Acting on Innovation with Halley Bock
And now, to put that in practice and not hear just me talk about that idea, we do have a very special guest who has a lot of experience in resilience, overcoming challenges, getting in motion, taking audacious risk. Dear friend of mine, her name is Halley Bock, she's the author of a book called "Life, Incorporated," and she's done all kind of remarkable things to share this idea about getting in motion, getting out of your own way. Please welcome (claps) Halley Bock. (applause) Thank you.
Thank you for being here.
So great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Grateful, grateful. Yeah, so we're doing this today.
We are! Speaking of being audacious and all that.
Right, have you ever done something like this?
I have, I have, although it's been a little while. But you know, I still get the rush, right? It's a good adrenaline hit.
See, lights, big bright lights, camera, people.
That's right. (Shawn exhales) (Halley exhales)
But you're okay.
how? What do you tell yourself, walking into this moment?
You know, some of that is really basic. You know, it's like, but, did you die? (both laugh) The last time I did this, I may have felt like I wanted to die. I mean, speaking of shyness, I'm a fairly shy person and a bit of an introvert. This isn't really my jam, but yet I have a message, I have a passion that's so important to me that I'm willing to take the risk. And if part of the risk is coming out here to speak live and get over any insecurity or discomfort of being out here in a live moment with another person and with other people, well then, if there's something that's more important than the fear, then I'm gonna be pulled through.
Whew! That's cool, that purpose-driven. You have an intent, you're trying to share a mission. And you can't let your own self get in the way.
No, you can't. You know, or you can. (both laugh) And then you live that life of regret, right? Which we want to avoid.
So, the reason I thought of you, right? I was coming here to do this event and I thought of you because you have all kinds of different, various challenges or things that you adopt as challenge for yourself to overcome, to surmount. And my question is, and you can talk about some of those challenges or not, if you want, but I'm more interested in, what's the toolbox? When you're overwhelmed, when you're in despair, even, or when you're trying to overcome or do something out of your comfort zone, what's in the toolbox? What do you reach for and remind yourself? Purpose was one of 'em.
Purpose is one of them. We really, first of all, need to recognize that we are terribly human. (laughs) And the human condition can involve a lot of suffering if we don't take the steering wheel. We have a mammal brain. We are driven by some really primal needs, like security being one of those things. This is not necessarily a safe thing to do. But you look at why so many people, just two years ago, the statistics in America were horrifying. We are the most overstressed, medicated, addicted, and obese adult cohort in the world. And a lot of this has to do with two basic needs. You know, the first one being our real need for security. So, because we're herd animals, we don't want to stick out. That's not, that didn't pay off in the long run--
Wait, wait, clarifying, "herd," "herd."
Not "hurt." "Herd."
"Herd," got it, sorry.
Yes, with the hard "d" there at the end. (Shawn laughs) You know, we wanna be part of a pack, and when we're at work, if our tribe is at an organization or a team whose culture doesn't believe in work-life balance or is a go, go, go, go, never say die, don't stop mentality, we can end up overstressed and overwhelmed in very short order. And we also have another primal need, which is to leave a legacy. Now for animals, it's pretty easy. They just wanna copy their DNA into the next generation. For humans, it's a little more complicated. Because we're waiting longer and longer to have children, I may not be a grandparent until I'm 70, if even, right? So, I won't have these, all the photos in my house to say this is the meaning, to give my life meaning. So we're finding other ways. And in America, we really reward achievement. And so we've taken on this achievement mentality.
Is that a good thing?
You know, not if that's leading. Not if that's what's in front. If an achievement or a reward or recognition happens as a result of something we're doing, well, then that's fine, that's a great bonus. But when you put the cart in front of that horse and it just becomes about achievement because we're trying to rack up enough so that we can imagine at the end of our life there's this great portrait that's been created with all that stuff in our great hall of ancestors, so that that means our life was meaningful. That becomes a problem.
They key distinction though, of course, is that performance goals are not learning goals. If we're constantly pursuing performance and achievement, we wanna get on the podium, we wanna get the medal, we wanna get the accolades (claps), right? But that's not a learning goal. A learning goal is, I'm willing to persevere, I'm willing to experiment, I'm willing to take chances, to constantly enrich myself.
But I wanna get back to this point about, the point about adversity. And when you encounter a sense of adversity, you're confronted by something really difficult, you've some things in your toolbox. I mean, you write about the importance of mindfulness, for example. Talk about that. Talk about how mindfulness has saved you or given you solace.
Yeah, well, you know, we have a very quick, rapid brain and we're full of instincts and reactions and we can get into this sort of limbic trance, if you will, right? Where we are perceiving a real or unreal enemy. Sometimes even making the enemy ourselves. One of my favorite quotes comes from Viktor Frankl, who's a renowned neurologist and Holocaust survivor. And he said that between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response, and in that response lies our freedom.
So, yes, let that settle. Thank you, Viktor. (Shawn laughs) Let that settle in for a moment. So, it's mindfulness. If you get back to what Viktor Frankl is talking about, which is so spot-on, is a lot of times, we live our lives from stimulus and then (claps) reaction. We're just reaction, and we're very quick at it. We all have a very distinct context of how we're filtering the world.
It's habitual, and we're acting on these things without even necessarily being conscious of it. You know, I see someone that reminds me of someone in the past, (snaps) and I immediately make up my mind. Or I see an email that says, "okay," and I'm gonna filter that to mean somebody disagrees with me somehow, right? And we get into the story, and we kind of work this story. And how many of you notice that they're not really positive stories that we get drunk on? We go to the negative, the worst-case scenario. So mindfulness is cultivating that pause. It's the wedge between stimulus, and instead of reaction, a very intentional response. When we are mindful and can just take a pause and say, even just to say, I'm in a reactive space right now, that's a level of awareness that we may not have had before. And we still may not make the best possible choice, but we're going to make a wiser choice because we've--
You're emphasizing, again, that it is a choice.
It is a choice.
That response is a choice.
I read recently, something upwards of, I think I read 60% of what we do and what we think about every day is repetitive. It's the same stuff we thought about yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. So there's very, very little, or a diminishing amount, of space for novel thought. And your point, again, is to emphasize that your reaction is a choice, in the same way that Erin, earlier in this workshop, was talking about purpose is a choice.
It is, and even with, yeah, I've heard the same thing, we have something like, what is it, 90,000 thoughts a day and 80% of 'em are just a repeat, a rehash of what went on yesterday. And so, instead of being a victim to that, there's a choice of, hey, how can I actually leverage that? So if my thought's are gonna rehash and repeat, why don't I take some time here, even if it's just two minutes or five minutes, and implant some really positive thoughts? So that there's a better chance that those begin, and over time, the long tail of that is that there's more life-affirming, self-affirming thoughts running through my head, as opposed to just taking my hands off and, well, this is just how it is with me.
Amen. You use the expression, living your life inside-out versus outside-in. What does this mean? What is this expression? It's a good catchphrase.
Well, I was really good at this, I was really good at living life outside-in, as I call it, which is you live more to impress than anything.
What do they say, buy the clothes that you can't afford to impress the people you don't like?
That you don't like anyway, right? Or deciding you wanna have the best-looking tree on the block and your method of caring for that tree is just hit it with green spray paint. You know, it's like everything looks good on the outside. We collect and we sort of hang these ornaments of achievement. Living from the outside-in means that our decisions and our actions are driven more for external purposes than intrinsic. So, I would be here today because I wanna sell more of my books, or I wanna somehow goose my number, whatever that is, right? As opposed to living from the inside-out, which is that my choices, my behaviors, my actions are driven from a really intrinsic desire. So for me, it is to come out and to share this message, right?
Okay, so, do you have some tips, tricks that you can do in real time, so let's say you encounter a little piece of adversity, somebody's grumpy to you in line at the grocery store, or your boss says, for the umpteenth time, "eh, go do it again." When you encounter these moments of repetition in your mind, what are some of the tips and tricks that you can give these folks to get out of your own way?
Yeah, well, you know, the first is to step outside the story. I love Lily Tomlin, but one of my favorite quotes is, the thing about the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. (audience and Shawn laugh) So the really worst-case scenario in life is that we end up and the end of our lives and we're a rat. Because we didn't wake up and pay attention and choose something different. So if we're only going to be reactive, we will continue to perpetuate the same patterns that are going on. Our thoughts have energy, our actions have energy. We will continue to attract those things. And so it's really realizing two things. First of all, we all have our own antenna that we can fire up, right? And we can be intentional about that. And the practice of gratitude is a big piece of what that antenna can be. I think Brene Brown said that she's never met anyone who's successful and content who doesn't have a specific practice of gratitude in their life. When we practice gratitude, so that can be you're writing five things down of what you're grateful for, and taking it a step further and saying why you're grateful. Because when you do that, not only are you acknowledging, right? And it's like, okay, there are some positive things for me to look at, so maybe my own lens is gonna shift a little bit and I'll start to see more positive. But when we also name what it is that we're grateful and why, that antenna starts to attract more of that, right? That's an energy that we can put out. So, take those moments to really rest in those feelings of positivity and gratitude.
Take a moment with it.
Take a moment with it, and do that in the morning so that you really set your lens and context for the day. The second is, not if, but when, the boss, you know, steps all over your toes again, is to begin to have, getting back to Viktor, right, which is, how can I put a pause in here? Instead of just going back to my story about this guy or this woman, recognize that you don't know, first of all, what's going on in his or her life and who or what taught that person to behave that way. And that you also come with your own story and your perceptions of this. And so to decide that you've got the whole story and have it 100% right is a very self-limiting decision. So putting that pause in and taking a step back and saying, "okay, I'm triggered, why am I triggered?" And just going a little bit deeper with that. You know, what is my belief right now, what's the belief? Okay, if my boss is mad, what is the belief? That I'll get fired, it's like, is that really gonna happen? And just take that moment, so that then you can just have that little wiser discrimination when you go back and respond and not react.
It's a lot harder to get fired than people think. (Halley laughs) It is!
Thank you, HR.
It is, I mean, it's pretty hard to get fired.
It is, but yet we always feel like we have that gun to our head.
We're terrified, right. But we're terrified to take risk, we're terrified to get outside of ourselves and do something outside the, might get fired. It's pretty hard to get fired. The other thing, you were talking about gratitude, and I read this really interesting study about not only the specificity of that gratitude, but they had these students write, think of somebody in your life you're grateful for. Okay, it's my soccer coach, whatever it is. My 5th grade teacher, whatever. My pastor, right? Write a letter describing why, with a lot of specificity about why you're grateful, what did you learn, why are they a parental figure in your life or a mentor or whatever. And then they took the letters and they read them, they went to go visit the pastor, and they read them, "if I could have a minute of your time," and read this whole thing. It was incredibly powerful. Incredibly powerful, 'cause they're not only doing that reflection, they're giving thanks to the person.
Yeah, it's sort of the double, I mean, it's the ultimate. Not only are you practicing gratitude, but you're also practicing generosity, and those two, when they helix together, are incredible. They're incredible.
A lot of what you're talking about is in your book. I'll plug your book.
Okay, you do that.
I'm a big fan.
I'm not gonna stop you. (both laugh)
It's called "Life, Incorporated." But in that, you talk about the importance of a strong foundation. And that from that foundation stems the strength to deal with resiliency and adversity. Talk about, what are the ingredients of foundation.
There's gratitude and kindness, what else?
Well, so in the book, I use the visual analogy of the image of a tree to represent the four aspects of life that I think we become less aware of in certain moments. If we can be fully aware of them, we'll cultivate a really whole-hearted and meaningful, and a life of ours, right? Not one of Lily Tomlin's rat race. So that the foundation which you're asking about is really the soil in my book. And there are the three main areas of that. There's the inner life, which is your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This is really your relationship with self. And it was actually this piece, because I was the CEO of a leadership company, and the thrust of that was, and if you can believe, we made money off of teaching people how to have conversations. (laughs) To make connections with one another. It's like, we really do need help with that. And I was involved in this work of, okay, how can I help people make connections with another and get off of here and thinking that this was why we weren't connecting here, but you know what? We're here because we don't wanna be here.
Really. This can be a scary place, you know? And it was for me. And it had everything to do why I was very much caught up in this obsessive achievement, you know, ticking every box and wanting to be the best at it.
Iron Mans. I mean, you name it, literally awards. You know, things I could show, I could show. And what I was doing is making up for some childhood trauma that left me with a sense of worthlessness. I was trying to get myself worth by stuffing this gauze of achievements, in me and around me.
This is really powerful, what you said, which is, if you feel a sense of disconnectedness to someone else and those around you, you may be disconnected from yourself.
Yes, so, that is why I wrote the book. This idea of inner life, which is, what it the quality, the quality of relationship you have with yourself? Is is self-adverse? Is it fearful? Or is it compassionate? Which is really where I want us to all get to, and when we can come home and feel safe at home and build that foundation, which is, you know, if you're gonna plant a tree, you don't wanna plant it in silty soil that it can't grasp onto. It could be magnificent, but then (claps) fall over on one bad day, which is what happened to me. So, if we can cultivate and develop this compassionate, wholesome, rich relationship and connection with ourselves, then how we go up and out, we can withstand. We can withstand the fear of risk. We can take the time and live outside of our story or someone else's story of us.
That's good. So when you talk about kindness, you're not just talking about kindness to others. You're talking about kindness to yourself.
I am. You know, in Buddhism they teach that there are two arrows that are flung our way when we experience misfortune. And the first one comes with the event, which is often shot into us. The second arrow, and the most harmful, is the one we self-inflict, which is our judgment of why that happened. And we blame others, or we blame ourselves. And we're not very nice to ourselves. (both laugh) When I think about the criticisms that I have of myself, or if anything bad happens and how I can take some of that blame and put it on my back. It's not very compassionate. So that self-kindness is really important.
So you don't carry other people's pain as much anymore.
No, I don't. You know, I've learned how to have empathy without climbing down into the hole with someone. I've found a way to relate to that and yet keep sort of that healthy barrier to where I'm safe and I remain in a place where I can be helpful. Because if I do just climb down into the hole with somebody, now we're both in the hole.
Whew, that's so good, Halley.
I'm so grateful you're here.
Well, thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk about it.
And hang out with you again.
The book is "Life, Incorporated."
You're on a new journey.
Sharing your message with the world. Thank you so much for coming by.
I'm not kidding, I'm a fan.
C'mon! For Halley. (applause)