Today I’m interviewing Laura Gassner Otting and she is a confidence catalyst who works with leaders, entrepreneurs and change makers to help them get unstuck and accomplish extraordinary results. Her new book “Limitless – How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your own Path and Live Your Best Life.”
Limitless deputed at number two on the Washington Post’s bestseller list, right under Michelle
This is a really interesting episode, and we’re really talking about growth thinking here. And I think you’re going to love it. It’s lovely to speak with you, Laura.
WARNING — AI Transcriptions Below May Cause Grammatically Correct People Serious Stress and Lack of Sleep!
Laura Gassner Otting 0:58
So it’s great to be on Nat.
Nathaniel Schooler 1:01
So I know you gave me this amazing title that you thought would be really, really helpful for this.
Laura Gassner Otting 1:07
I think it might have been ignore everybody carve your own path and live your best life.
Nathaniel Schooler 1:13
Yes, that’s, that’s what it is. But like, a lot of the people listening to this are going to be, you know, in organizations, they get to have to deal with people. So how do you kind of ignore everybody and do that was holding down a job.
Laura Gassner Otting 1:30
So it’s funny that you say that because this this, the book was originally titled:- “Purpose, How to do Work that Matters.” And, you know, that’s kind of a boring title. He really wants to buy a book called purpose, how to do work that matters. But we all want to feel limitless. And the way to feel limitless is to not be limited by everyone else’s expectations of what success should be. So the idea behind the title of the book:- “Limitless: Ignore Everybody Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life, is that has to start by throwing out everybody else’s definitions of what success should be. Now, obviously, there are people in our lives that we have to listen to.
But we also get a choice about who those people might be. If if we’re working in a corporation, and we don’t think our boss is right about something, we might have an option to talk to somebody else, we might have an option to look for another job, you might have an option to go within the organization and find a different type of job inside of the same employment. But we have choices in our life. But even more so than that where we are today. I think it starts by asking, Who gave us these definitions of success way back, when that told us to go to the right school, pick the right trade, pick the right college, go to the right University, get the right job, you know, go to the right, you know, have the right house, have the right spouse, etc. And then we look around and we say, Well, if I checked off everyone else’s boxes of success, and I have a job that, you know, on paper looks right and resume that on paper looks right? Why do I still feel like something’s missing? Why am I part of the two thirds of the workforce that are disengaged in my work? And that starts by figuring out what success actually means for us? And then going towards that instead?
Nathaniel Schooler 3:17
Yeah, yeah. So So really, all of that stuff is just come in, when I was growing up, my dad was like, you got to go to university, you need to get good grades, you know, and, and the pressure that you feel from that sort of idea of someone else, there is their idea, isn’t it? It’s not? It’s not necessarily what you have to do these days to be successful, certainly, in your own eyes, right?
Laura Gassner Otting 3:41
Absolutely, you know, we could be really good at being successful, as defined by other people and not feel like successes, I spent 20 years interviewing people, as in the world of executive search. So I was interviewing people for C suite positions, these are the top of their games they had on paper success, but they weren’t happy. And I was, you know, as evidenced by the fact that they were sitting in my office looking for another job. And, and I was, I was always fascinated by the dichotomy between success and happiness, because I was told, like, you probably like so many people listening to this podcast, that if you’re successful, if you lean in, if you if you if you are your all things to all people and and say yes to every opportunity and and and work as hard as you can and do it early enough in your career that it pays dividends throughout. If you do that, you’ll be successful. And you know, you’re successful when you get to the top, and I got to the top, and then I looked around and I said the top of what is this really where I want to be. And it’s because I was in a job that gave me the very traditional markers of success, brand prestige, nice title, good salary, like all the things that I wanted, I looked around and I said, Well, but I’m also working 80 hours a week, and I’m killing myself, and I’m not spending time working for causes that I love helping it out of my community being present with my husband and my children. And is that really what I consider success to be? And it made me have to stop and say, Well, you know, with nobody on their deathbed says, boy, I wish I spent more time in the office, where do they wish they spent more time? And the places where they wish they spent more time and the traditional excellently defined markers of success don’t match up?
Nathaniel Schooler 5:27
Well, all I can say it’s just it’s, it’s, it’s a really serious topic. This one, you know, and I think a lot of people they they might go through, you know, most of their career not actually knowing what their purposes I mean, because we’re, we’re sort of talking around purpose. And we really,
Laura Gassner Otting 5:49
we are, and this is where the train goes off the tracks. Because most people say, Oh, well, purpose that’s higher purpose and lofty purposes, has to have a picture of Mother Teresa feeding the lepers in India, or maybe they’re St Peter at the pearly gates with his clipboard and his inventory judging whether or not you’ve had, quote, unquote, good life. And here’s the thing, I spent 20 years helping people find incredible life changing jobs and nonprofit organizations. And if that’s what people want to do, then I say, absolutely amazing. But I also know lots of people who have tons of purpose in their life, who aren’t doing anything that’s quote, unquote, making the world a better place. If your purpose is going out and helping cure cancer, then I say, go for it. Because we need that to happen. If your purpose is working, so that you can get yourself and your family out of debt so that you can live with financial flexibility and freedom for the first time in generations. I say, go for it. And if your purpose is buying a big house and a Mazda Roddy, I say go for that to your purpose doesn’t have to be higher purpose or lofty purpose. We don’t have to wait until we’ve made our money to give back to nonprofits. We don’t have to wait till until we’ve had one kind of career so that we can have another kind of career that’s quote unquote, of value. Your purpose is whatever your purpose is. And the only one who gets a vote about that, is you.
Nathaniel Schooler 7:14
Right? Yeah, I will all agree, I’ll agree with you on that one. I mean, I think it’s, it’s whatever makes you happy, isn’t it? Because it’s kind of like, everyone, everyone is sort of, they get into a job. And then it’s like, well, I’ll be happy, when I’ll be happy. When I get to the weekend, I’m going to be happy when, you know, I reach the end of the year and get a promotion. It’s like, Well, why can’t you be happy? Now? Like, that’s, that’s just such a major, major thing.
Laura Gassner Otting 7:42
Yeah, I think I’ll be happy. When are the four worst words in the English language? I think that those four words, kill your dreams, before they even come out of your mouth. And I think they start to, they’re like a cancer on your dreams The first time even think about them. Because if you know, we’re, the problem is, is that we should all be happy when and we assume I can’t be happy now. Right? Like, there has to be something wrong, and I’m with you Like, why can’t we be happy now, you know, I’m the kind of person who has a hard time leaving lunch before I decide what I’m having for dinner, like I have a very hard time living that I’ll be happy now moment. But I think even worse than that, when we say I’ll be happy when I get married, I’ll be happy when I have the baby, I’ll be happy when I get the job, I’ll be happy when I get the promotion, I’ll be happy when I get the increase of salary. Those are all things that other people have told us will make us happy. And it may be, for example, that you are the kind of person who loves to go on long weekends to beautiful, cosmopolitan European cities. And that doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time. But it costs a lot of money to fly first class and to stay, you know, in the four seasons and to go on the sort of fancy vacations. Or it may be that you’re the kind of person who hates that kind of stuff. And actually, what you would rather do more than anything else, is spend a week, two weeks, three weeks hiking deep into the Alps, hiking deep into the Colorado Rockies, hiking somewhere far away and waking up in the morning and making your eggs and bacon over a fire next to a stream. That’s not going to cost you a lot of money, it’s going to cost you a lot of time. So you may be saying, well, I’ll be happy when I get the next raise. Because that’s what I’m told I’m supposed to want. But the truth is, you might be happier, changing to a different job, where you’re making the same amount of money, or maybe even less, but you get more vacation time.
Nathaniel Schooler 9:30
Yeah, well, there’s a lot of research isn’t there into into happiness? And actually, I think it’s something was it something like 60,000 pounds, maybe like 80,000 or $100,000? Anything over and above that does not actually change your happiness, apparently.
Laura Gassner Otting 9:47
I think that’s absolutely true. And I think what, here’s the thing, in 20 years of doing executive search, I used to, I used to listen for very specific motivational factors. And and if I heard a candidate saying that they were sort of keen on one or two, I was like, Alright, cool, I know, we’ll have a second conversation. And if I heard three, or four or five, I was like, yep, if they’re qualified, no problem, I’m gonna be able to get them in front of my client. And if I heard six, or seven, or like the holy grail of eight, I was like, the fishes in the boat, I am good. I don’t have to worry about the search anymore. I’m done. But, but but here’s the thing, I would go to my candidates with this amazing job that they’d never heard of, before they picked up the phone and talk to this person that they’ve never heard. And I would try to get them to change their lives, move across the country move across the world and take this job, can I was wanting them to find meaning in the job. But I was armed with the checklist. That was it. And the checklist had things like the mission of the organization, the the inspiration of the leader, the prestige of the brand, the new skills that they might acquire the the scale of impact and growth, you know, things like personal flexibility, and and and geography and personal benefits, and then of course, money. But again, if I would go to somebody, I would say, Well, if you’re making $100,000 now, and what I’m offering is a job that’s going to pay $120,000. But you now have four weeks of vacation, this was only coming with two. And this person’s got kids in high school and is thinking to themselves, well, I I’ve, I’ve already dealt with sort of the financial ramifications of kids going to university, but I really am feeling deep in my bones, that I’m not going to get to spend as much time as I want to them. And I want to grab every single minute that jobs not going to be interesting to them. Because the money and the time and the flexibility, these things have to be attached to meaning. And so we can look at numbers and say salary is this or the benefits or that or the prestige of the brand is this if if this is somebody in the final capstone of their career, the prestige of the brand, and where it impacts their career velocity, it may matter less to them, because they’re not looking for the next job based on this job, right. So each of these things will matter differently to each person. And throughout the book, I talked about this, at this idea of consonants, that we have to find ways for these motivating this old scorecard of these metrics of success to actually be meaningful in our lives. Because once they’re meaningful in our lives, then we can be in consonants. We can be in alignment, we can be in flow, we can be doing the work that actually matters to us. Yeah.
Nathaniel Schooler 12:31
Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s very, very helpful. So when when it when it comes to yourself as an individual, you know, if you wake up every day, and you’re unhappy in your job, right, like you, you know it Yeah. So how can you can you just wake up one day and say, you know, what, I’ve decided, I’m just going to be happy, and I’m going to enjoy the moment, and I’m going to enjoy my day and and get on with it. Can you just do that? Or do you think you may need to change jobs to achieve that?
Laura Gassner Otting 13:07
No, I think you need to change frameworks. For some people, you need to change jobs. So the, my book is sort of outlined in three parts. And the first talks about this idea of consonants and being limitless and, and and what’s gotten in our way in the past. The second part talks about the four elements that make up consonants, which we can talk about in depth, calling connection, contribution and control. And then the third part says, Okay, well, if you’re missing some of these things, and in fact, you want to have more of them, you either need to change your career, change your workplace or change yourself. And I think the third part of that the change yourself is really key, because that’s the point when you say, Okay, so I’m going to a job that I don’t necessarily love. And I’m working for a boss that I don’t necessarily love. And I’m working for a mission that I don’t necessarily love. But it’s paying me a salary that I do love. And so that is the way that I can see this job contributing to the kind of work that I want. Or you may say, Well, I’m not making as much money as I really want. But I’m able to manifest my values on a daily basis through this work. And I understand how this job is going to contribute to the velocity of the career trajectory that I’m looking to build. And that’s how it’s contributing to my life. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s thinking about the job in ways of this job doesn’t have to be all things, but it has to allow me to see, at least into the future, this is helping me get to some kind of calling that I have. And again, that calling can be, you know, building a business, it can be staying home with your family, it can be it can be being an entrepreneur, it can be building a bottom line, it can be any of the things that you might want to do for your career. But it’s it’s making sure that in this framework, you understand how the work you’re doing connects to that how the work that you’re doing contributes to the life that you want to have.
Nathaniel Schooler 15:04
Makes sense. Make sense? Yeah. It’s, it could be that people are just working too hard. And they might need to take a break. I mean, that happened to me, I’ll just because I worked for myself a very rarely take time off, because I really enjoy what I do. And I just took four days off over Easter is probably like the longest time I’ve actually taken off ages and just relax, done, did no work at all, pretty much and came back. And I actually just decided that I was going to be happy in what I’m doing no matter what. And had a real like lightbulb moment yesterday, like I was in a closed shop. And I’ve been seeing my dad and I went into this close shop and this this guy said, so what did you do today? I said, Ah, sent a few emails. And what else did I do? edited some words, transcriptions. It was a good day. And I kind of looked at him. And he looked at me. And it was the first day I think for ages are really just settled in what I’m doing, and enjoyed it.
Laura Gassner Otting 16:02
And did he look at you with this like a pack? Like he had no idea what to do?
Nathaniel Schooler 16:07
He actually said to me, it was really funny. He said to me, he kind of said, Wow, that’s really cool. He said, I’m gonna I’m finishing my college course soon. And I’m going to start my own business. So I was like, Wow, that’s really cool. Just, it was really amazing. Yeah, it was just like, one of those days, you know, to me, it was just yeah, it was fun. It was a lot of fun.
Laura Gassner Otting 16:28
Yeah, and I, you know, I and I, and I look, I mean, I take I take your point, right? The, the, if you love what you do, then you really enjoy doing it. You know, I think that, that that that trait statement, if you if you if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I mean, I like work, I want to work every day, I love what I do, I feel so lucky to be able to travel the world and speak from stage as a keynote speaker and, and write books that people buy and read and email me about how they changed their lives. And I just feel so lucky to have this this career that I built, you know, spent 25 years building. And it’s not that I’m looking for work life balance, I think work life balance is this ephemeral, fleeting, ridiculous thing. What I want is work life alignment, where the what I do matches the who I am, so that I’m not constantly code shifting and, and changing costumes between the person I am at work and the person I am at home on my commute, I want to be able to be that kind of person, both at home and at work so that I’m learning things in both places I can augment my ability to perform and each of them. And I think that I think that it’s wonderful to take time off because I do think that we need rest and recovery. But I also think that it’s it’s if the exhaustion is coming from not just the being busy, but the time in between the being busy, where you have to kind of reinvent yourself each time, then that’s a cause for not just taking time off. But really reassessing what’s limiting you.
Nathaniel Schooler 18:05
Right, so what do you mean by that, like, reinvent yourself in between?
Laura Gassner Otting 18:10
You know, imagine the, imagine the cancer doctor, the oncologist to, you know, can’t wait to get home because he likes to hang out with this is Thursday night cigar club, right? I mean, that’s not the kind of person who’s gonna be able to come into work on Friday morning, and be himself. I mean, that’s that, that that is uncomfortable, or if there’s somebody who’s working part time, and maybe they had to come in late to work on Friday, because they went to a Parent Teacher Association at their kids school. But at the Parent Teacher Association at their kids school, they heard this amazing idea, which actually set up a light bulb for them about something at work that they’ve been trying so hard to figure out and couldn’t. And they can’t then tell their boss where they heard about it, because the boss would be mad at them. But the fact that they were late because their parents, and so that’s what I mean is the the having to reinvent yourself and like put yourself in your work armor, put yourself in your home armor, not be the same person in both places. I think that if the work that you’re doing, if the what you do doesn’t align in some way with who you are with the values that you have, and the energy and the interest that you have, it’s just exhausting. Because you basically have to shove yourself into another costume each time you go back and forth.
Nathaniel Schooler 19:21
Right? I get you. That’s that’s totally correct. It’s very, very hard, though. For some people. I mean, some people might be listening to this. And they might be like, Look, I’m really, I’m really unhappy in my job. So might be really happy. Yeah. But it’s very difficult. When you’ve got bills to pay, you’ve got a wife, kids or husbands and you know, you you make enough money that you you’re just getting by, right? Like how you’ve got to study. I mean, you’ve got it if if you’re not happy in the job that you’re at right now. And you don’t think you’ve got the skills to get the job that you really want. If someone said to you, right, what would you like to do? If gave you anything that you could do? You woke up in the morning? And it was the perfect day for you? Right? What would that perfect day look like? If, if you truly think Well, I’m not sure I can do that perfect day because I don’t have the skills to actually land that job or to start that business. Whatever is right, then you need to study like there’s no, there’s no shortcut to success. And that’s the biggest issue I’ve got with all of these coaches, mentors, in some instances, and they they, they almost they almost people just look at like the PayPal founder, they look at Zuckerberg and they say, Oh, I can build that I can go and launch the next app and become a billionaire. And it’s like, well, actually, the reality of it is is is very different to what’s actually going on, you know.
Laura Gassner Otting 20:56
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think what happens is, is success is this like squiggly line, right? If like, if everything above imagine you have a line that goes that goes across the page, and everything above the line, with this giant squiggle that goes up and down, everything above the line of success, and everything below the line is hard work and failure and Rhian iteration, we see only the success and we try to emulate that. And we forget to see everything below the line. And we don’t realize that that’s what it takes as well. I think that there are you know, look, I want to be real, there are plenty of people who are barely paying their bills, who have young kids at home, who have aging parents who have, you know, debt, who have real issues that are stopping them from progressing into having the life that they want to have right now. And I want to honor that because that stuff is real. My bank does not take good karma and exchange for mortgage no matter how many times I asked. So you know, this is all the economics of reality are real. That said, if you remain quest is to you know, change your career and do something completely different. There are things that you can do right now, my 16 year old, is a passionate video game player. And there was a day where I woke up and I was just exhausted, I was tired. I had a bad night of sleep, I had too much spicy food than I before I was just, I was not going to get anything done that day. And over breakfast, I was bemoaning my lot in life about how I was just not going to be able to get this chapter that was done that I really needed to give to my publisher. And he looked at me with the look on his face that could only be described as mystified. And he said, so why don’t you just go on a side quest today. I said, What’s a side quest. And this is where I learned the most beautiful analogy ever, which is that if your main quest is to go to the castle and slay the dragon, and save the princess, but you can’t do it yet, because you’re waiting for your friend to log on after dinner, and he’s busy still doing the dishes, there are things that you can do to to prepare yourself for the main quest, you’re a farmer, you can pretend your crops, you can tell your wheat, you can take it to the market, you can sell it for money. And in exchange for that money. You can buy things like a horse and a sword and potions and things like that. So that when your friend finally finishes, dishes and logs on and is there with you in cyberspace, you can jump on your horse and go to the castle and slay the dragon and save the princess. So there are tons of things that even if you’re in a place right now where you’re like, Nope, I can’t do it. You can study you can read books, you can listen to podcasts like this, you can watch TED Talks, you can take a class, without feeling you have to go back to get the whole degree you can ask to tag along to a meeting you can you can you can ride the elevator with your boss and ask questions about how decisions are made. So you get some insights into whether or not your work really does feel connected. There are loads of things that we can be doing right now that are side quests, so that when we’re ready to just jump on the horse, and go to the castle and slay the dragon and save the princess, we can go at it full speed.
Nathaniel Schooler 24:07
Yeah, I agree hundred percent. I mean, I think a lot of people, the major issue with a lot of people is they’re actually so tired when they get home from work. I mean, we’ve all been there, right? I’ve been there, you know, and, and that actually makes it very difficult to find the energy to sort of study but things have changed like the last 10 years. Now you can listen to podcasts when you’re doing the dishes, right? You can. There’s so much information now that we are spoiled, we’re actually spoilt for choice, we can listen to experts like you speaking and explaining things to the world for free. Like, everywhere you go, there is a direction you can take. But it all needs to come back to what you want to do. Where do you want to go? And and then I think you just get on with it. Like you just get stuck in right and start learning and learning and learning. And then one day you’re like, Wow, I’ve been studying that I’ve like, you know, done 10,000 hours now, like I already know what I’m talking about.
Laura Gassner Otting 25:11
Yeah. And I think that I think that here’s the thing, you can’t be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals for someone else’s dreams for someone else’s life, it’s got to be the thing that you want. And so the nice thing about the side quests, the nice thing about studying the nice thing about the fact that the barrier of entry is so low, because it’s free, you can learn about something and you can decide 20 minutes into the podcast, you know what, I always thought that I was fascinated by this, that and the other, it turns out, I don’t care. And you can turn it off, you can move on to the next thing, the commitment is very, very low. I think that we are, we are raised to feel like failure is finale. If we you know at some point, we demonstrate competence in a thing. We get hired for it, and we get praised for it. And we get promoted for it. And we get paid for it. And we think, Okay, I have to keep doing that thing. Right? Whether you’re a hospital worker, whether you’re a CEO, whatever it is that you’re doing, we have to we have to keep doing that thing, step to the right, you’re going to fail step to the left, you’re going to fail. So keep doing that thing no matter what. And then you know, and and, and so we spent all of our time living in our center of excellence, let’s just perfect that. But then think about our children, our children in school, they fail all day long every day, right. And they never spent any time resting. They never spend any time wallowing. They figured out algebra, it’s time for geometry, you’ve got geometry, it’s time for trigonometry, you’ve got trigonometry, we look out calculus is in the house, right? They just they keep iterating and learning. And so what they learn is that they learn to be comfortable in the discomfort, they learn to live on the very bleeding edge of their ability, they’re in competence. And because they spend time in the edge of their and competence, they understand that failure is not finale, but failure is fulcrum. And so I would urge people who are thinking, you know, I’m not really happy where I am. But if I change something, I might fail to say, Well, actually, in that failure, as soon as I stop living into everyone else’s definition of success, I can actually make room for my own.
Nathaniel Schooler 27:27
Right. So we’re really talking about firstly defining what success looks like. And then we’re actually talking about a growth mindset only. That’s really down to the to the bottom of it, right.
Laura Gassner Otting 27:41
I mean, I think that’s part of it. I think I think we have to figure out what success looks like for us. First, you know, look, I read lean in in 2013. And, and I really wanted to love it. I really thought I was supposed to love it. I was part of the army of women. We all loved it. But I didn’t. And I didn’t love it not because of the privilege or any other the other things that have been thrown at Sheryl Sandberg I don’t I don’t fault her for that. I think she was right to use every bit of academic access and privilege, she has to define success. I did that I succeeded that way. I’ll be it with a few less zeros behind my paycheck. But but but but I still I still threw myself into everything. And then I looked around one day and I went okay, well, you know, as I said, I’m at the top of the top of what? So for me, it’s it’s it’s saying there are many definitions of success and that singular myopic unflinching definition that the fastest most expedient path to the corner office is the only one. I think limits all of us were limited by other people’s ideas of ambition, we’re limited by other people’s anxieties. We’re limited by other people’s hopes and fears and dreams. And I think in those limits, we lose ourselves. And so the first step is to is to ignore everybody else and decide what does success mean for you, it may mean working in a job that you hate, because it gives you a salary you love. It made me working for a cause that is so true to you. But you know, eating ramen soup, because that’s all you can afford, it can be lots of different things, but each one of us will define success differently. And I want people to lean into that, then the second part is to have this growth mindset and to figure out well, what does that mean you need to change and where do you need to grow in order to live into that definition. And, and and and shirk the bounds of everybody else’s. And then finally, it really is figuring out where it is that you’re at your best when you are at your happiest, your most joyful, your most engaged because we know that workers who are engaged are 22%, more profitable and more productive for their companies. So where is it that everything that you do well, and everything that you love is being called upon to serve the problem at hand. And that’s really when you can live your best life because that’s when you’re in your fundamental state of leadership, this this, this thing that Harvard Business Review defines as, as when all of us everything that we do well, and we’re firing on all cylinders and method, the thing that’s needed, that’s when you really can be limitless and live your best life.
Nathaniel Schooler 30:04
Yeah, and just enjoy what you do. Right? Like, I don’t, I think so many people also have too hard on themselves like, you, you, you, you need to just sort of sit back and say what, you know what, it’s okay, that I that I’m not doing that right now. It’s okay. And tomorrow’s another day. And I’m going to move towards my goal every day. And when I get there, I’m going to get there. You know,
Laura Gassner Otting 30:28
and also, it’s okay that I’m not doing what I love right now. But it’s also okay that I don’t love what I was doing before. And I want to change that, like at every age, and at every life stage, we’re going to want and need different things. So when I was 21 years old, and I was volunteering on a president, I’d States presidential campaign, I had all the calling in the world, I was up to my ears and idealism, but I was worth my weight and ramen soup. I mean, that was all I can afford. But I didn’t care because I was fine couch surfing, I was fine. You know, wearing dirty clothes, I was fine not having any control over whether or not I was being, you know, flown to Mississippi or Montana to to run events, because I was so all in about about what I was doing. Now, as I’m approaching 50, I care a lot more about you know, the kind of hotels I stay in on the kinds of planes that I travel on. And, and and whether or not if I’m going on stage, I have to take 14 flights to get there with the big crowd like, my what makes me happy now and my measurements of success, and where how I want to show up in my personal life and my professional life are completely different. And my guess is, and I’m not there yet, but 20 years from now, as I’m as I’m approaching 70, I’m going to be thinking completely differently about these things as well. And so I think I want to I just want people to let themselves off the hook a little bit and say, just because I trained to be x doesn’t mean it’s bad if I’m now wanting to be why.
Nathaniel Schooler 31:58
Yeah, I mean, I think all so we’ve got sort of talk about people who you hang out with, right? Because, you know, there’s this age old thing, they either say that you’re the sum of the five people you hang out with the most or the 10 people that you hang out with the most right. And from personal experience, I I’ve lived that. So, you know, many times in my life, I’ve actually changed who I’ve hung out with a lot of those old friends, they do remain. But I think that, you know, if you want to grow a business, and you want to build a massive business, or you want to be the CEO, or you want to do this, and that you need to perhaps change your friends, change what you watch on TV, don’t watch TV at all, be more selective in where you spend your time, you know, and these things I, for me, I like absolutely crucial.
Laura Gassner Otting 32:54
Couldn’t agree more, I believe, wholeheartedly, that if you are the smartest person in any room, you’re in the wrong room, I just, I really believe that. And I think that if you want to raise your game, you got to be with people who are ahead of you. I think it’s totally fine to spend time with people that you’re mentoring and that you’re championing that you’re helping to grow as well. But, boy, if you are not with people who who can look at you and see your greatness and push you to be the best version of yourself that you can be not the best version of themselves. But the best version of yourself. I think that I think that you’re really giving yourself short shrift. I do believe that.
That every time I’ve ever made a significant
change in my life, and and found success in it, it’s because I surrounded myself with people who were good at what they did. And were good in their hearts as well.
Nathaniel Schooler 33:53
Yeah. And then that it doesn’t matter what industry they’re in. I mean, that’s the thing is a lot of people like very industry specific, you know, and it’s like, well, actually, you can, you can find people who might not even have a job, they might just be working for a charity, and they might not eat, they might be on unemployment benefit. But if you see something within them, like, I’ve got a friend in the local church here, he spent 10 years in jail. He’s helping with the homelessness project in my city, he’s launched himself. And he’s completely changed. And like, you know, don’t be afraid to just hang out with like, totally different people, is what I’m saying. But be careful because, you know, you become who you hang out with, right? Like you really do.
Laura Gassner Otting 34:39
Yeah, and and I, I really think that greatness and accountability and, and and brilliance really knows no bank account balance. I mean, you can find you there, there’s a quote that goes something like everybody, everybody you come in contact knows about lot about something you know nothing about. And I really, I believe that to be true. And, and, and and I think that we spent a lot of time watching the stuff that we already know, you know, we go to we go we we we we’ve rewatch movies that we love, or we we talked to people about books that we’ve already seen, or maybe we’ll watch episodes of TV shows that we’ve already seen before, because it’s just, it’s comfortable, and it’s safe. And you know, that’s fine. There’s a space for that. But I found myself years ago, going to Ted calm and watching TED Talks. And I would always watch talks about stuff I know about was like, Oh, I know lots about talent. And I know a lot about human potential. And I know lots about happiness. I’m going to watch lots of talks about those things. And then I realized all I’m doing is sitting staring at my screen or listening to my earbuds on my commute nodding in agreement, but I’m not learning anything new. So I forced myself to start listening to TED talks on on string theory and physics and space travel and mathematics and where does creativity come from and things that were uncomfortable to me and pushed me and and yet I found that the more I listened to them, the more curious I got about them. And so I just this, this space of being this, this idea of being uncomfortable, I think is a good space to be in if you know if you’re unhappy, get more uncomfortable, is I think better advice, then, you know, seek low ground.
Nathaniel Schooler 36:28
That’s funny, I’ve actually got a friend he’s he’s Britain’s leading hypnotist. Right. And, and we we talked about the, the kind of the way that everybody is sort of, you know, Anthony Robbins, and people, they encourage everyone to like be outside of their comfort zone. Yeah. And I it’s important to kind of just think about that, because I don’t know, for me, I like to always be learning always be stretching my brain. So for me, that is my comfort zone. I’m in my comfort zone being out of my comfort zone, if you get what I mean, yeah, but a lot of people, they get confused. And for some people being in their comfort zone might just be very, very, you know, calm and relaxed. And they might not want to learn loads and loads of different things. And it’s like, it’s it’s very difficult one, because we sort of sort of edging into the life coaching kind of realm. Are we here?
Laura Gassner Otting 37:26
Yeah, but I think it’s more, I think it’s, I think it’s more than just sort of life coaching. I think it’s saying that you cannot grow and change if you keep doing the same thing true. And yet, we get you know, if you live in that center of excellence, and you continue to do something, well, you get promoted, because it’s you know, you just keep passing you up the line right there, somebody leaves and you get promoted. And in each of those new positions, were asked to do new things, we’re asked to stretch our management chops or to take on more clients or to have bigger catchment area or whatever it is that we’re doing those you know, you get paid, or you get a better title, because you’re asked to do more. So we’re going to have to do things that are uncomfortable anyway, we’re going to have to be in a space of growth and learning. And so if we can do it in a place, in our, in our in our in our life, where we can be uncomfortable learning new things, and when we have to do it in our work, it’s not as hard. Right?
Nathaniel Schooler 38:24
Right. Yeah, I like that. I like that a lot. I’ve got a friend, I’ve got a friend called called Eric Right. And, and he he’s basically he’s got a few airplanes and stuff like that. And he’s like, you know, you really need to learn how to fly. Yeah, this is what he said to me. He said,
Laura Gassner Otting 38:38
like, No, I don’t really need to learn.
Nathaniel Schooler 38:40
I actually really do. Yeah. And and if you look at the cost of it, it’s actually it’s actually cheaper than buying a new car. Like, if you if you if you buy a new car every couple of years, right, you probably would have more money in your pocket if you learn how to fly an airplane and had an airplane, right? So depending on the size of the plane, right? So so he said to me, right, you need to sign up to this website, and you need to learn about all of these different things. And I signed up to it. And I did all these tests. And I was like, oh, wow, this is really hard. Like, really, really hard. So I think it’s really good to just to just check, like learn something new every day, just learn something new. Because it’s it’s exciting to like just see how how far we’ve come in the last, what, 50 years, 20 years, five years, even like, how much more information is available. Now then, before we had the internet.
Laura Gassner Otting 39:37
You know, I was actually asked on a podcast, I told you I’ve done you know, over over 50 podcasts in the in the run up to launching limitless. And I got asked in one of them pretty early on. Well, what advice would you give your 20 year old self listening to this podcast? And I said, What advice would I give my 20 year old self listening to a podcast that was recorded over the Internet that I’m listening to on my mobile device? Mm hmm. Like none of those things existed when I was we have to learn new things. Because even if we know ourselves super well and want to just do the same thing over and over again for seven years, which, frankly, evolution doesn’t allow us to do anyway. But even if that were the case, the world around us changes so much that we’re going to be forced to learn new technology, we’re going to be forced to understand how to do work differently. And so you know, being in this place where we can continue to learn is okay. But it takes a mindset shift of saying failures, not finale, it’s fulcrum. It’s funny, I gave this talk a couple months ago in Texas, a keynote talk about 45 minutes. And I get to this point where I’m talking about how failures not finale, it’s fulcrum and the importance of learning and growing and changing. And I and as soon as I say the line, I look over at stage left, and I noticed in the audience, an astronaut astronaut had commander Tim Cobra of NASA has been on not one, not two, but three spacewalks. And I say the line I look over him and I was like, oh, except for you, sir. Failure would most definitely be finale. But for everybody else in the room, all 1999 other of you, failure is fulcrum, and but so so it’s a really important thing to think about this idea of, you know, as long as they’re still breath in your body, there is something that you can learn from failure from iteration from growth from change. And mostly it’s how do i do things better. And that’s why studies have shown that the most successful entrepreneurs are not the kid in the dorm room thinking he’s going to invent the next Facebook, it’s not somebody saying, I’m just going to invent, you know, I’m not gonna I’m going to be Mark Zuckerberg, and it’s all going to be great. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs from first time entrepreneurs are in their late 30s. And part of its because they can sell finance a bit, but part of its because they know themselves, and they understand what they do well. And then they also know what they don’t do well, and they’ve learned over time how to surround themselves and complement themselves with people who can, you know, who can who can be additive where they’ve got weaknesses.
Nathaniel Schooler 42:20
100% I mean, I’ve met some exceptions to that I met, I was chatting to the CEO of lesson Lee about I’ve had him on a couple of couple of interviews. super interesting guy, I think he’s, I think he’s like 29. Now.
Laura Gassner Otting 42:34
Sure. I mean, of course, they’re going to be exceptions. But I think we look at those exceptions. And we say, Oh, well, every 29 year old can do that, when in fact, they can’t. And frankly, I would, I don’t know for a fact, but I would stake money, that he wasn’t just surrounded by other 29 year olds, but he might have had a few gray hairs go Yeah, advice along the way to
Nathaniel Schooler 42:52
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think having a growth mindset is one thing. But you’ve got you’ve got to have mentors, coaches, advisors, you know, all these people are super important. I mean, you need people in the business that you’re in, and also outside the business as well, you know,
Laura Gassner Otting 43:10
yeah, I think we make that mistake. And we think that your mentor can only be in your line of work. And I think it’s helpful to have a champion in your line of work, because that’s the person who says, Well, you know, we’ve got this project coming up. And, you know, we’re probably going to decide who gets the promotion based on who does the project, well, let’s make sure next assigned to the project, right, like, that’s your champion, they need to be in your line of work, they need to be in your business. But I think having mentors that are outside of your business is really helpful. Because they can bring a different perspective, they’ve got some distance, they probably don’t have any skin in the game. And and I think that they can bring to you a new way of looking at things which is, is more creative? Most often?
Nathaniel Schooler 43:53
Yeah, very much. So you know, but I think if you if you if you look back, like and you, you went back, say 10 years, and you said to yourself 10 years ago, hey, Laura, you’re going to write a book, and you’re going to do this, and you’re going to be on 56 podcasts in in three months, and you’re going to be a best seller and, and all this stuff, right? What would you have said to yourself?
Laura Gassner Otting 44:18
I would have laughed so hard. I by the time I picked myself off the floor from laughing I I would have I would have, I probably would have called you a liar. no possible way. You know, 10 years ago, I was running an executive search firm, I knew I wanted to figure out an exit strategy. But I hadn’t quite figured out how to do that yet. And it was still a couple years before I approached my business partner and said, We got to figure out a way for me to get out like I’m done. I’ve been done for a while. Yeah, I you know, at every major decision point I’ve had, I’ve ended up taking on a new role a new I would venture a new challenge for which I had precious little qualifications. And and mostly it’s because that’s what interested me like my calling is to become like you is to be constantly learning to be challenged to be trying new things. And I would imagine a lot of people listening to this podcast fall into the same category, because that’s why they’re listening to podcasts like this. They’re trying to learn and, and grow. And so for me, I was always most interested in jobs where I wasn’t that qualified, because if I was that qualified, it’s because I’d already done it. And I love the puzzle. I love figuring it out. I am as surprised as anyone that that I have turned a life of being a raging introvert into being somebody who goes on podcasts and national live TV and speaks on stages in front of thousands of people. It’s it is it is hilarious to me. That said, I wrote the book because I couldn’t not write the book. It poured out of me in like three weeks. I just it was it was these are lessons that I’ve learned throughout 25 years of my career of seeing so many people at every level of their careers and major moments of career shift and understanding what was driving the changes that they were looking to make when I was trying to write purpose had to do work that matters. It was really hard and it wasn’t working. We were going back and forth. I couldn’t make it happen. And then when the book shifted to being limitless, how to ignore everyone carve your own path and live your best life. It poured out of me in three weeks. And and the truth is, it took me three weeks to write but it took me 25 years in three weeks to create.
Nathaniel Schooler 46:42
Yeah, it’s like the castle, isn’t it?
Laura Gassner Otting 46:46
Well, I would I feel quite flattered to be compared to the castle at all.
Nathaniel Schooler 46:54
If you had the story, Laura,
Unknown Speaker 46:55
I haven’t No,
Nathaniel Schooler 46:57
no. So he was in he was in a restaurant, right? In Paris. And this, this lady walked up to him and said, Hey, can you can you draw me a picture on this napkin? Yeah. So podcaster drew a picture on this napkin. I think it was a Duff, but I could be wrong. And and then he said, Okay, great. Here it is. That’s hundred thousand francs, please. And this woman said, What do you mean, 100,000 francs. You took you three seconds? And podcasters said no, it took me like, my whole life to be able to do that in three seconds. Yes. And that’s the point I’m making. And it’s like, you know, I don’t think I don’t think many people have got to the stage in their lives where they actually know what they want to do. And, and I think you’ve just got to try and just enjoy everything that you’re doing every day, right? Like, you’ve got to try that that’s, that’s going to lead you to better things, isn’t it?
Laura Gassner Otting 47:54
And understand that there may be lessons that you’re onboarding. Now, today, that seemed completely irrelevant. But five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now you’re gonna look back and go, Oh, that’s how this all works together?
Nathaniel Schooler 48:09
Yeah, I agree. 100%. So, what would you What would you say to people like, how, how do you actually ignore everybody? How do you do that?
Laura Gassner Otting 48:21
Well, I think we have to start by not comparing ourselves to everyone else. You know, we all have these perfect friends with their perfect Facebook profile photos, and the perfect first day of school photos and the perfect vacation photos. And I think we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other people. You know, it’s not just the people that actively tell us what we need to do, and we should do and we must do or worse, what we can’t do. It’s all of the insidious, Instagram, Facebook, all the social media that we see from people who are living lives that we don’t necessarily even want as our lives. And you know, you may see someone who’s got the fancy car and think I want a fancy car, but you also know that they’re working 80 hours a week to get it and you’re thinking, I don’t really want to work 80 hours a week, I’m actually quite fine with my middle of the range car for the middle of the range hours that I’m working. And I think a lot of times we see the shiny, but we don’t necessarily say well, is that really what I want to do? And so it forces us to judge our bloopers by everyone else’s highlight reels. And I think we have to stop doing that. Because when we do we feel like failures.
Nathaniel Schooler 49:28
Yeah, I feel that theme. Quite a lot. I mean, where I live in Chichester now, which is a city in England, right? The South Coast. And here is a bit less less like that. Then where I used to live, I used to live in Hazel now which is in sorry, which is a bit closer to London. And what you find is is that, you know, it goes back to a lot of people have said this before, but it goes back to, you know, buying a house and a car on credit to to impress people that you don’t like who you’re never going to talk to, just because they have it and they’re doing exactly the same thing thing.
Laura Gassner Otting 50:01
Exactly. And what a shame that is. And it’s not to say that social media is bad. In fact, I love social media, we got connected through social media, social media has allowed me to create its social media is allowed me to create relationships with people that I would never have time to see in person or my password never crossed otherwise. And it’s been wonderful. But it also can be insidious, because it tells us that we have to follow these, you know, these these these annex unrealistic goals of purpose and passion and happiness and balance. And if we don’t have all of those things perfectly, then clearly we must be failing.
Nathaniel Schooler 50:39
Yeah, it can be very depressing, though. Because, you, you, you constantly surrounded by all of this noise with all of these people who actually most of them are really quite unhappy anyway, I think you must remember that when you’re when you’re sitting there. Hi. I know they are because I see some of the rants that they have on social media. And don’t forget, they’re only posting pictures and stuff to show a certain element to who they are anyway. So they’re fake. A lot of these people,
Laura Gassner Otting 51:09
and most of them are fake, you know, we’re getting everybody’s we’re getting everybody’s washed lives, we’re getting their highlights. And all we see our own bloopers. And it’s, it’s, it’s unfair to us. And what happens is, you know, we end up giving votes to people whose voices shouldn’t even matter. And it actually the worst part about it is that it creates a voice in our own head, about what’s wrong with you. And why don’t you have this? And why aren’t you going there and there seemed to go on a fancy vacation, where you going on the fancy vacation. And if we don’t want all the things that everybody else has, we probably want some of the things that everyone else has. But we don’t want all of them. And if we’re looking at all of them, then we feel like we’re failing in some way. And so, you know, the idea behind limitless is to say, Well, what really matters to you, like forget everybody else, and what matters to them, like stop building a life, that you’re checking off everyone else’s boxes along everyone else’s definitions of everyone else’s version of success, only to find out that you’re living that life, but it’s a life that was meant for someone else. I want people to live a life that’s meant for them, because that’s what’s going to matter to them.
Nathaniel Schooler 52:14
Yeah, well, it could be Eddie it could be all elements of your life that you might be unhappy with. You know, like I remember I remember you know, probably five years ago, I really crazy moment in my life. I was just really quite unhappy in my relationship with my wife and this sort of stuff and and I watched this video this Wayne Dyer video, you know, Wayne Dyer? Yeah, unfortunately passed away, didn’t they? But, but this this video, and it was all about Wayne Dyer explains about the story of Ivan Elledge. Have you heard about that story? Now? Yeah, it’s a Tolstoy story. And it’s a it’s a carpenter. And, and the carpenter, Ivan Elledge, he actually is on his deathbed. And he looks back over his whole life. And he’s probably 80 years, Audrey looks back over his whole life. And it says, whose life was that? It wasn’t my life. I just spent 80 years of my life living someone else’s life.
Laura Gassner Otting 53:09
Exactly. And what a tragedy that would be if we if we, if we sacrifice this one big juicy life that we have. And here, here’s the thing. I think a lot of times we don’t go for the life that we want. Because we’re told that we shouldn’t be so ambitious, right? ambition has gotten a dirty word. And especially for women. Oh, she’s so ambitious. Like, we don’t hear that as much about men. But still, we have this whole like, hashtag humble brag nonsense. And and here’s my thing. I actually love the word ambition. You know, I’ve put this book out. And I’ve been so honored that it’s been that it’s been selling at the rate that it’s selling, that it’s made bestseller lists, and its rhetoric, Michelle Obama and the Washington Post, and it’s just insane. And I was saying to somebody, I’m like, you know what, the next talk is going to be under the oak tree on Super soul Sunday with Oprah. He looked at me, like I had, like, I was like, like, I had like, horns coming out of my head. And I was like, you know, he was like, he was like, Why would you say that? I’m like, I don’t know, someone’s got to be under the oak tree with Oprah. Why not me? I was crazy. But here’s the thing. If this is what I asked people, when they tell me like, oh, they’re afraid to be ambitious, I asked them this very simple question. Would having more money? Would having more time? Would having more resources? Would having more flexibility? Would having more of a foundation would having more of whatever it is that you need in life, allow you to show up better for the people that you love. And the causes you hold dear. Yeah, the answer is always of course. Yes. So I say to them, then you know what, it’s not your ambition. It’s your responsibility.
Nathaniel Schooler 54:50
I like that. I like that. I think it’s really important. Because if you’ve if you’ve got that inkling to do something, and you think that you can do it. Yeah, I think you should do it. You know, I’ve always kicked myself when I haven’t done things that I’ve kind of that I’ve kind of had the inspiration or whatever to follow a different direction or something like that. And I haven’t done it. What’s really weird is, I generally end up doing it anyway. But later in the day, and it’s very strange. So you prolonging the pain by actually not taking action. This is how I look
Laura Gassner Otting 55:24
at it. I think that’s right. I think the best the best antidote to a rut is action, some sort of action. Yeah, it should be thoughtful action, it should be measured action, it shouldn’t be just jumping out of an airplane, but some kind of one step in front of the other because we fail to have these big dreams because we don’t necessarily have confidence in them. And I think the way to develop confidence is not by just dreaming big and jumping for something, I think it’s to take the small steps, tending your crops, right? Going on those side quests taking the small steps that allow us show that we have competence. And every time you take one step after the next and show you have competence, you go, Oh, well, if I’ve taken these five steps, maybe I can run a mile, I’ve run the mile, maybe I could run a five K, I’ve run a five K, maybe I could run a 10 K, you don’t wake up in the morning and say I’m going to go run a marathon. But you can say I’ve gone step after step after step. And in those steps, I have demonstrated to myself competence, and that competence has now given me confidence. And that confidence will allow me to have the kinds of dreams that I wanted that I can live a life of consequence.
Nathaniel Schooler 56:33
Tyson, I bet you’re an amazing speaker like,
Laura Gassner Otting 56:39
well, I am passionate about what I believe, and I know it from 25 years of seeing it in action. So I think that I am, I think that I can bring a powerful, compelling message that inspires people to move, and I have great fun doing it. So I that makes me a great speaker. That’s fantastic. But most, I’ve been surrounded by lots of great speakers who have shown me that you can’t get up on stage and just go into speaker voice and be didactic and teach. But you have to really inspire and move an audience. And so you know, it comes back to that learning mentality. It’s it’s, it’s if I’m going to show up, and I’m going to do this, the people in my audience, take it seriously. And in fact, if you want to talk about take it seriously, there’s somebody who I profile in the book, who believed when she got the book and saw her story and read the whole book believe so wholeheartedly in the message of being limitless, that she actually tapped to her arm, the art of the cover of the book, because she wanted a daily reminder that she should be the very best version of herself. And here was how to do it. So I feel I take very seriously my responsibility on stage to get it right. Because people who are listening to me on stage people who are listening to this people who are reading my book, or listening to what we’re saying, and changing something about their lives through it, and I think that we have a responsibility because we have the microphone, not just to not get it wrong, but to really get it right.
Nathaniel Schooler 58:10
Yeah, we’ve got to inspire. That’s my mission as well, you know, I just want even if even if you just encourage one person to get off the sofa and get your ass down the gym, right? It doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. Yeah, eat that one person. Right? If that’s you get up off, get up off the sofa and get exercising right, or go and listen to something interesting that you want to learn about and just get on with it. Because it’s fun,
Laura Gassner Otting 58:37
right eventually becomes easy. Absolutely. And I think this is the this is the thing. I think once you start doing that, you realize that that in fact, there is a different solution. And once you realize that it’s almost untenable not to go towards that solution, because once you see it, the only thing standing in the way of showing a better at work of being a better manager, being a better performer of being a better, you know, family member, friend, spouse, etc, is you and you can change. We can all change. I mean, we would not exist today, after millions of years of evolution if we were not capable of changes literally in our DNA to change.
Nathaniel Schooler 59:17
100% So how do people find you then Laura?
Laura Gassner Otting 59:21
Yeah, so I am on all the socials at Hey LGO so my initials Laura Gassner. So HEYLGO Hey, LGO and I met Hey, lgo.com very easy to find me. If people are listening, and they’re like, I don’t even know where to start. I would say I put together a quiz. It takes about 15 minutes, one 515 minutes. And there’s about 60 questions and it will walk you through each of the elements of consonants that will help you figure out where you might be stuck. And then give you some tips about how to get unstuck and that quiz at limitless assessment.com. And again, I’ll say that limitless assessment.com so they can find me at Hey LGO and Hey LGO calm or limitless assessment, calm the book, limitless how to ignore everybody carve your own path and live your best life is available at Amazon Barnes and Nobles. Anywhere fine books are sold.
Nathaniel Schooler 1:00:16
Well, wonderful. You’ve been very kind with your time. Very generous. Thank you.
Laura Gassner Otting 1:00:20
Thank you so much. It’s been great fun.
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