked to portray himself as “tough as nails” but Jeff says that’s not the person he saw. He was one of the best leaders to run something at scale and he was a great communicator.

Jeff says this about taking over for Jack, “But by the end of the 90s, it was a company where perception didn't equal reality. We were 50% financial 50%, kind of an old industrial company. We traded like Amazon at a 50 P/E. And so kind of following him, you know, the trick was to drive the appropriate kind of change, while never looking backwards and never casting blame. And that's challenging. Look, it's easier to follow a jerk than it is to follow, you know, the best leader of the previous century. Right. But I never wanted to be him. I never wanted to act like him. And I felt like the company needed change.”

While there were elements of his leadership style that were timeless, like his focus on people and metrics, there were also some elements that wouldn’t work well in an organization today. Jeff says that Jack didn’t really respect technology and he had an element of short-termism, that with the pace of change, would be a problem.

Jack also believed you shouldn’t do anything as a leader unless you can control it, but as Jeff shares there are a lot of things that as a CEO of a public company you just can’t control.

“I think, you know, the trick with every generation of leadership is to pick the things that travel that work, and pick the new things that have to be part of, you know, making a company vibrant and competitive in the next generation. And so I think that's the way I would assess how much would work and how much wouldn't work in this generation.”

What was it like leading a company during 9/11
Jeff was on a business trip to Seattle when the attack happened and he saw it on the TV in the gym at the hotel he was staying at. He ended up getting stuck in Seattle until planes started flying again a week later. But immediately after it happened he started crisis call sessions with his team.

One thing he says he learned from that experience was that leaders should be shock absorbers of fear, not accelerants of fear.

“You learn to hold two truths at the same time--that things can always get worse, but that things can also have a future and you need to focus on that. You have to communicate like, hourly, daily, and we did a lot of that.”

And in times of crisis leaders have to be able to take action, some decisions will work well and some won’t, but there are things that have to be confronted right away.

During 9/11, the financial crisis, and Covid leaders had to find a way to lead without a playbook. How do you do that? Jeff says it starts with surrounding yourself with people you can trust and talk to. After that it is important to have a sense of timing and an idea of what tasks need to be prioritized and what things can be left for later. And the last thing that leaders in tough times have to be able to do is deal with criticism.

“When you don't have a playbook you have to be willing, when people say wrong things about you, you have to be very contemporary with it with the respect of owning the narrative and controlling the communication, and things like that. Because they can set you back so good leader's flexible point of view. Learn every minute of every day, and be willing to push back when people get it wrong.”

How Jeff deals with imposter syndrome
Over his career Jeff says there have been many times when he has doubted himself or questioned his decisions. When it comes to imposter syndrome Jeff says it is important for leaders to have reservoirs of self confidence, self reflection, and self renewal. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and believe you can do it. You have to keep showing up and always do your best.

It is also important to have friends around you who will encourage you, cheer you up, coach you, and pick you up when you’re down. And you can only build these friendships in normal times, you can’t wait until times of crisis to build these friendships--at that point it’s too late.

A strategy Jeff has used to be a more effective leader
One of the things that has set him apart from other leaders over the years is what Jeff calls his external focus. He traveled a lot for business, and wherever he was he would take time to connect with the people there in their own setting to see what they were working on and things they were thinking about. He made it a point to connect with customers, other leaders, scientists, experts and that really allowed him to stay ahead of the game.

Because of this skill GE was an early player in globalization, digitalization, environmental investing and much more.

Jeff’s advice for current and future leaders
If there is one thing that Jeff has learned over his career that he would like to pass on to others, it’s this--study how people work. You should be able to envision how everyone in your organization does their job. You don’t have to necessarily be able to do the job yourself, but you should know what kind of tools they use, how the teams work together, what metrics move them, etc…

“Frequently I go to a CEOs office, and I'm always looking at their wall to see what connects them to the frontline worker. And if I walk in an office, and it's just artwork, and statues and crap like that, then I don't believe what the value statement says. I'm looking for, like, a picture where they were walking the floor with a nurse, or a picture of a jet engine or something like that.”

Advice that Jeff received early on in his career was to make sure, no matter how big of a company he worked for, that he connected with the people there and knew how they got their work done.


Direct download: Audio_-_Jeff_Immelt_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:06am PDT

In our rapidly changing world of work, it's important for us to be able to use technology to collaborate quickly and efficiently so that we can make better decisions.

There are a lot of benefits that come from using collaboration tools, and if your organization isn’t using them yet, you should start now. There are a few things that you can start doing:

1. Make collaboration tools part of your daily routine. Use the right tool for the job--make sure you aren’t always using video calls when you can just post a message in a group chat.
2. Set ground rules or standards for how your team is going to use the different types of technologies. Everyone has to be on the same page.
3. Teach your people how the tools will help them be more efficient and productive. It's important for employees to understand the benefits of using collaboration tools.

All these things make a dramatic impact on your organization.

Direct download: How_to_Implement_New_Collaboration_Tools.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 1:28am PDT

Ania Smith is the CEO of TaskRabbit, an online and mobile marketplace that matches freelance labor with local demand. She became CEO back in August of 2020, prior to that she held roles such as Director, Head of Courier Operations at Uber, Head of Operations, Host Services for Airbnb, and Director of Strategic Partnerships & Merchandising Strategy at Walmart--just to name a few.

One of the things that Ania says has helped her get to where she is now is her broad experiences living and working in four different continents. She has been able to work across many countries, cities, companies, and roles and that diverse background has taught her a lot. She has been able to meet new people, experience different cultures, and pick up new skills over the years.

Another way her unique background has helped is with figuring out what she wants to do in life. Ania says, “A lot of times, they'll say, you know, follow your passion. But that's really hard because oftentimes, we don't know what our passion is. So I'd like to think more about finding my passion. And really, the only way to do that, for those of us who are not lucky enough to know from when we're three what we want to be, is to try out many new things and see what really energizes you and motivates you and helps you think about the impact that you're having. And that has really helped me.”

The path to success doesn’t always have to be linear
As Ania shares, the path to her current role as CEO was not linear, it was very much a zig-zag. A lot of times we get stuck thinking that our next step has to be up the ladder to the next logical role--but oftentimes important steps in our career are side steps. As Ania shares, it is important to stay open to new opportunities to keep learning and growing and don’t limit yourself on where you have to go next.

There were definitely times in Ania’s career where she didn’t get the promotion she wanted right away, but there was always another opportunity waiting that allowed her to meet new people and learn new skills that she could take with her to the next role.

Ania shared an analogy her friend uses when thinking about the course of a career. She says, “A good friend of mine once used the analogy of a Google map. So she talks about how, you know, sometimes we're just like speeding down the highway towards our career and we know exactly what we're doing. Other times, we're on a slow country road. Other times we take the wrong turn. Other times, we actually are stuck in a traffic jam and really feel stuck in our careers. Other times, we may even have an accident and really have to pedal back. And I think that that's a sort of a great analogy to think about my career.”

Ania’s gap year
A couple of years after leaving Airbnb, Ania, her husband, and their kids took a gap year to go and live in Argentina. For a whole year, Ania and her husband stopped working and really took that time to be together as a family, explore a new culture, and talk about the future. She says it was an amazing experience to really step back from everything and to get away from the day-to-day race to really think about what she wanted her next step to be in her career.

When talking about the experience she says, “ I absolutely feel that if you can at all swing it, it is life-changing, it's transformative. And it really shows you that sometimes you kind of feel like oh my god, if I'm not at work, like the whole world is going to fall apart. And it's just unfortunately not true, for most of us. We're all capable of doing something else. We all change jobs very often. And this is this changing a job to something else before you change it into a new job. And to be able to take a breather and really reevaluate where you are and what you want to do and who you want to be when you grow up-- I ask that question to myself all the time, still today--and to have that space to think that through. It's amazing.”

While some people would be worried about leaving their career for a full year and getting left behind, Ania wasn’t too concerned. She knew she had been working for 20+ years and while she may be a little behind when getting back, she felt that she would still be relevant and would be able to catch up quickly.

And sure enough, one week after returning to the U.S. she had a role at Uber.

How Ania sets the vision for TaskRabbit
When she first started as CEO of TaskRabbit Ania made it a point to meet with every single employee inside of the company--she went on a listening tour, as she puts it. Instead of walking into a new company and laying out her vision for things, she knew it was important to find out what employees felt the current vision was as well as how things were going, what things were working, and what wasn’t.

Since then she has worked very hard with her leadership team to take everyone’s input in order to come up with a plan for where they want to be in 3-4 years and to define what the vision of the company is.

“And it's a pretty clear path for, not how we're gonna get there, but essentially what we will be in three to four years. And I think it's been inspiring for me as a leader, but also from my team and their teams to understand what we're trying to get to. And it helps, therefore, for us to help our strategy or sort of shorter term strategies forward, because we know where we're trying to get to, we just need to break it down and work backwards. It helps that process every year, as long as we have this sort of Northstar of what we're trying to get to.”

What does putting people first mean to Ania
One thing that Ania is very passionate about is putting people first. But what does that actually mean to her?

One of the key things for her is talking to people and truly listening to their feedback. She understands that it is crucial to learn what’s important to people, what do they value--and it’s different for everyone.

Over the course of the pandemic one thing Ania has discovered is important to her people is workplace flexibility and giving people options for where and when to work. And she’s really taken that feedback to heart. She and her team are offering flexibility now and they are also figuring out how to best address this need in the future.

“Feedback is a gift. So if anyone is willing to provide feedback, having the strength to accept the feedback--you may not agree with it--but having the strength to accept it, to think it through, to see how that may or may not help you, is really a big skill.”

How Ania makes tough choices
When she was younger Ania admits that when she had to make a decision she could not have enough data, she wanted to know everything before deciding. But over the years her approach has changed.

The truth is data can be used and manipulated in any way we want it to be. So relying solely on data is not the best option. Now Ania focuses more on her experience and gut feeling when making a decision, and if she makes a mistake she quickly fixes it and moves on.

“Over time, I realized that data has played lesser and lesser role in almost every decision that I make. And so much of it really just comes from, I don't know, that inner feeling that I guess people call it wisdom or experience or something where I feel like it's okay to go in direction A and I may be wrong, and often I am wrong. But it's better to make the decision quicker and to learn if I'm wrong than to continue to ask for more data and more analysis, and just kind of get stuck, and be unable to make a decision.”

You have to give yourself the freedom to make decisions, and you have to accept that you’re going to be wrong, but that’s okay. This is the way you learn and grow as a leader.

Direct download: Audio_-_Ania_Smith_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:08am PDT

There are three main barriers to collaboration:

If your organization is built like a pyramid where information has to flow bottom-up or top-down, it won’t do well with collaboration.

Part of collaboration means speaking up and having confidence in yourself. Sometimes employees are scared, which keeps them from really collaborating or communicating effectively.

This occurs when you need to get someone else's input for every idea and every small thing you're trying to do. Over-collaboration is just as harmful as not collaborating.

We often see these common barriers inside organizations when it comes to collaboration. But if you know what the barriers are, you'll have a good sense of how to deal with them if they come up and can handle them quickly.

Direct download: Three_Big_Barriers_to_Collaboration.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:20am PDT

Greg McKeown is the bestselling author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and his new book Effortless: Make It Easier To Do What Matters Most. He is also the host of the popular podcast, What’s Essential, which has featured guests like Matthew McConaughey, Ariana Huffington, Jay Shetty, and Maria Shriver.

We all know life is hard, in multiple ways. We’ve all experienced challenging times, especially over the past year. But, as Greg points out, we tend to make things even more complicated for ourselves than we need to, and it can ultimately lead to burnout.

In his book, Effortless, Greg shares why achieving results doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it, whether in our personal lives or at work.

Why we need to get rid of the phrase “work hard, play hard”
This phrase, Greg says, gives us the idea that important work can’t be fun, easy, or enjoyable. It suggests that you have to be exhausted, self-sacrificing, and overworked in order for you to be doing something important. And on the other side, if you are having fun with something it’s not really work. Rest, relaxation, and fun is only something you do when you’re burned-out and need a break.

But what Greg believes is that there doesn’t need to be a separation between playing and working. And he is all about making the essential things enjoyable and easier to do. How? By turning the essential things into rituals that allows you to appreciate them and enjoy them.

A lot of times we confuse rituals with habits, but they are two different things. A habit is something that we make part of our routine on the basis that there will be a benefit later on. For example, maybe you’ve incorporated working out into your routine so that you feel better and live longer.

A ritual is something that you truly enjoy, it’s not about a benefit later on, it’s about enjoying the actual thing you are doing in the moment. It’s something that you look forward to. Greg says, “Take something from a chore and turn it into a ritual, then you have something magical to help you produce great results, but again, without burning out.”

What does it mean to be in an effortless state
One of the three main sections of Greg’s book is about what he calls an effortless state. Most people have experienced this sort of state, but not very often. Greg defines an effortless state as this, “when you're in flow, it's when you're physically rested, you're mentally at ease, you're able to be at ease in focusing on what is essential to you. What's important to note about this is that when you get into that state, it produces things. When you're in the effortless state, you tend to take effortless action, you're able to act without strain, without forcing things without breaking yourself or the people around you.”

That sounds great, so how do we get into an effortless state and make sure we stay there for a long time? Well first of all, you have to be able to realize when you are burned out. Research shows that the closer we get to burnout, the less likely we are to realize it.

Greg says, “The exhausted state tends to produce more exhausted action, and more exhausted results. And so people as they approach burnout start to try to power through it. So of course, that's not a recipe for success. That's a recipe for, you know, continuing this downward spiral.”

So it is up to us to realize that there are two states, two options. After we realize we are in an exhausted state, this is where your rituals come in.

One ritual Greg does to make sure he stays in an effortless state, is to practice gratitude. Every time he complains about something, he then says something he is thankful for. It is hard to stay in a state of anger, frustration, or fear when you are in a state of gratitude.

How to shut your brain off and be content with having free time
A lot of us have trouble taking time to rest, relax, and just have some free time. This is especially hard for entrepreneurs who tend to always create more work for themselves. But it’s true for people inside of organizations as well.

If this is true for you, Greg has some advice. First of all, he says, create a done for the day list. This is not a typical to-do list, although it is okay to have one of those as well. But typically those tend to be something we constantly add on-to and update, which means we could work with no end. But a done for the day list is a list of the things that if you accomplish them today you would feel satisfied with the day and you could walk away from work feeling good.

Another thing Greg does is he sets a time when he will be done for the day. His time is 5:00pm, so at that time every day, not only does he stop working, but he makes it a ritual that he walks out of his home office and calls out to his family “It’s five o’clock”, in order to hold himself accountable.

Now there are times when he has something special like a book launch or something like that when he has to work past his set time, but he doesn’t let that become the normal thing.

It is so important to set boundaries like the done for the day list and the set stopping time, especially during this past year. For a long time people have talked about work-life balance, but as Greg mentions, that’s a bit of a misnomer because it is never life overtaking work, it’s always work overtaking life.

But it will take time to train your brain to shut off at a certain point, in the beginning your brain will continue to think about work even after you walk away from it, but the more you practice your boundaries and get out of your old habits the easier it will be.

What to do if you don’t enjoy downtime
So now that you have set up some boundaries for yourself, what happens if you just don’t enjoy resting or free time? For over-achievers it can feel uncomfortable to not have anything specific to do. Greg shares something that sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s so true. He says, “Relaxing is a responsibility. Resting is a competency. And it turns out to be as important as the competency of work in the first place.”

These types of people who don’t like to relax need to practice self-awareness and realize that is a problem they have. Once you accept that you aren’t good at it, Greg suggests making a list of things that when you do them you are relaxed, rejuvenated, chilled out, and having fun. Greg and his wife both actually have a list of 20 things they recognize helps them relax. And you can have anything you want on this list, there are no other rules.

You may include going on a walk, reading a book, sitting in a hot tub, playing chess, drinking your favorite beverage out on your deck, going to your favorite restaurant--anything you want. And then these items become your building blocks for a time of rest. For example, if you have 3-hours of downtime, use this list to build your perfect 3-hours of relaxing. You could spend 30 minutes out on your deck with some coffee, spend 30 minutes playing chess with a friend, then go for a walk, and go out to your favorite restaurant--and you’ve filled those 3 hours, but with things that recharge you and give you rest.

Direct download: Audio_-_Greg_McKeown_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:21am PDT

As the future is rapidly changing, leaders must be able to adapt the growth mindset instead of having a fixed mindset. Leaders must be able to learn and adapt to any changes and challenges that come their way.

Remember, everyone faces challenges. Everybody has bad days, but the difference is how you overcome these challenges. You don't know everything, but you can learn everything.

What would have happened if some of the world's greatest innovators and inventors had given up simply because they felt that they couldn't do something or couldn't overcome something? What if a scientist just stopped because they ran into an obstacle and didn't try to find a cure for a particular disease? We would be living in a very different world if everybody gave up at the first sign of a challenge.

A challenge isn't the end of the road, it's just an opportunity to grow.

Direct download: Viewing_Problems_as_Opportunities.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Fareed Zakaria is the host of the CNN show, Fareed Zakaria GPS. He is also a columnist for The Washington Post, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, and he is the bestselling author of several books including his newest one, Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World.

The pandemic has had an impact on every one of our lives, and the effects will be felt for a long time to come. Early on in the pandemic, Fareed knew we were going through something big, something the world hadn’t gone through for over 100 years, and he wanted to figure things out for himself. He also wanted to help others make sense of everything, which is what pushed him to write his newest book.

Every part of our lives has been affected--health, politics, economics, and education. Thankfully we live in a time when we have the technology and resources needed to be able to still carry on for the most part. While office buildings, schools, and restaurants shut down people got creative and found a way to keep going with online learning, home deliveries, online work meetings, etc…

But while there are many good things about technology, there are also a lot of cons that come with an all virtual world.

The limitations of technology
The place we see the limitations of technology the most, according to Fareed, is in our education systems. Education is not simply about children and young adults soaking up information, it is also a very social and emotional experience as well.

As Fareed shared with me, “you have to create an atmosphere of social trust, you have to create an atmosphere in which people feel like they're having fun, you have to create an atmosphere where people feel a little bit of competition, you know, with peers and all that together creates the kind of opening in our minds that allows the knowledge to go in. And so if you just think of it, and say I'm just going to put you in front of a computer screen, and you will get information, and you will imbibe that information. No, you won't. You won't. You know, the mind just switches off.”

There are definitely some things that just aren’t the same virtually as they are when we are face-to-face. Fareed says that one of the challenges we will face after the pandemic will be to figure out the power and the advantages of this online world we’ve been in. But we also need to look at the disadvantages of what we experienced and figure out how we can fix it. And he believes that we will end up in a hybrid model of some kind where we have a mixture of in-person and online.

We can use technology for good things, but there are also ways in which we use it that can be harmful. But it is up to us how it is used. We can choose to text and drive which is dangerous, we can choose to multitask and always be available online which can cause burnout, we can use it to spread lies and misinformation. But it can also be used in ways that keep us safe, productive, and less stressed.

As Fareed says, we should be optimistic about the future, but we also need to be realistic in order to see the problems and challenges that come with technology. It’s not about being a blind optimist, it’s about being aware of all the problems that exist, because that's the only way you fix them.

How leadership has been impacted by the pandemic
Over the past year leaders around the world have had to pivot to lead in a completely virtual setting, and that is not easy. Fareed shared an example of something that happened to him personally as a leader during this time that really made him stop and think.

His team from his current CNN show has been all virtual, everyone on the team is working from their own homes. And at one point in the pandemic, he noticed that the morale was not as high as it usually was and people were getting burned out, which he found odd since his team is so close-knit and they have always worked so well together.

So in order to get to the bottom of the problem, he called a team meeting and he asked his team to be open and honest with him to figure out what was going on. And one team member was very blunt and told him “Look, you sometimes send these cryptic emails that are really hard for us to take”. And so the conversation started around why they felt that his communication was different now than before.

And what they came to discover was the loss of casual conversation and in person engagement was really at the root of the problem. Before the pandemic, they would see each other throughout the day and joke, ask each other about their families, talk about their weekend plans, etc...So in that context, after you hand some light banter throughout the day to get an email simply saying “we need to re-write this” doesn’t sound so bad.

But now in a completely virtual setting, they were going days without talking or interacting and then to suddenly get that same short email of “we need to re-write this” seemed harsh and rude. And it was ruining the morale of the team.

Fareed shares, “It made me realize that what I was doing there was I was spending social capital, rather than building social capital. And that what I had to do was to be very conscious of the fact that in this virtual environment, you've got to build social capital before you can spend it. And you've got to put in the time and the energy.”

What does that look like? Instead of writing one sentence, maybe you should write a full paragraph. Instead of jumping into the agenda for an online meeting, you should ask people how they’re doing, or joke around a bit. Instead of going a few weeks without checking in with an employee or a co-worker, reach out even if it’s just to say “hi, how was your weekend”.

“You need to realize you cannot just, you know, kind of issue commands and expect people to follow them or issue directives, that doesn't work. Where it might have in a different context, where there was a lot of soft stuff going on, and then you had this one email that came through.”

What’s going to happen to the cities?
Throughout the pandemic, and even a little before that, people have speculated that cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago are going to disappear. And while the option to have work flexibility is more possible now, which means people don’t have to report to a central office, it doesn’t mean cities are a thing of the past.

Fareed looks to history to figure out the future, and when we do that we see that people moved to cities because there was more work and because they could earn more money there. When you have a highly dense population, there are more people to sell your product to. There are more people to invest in your business. There are more people around to network with.

“That density is what produces economic activity, which is why, you know, there's a couple of very good calculations that suggest that people who live in particularly large cities tend to be about 50% more productive than other people. I'd say it's not that we're smarter, it’s that you're more likely to meet people, you're more likely to do more deals, you're more likely to see more stuff. I don’t think that’s going to change”

And while people no longer have to live in a city center to be close to their organization’s headquarters, you will probably see a large amount of people living on the outskirts and commuting into the city--if not everyday, then at least from time to time.

One thing Fareed thinks will change about cities is that you won’t be seeing as many big office buildings, since most people can work from home or from co-working spaces or even smaller more localized offices. So these big office buildings may be used for something else like affordable housing or performance space or something else.

Fareed’s advice for individuals and leaders in the post-pandemic world
When I asked Fareed what his advice would be for individuals looking for opportunity as things start to open up and also for leaders, he said he would offer everyone the same advice--whether you are a leader or not.

He said, “One thing that I think we don't talk enough about is what are the personal lessons and opportunities that the pandemic has produced? We spend a lot of time talking about all the external stuff we have to fix. How do we get better government policies in place? How do we get corporations to change the way they run? How do we get cities to be transformed? What are all the external things we need to do? But we should also be thinking to ourselves, what are the internal supports that have mattered the most during this pandemic? What have we learned about ourselves as human beings, what do we need to be fulfilled, to be happy, to be productive--and productive in every sense of the word, right. Not just as workers, but as partners, as parents, as children.”

No matter where you are in life we all have a chance to learn something from what we have been through. We can all ask ourselves--what makes me happy? What gives me joy? What makes me productive? And we can maximize that in a way we have not done before. We only get one life, so use it well.

He also believes we should all ask ourselves this question-- How can I be a better version of myself--given what we have gone through and the ability we’ve had to get to know ourselves without all of the distractions we had before the pandemic. It’s been a difficult time for all of us in different ways, but what can we take from this experience, what can we use from this to propel us forward and to make us better human beings?

Direct download: Audio_-_Fareed_Zakaria_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:04am PDT