As humans, we naturally gravitate towards this idea of finding our purpose, yet most of us struggle to answer the question “Why do I do what I do?”
The good news, is that we have the freedom to answer that question however we want. In other words, purpose is a choice and nobody can stop you from defining it.
Today, we’re releasing Jon Berghoff’s discussion with Performance Coach, Andy Storch on The Entrepreneur Hot Seat podcast. After listening, you’ll walk away with a better sense for what purpose really means to you and how it can be used to fuel your success and exponentially transform the world around you.
This is a super insightful conversation that hits on a number of topics. From effective leadership, to the power of strength based questions, and understanding what makes any human system (group, team, community) come alive and perform better than ever before.
- Find out what Jon’s most influential mentors taught him about sales, leadership, negotiating, decision making, and building world-class organizations.
- Learn what it takes to become a great leader!
- Why it’s critical for entrepreneurs to pay attention to the macro economic changes that are impacting the world.
- Why do you do what you do? Jon dives deep and helps you better understand what it really means to find your purpose.
- The smartest way to create solutions to any type of problem!
[Tweet “”Purpose is not what I do for work, it’s how I show up.” – Jon Berghoff”]
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[00:00:31] Jon: Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners, Jon Berghoff here. How are you? It is a rainy day here in Hudson, Ohio. Thought I would let you know. Hey, listen, we have in this episode something that we have never done before and I’ll get to that in just a minute. First, I want to give a couple of shutouts which is also something I’ve never done before. I want to start with Annmarie McMath. I hope I said that name correctly. Annmarie is from Australia and she sent the kindest note possible after listening to the episode I did with Jon Vroman a couple of weeks ago. Vroman and I had an episode where we talked about the Art of Moment Making and we also extended an invitation to come join us here in Hudson, Ohio to hang out with Jon and myself at our annual Front Row Moment Maker Summit which I don’t even think that’s the official name of the event. I’m pretty sure I changed the name every time I mentioned the event. But if you’re curious about that episode, go check it out.
Annmarie, thank you for your generous comments. She is not able to make it to the Front Row Summit coming from Australia but she will in the future and I would encourage any of you, if you haven’t made plans yet and if it’s even possible if you actually listen to these episodes when they get released, if you’re like me you’re listening to this and this is three months too late. But anyways, those of you coming to our Front Row Summit, it’s coming up a couple of weeks from today, July 24th through the 26th and I know some of you who are listeners are going to be there and we can’t wait to see you.
Another shout out, a big thank you to Julie Reisler who was a guest of ours several weeks ago and she’s the author of Get a PhD in YOU. A big thank you to Julie who put up a super generous post on Facebook promoting my TED talk which I just realized right now as I’m saying this, I haven’t even shared with you as a community that I recently gave a TED talk. It was a lot of fun and I guess I’ll tell that story about that at another time in another episode. But huge thanks to Julie Reisler for sharing that talk through her Facebook community.
[00:02:31] Jon: I’ve got a ton of views and for any of you who have not seen it, we’ll link it in the show notes so you could go Google it or find it on your own. The title of the talk if you want to search for it in YouTube is Could One Question Uplift and Unite Humanity? If you want to know the answer, go watch my TED talk. So, thank you, Julie, for a huge shout out sharing that with your community.
And so now for today’s episode, let me tell you what this is all about. So, I’ve never done this before. I was interviewed by Andy Storch for Andy’s podcast which is called The Entrepreneur Hot Seat. Andy is an awesome guy. I met Andy I think last year he was an attendee at our Best Year Ever Blueprint Event which many of you are a part of every year and many of you are going to be joining us this year, November 17th through the 19th in sunny San Diego, California. And I met Andy, he was on our leadership team. Really cool guy and he reached out to me a few weeks ago. He has a podcast. I was happy to be a guest. And after I hung up with Andy, I thought to myself I thought, “Whoa. That was a great conversation,” and I just shared way more with Andy than I’ve ever shared with the Achieve Your Goals community in certain topics. So, I asked Andy for permission to repurpose that conversation and share it with you.
So, I’ve never done that before but I hope you enjoy this. You’re going to hear me talk about a few things with Andy that I know I’ve never talked about with you as a community. Some of my beliefs about leadership. Also, I have a perspective around the word purpose and some of the mistakes that we often make when we think about the idea of finding or creating purpose in our lives. So, you’ll hear Andy and I talking about these things amongst many others. I hope you enjoy. Take care, everybody. Bye.
[00:04:21] Andy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Entrepreneur Hot Seat. I am your host, Andy Storch, and I am elated to be joined today by my friend, Jon Berghoff. And Jon is the cofounder and managing partner of the Flourishing Leadership Institute where he is leading high-purpose organizations through positive change, high-stakes collaborations and rapid transformation. He previously served as the Head of Direct Sales team at Vitamix Corporation where revenues grew by 400% in less than four years. And by the way, Jon, I think I might have purchased one of those products while you were there.
[00:04:56] Jon: Thank you.
[00:04:56] Andy: I still love and use my Vitamix every single day including this morning. I made a smoothie. With it, his work on Appreciative Leadership, Emotionally Intelligent Negotiating and Influence has brought him to Australia, Japan, UK, South America. Jon is in high demand, known for his authenticity and highly engaging style of creating powerful learning experiences for participants. And most importantly, Jon is a husband and father of three kids, Ace who is seven, Sierra who is six and Kai who is three. Jon, welcome to The Entrepreneur Hot Seat.
[00:05:29] Jon: Hey. Thanks, Andy. It’s good to be with you, buddy. Good to be here.
[00:05:32] Andy: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m really excited about this. You and I got to know each other a little bit. We met at the Best Year Ever Event in San Diego and I was excited to meet you because I am a super fan of Hal Elrod and the Miracle Morning, practicing ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago and so I was excited to get to that event to meet you and some of the other, a lot of the other people there that were just so fantastic. So, got to see you there as sort of I had known you as Hal’s partner and facilitator at that event and I got to know you a little bit more at the Front Row dad’s retreat in Austin that our friend Jon Vroman put on back in April. And so, just excited to have you on the podcast but I know there may be a lot of people listening that are not familiar with you or don’t know you at all so I wonder if we could just start with a little bit of background if you could share some of your origin story.
[00:06:23] Jon: Sure. Happy to. Who am I? I’m asking that every day myself.
[00:06:27] Andy: Who is Jon Berghoff?
[00:06:28] Jon: Sure. Gosh, where to start? Why don’t I answer these three different ways? Because why answer it one way when you can answer it three ways? So first of all, when I think about who I am, I find far more joy in my personal home life than anything else. And I love my work. My work doesn’t feel like work but being a dad for me is personally one of the coolest things, to get to coach my kids’ baseball teams or just to be a kid again because that’s what kids do with us, for us. That’s who I am at heart. So, being with my kids or being in nature trail running, that’s my deepest passion, being with my wife. Professionally, there are a few ways to introduce myself. So, currently I lead an organization and we facilitate large group collaborations and maybe we’ll stumble into talking about what that means. It’s fascinating work. It brings us into incredible places. So, I’m sure we’ll get into that but it might be cool to maybe go back to my origin and just try and give you my whole journey in like two minutes or less. I would take you over on that.
[00:07:49] Andy: I’ll cut you off if I feel necessary.
[00:07:51] Jon: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. Give me the hook. Play the music, right?
[00:07:53] Andy: Right.
[00:07:53] Jon: So, I grew up in Cupertino, California. That’s where they make these devices that…
[00:07:59] Andy: Home of Apple. They actually make those in China, Jon, but anyway, go on.
[00:08:02] Jon: No. They design them there. That’s where they design them and they make them in China. That’s right.
[00:08:06] Andy: Got it. We’re talking about iPhones, for people…
[00:08:08] Jon: Yeah. So, Cupertino is my hometown and growing up in the Bay Area was – what was cool for me about that is even as a kid where you don’t know exactly what’s going on in your parents’ lives, you still kind of get the energy from it. And so, I grew up in a part of the world that had this very pioneering spirit in where taking risk was the norm like that’s what everybody there does. And so, and my parents worked extremely hard. They both worked full-time growing up. They were in the tech industry. And so, seeing them work hard and seeing them both take risks really rubbed off on me and so I at a pretty young age, I was 17 years old, I got into selling Cutco knives. So, you and I have some mutual friends who’ve all sold Cutco knives and I was very, very fortunate. I call it lucky. Some people don’t believe in luck.
You call it what you want but I was lucky that my first mentors, a guy named Dan Casetta was an incredible guy and still a mentor to me today and he had taught me a lot about life. And I credit him because while I was at Cutco, I was this young kid who was actually struggling a lot personally in my life. The irony is the same things I struggled with then, I still struggle with today. I just figured out how to find my strengths, I guess, but I struggled but I found entrepreneurship is kind of a way out for me. And the long story made a little longer is I was the number one rep in the 60-year history of the company and I was out of millions of over a million people who had sold at the time that I was there. And so, I had this incredible entrepreneurial experience at a young age. I still had and still have just a lot to learn about life but I had at least this big win and that led to some more big wins which got me to here today and, I guess, the highlight really is I worked with Cutco.
[00:10:07] Jon: I then started my own coaching business which I did for six years and as a coach, what was cool is I knew how to sell because I learned that at selling knives. I didn’t know if I was any good at coaching but because I could sell, I had a thriving coaching business immediately and then I had to figure out how to coach the people.
[00:10:23] Andy: Right. Yeah.
[00:10:24] Jon: And so, in five years I coached I think I delivered something like 4,000 paid coaching calls. I’ve had a full book of coaching clients and then one of my clients was the Vitamix Corporation. I joined them, worked there for four years and during that time we had a journey that I would’ve paid to go through it. Fortunately, they paid me to do it and our team grew dramatically. We learned – I learned a ton about leading a complex large-scale organization so much so that at the peak of my career there, I left thinking, “I think if I could figure out how to help other large groups of people experience what I learned, that might be a cool thing,” and that’s the end of what got me to where I am today. So, that’s in a nutshell my journey there.
[00:11:14] Andy: Yeah. That is so cool and I being around you and at the Best Year Ever Event and Front Row dads, I’ve met a lot of people now who came to this Cutco training ground if you will. It just sounds like such a great introduction to entrepreneurship and sales that it almost makes me envious that I didn’t have that opportunity. Well, I say I didn’t have that opportunity. I didn’t know about it. Certainly, almost wish I could go back and do something like that because I know you really had to get really good at just talking to people about anything all the time which is just a skill that you can use in business and so many other places. And then you obviously did a great job of mastering that like you said, set records and I heard the story about that on stage at the event and I got the chance to meet Dan Casetta. It sounds like who was an amazing mentor for you.
[00:12:05] Jon: Yeah. He was.
[00:12:07] Andy: So, when you went into Vitamix though that’s a big change because it’s a bigger company in sort of a more of a corporate role but it sounds like maybe you still had kind of that small business sales mentality. Did you have mentors there as well that helps you excel in that position? How did you put yourself in a position to be so successful in that role?
[00:12:29] Jon: Yeah. Well, there are a few things about my experience at Vitamix that I think are interesting and noteworthy. So, they were consulting client of mine for a year-and-a-half and actually here’s a crazy story that most people have never heard because I’d forget that it happened.
[00:12:46] Andy: I love crazy stories.
[00:12:47] Jon: Yeah. So, the crazy story is, crazy to me at least, is I had given Vitamix a proposal to do a whole bunch of work for them. Basically, two things. I was going to reengineer their sales process and I propose that I was also going to give executive coaching to their regional managers and they had a lot going on as a company so they were busy. And every day I was waiting for a response from this proposal for weeks thinking, “Are they forgetting?” Making up stories in my mind about my proposal.
[00:13:19] Andy: Right. “They forgot about me. They don’t want me. They don’t like me anymore.”
[00:13:21] Jon: Yeah. So, I finally get a response back. They say, “Hey, we want to get on a phone call with you tomorrow for a couple of minutes.” So, we get on the phone and I’ll never forget this. So, they got me on speaker on their end and on the other end is their Chief Operating Officer sitting next to their Head of Sales and the Chief Operating Officer says, “Hey, we got two things to tell you. Number one, we’ve accepted your proposal. And number two, our Head of Sales who’s sitting with me here, he’s actually leaving our company.” So, I thought, “Oh this is fascinating.” So, what was interesting is I was a consultant but I was kind of like in some ways I would say the Acting Head of Sales for that division for about a year-and-a-half.
So, I had this kind of unfair advantage because I was an outsider that really got an inside look at their organization. So, when I came on board, I really felt like I had this advantage that you don’t often have going into an organization. But here are some things about my story that enough time has passed I can admit but certain things you don’t’ want people to know about until time has passed. But I remembered my first couple of days on the job, I was thinking, “Well, I believe in myself and I know I’m a smart human and I know I can work hard but I’m pretty sure I’m way in over my head like I’ve got some things to do here that I’ve never done before,” and what ended up happening is I did have some mentors and some lessons that I learned. So, let me tell you about two of those mentors and two of the big lessons that I learned.
[00:14:45] Andy: Okay.
[00:14:46] Jon: So, one of those mentors was a guy that I met by the name of David Cooperrider who eventually became a teacher of mine, a mentor and now he’s a peer. And David was someone that the company had hired to lead the whole company through this process called Appreciative Inquiry where we were going to lead these large-scale complex changes using this interesting method. Well it was my second day on the job where I met David and as soon as I learned about Appreciative Inquiry I said to myself, “I don’t know how long I’m going to be here but as long as I have any influence over anything in my life, I’m going to use this approach because it made a lot of sense.” And so, I won’t get into that now. Maybe we’ll talk about it later. That approach is what I used to lead our team as we grew from a few hundred to 600 people in just a few years. And I can talk in a minute about what I learned about leading through that because that’s now what I do today.
But the other mentor I had was a guy named Tony Ciepiel who’s still the Chief Operating Officer of Vitamix today. And Tony taught me a lot through his action, not through telling me what to do but through how he behaved as a leader. Some of the things that I learned from Tony, number one, is that selling is everything and he had this deep respect for the reality that if you can sell, you can get a lot done. Tony was also – another thing I learned from Tony was how important it was to trust others and to give energy to the best ideas and then get out of the way. So, being a trusting leader and being willing to give people the power to go make mistakes, he gave me a lot of autonomy. He said, “Look, you got this whole team. You do what you think you should do and then we’ll see how that goes.” The big thing I learned from Tony, the last thing I’ll share in this, is he taught me a lot about negotiating because the role I was in, and this is where I was in over my head because I’ve never done this, I was negotiating with the largest retailers in the world.
[00:16:51] Jon: I was responsible for negotiating with Costco, with Whole Foods, the Williams Sonoma’s, the Sam’s Clubs. So, in that role is like trial by fire. I had to learn how to negotiate with the most experienced, well-trained, large retailers on the planet and, boy, did I learn a lot from that. And fortunately, we came out on the right side of a lot of our big negotiations and now I teach negotiating amongst other things at a top management school. So, I had great mentors and learned some great lessons there. Let me tell you one lesson I learned from Tony about decision-making too and one of the lessons he taught us is to never make a decision without looking at the economics of the decision. And so, one of the things that we learned how to do is anytime we made a decision, we always were looking at the micro and the macroeconomics of every decision that we made. And that was a big learning lesson for me to remind me that every decision has an economic engine behind it and we got to be smart about those things because that’s what gives us the fuel to keep driving or growing the business.
[00:18:04] Andy: Right. Yeah. You got to look at all the impacts from the decision. Like a lot of good interesting information in there, and of course, maybe you thought you knew nothing about negotiations going in but having been through all of those experiences certainly qualifies you to go teach a class on it now. I’m interested to learn more about what came out of that but I want to go back to one comment you made which was that you learned a lot about leading from David Cooperrider and this idea of Appreciative Inquiry and then we can get into what you’re doing with that today but what was that big lesson on leading that came out of that?
[00:18:40] Jon: Yeah. Well, I guess there are a few ways to look at it. One of the things that I’ve learned about leadership is that to be a really effective leader, I have to understand leadership at multiple levels. So, what do I mean by that? Well, you could go pick up any book on the bookshelf on leadership and most of them are all talking about leadership in one of, I’m going to oversimplify it, two different ways. They’re either talking about, who am I being as an individual, as a leader? They’re talking about, do I have values that drive what I’m doing? Am I able to manage my own let’s call it emotional intelligence? And there’s a whole universe of learning just around that. But I’m just going to say there are two buckets, and what I’ve learned is a really good leader has to have a level of development in both of these buckets. In one of these buckets is in how they manage themselves and we could talk as much about that as we want.
And then the other bucket is in understanding the dynamics of leading a group. And when I say group, I’m using that word generically. I mean a group is two people up to a million people. It’s of any size. Because micro-leadership, leading myself or one other person, is very different than macro leadership. Sure, they connect but part of what I loved about Appreciative Inquiry is it’s a philosophy I can apply as an individual but it was actually mostly designed as a macro level management tool. And so, I could talk about both but that’s one of the things I’ve learned is leaders have to understand how to manage themselves. That’s one of the reasons why the idea of mindfulness or meditation is it’s not just an emerging trending idea, it’s literally become an industry.
[00:20:42] Jon: Because like you keep deconstructing what does it mean to be an effective leader, but we all arrive at the same understanding that I’ve got to be able to manage what’s going on in my mind. And we’re all realizing, “Wow. If we actually want to get good at that the same way we go to the gym to condition ourselves physically, we have to have a practice to condition ourselves internally.” So, I think that’s key. And then when it comes to managing groups of people, I’ll give you an example there as well. I think it’s really important. So, I define leadership not at the individual level, not the way – if you go by the top 100 books on leadership, 99 of them are really focused on how do I lead as an individual. I believe that leadership and there are some trends on a macro level today that I think are changing how we should define leadership.
What I think that leadership is and it’s going to be more and more about not a person but it’s about the ability of a community of any kind, a team, an organization of any kind to be able to shape its future together where you could call it decentralized leadership. You could call it enabling everybody to be able to collaborate and work together to create their future. Because I think if you look back a hundred years, to be a manager or leader used to mean, “Oh, I’m supposed to have the answers. I’m supposed to have a vision.” But in a kind of complex and changing world, managers aren’t going to have the answers. Google has the answers. A manager is supposed to ask better questions to draw out as much wisdom as possible from the people they lead and so I could talk more about that but that’s an example of leading individually and leading groups. I think, in the future, leaders need to have some understandings of both to be really effective.
[00:22:33] Andy: Yeah. That’s really interesting and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put that way but to be a good leader you kind of simplify to the two the things. You got to worry about the micro, taking care of yourself, developing yourself as well as the macro and that’s leading others, the group you call it whether it’s two or a million people. And this idea of mindfulness and meditation made me think people think about developing yourself as a leader, they might just think about learning, learning business skills or leadership skills but there are always other things you can do and one of them being practicing mindfulness, meditating to calm your mind and be able to handle stressful situations. And I was just thinking more recently with this idea of we’re both passionate about being good fathers, this idea of fatherhood being leadership and us leading our children that I have noticed recently and that because I’ve been meditating regularly for the last two years or so that I handle stressful situations much more differently.
When my three-year-old is having tantrums, I can calmly deal with it, let her deal with her emotions and kind of slowly turn things around versus getting angry myself and then not handling the situation well because you get angry too then it’s not going to end well. She’s not going to learn anything from that experience. But because of that mindfulness of really living in that moment and having that calm mind, I’m able to handle those situations better and I can see that easily translating to business as well and how you approach different situations in leading others.
So, I wanted to follow your story and follow your path here as you get into the Flourishing Leadership Institute and you start talking about this idea of working with communities to shape their future and managers asking better questions. And as funny as the common theme, I hear more and more about how robots are going to be doing everything in the future. So, AI is going to be doing some of that managing and telling you what to do and even someone told me AI is going to be coaching too. But how do you work with organizations now to get them to work together to shape this better future and to ask better questions?
[00:24:52] Jon: Yeah. Well, so I want to respond to something that you just said and also talk about what we’re doing. I have a TED talk I recently gave that your listeners can go watch and they’ll see me talking about this, but what’s really interesting about the time that we live in is we live in a time in history right now and it’s easy to be kind of ignorant to this. I’m 35 years old and so I grew up in a certain world. My kids they’re never going to know a world where they couldn’t buy something on Amazon. They’re never going to know a world where you don’t have these technological capabilities that make certain things, that when I was growing up, obsolete.
[00:25:32] Andy: You’re connected to anybody at any time all the time, right?
[00:25:35] Jon: Yeah. Exactly. So, I think this is interesting and maybe important for anyone who is an entrepreneur to be aware of this. And first of all, this is just a belief, a bias of mine. It’s something I value which is as an entrepreneur we have to be aware of what are the macro-level shifts or trends that are happening in our world. Because when we understand these macro-level shifts, we can better understand what is our individual role going to be as it relates to how the world is evolving. And I will argue this all day long that somebody might be listening right now and they might go, “Oh, why does it matter if I understand hundred-year trends that are happening? Or why does it matter if I understand what happens every 3,000 years and as societies moved from patriarchal to matriarchal and back? Well, that doesn’t matter. I just run this Internet business over here.” It matters because there is no isolation. There is no separation between what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in my business. And we might think it doesn’t matter but it does.
You might hope that what’s happening politically is not going to impact what’s happening in your business but it’s actually impossible for not to have an impact. It doesn’t mean we can’t be proactive. That’s to the point I’m making. It’s to be even more proactive and smarter in our micro decisions, we have to understand what’s happening on a macro level. So, let me get back to your question which is I start by saying we live in an interesting time where we live in a time of exponential change and if you go back 100 years, nothing on our planet was changing exponentially. Nothing. Today the number of digital devices, the number of Internet connections, the speed of computing, the speed of technology, CO2 emissions, every single one of these things or the number of genes that we have sequenced in our DNA, every one of these things right now is increasing if you look at it on a curve at an exponential rate.
[00:27:41] Jon: So, when you make the comment and some people might listen and think, “Oh he’s joking that one day robots will take over.” I was at an airport last week walking through Chicago O’Hare. And when you walk through Chicago O’Hare, what do you now see sitting on the top of every single table in the airport? I’ve seen iPad where people can place an order on their own. And when you see that, there are a few things that ought to go off in our minds. It’s like, “Holy crap. They just replaced a thousand jobs.” So, yeah, this automation thing is actually very real but let me get back to this original point. We live in a time of exponential change largely driven by technology. There’s a guy at Google named Astro Teller who is recently quoted as saying that, “For the first time in human history we may have now reached a time where the rate of change of technology has actually surpassed the rate at which humans are able to adapt to change.”
So, what does that mean if that’s actually true? Well, one of the things that it means is we as a society need to learn how to develop. We don’t necessarily need, and you could argue we always need and we always will have more technological, computer technological, information technological advances. We need some human advances right now. We need some social advances which is why you see mindfulness emerging. Whether or not people have realized this, the reason they see mindfulness emerging is because technology has sped up so fast that we have an unconscious realization that holy crap we as humans need to start learning how to evolve too. And so, the work that I do every day is actually a human technology and I’m driven by one single question.
[00:29:39] Jon: And the question I’m driven by is what is it that causes any human system and human system is an awkward term but that means in a group team, community, company of any size, any type, a city, a region, a whole country. What is it that causes a human system to come alive to be at its very best to be fully engaged more naturally faster and more effective than ever before? And so, the work that we do, we get called in to figure out how to transform companies, industries, cities to get them to come alive. And what I’d love to share with your listeners is there are some things that we’ve learned that can actually apply to every entrepreneur even a small entrepreneur who doesn’t have a team that they might really benefit from but I’ll finish all this by saying, in a time of complexity where technology is creating a lot of change that we all can’t avoid, I believe that the value of knowledge or the value of information is going down every day. It’s been commoditized. It’s been democratized.
So, the real value today and I agree with John Kelly, the Head of Research at IBM, who says that, “In the future, they’re not going to measure intelligence by what you know. They’re going to measure it by your ability to ask better questions.” And so, as entrepreneurs, we have to learn how to ask better questions, smarter questions and we have to learn how to enable excellence to arise through collaborations, through bringing new ideas together, through solving challenges and problems that nobody else is seeing. And our world has a lot of great problems available as opportunities for us to solve. And so, our big aspiration is how do we enable groups of people to come alive? Your listeners don’t have to care about that but there are some things in the method that we’ve used that they might find really interesting and I’ll give one example and I’ll stop here to redirect me if you like.
[00:31:37] Jon: But our work is all based around a premise which is that if you look backward in time, you go back tens of thousands of years, human beings have a bias to see what is wrong. They have a bias to see what is missing or what’s not right. In other words, for all of your listeners, when they go to work every day, it’s a lot easier for all of us to see what’s not working in our businesses than to see what is working, to see what’s wrong or what’s broken than to see when we’re at our best. And part of that is biological. It’s how we’ve stayed alive. The problem is as a parent, my kids bring home their report card and the first thing I look at is their bad grades, not the good grades. So, we have this bias. It’s why the news thrives by giving us bad news and we shouldn’t complain about it. We should just understand their job is to sell ratings and the only way they’re going to get people to watch is to invoke fear because our brains are wired to watch that because we don’t even realize that we think, “Well I need to stay alive by watching the news.”
So, in our work, one of the things that we’ve learned. Andy, and I hope I get to some practical lesson for your listeners here sometime soon, one of the things that we have learned is that how important it is to approach everything we do not through the lens of asking the question, what are my problems? What do I need to fix? But that we learn how to ask strength-based questions. So, we do this with whole systems of people but we’ve also seen a lot of individual entrepreneurs succeed at this. So, as an example, instead of an entrepreneur walking into their office saying, “Well what problem do I have in my business?” We would encourage them instead to say, “Well what strengths do I have to build on and from?” Questions like, when have I been at my very best? Why was I at my best? What did I contribute to that moment? What skills, capabilities, values, beliefs? What physiology? What mindset did I bring to when I’ve been at my best? What’s the best I’ve ever delivered for a client? Why? Who were they? Who was I?
[00:33:38] Jon: Because when we study success, we can’t help but create more success because we will eventually uncover the factors that led to when we were or when we are at our best. So, we do this where we put 500 people in one room literally live and they actually shared stories of when they’ve been at their best and then we uncover themes or patterns. But even as an individual entrepreneur I should be asking, “What are my strengths?” Twenty million people in the last 10 years have taken the Strengths Finder Assessment. The reason why is because we know that when we work from a place of our strengths, we don’t just perform better, it exponentially transforms what’s possible. It’s a difference between failing and succeeding. The other example of a good question I’d encourage your listeners to think about is not only when have I been at my best or when am I at my best but questions like, what would an incredible future look like?
Questions like instead of saying, “Gosh, my marketing sucks.” What if I reframe that and ask myself, “What would it look like for me to thrive in my marketing? A year from now what kind of outcomes would give me a sense of fulfillment, meaning, pride, purpose, achievement?” Because when we ask these types of questions, questions are like a lens, as soon as we ask it, it changes how we see the world. As soon as we ask it, we can’t see the lens, we only see through it and our future changes even before the answers arrive. So, I encourage any entrepreneur to be really conscious of the questions that they ask about their past, the present, the future. And if there’s one more kind of question that maybe trumps all of them, it would be for entrepreneurs to never stop asking and to never stop playing with the answer to the question, why am I doing what I’m doing? It’s the fundamental purpose question. Why is what I’m doing important to me? Why is it important to my customers? Why is it important to the world?
[00:35:38] Jon: And I’ll finish with this. I promise I finish with this. We’ve all heard the truism of the three brick layers where there’s one guy laying bricks and they’re all next to each other and you ask the first guy, “Why are you doing what you’re doing?” And he says, “Well, because it’s my job. It’s how I pay the bills.” You ask the second guy, “Why are you doing what you’re doing?” “Well, I’m building a wall.” He has a slightly bigger vision. You ask the third guy, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” And before we share his answer, there’s something important to realize that often doesn’t get told in this little truism, is that when we ask ourselves the question why are we doing what we’re doing, one of these that we need to remember is there’s a lot of misconceptions around the word purpose. And I have a dear mentor, Aaron Hurst, who he’s the leading global thought leader on the topic of purpose. He wrote The Purpose Economy. His company just published the first ever Purpose Index. They’re measuring the level of purpose that our country has when people go to work. It’s fascinating stuff. You can go read about it at Imperative.com.
But one of the things that he’s taught me is that as entrepreneurs we make a lot of mistakes when we think about purpose. We often think that purpose is a noun. We often think it’s something that you find. It’s like I got to find my purpose like it’s under a rock or we think of it as an epiphany. Like if I meditate enough and I climb to the top of the mountain, it’s going to show up and maybe it does. But what I have learned through my experience is that purpose when we ask ourselves the question, why am I doing what we’re doing, purpose is a choice and it’s a choice through how we answer that question and we have to realize we have the freedom to answer that question however we want. Nobody is dictating how I answer why do I go to work every day. Nobody is stopping me other than myself from reshaping that answer so it gives me more fuel. So, purpose is not what I do for work. It’s how I show up.
[00:37:33] Jon: And so, the third brick layer when he was asked, he says, “Well I’m here because I’m connecting people to their creator.” He’s doing the same thing as the two brick layers next to him but his answer to why is proactively designing, he’s architecting, he’s crafting an answer that probably gives him a much more lasting and fulfilling sense of meaning when he goes to work every day.
So, I’d encourage any of your listeners to keep asking, why am I doing what I’m doing? And if they want their answer to evolve, the smartest thing they could do is make sure that they are spending time around being influenced by, learning from, reading stories about entrepreneurs who are motivated by a higher and higher and higher sense of purpose. Because if all my friends are in it because they want to make money, that’s about as far as my purpose is going to go. But if I start connecting with people who have aligned the reason they go to work to solve the biggest most important problems in the world, I cannot help it but for my value system to start to align with theirs.
So, just a couple of thoughts there. Those are just some of the things we’ve been learning about asking questions and what we consider to be some of the most important questions. I hope that’s helpful or interesting or people haven’t stopped listening by now.
[00:38:52] Andy: Yeah. No. For me, it was very interesting. I hope it is for our audience as well. I feel like there are so many things I wanted to say and ask along the way but you kind of…
[00:39:02] Jon: I wouldn’t shut up is what you want to say.
[00:39:04] Andy: No, it’s not it. I almost want to drop the mic right now and just walk away. But it’s interesting that you talk about this idea of purpose and also another thing that came to mind throughout this that’s interesting that I hadn’t thought about why is this idea of mindfulness kind of emerging as a trend and you talked about technology changing in the way it’s influencing things. And it made me think that 20 years ago before technology we didn’t need this practice because if I walk somewhere I was just in thought because there was nothing really to distract me and now when I walk down the street I’m always listening to podcasts while also texting my friend while also checking my email while also thinking about other things. I have to be a lot more intentional about practicing mindfulness if you will when that was probably something that was very natural before.
[00:39:51] Jon: Really well put. Yeah.
[00:39:53] Andy: Interesting. And the rate of change, I love that stuff. I love to tell people that my kids who are three and one will never drive a car and I think that blows some people’s minds but like…
[00:40:03] Jon: That’s probably true.
[00:40:04] Andy: I don’t see at this rate why they would. It’s just going to be autonomous vehicles will be available for them. And there are lots of things that are changing like that so fast and I like that you talk about this idea that especially for entrepreneurs if you want to find your way in business and continue to make money and especially if you want to make it a big impact, you got to pay attention of what these macroeconomic changes are and what’s going on because there’s probably an opportunity for you there and there may be something that could take your business down if you’re not paying attention to it. I was just talking to friends before this call, in a mastermind call, a guy talking about a small town he came from at Michigan that was propped up by an auto manufacturer, General Motors, which completely left and everyone there went out of – lost their jobs. Because things change, right, and they didn’t really adapt to doing something differently.
So, you talked about transforming cities and companies and using this idea now of asking these questions about what could the future look like, how could they use their strengths. So, is it mostly about getting people together to ask these questions? And then what is the next step? So, if we’re talking to entrepreneurs and you’re saying, “Okay, need to sit down and ask more and better questions,” what do you do with those to turn into something useful?
[00:41:23] Jon: Yeah. Great question. Great question. I can imagine somebody listening thinking, “Well this guy sounds really interesting. I still have no idea what he actually does. How does this work?” Okay. Yeah. So, cool thoughts on questions. What on earth do you actually do with this stuff?
[00:41:37] Andy: Right.
[00:41:38] Jon: And what we do is actually quite complex so it’s not always easy to explain until you see it. And by the way, love to invite your listeners to come see what we’re doing. Before we’re done here, make sure I give people some opportunities where they can come witness it because there are some public opportunities where they come see it firsthand. It’s pretty innovative stuff.
[00:41:56] Andy: Cool. I’d love to see it myself.
[00:41:58] Jon: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, before I forget, yeah, in September we have the entire City of Cleveland probably 400 to 500 people who come into a huge convention center and I will be facilitating them in one day through a series of dialogues where they actually use what we call design thinking where they actually prototype solutions to create a sustainable future for our city. And we’ve done this eight years in a row now and it’s not top-down where the mayor who does endorse this and he’s sitting there at a table but he’s not presenting an agenda. It’s not business leaders saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” It’s not developers saying, “Here’s what we’re going to build.” And it’s not bottom-up either where they ask people what they want and then the leaders make it happen. It’s what we call the whole system all at once where sitting at tables you’ll have a student next to a CEO, next to a social worker, next to an environmentalist and it’s through that diversity what’s through what we call wholeness that the healthiest ideas arise which is a progressive idea.
Most leaders can have a lot of trouble especially if they come from an old paradigm around the idea of, “Really? I should actually have a lot of people come together to plan our future? Isn’t our leadership teams supposed to do that?” “Well, yeah, there are some other ways you can do it.” So, at that Summit, anyone could come show up. It’s in Cleveland. We have cities and actually countries from around the world that come in every year to be a part of it to witness it and then they bring it back to their cities but we’ve had incredible things come out of these summits. We had, in fact, the world’s first fresh water wind farm which was awarded a $40 million or $50 million grant just last year and that wind farm is being built just off the shores of Cleveland in Lake Erie. That idea was actually born at one of these summits. Not some developer, not some city official. It was born when citizens came together and they dreamed about the future of a sustainable city.
[00:43:55] Jon: So, that’s an example people could come watch but let me come back to your question around what is it that we actually do with these questions and give some practical advice if somebody here leads a team of any size. So, we have a belief, Andy, and the belief that we hold is that if you want to change the culture of any group of people of any size or if you want to understand the culture, culture you could open up a textbook and say, what is it? Well, it’s what we value and how we behave. That’s the textbook definition. Well, I would actually deconstruct it and simplify it and see if you really want to understand the culture of any group, you only have to do one thing which is listen to the conversations that they have amongst themselves or another way of putting it is listen to the stories that they are telling each other. Because at the end of the day, most of the work that your audience does if they’re working with teams, it’s not really with their hands. It’s through their minds and really the expression of that is through conversation.
So, the work that we do and if I’m listening to this, here are some practical ideas, is we design questions that we present to a group and then we facilitate conversations to unfold from those questions. So, an example would be if I’m kicking off a meeting around a certain topic, at the start of that meeting I might present a question to the whole team. I might say, “Hey, team, before we get into this, I’d love for us to connect to a sense of purpose of why does this type of even matter to us. So, can everybody take a moment and can we all just reflect and then maybe share why is this an important meeting today?” Because how often do people start in the left brain, they get into the task but they never actually all connected to a shared sense of purpose. And there are other things we do with that conversation where we’ll actually map out what was common amongst our answers, “Hey, look at that. That is right there, we just drew out in five minutes that’s our shared sense of purpose.”
[00:45:52] Jon: People read books. People go to school and try to figure out, “How do I create a shared sense of purpose?” You don’t create it. You uncover it by asking a team, why are we all here? And when you take everybody’s collective answer, you find that there’s a shared unifying answer. And people have their individual sense of purpose but we find shared purpose. Or we might bring a team together and say, “Hey, so we got a problem. We got the problem with XYZ,” So, we’ll reframe that to be unconditionally positive to say, “What would it look like for us to thrive or to be excellent? Or when have we seen excellence in the area of XYZ?” And then what we do is we have everybody share stories answering that. Everybody share examples and we draw out, we tap into the collective wisdom of the team. So, we design questions that facilitate conversations that draw out the very best collective wisdom. Sometimes it’s to draw out ideas to solve the problem. Sometimes it’s to connect people to a shared vision of the future. So, hopefully, those are some practical examples for you.
[00:46:52] Andy: Yeah. Absolutely. So, we only have a few minutes left here but thinking about an entrepreneur who may be running a small business with a small team, they could take this and go design a workshop or a meeting with some employees to start asking questions about, why are we doing the things we’re doing? What are we trying to drive towards? What does greatness look like? What does success look like for us? And if we already have that kind of goal mapped out or if we say that we are all about XYZ, why is that? And start to align around a shared purpose and actually gather this kind of collective wisdom for the team to make sure everybody is going in the right direction for the right reasons.
[00:47:33] Jon: Yeah. That’s awesome. I’ll give you one other quick example. If I’m an entrepreneur, so I might have a team of zero or one or two maybe. However, this methodology of using questions to design collaborative answers can also be – and we’ve done this a lot with different entrepreneurs where we bring this approach to designing partnerships because most entrepreneurs succeed in partnerships with partners, suppliers, vendors, strategic advisors and so you could bring together your partners and say, “Hey, when we can figure our strengths together, what does success look like for all of us? What does it look like for each of us and for all of us?” You can also…
[00:48:17] Andy: Almost like looking at the ecosystem that you belong to, bringing it all together.
[00:48:21] Jon: Yeah. Exactly. And that’s an important question for an entrepreneur that often treats a vendor just as a vendor instead of a strategic partner to ask him, “What do you want out of this? Why are you motivated by this? What is your future vision for your business?” Because when we realize that actually them winning and me winning can equal the same thing, it brings us together and it brings out better work. Or here’s another example of how to use these kinds of questions. If I’m designing a solution for a customer, well the smartest thing I can ever do if I’m designing a solution for a customer, it’s not to design it and then ask them what they think. It’s not even to ask them what they think and then go design it. The smartest way to create any solution of any type is to say to this potential customer and/or our current customers, “Can you come sit side-by-side with me and can we design it together?” That is the most efficient, most effective way to create any product. It’s not to survey. It’s to sit side-by-side, roll up our sleeves and create it together in real-time. That’s the ideal. It’s not always possible.
The other two approaches are still better than nothing at all but that’s another example of using questions when we bring customers and we ask them, we say, “Hey, what would your highest vision be of what this could do for you? What would it look like a year from now, three years from now for what we’re trying to design? Tell us exactly what that would look and feel like.” And then now in real-time, we can design based on what that customer, what their ideal vision looks like. And the coolest thing is when we do this, the customer or the prospect is often coming up with images that they’d never thought of and as they come up with it they’re like, “Holy moly, if you had that, I’d buy it right now.” So, your designers become your best customers, right?
[00:50:11] Andy: Yeah. I love that. I’m just thinking about for anybody that deals with clients or customers at all or providers, vendors, whether you’re in a small business or you work for a big company, how often do we ask that question of what is your vision? What is your goal? How can we help each other achieve our goals? And kind of map out this common vision where everybody wins. I love that. I think it would help create new solutions, come up with new ideas and help you become a better strategic partner versus just a “vendor” which I always cringe when I hear that.
So, Jon, we got to wrap things up here. This is amazing. I feel like we just scratched the surface and there’s so much more we can talk about and may have to have you back on. But for anybody listening that may want to get in touch with you find out more about what you do and possibly even come out to this event in Cleveland in September, how do they find out more?
[00:51:03] Jon: Yeah. So, real simple. Number one is anyone who’s listening if it’s available on their calendar they’ve got to come to our Best Year Ever Blueprint Event. It’s November 17, 18, 19 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, one of the greatest hotels in San Diego. That event is our flagship event and if you’re going to come, come all three days. Friday is entrepreneur day. The whole thing is an experiential celebration where people connect with their strengths, plan their future. Got to come join us. It sells out every year so if you go to the website BestYearEverLive.com and you’re interested, sign up. If you have questions, find a way to email me directly maybe through Andy.
Andy, the only other thing I’ll add is if people want to find me or learn more about the work that we do, we have a certification where we certify people in how to take our technology into their own clients, they can go to Lead2Flourish.com/training to see, learn about our certification that we offer. And become my friend on Facebook.
[00:52:08] Andy: That’s an exciting offer. I think we are friends on Facebook and in real life, I think, which I am very proud of but I also want to say that I was at the Best Year Ever Event last year. It was an amazing experience. I’m planning to be coming back in December. Awesome to be a part of that so I encourage everybody to check that out. I’ll put links to both in the show notes. Jon, thank you so much for coming on today to the Entrepreneur Hot Seat. This was really fun. Enjoyed talking to you and I really appreciate the time.
[00:52:34] Jon: Andy, my pleasure, buddy. Good talking to you. Take care.
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