Nothing in life is random; you just have to see the connection points, the pivotal moments, that lead you to where you are now. “Recovering” corporate consultant turned anti-hustle, pro-equity productivity coach, Sandra Halling, believes in this. Rewriting the narrative of her life story backwards, she reflects on the pivotal moments that taught her both personal and professional resilience. In this episode, she talks about our need for safety and fear of change, and how learning to ask for help relates to selling. Sandra also discusses the 3Ps (Persistent Action, Perfection, and Patience) and the art of asking powerful questions to transform your life. From finding the courage to overcome the status quo bias to seizing creative opportunities, Sandra gives us so much wisdom to help us in our paths to success, purpose, and impact. Join this episode and embark on an exhilarating quest for self-discovery!
- 02:30 Rewrite The Narrative In Your Life
- 09:47 Status Quo Bias
- 17:50 The Relation Between Helping And Selling
- 21:12 3Ps: Persistent Action, Perfectionism, and Patience
- 31:10 Asking Good Questions
- 40:10 What Is The Creative Opportunity?
- 42:40 The Common Thread
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
Watch the episode here
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Resilience In Pivotal Moments: Getting Unstuck From The Status Quo Bias With Sandra Halling
My guest is Sandra Halling. She is a recovering corporate consultant turned anti-hustle, pro-equity, and pro-productivity coach. She is dedicated to helping heart-centered entrepreneurs, passionate academics, and mission-driven professionals find harmony between genuine self-care and getting stuff done. If you’ve tuned into any of our shows previously and read any of my books, you know that she is a sister and we are some portico. This conversation is going to be very valuable. I absolutely love her language. I love how she frames and looks at things. I think for sure you are going to love her as well. Sit back and enjoy this episode.
Sandra, you have an intriguing bio and experience, business-wise and personally. What’s one thing that is not included in your standard bio or introduction that you would love for our audience to know about you at the outset?
When I was 9 or maybe 11, but somewhere around there, I announced to my family that I was going to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, but after I finished being a prima ballerina, that was my life plan.
That’s a good life plan.
I have not achieved either of those aspirations yet, but it’s a good analogy or metaphor for who I am and how I show up in the world because I’m not afraid of a lofty goal, never have been and probably never will be. That feeds into the story that we’ll talk about, which is my journey. I value both detail-oriented things and things that are technical, intelligent, and intellectual. There are threads there that I have woven together throughout my journey and my career that show up on repeat.
I’m going to sit with that for a second without creating too much pause in our conversation with what you said about there being these threads of commonalities and common denominators. That’s true for all of us. A lot of things repeat. We don’t always see the similarities. You’ve got to do a bit of sitting quietly, self-analysis, and develop more self-awareness to be able to see those common threads, whether it’s in how relationships succeed, how they fail, or in other struggles or challenges you’ve had in your life that are usually not random. It takes a minute, but when you can create some connection points between those things, you’re nodding up and down.
It’s never random. In fact, in the community that I run, we do this exercise too often, where we write our life stories backward. You start with where you are and you ask yourself, “What’s the most recent pivotal moment that led me to where I am?” You do that again and again. You work your way backward because it starts to help you rewrite the narrative that the things that may have happened to you in your life, particularly things that require change or resiliency, were “bad.”
You can do this process and pick positive pivotal moments, but you can also do it and pick challenging pivotal moments. It can be enlightening. It takes a lot of pressure off and helps reframe. A perfect example is I met my partner at my best friend’s wedding. They wouldn’t have been together if they hadn’t met through my ex-husband. There are these threads in our lives. Who could have predicted all of that would unfold? Nothing is random.
I’m in the non-randomness camp. I know there are some people that believe differently about that and I’m totally respectful of that way. I had a heated conversation with my son-in-law about that. I remember early on in my career, I graduated with my four-year degree in English. I didn’t know what to do with that. I was searching for a purpose at that time. I was 22 years old or something.
I took a job as a teacher. I taught middle school English for the City of New York when they were and still are always looking for teachers. You didn’t need to have an Ed degree to teach there and get paid decently. I took it. I did it for a couple of years, which was exhausting but wonderful work. I remember telling the kids as we were going through some of the curriculum, like the poetry and things, and they’re like, “Mr. Markel, poetry? That sucks.” I’m thinking, “When I was your age, it’s exactly what I thought. Kill me now if I had to listen to another Robert Frost poem or whatever.”
At that time, I hadn’t even heard any Robert Frost poems, but just the thought of it. I had a pretty high bar or hurdle at that time to get these kids interested. One of the things I said to them back then when I was a baby myself and I’m still a baby, I think we all are, but an older baby, more seasoned or wrinkly baby, I said to them, “Life is a wonderful thing that is not random. It’s the higher skillset and higher degree of difficulty in finding the connection points between things. If you can find those connection points and create the connection of the dots, then you’re going to experience so much more out of life, more joy and success.”
I don’t remember the words I used exactly, but it was this idea that I wanted them to see that there was a connection potentially between that poem or that thing that they didn’t understand in other areas of their life. I was doing the road less traveled back then. It was all about making choices and pivots. I wrote a book later on in my life called Pivot all about that. I’m totally in that camp. I want to start by following the breadcrumbs here with you, that exercise that you do with your community. I’m going to turn that question on you. What is a situation in your life where it’s pivotal in some way, shape, or form, whether something great happens that’s pivotal, or where it brought out more resiliency in you because you had to deal with a challenge?
This connects to my work If I look at it from a micro perspective. I jokingly call myself a recovering corporate consultant in the sense that corporate consulting is exhausting, depending on how you do it. One of the things that happened in my recent history was the pandemic and we moved right around then. There was a lot of personal life upheaval type of things going on. I had to take a pause, step back, and reevaluate who I was trying to become and what it was I was trying to do.
There were a lot of identity questions that were coming up. It was a blessing in disguise at the moment when the pandemic first happened and all my leads dried up. People I talked to for twenty years on and off during work together radio silent and intellectually, I know it wasn’t “me,” but that’s still a hard thing to go through in the moment because the world was so crazy and none of us knew what was going to happen.
It triggers all this fear. There were CEOs of Fortune 50 companies that were literally shitting their pants about what was happening or where things go. Everybody thinks that’s not the case. We’re a few minutes past that moment now, but that’s what was going on. You take Warren Buffett on up or down, everybody was in that same boat, feeling a tremendous amount of fear in the uncertainty.
As awful as it was in some contexts, in other ways, we were very lucky in the grand scheme of what a pandemic could be, which is a scary thing to think about. I view it as a blessing in disguise because it forced me to take a step back and reevaluate my work. I shifted at that moment. I started working more with solopreneurs and helping them do pretty much the same things I’ve been doing for years, CRM, email marketing, marketing systems, and technology. It’s fulfilling. I enjoy having the diversity and client base. I needed the kick in the pants to make the shift. That’s not an easy shift to make independently.
Everything you are saying is dropping in from me. I’m trying to think in my mind which story I want to contribute so that you don’t have to answer that alone. We have a status quo bias. This is a term of art that people have heard or not heard, but it’s that whole thing that when the choice is given between staying the way we are or things staying the way they are and things changing to some degree that we can’t predict, we almost always opt for the devil that we know.
It’s counterintuitive when you examine it when you take it apart and look at it scientifically or intellectually speaking, but on a visceral, personal, mental, and emotional level, it’s nothing but the triggering of fear. To challenge that without the kick in the pants, meaning to break that status quo bias without a catalyst, is not the norm. It’s less than 5% that will do that.
I even remember one time I read this article, and it’s a sad story, but it figures into how we’re wired physiologically. If you have a child or a baby who’s in an abusive home, they still want to stay with the caregiver that they know. Part of that is they’re too young to understand cognitively what’s going to happen if they leave, but that’s still our wiring. We’re safer with known surroundings. As humans, that’s what we believe and change can feel like a threat, even if it’s a positive movement in a good direction.
It’s the reason why the start of this book that I wrote, Change Proof, is a scene at the beach where a person is caught in a rip current. I was a lifeguard at a beach for many summers, luckily enough, when I was younger. We would see it all the time as lifeguards that there was a certain change in the facial. Literally, the face would change of a person that all of a sudden realizes that they were caught in a rip current. We used to call them sucks. That was the term that lifeguards, in my day, used for that and probably still do.
When they got sucked out from the shore and they were in 3 feet and now in 6 feet or deeper water, everything changed in their facial expression. You could tell whether somebody was going to run out of gas and somebody that you were saving from drowning. In that instant, we were proactive. We got in the water with our buoy and got to them before they struck them. If we didn’t get there quickly enough and the panic had struck, it was a real save.
The other times, I get on the buoy, “I’m going to get you out of this problem.” You bring them into a place where they are safe or whatever. They literally would turn their back on you like they never saw you in their life because it was embarrassing on some level. They were panicking and needed help, but as soon as they were safe, they were like, “Thank you so much. I appreciate you.”
That nervous system has to regulate somehow.
I’ll turn the question on myself and quickly say that the concept of having a change that’s required on some level that you ignore is something that I can relate to. I was CEO of a company for a number of years. After I pivoted out of being a full-time attorney, I practiced law for about eighteen years and then made a pivot. I wrote a book about that called Pivot to talk about this life and career transition, reinvention, etc. That gig that I was in for a number of years went sour and south. In the end, I needed to exit.
It started out in my mind being my choosing to do that, but then I paused because I got scared and didn’t have the courage to change the situation. It was a crappy one, but yet it was familiar. It provided some level of stability for me and had all the reasons why I needed stability. I am a father and a husband, and have kids in college. Those are usual stuff, but I paused and chickened out, and then the universe said, “That’s not the way this is going to work.” I believe it’s because I was asked to.
I had to re-examine my own identity. Part of that was, ironically enough, reading my book or not reading but listening to it, which was brutal. I go out and walk in the middle of the afternoon because I’m out of a job. I’m listening to my own words talk to me about re-examining my identity and entering this thing we referred to as the pivot phone booth and then deciding what that identity is. It’s interesting to be 5 or 6 years on the other side of that pivotal moment. It had many micro pivots in between looks when the pandemic hit. I’m a public speaker and a consultant and everything shut down. People didn’t even know you could do an event virtually at that point. They would be figuring out, “We can operate our businesses this way.”
It’s hysterical. I have fifteen years of consulting with corporate clients. No one ever wanted to turn on their camera until the pandemic. Now, suddenly, all wanted to do video calls. It was fascinating to see how fast the world changed when they had to, which is part of what you’re saying in your story. When you are forced to leave the job, it causes this reckoning. What’s resonating for me is this idea that it sounds like when you’re telling the story, an inkling that maybe you could have or ought to have made that choice for yourself before you got to that point where you are asked to leave.
We can see those moments, but we’ll make that choice to stay where we are because it feels like the safer choice. Maybe that’s a delusion on our part. Is it safer to consistently follow our own inner wisdom? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a moment where I had a strong intuition about something, trusted it, and then regretted it later. It doesn’t always play out the way I think it will but I don’t regret it because there’s always some like, “I’m glad I listened to that because I wouldn’t have seen this thing, and then this wouldn’t have happened.”
You’re making the hair stand up on my skin. Going back to that rip-current analogy for a second. The thing about a rip current is that it eventually spits you out. People don’t know that. Some do and some don’t, but there’s a way out of a rip current that doesn’t involve waiting for the lifeguard to come and pull you out. That’s okay. If you need the help, you should take the help. I needed help and accepted it. I’m better at receiving that thing now than I’ve ever been before, but there’s also this other opportunity, which is to relax, pause, take a beat, and consult.
In the book, we talk about pause, ask, and choose. It’s uncanny how what you’re saying is a part of my own belief system and even the things that I share with people to this day. That pause is fundamentally important to take a moment and ask yourself, “What is my inner guidance here? Is my inner guidance that I should stick around as long as I possibly can or stick around until somebody else realizes this is not a fit or do I trust my own instincts that this is not a fit and that there’s something better in store for me?” There are a lot of better options. I wouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling if there wasn’t this other opportunity.
Something was there. I like your point about receiving help in that because usually, it’s not at the beginning or even at the end, but it’s 1/3 or 1/2 way through a consulting agreement. This doesn’t happen with corporate clients, but with solopreneurs, they will, at some point, admit early on their own accord that the hardest part about saying yes to the project was admitting that they needed the help. It wasn’t even necessarily spending the money on themselves. Although, sometimes, that comes up.
It was admitting that they wanted the help, that they were in over their heads. We’re taught the rugged individualism. I don’t think it works, frankly. To be blunt about it, it doesn’t work. It puts us in a position where not only are we not prepared to receive help, but sometimes we don’t even know how to offer help because we’re used to it not being accepted.
It makes selling services tricky because it figures into that. Selling is a form of helping. If you’re not offering your products and services in a genuine way, people don’t know that you can solve that problem for them. That’s what selling is. It’s a form of helping, but because we have these hang-ups about receiving help and giving help, we also have hang-ups around selling. There’s a correlation there.
There’s a psychology that we won’t use this show to get into deeply and we can do it another time, but because of enrollment, we sell our corporate services in a variety of ways. We have keynote services and workshop services. We do longer-term engagements through our company work. If I’m not somebody who is willing to accept and receive help myself and I don’t value the help of others in my life, it’s a projection that doesn’t work in my favor when I’m enrolling or attempting to enroll someone else in buying my services or our company services to help them. It’s a disconnect.
It’s such an interesting point you’re making there. I want to go back to the resiliency component. I want it because this show is, in many ways, centers around personal and professional resiliency. I was a lawyer for eighteen years. I thought it was killing me. If I knew then what I know now, I probably could have stayed in the practice and done it for a length of time more successfully. I stopped doing that work even though I had a very successful practice because, in my story, it was leading to something not good.
I give myself credit for pivoting that time before the universe gave me a big message. I’m almost recovered attorney. You describe yourself as a recovered consultant. I want to know what’s been the recovery component for you because when we define resilience, we define it not as great or grinding because that leads to more exhaustion, which is what we’re seeing in the workplace everywhere. We refer to it as recovery. How is it that you recover, and when you create the specific recovery rituals, then that’s how you create longevity for anyone in basically any situation? What’s been your recovery go-to and how have you maintained or created resilience in your personal and professional life?
I love this question. I’m a big fan of alliteration. I have all these frameworks that pop into my head I mean I hear that. The one that is most applicable is what I call the 3Ps. It’s Persistent action and Patience. I’ll talk about the two, and it’ll pop into my head. Persistent action is about leaning into the idea that we can’t truly be consistent all the time, in my personal belief. Consistency is a lot harder than we make it out to be. That’s number one. Persistent action pulls back the needle a little bit. From law and corporate consulting, there is this expectation of utterly perfect consistency. If we allow ourselves a little bit more humanity, it’s like, “What if I was persistent instead? I kept showing up even if it was imperfect, what would that look like?”
Persistence instead of perfection. I love that. That’s an interesting play there.
Even persistence instead of consistency because the pea that I was forgetting is this idea of perfectionism. When we think about perfectionism, my view on it is that it’s a closed loop cycle like a merry-go-round you’re not getting off. Because we set the bar high, we don’t achieve it, so then we’re hard on ourselves. It is even harder to take action the next time. You rinse and repeat your way through this.
Persistent action is a doorway out. It’s like, “What if I could reduce the expectations for myself?” This is a hard thing for some of us to grapple with. One of the women in my community said to me when we were recording an episode for my show, “Lowering the bar is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves.” She didn’t understand that for herself until she did the planning and productivity work with me.
Lowering the bar is a form of compassion and self-kindness. Perfection is the second one. It’s like, “How do we get ourselves out of that?” It boils down to lowering the bar and allowing ourselves to be creative and curious about what we might create instead of whatever version it was that we might have come up with at first path. Is there a more interesting version that might be slightly less effort that we could finish sooner or get feedback on and iterate more quickly?Lowering the bar is a form of compassion and self-kindness. Click To Tweet
I remember somebody saying this some years ago that he prefers sloppy success over perfect mediocrity. Nobody’s after that. Persistent action is a way to overcome this perfect mediocrity because you’re constantly getting feedback all the time. Some of that feedback is not great. A lot of it teaches you enough to move on. Think about professional golfers. It’s been dawning on me because I’ve been into golf more of late. Successful athletes in the world make good money. They play all the time, but they lose almost all the time. Think about how you have to manage your mindset and a lot of other things to be able to go on the course week after week of not winning.
Golf takes a very intense mindset. That is a true statement. It’s funny because it’s a great segue to the third P, which is Patience. The reason I say it’s the third one that’s on purpose is because what I find is that the process of persistent action and unwinding the perfectionism is A) Slow, but B) Iterative. To do something that’s slow and requires iteration also requires patience. Being patient with ourselves when we catch ourselves being hard on ourselves and when we’re setting the bar high that it’s not achievable again, and then we have to recalibrate. It helps support the other two goals because we’re going to do these three things imperfectly.
I love your language. That’s why I wanted to have you on the show because I vibe with your language. We have a lot of close systems inside of our hands. We’re constantly in a spiral of thinking. Do you have a strategy that helps you to break that loop?
I have lots of strategies for this, but my favorite is doing a weekly review. That’s very common if you’re in the productivity circle. I’m sure you’ve heard of it from David Allen’s Getting Things Done many years ago. At least, that’s where I learned it. There are lots of templates floating around on the internet. I have one. I’m happy to share it.
My approach is a little more relational. It’s not just task management. A lot of the ones you see on the internet, YouTube, and whatever are very task-oriented. I ask questions that are more about your holistic self like, “How are you showing up for the people in your life like your direct reports, spouse, kids, partner, or whomever? How are you going to practice self-care next week, like body, mind, and spirit? Is that on the calendar? Do we put it on the calendar first?
It seems like a little nudge because you mentioned earlier in the show about thinking about your future self. We do that a lot in my community. I’m always asking them, “What is going to take you 1% closer to the future you that you’re trying to create?” It’s not about 10% or 50%, but 1% incremental change over time is what is sustainable and also more doable in the moment.
If we go from couch and Netflix, to use the clichéd analogy, to the gym five days a week, we’re more likely to hurt ourselves and burn out than we are to achieve any fitness or health-related goal. If we’re like, “Do you know what I’m going to do every day after lunch? I’m going to go for a walk for half an hour.” A month after that, you add in some yoga or whatever. You decide what’s that small change that you can make that you can do persistently without perfection and having patience when you are imperfect about it and tying those two strategies together.
That’s my process for making pretty much anything I want in my life happen. I have people in my community who cut their hours and doubled their revenue. It’s mind-blowing what happens because what they’re doing to your point in your process in your book is they’re pausing to check in. That makes all the difference in the world.
Ask is the next piece of it. Pause, ask, and then choose. What you’re showing us, and I love what you did, was you gave us some questions because we’re not all that great at asking questions. I say that in a way that sounds like I know everybody and I don’t. I’m going by my experience, which I think is all experiences are nothing but universal. What I learned in school was that if I asked questions, it meant I didn’t know the answers. I can go on and on.
If I didn’t know the answer, then I was not as smart as somebody else in the class. I was not as popular. I got made fun of or the teacher didn’t give me a good grade. What we learned a lot of the time is to keep our mouths shut unless we do have the answers. That’s fine, but then what are you doing? If you have the answers, then what are you curious about? What are you learning?
Being a show-off to get attention wasn’t the goal then even though you saw that happen. It’s not the goal now. It’s remaining curious and learning new things that lead to greater results. Even that, to your point, is what incremental, constant, never-ending improvement is all about. It’s incremental. Incremental improvement creates exponential results over time. That’s what it does. That’s what’s transformational, the hockey stick, and the compounding effect that Einstein called The Great Miracle In Life. It is a compound effect. The questioning is because we’re taught not to ask questions, especially the ones that we don’t even have an inkling about the big questions. You gave us a couple of questions already. Are there some other questions?
I should give you my best questions while we’re on this topic. Asking good questions is an art form. The first one I’ll ask is the hardest, but let’s start there because I think it’s juicy. That is, “What is your deja vu goal? What’s the goal you put on your list over and over again but you haven’t achieved yet? How would it feel if you put it at the top of the list and took everything else off or let it go completely?”
“What is your deja vu goal?” What it does is it forces us to reckon with that naggy thought in the back of our head that we’re going to do whatever the thing is even though we haven’t taken any action on it yet. It also forces us to reckon with our own mortality in a way. We only have many years in our lives to achieve big, monumental goals. The sooner we start, the sooner we’re on the path.
I got a great idea. I would love it if we go back and forth with some of our favorite questions and then we’ll space at the end. I am thinking if I’m a reader, I would dig that. I’ll give one and then you go back, and then we’ll do that. One of my favorite questions is, “What don’t I see?” I heard this question some years ago and I thought this is such a great question because there’s always something and many things that are in our blind spot. There are things that we don’t know about ourselves.
means that there are creative opportunities galore more than I could ever want or imagine myself even handling.It’s a question to me about humility because it’s saying, “I would love help to see those things that I cannot see and to know what some of those things are to have that self-awareness or a greater consciousness around me.” It means that there are creative opportunities galore more than I could ever want or imagine myself even handling.
“What don’t I see?” is like asking for feedback. I personally don’t believe you can ask a question and not get an answer. There’s a cause-and-effect relationship between those two things. The only thing that I can predict is when you get the answer. Ask a simple question, and you probably going to get an answer pretty quickly because it’s simple. Ask a complicated question and you’re going to get an answer. It may take a minute.
I tend to agree with that assessment.
What’s your next favorite question?
My next favorite question is, “What’s at risk?” It can be that simple, but often, I’ll say it as, “What’s at risk if you do? What’s at risk if you don’t?” It forces us to face the opportunity class or the potential consequences of the multiple things that we are contemplating.
If you put your scenario, you’re creating a future casting of what-ifs. It’s like, “What if people think about this? What if it is terrible?” They’re good.
Those are imperative. This is a pro tip to insert in these questions. If you find yourself in that mental loop of what-if questions and your head or what-if thoughts, the secret sauce is to play the scenario all the way out, “What if you lost your job, house, car and your wife left you? Keep going. Play it all the way out.”If you find yourself in that mental loop of what-if questions in your head or what-if thoughts, the secret sauce is to play the scenario all the way out. Click To Tweet
I do this with people too.
First of all, it starts to become comical at a certain point. It takes the stress off the question. Even if it doesn’t go too wild, they start to see how resourceful they are in the moment or whomever you’re asking it up, it calms that sense of, “There might be things at risk here, but I’m going to figure it out.”
There’s a book called 10% Happier by Dan Harris. It’s a very comical and great book. I highly recommend this book. He poses this scenario where all of his what-ifs will always end in the same way. He’s homeless, broke, and barely alive in Des Moines, Iowa. I beg forgiveness of the people of Des Moines, but in his book, it’s Des Moines or it’s someplace in Minnesota or whatever. That’s where he always ends up. He’s broke and homeless. He’s on the streets somewhere. When you play that out as you said, and I will do this with clients when I feel like they’re stuck in that status quo bias, they are fearful of making a change.
I tell them, “Play it out. I want you to go to the end of whatever the worst scenario you could possibly concoct.” There’s only one place that is the ultimate endpoint as the worst case for everybody. It’s always the same thing for everybody, for you, me, and everybody. That is death. It could be embarrassment or death by a thousand cuts where you are humiliated, you lose all your friends and everybody thinks you’re crap, and then you die. It’s excruciating.
When we play it out to that degree, we can always pull back from that realized rationale, “I’m not likely to die because I have to give a speech and stand up in front of a bunch of people or I got a pitch to a group of folks that I’ve never pitched before.” It’s interesting that you brought that up. That’s a great question. I’m going to use a question that my wife always asks me. I love this question, which is, “What is the creative opportunity?”
You put yourself in any scenario where you’re a bit uncertain. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world. We’re living with a tremendous volume of unknowns we’ve never experienced before and they’re paraded in front of us all day long every day as well. What’s the creative opportunity in that moment wherever you find yourself situated? When I ask myself that question, it’s a great reframe. It’s an immediate way to see whatever is happening and be after the nugget or the little gem, as my grandmother would call it, of wisdom, knowledge, and learning of something that will be a catalyst for growth down the road.
Viktor Frankl wrote this amazing book called Man’s Search For Meaning. Many people have read and heard of it. Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor. He was in a camp where people were being executed and disappearing all around him. The likelihood that he would survive was infinite testimony small, yet his mindset as a very young person watching and experiencing this was, “Someday, I’m going to be able to share the lessons and the experience of this and it’s going to help people.”
He started to work on his meaning therapy, which he became very well known for in that scenario. To be able to look at that and go in the midst of this as the most brutal what-if scenario you could probably come up with, he was already thinking outside of the literal prison that he was into what it would mean to other people. Magically and miraculously, he survives when they liberate that concentration camp. He goes about living again and then starts to share this and changes people’s lives by the millions after that. You go, “Wow.” To me, that’s the definition of how you seize a creative opportunity out of seemingly the worst.
What strikes me about that are two things. One is creativity and curiosity are like such useful tools in our toolbox no matter what’s going on. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that hope is the most important emotion because when you have hope, there’s also possibility. There’s an opening for more creativity and curiosity. When the hope starts to dissipate or if you can’t quite grasp it, that’s when we start to see things in binary, which I’m going to throw out my question here, “What is the third option?” I learned that one from a dear friend. It’s brilliant because our minds tend to categorize and we come up with these either/ors. By asking, “What’s the third option?” almost always, I will come up with five options. It unlocks the creativity thought train.
My last question is going to be directed to you. This would be a good way for us to conclude here. I want to know if there’s some common thread. You ask yourself, “What’s the common thread, if there is one, that I can detect in the moment? What’s the common thread that’s existed in my career or some other area of my personal life?” I’ll give you the binary choice there for you or choose a third option if you like.
I’m going to choose the third option because I think it’s both. What I’m detecting is a desire for greater self-awareness.
That’s the common thread in both of those other scenarios, personally. I asked myself this question a time ago. The answer that I came up with was teaching and being a teacher of a sort. When I looked back at my history, I was a teacher at one point, and I was a lawyer for eighteen odd years and then ran up a personal development training company and spoke on behalf and writing programs for that. When we created our company, the work that we do now is in the area of training corporations to treat their employees and get more by better treatment in performance, more on wellness and resiliency, etc.
The common thread in all of that and even in the authorship in the book writing and things has been about teaching and being an educator. That’s been the common thread for me. I love that question because when you do see what the threads are, for me, it is easier to go to what extent when you have a myriad of options. That can also create its own paralysis where you don’t know what to do because there are many things you could do. What’s the common thread question is helpful to narrow things to a point where you go, “This either is in alignment, congruent with that, or no.”
It helps you to narrow the choices and the options on your next move.
What were the two things you started with?
Ballerina and a lawyer.
You go, “It would have been cool, but maybe not.” I enjoyed this conversation. I could literally talk to you for days. Thank you for being on the show. We would love your help. Sandra and I both would love for you if there’s somebody that would benefit from reading this conversation. Please share it with a friend and a colleague. That’s helpful to us as well.
The other thing you could do is to rate the show on whatever platform. For example, iTunes or Spotify. You get the option of giving it a five-star rating. What that does is help this show make it in front of more people. The algorithm is what we’re talking about here. I’m asking for your help and support. I’m all good to do that. I hope you do the same. We appreciate that. If you’ve got a comment or questions, you go to AdamMarkel.com/Podcast. Leave your question or your comment there for Sandra and/or myself, and we will answer that. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure and a joy to speak with you.
Thank you, Adam. I had a great time.
The conversation with Sandra was rich. It went in a number of cool directions. To me, the joy in doing this is that there’s this opportunity for an organic conversation between people who see the world the way they see it. Sometimes, it’s a similar perception of the world. Sometimes it’s different, but the way those two things overlap, the Venn Diagram that you can track in these conversations, is thrilling to me. It’s exciting. I’m curious. I learned so much. I love a lot of the way the conversations are happening organically. We’re following these breadcrumbs, etc.
A couple of things that we talked about is, first of all, the power of questions. I will not soon forget how we spent a good chunk of the last part of this conversation back and forth asking these questions and sharing our favorite questions with all of you. It is definitely a part of the model in Change Proof, the book, and the digital product that we have to pause, ask, and choose. The ask component is difficult for people because we don’t ask questions for a variety of reasons, which we talk about during the show. The what-if scenarios and other things, as well as the feeling that somehow we’re not as worthy or deserving if we don’t have all the answers and all that good stuff.
We cover that. We talk about how we sometimes question our identities and the pivotal times in our lives and we got to make a change, that we often are stuck in status quo bias and this closed-loop system that keeps us doing the same thing over and over again and as the old saying goes, “Expecting somehow that will get a different result.” We talked about resiliency and how we develop resiliency. Sandra shared with us these three interesting pieces of it, how important it is to take persistent action and why that is, how we unwind perfectionism that often has stuck in one of those loops of doing nothing or settling for mediocrity, and how it is that we in both those scenarios must have patience, the requirement and the benefit to having patience.
We talked about the common threads and how important it is to identify the common thread in our personal lives as well as professional lives. What Sandra asked was, “What is the third option?” That, as a question, leads us in a different direction. The third option there is that it’s not even either/or. It’s both. We talked about some of the moments in our lives when we’ve been caused to pause when a pause was required and the pause ultimately let us some place special.
We talked about the importance of incremental gain and how it, over time, produces transformational outcomes and the need for hope. My wife likes to ask me sometimes a question that I didn’t ask during the show, but it’s coming to mind, “Do you have a hopeful heart? In this moment, are you feeling you’re hopeful heart?” Often, we can get into a cynical or even skeptical mode, which sometimes healthy skepticism is important, but we can often lose sight of hope. When we do that, it erodes a lot of the joy of living and for the work that we do in the world.
We chat a little bit about that as well. We make some references to some of the wisdom and some other books like 10% Happier by Dan Harris and good stuff. You’re going to love sharing this episode. I hope that you will share this episode with friends, colleagues and other people that you know, and you’ll give us that five-star rating as well.
In this moment, if you’ve not determined your own resiliency, whatever you’re in the moment snapshot and time, resiliency score is mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually, then you can do that by going to ResilienceRank.com. It’ll take you three minutes. It’s entirely free. It’ll give you not only your score in each of those four resilient zones, but it’ll also give you access to some wonderful tools and resources that are entirely complementary. I want to wish you a great rest of your day and whatever it is that you’re doing. Wherever you are in the world, I want you to stay resilient. I can’t wait to see you sometime soon on another episode. Thank you.
- Sandra Halling
- Change Proof
- Getting Things Done
- 10% Happier
- Man’s Search For Meaning
- iTunes – Change Proof Podcast
- Spotify – Change Proof Podcast
About Sandra Halling
Sandra Halling is a “recovering” corporate consultant turned anti-hustle, pro-equity productivity coach. She’s dedicated to helping heart-centered entrepreneurs, passionate academics, and mission-driven professionals find harmony between genuine self-care and getting stuff done. Sandra is a systems expert on platforms like Notion and Airtable but her real priority is helping you develop better work habits by achieving Aligned Productivity — that is to say, aligning your work with your values so you feel calm, confident, and can prioritize what matters to you.