140: How to Live and Lead Limitlessly with Laura Gassner Otting

Ep140 how to live and lead limitlessly Laura Gassner Otting TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

Defining success for yourself is the first step to achieving it. And while it’s easy to accept the definition of success given to you by others, you’ll find meaning and fulfillment when you define success in your own terms. On this episode of The TalentGrow Show, I chat with speaker, author and entrepreneur Laura Gassner Otting about the powerful message behind her new book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life. Listen to Laura’s unique take on finding your purpose and carving your path. Discover the four important values that make up what Laura calls living in alignment and the four insidious goals many of us have that ultimately set us up for failure. Plus, find out why Laura says that ‘follow your passion’ is the world’s worst advice! Listen and don’t forget to share with others.


Founder and Chief Catalyzing Officer at Limitless Possibility, Laura helps people get “unstuck” — and achieve extraordinary results. She speaks with change agents, entrepreneurs, investors, leaders, and donors to get them past the doubt and indecision that consign their great ideas to limbo. She delivers strategic thinking, well-honed wisdom, and catalytic perspective informed by decades of navigating change across the start-up, nonprofit, political, and philanthropic landscapes.


  • Laura describes the main message of her book, Limitless (8:55)

  • The first step to becoming ‘limitless’ (10:48)

  • Four insidious goals we have that set us up for failure, and why Laura says that ‘follow your passion’ is the world’s worst advice (11:58)

  • Halelly and Laura clarify what’s wrong with the advice to follow your passion (14:55)

  • “Failure is not finale, failure is fulcrum.” (15:47)

  • Don’t judge your bloopers against everyone else’s highlights reel (17:31)

  • What are some things leaders can do to help create greater engagement and productivity in their teams? (18:52)

  • What it means to live in alignment, and what are the four important values that you can break it down to (22:51)

  • Laura shares a quiz you can take to help you implement the ideas she discusses in your own workplace (26:25)

  • What’s new and exciting on Laura’s horizon? (27:55)

  • One specific action you can take to upgrade your approach to success (28:59)



Episode 140 Laura Gassner Otting

TEASER CLIP: Laura: Follow your passion, which frankly I think is a spoken word illegitimate sister of the live, love, laugh tattoo. It’s ridiculous.

Halelly: And have a green smoothie!

Laura: Exactly. Have a little kale and it will solve all your problems, right? It’s crazy. We all have seen her, this perfectly beach babe blonde with the flower crown, looking out over a sunset or Coachella or something. And she’s saying, “Follow your passion.” I think we should all work in our passion. I think that is the Holy Grail and by all means, let’s get there. But, following your passion is not going to make you successful in your passion. You know from the work that you do, I know from the work that I’ve done, it’s the people that fall down and get up and develop tenacity and grit that are the ones that actually perfect their passion, because it’s worth so much to them that they’re willing to do the hard work in the dark when nobody sees, in order to get there and live into it.

[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there TalentGrowers. Welcome back to another episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and I’m here at TalentGrow, which is my company for developing leaders that people actually want to follow. This episode will feature my guest Laura Gassner Otting, who will talk about being limitless to help you get unstuck. We talk about the ideas that are in her book called Limitless, that help you figure out the difference between just kind of blindly following your passion or having a better connection and contribution in the way that you work, but also as a leader. How to help people on your team become more engaged at work, happier and more productive. I hope that you’ll enjoy it, and I always want your feedback, so without further ado, let’s listen into my conversation with Laura.

TalentGrowers, I’m really excited to have Laura Gassner Otting with me today. She’s founder and Chief Catalyzing Officer at Limitless possibility. Laura helps people get unstuck and achieve extraordinary results. She speaks with change agents, entrepreneurs, investors, leaders and donors to get them past the doubt and indecision that consign their great ideas to limbo. She delivers strategic thinking, well-honed wisdom and catalytic perspective, informed by decades of navigating change across the startup, nonprofit, political and philanthropic landscapes which she’ll tell us about in a few minutes when she introduces herself and her journey. Laura is the author of Mission Driven, a book for those moving from profit to purpose, and her new book is titled Limitless, how to ignore everybody, carve your own path and live your best life, which was published just last month as this recording is published. So, Laura, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.

Laura: Hey, thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here today.

Halelly: I’m excited that you are here as well, and I am looking forward to a conversation about the ideas that you share in your book and in your speaking. But we always start with our guests describing their professional journey very briefly, just so we get a sense of who you are, where you started and how you got to where you are today.

Laura: I’ll try to be brief with it. My professional story is really one that’s pretty accidental. I could go back through and tell you that every decision I made was strategic and well-thought out and that there was a plan in place, but in the course of 20 years of interviewing people that worked in big organizations – I was an executive recruiter – and what I found is that the people that took the left turns and the right turns and the U-turns, those are the ones that are the most interesting. My professional path started off with my thinking I was going to run for Senate. I was going to be the person to change the world. I was going to solve all the problems. I thought the way to do that was to go to law school. I did everything I could to get myself to law school. I sat down and went, “What am I doing here? I don’t want to be a lawyer. I’ve made a huge mistake.” I dropped out and joined a Presidential campaign because this guy was talking about this idea of community service in exchange for college tuition and he was this unknown Governor from Arkansas at the time and I said, “Oh my God, that needs to happen.” The next thing you know, I end up in the White House helping create AmeriCorps, which is a program in which a million young people in this country have served their communities in exchange for college tuition.

Four years into that administration, I turned to my mentor and said, “I’m ready to go back out on the campaign trail,” and he said to me, “That’s a terrible idea. You are both too old to get back on a campaign bus and eat cold pizza and too young to be the domestic policy advisor, so go meet with my friend who is a recruiter and he will find you a job in a nonprofit. You’ll hide out for four years and then do something big when Al Gore runs for President.” I said, “Great, makes a lot of sense.” I sat down with the recruiter and the recruiter said, “You don’t want to do that. Come work for me. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” I looked at him, five minutes into the interview and I thought, “Well, the man I’m dating who I think is the one – P.S. he is the one. We’re celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary in a couple of days – I said your job is in Boston, he’s moving to Boston, I’ll take it. What do you do?” I became a recruiter and I spent five years working for him.

One day I had this moment of rage where I said, “I can do things smarter and better and faster with more authenticity and more integrity than you, and I think we should change how we do this.” He said no thank you. I left in sort of a Jerry McGuire moment with my screen in one hand, my manifesto and the fishbowl in the other, and I started my own firm. I ran that for 15 years. Sold it to the people who helped me build it, the great women who helped me build it, and as I was in the process of that sale three years ago, a friend of mine asked me to do a TedX talk. I said, “No way, I have zero interest whatsoever in getting on a stage. I’m an introvert, I like to be stage left and make other people look great.” I answered the phone on speakerphone and my kid is sitting next to me – because I’m a good mom and I can’t pick up the phone with a kid sitting there – and I said absolutely not. Hang up the phone and my son looks at me and says, “Hey Mom, don’t you always tell me that you should do things that scare you? Don’t you always tell me that life starts on the other side of fear? Don’t you always tell me if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you?” And I looked at him and was like, “Uh, yeah.” “So what gives, mom?”

Six weeks later, I find myself on the TedX stage. I give a talk. That talk gets a bunch of attention. That attention leads to people calling me up and offering me money to speak and I think to myself, “This is a job? This is a career? This is what people actually do?” Fast forward three years, I’ve been a professional executive coach and motivational speaker, a keynote speaker and a publisher asked me to write this book about some of the things that I talk about on stage and now I’m on a book tour. That’s my sort of crazy adventure of a story that got me from there to here.

Halelly: So cool. Like you, I also think that most people don’t have straight and narrow career paths and that the turns and detours are so interesting. I’m always so fascinated by that, so thanks for sharing that.

Laura: Absolutely. I think people can go through and make up a whole story and you can look back later and say, “Okay, there are some trends. There are some themes I have here, like it all now makes sense.” But I think there are so many times when we sit down and are like, “I don’t know which way to go and what to do,” because I don’t have that crystal ball. I think it’s really important for people like you and people like me who other people may be listening to, for them to say, “I didn’t have that crystal ball either. I’m still figuring it out as I go.”

Halelly: That’s right. It’s really just a matter of being open and exploring opportunities because then you can recognize what sounds like a good opportunity at the time. If you just leap in and take it with courage, you never know where it might lead you and it might be just the right thing or it might be a great opportunity to learn about some things you don’t want. Very cool. I know that listeners know I record my episodes in advance, so we’re speaking here earlier than the time this will be published, but what’s cool is that the time this episode will go live will be right after you and I both spoke at different conferences in D.C. I’m going to miss you.

Laura: So close, but yet so far.

Halelly: So frustrating, but I wish you lots of luck. I hope that it goes really well and I know you’re speaking so much. Let’s talk about your book a little bit, Limitless is the name of it. You describe the world as full of people who feel stuck and seeking to feel a deeper connection to purpose. This I guess relates a little bit to your introduction about not knowing what the right thing is, but having to act with courage. What is your main message in that book? How are you hoping to impact people with it?

Laura: My main message of the book is that in 20 years of executive work I was struck by the idea that the people I was interviewing, who were pretty senior people, climbing to the top, they were successful, but they weren’t all necessarily happy. I was struck that success didn’t equal happiness. I think we all want success to feel meaningful. We want our work to matter in some way. We want to feel like we have purpose, whether it’s capital P, little P, whatever the purpose means to us. When it doesn’t, we feel stuck. We feel like no matter how hard we hustle and grind toward success and how much we achieve and how fancy the office is that we get to, we don’t feel happy with it because we feel like we’re on this treadmill and the idea behind the book is that what I noticed was the problem. It wasn’t how we achieved success, it was how we defined success. We turn around one day and go, “If I filled in all the right checkboxes along all the right paths to all the right ideas of success, why if those checkboxes are so full do I feel like there’s something empty, something missing?” What I learned, as I looked back over these 20 years, is that here’s why. You can’t be insatiably hungry or inspired or happily fulfilled by somebody else’s goals. In order for your working life to feel right, it’d have to actually be right for you. It can’t be right for you if you’re following someone else’s definition, if you’re living into somebody else’s idea of what success should be.

The book is written with this idea, first and foremost as the subtitle says, how to ignore everybody. The idea is that the first step to becoming limitless is to ignore everybody else’s definition of success and create your own. Owning how much importance you place on what your calling might be, how connected you want the work you do on a daily basis to be to that calling, how that work contributes to the kind of lifestyle and the kind of career you’d like to build, and how much control do you personally feel like you need over all these elements? Once we have that control in the connection and the contribution toward that calling, we can feel finally confident in the chances that we take and the choices that we make.

Halelly: I agree completely. I find that so many people are so embroiled in feeling like they have to meet someone else’s expectations or that they have to satisfy someone else’s needs for them and it’s nice to be focused on others, but not to negate your own self interest and your own happiness. Because you have one life to live and living it miserably in some pursuit of making somebody else happy is wrong. I found it very intriguing and I’m sure you want it to be a little provocative – you’re saying that we have insidious, impossible goals, four of them – passion, purpose, happiness and balance. You say that follow your passion is the world’s worst advice. So definitely perked my ears up. Tell us more.

Laura: I think I can go through all four of them real quickly and we can spend more time on passion, but I think balance – balance is this idea that work and life have to be completely equal and separated by some wall that, God forbid, your work is infringing on your life or your life is infringing on your work. I think that sets us up for failure when really what we need is we want our work and our life to be aligned so that who we are matches what we do and we can bring our whole self to everything. That’s the first.

Purpose is this idea that the only way that purpose matters, the only way that our purpose is real is if we’re serving everyone around us, and service can only be real if it’s sacrifice. I think that everybody can have a purpose that is their own. It may be that your purpose is that you want to make lots and lots of money and that you might want to make that lots and lots of money because you want to buy a beach house and a Maserati. You may want to make that money because you want to get out of debt and you want to help your parents or be able to send your children to the school of their choice. It may be that you want to make lots and lots of money because you want to retire early and perfect your golf game. Or it may be that you want to make lots and lots of money because you want to be a philanthropist and give all that money to curing cancer. Nobody can say that one of those purposes is better or worse than the others except for us.

Then there’s happiness. These four words that kill our dreams before they even come out of our mouth, like while we’re even thinking them – “I’ll be happy when I get the job, when I get the promotion. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I get divorced.” Whatever the “I’ll be happy when” is and I think we have to stop thinking in that way and start thinking about what’s going to make us happy now. What does make us happy now? Spend more time there.

Lastly, follow your passion, which frankly I think it’s the spoken word illegitimate sister of the live, love, laugh tattoo. It’s ridiculous.

Halelly: And have a green smoothie!

Laura: Exactly. Have a little kale and it will solve all your problems, right? It’s crazy. We all have seen her, this perfectly beach babe blonde with the flower crown, looking out over a sunset or Coachella or something. And she’s saying, “Follow your passion.” I think we should all work in our passion. I think that is the Holy Grail and by all means, let’s get there. But, following your passion is not going to make you successful in your passion. You know from the work that you do, I know from the work that I’ve done, it’s the people that fall down and get up and develop tenacity and grit that are the ones that actually perfect their passion, because it’s worth so much to them that they’re willing to do the hard work in the dark when nobody sees, in order to get there and live into it. I just want us to stop following the advice of girls in flower crowns.

Halelly: I want to dig into that a little bit, just to make sure that I’m clear and listeners are clear what you mean. You are saying that you should follow your passion in practice, but that you should recognize that it doesn’t meant that if it’s hard or if it feels like a challenge or even if you’re not happy in the momentary way because you’re striving hard to do something that doesn’t come easily, like that is not a sign that that’s not your passion. That’s just hard work to get there. Is that right?

Laura: Yeah, I think that follow your passion is presented as a destination, when it’s really in fact the journey. We always hear people say things like, “Tell me what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” That’s your passion. What I think is, “Tell if what you’d do if you knew you absolutely, positively were going to fail and you would still do it?” Because that’s your passion. I talk a lot in the book about how failure is not finale. Failure is fulcrum. We tend to look at failure and say, “If I failed, clearly it wasn’t meant for me. I couldn’t do it. It didn’t work. It wasn’t meant for me.” We don’t see failure as an opportunity to learn new things. I was giving a talk a few weeks ago in Austin and I was talking about failures, not finale, and I look over to stage left and there’s an astronaut who was speaking earlier in the day. This astronaut had done not one, not two, but three space walks, and I was talking about how failure, as long as you have breath in your body, you can learn and grow and take those opportunities to figure out how to get to the next step. I was like, “Except for you, sir. For you, most definitely it would have been finale. But for the rest of the 2,000 people in this room, failure is absolutely fulcrum.” I think if we can spend more time saying, “Failure is an opportunity to learn and to grow and to change and innovate,” then we’re not going to be so afraid of it and then following your passion is the roadmap to get to your passion. So I’m telling people not to just follow your passion, but to invest in your passion.

Halelly: Okay. I bet that if you talked to that astronaut you would find out about a whole series of failures that led to those successes. People see what you put out as your best news or your best results, but they often – especially for people like that – you often don’t see the things that they didn’t make, didn’t accomplish, didn’t get to on the way. I’m sure that astronaut’s life was full of failures. Even if you think about missions to the moon or missions into space, there were plenty of failures and great opportunities to learn things that helped that astronaut achieve that purpose.

Laura: Absolutely. That’s science. Science is about experimentation and invention and recalibration and I think that when we judge our bloopers by everybody else’s highlight reels, we can’t help but feel like a failure, because we don’t see the work that people do. I’ve had so many people talk to me about this book and that it’s launching as a bestseller and it’s this amazing thing and it’s so incredible. You have the career where you’ve done all these different things and then you’ve decided to become an author and now you’ve got this thing. Yeah, let me tell you about the 25-year journey it took for me to look like this overnight success that you’re seeing. There is a lot that goes into it and I think one of the things that leaders stop doing is they stop listening. You’re expected to talk a lot and when you talk a lot you don’t have a lot of opportunity to listen a lot, and so I really try to take every opportunity I can to really study the game. The reason I went from having never done public speaking to being able to launch a career in it is the first thing I did is said, “Who do I know that I can talk to? Who does this work and who can they introduce me to also does it?” And then I sat down with them and I didn’t say, “Tell me all your wonderful stories. Tell me all the things you did wrong along the way. Tell me the lessons you learned,” because I want to use their fulcrum moments as moments that increase the trajectory and velocity of my own career.

Halelly: Nice. Speaking of readers, let’s focus in on things that are super practical for our listeners as leaders. What are some of the things they can do, based on your insights and these lessons that you’re teaching us, that can help them create greater engagement and greater productivity in their teams? We started this with saying that lots of people feel stuck, and lots of people are looking for that deeper connection and purpose, so as leaders, kind of in the middle of an organization and responsible for the people that we lead, what can we do?

Laura: I think the first question is, why should they care? I think the reason that leaders should care that their people may be stuck is that we know that engaged workers are 22 percent more productive for their companies. Gallup did a study in 2013 of like 1.4 million workers, and that’s what they found – 22 percent more productive for their companies, and 22 percent more productive for your company means more profit, less turnover, means more time spent doing the things that actually matter to you. This matters because Gallup also did another survey in 2016 where they found that only one-third of U.S. workers are actually engaged in their work. Now, like you, I travel for a living, and every time I get on an airplane and turn right to go down the aisle, I always peek my head over to the left and I look at the pilots and think, “I sure hope they’re part of that one-third right now, because if they’re not, boy are we in trouble.” So if you think about if you’ve got these pilots that are in your company and they’re in charge of getting the plane or that thing that you’re doing for a client from here to there, they better be part of that one-third or that whole plane is going down. That’s going to be a major problem. Making sure that you understand why your employees, why your team feels stuck, really makes a huge difference.

Now, when we were all young, we were handed by a career counselor or a college counselor, an employment counselor, somebody, a list. That list might have been paper, it might have just been a conversation, but it was a list that basically was a scorecard about how to figure out what the value of the job was. That scorecard had things on there like what’s the mission of the organization, the department, the company? Who is leading it and are you inspired by those in charge? Is there a challenge at the work in question being something that interests you? Does it represent you? Is it something you want to spend more time working on? What’s the scope of the impact? What’s the scope of the new skills that you’re going to acquire? How prestigious is the brand? You looked at things like benefits and personal flexibility and geography, and of course there was salary – money. But we looked at that and went, “Okay, check, check, don’t have this, have this, I want more of that or the other.” Then we said, “Okay, good, this job has value.” But we didn’t really think about it in terms of the value it had to us as we were going through each age and life stage.

The idea that we’ve got these employees who we think we want to make them happy, and the way that we can do it is by offering them more money, sometimes that doesn’t necessarily keep them engaged. Imagine if you were somebody who liked to go on super fancy vacations to beautiful cosmopolitan cities, then it’s going to cost you a lot of money to fly in and out on the weekends, just to go on those weekends and stay in nice hotels. If you’re the kind of person who wants to go to incredibly remote rivers and stay in huts with mosquito nets – which isn’t necessarily my jam – it’s not going to cost you a lot of money to do that, but it’s going to cost you a lot of time to get there. So the person who is looking at this job might say, “Salary may be important, but the personal flexibility is much more important to me,” and I think until we, as leaders, as managers, understand how this scorecard, this old scorecard we had is rehabilitated for them to think about the values for them personally, and whether or not it resonates with them personally, then we’re going to continue to have employees that are not that engaged.

Halelly: As leaders, it sounds like you’re suggesting we try to investigate what are the driving values that motivate the specific employees we’re working with?

Laura: I discuss in my book that what makes somebody limitless is living in alignment, living in flow, living in consonance. The state of consonance is harmony, where the “what you do” matches the “who you are” and it breaks down into four things that people need in some way, at some level, in their life. The first of that is calling. So something that’s bigger than them – an idea, a problem they want to solve, a societal ill that they want to cure. It could be a business that they want to build, it could be a bottom line that they want to grow, it could be a family that they want to create. It’s just some thing that matters to them, some sort of organizational, gravitational force.

The second is connection. Does your work matter? If you called in sick tomorrow, would anybody care? Why do you, in this box, in this organizational chart, in this company, why do you matter?

The third is contribution. So if connection is all about the work, contribution is all about you. Does the work allow you to manifest your values in the world on a daily basis? Does it contribute to the career trajectory or the velocity that you’d like to have? Is it helping you build new skills? Is it providing you the money or the flexibility for the lifestyle that you want?

Then lastly is control. How much personal agency, how much control do you have over the connection that you have and the contribution that it’s giving you, so that you can get to that calling? So if you take this old scorecard and you look at it through the lens of these four Cs of consonance, you’d be able to say, “Actually, that really cranky salesperson who sells a ton, who is my number one salesperson but they’re always complaining and I keep giving them money – why aren’t they happy?” It may turn out that what they care more about is having some sort of connection to the contribution, to the values they’re able to manifest in this work. Maybe what they really care about is being part of the philanthropic committee of your company. But you don’t know that until you have a conversation with them and you look at all of these factors on the scorecard that aren’t just about the bottom line check.

Halelly: Then as a leader, to a certain degree – I mean, to the limits of reason – it is your responsibility to at least do your best to try and help people figure those connections out and get that satisfaction to achieve those values if you can.

Laura: If you can. And if those values are then consonant with your company. It may be that you say, “Actually, what this person cares about more than anything else on earth is the philanthropic piece of it, but our company really doesn’t have a philanthropic bend, so they’re never going to be happy and maybe I should stop investing in them.” Maybe they belong somewhere else.

Halelly: Or maybe they can do it as a side hustle.

Laura: Right.

Halelly: Maybe they can volunteer in their free time and that can satisfy that need and then they can be happier at work because they’re not looking to achieve all of those values at work.

Laura: Exactly.

Halelly: There are a lot of creative ways to do that. Cool, very interesting. I link to a couple of other episodes that I think might be a good compliment to this one. One was with Bev Kay, who talked about the stay interview, instead of the exit interview, because I think that can give everybody some ideas of how to conduct this kind of a conversation. Then to another episode I did, a solo episode about the 10 conversations every leader should be having with every employee, which include these kinds of conversations.

Laura: I think it’s terrific, and I think if there are managers, leaders who are listening that are like, “I don’t even know where to start. How do I even have that?” I actually created a quiz that is on my site. It’s at limitlessassessment.com. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes. It’s a fairly in depth quiz, about 60 questions, and they’re fairly catalyzing questions. They’re questions like, “Would you work harder if you could see your work was directly in line with the overall picture? Would you be more engaged if you had more of a say in the decisions that are being made?” Things like that. At the end of the quiz, it has this beautiful little radar chart that has two graphs, one that shows you how much calling, connection, contribution and control you currently have in your life, and how much of each of the four you actually want in your life. It will give some actual tips about some things you can do right now in order to find more of each of those. It could be a great thing to do with your team and to have them take it and have conversations based around that. Albert Einstein said that all knowledge is experience, and I firmly believe that. You don’t really know something until you’ve gone through it, but I think if all knowledge is experience, then all wisdom is framework. I think it’s very difficult to have conversations about these touchy-feely things unless we have a conversation and framework around them. The limitlessassessment.com, the quiz is really built to create framework so that these conversations can happen.

Halelly: Nice. We’ll definitely link to that in the show notes. Laura, it’s been interesting, and you’re going to share one specific action recommendation, but before we do that, what’s new and exciting on your horizon? I know you’re in book launch mode, so that is certainly keeping you busy. Anything else?

Laura: I am absolutely in book launch mode right now. It is all consuming, I would say. But I am working very hard to try to continue to listen and learn, since this job right now is forcing me to do a lot of talking.

Halelly: Interesting. It’s phases, right? Seasons and phases. Once you’re done with this talking a lot phase you’ll probably go head-down into more research and writing and thinking and listening.

Laura: Yes. The goal is, I’ve got a couple thousand people who have taken this assessment at this point and what I was thinking was, if I get enough people and I have a real sample set, I could actually write a second book, the Limitless Leader, that really talks about what really incentivizes different people based on different demographics. That might be a nice little how-to manual for managers. Almost like here’s how to operate your employees type of a thing.

Halelly: Great idea. I love it. Definitely keep me posted on that. What’s one specific action that our listeners can take today, tomorrow, this week, to upgrade their own success, satisfaction, leadership, whichever angle you want to take at it.

Laura: I love the idea of one specific action. I’ve had people say to me, “I can’t really make a change yet,” so I always tell them, “You’ve got to think about what you can do today.” If you’re playing a videogame, you can’t go to the castle and slay the dragon and save the princess – that’s the main quest – but you can’t do that unless you’ve done the side quests which are tend your wheat and grow it and cut it and bring it to the market to sell it for money so that you can buy the sword and the horse to go to the castle and slay the dragon and save the princess. I love this idea of what are the side quests you can do right now?

I think what I would ask people to do is to stop for a minute and say, “Okay, there are these scorecards, where somebody told me success means X. The fastest, most expedient path to the corner office, or marrying the right person or going to the right school or getting the right degree,” and is that actually the scorecard that I want? Who gave me that scorecard? And does it actually fit for me? And if it fit for me at some point in my life, does it still fit for me? To just spend some time thinking, “What would success really mean? What would happiness, what would make me happy?” To spend a little time thinking about whether the life they’re so busy building is actually helping them create the impact in the world that they want.

Halelly: Wow, okay, that’s some deep thinking! I think that sometimes – I have to tell you, and we’d probably need a whole new episode just for this – but I also find that some people, when they go there, they usually just keep the lid on that box. If they open it and they actually are honest with themselves, and let’s say their biggest fear is that they discover that they’ve had the wrong definition all along and here they are now – let’s say they’re in the middle of their career, have a mortgage and kids and this and that – and, “Oh, shoot, now what do I do? I have opportunity costs. I’m entrenched in this path. I can’t just suddenly go somewhere else and start from scratch or ditch all of this other stuff that seems to shackle me down.” Any quick tip about what if it’s scary in there, and they find out that they’ve been defining it wrong?

Laura: Throughout the book, I do a lot of interviews and tell a lot of stories about people. I tell stories about people who made it almost 300 feet from the top of 30,000-foot Everest and had to turn around. I tell stories of literally a guy who died and came back to life in the field in Iraq. I’ve got a story of somebody who thought things were wrong with his job until he realized, actually, I’m unhappy in my marriage. When he got divorced and remarried, all the sudden the job was amazing. I think there are some dark places that people get to and they need to make a change, but what I would say is that asking the questions and having conversations is not permanent. It’s just exploration. It may be that what we learn is in fact that we can’t make a move right now, but what we can do is we can start having some side quests so that we can learn when we are ready to make the move what we can do. I think the best anecdote to being in a rut is some sort of action, and that action can be quitting a job, it can be going back to school, but it can also just be learning about it and having conversations with people who have made that move to understand whether or not in that move there were things they would have done differently, things they would have done better, so that as we mentioned earlier, you can learn from their failure and that can become fulcrum for you.

Halelly: Awesome. Definitely. I think you have one life and it’s never too late! It’s only too late if you don’t start now. If you have a realization and you’ve just given so many different baby steps we can all take to just keep going down the wrong path, even though you’ve realized it, or to close the box on it so you’re not aware of it anymore, man, that’s a big mistake.

Laura: And it comes out in every other part of your life. If you are miserable, then the people around you are going to be miserable. You’re going to be a miserable person. I think one of the things that holds people back is this idea of faux-humility, where it’s not okay for us to be ambitious. We can be ambitious about certain things, but we can’t be about other things, and women in particular. “Oh, she’s so ambitious.” We add wrath. And what I ask people is, “if changing what you are doing, if making this massive move, if investing in yourself more and trying to just do one percent differently – whatever big, small change you want to do – would doing that put you, having a bigger foundation, more money, becoming better as a manager, would any of the things you’re going to do to improve yourself, would those things allow you to do better by the people that you love and the causes that you care about?” The answer is always of course yes.

Halelly: Absolutely!

Laura: I say to people it’s not your ambition, it’s your responsibility!

Halelly: I completely agree that ambition is not bad, and that you being happy is better for you and it’s better for everyone who is around you, and so if you don’t think caring for yourself is good enough reason – which I disagree with – at least do it for the others. Well, Laura, it’s been great talking with you and I know that people can learn a ton more by reading your book. We’ll link to that in the show notes. You gave your website, so that will be something also we’ll link in the show notes. Any other ways that people can learn more from you or stay in touch? Any social media places they should go?

Laura: The quiz is at limitlessassessment.com. My website is HeyLGO.com. And on all the socials I’m at HeyLGO as well. The book of course is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, anywhere fine books are sold.

Halelly: So appreciative of you taking time on your busy book tour to stop by the TalentGrow Show and share some of your wisdom with the TalentGrowers Laura. Thank you so much.

Laura: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to have been here.

Halelly: Okay TalentGrowers, I hope that you enjoyed this conversation between me and Laura and that you got some value out of it and some really deep thinking that you might have to do. Of course take action, because without action there is no change, and let me know what you thought. I am really interested in hearing what action you took, how it went, what insights did you have, what’s your biggest takeaway from this particular episode, and for the future what else do you want to learn from me or from guests that I can bring on to help you be a better leader? I really appreciate you spending time with us, and that you’re listening. Thank you so much. Let maybe one other person or two other people into the club, won’t you? Share this episode with someone that you care about and that you think this could help and that would help me a lot. Thank you.

TalentGrowers, that’s it. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow and you’ve listened to the TalentGrow Show. Until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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