Episode 90: Marshall Goldsmith – Lifestorming
Are meaning and happiness part of your career? Marshall Goldsmith, world renowned business educator and coach, returns to the podcast to talk about his newest book, Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life. Discover how to break out of the trap of success, “leverage up” personal connections to advance your career, and shift from a poverty mentality to one of abundance.
- Don’t just live out your programing – you can change. Find out how with @coachgoldsmith #podcast
- How #volunteer work can advance your career @coachgoldsmith
Book: Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life
Bio: Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been recognized again as one of the top ten Most-Influential Business Thinkers in the World and the top-ranked executive coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony in London! Dr. Goldsmith is the author or editor of 35 books, which have sold over two million copies, been translated into 30 languages and become bestsellers in 12 countries. His newest book is Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to Be, on sale May 2015 from Crown Business. He has written two New York Times bestsellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – a Wall Street Journal #1 business book and winner of the Harold Longman Award for Business Book of the Year.
Peter: Welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast. I’m Peter Bregman, your host and CEO of Bregman Partners. This podcast is part of my mission to help you get massive traction on the things that matter most.
We are fortunate enough to have with us today, Marshall Goldsmith. I am fortunate enough to be able to call him my friend. Marshall is an executive coach and business educator. His mission is to help successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change and behavior for themselves, their people and their teams. He’s written … I think the count right now is a million books. The book that he has been on the podcast for previously was Triggers. The book we’re here to talk about is Life Storming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life.
The way we’re going to do this podcast is a little different than others. We’re not just going to talk about the ideas in the book. When I read the subtitle Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life, Marshall is such a prime example of having done that and doing that in his life. I am fortunate enough myself to be part of the MG100 Group. It’s a group of people that Marshall has chosen to share his wisdom, experience and his practices in the same vein. He may talk about this a little bit on the podcast as other people he has admired have done. The Buddha, for example, where you just give what you know away for free, and he’s offered to do that for a number of us.I’m both grateful and enriched by being a part of that really amazing group of people and it’s another way of creating meaning and achievement in his career and in his life.
Without further ado, Marshall, welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast.
Marshall: Thank you so much for inviting me and thank you for being one of our 100 coaches.
Peter: It’s my great pleasure. Believe me. I’ve spent a couple of days with you in Phoenix and I’ve already learned so much. One of the things I’ve learned, I’ll say is, and I think it’s a great gift that you bring and some of your friends who you include in this, Alan Mulally, who is the CEO of Ford and Dr. Jim Kim, who’s the president of The World Bank, is all these people who are doing incredibly complex work in a very complex world. The mantra that I left with is, it’s not that complicated. When you bring it down to what’s important, what’s essential, to following what’s most important to you and making an impact in the world that you want to make, you reduce it to what matters most. In the end, it’s not that complicated if you’re able to do that.
Marshall: That’s right.
Peter: Thank you. I’m going to stop talking. You’re going to do the talking. By the way, Alan Weiss was coauthor of this book with Marshall Goldsmith. There’s a bunch of steps to this path of creating meaning and achievement in your career and life. I think you’re an amazing example of having done that and doing that in your life. What I want to do is go through each chapter and have you share with us a little bit of your experience with it and maybe a story or two of how you’ve done this in your life because I think everyone’s going to get to know you a little bit better and it’s going to be interesting for the podcast.
Marshall: Also, it takes it out of more the theory realm and puts it into the real world.
Peter: Perfect. That’s exactly right. The first chapter, and it’s pretty self-explanatory when you just read this title, is Setting Our Own Aspirations. This idea that we could become programmed in all sorts of ways to act in ways we’ve always acted in the past or we’ve been taught to act in the past, but there’s ways of shifting that kind of programming so that we can really pursue aspirations that have deep meaning to us. I’m curious how you’ve done that in your life.
Marshall: I was brought up to believe … I was brought up in a small town called Valley Station, Kentucky, low income, low education environment. Middle school down the street, last year, it came in last place in academic achievement in Kentucky. We had an outhouse the first four years I was in school. I was not brought up in Harvard Prep, so the odds of me being ranked number one leadership thinker in the world and three New York Times Bestsellers from there would be like snowball’s chance in hell. I was given a lot of positive programs, and one of them was, “You’re smart.” I was told over and over how smart I was and that, “You’re gonna go to college.” Then I was also told, because my dad had a gas station, had no mechanical skills, I would never have any mechanical skills the rest of my life. People are brought up to believe they’re the smart one, the pretty one, the clever one, the lazy one, the whatever one.
I was in a hospital, and I asked people, “How many of you were brought up to believe that you were the responsible one?” Everyone in the room raised their hand. Then we talked about the blessings of that and then the curses, and three people started crying. They said, “You know, I get sick of being responsible. I’m responsible for my children, my parents, my siblings. I’m tired of being responsible all the time.” The thing I’ve learned is we don’t have to carry this programming forever, and most of us just go through life living this stuff out over and over again.
You met Dr. Jim Kim, and he was programmed to believe he was the smart one. He has a simultaneous MD and PhD with honors from Harvard in anthropology. First time I interviewed him, I think I told you this story, he’s very funny, after an hour, I said, “You know, Jim, in the last hour, there’s six times you told me how smart you were.” He was so embarrassed. He said, “What an ass.” I said, “You’re not an ass. You’re a great guy.” It’s very important though to realize we don’t have to live out these programs forever.
I was also brought up to believe that I was smart, but I didn’t have to work hard. It took me a while to realize I don’t have to be ashamed of working hard. It’s okay to work hard. It’s okay to love people. You don’t have to be ashamed of that. When you’re brought up to believe you’re a certain way, like Bono, the good singer, he’s a humanitarian, and he created this new identity. He didn’t used to be a humanitarian, and when he tried to change, people all crapped on him. They said, “You’re not a humanitarian. You’re a rockstar.” He said, “Heck with this. I want to help starving people. I don’t have to apologize.” We can all be a different person without living out this program over and over.
What I challenge people is think of the way you’ve been programmed to believe you are. Maybe there are a couple of modest changes you can make in this programming to be somebody different in the future without being a hypocrite or a phony.
Peter: How do you do that? If I’ve been programmed to believe that I was not the smart one then how do you shift that program? What are some small things that people can do to shift that kind of programming so that they’re not stuck in that place?
Marshall: Again, I have a degree in math. I think the first thing you can do is recognize there’s often not much logic to this. I was programmed to believe I had no mechanical skills. Not till I’m 26 did I question this. I’m taking a class at UCLA. What do you do well? What can’t you do? I said, “I had no mechanical skills.” The teacher says, “Well, how do you know?” I said, “Well, I took a test, the United States Army Aptitude Test. I scored in the bottom 2% of the United States. It’s hopeless.” He said, “How are your mathematical skills?” “Perfect score on the SAT Math Achievement Test.” “Then why is it you can solve complex mathematical problem, but you cannot solve simple mechanical problem?” Good point. “So, how’s your hand to eye coordination?” I said, “I play pinball games, shoot pool, drink beer.” He said, “Why can you play a pinball game and shoot pool, but you can’t hammer nails?”
I realized there’s no logic behind this. I was just programmed randomly to believe this. I lived this out in my life and it became true, and as long as we tell ourselves this, it never change. I coach people every week on it. I deal with this. They’ll say things like, “I can’t listen. I can’t listen. I’ve never listened. I can’t listen.” I look in the guy’s ear. “Why not? You got something stuck in there? Well, why can’t you listen?” Then they realize, “Why can’t I listen?” This is just some programming that I can’t do this. It’s just repeated over and over and over again, and just understanding the process can help you get out of the loop.
Peter: It’s interesting, taking small, small steps and seeing how you can change this programming. I was in a leadership program last week and there were 25 people in the room. I have this programming. It’s a silly, little thing, but I have a programming. I’m terrible at remembering people’s names. It’s so easy for me to say that actually because I’m so used to thinking it and saying it. I’m terrible at remembering people’s names. We sat around in the introductions and I thought “I’m going to change that. I’m actually going to really pay attention to each person and in the end, I’m going to go around and see if I know everyone’s names” Within 10 minutes, I had everybody’s names. It’s these little, small experiments that can disprove.
Peter: One other thing that this made me think of is Daniel Levitin. I don’t know if you know him, but one of the-
Marshall: Of course, I do.
Peter: He wrote Weaponized Lies.
Marshall: No, I don’t know him. I know a different Daniel Levitin.
Peter: He has written a couple of really great books, but one of the things he’s talking about is how people use statistics and the ways in which we can be fooled by numbers. We get fooled. One of his tests is if someone’s telling you something, is it plausible? He proves that point. He talks about going into a taxicab and having the taxi driver say to him, “You know, 20 billion people in the world don’t have Internet.”
Peter: You look at that, and you go, “Huh? There’s only 7 billion people in the world. That’s probably not plausible.” He says, “The point the guy’s trying to make may be right,” which is a lot of people don’t have Internet, but one question to ask about, for example, you don’t have mechanical skill is, is that plausible? I’m actually a pretty smart guy. Is it plausible that I wouldn’t have mechanical skill? I love that.
Marshall: That’s excellent.
Peter: I love that. The second chapter, The Importance of New Friends. One of the things that you talk about in this chapter is how relationships can hold us back, and how as we change, some of our friends can grow with us but that also might suggest that we need to build new friends. You want to talk a little bit about that in your life?
Marshall: Yeah. I’m going to start out the negative and the positive. The negative, extreme example would be a drug addict. They go to rehab. They kick the habit. They go back to the same neighborhood with the same friends. Almost always, boom, what happens? They’re a drug addict again. They really need to change their neighborhood, their friends, their environment, and the other good and bad news about the new world is we keep up with everybody. All the people you’ve ever known in your life are on Facebook. They keep up with you. Now you’ve got this laundry list of people, and you wonder really how important is it for me to know where my high school friend had breakfast last week? Is that really a very important issue in my life?
It’s very healthy, I think, number one, to discard some of these relationships by saying, “You know, there’s nothing against these people. There’s only so many hours in the day,” and then back to the idea of new friends, like our project I’m working on with you. I think it’s wonderful. I’m hearing you tell … I’m working with Sonya Namseon and she is a great person. We’re doing a coaching project together. I didn’t know her at all. She’s one of the 100 coaches in our project. I’ve got to meet a lot of new people that I wouldn’t have necessarily met before. I didn’t know you that well before. It’s been wonderful for me to meet new people and really expand my horizons and way of thinking.
If you want to grow, again, if you repeat the same experience over and over again, you’re not going to grow very much. Sometimes you need to say, “What do I need to do different and new, and, also, where’s some new people I need to meet?”
Peter: Let’s explore that a tiny bit, too. Let’s say I’m interested in doing more CEO coaching, and I have a group of clients who are at a certain level of CEO coaching, but I want to get to the next level. How do I bridge that gap? How do I shift from the current group of people that I’m working with to the next level? How do I get in with that crowd?
Marshall: The one thing I do is I don’t work with people over typically a year and a half anyway. I’m not big in long-term, what I call, dependency relationships. I work with people a year, a year and a half. Then I keep in touch with them after that, but I’m not their official coach, and I think which is try what I’ve done, and I think it would be healthy to do for everybody is you try to just leverage up. You work at this level. You become a success. You gradually move up to the next level and next level and next level. Then, after a while, you learn how to say, “No.” You say, “No,” to people who are not at the level you want to coach. It’s not that they’re bad people. It’s just you’re not going to have as much impact on world coaching a second-line supervisor as you are the CEO of Ford. It’s just a different level of impact.
Peter: How do you leverage that up, meaning you’re not working with them anymore, so they’re free.
Marshall: Let me give you a couple ideas. Let me give you a couple ideas. For people interested in coaching, one is do volunteer work because when you do volunteer work, number one, you’re working with very high-end people who typically appreciate the fact you’re volunteering, you’re helping them, you’re not charging them any money, but you’re building some very positive relationships. Number two, their boards are composed of very, very high-end people typically, and that’s a great way to meet people, and they say, “Well, gee, this coaching is working for Jim over there. Maybe I should try it myself.” You get to meet very, very high-end people. You’re doing good for the world and meeting high-end people and leveraging up at the same time.
Peter: That’s a great idea. Jim Wolfensohn, who was president of The World Bank a few rounds ago, when I was first starting my company 20 years ago, gave me that same advice. He said, “You join a bunch of boards. Get in contact with these people on the boards because then they see the work that you do.” It’s almost like the transition people or people who can link from one to the other. It’s beautiful.
This next chapter, called Behavioral Metamorphosis, is so soundly in your bailiwick, and I want to combine it with this chapter called Believe It or Not, which is breaking through the belief vault. We’ve talked a little bit about both. This idea of if you have new aspirations then you’ve created a little bit of a new community and now you have to break some old habits, you have to do things differently than you’ve done before, and along with new habits, you have to change some beliefs. That’s going to help you. I’m curious to hear your experience around both of those in your life.
Marshall: In my job as a coach, I see this every day. My mission is to help successful leaders achieve positive, long-term change in their behavior. My clients are very, very successful people. One thing I’m proud of is my book, Triggers. Twenty-seven major CEOs endorsed the book. Thirty years ago, no CEO would admit to having a coach. They would have been ashamed or embarrassed to have a coach. I’ve really worked hard to change that, and I think what’s important is to realize you do need to look at what I call The Superstition Trap. The more successful we become, the more we fall into this. What’s that? I behave this way. I’m successful. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way. Very important to say, “No, I behave this way and I’m successful. I’m successful because I do many things right in spite of doing things wrong. I behave this way. I’m successful at this level.” If you want to get to the next level, this behavior won’t work.
Let me give you my own life example. The best coaching I didn’t ever listen to is I met a gentleman named Dr. Paul Hersey, who was the most famous guy in our field. He was kind enough to let me follow him around. He got double-booked. He said, “Can you do what I do?” I said, “I don’t know. Maybe.” He said, “I need help. Can you do it?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I’ll pay 1,000 bucks for a day.” I was 28 years old. That was 40 years ago. I was making 15,000 bucks for a year. You know what I said? “Sign me up, Coach.” I did this program, was very successful, and then he called me in about two years later and said, “You’re making too much money. You’re too good at what you’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, making money. Your clients are happy, but you’re just gonna run around like a hamster with your head cut off, just spinning this wheel. You’re not writing. You’re not thinking. You’re not developing your brand. All you’re doing is just the same thing over and over.”
He was right. For 10 years, I lived that out. If I had to live my life over, I’d live the 10 years differently. Back to your point, that behavior, which was positive behavior, it got me to where I was going to do, really was holding me back. The other thing I learned from that is especially if you’re comfortable. Comfort is a real enemy of change. It’s very, very hard to change when we get too comfortable. It’s just part of life.
Peter: Marshall, what age were you when you learned that lesson, after the 10 years of having done the same thing over and over again, very successfully, but not changing?
Marshall: I was probably the ages of 30-40 years old, and at about 40, I met Frances Hesselbein, I met Peter Drucker. I was really encouraged to do more writing, building a more positive, long-term brand, up-scaling what I was doing, and then that changed my life. If I had to live my life over, I would have lived that 10 years a little differently.
Peter: What did you change? First of all, you’ve already talked about new friends and Hesselbein and you created some new friends and some new beliefs and recognizing that … I’ll quote someone who wrote an amazing book called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. When did you write that?
Marshall: That was about 2007. I started writing it about 2006.
Peter: People listening, if you haven’t read that book, it’s really one of my favorites of all time, but I think it’s a really excellent book. You’re beginning to shift some of your beliefs, that this won’t get you to where you want to go. What did you change in your life that brought you closer to where you want to go? You’re running around like a hamster and not writing. What shifted?
Marshall: Another fellow who’d helped me was my good friend, Rick Culley. I was working for the New York Stock Exchange. He worked for them. I did this program. I got evaluated a 4.8 out of 5. I talked to Rick and I said, “Rick, you know, this is great. How can I do better?” You know what Rick said? “You’re asking the wrong question?” He said, “You can kill yourself. You might be rated a 4.85 out of 5. You’re fixing the wrong problem.” He said, “You need to be writing. You need to be thinking. You need to be developing your brand. You’re working on the wrong thing.” Really, that was a great learning for me that I was working on the wrong thing. Nothing wrong with what I was doing. I was just doing the same thing over and over again, and the marginal improvement was like this. It was really important to get that little jolt of quit wasting time on what doesn’t matter and really focus on stuff that’s much bigger payoff.
Peter: That’s when you started writing and coming up with new ideas.
Peter: The next chapter, now we have set our new aspirations, we’ve thought about who our friends are and how to create a community around us, we’ve got a behavioral metamorphosis, and shifted and looked at our beliefs. Now we’re at this piece, which is The Importance and Evolution of Character, the importance of who you are and how you show up. It’s not just what you do, but it’s the principles that you live by. I’m actually going to combine that with the chapter called Critical Abandonment where you’re choosing what to let go of because I think those two things work together a little bit. What are your principles, and based on those principles, what are you going to stop doing? What are you going to let go of? Again, a little bit of a story of your life.
Marshall: I think one thing in my book, Triggers, that I found very helpful in my life, if listeners don’t learn anything else today but this one lesson, it’s been a very good podcast, that’s before you speak, ask yourself, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the effort required to make a positive difference on this topic?” If the answer is, “Yes,” go for it. If the answer is, “No,” let it go. Peter Drucker taught me this. Our mission is to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart we are, and we get so wrapped in nonsense that we just really are not making functional use of our lives. This happens to people constantly.
I think really important, one thing I try to focus on is I do this daily question process. Every day, someone asks me questions about my life. They’re all yes, no, or number questions. If anyone would like to hear all my questions, send me an email, but one of them is, how many minutes did I spend on things that really are not that important? How much of my life was spent on doing stuff that didn’t matter that much, and things I’m not going to change? Maybe they’re important, but I’m not going to do anything about them. Just really focusing on, is this going to make a difference? One thing I focused on with my 100 Coaches project is, again, number one, new relationships, lots of new relationships, and then, number two, really looking at life in a different way. That was a creative idea. It got nominated one of The Top Eight Creative Ideas by Thinkers 50 this year.
Looking at life in a different way, I ask myself, “If I could work with anybody I wanted to and money was not an object, who would I work with?” Then I thought, “I don’t need the money anyway. Why don’t I just work with him?” That’s the inspiration of the idea. You get to work with much better people. Not better, but much more upscale people, much more interesting people in a way, and it’s just a different way of thinking. Back to your point, it’s a different mindset where you’re saying, “What if money didn’t matter? What would I do?” I’m old anyway. I have plenty of money. Just do what you want to do. It’s been very freeing.
Peter: In the book, there’s this conversation around shifting from a poverty mentality to an abundance mentality. That when you have enough money, and you’re demonstrating that right now, when you have enough security … I know people who are incredibly wealthy and who still have this poverty mentality… It’s still not enough. It’s not not enough because they’re greedy. That’s not the issue. It’s not enough because they’re afraid, because they want more security. Do you have advice for people to help shift that mentality from a poverty mentality to an abundance mentality?
Marshall: Yeah. I think a lot of it is just be willing to take maybe in the beginning a small risk, some risk where you say, “Well, okay, this might not work.” The other thing is trust people. Maybe somebody will take advantage of you. Who cares? Get taken advantage of. It’s not the end of the world. Very few people have cheated me in my whole life. Everybody’s nice. Almost nobody’s ever lied to me about anything. I think most people are just fine. Again, once you get out of that scarcity mentality, and also don’t make everything a transaction.
I’ll tell you something I learned. I was in high school. I was in charge of something called the March of Dimes Bread Drive. We’re supposed to raise money for the March of Dimes Charity. The bakery gave us all a loaf of bread. What you’re supposed to do is you give the bread to the people and then ask them if they want to make a donate. Then if they make a donation, you’ll give them the bread. My team, we were in the poorest neighborhood in town, and we came in first place. Why? I said, “Don’t do that.” You give people the bread. Then you say, “Look, you’re going to throw away the bread anyway. You give them the bread and you say, ‘Look, here’s some bread that a nice bakery gave us, and if you wanna make a donation, please do, and if not, it’s fine, keep the bread.'”
What did I learn? Give away the bread. Give away the bread. All my material? I give it all away. You can copy, share, download, duplicate. Give it all away. Doesn’t hurt me any. It saves a lot of time. I don’t have to worry about collecting money and billing people and some typo or anything. It’s all free anyway. Do anything you want to.
Peter: People are grateful and they’re going to say, “Marshall Goldsmith.”
Marshall: They’re very nice. I get thank you letters every day from somebody that says, “Thank you. My life is a little better.” What’s that worth? You can’t buy that.
Peter: I just want to say, because it touched me, and it feels really important, this idea of some people are going to cheat you, but take little risks, and that’s going to happen, but it’s not going to happen all the time. Maria Konnikova,a New Yorker writer, was on this podcast. She’d written a book called The Confidence Game about con artists. I asked her the question, “Have you ever been conned?” She said, “First of all, I wouldn’t know because a good con artist, you never know in the end that you’ve been conned. Second of all, I don’t wanna be the kind of person who can never be conned. I don’t want to live my life in such a way that I’m suspecting everything and that no one will ever get something past me”
I hear you saying the same thing. It’s like, “Take the risk. Every once in awhile, you’re going to be conned, and someone’s going to take advantage, but on the whole, your life is going to be a lot better. You’re going to have better relationships. You’re going to take more risks. You’re going to be able to do more things.”
Peter: That’s great advice.
Finally, I want to talk about legacy, in terms of creating meaning and achievement. Maybe you could speak a little bit about what you’re doing around your legacy in the MG100, which is such a great legacy move that impacts so many people in positive ways, myself included.
Marshall: I’ll give you the history of it. I went to a program that was put on by [Ishay Purcell 00:26:06]. [Ishay 00:26:08] is one of the world’s experts in design. She’s a wonderful woman. As part of the program, she said, “Who are your heroes?” My heroes were people like Alan Mulally and Frances Hesselbein and Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis. They were so nice to me, and they were great teachers, and they never charged me any money. She said, “Why don’t you be more like them?” I thought, “Gee, that’s a great idea. I should be more like them.” I decided I’m going to adopt 15 people, teach them everything I know for free and all that … When they get old, they do the same thing.” That’s payback. Pay it forward.
I made a little selfie video and put it on LinkedIn. It turned out it was the most widely viewed video in the history of LinkedIn. I’ve had now probably 14,000 applicants for the positions. It’s been wonderful. The idea is just give things away to people and be friends and help people anyway you can. The payback is terrific because you help other people, they help you, and everybody’s got a positive relationship.
The other thing is it’s like Bill Gates did, which I think is wonderful with money. He’s giving his money away. In a way, this is nice because if I give you money, I don’t have the money anymore. If I give you knowledge, I still have the knowledge and you have the knowledge, too, and then you can give it to other people. The idea of the project is not for the people in the 100 Coaches to be small versions of me. The idea though is for me to be to them like Peter Drucker was to me. I’m not Peter Drucker. He gave me a lot of stuff, though, and I used what he gave me all the time. If I gave you something that you can use … The other thing, back to the term, legacy, is we’re all going to die sometime, some sooner rather than later. What do you want to leave? Every time I talk about what Peter Drucker did for me, Peter Drucker is alive. I’m giving him that gift of after he’s dead, his ideas are still alive.
To me, that’s what’s nice about this project is creating an environment, where after I’m gone, the ideas are still alive, but then after you’re gone, your ideas are still alive in other people, as well.
Peter: That’s beautiful. What I’m hearing you ask is, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive impact, a positive difference, on this topic?” The idea that it’s a question to ask not only about where you’re spending your time, but how you’re living your life. Am I living my life in a way that it matters to me? I think so many of us can often get caught up in whatever achievements we’re trying to achieve that we forget to ask that question, so we end up accumulating things that don’t necessarily give us the meaning in our life that achievement is supposed to give us.
You’re not talking about not achieving, and if you think about the subtitle of this book, Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Current Life, you’re saying that your achievement should be in line with your meaning so that you not only reap the material benefits and rewards of it, but you’re also very much reaping the character rewards on it. That’s really beautiful.
Marshall: I’ve done five programs in my house with retiring CEOs, and the topic is, what are you going to do next? The first thing you need to realize they can’t just play crappy golf with the woman at the country club and eat chicken salad sandwiches while discussing gallbladder surgery all day. That just doesn’t work. A lot of them get depressed, they drive their wives and kids crazy, they just go off the deep end. What I tell them is, “You have to do two things. You have to find happiness and meaning.” Happiness, what I mean by that is you have to love the process of what you’re doing. I’m looking forward to getting up in the morning. I enjoy doing this. I like the process. Meaning is the end results of what I’m doing mattered to me.
No one can find happiness for you, but you, and no one can find meaning for you, but you. A research, which I’ve done with my daughter, Kelly … Kelly’s a professor at Vanderbilt, and our research on this is very clear. You need to achieve simultaneous happiness and meaning in life. You have to have both because if you have meaning without happiness, you’re a victim or a martyr. You’re doing important things, but you have a miserable life. On the other hand, if you try to amuse yourself and do things to make you happy that are meaningless, you experience emptiness. Neither one of those is good.
After the ninth cruise, the cruise director jokes are no longer funny. Again, how many rounds of golf can you play before it’s just boring. Then, all of a sudden, there’s nothing there. You need to do both. Does this make me happy and is this meaningful to me? If the answer is, “Yes and yes,” you won. Basically, what matters in life, if you take care of your health, you have a middle class or upper middle class or above income, you have great relationships with people you love, only thing that matters is happiness and meaning. If you say, “Yeah, most of my life has been doing things that make me happy and are meaningful to me,” you won. That’s about all there is. That’s about it.
Peter: Marshall, how old are you now?
Peter: How long do you hope to be doing all of this for? At what age are you planning to …
Marshall: I know my retirement date exactly. Dead. Dead.
Peter: That’s great. That’s great. I went into this work partially with that idea in mind as I was strategizing where I want to spend my life energy. The most vibrant, interesting, engaged people, the people I enjoy the most were people who were much older and had never retired and had never had any intention of retiring, and they’re just engaged in life and young and feel. I was asking myself the question, “What can I do that I wouldn’t have to stop doing because I got too old?”
Marshall: It’s a real blessing being able to do something where you don’t have to stop, and you can keep doing it. Also, what’s a real blessing about what we do is you can do it for free. You don’t have to charge money. If you want to help a nonprofit, when I work for a nonprofit, it’s exactly the same as I work for a for-profit. What I do is the same. I just don’t charge them money, and the work is equally fun.
Peter: Marshall Goldsmith is with us. His latest book, along with Alan Weiss is Life Storming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life. Marshall, I’m honored to know you. It’s a great pleasure having you on the podcast. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our listeners.
Marshall: Thank you so much for inviting me and thank you for being one of our 100 Coaches.
Peter: It’s my great pleasure. Believe me. Thanks.
If you enjoyed this episode of The Bregman Leadership Podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. For more information about The Bregman Leadership Intensive, as well as access to my articles, videos, and podcasts, visit PeterBregman.com. Thank you to Clare Marshall for producing this episode and to Brian Wood, who created our music. Thanks for listening and stay tuned for the next great conversation.
Peter Bregman is CEO of Bregman Partners, a company that strengthens leadership in people and in organizations through programs (including the Bregman Leadership Intensive), coaching, and as a consultant to CEOs and their leadership teams. Best-selling author of 18 Minutes, his most recent book is Four Seconds. To receive an email when he posts, click here.