Be a shaper. Be someone who has the ability to craft their own career. Don’t just be stuck in doing one thing. Find your purpose, wear many hats, and enjoy your job. If you want to be an influencer or a coach on the side, go for it! Find your meaning with your hosts Sam Reeve, Char Miller, and Sumit Singla, and their guest Jonas Altman. Jonas is a coach, author, speaker, and is the founder of Social Fabric. Join in today’s episode to learn more about his newest book, Shapers. Learn how to discover your passions so that you can shape your life. There is no point in life if you’re not enjoying what you do each and every day. Listen in and become a shaper today!
To introduce you to your other hosts here on the panel, I’ll start with Char. She not only consults with CompTeam but she is an HR professional. We were actually talking a bit about HR before we started and she founded her own company. She’s done a bit of everything, been in an office working for someone else and now is successful at working for herself. Sam is the Founder of CompTeam. He’s the CEO of CompTeam as well. He’s the reason why we get to have these sessions.
He is a Specialist in talent management, compensation programs and plans. Sumit, I’m so excited. It’s been a while. Sumit is not a consultant with CompTeam but he’s been working in HR for many years, working with companies like Deloitte and Accenture. We’re happy to have you here and feeling the energy. Welcome, Sumit.
I’m going to now introduce you to our guest speaker who has actually spoken on the forum before so welcome back. We have Jonas Altman and he is a bit of everything. He’s a Founder, a Facilitator, a Coach, a Speaker, and an Author. He actually has a best-selling book called Shapers, which dives in how to discover your passions and craft a lovely career around what you love to do because what is the point of life if you’re not enjoying what you do each and every day. He’s on a mission to make the world of work more human. He’s also had his work up here in Fast Company, The Guardian and New York Post. Thank you for giving us your time. We’re excited about the discussion.
Thank you, Jules. Thanks for having me.
I’m glad that you came back to speak at another session. I think that what you do and compared to what we speak on a regular basis is so much in line, discovering your passions and knowing your talents and shaping that ideal career. Can you tell us a little bit about what drove you to write your book and create your business and help the people that you help?
Jules said a bit of everything and one person could say, “Isn’t that sad? You never decided what you wanted to be when you grew up.” Another person could be like, “That’s me.” Statistically, 8 out of 10 people don’t have one career or one thing they want to do whether it’s paid work or being a home carer, a gardener or an amateur wine connoisseur.
If that’s the norm then a bit of everything is actually no longer an alternative in terms of a career trajectory. Whether you call it a shaper or a squiggly career or a jungle gym, I fit into that. I thought for a long time because I come from a family of professionals, generationally, that I was the black swan, something was wrong with me. I never fit in to a company.
It was a struggle and/or a learning opportunity for the first two careers I had. One in the music industry and one in the fashion industry. My third career, which is the sort of teaching, writing and speaking model of sorts, is in many ways getting paid to learn. I’ve found that to have conversations, challenge my assumptions, show up as a teacher, show up as a coach, show up as a writer suits me and a lot of people resonate with that and a lot of people do that.
I got gifted and it sounds maybe tone deaf in this global pandemic, which basically moved everyone from the way things were to the way things are. For a lot of people, it’s a lot better and a lot more nourishing. For a lot of other people, it’s completely disorientating and it’s a struggle and there’s a scurry to be like, “Do I want to be in my job? Do I know how to ever work remotely? Can we create empathy and connection within virtual teams?” The whole lid is blown up and I somehow found myself in the eye of the storm.Passion doesn't last forever, but its meaning and purpose stand the test of time. Click To Tweet
The pandemic has been a big topic, ongoing for a long time but it has shaken up the world in a lot of negative ways and also a lot of positive ways too. In the last session, Jules was talking about how it crafted her career and so forth and brought her to where she is now. One of the things that we were talking about is the traditional look upon careers is like going to McDonald’s and getting the Happy Meal. It’s in a box. You’re a police officer, this is what you do, here’s your toy.
All these careers are in a little box in the past. Through the pandemic, we found out that we want to have a career out of things that we love to do, the way that we want to have an impact on the world and where we can bring the most value and so forth and developing that career around ourselves. I think we were talking before you came on about Jules and how this was crafted for her. Jules, can you tell us a little bit about your story? We’re talking about how you crafted your career. You’ve been in front of the camera or you’ve been behind the camera as a producer. You found this new world of coaching as Jonas was talking about. How did that come to play for you?
I’m loving it already because, Jonas, coming from the music industry, fashion industry, these industries are ones where you have to wear many hats in order to be successful. It’s hard to be a good actor if you don’t know how to self-tape and audition, which every audition now is on a self-tape. You don’t go in person anymore and there’s a casting assistant with the camera. It’s not that anymore.
You have to fend for yourself and figure out all these new skills. It was already going that way before COVID because a lot of projects are shooting all around the world now. I was already learning how to tape things myself and edit. I was forced into it. I didn’t have a choice. The thing with being in front of the camera, there’s obviously a lot of opportunities but sometimes it comes down to a certain look if they want male or female or a certain ethnicity.
Sometimes you can be so talented but that doesn’t even matter because they know they want a male for that role or whatever. I realized as good as you are in front of the camera, sometimes you have to go, “I’m going to take matters into my own hands and start creating my own stuff.” I started forming relationships with other artists, someone to produce a music video or a lifestyle video for an influencer. I started branching out a little and realizing in that trial and error. I found passion being behind the camera.
It’s another form of creating for me. The same thing, as Jonas was saying, you always felt like the black swan that you don’t fit in this one thing and I always put pressure on myself like, “I have to figure it out. I have to be one thing.” I think it gave me more anxiety but now that I’ve been like, “I’m going to give myself grace.” I like to do a couple of different things and giving myself that variety is what fuels me and it gives me energy because I believe variety is the spice of life. I couldn’t enter the same spreadsheet day in, day out for 30 years. That would make me miserable.
I love the variety. I get to meet all sorts of people and it energizes me much more. I feel like I perform better. I show up better because I am allowing myself to not be that one thing and box myself in because who told us that we had to do that anyway? We’re on this planet for a short amount of time. There’s a lot of passions we can have. I’m not saying you have to monetize all your passions. I want to pick up learning the violin. I know I’m not going to ever be in an orchestra but I want to learn how to play for that creative outlet, developing a new passion. Out of being forced, it helped me create opportunities for myself.
Jules is telling us about how she shaped her career. Tell us, Jonas, what does it mean to be a shaper? What do you mean by that when you’re talking about your book in that context?
A lot of the language that Jules uses is spot on. I can say that the literature out there is like, “Follow your passion and never work a day in your life.” It’s meaning and purpose that stand the test of time. That’s something that we project onto our work. If we put all of us into the camp of multipotential lights or multiple careers, we might bump into our passion and start doing something or we might have a natural proclivity for coaching. We find that as soon as we start coaching that it’s like, “I like how this feels.”
Shapers, in general, to use Jules’ language, is they get energized by what they do. That’s checkbox one. They get to express themselves typically daily or on the regular, instead of stuffing who they are or what they want, which often some organizations don’t allow for and some do. That’s checkbox number two. The final one is to believe and to maybe validate that you’re making a difference in the world. Check box number three.
If you wrap it nicely in a Christmas present would be work as a practice, not as a place you go, not as a job you have, not as a time that you do work. It’s emergent. It’s a Morpheus. That’s what we’re seeing is like, “If I want to do this talk and then go for an hour coaching call after the park, which one is work? Is this work? Not really. This is fun. Is the other one work? That’s fun but it gets paid.” Someone looking can say, “Get a job.” I say, “Fuck off.”
It’s a bit of a mindset shift. In some ways it could also be a narrative fallacy where you have to engineer this to make sense of, back to Jules’ comment, the anxiety that comes by trying to conform. It’s doing yourself a disservice and others and modeling it for the next generation to subordinate who you are to fit into a system of post-industrialism that’s no longer fit for our modern world.
Instead, by having more Jules’ around, people can say, “Wait.” It’s not that I want to be an Instagram influencer or YouTuber. That’s sexy but I can have a yoga practice. I can have a part-time marketing job or part-time HR job and be a caretaker for my children or volunteer in the community. All of those, in some, create the sort of shaping life. It’s very hard for someone to point a finger and say, “You are this.”
You guide people and part of your coaching practice is guiding people to become a shaper. You have some programs there that you do that. Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
The shift from consulting to coaching would be the weight is on the expert to solve the problem. For paid performance or performance marketing or anything would be like, “Sam has the domain knowledge. Let’s cast you and compensate you for your day rate or hourly rate.” I did that for a while but there’s something missing.
It wasn’t a true value exchange. There was a little bit of dependability. As you move towards coaching, the onus falls on the client to do the work whether it’s meditation or having a hard conversation with their boss. That to me was like, “Now I’m creating self-reliance or helping to create self-reliance. I’m in effect designing myself out of the gig,” which is a terrible business model but much more rewarding. You have a funnel of clients. Most of these clients are at an inflection point in their careers.
They’re either in an industry that’s the right industry but in the wrong job and they need to do some job crafting and redesign or reconfigure their job. They’re yearning to do something on their own. Finally, make the leap but they need a little bit of confidence or competence or something. Maybe they’re an entrepreneur and they’re a natural-born leader and they’re a pirate and they need support systems to rebuild their resiliency and expose some of their blind spots. In many ways, some of the people I work with who are coaches are smart enough to know that they don’t know everything.
I have one of those later and I always find those exhausting. I come off that call and I’m like, “I need a vacation.” They’re provoking me to move out of, “Here’s what I’m seeing and what you should do,” to something like, “Have you considered another alternative and have them come up with something?” They know their industry or their world much better than I do. That’s how I do that.
The coaching program, which we’ve launched, we’re in our second cohort is trying to create a community of practice because therapy is one-to-one. The person talks and then the therapist talks and then the person cries and the therapist gives a tissue. The coaching community of practice allows for peer coaching, which is very popular in the Zoom world nowadays and it allows for an energy a lot like a fitness class where you feel obligation if you are motivated by external obligations. You don’t want to let down other people because you’re expecting them to share.The anxiety that comes by trying to conform is doing yourself a disservice. Click To Tweet
Although it might not be for everyone, I found it to be very powerful for regulation. Regulating your emotions, regulating your anxieties and stepping outside of your ego into another perspective, even if it’s for an hour. That’s how that world unfolded. I think in 2016, 2017, I discovered coaching by being coached.
They’re like, “I think you’d be a good coach,” or, “I think you should be good at coaching” That person, her name is Alison. She’s a facilitator. She shows up as a facilitator who knows that when she’s facilitating a meeting or a process that the coach approach or the coach hat can be very powerful of asking a question instead of telling. She keeps playing as a coach to have that modality.
Char is a leader of Rocky Mountain Health Advocates. She is trying to bring out the best in her people, understand their talents and so forth. A lot of times, she’s helping them discover that. In the last conversation with Jules, she was telling us about an entrepreneurship mastermind that she attended where she had the question, “I don’t know what I’m good at.” They said, “You’re great at this and this.” You’re telling us also the same thing. How do you help people find their talents and passions through your program? What are those mechanisms that you use?
Jules alluded to trial and error or you fail your way to success or you try on many hats. One exercise is actually borrowed from a Walt Whitman poem and the line goes, “I contain multitudes.” The idea is that there are many selves, many Sams living within Sams. The four-year-old boy, the soccer player, the mountain climber, the mountain biker that might be dormant. The question is what are you going to give life to that you haven’t?
What might you narrow and, in some ways, stop doing because it’s a distraction? It’s a little bit of an assessment at the beginning of, “What qualities make you, you?” When I did this exercise, it was a little bit uncomfortable but it ended up being personified by Indiana Jones. A Maverick, mischievous, adventurous and it was own that step into the qualities that no one else in the world can have because no one has your nature and nurture mix.
That’s your currency especially in a knowledge economy, assuming you don’t work in a factory. That’s a lot of people who are either young in their career, they’ve graduated or they’re still timid in terms of owning their currency. You see 22-year-old life coaches and someone can say, “You haven’t even lived a quarter of the time I’ve lived on this planet,” but somehow through their learning or their confidence or their willingness to sustain the judgment. They own that.
You could say, “Fake it until you make it,” but in many ways, Marie Forleo, she’s a huge coach. She started when she was in her early twenties. Anyway, that’s one. Within about 90 days, which is usually the agile movement. We do 60 days. You’re saying, “Who is the person I’m becoming?” You do accountability both with your pod so you do tree ads, which is a very powerful way.
It’s a powerful way to have other people’s perspectives in the atmosphere so that you can say, “What have I delivered on? What have I been thinking about? How am I doing? Where do I need help?” A lot of those questions, when they happen on your own, you make a longer list and then you’d watch a TED Talk or you listen to a podcast and you either feel deflated because you’re far off.
You feel super motivated but you’re doing it alone. The quote that we use is, “Regeneration doesn’t happen in isolation. It’s a team sport.” I can tell you two stories. One woman quit her job at Oracle and got an Airstream and took her daughter on a road trip and is starting to write and paint. Another woman quit her incubator in the Middle East and is finally doing the work that she believes is going to make an impact in the world at scale. She is making the most contribution that she believes she can make at this point in her life, which is back to making a difference.
That’s what’s bringing people. It’s like, “There’s something in me that’s not being unleashed.” It’s either an ego move of, “I want to own my stamp in the world and I want my name to have currency or I want to make a difference.” Often both together of like, “I want to be recognized as someone who stands up in the community who shows up with their full self.” It’s a willingness and then the discipline has to be there. Otherwise, it’s going to be a bunch of talks.
I know, Char, through your coaching practice and helping people find their passion in HR and also within your business, you utilize a lot of these methods. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I also do career coaching. It all started back when I was in college and I took some personality assessments and they told me that I should be a police officer. I appreciate the service of the police officers so please don’t take those in any way, but I don’t think I’m assertive enough. Ultimately, I ended up in HR and we were joking earlier that it ended up being a police officer kind of role anyway.
I decided I wanted to attend a shift and get in, as you call it, shapeshift or get into talent management strategy. I finally decided to go get my Master’s degree and do that. Fast forward many years, I was laid off from a big healthcare system and it was pretty devastating because I had multiple personal things that were happening, including buying a house and my mom passed away and all kinds of things all in the same month.
It was at that moment, I decided, “We’re going to start our own company and we’re going to run the company the way I think perfect talent management strategists would run the company.” Since I’ve been working with Sam and colleagues here, my company has been flourishing. My employees know that I’m very passionate about what I call career mobility in supporting their desires or dreams or passions.
We have promoted many of our employees to a management role but we’ve also created other roles such as manager of compliance or an executive assistant position or a director of administration. The model has been shifting, as you say, Jonas, as far as honing in on each of my employees’ passions and what they do best.
I get feedback constantly right now that my employees love their job. In fact, one of our employees was going to school to be an epidemiologist and needless to say, even though she’s going to graduate with her degree, she wants to stay with us because we are a dream job for her. Probably will make as much as she would make in her field.
I can tell you on and on but I’ve used the TMA Method and that’s one of our sponsors. It opens up that open, honest dialogue about passions, interests, what people truly want to do to wake up every morning and not drive to work with something that I call the white-knuckle syndrome. I remember when I was a baby HR coordinator when I first started my first HR job and I had a long commute. I drive like an hour or 53 minutes and I remember this white-knuckle syndrome as I was driving home.
I realized my eye was twitching. I was stressed out. I was anxious because we had such a high turnover at this grocery distribution company. I realized, “Maybe this is not what I’m very passionate about.” Now I don’t want to be an employer like that. We have nearly 30 employees and I want my employees to absolutely love their job, have balance in their life and be able to do what they do best each and every day. That’s our motto and it’s been working out great.You have many selves inside of you; they are just dormant. You contain multitudes. Click To Tweet
You went on that journey of finding meaning like Jonas is talking about finding meaning, finding a way to have an impact on the world. I know a big thing for you as HR with a heart and having a healthy workplace. You do that through the Rocky Mountain Health Advocates. Jonas, in your coaching and so forth, how do you help people understand where they can find that meaning and impact upon the world that makes their job so important or that future path for them?
There are 1,000 personality tests out there, too, that I’m a fan of. The Enneagram and the big five personality tests, that’s helpful. “I’m an introvert or an extrovert or I’m open-minded,” but getting gifts of feedback from people to say, “You’d be great at this,” like Jules had someone say, “You could try this.”
Trying it on is such a great way in companies that are very large. The question could be, “Is it safe to try? What harm will this do and what can we learn?” One thing I’ve found interesting is first an acknowledgment and a noticing say, “I love this white-knuckle syndrome.” It’s very precise. You’re like, “Is that who I want to be,” not, “Is that what I want to do? Do I want to be that person who comes home and has to take a bath for an hour to normalize so that I can show up to talk to another human?”
That’s an acknowledgment. A lot of this is with the lens of having the ability or to be fortunate enough to entertain these things, which is in many ways, I think, a duty because if you can’t then you should. The other thing is the large organizations, the telecommunications companies, the big pharma, the big tech. It’s very hard to see your meaningful progress when you’re a cog in the machine.
There are certain people that are in this environment where they’re like, “What’s going on?” They are making an impact but that’s 0.001%. You hit eject and Char sets up this flourishing company. Every day she gets an email or she can see it on someone’s face that she’s creating a livelihood, that person is nourished by their work, that their relationships are thriving.
She can say, “I couldn’t be doing anything else.” She becomes the model for her children and for other people to say, “I can have that, too.” There’s a new book that’s coming about this amazing woman. It’s called We Should All Be Millionaires. One of the people I coach, his wife is reading it. I was like, “It’s so crazy because this book came into my life of there’s a certain portion of the world,” these are usually young women who are a minority who are like, “That’s not me. I don’t deserve that or that’s never going to happen.” All of a sudden, they start seeing people in their community or people that look like them who are and that becomes possible. A lot of this is modeling behavior and it’s from leaders to parents, to peers.
Another thing you mentioned, for a person to be able to shape their future, you talk about having the vital ingredients. Can you tell us a little bit more about what those vital ingredients are?
I wonder if I remember them all. One of them is having intuition. Not getting caught up in your intellectual brain but feeling it in your heart and gut. This conversation feels dynamic. It feels alive. It doesn’t feel contrived. It felt like that last time but I’ve been on some of these where it questions, answer and it’s like, “What’s the next question?” You know it. That’s like, “Are you in the right ballpark in terms of your career?” Let’s think of another one.
The vital ingredients was an acronym and ingredients is the word. There’s eleven. Intuiting is the first one. Noting is the second one, which is what people do in meditation. It’s that thought I don’t have any control over that scenario. The vaccines are being rolled out in America, like it or not. There’s going to be a common vaccine passport. Now, what can you have control over? Maybe you get your kids’ backs. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you move to Mexico. I don’t know if Char is in Mexico anymore.
Feeling like you’re showing up as a giver and not a taker relating, there’s a whole theory about relational energy. Some work environments are toxic. The reason why they’re toxic is that often people are in a fear-based mode, they’re anxious. They’re that to the work then they’re bringing it back home, rinse and repeat and bringing it back.
We know what that looks like. Once you taste that and you can get out of it, you’d never go back. Expanding, seeing the world with wide eyes and seeing possibility and expanding your horizon versus contracting. Discerning, being discerning with your time, attention and energy, which are your biggest commodities. Integrating giving life a myriad of projects so that we are valued both for the work that we do and working on ourselves.
A lot of people say, “I got to do the work.” It’s like, “Are you talking about the work on your relationship, the work in your garden, working on your kids, working on your body?” Work is the ubiquitous term. Expressing, we’ve already talked about. Navigating, the tenacity to engage with the unknown and constantly stretch our capabilities. COVID has said, “What is your ability to navigate change?”
Either it sucks or it’s great but that’s a skill to have. Trusting. Everything breaks down without trust. Trust in your colleagues, trust in yourself. The last one is very much like intuiting. It’s sensing at the individual collective and global level appreciating what’s needed in any given moment and then having the audacity to show up wholeheartedly.
That makes ingredients. It was a nice way to bring in all of these things I was thinking about when I was writing this. You don’t necessarily have all of those at 100% but maybe you’ve got different weights and knowing where you are in terms of your currency and how indispensable you are from a talent point of view, that’s going to bring you confidence. Confidence and competence are natural bedfellows.
There’s so much to unpack there. Let’s pull out a few things that are my favorites. One you mentioned was giving. I find this so important and also so dangerous because I’m actually in business, I’m trying to make a living for myself but I love to give. I love to talk to people and help them solve their issues and so forth and give.
What I found in my career is that if you find something that you do where you love to give, that’s a sign that you’re doing something with passion. That’s what you love to do. It’s like, “If I didn’t get paid for what I do, I would do it for free.” It’s great. I don’t know how much more to say about that but I found that something that resonated with me in your ingredients.
I said to someone, “I’m a recovering people-pleaser.” When you start with the give and someone’s like, “Can I borrow your brain? Can I pick your brain? Can I ask you something?” You jump or a family member is like, “Can you help me?” They haven’t even thought through what it is they need help with. “Can you go to Costco and pick up some shoes?” You’re driving there and you’re like, “Why am I doing this?” I had to learn about being discerning. It’s a two-way street.
Giving with an abundance mindset and with your whole self versus giving with an agenda of getting somewhere down the road or giving too much such that you burn out or your inner resources are depleted. I love that idea of, let’s say in Sam’s wheelhouse, 30% can be pro bono giving and you do it and 70% is like, “I got to earn a living and put food on the table and pay taxes.”
I also think that giving also leads to trust you’re talking about because when you’re giving, you’re giving with authenticity and with knowledge and you sharing something that you have that can help others with. There’s this authenticity there that fosters trust, which I think is so important in that mix.
I love how you’re seeing all over the world with Glassdoor and stuff. Businesses are transparent now. I was like, “When the hell were they not supposed to be?” We’re off showing our taxes and the Cayman Islands or in Delaware whether it was Starbucks or someone else. Now especially a younger generation in two seconds whether it’s a commercial, Instagram or Glassdoor, they’ve got a pretty good sense check of like, “Is this company full of hot air or hot water?”Appreciate what's needed at any given moment and have the audacity to show up wholeheartedly. Click To Tweet
My company is extremely transparent almost to the point of default. It’s the personality of our CEO. I’m always the one going, “We just started talking to our partner.” In a way, at least our employees know, particularly during the COVID and the risk of a potential shutdown. I’ve had employees say, “The reason why we hung in there with you is that you’re extremely transparent that we are facing a lockdown and that you’re doing everything that you can do to get the PPP loan to make sure our employees are being paid.”
A lot of companies do not do that, is what I’m hearing because they didn’t take the time. I think there are pros and cons of being too transparent but since we have such, I called it a volatile type of business model that’s constantly changing. Every day there’s a new change. And all we can do is constantly communicate what the changes are, what’s happening with the laboratories, what’s happening with the teledoctor format. Our employees now can relax a bit because they’ll be all be like, “At least they always tell me what’s around the corner. I don’t have to constantly worry what the secrets are.”
Talking about the thing is changing and you’re adapting to those changes and so forth, but I think that another thing you talk about Jonas is packaging your story. It seems that you have a certain vision or mission in your practice, Char. Is that what you mean by packaging your story as far as coming up with that story of why you like to do the thing you like to do, why your talents and so forth? Can you tell us a little bit more about that, Jonas?
Our brains are wired for narration. I was telling you guys about my dad’s talk and it’s going to be about caring for the elders and my uncle got them. He was a San Francisco dentist, golfer, all of this stuff. A wonderful story. He walked into a room, he’d laugh and the whole room would laugh. He’s one of those people. My dad has this memo of four pages and he’s reading it and I go, “You’re not telling the story. You’re showing up with facts.”
If you look at data with soul is taking the data and saying, “What’s interesting? It turns out that 70% of our staff love how transparent we are and 30% don’t because it makes them uncomfortable.” You can then make a decision and you’d stick with, let’s say, “Let’s make those people uncomfortable,” and if we use Zappos as an example, they’ll quit and they’ll go somewhere else.
The 70% will become evangelists. Storytelling becomes not only useful from a branding point of view but it is. Jules would know this is super important from the Brand Inc. that everyone is their own business now.” Assuming you’re breathing and you’re in the Western world, arguably your own business whether you’re incorporated or not and how you tell your story is how the world will hopefully understand or even appreciate your talents. You’re doing a disservice to yourself and to them because I’ll never find you.
The whole marketing funnel, awareness, consideration and purchase apply to Sam. One person I like. She had a talk and it said, “Don’t think of it as selling. Think of it as sharing.” You are making an impact and you aren’t giving. I did that with coaching. I’m like, “I might not be the good coach for you but if I am, we’re going to have some fun and you’re going to be challenged and provoked and then you’ll probably go on to have another coach or maybe you will stop with that for a while and integrate and then find someone else.” Storytelling has become so necessary in every facet of life.
I like the concept of having fun on the way. Now I had a previous business partner and we went to this coaching session and through this coaching session, the coach was all focused on the destination, the getting there and the wealth and stuff like this. I was like, “I’m on the journey, man. I want to have fun as I go. I want to do stuff and all that.” We realized that we were on two completely different paths and we separated ways but I think that’s part of understanding the story as well.
We’re looking for in our lives and so forth and I think you tell a story in your book that sets it up marvelously about what it means to be a shaper and so forth. I know you’re a big surf enthusiast. Tell us a little bit about the concept of shaping the board and how that comes out to a person’s life and how they shape their future?
This is made by Manny, the guy who is making me my next surfboard. He makes speakers now. This is actually a prototype and then here would be your speaker, in many ways to scratch a creative itch, to figure it out. At some point, like this very cool coffee shop in New York and another hotel in San Diego. I was like, “Can you make those speakers for us?” His passion turned into, to use Jules’ term, something that was monetized.
Now, not everything needs to be monetized and he started with the process and with the journey of discovery, of learning, of tinkering. Same with his surfboard shaping. He was working at REI. You guys know what REI is. The mountain company. He had a story there but the story goes that he was like, “I’m not going to end up working here for my life. There’s got to be something else for me.” He tried to make this quad fish surfboard from the ’70s.
It has a little fish at the end of the mouth. It has a different feeling on the wave and he rode it in Half Moon Bay outside of San Francisco and all of the surfers were laughing at him because they’re like, “What kind of wacky board is that?” Then they saw him surfing and this guy is so graceful. They’re like, “Can you make me one of those? That’s pretty cool.” He made a board for the other guy and the other guy. Now, him and his wife have a thriving.
She has her own surfboard shaping company and so does he. When I was trying to find a person to epitomize or exemplify a shaper, I was like, “There’s no other person that I know who exemplifies that because he is a surfboard shaper.” I went and I tried to get his story. He was very reluctant because he’s one of those people who is so humble. He doesn’t want that story told. I was like, “You need to. You don’t have a choice because I’m going to tell it anyway.”
Once he found how we can put his stamp and inject himself into his work, what happens is he doesn’t even make surfboards for shops anymore. He only makes them for individuals like Jonah Hill, the actor. He’ll come to Char and be like, “What body type do you have? Do you want a longboard or shortboard? What are the waves like at your local beach?” You’ve got this board that was made for you.
It’s a labor of love. The price is actually not even an issue. Whether there’s $600 or a $1,000, it’s like, “Whatever.” You’re doing it because you need to. Anyway, I co-opted that term and I democratized it. Anyone could be a shaper, meaning you can apply the same methodology and approach and mindset to your work.
I’m glad that there’s going to be a surfboard for us short people.
Some tall people want shortboards, but it’s also a good metaphor. A friend of mine was saying about COVID being like the ocean and some of the waves would be very gnarly to get hit with the lockdown. All of a sudden, it’s like a ripple and you’re like, “It’s calmed down.” The metaphor of surfing is also appropriate for these times of navigation, patience, balance, versatility. There are a lot of articles out there of the surfer mindset has always been a little bit of a dropout and anti-establishment but it’s also about being able to adapt quickly.
The funniest thing is that my dog, Aspen, my white German Shepherd, she’s a surfer. She hasn’t gotten on a board yet but the times when the waves hit perfectly when they crest in and then she stands there and watches it then she swims out and gets the ball and then she rides the way back onto the beach. Maybe we need to get a board made for a dog.Confidence and competence are natural bedfellows. Click To Tweet
The one thing that I like about that conversation, Jonas says, is that, “Crafting a board for your environment not for yourself but for the environment that you’re in.” I noticed that I’m a big snow skier, I like to do this and that’s why I have seven pairs of skis. There’s one that I like that I use for the type of skiing I like.
I use that probably 70% of the time but then I go out in the backcountry and I’m skiing on some cruddy snow at certain times a year and I need to use a different board for that to be able to perform my best. I use that board for that. I think that’s another thing that we can probably draw a parallel to a work-life is that there might be our most favorite environment.
Sometimes, we have those tasks that we have to adapt to that we need a different tool or a different shape or a different vehicle. That allows us to perform best in that situation. I think coming up with a narrative or a style for those types of situations is important. Would you agree? Do you ever see any of that in those people that you coach or do they have the things that they love to do but sometimes those things have little elements of things that they’re maybe not the best at or things that they adapt to?
I studied philosophy and the first assignment was Genesis, the Bible but then the next one was Plato’s Republic. It had the born dung sweeper should stay that and the born philosopher should say that. I was agitated by that, I was like, “What if you want to be an opera singer and you have a terrible voice.”
I think to that point is, finding your talents and bumping into them doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make those a commodity. When you have the itch to do something, let’s use Jules’ again, let’s pick on her to pick up the violin. Why not pick up the violin, become a professional amateur and have that feed how you show up the next day when you come into work because you played with the local orchestra?
I’m never going to be a professional surfer but there have been times when I catch a wave and I am in many ways. They talk about flow states. There’s nowhere else that I am because it’s almost sometimes life or death. You mess up and you might be underwater for the next two minutes. For skiing, you see a piece then you’re like, “Where does that?”
You face your fear, you lean into that and then the next day at work, there’s an awkward conversation or hard conversation to have. That’s peanuts. It’s no big deal. I don’t look at it, my friend, Manny, would say, it’s a mandala and the parts of those that do not pay or the parts that you’re an amateur and you’re not that great of but you really enjoy doing, who am I to tell you not to do those things?
It’s been a great conversation. I invite anybody that has questions to please bring those up for Jonas. While we’re waiting for those questions, I want to have another word for our sponsor here, TMA Method. The TMA Method is a great tool for us to learn a little bit about ourselves and to learn a little bit about the people that work for us or we interact with.
Basically, it’s a tool that shows their talents or their work preferences and so forth. It’s there to create a dialogue and so we can learn a little bit about each other and our passions and the way we like to work. It’s a great tool. If you’d like to try out or the TMA Method or also have a little bit of time with any of us here on the call, you can feel free to go ahead and use this if you’re on the Zoom platform. Go ahead and you can use this poll to sign up for some time or if you’re on any of the other platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube or anything like that. Feel free to reach out and send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to set up that time with you or with anybody on our panel here.
Also, we’d like to bring attention to our next speaker here. It’s going to be our very own Char. Jonas was saying Char was in Mexico not too long ago. Char was actually managing her company from afar, which I think is a new model that inspires a lot of us to be able to manage from wherever we’re at or in our favorite location. If you can be on a beachfront managing your staff, why not? Char is going to tell us a little bit about her experiences and how we can learn from them in our next session. Let’s return to our conversation at hand. Jules, do we have any questions that came up as far as Jonas?
I don’t think we have any questions that have popped up. I think people have been taking in all this. There’s been so much great information. I’m trying to take mental notes of everything.
I have a question for you, Jonas. Let’s say that our readers out there, somebody is inspired by this and says, “I’ve been in this crummy career for too long or COVID has totally changed my job and I don’t like it anymore.” What are the next steps that they should take?
Everyone is unique and there’s no one size fits all. Some people can draw craft and that’s looking at their relationships at work, that’s looking at their actual work activity so maybe they move from marketing to HR or from HR to marketing in the same company or the same industry or maybe they need a vacation and go to Mexico and watch their dogs surf and then come back.
That’s a lot of stuff turning the job you have into the one you love. Other people actually are in the wrong job and no matter what they do, they’re putting lipstick on the pig and they got to change. I have a bias towards autonomy in work and there are not that many companies, maybe Char’s organization and more tech-oriented companies and companies that have adapted to give more agency to people.
If that’s the case, that’s the first thing that is the motivation and work. The second one is a challenge and the third is purpose. If you get all of those, you’re winning. You’re in effect energized by your work. It’s very hard for organizations to provide that uniformly to everyone because everyone has different thresholds. That’s why setting up on your own or working for a micro or a family-run business can create a sense of joy and of contribution but not necessarily only.
People work for Google and Apple and they love it and they are making a big difference. I try to coach, “What’s important to you? What does that look like? What’s at stake if you don’t do that? If not now, when?” Have a series of questions that are just, at some point, I can almost throw out the next question as algorithm and then be like, “I hadn’t thought about that.” They talk and I’m taking a nap.
Obviously, the whole beauty is everyone has a different personality and to be sensitive both what I want is to see them flourish but my agenda has to be held passively back to you and your ex-business partner. You’re enjoying the process that he wanted to get to the destination. I want to enjoy the journey with that person and not be so eager and impatient to try and accelerate to get to, “I’m now in joyful work or meaningful work.” You’re not seeing work as a practice, you’re seeing it as like, “I’ve got the title, I’ve got the business card, I got the corner office.” That’s not going to tick a box for a lot of people. That’s a temporary metric.
Tell me how our readers can learn a little bit more about you and the coaching programs that you provide?
If they want to do one-to-one coaching, they can head over to JonasAltman.com and I think Jules put the coaching program and the book at Shapers.life. Before COVID, I would go into companies and I would rattle the cage and I still do that sometimes. That’s SocialFabric.com and I bring shapers together there and we try to instigate change using facilitation, coaching and often consulting in a way that creates a cascading effect. I’m always open to having new conversations so please reach out.
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much, Jonas, for joining us once again. I love having these conversations with you because you’re so insightful and there’s so interesting going through your experience and listening to what you have to share.
I’m grateful to be involved. Thanks for thinking of me again. Sumit, I hope you are healthy. Speedy recovery and have a great day wherever you are.
Take care. Thank you so much.
I’m a founder, writer, and coach on a mission to make the world of work more human. I create transformational learning experiences to elevate and grow leaders around the world.
I train and coach on culture change, write about the changing world of work, and my chronicles have appeared in Quartz, Fast Company, The Guardian, Forbes, and The Sunday Times.
My bestselling book SHAPERS: Reinvent the way you work and change the future is available at all fine book shops.