#27 - Navigating Big Life Changes with James Burroughes
Have you ever had a desire to make a big change, but found yourself hanging on tightly to your past identity and career? Struggling to justify your decision to the people in your life? Not knowing where to start or if it’s the “right choice” or the “right time”? We’ve all been there, but some of us are paralyzed by the uncertainty of the change and some of us embrace that uncertainty. James Burroughes has found himself embracing that not only in one big pivot, but multiple times. And I’m so excited to share his story. He’s got some incredible mindset tips, tangible actions, ways to navigate the relationship change that will accompany those changes and so much more for any of us who are considering a big change in our own life. Also, in case you missed it, sign up for my FREE Growth Video Series at coachellyn.com/growth.
WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT IN THIS PODCAST
Creating steppings stones for yourself so that you can make the transition easier. James talks about some of the ways he created stepping stones for himself when making some of his many life transitions
The rule of 3s. Why choosing 3 focuses, 3 priorities, etc. is a great place to start when making big life changes.
Dealing with competing values and priorities. How do we manage things when it seems like our values or our rule of 3 goals, etc. are competing?
What’s better – setting realistic, achievable goals or setting big, exciting and audacious goals?
The positive and negative impacts on your relationships that making big life changes can have. I know that for me, one of the biggest fears I had in making some of my life transitions was around disappointing the people in my life and having those relationships change as a result of my choices. James and I talk about how that’s played out in our lives, changing your mindset around those changes and how to mitigate them.
RESOURCES FROM THIS EPISODE
My FREE Video Series addressing the 3 Missing Pieces in making a big life change can be found here.
You can learn more about James Burroughes here.
Download your copy of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” By: Mark Manson
Check out the TedTalk, “The Art of Letting Go” By The Minimalists here.
RESOURCES FROM THIS EPISODE
My FREE Video Series addressing the 3 Missing Pieces in making a big life change can be found here.
You can learn more about James Burroughes here.
Download your copy of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” By: Mark Manson
Check out the TedTalk, “The Art of Letting Go” By The Minimalists here.
Hey everyone and welcome to The Growth Tribe podcast, where we’re all about growing ourselves and empowering us to create lives we f’ing love on our terms. I’m Ellyn and I’m a former biomedical researcher turned coach who fell in love with personal growth when it empowered me to transform my health, quit my Ph.D., travel the world and start my own business. But don’t get me wrong. I’m still figuring my shit out too and I’m so pumped to share what I’m learning along the way. We’ve got amazing interviews, tips, tricks, and no-bullshit action steps that we can all learn from. So, with that, welcome to this episode of “The Growth Tribe”….
[Ellyn] Hey everybody and welcome back to The Growth Tribe podcast. We kicked off this year off with some amazing interviews. We started off the year with Kacia. We followed up last week with Taryn and I’ve got another amazing interview comin’ at you guys this week. This week’s interview is with James Burroughes and, once again, this another person I met through Remote Year. Like, thank God for Remote Year because it’s introduced me to so many amazing people with amazing insights and this is another one.
We’ve talked a lot at the beginning of this year about listening to that voice in your head that wants more and wants different. We talked with Taryn about how you can overcome some of the false beliefs, those limiting beliefs that might be keeping you from making some of those big life changes. And now, it’s just kind of worked out in the schedule and in how the interviews landed and lined up that today, with James Burroughes, we are talking about how to navigate those big life transitions. Whether it’s a career transition, a personal transition, whatever! There are going to be things that come up in whatever transition you’re making that will threaten to derail you.
Maybe it’s just hanging on a little bit too tightly to the identity of whatever your current job title is. The identity of being someone who’s married and in a stable relationship and maybe that relationship is now coming to an end. There are identity shifts that come with any big life change that are hard to navigate and hard to deal with. There is also the overwhelm of making a big life change. What do I do next? How do I even get started on this life change? We’re going to talk about that.
And we’re also going to talk about something that is maybe the unspoken thing that a lot of us deal with when we’re making big life changes, but it is definitely something that’s on all of our minds – how is this change going to impact my relationships? How are the mentors that I’m potentially leaving behind at my current job, who maybe I love as people, but I just don’t want to do the work anymore – how’s it going to affect my relationships? Are they still going to respect me? Are they still going to support me? What about my family? What about my friends who I connected with in my job? My current coworkers? How is this change going to affect those relationships?
We tackle all of that. The importance of having stepping stones and giving yourself an easy transition. The importance of really digging into what the most important things in your life are so you can figure out if it IS the right time to make that change. And ultimately, how to navigate relationship changes in that big transition and have a bit of a mindset shift on how making this big life change is going to impact your relationship.
We cover all of that and I’m super excited for you all to hear it!
his is definitely one of those conversations where everything that could go wrong was trying to go wrong. We have construction noises in the background. At one point during the call, the AC kicks in and made a whole bunch of noise, and at another point during the call, something happened with James’ audio, he completely dropped out and had to switch to his phone! But, this conversation is just so raw, so real, so impact and there are just so many great, great things we can get out of it, so we’re diving in anyway!
But, before we jump into today’s interview, I wanted to, once again – shameless plug – talk about my BRAND NEW GROWTH SERIES video training that I just released online! That training actually came out yesterday, but even if you didn’t sign up yet, you can still jump into it. All you have to do is head to coachellyn.com/growth. Once again, that’s coachellyn – E L L Y N – coachellyn.com/growth and you will get in on my brand spanking new video series, where I address the key, crucial, very small missing pieces that a lot of us take for granted and don’t address when we’re setting goals, when we’re making these big life changes. So, once you’ve tackled this week’s episode, I highly recommend that you head to coachellyn.com/growth because these 3 things that I talk about in that video series are going to be EVEN MORE crucial to making that big life change. If you couple this podcast and that video series together, oh man, are you setting yourself up for success in making whatever big life change you’re trying to make.
Maybe it’s finally embracing your inner athlete, maybe it’s deciding, you know what, I am an author and I am going to write that book. Maybe it’s starting that new business, maybe it’s, you know, changing your relationships a little bit. Maybe it’s leaving a relationship that’s no longer serving you. Whatever those big life changes might be, if you listen to some of the things that James and I talk about in this interview, if you head on over to that Video series at coachellyn.com/growth, damn are you setting yourself up for success, my friend!
So, with that, let’s head into today’s interview with James Burroughes!
Ellyn here – and you’re listening to The Growth Tribe
[Ellyn] Hey everybody and welcome back to the Growth Tribe podcast. I am so excited to have James Burroughes here on the podcast and we’re going to be talking, probably all sorts of things personal growth. But I’m really excited to talk to you about how you’ve used personal growth intentionally to navigate some life changes and some career changes. So, welcome to the podcast!
[James] Thank you so much!
[Ellyn] To get started, can you just tell us a little bit about your background and where you’re comin from!
[James ] Absolutely! So, originally, I’m a science grad. We had some conversations a little while ago about the joys of science, kind of geeky and nerdy, but we love what we do! Then, I spent a year doing officer’s training at Sandhurst, which is the British equivalent of Westpoint. Ended up jaunting around various parts of the Middles East during those years. Was lucky enough to have some different jobs during that time around leadership and developing yourself and developing some of the soldiers while I was going through that journey. Then, traveled the world for a year, predominantly in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, then lived in New Zealand where I started a more corporate-focused career in learning and development, which then sort of transitioned into organizational development, culture, engagement, talent, recruitment. So, all these pieces started to kind of fit together in my head around how ,I guess, there is a journey and how everyone goes on about the career journey and the life journey, the emotional journey and how all of these things require development. Then, at some point a couple of years back I decided it was time to step out of the corporate world. So to position myself for that I started working as a sort of independent consultant and coach developing my own specific type of coaching material based around performance, which is where I’m at now!
[Ellyn] Nice, nice! Okay! It’s nice to see, though, that you have a very seamless, but at the same, there’s definitely some transitions there. So, how did you ultimately navigate when is the “right time” to make these different transitions in your life? Because I feel like that’s something a lot of people struggle with. Like, holding onto the one career for too long before ultimately moving to the next one. So, how did you navigate some of those career changes?
[James] That’s a really good question! You know, I think of myself now as sort of James 3.0. I’m on my 3rd career move. The move from army officer to a corporate career was based around the fact that I felt I had a lot of fun and enjoyment in where I was currently at, but that the path in front of me wasn’t quite so exciting. It wasn’t as interesting to me as the opportunity I’d seen by being exposed to new environments. And I think for someone who’s thinking about developing themselves constantly, learning constantly, it’s around looking for opportunities to broaden your horizons. So, what are those projects? What are those other things that you can get interested in and get involved in that are going to help you get exposure to a new life? And that’s what I sort of did when I was in the military. I started doing project management qualifications, getting involved in cross-functional projects that got me exposed to bits outside my part of the military. And that gave me the confidence to take that step.
It’s about sort of throwing those stepping stones out in front of you before you need to make a move so that you’re, you know, not diving into deep water and there’s nothing to catch you.
So, that was the first move.
And the move from a corporate environment into a sort of freelancer/consultant was driven by the desire for a lifestyle change. I was doing very long hours in a high-pressure job with a large team of people and there wasn’t much time for joy, happiness, gratitude and all these kind of cool things that we as coaches talk about. So, how do I create this life? What do I need to do to get away from the rat race…throwing those stepping stones out in front of me to give me something to step onto safely. I’d spent about 2 years setting that up. Building a side business for about a 6 month period before I left New Zealand, and then stepping into where I’m at now.
[Ellyn] I love that analogy of ‘throw the stepping stones out into the water’, because I feel like so many people, particularly when we talk about going into freelancing – that’s what I’m doing right now, I’m self-employed right now – people think that you’re just diving off into the deep end. That you’re this crazy risk taker, but usually that’s NOT the case. Usually, you have some footing there that you’re stepping onto. So, I love that as an analogy.
I also love that it’s really about a values thing. You valued growing and transforming yourself. So, you made this pivots that may have been uncomfortable, but they stretched you and they allowed you to grow and they allowed you to broaden your horizons. And at the same time, you valued these certain aspects of your lifestyle.
[Ellyn] So, you made decisions that would give you that as your lifestyle. And I think that sometimes that’s the important thing to navigate. Do I value security and stability? Familiarity? Comfort? Or do I value these other things? So, I feel like that’s probably a really tricky piece for people to navigate and ultimately figure out which value is a bigger, more important piece of my life, you know?
[James] Absolutely! And I’ll say – everything in simple business modeling works in the concept of 3s. A 3 legged stool is self-supporting. It’s as much as anybody can take on, and there are all these concepts around, you know, “Stick with 3s!” So, I always recommend when I’m working with coaching clients – choose 3 things that you’re going to work. Choose 3 priorities that you want to work on right now…
[Ellyn] *laughs* I do the same thing!
[James] …3 goals you want to achieve this year. It’s all about 3s! And I would say, when you’re considering your personal growth, it’s about choosing 3 things that you want to be good at or known for and not worrying about all the rest of the stuff. So, when you think about this transition, first, you’re transitioning to what? And what are the 3 most important characteristics of that “to what” state that you want to be in? It’s good to know before you make this leap, because…we all carry baggage and if we use that stepping stone analogy if you don’t have stepping stone and you have lots of baggage, you’re going to sink when you jump!
[Ellyn] Oh yeah! You’re going to sink hard and fast!
[James] Absolutely! So, divest yourself of as much excess weight as possible! You know, a lot of my analogies are water-based being a scuba diver. *laughs* I make most of my models around that concept!
[Ellyn] I love analogies, though! I mean, we talk about being scientists and I found that the best way to communicate science is through analogies. So, whenever somebody throws an analogy out there, I’m like “perfect!” It’s the easiest way for us to wrap our brains around what we’re talking about!
[Ellyn] How do you ultimately help out clients who, maybe they’ve looked at their values, they have this rule of 3 things that they’re going to go for, but I feel like sometimes in our lives we have values or priorities that are competing. So, what advice would you give to someone who is dealing with that?
[James] I guess, it depends on context. Obviously, and you need to think about the multitude of factors for people who are on a personal development track. a) What’s caused you to get there? b) What’s their current state? and c) What’s their current capability of getting to where they want to get to?
If we’re a family with 4 children, not much free time, not much disposable income, but we decide we want to get a Sports Illustrated bikini model body or we want to be a Sports Illustrated underwear model, is that a realistic goal for you to get to? Are you capable of getting there from where you are now and do you have the capability to do that with your current lifestyle? Probably not. And so, a lot of the time when we’re doing goal setting in performance coaching, first of all, where do you want to get to and why? And what’s your current state? Where are you right now? And what’s getting in the way of where you want to be?
Most of performance coaching isn’t desire, it isn’t drive, because people have these great intentions of losing 50 pounds or climbing Everest or whatever it is they want to do, but there are all the other things they do in their lives that get in the way. It’s like this giant game of pick up sticks in front of them and a sort of chaotic web of stuff that’s going on that gets in the way of what they actually want to achieve and performance. So, a lot of the job is identifying those things and taking them out of the way so that they can have this clear run at their performance goals.
[Ellyn] I think it’s interesting that you brought up this piece about “Make sure it’s realistic”. Because this is something that I feel like, in my head sometimes, I’m fighting with myself on the whole notion of “set a realistic goal.” Because I totally get it from the perspective of not wanting to set something that, over a timeline, is completing unreasonable or that, based on the resources you have, it’s completely unreasonable. But the outlandish and audacious goals are also a lot more exciting then the “realistic” goals. I constantly find myself fighting with that! I want to set the big, audacious goal. I don’t want to just write a book. I want that book to be a New York Times bestseller and be on the list for however many weeks. So, how would you have someone balance that – the realistic with the bold, exciting audacious goal?
[James] I think you’ve hit a really key point here. In the military, they call it sandbagging, but you should never set yourself a soft goal.
[Ellyn] Yeah! That’s no fun!
[James] Like, I’m going to walk down the street today! Well, unless you’re a person who waling is a significant stretch, if you’re an everyday person who’s physically able, walking down the street is not a good goal. Walking 10 miles is a big goal perhaps. So, it’s always that sort of “where are you now? Where do you want to be? What’s stopping you?” The Japanese use a really nice analogy around felling enormous trees. The easiest way to fell an enormous tree is not to cut the trunk it’s to cut the roots for 100 meters around that tree. And basically what they’re saying is to get this enormous goal, which is chopping down this vast tree, actually, it’s much easier to take lots of little bites out of it all the way around and then it will just fall over on its own. And I guess that’s really the thing that inspires performance coaching. It’s all about taking barriers out of the way, not trying to necessarily focus on the specifics of the big goal. Because the person is going to do that themselves. They want it. It’s the thing they aspire to. It’s just all that other clutter that gets in the way that’s a performance inhibitor.
[Ellyn] I feel like that’s so much what I do with myself and my clients is getting to the crux of what are the behaviors that are keeping you from getting your goal. I feel like we’ve taken a weird transition from career transitions to goal setting, but whatever! Let’s roll with it!
[Ellyn] But that’s so much of what we do! I refer to Brendon Burchard a lot because I did a long course of Brendon Burchard training and coaching, which maybe is what you’re talking about when you say “performance coaching”. That would be really ironic if it is. *both laugh* But, he did this whole high performance coaching and he says and so many other personal development people say, you are the things that you do every single day. And if the things that you do and the behaviors that you’re engaging in are undermining the things that you say you “want”, those are the things. the root, that you need top start cutting to ultimately get the thing you want.
[James] Absolutely. And that whole kind of iceberg model of stuff you see vs. what’s really going on, the behaviors and actions being the demonstrative perception of who and what you are, the models are universal and work in the same context.
[Ellyn] I had an idea – and to kind of take a weird pivot back to where we started – we’re talking about goal setting and some of the behaviors that ultimately get in the way of the thing you want, when you were making some of these transitions, what were some of the biggest things and biggest struggles that came up for you that you ultimately had to overcome?
[James] You know, good question! I can probably split them into two – the tangible and the emotional. Like most people, I was in a relationship, I had a mortgage, I had a dog, I had all these posessions. I had, obviously, this job. I had a job title. I guess my network of friends and family that were surrounding me in New Zealand. Letting go of all these tangible things was an enormous challenge to transition to a more remote lifestyle, and deciding consciously to divest myself of these traditional pieces and these societal norms…that was a conscious choice and it was really hard. But it was around asking, you know, what are the 3 most important things to me?
It’s not those things. Actually, the most important things to me are travel, seeing the world and personal growth. So, I had to let go. I had to compromise on somethings to achieve the others things.
he non-emotional pieces for me were around things like status, importance…You know, when people say “What do you do?” “Well, for the first 6 months of the year, I’m traveling. I’m an ex-so-and-so.” There was this almost shame around, you know, I used to be important but I’m not anymore.
[Ellyn] Keep going! Sorry, I can relate to this so much!
[James] *laughs* Battling the demons in my own mind of people’s perceptions. Like, “Oh he must have had a mid-life crisis” or “He must have burned out”. Not that actually I was making this really conscious, proactive choice of a different lifestyle. And I think now, down the track, with hindsight, it was terrifying. I guess I consciously spent time managing my own emotional state by doing the things that calm and center me to get through the moments of anxiety. But, you know, I think every freelancer who steps out of the traditional has those moments of panic. “What am I doing? What will people think?” IIt’s a difficult one to navigate emotionally, but it’s one that the rewards out weight the hardships.
[Ellyn] Yeah – I wish you guys could see the video because I’m nodding like bobblehead right now because that’s exactly what I experienced. I mean you have that science background. I was in my Ph.D. program when I decided to make my career pivot. And to leave that and the inherent respect of getting your Ph.D. and being a scientist – like the reaction that I got from people when I told them what I was doing with my life, it was like there was an inherent, “You’re intelligent. You’re respectable.” And pivoting to something that’s a lot less understood and a lot less conventional…it was really difficult for me.
And I even had problems, even though this wasn’t the vast majority of my relationships, I definitely had a lot of insecurity in some of my relationships and telling them some of the choices I was making, like – are you going to judge me? Are you going to lose respect for me? And I admittedly I lost some friendships – it wasn’t many, but I did – because of some of these decisions that I made because they just couldn’t understand. Did you experience that? That kind of rockiness in some of your relationships?
[James] Certainly professionally, yes. You’ve got this sort of “I’m leaving this lifestyle. Off to go travel the world and do remote stuff” and people go, “Oh! Oh….” *laughs* You get this kind of “Oh, that’s the end of his career” kind of look. And the same in personal relationships. You realize that some people kind of hang out with you because you’re good fun to be around and you add some value to their lives and then you say, “I’m disappearing out of your life for X amount of time and I’m not sure how long I’m going to be away” and you don’t hear from them again. You used to get those occasional texts of “Hey! Do you want to hang out?” and all that kind of stops.
The best advice I got when I was going through this thinking process was this really cheesy old line, sort of a grandma’s analogy, “The people who matter don’t care and the people who care don’t matter.” And that was the thing that really got me through this change was that the people who matter to me are happy for me whatever I’m doing, wherever I’m doing it in the world, whatever choices I’ve made. They’re the ones that are really important to stay close with. And all the people that worry about the things that you’re doing, judge you or are negatively biased to the choices you’re making, well then they’re not the people you want to be around anyway. So, all you’re doing is more effectively polarizing and filtering the wrong people out of your life.
[Ellyn] I actually would 100% agree with that. And I definitely wouldn’t tell someone, you know, to go make this drastic life change to see who’s really in your life for the right reasons *both laugh* but it’s odd looking back at it, as you’ve said that, that’s exactly what it’s become for me. It’s become this insane filter of the relationships that really matter and the relationships that…It’s not that they don’t matter anymore, but they’re definitely deprioritized, which that almost sounds bad too. But it’s accurate. They’re deprioritized because they’re ultimately not the people who are showing up for you despite the fact that you’re halfway around the world. Those people and those certain relationships still show up for you, still support you, even if they don’t get it. They’re there anyway. And it’s kind of a crazy benefit of making some of these big transitions. Seeing who’s going to be with you the entire ride and who are you going to pick up along the way that’s going to stay with you until the end.
[James] 100%. You’re making space for the new people in your life that are going to be a part of this new life that you’re living which is super exciting.
The other concept: you are the average of the people you spend the most time with…well, you’re going to be spending time with new people. Your average is going to be moving toward a new direction of personal growth or achievement or whatever it is that you’re looking for at this point.
[Ellyn] I feel like this is part of the insecurity that people have around making these transitions. I mean, bottom line we are social creatures. Connection is really important. And having those solid connections with those people who support you is a big part of life and I feel like that’s a big reason people don’t make some of these transitions. Yeah, cool, there’s some instability and some material things that you’ll leave behind, but what’s going to happen to your relationships? And I hope that people listening to this can find it reassuring that this can actually be beneficial to your relationships. It can strengthen your relationships and it can ultimately filter out who are the relationships you need to leave in your past and who are the relationships that are going to benefit you moving forward. It’s the positive spin on it and it’s something reassure you that, yeah this might happen, but that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that some of these relationships are going to reprioritize and shift.
[James] Exactly. I don’t think I could say it any better to be honest. Some people are going to fall away. Some new people are going to come on board. And where you end up is most likely going to be a better place than where you are now just by the fact that you’re focusing on your own growth and whatever that direction of growth that you identify to go toward is, it’s going to be a cool thing.
[Ellyn] So, as you were going along on your own journey, some of these transitions that you were navigating, were there any resources, big lessons that popped up along the way that you think would be beneficial to the people who are listening?
[James] Oh goodness! Hundreds!
[Ellyn] I know! Loaded question! I’m a fan of loaded questions!
[James] That’s a good question! I think for me, the biggest resource that I have is looking around at a group of mentors or the people I respected and identifying what it was about those people that I respected and what they did that made me respect them. So, I can give you a couple of examples.
So, I’ve been working with a really amazing coach, Harold Hillman, who’s also an author of “The Impostor Syndrome”, which is a really great book if anyone hasn’t read that book.
[Ellyn] I need to read that book! That comes up for me all the time! *laughs*
[James] He talks all about how he spent X number of years battling impostor syndrome and at that moment in life, all I have is impostor syndrome. I was going to get called out in this senior role in this business as not being capable. Or I was going to be found out for not being a very good coach. Or I was going to be pitching myself as a consultant and people would just laugh at me for the fees I was charging. All of these things. So, I would say, work out the mentors who have these skills you want to emulate. Work out who they are and what they do. For Harold, it was battling the impostor syndrome, facing it head on and dealing with those issues.
I have another really good friend, Carl Sanders-Edwards, who runs this amazing leadership business called Adeption and for him, he’s the most widely-read person I know. He’s read just about every book on leadership and personal development there is to read. So, I thought, well hold on, one of the reasons I really respect Carl is because he always seems to have this kind of model or this analogy or this story or this book that he can quote from that has this information. So, I should read more. So, I signed up for Blinkist and did the Blinkist thing.
So, there’s a multitude of these. What are the things that they do that make them respectful and that has helped develop them and how can I do those things? So, there’s a number of things that I do now. I exercise regularly. I try and read at least a book a day on Blinkist. I try to battle my impostor syndrome head-on by doing video podcasts myself. All these things that get you outside your comfort zone, you know? Put yourself out there. It’s all these things that you have to do that hopefully are the stretch moments. And we only grow when we’re being stretched a little bit and then we’re allowed to go back to comfort.
[Ellyn] I love that! And I love that it’s very action-oriented. Because I think that almost the problem with that whole “fake it till you make it” is that it’s so intangible. What does it mean to “fake it till you make it” with these people? These mentors that you have….
Instead of looking at “how do I behave like them” in an intangible sense, you’re looking at the action that they’re taking. The things that they’re sitting down and doing in their day to make their lives better and emulating that in your own life. It’s like the actionable version of fake it till you make it, which I like.
[James] And that’s the premise of performance coaching is…do something! Just do something! And the thing the military teaches you is, when the bullets start flying, there’s no time to stop and think and worry about stuff. Just do something! `Lead your men. Lead yourself. Just take action. Move forward. Close the distance between you and the enemy because it give them less time to think. It gives you momentum.
And I guess the same thing happens in personal development. If you sit and think about personal development and all the things you could do, well, that’s good! And doing just one of those things will help move you down the track.
Mark Manson has this inspiration-action cycle. Having just done something in a personal development sense moves you into a new state of personal development and then you go “Oh, I’ve achieved something and I feel good about that! I should do something else!” And it creates that cycle of activity. And that’s what we’re trying to focus on.
[Ellyn] I love that! Like, I always say – I love it when I do these podcasts because I feel like, when my clients listen to it, they’re just laughing because there’s these things that I say all the time and one of them is that momentum is the secret sauce. You need to take action, and completing that action and doing that thing is going to inherently be motivating for you to take the next action. Like, when you make that tangible progress and you’re taking those tangible actions, that’s so motivating. We get that ball rollling and once that ball starts rolling, it’s so much easier to keep the growth going, whatever behavior you’re engaging in going. But you have to take action.
I feel like that’s the piece that so many people get stuck in when they’re struggling. Whether it’s a career transition or a life transition or whatever. They don’t let themselves choose. They don’t let themselves just start going doing a path. They just stay stuck at the fork in the road because, “Oh my gosh, I have options and this could lead this way. And this could lead that way. What do I do?” And they get so bogged down in the “What do I do?” that they don’t DO.
[James] There’s another secret that you can use in that sense as well. You talked about the fork in the road, and use the road analogy as well for the neural pathways and neuroplasticity, and often when we’re struggling to do something new and uncomfortable, which is the personal development piece. It’s uncomfortable to ask questions about yourself. And it’s uncomfortable to be honest and vulnerable. You can create that sort of slip road effect by doing something that’s kind of more comfortable for you to allow you to segue and almost slip road onto the freeway – the personal development freeway – that you need to jump onto.
And I recommend that people do that as well. If you’re having to have a really tough conversation as a personal development thing or if you’re having to challenge your relationship, start with something that’s a little bit easier so the segue point is a lot easier then starting cold.
[Ellyn] I hate to put you on the spot, but could you give an example of something that you’ve seen or that you’ve done to get yourself to a point where you’re familiar before pivoting into the thing that’s uncomfortable?
[James] Yeah. Probably the resignation conversation from my previous workplace. I had been there for 2 years – intended to be there for 5 years – and had started the path of some significant initiatives in the business. And then to go to my boss and say, “By the way, I’m leaving and I’m off to travel the world.” And I was terrified about doing that. The judgmental looks that I was going to get. The “he’s clearly having a crisis”…all that we talked about before. And so, for me, the way I collect my thoughts and way I know I’m good at doing things is to go for a run. So, I went for a run before I had that conversation. That allowed me to achieve something – I achieved my run for the day – it gave me thinking time to put the conversation together and to kind of plan how I was going to react to her reactions, and then I went into the conversation. I knew I was at my best, at a high point hitting on achievements, and was, therefore, able to move into the next achievement instead of starting from a standing start.
[Ellyn] I love that! And that even reminded of a really backwards example and I don’t know if it’s what you’re getting at, but it reminded me of my own conversation with my own mentor when I decided to leave my graduate program and it wasn’t necessarily a “go for a run” kind of familiar action, but I unconsciously started our conversation that day around something that we had a lot of rapport about. I grew up playing soccer and her kids play soccer. That was our thing was Monday we’d sit down and talk soccer. And, so that’s how that conversation started, and I felt comfortable by the time I had to pivot into the really really difficult conversation.
And also, along the lines of mentors and emulating the things you like about your mentors, I wanted to tell this story because I thought it was relevant. I think people oftentimes think that their mentor is going to automatically judge them for the decision that they’re making if they are making some sort of career transition. And I was terrified of that when I told my mentor. I’m not only leaving graduate school, I’m changing careers. I don’t want this. I don’t want what you do. And I didn’t want to disappoint her and I didn’t want her to feel like I didn’t respect her because I no longer wanted to do that with my life.
And I remember one of the things that she said to me, which made me feel so supported was, “I think you’re really brave for the decision you’re making.” And it wasn’t like a condescending, “I think you’re really brave”. It was an “I’m impressed that you have enough personal understanding and self-awareness to realize that this is not the right avenue for you.” And I feel like people don’t think that this is the kind of reaction they’re going to get. But you could get that kind of reaction. You could get that kind of support from your mentor. And I just wanted to throw that in there because I feel like that’s not something people think about when they’re having some of these tough conversations. So, that was my random tangent moment of the day…
[James] What a great story to indicate that it took you some time to build up the courage to face probably the most crucial decision you could make, that some people would sit for 20 years and not make. It’s really interesting just hearing you say some of that stuff has made me think of conversations that I’ve had with clients over the last 6 or 7 months around, “What are the most important things for you” and okay, “what are the things that are getting in the way of that?”
One of them was: “I’m just too scared to have the conversation. I’m too scared to face this decision. So, I’m not going to face it. I’m just giong to live my Vanilla life on the societal rat race…the hamster wheel that we all go on from 18-65. And there will just be what-ifs for me.” And that’s often the case that gets in the way of a lot of people’s personal development. They’re just too scared to know where to start. They haven’t read the 5 Second Rule. Count to 5 and GO!
It’s so hard! And so often I say, “Is making your boss happy and worrying about what your workmates are gonna think…Are they more important to you than seeing the Taj Mahal or climbing Everest?” Or whatever it is that you’ve decided you wanted to do. Which one’s more important? Okay – then why are you hanging onto that other thing than if it’s not important? Worrying about what your boss is going to think? That’s going to last 5 minutes. Regreting not having climbed Everest? That’s going to last a life time! So, clearly that’s more important. So, go do that thing and don’t worry about the rest.
[Ellyn] Yeah – it’s like all of this stuff is all of these little cliche things, but it’s so true. Is the pain of staying the same greater or less than the pain of changing? And I feel like when you hit that point when the staying the same is more painful than changing, that’s when you ultimately can make that switch. And sometimes it does take a long time.
I ridiculously was in the first year of my graduate program and I knew I wasn’t in the right place. It took me almost 3 more years to leave.
It was a 7 year graduate program…for all of those people who are saying, “Why didn’t you just finish?” It was a REALLY long program and NO!
I had to make that switch in my brain in which it was more painful for me to be unhappy and see all of these things that I was missing out on in terms of the things that I could do with my life and the things that I could offer to the world outside of this little lab box and that’s when the switch had to happen for me. Sometimes that’s what it takes for the switch to happen for you and for all the people that are listening. You have to push yourself. You have to continue to push yourself into that growth zone or you’re never going to get yourself to the place where you can make that switch.
[James] Absolutely! I call it challenge the Vanilla. Stop being normal and be extraordinary. What’s your extraordinary? What’s the magic that you bring? And step outside the Vanilla because everybody lives in this Vanilla gray world except the people who don’t, so be a person who doesn’t.
[Ellyn] Amen! You talked a little bit about the work you do with clients, so what are some of the services that you offer? You get to do a shamelesss plug for yourself! *laughs*
[James] I was gonna say, this is an utterly shameless plug! *laughs* So, my business works in two pieces. One of them is general business consulting. I’ve got an MBA so I like using that both as an internal business stakeholder. So, I spent time as a GM and things like that. So, I’ve taken all of that knowledge and wrapped that sort of into a hybrid high performance assessment and consulting service. So, I’ve got a variety of clients who are doing a sort of sales planning strategy, social media strategy. Recruitment is quite a big area of work, so working on recruiting strategies and process and operating models.
And then the other half of the business, which is probably more relevant to this is around performance coaching. So we work in 90-day windows in sort of career and life acceleration towards high performance in a series of 3 sets…
[Ellyn] Sorry! I’m getting attacked by a fly *laughs*
[James] *laughs* I thought you were saying, “No! No! No! Stop!” *laughs*
[Ellyn] *laughs* No no it keeps landing on me! *laughs*
[James] *laughs* So, each client works in 90-day sprints. We can do up to 3 sprints a year but we take 3 things and we work on them through steps. Each step is 2 sessions a and b. Session A is all around insight and barrier identification. So, “I want to lose 60 lbs. Great. What can we do to achieve that? What have you done so far?” Insight generation and then, “What’s getting in the way?” And then normally the second session in the set is around activity and accountability. What’s the action plan to getting there? How are you going to achieve that? And then challenging them to war game out that scenario with other things that might come up. Have you thought about this? What do we do in this situation? And creating a really robust activity plan. And then going away and doing it. We do that 3 times over 90 days to achieve 3 things. Then, they can come back for a subsequent 90 days up to 3 times a year!
Which is great! And we work in a variety of tools. We throw some leadership stuff in there. I use psychometric tools. I use 360 surveys. So, whatever is the appropriate tool to grab out the toolbox for that person’sperformancee acceleration is what we use.
[Ellyn] Nice! I love how action-oriented that all is! People in my Remote YEar community make fun of me for it a little bit because I am so type A and so action-oriented, but ultimately that’s the shit that gets you results, so…
[James] Most of the people that come to me are the people that have been workign with life coaches for forever. And, I have nothing against life coaches. People absolutely need them. But oftentimes people have been sat on a couch talkign about their childhood for the last 5 years and they’re still no closer to where they want to be, so…performance coaching is absolutely not that. It’s not therapy. It’s around accelerating you from where you are to where you want to be.
[Ellyn] Which is interesting because I identify as a life coach and that’s not what I do at all! so, maybe I’m using the wrong identifier. That’s interesting!
So, I have two questions I life to wrap up with. We talked about this a little bit and you gave some resources earlier, but I love to ask – what a resource, like a book, a TedTalk, an online program…
[James] Great question! Definitely, the one book was “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****”
[Ellyn] I’m reading that right now!
[James] It sounds terrible, but that book really did change my life and the entire outlook I have and the subsequent readings from Mark…I’ve read his blog. I’ve read his other book Angels, which is fantastic. And he just connects with me…and I think any person that’s going through a personal development journey will connect with an author in that personal development space. And for me that just happened to be Mark.
So that’s great…and I know a lot of people are on the Tim Ferriss bandwagon as well. He’s great. Um, so that’s the book.
And then program/easy watch was actually a TedTalk by two guys called “The Minimalists”. These really down to earth 2 guys who just decided to selll everything and travel the world with one bag. And I think the combination of reading “The Subtle Art” and watching the TedTalk was enough to give me the courage that a) this was possible and b) other people were doing it and therefore I could probably do it too! So they are the 2 resources that I go back to and I love.
[Ellyn] Love it! Alright, and then last question is, where can people find you? If they want to learn more from you, follow your journey, etc.
[James] Aw great thank you! Well, I have a Facebook page – “Traverse Performance Coaching & Consulting” – and I’m on LinkedIn. My webpage is currently in maintenance but should be live in the next couple weeks. Doing a bit of a revamp on it. But it’s traverseconsult.com.
[Ellyn] Awesome! Awesome! Thank you so much for all of your insights, your stories and all of the tools you gave today. And I’m probably going to head over to your website in a couple weeks when it’s live to get more of your truth bombs. And I really appreciate you hopping on here!
[James] No worries at all! And if anyone is interested in what I’m doing, just hop on social media and follow me. I try to do a blog or a video post once a week so people can see the kind of journey I’m going on and identify a piece of that that works for them too.
[Ellyn] Awesome! Definitely go check him out! I’m definitely going to right after this. *laughs*
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