If you can’t lead yourself, how can you manage to lead a group of people, let alone a business? Joining our esteemed panel to discuss the value of leading self is Chance Eaton. Chance is the CEO of Big Sky Way, providing organizational health solutions to progressive and purpose-driven organizations across the globe. Leadership is a much bigger topic than we realize. In this episode, Chance uncovers the psychophysiological roots that impact how we lead ourselves in our everyday lives. What goes on inside manifests in the work we do outside. Amid the chaos, how do leaders stay grounded on their values and goals? Meditation is a vital part of that. Tune in as Chance imparts mindset strategies and mindfulness practices to help you stay on the path to happiness and success in life and business.
We are so excited to have you all here. If it’s your first time or your 50th time joining us, we’re glad that you are here. We appreciate your energy. If you’ve never been to a People Strategy Forum and you’re like, “I registered for this thing. I don’t know what’s going on or what’s happening. There’s a whole panel and a lot is going on,” we host a weekly webinar. It’s completely free and it has so much valuable information. Our goal is to engage, energize, and elevate your employees and your company. We do that by having an expert panel with all kinds of different backgrounds and compensation, HR and entrepreneurship, and so much more. We then invite a guest speaker to come and lead a topic.
Every week is different and we want this to be interactive. We don’t want you to feel like we’re just talking to you. If there are any questions, comments or feedback, go ahead and write them in the chat and address it to everyone, not just to the host and panelist. We’ll make sure we get those questions answered. If you’re tuning in from a different platform like LinkedIn or Facebook, you can still write the question, and we’ll always make sure we get those answered at the end for you as well.
I did mention an expert panel. Let me introduce you to everyone here. We have Howard, who is a compensation expert and a reward strategist. He has over three decades of experience working with different companies across a range of industries. He has helped them implement successful compensation programs.
We also have Sumit. He is a people strategist and HR consultant. He’s always in the know with the latest and greatest HR practices. He helps companies grow and expand by going in and creating a roadmap for them. We also have Sam, who is the Founder and CEO of CompTeam. He brings us this forum each and every week. He finds the speakers for us and brings us all together. He is also a compensation and rewards expert.
As I said, experts are all around. That leads us to our guest speaker who is Chance Eaton. If you tune into the forum regularly, he has been here before, so he might be a familiar face for you. He’s great. I love his conversational skills. You’re going to love him. He has great energy. A little bit about Chance is that he founded Big Sky Way back in 2009, and it’s a consulting company. He’s an educator. He helps businesses expand and grow through consulting and education. We’re very excited to welcome him back. Our topic is Leading Self. I’m wondering what’s in store because that’s a nice general topic and it could go anywhere. Just relax and take some notes. Chance, you’re up. Thank you so much for coming back.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Leading self, I like generic terms. I’m old school. I get tired of all the hooks, pain points, and sexy language around titles. The older I get, the older I get. When we’re talking about names, I’m like, “How about leading self? I’m a grumpy old man.
It’s something that we all need, so it’s an easy one.
It comes anecdotally. It’s not research or anything, but what you experience with people coming into the office. That’s qualitative research. What kind of themes comes up? It’s our job to watch what are those needs. We’ve noticed that one of those needs is business. A lot of companies struggle with too much dependency on their shoulders. The company is not valuable. How do we grow? How do we strategize? There are operational efficiencies, marketing and finance, and being able to sit down and interpret your financial statements, and make decisions. That’s a strain in itself.
Leading your culture is a religion. You’re trying to build a religion in your organization. What those beliefs and values are, what do we do, and how do we do it? What is our core strategy so everyone’s moving in the same direction? That has got a lot of weight to it. The tough one is leading teams. All that different psychology in the room, different motivations and styles, trying to make sure people are performing, and being okay with all that responsibility on your shoulders is a lot of stuff. Leading self is something we don’t talk about very often. It’s mysterious.
It comes up in our office where someone says, “I’m starting to make mistakes. I’m overwhelmed. My relationship is suffering at home. I’m not doing a good job of taking care of myself.” If you can’t take care of yourself, how do you take care of your culture, your teams and your business? We don’t talk about it much, but it’s fundamental and critical. More than ever, we have to be thinking holistically about what leadership means. In our opinion, this is part of the leadership bucket.
One of the things that I hear most that are the most important in organizations is trust. If you think about those things that we trust, those are the things that we can rely on. They are consistent, they are there, and ready to go. They are operating as we expect them to be operating. One of the things that I see with individuals is because we are chaotic by nature, we often find ourselves doing sprints here and there.
Also, we’re doing these pushes to where we’re getting to that element of burnout and so forth. When I think about leading self, I always think about how we can get into this marathon in a way where we can continue running at the appropriate pace, meet the end goal, and be trustworthy overall. What are your thoughts on that?
I like the idea of trust. Am I credible? Am I competent in my area? Am I reliable? Am I independent? Do I have that emotional intimacy? Can I sit there with you and understand? Where’s my level of self-orientation? How much of this is my ego? You can see, if I can’t trust myself, how is that going to play out anywhere else, but you have to be trustworthy.
There is this deep dive into our character. That’s part of the formula, our character and our principles. We love the diet pill. We love the quick fix. We love the program of the month. Because it requires that we change, it is slow work. Change is slow and it’s hard. One thing we have to do is get back to our principles and character. What does it mean to be responsible in your life? What does it mean to have a sense of purpose? Who am I? What do I stand for? What do I fight for? What would I die for? What’s my direction?
If I don’t set my direction, history will. My context, my mood and my past will. How do I follow through with what I say is important? I always say talk is cheap. Follow through. That’s integrity. Building trust, having this collaborative mindset, and knowing how to listen are all principle things. The author I love that has done such a good job with this is Dr. Stephen Covey, who has passed away. When people pick up the book, it feels a little cheesy, “Here are the sequences.” It’s got very clean and simple language, but there’s some depth to it. Part of this is we’ve got to figure out the character now more than ever in all this chaos. How do I plant my feet and know who I am and what I stand for?
You’ve mentioned Covey. One of the things that I liked about his approach is the fact that we wear multiple hats in our lives. We’re parents. We’re siblings. We’re sons and daughters. We’re citizens. We all have these different roles to play. To live a balanced life, we need to think about how we are addressing all those important things so that we’re ensuring that we’re leading ourselves appropriately. When I first read that in his book or one of his training many years ago, it sticks with me. It’s so valuable. It’s something that when I go through my goal planning at the beginning of each year and so forth, I’m thinking about, “Let’s look at these different buckets. What do I want to accomplish in each role of my life?” I find that hugely meaningful.
With my family, there’s a leadership function there. I’m using a lot of the same principles, but what is the end in mind with my kiddos? It’s that someday they leave the house, maybe not. I like them there. Maybe they don’t leave or whatever, but they become great citizens. The best end in mind is that my ex-spouse and I collaboratively work together so that they know their strengths. They know where they’re weak. They know what they stand for. They go out and pick their own religions and politics to set them up to be citizens. That’s a leadership practice. I think that changes how you parent. If I know that’s the end in mind, it sure makes conversations with my ex-spouse and me much easier. It’s still leadership in our churches, our communities, our workplace and self. Leadership is a bigger topic than we realize.Leadership is a bigger topic than we realize. Click To Tweet
Sumit, we’re talking about Covey and so forth from my perspective. I’m interested to hear if there’s a different perspective that you have from your global experience in India and so forth.
That’s an interesting question, Sam. I’m a huge fan of The 7 Habits as well. If I had to pick one that I like to apply, it’s the last one, Sharpen the Saw. Overall, as leaders, we fail to implement the last one most of all. It’s very easy to fall into that comfort trap of, “I’ve got to this position. I’ve worked hard all my life. I’ve got X number of years or decades or lots of experience behind me. There isn’t anything left for me to learn.”
Getting over that mindset is the biggest challenge. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from the pandemic is that whatever you know or whatever you are comfortable with can change in an instant. Don’t get too comfortable out there. Don’t get into that “who moved my cheese” mentality. Make sure you are sharpening the saw as a leader, and encourage your people to do the same as well.
When we think about sharpening the saw, I think that a lot of the detriment of many leaders is they feel like that they don’t need to do that so much anymore. It’s a huge detriment to our current lifestyle because things in the world are changing so fast. We were talking about the trends that we’re seeing in AI and so forth. That trend spotting is a major role of leadership. Understanding what’s changing in my business and what’s changing with people management and so forth. Also, understanding what we need to do to react. That’s a continual effort of sharpening the saw and success.
A decade ago, who would’ve thought that Apple would be the largest watchmaker in the world? Who would’ve thought that models of car ownership would completely change with companies like Uber, Lyft, and so many other folks around? Disruption could come in from any direction. The Apple example is something I’m fond of because they’ve completely shattered barriers in so many different industries. Now, the entire watchmaking industry looks up to them. Five or ten years ago, they were zero. They just came up. Now, if you don’t have an Apple watch, it’s like you’re probably living in some ancient age somewhere.
Howard, I see you’re trying to jump in there. Go ahead.
I was thinking back and there has been a lot of focus on being your authentic self and then trying to reconcile that with the workplace environment. Back in my earlier days, you had your work self, and then you had your out-of-work self. Now it’s like, “Bring your whole self to the organization.” That presents unique challenges in terms of what you think about the organization and how the organization has to think about its employees.
Gallup has done some work around this in the past. We had a job and that was the expectation, but now people want a life. They want work to be an extension of their life. It’s this holism. Holism is hard for the West. In the West, it’s about, “I like going to the gym.” I love those posters that are very Western, “Success, Achievement, Victory.”
This holism is a little more Eastern of, what are we always doing? What about this moment right now or this beingness in this space, this richness, or this core of your consciousness? I can sit here and observe my body. I’m observing it and I’m feeling it. I can observe and watch my thoughts, the rumination and the feelings that go with that. Who’s doing that observing? I can watch my past. I’m not my past. You get to this weird core that we struggle with. Religion tends to step in and say, “We’ve got an answer for this,” but there is a consciousness there that is presenting itself. This Eastern-Western philosophy, there’s a nice balance there. We’re just being awakened to something deeper.
One thing that’s funny about this self thing is when I think about the trends, that to me is a business topic. We need to be watching what’s happening in the environment, but if I’m working on myself, I’m having to change. I always like the idea of, “Here’s my comfort zone.” As soon as I create change and intention, that’s good. We like some of that. When you create tension, there’s more awareness, creativity and energy. It’s a good thing. We call that eustress but it needs to go back. The mind doesn’t care if it goes back to where it was or to the new place. We need that piece. I don’t know if you ever heard of Joe Dispenza. He has this hilarious take on why change is so hard. Have you guys heard of Joe Dispenza before? Jules has.
I love Joe. His meditations put me out for the day. I’m like, “Where am I? I’m in a different dimension right now.”
He’s one of those leading people talking about this movement. When I woke up in the morning, and you do as well, you get up and go through this subconscious routine. I shower, I groom and I get my favorite coffee mug. That’s my mug. I take that same route to work. Think about driving. Driving is a very complicated process. I showed up at work. I take that same route. I get to work and I have that same routine. Most of my day is going through those old habits. At the end of the day, I go home on that same route. I go to bed and it starts all over again.
We become products of our environment. We love and we need this familiar past. We love and need this predictable future, so we’re stuck in that. The bummer of all this is we’re secretly hoping something great will happen to us. If you think about the mind, you hear that the average person has anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Most of those thoughts are the same thoughts that we had yesterday and the day before that. You go through this rhythm. You have these same thoughts, same emotions, same choices, same behaviors and experiences, and then the same thoughts and emotions again.
You start to memorize this. You start to crystallize how your mind works or your set point. If you think about the mind, it’s built as a survival tool. We’re not built for success. We’re built for survival. In the ’70s, Karl Pribram, at Stanford talked about the brain as simply this pattern recognition, pattern matching and storage system. It’s constantly trying to build a familiar baseline so it can make sense to the world, prepare for the future, understand the past, and uses as little energy as possible.
It’s wired like that. Every time there’s a stimulus that’s moderate to extreme, the brain is looking for a mismatch. It is going to create different emotional responses. It’s built for that. If you have this visual of an arrow, and the back of the arrow with the feathers is the emotions, the thoughts, and my story, that leads to my speech and the results of my actions. Most people are shooting that arrow in the same place every single day. To be able to change that requires a fundamental shift in how we think and how feel, and changing our story. The old ’70s positive talk is not enough.Most people are shooting that arrow in the exact same place every single day. To change that requires some kind of fundamental shift in how we think and how we feel and changing our story. Click To Tweet
Remember the old SNL skit, “I’m good enough and I’m Smart Enough, doggone it, people like me!” Consciously, I can have that discussion, but subconsciously, it’s a much larger program if it’s not in alignment. We wonder why positive talk isn’t working. Here we are. We want predictability. We want familiarity. We build these baselines, and even the stress in the hormones becomes addicted to that. That becomes part of our set point. We even use conditions to reaffirm our addictions. If I’m angry, I grew up angry, and I was in an angry household, that emotion is like nicotine or caffeine. I need that anger. If something is going good during the day, I will find a reason to be angry again so I can be familiar with myself.
Think about people in relationships, “I’m back with my ex because it feels right.” That’s total BS. It’s just familiar that’s why you’re back. The point here is we can become addicted to a life we don’t even like. That’s the bugger of this. As we’re trying to change, the mind is fighting us all along. The secret to all this work is it’s your nervous system. If it’s not regulated to a level of success or definition or standard that you want, the body will not let you get there. It’s deep work and we have to learn how to self-regulate and change our nervous system. That’s the funny part of all this. Maybe it’s funny for me.
What are the first steps that a person has to take?
Isn’t that the answer? From my perspective, I use this analogy of a mind garden. It’s that farming piece. Symbolism can hold a lot of data. I’m thinking about the crops. I have a farming background. We’d set that seed and the crops as those experiences that I want to have in my life, emotionally with relations and spiritually with work. The weeds are those subconscious sabotaging thoughts and feelings or things that hold us back.
If you think about the mind garden, it’s indifferent. Think about your garden. Does your garden care what it grows? It doesn’t care if it’s weeds or crops. It’s indifferent. We have to learn how to do this. That’s a nice analogy to box this all up, but I think part of the crop piece is principles. It’s getting back to some old-school fundamentals. Covey would argue that principle is a fundamental truth. It’s part of our DNA.
Getting back to our principles too, there’s a lot of momentum that’s around, what am I wicked smart in? Where are my shoulders the broadest? Where do I grow the fastest, learn the fastest, and show the most? All the research and work around talents, especially those companies that turned it into a strength framework. Gallup is a great tool and they’re so cheap. All these companies go off and make their own stuff. Gallup got so many tools at our disposal. It’s knowing your wicked talent. For me, it’s connectedness, strategy, learning and input, and maximizing your ideation and intellect. These are things that come naturally to me
That’s part of using that lens as I go through life. To me, the third big thing is to learn how to meditate. That’s a whole funny conversation because a lot of people meditating are just closing their eyes and thinking. They’re asking their friend to take a picture of them so they can put it on their Facebook and say, “Look how great my life is. Look at how calm I am?” It’s an Eastern practice. It’s learning to be calm. A lot of people say, “Chance, I just can’t do it. I can’t calm my mind.” “That’s right. You’re special. I forgot about that. There’s something special about you.” It’s like anything else. It takes work and effort. Awareness comes from this act of trying to calm the mind. In my opinion, those are the big three things.
I like how you were talking about setting this up in almost a farmer-crop environment. We’re thinking of planting that seed, growing that crop, pulling the weeds, and so forth. The one thing that comes to my mind as you were talking earlier about habits and so forth is how people get into habits. They’re building and creating infrastructure.
When I think in the context of the crop, as you mentioned, those habits help us create this robustness or this resilience against that big storm or the unexpected freeze, and the resilience that is necessary to be able to deal with those abrupt changes in our life. How do you typically coach your leaders on how to be more resilient to ensure that they have this habit in place to where they’re going to be able to weather the storm?
Let me see if I understand this, Sam. How do I help folks to develop resilience, and to bend but not break? The tool I’ll go to from a meditation perspective is self-regulation. I don’t think stress is the issue. Stress is a natural part of our system. I’ll use meditation. I think that’s a tool we need to learn how to use. If you think about our ancestors, our history is not that long. I think we’ve only been farming for 10,000 years. Organized humanity is probably 40,000 or 50,000 years.
Let’s go back in time 100,000 years, and Chance is a cave person. I live in the cave. I’m doing some hand painting. My in-laws, we all look a little too similar in the cave. I’m going to go leave. I’m going to go do some hunting so I got my club. I’m wandering around looking for some food and getting out of there. I come across a saber-tooth tiger. This beautiful thing happens. My sympathetic nervous system takes over. My pupils dilate. My blood starts moving to my large muscles and I escape, hopefully.
When I get back to the cave, I’m in my parasympathetic response. I’m like, “Tiger. Teeth long. Cubs. Food.” My parasympathetic is bringing me back to a resting, digesting, and healing place. The problem is that the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of our automatic nervous system are supposed to move in sync. What we’re doing is we’re driving through life with one foot in the accelerator and one foot in the break all the time. We’re not getting anywhere. It’s tearing our systems apart.
What we’re doing to help teach self-regulation is creating coherence so our autonomic nervous system gets back into sync. When I do that, I can self-regulate because that’s the solution. Stress is not the problem. I perceive the world differently. I react and I behave differently. I feel my emotions are different. To me, that resilience that you’re getting at Sam, and that self-regulation is we need to change our nervous system, and how it regulates so we can get back to a coherent place.We need to literally change our nervous system and how it regulates so we can get back to a coherent place. Click To Tweet
These are tools. There’s so much cool stuff out there. We use HeartMath. HeartMath is our go-to technique. I can stop during a stressful call or a stressful meeting and take two minutes out to create a psychophysiological coherent state. No one knows I’m doing it. I do a lot of mindfulness and other meditation, but that’s typically more of a parasympathetic response. It’s disassociation, but I don’t have the chance to say, “I don’t like how this meeting is going, everyone. Let’s take a 30-minute time out so I can calm down and sit in the corner.” We need something we can use in real-time, and HeartMath is good at very quickly changing that coherent state. Sam, that’s my go-to. It is teaching leaders how to meditate.
The importance of meditation that you’re mentioning here is key. It’s an important thing to realize, and people out there are realizing it. When people think of meditation, they often think of one methodology, and you brought up another one. I know there’s a whole host of different ways of mindfulness, and finding your own technique is quite important, right?
Right, and the practice of it. They all hold some things in common. There’s something about a focal point. If I brought in some meditation bells and I chimed them, your mind starts to collapse into a singularity. That’s the point. What you’re doing is you’re building that muscle between the thalamus and the amygdala saying, “You’re disrupting the stress response. You learn to control the mind.”
Sumit, not to generalize here, but I know India is a huge source of mindfulness and meditation. What has your experience been with the culture there around that technique?
Mindfulness is within us. Somewhere on the business side, we lost the mindfulness angle a lot because much of corporate India is an offshoot of American and European practices. Therefore the East-West difference that you’re talking of has become diluted a bit. I find mindfulness is being used less as leading self and more of you should be mindful to become more effective.
It’s more of a prescription to employees and saying, “Attend mindfulness training. It’s fine if I send you an email at 11:00 the night. You are probably not mindful enough to be able to respond to it, therefore the problem is with you.” It’s being used a little wrongly. There is a focus on mindfulness, but less on the leading self-angle. It’s more on the leading others part of it. It’ll be interesting to see if you’ve seen or heard anything different in your experiences.
The benefit of it is back to self-regulation and developing a greater total awareness of what’s going on. I’m feeling like I’m back in control and I can be resilient and self-regulate. I think that makes sense. One interesting thing is we use HeartMath. As you said, Sam, we can make up a meditation right now and we can label it with something and go make some money on it. How HeartMath works is on my Y axis, I have beats per minute, and I have my heart rate or my ECG.
The heartbeat is doing this kind of stuff. It’s going up and down. The heartbeat is speeding up and slowing down. If you start to plot those beats per minute, you get some kind of shape. That’s called heart rate variability. With a larger range, you have more resilience. You have more adaptability. That range gets smaller and smaller as you age. What we’re teaching people to do is affect that shape. When you practice a very simple technique, I’m creating a coherent state. My sympathetic nervous system speeds up the heart or both branches attached to the heart. It’s speeding up the heart, and my parasympathetic slowing it down. I’m influencing the shape of my heart rate variability.
When you get into that kind of state or when you’re in that coherent state, all these funny things happen. You release less cortisol, more DHA or the anti-aging hormone, and more immune-fighting antibodies. I start to synchronize with my brain waves. In fact, there’s research that shows your brain wave will start to synchronize with me as well. Your heart rate variability will synchronize with me. Also, the thinking process. More information travels to the brain than the brain does to the heart.
If I’m sending a calm signature up to my thalamus at the top of my brainstem that’s responsible for sensory distribution, it’s going to send a nice calming signal to the rest of the mind, and then it’s going to come back down to the limbic system for an emotional response. When we get stressed, the amygdala pops in. The stress response shuts down everything.
What it’s doing is disrupting the stress response. Amygdala is like the bouncer at the bar. He’s sitting there. He is like, “You guys come on in. You look safe. I think you’re okay. You guys go in. Have a good time, have some drinks, and have some dancing. I don’t know about you. I’ve seen you before,” and they shut the whole show down. When you’re learning how to create a different kind of signature, you’re telling the bouncer, “It’s okay, man. We’re safe. There’s nothing to worry about.” That’s the thing that we’re showing people how to do. It’s the techniques in real time that influence their psychophysiological coherence.
When we look at these different methodologies that you’re talking about, you’ve mentioned self-regulation and other aspects of health as part of the solution of leading self, what are the other pieces? We touched a little bit about management and life elements. What else do we need to know about leading self?
I still lay a lot of it on meditation. Back to that mind garden, what subconscious areas are coming up for me? It’s abandonment, not good enough, not smart enough, and all that stuff. We’re going to use HeartMath to deal with that stuff. If I’m setting out new kinds of goals and I’m going to use HeartMath to help, all I’m doing is helping my mind and my subconscious to feel comfortable with that new reality.
I have to adjust the nervous system. I have to change the baseline. The meditation is helping me to feel more comfortable with what would it be like to have a healthy relationship with my spouse or to lead better with my team. Subconsciously, the weeds come up. We’ve all had bad stuff happen to us and they’re rocks. We have them in this bag and we carry this bag around. That bag is weighing us down.
You can have a positive thought, but if you’re still carrying around that weight, you’re not getting anywhere. We’re using HeartMath again to go back to deal with those weeds or those subconscious issues, and we’re setting a calming signature. We can’t change the past, but I can re-contextualize the emotional charge around it. I can take the emotional charge around feeling abandoned. Think of all the ways we sabotage our success by not being good enough. What if I’m too successful? All that baggage that we’re carrying, we’re still using meditation in a very specific way to calm the stress response because those are still programs running inside me.You can have a positive thought, but if you're still carrying around that weight, you're not getting anywhere. Click To Tweet
We’re using meditation in a lot of different ways. We need it to be not just something that we use in real-time, and not something to change my nervous system baseline or my architecture, but I’m using it to deal with the old stuff and the stuff that is coming up because if my subconscious isn’t there, I’m not going to get there.
We’re reprogramming all the time. The thing about leading self, you have to be careful. You could create a million topics here. We sell products, and so we have to be careful how much we bundle in there. Another one that I dance around a lot is the well-being research from Gallup. Having good work experience, which I’m sorry to say comes down to the team leader. That’s still a big part of it. Your relationships. We’re a social species, extroverts and introverts. We still need to spend time with people.
Financial wellness is we enjoy spending money on experiences more than we do stuff. Health is how we eat, how we get good rest, and how we move. We have to have an activity. Also, community. That spirituality, feeling comfortable in the place that you live in and giving back. Gallup finds those big five areas and that’s something I can track. I’m big on feedback. You can track over time how you’re doing. With HeartMath, you can track. We have biofeedback equipment that you can see if you’re doing it correctly. Sam, there would be one more I might add, but we’re always careful that we don’t add too much where we overwhelm.
One thing you mentioned that I grabbed onto was the identification of your saboteurs. That baggage that we’re carrying around. Part of the leading self is to understand what are those big rocks that we’re dragging along with us, and to have awareness around that so that you can start creating a mindset about those things.
Here are some examples. Let me throw some up here. They’re kind of funny, and I’ll show you how we get into them. It’s these ideas of, “Am I deserving of this? What if I’m too successful? What if that’s not safe? My identity, is that really who I am? I failed in this in the past. Is this normal? Abandonment. What if I lose? Rejection and jealousy. I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t have time for that. It’s not my nature. I’m not strong enough for that. I’m not smart enough for that. Maybe, I’m fundamentally flawed.” Even the values that we hold.
Here’s a funny example. When I was a kid, I have this value for work ethic. That could be a good and a bad thing, but it can be sabotaging. My dad and I are driving to one of our farms and we’re driving out of Union Valley. That’s where I’m from. As we’re coming over the hill, I see our neighbor’s farm and they had a red Durango. They’re driving to town. They’re driving to Glendive. It was Saturday afternoon because we work seven days a week all year long. I’m a kid and I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh. How fun. They’re probably going to go to Kmart.” That’s a big deal to go to Kmart. I’m old enough that we had the blue light special. “They’re probably going to go to Tastee-Freez. They have the best hamburgers. That’s so great. They’re probably going to go to a movie.”
I thought, “I want a fun afternoon with the family.” I’m sitting there and my dad leans over and he taps me on the shoulder. He said, “That’s why we’re going to own their farm someday. That’s why we’re going to own that thing.” As you play that out, last year we bought their farm for $3 million. I have a value there that I developed in those early stages because we’re not in a beta brainwave yet. We’re absorbing everything.
It’s this value for work ethic. Value means it’s something important to you and the belief is something you think to be true even without evidence. I have this belief that says, “When you work hard, you get further in life.” Is that true? No. When you’re running a business, it’s an insult if you feel like you’re working 80 hours a week. That’s not something you’re proud of because you haven’t built a business that can stand on its own two feet.
The value for that and I have a belief in that. That can be sabotaging because I’m trying to find success, but the only way I think I can get there is through hours. I need to put in the time and I need to earn my way. By the way, my family is struggling or other things are in the way, so it’s another sabotaging thing. Those are some examples. Now, here’s how you find them. I think this is hilarious. The little meditation here is you identify something you want in life. You pick out some simple goals. I want to move into middle management.
I pretend like I go to the movies. I’m sitting there watching the movie and I pick a famous character to play me. I’m watching them play out. I’m moving through life and moving into a middle management role. I’m watching the movie. That’s all I’m doing. I want all the rich experiences, emotions, tastes and flavors. I’m watching that and that’s great.
I then come back and I’m going to re-watch the movie this time, but instead of that famous character that I picked, it’s me in the movie. I’m watching and I start to notice what starts to feel uncomfortable. I have that list of all these values and beliefs and sabotaging thoughts. What things start to bubble up that makes me feel like, “That couldn’t happen?” I replayed the movie again and this time, I pretend as if I can hear what everyone else around me is also thinking, and all that judgment.
These are ways where you can start to see what those sabotaging subconscious pieces are. I need to identify them. Those are my weeds. I need to make sure I’m meditating on that. I’m going backward in time and disrupting the stress response. I’m re-contextualizing that emotional charge. Anyway, it’s funny. This is what happens. Years ago, I did more counseling. For three weeks, there’s progress. They’re moving forward. They’re excited. This is the new me. They then start to go backwards again. It’s always the same stuff when you have that discussion. It’s the deservingness, “I failed last time. Who would I be if that happened, etc.?”
That is a common issue. My wife is an educator and she finds some of those self-sabotaging behaviors. You start getting that success and everything is going good, and then you start worrying. It’s like, “Is this going to last? When’s the next recession going to hit? What about inflation?” All of a sudden, you regress into some old bad habits.
Success doesn’t last. That’s the belief. The mind hack here is to go back in time and remember when was the first time you felt that, “Success won’t last.” You try to find in your memory banks that situation. That’s where we go back with HeartMath and we revisit that. We’re adjusting the emotional charge around it. Fundamentally, if we don’t change the architecture of our nervous system, it’s hard for us to change. The most fundamental part is we need to learn how to meditate and self-regulate.
When we think about this in the context of business, and I would love to hear how you advise your clients and so forth, when I’m thinking about building something or building a business, I know that I am going to fail someday. I’m going to get older. My health is going to deteriorate. Eventually, I’m going to pass away and so forth. Part of the beauty of building that infrastructure and building something around you is you don’t have to have a life curve like that. You can continue to build on it.
I’m thinking about myself. When I’m leading myself, I’m thinking about my health. I’m thinking about my mindfulness. I’m thinking about how I sharpen the saw and continue to build. I’m thinking about the health of the business overall, but it’s building this infrastructure and this greater thing that goes beyond myself and the business. I get a great sense of comfort in building that resilience around me.
You get satisfaction and you’re checking in with yourself, “I’m building something that’s a legacy that can stand the test of time. I’m taking care of my health.” You’re checking off all those boxes to make yourself feel good.
The ultimate goal is I want to build a legacy, whether or not it’s a way for my company to continue to help those firms and companies in need and so forth through compensation and talent management. This is something that I don’t have to be a permanent fixture of. You create this ideology and you lead yourself to build this larger infrastructure, something that can survive you and continue on in perpetuity.
You can see where leading self and leading business. They cross over quickly. The business issue is the owner’s trap, where it’s too dependent on you and the company is not valuable. I’m worth zero. If a company bought my company, Chance isn’t a part of it. I’m worth zero, so I have to build a system for that. When you were talking about, “I’m thinking about this,” a little bit of that is like, “That’s a lot of thinking.” Part of that mindfulness is coming back to that internal place of coherence and saying, “I’m just going to be,” and there’s some strength and resilience that comes with it. It fuels all those other things a bit.Leading self and leading business, they cross over really quick. Click To Tweet
What a wonderful conversation. I’m thinking about these things in leading self and how it impacts life, business, family, and so forth. I’m thankful for bringing all this expertise to us. You’ve spoken to us about these tools that you used in your business. I would like to learn a little bit more about this, the mindfulness tools and so forth. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
We use HeartMath. We should do a little practice. It would be cool to do a live meditation. The company is called HeartMath.com. The research is all held inside a nonprofit called HeartMath.org. There are lots of peer-reviewed studies and independently researched studies as well. Those are places to check out. You can always go to our website, BigSkyWay.biz. We bundle these things together in ways that we think help companies and leaders be more effective. Do you want to do practice? Should we do a little quick meditation?
Yeah. Let’s go through one. That would be fun.
I’m going to speak through the instructions and then we’ll do one. When we do it, if you would like, you can shut your camera off so you don’t have one more judgment or one more piece that’s distracting you. I always start by taking some kind of subjective unit of well-being or subjective unit of distress. We would score ourselves. What is some kind of global subjective unit of well-being you’re in right now? From 0 to 10, 10 being I feel amazing and 0 means I feel pretty bad.
I’ll start with some kind of pre-score. This step goes like this. I focus my attention on the area of the heart and I’ll walk us through this. I imagine as if the breath is flowing in and out of the heart and chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. A couple of things are going on there. At the area of the heart, there’s our focal point. All meditation has a focal point, whether it’s a sound, breath, or an interesting piece of my mind. There’s a focal point. When it’s in the heart, it’s also dropping my awareness from the mental chatter. The mind is built to chatter. I’m dropping that awareness, and when my mind does wander, I begin again. That is mindfulness in itself.
For the breath piece, all meditation has a breath piece because the breath is creating a more vagal tone so that the parasympathetic response is being activated. Their research shows a five-second inhale and a five-second exhale. I love meditations. There are a million different breaths, but this is just in their research because you can track where that coherence comes from. That’s hard focused breathing.
There are lots of different techniques. This one is called quick coherence. I simply make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in my life. This is the hard part. When you watch it on data, this is the trigger. I’m bathing myself in some kind of rich emotional place, and then my mind wanders. Did you know that squirrels can’t find 80% of their nuts? I then got to bring myself back to my awareness.
They do all that work and they lose track a lot.
There’s the distraction. I love McDonald’s. They have two Big Macs for $1, and I don’t want to lose money on this deal. That’s the distracting mind, but you’re learning. You’re bringing your awareness back and the whole act of beginning again is part of it. If I’m doing it correctly, my mind stays here. My breath is a little bit slower than usual, and that renewing feeling or that shape I was showing you, what you see is your heart rate variability starts to go in a very coherent state. It’s so clear that we know there’s more DHA, less cortisol, more immune-fighting antibodies, and more reaction time. There’s all this research around PTSD, brain injury, etc.
Let’s do it. I’ll let us run for maybe two minutes to just bathe in it. Is that okay? I want you to score on a piece of paper what’s my subjective unit of well-being right now, from 0 to 10. Now, I’m going to focus my attention on the area of the heart. If it helps, you can put your hand over your heart. Imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. When your mind wanders, you simply return again. The most important part is to make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Bathe yourself in it and get deeper and deeper with every breath. I’ll let it run for two minutes.
Keep your attention on the area of the heart. Make sure your breath is slowed down. When your mind wanders, return again and experience that renewing emotion. Challenge yourself to get deeper and deeper in that renewing, positive and caring emotion. There’s nowhere you need to be right now. There’s nothing you need to do. Your focus is on appreciation and care. In our last 30 seconds, challenge yourself to get deeper and deeper with that appreciation, care and renewing emotions.
That’s right at two minutes. Let’s start to come on back. The first thing I have folks do is write down on that piece of paper what their current subjective unit of well-being is. It’s pre-score and post-score. We consistently find when people do this with us, their score changes, even in a two-minute space. There are different techniques and ways we can apply this, but that’s the baseline. Any comments or feedback? What was that experience like? Jules, what was that like for you?
I feel a lot lighter actually because of the appreciation part. Gratitude always makes me feel lighter. It puts me in a different head space. I feel very Zen actually.
That’s unique to meditation. Most meditations don’t allow for that emotional piece and this is where we get that sympathetic comparison by working together. A lot of athletes use this. As an athlete, not only am I calm and relaxed and ready to move, but I’m also ready to throw that ball or swing that bat. How about you, Howard? What was that like?
A feeling of calmness came over me. All day, you are busy thinking about what you have to do and where you have to go, and then all that is gone.
That’s two minutes. Sumit, how was that like for you?
It was very relaxing. It’s almost the end of the day here, so I think it helped me empty my head of various thoughts and leftover ideas from the day.
It sets you up for peak performance. How about you, Sam?
It just gives you that sense of peace. You’re cutting off a layer of that stress and you’re feeling good about it. The technique that you used, I feel like I’m doing this for myself. I’m doing this to where I can calm myself down, but then when you think about what you are thankful for and so forth, it’s almost like when you have that mindset, you’re saying, “I’m thankful that Chance is here teaching us all how to do this.” It’s almost like you’re giving something as a gift as well. You’re taking in yourself and that mindfulness of what you’re thankful for. It is almost like a gift. It makes you feel like you’re very balanced. I think that’s a great approach.
When you go to leading the business and strategizing, leading our team, culture, family, and all of these things, I’m coming from a different place. I’m fuller. We deserve that. At the end of the day, happiness and well-being aren’t something that happens to us. It’s a skill. What’s so cool about this day and age is we have so much research and tools at our disposal and applying them and putting them into practice. That’s something we found to be very helpful for clients.Happiness and wellbeing isn't something that happens to us. It's a skill. Click To Tweet
As we’re wrapping up here, how can people learn more about you and contact you and so forth?
It’s BigSkyWay.biz. We have on there our upcoming events. We have some free micro-workshops. That’s the best way to come and get in touch with us. There’s a contact page. I don’t use social media much, but on LinkedIn, you could probably look for Chance. He’s probably in there somewhere. You can contact me that way.
It’s always a pleasure. It’s such a huge impactful discussion. I hope a lot of people benefit from this as they learn the techniques and skills that you brought to us. It was great. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Sam, Sumit, Jules, and Howard. I appreciate the time. Thank you very much.
Thank you. Have a nice day ahead.
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