Becoming Indistractable With Nir Eyal and Motivational Currency With Dr. Rob Fazio

What if you had the power to become indistractable? In this episode, the author of the bestselling book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, Nir Eyal, discusses how you can prevent distraction from some of the addictive tech products. He reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction and provides some important steps for us to be able to master our own internal triggers.

When you’re trying to influence someone else, the motivators come first within how you approach situations and what motivates you. Dr. Rob Fazio, Managing Partner at OnPoint Advising and author of Simple Is The New Smart, talks about motivational currency and how it’s different than any other test dealing with motivation. He also highlights the four motives that drive us and looks at some of the differences in relation to generations.

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And Motivation


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Nir Eyal and Rob Fazio here. Nir is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Hooked and he’s got another book Indistractable. Rob is the author of Simple Is The New Smart. They’re both keynote speakers. They’re both amazing consultants.

Listen to the podcast here

Becoming Indistractable With Nir Eyal

I am here with Nir Eyal who is a writer. He is the author of bestselling book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and he’s got another book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. It’s so nice to have you here, Nir.

Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

I was looking forward to this. I’ve had a few people who have taught at Harvard and Stanford and they’ve all been great guests on the show. I know you taught at Stanford. Did you go to Stanford as well?

I did, I went there for my business degree and stick around to do some teaching for several years of design school as well.

One of my guests teaches curiosity course there for Stanford. I find that interesting since I research and write about curiosity. I was very curious about your work and how you’ve reached this level of success. Before we get into your book, I want to get a background on you. Can you touch on how you got to this level?

Several years ago, I started a tech company when I was still in business school at Stanford. That company is at the intersection of gaming and advertising. I got this front row seat into how companies manipulate our minds, not necessarily always in a bad way. Of course, there are some bad players out there, but how companies build their products to get people to use them which in general is a pretty good thing. We want products that serve our needs. I had this front-row seat during the rise of Facebook, the iPhone, Slack, Instagram, WhatsApp and all these apps that were so good at changing behavior.

People in this day and age will stop using your product if it harms them. Click To Tweet

I realized that there weren’t too many experts out there on how do you design habit-forming products. That became my specialty for several years and that’s what I taught at the business school and the design school was how to build habit-forming technology and habit-forming products. That became my first book Hooked. Shortly after Hooked was published, I found that I was in some ways becoming too hooked. The goal of my first book was to help product makers build healthy habits and that’s exactly what happened.

I didn’t write the book for Facebook and Google. They’ve known these techniques for decades. I wrote the book so that everyone else out there, people who are building fitness apps, money-saving apps and all kinds of services that help people form healthy habits to use those same techniques for good. In the meantime, who better give you the Achilles heel for how to prevent distraction at the hands of some of these tech products than an industry insider that understands the psychology of how these products are built, that’s what Indistractable is all about.

What comes to mind when you’re talking about this is the Star Trek episode where they have this little headpiece on and they get hooked on that game that they can’t get away from it. I think about that when I teach a lot of advertising courses and when I wrote a brand publishing course with Forbes. We’re trying to get people more through gamification in different ways. We build ways to get people more interested. Are you saying that people are getting too interested or too addicted in a way? What is it about it that’s making us so addicted?

This is the part of the Orthodox for the popular opinion that I want to push back a little on in. A lot of people use this word addiction and it’s maybe a little bit too far. I didn’t call my first book how to build addictive products. I wrote how to build habit-forming products because we would never want to design an addiction. Addiction is defined as a persistent compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance that harms the user. The fact is when we harm our users whether that’s through the design of the product or the deceptive advertising campaign. The vast majority of people, they’re not stupid. It’s just bad business.

In addition to bad ethics, people in this day and age, not only will they stop using your product if it harms them. They’re going to tell all their friends to stop using your product. There are some exceptions to that if you’re a child. A child, that protected class of person, and people who are pathologically addicted also require special protection because they’re not of sound mind to make these decisions around the products they use. With the exception of children and people who are pathologically addicted. The fact is that for the vast majority of us, it’s not addiction, it’s overuse.

If we keep calling it an addiction and if we pathologize something that is your normal behavior. We are doing ourselves a disservice because we give up control. This is called learned helplessness. We say, “It’s the algorithms, it’s the tech companies, they’re doing it to me. There’s nothing I can do.” That narrative is not only scientifically not supported. It’s a self-limiting belief. That’s something I want to change and it turns out we don’t know how to limit overuse. I even use that word, when I call it overuse as opposed to addiction. People love using the term addiction because it denotes a pusher. It denotes a dealer. It denotes mind-control.

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And Motivation
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Whereas when you call it overuse, it’s something I could do something about. I started out thinking I would write a book about tech distraction but Indistractable is much deeper than that. Socrates and Aristotle were talking about distraction 2,500 years ago. They called it akrasia, the tendency to do things against our better interest. The book is about all sorts of distraction. It’s not just tech distraction as the problem. If Zuckerberg said, “I’m tired of this. I’m shutting down Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp,” do we think people are not going to get distracted anymore? Of course not, they’re going to go back to doing the things people have always done, gossip, the news and all things that we find to distract ourselves. It’s much more important to be vilifying one specific tool that might distract us to get to the root cause of why we get distracted in the first place.

In my research in curiosity, I wanted to get to the root cause of what kept us from being curious. When you get to the root cause then you can move forward. What were some of the root causes that you found?

It’s important to first define what we mean by distraction. A great way to understand what is distraction is to understand what distraction is not. The opposite of distraction is not focus. The opposite of distraction is traction. Both words come from the same Latin root “trahere,” which means to pull. Both words end in the same five letters, “action.” Traction is any action that pulls you towards what you want to do, things that you do with intent. The opposite of traction is distraction, any action that pulls you away from what you want to do with intent. This is important for a few reasons.

One, it frees us from this ridiculous moral hierarchy that people seem to have. This moral panic around people playing video games is bad, but if I watch three hours of football, that’s somehow okay. It’s ridiculous. It is all a pastime and it is all fine as long as it is done on your schedule and according to your values. This also saves us from this pernicious tendency that we have to let distraction trick us. I would sit at my desk day after day and say, “I’m going to work on that big project. I’m going to do that task I’ve been putting off, that thing I’ve been procrastinating. I will sit down and do it this morning, right after I check email.” Forty-five minutes later or one hour later, I’m still on email or Slack channel or googling something. That is also a distraction because it is not what I plan to do with intent. We got traction, we got distraction and then we have two things that trump our behaviors.

We have either external triggers, the things in our environment, the ping, ding and rings, all of these external stimuli. We have internal triggers. This is where it gets interesting because what I discovered is while we tend to blame the external triggers. The majority of the reason why we get distracted, why our actions move towards traction as opposed to distraction is not necessarily the external triggers but much more common, it is the internal triggers. The internal triggers are uncomfortable psychological states, boredoms, uncertainties, fatigues, stress, loneliness. These uncomfortable emotional states that we seek to escape.

Distractions fundamentally are an emotion regulation problem. What this means therefore is that if our behavior is prompted by a desire to escape discomfort, that means that time management is pain management. It doesn’t matter all the latest productivity life hacks and whatever the experts and gurus tell you in terms of how to squeeze more time out of your day. At the core, the root cause of the problem is emotion. It’s finding ways to cope with uncomfortable sensation in a more healthy and productive way. That’s what the first part of becoming indistractable is all about. I call it, mastering internal triggers. There are four steps in total, the first step is to master the internal triggers. The second step is to make time for traction. The third step is to hack back the external triggers and the fourth and final step is to prevent distraction with tact. With these four steps in order, this is how we become indistractable.

The opposite of traction is distraction, which is any action that pulls you away from what you want to do with intent. Click To Tweet

I want to go through them a little bit more detail. When you were talking about these distractions, when I was looking at curiosity, I found that there was the internal and external trait versus state types of curiosity. That internal was either diversive which was motivated by boredom or specific which was more about acquiring knowledge. I can see that ties in a lot to what you’re talking about here at least in my mind. If you get this diversive epistemic type of curiosity, you’re aimless, you’re not productive. What I was trying to do is get them to be more goal-oriented, problem-focused for innovation. It sounds like you’re doing something very similar. Let’s go through those four steps a little more slowly. They’re important because if we get to the root of the problem, these solutions are super important. The first one, let’s talk about that.

The first one is to master the internal triggers and you’re right. One of the things that bother me around our personal productivity and self-help industry these days is we’re telling people for the most part that if you feel bad that’s bad. If you’re not constantly happy and not satisfied, something is wrong with you. The goal is always to be happy and that’s ridiculous. It’s counterproductive because it’s not only unrealistic, dissatisfaction can be very helpful. It is the uncomfortable sensation that drives us to progress. We need to learn how to harness those discomfort. This idea is from evolutionary basis. Think about if there was ever effective Homo Sapiens that was happy and satisfied all the time. Those people probably got killed and eaten by our ancestors because dissatisfaction is evolutionarily beneficial. There’s this host of cognitive biases, negativity bias, rumination, boredom and all of these cognitive courses that keep us dissatisfied. The answer isn’t necessarily to think that we’re broken or bad. If we feel uncomfortable, it’s realizing that we can harness that for productive ends.

The idea is that when we sense these internal triggers, these uncomfortable emotional states that we know how to cope with them or fix the real source of the problem. For problems that we can deal with, for things that we can fix and resolve in our life, we should get to the core needs. In my life, I talked about it in the book, how my moment of discovery was when I realized I was checking my phone when I had planned to be with my daughter. It happened on multiple occasions that I would stiff her and check my phone for something work-related. I was very embarrassed and still embarrassed that happened to me. It would happen to me at my desk. It would happen to me when I was out with friends. I would have this pull to check my device as opposed to being fully present. It was at its core a problem of emotion that I didn’t have the tools to properly cope with that uncomfortable state without giving in to distraction. There are all kinds of techniques that we can use. Some things we can do on our own. Some things we may have to change within our workplace culture.

There’s this section in the book about why distraction in the workplace is a symptom of cultural dysfunction. There are things we can do in the systemic level at the workplace. Even if we’re not the boss in charge, we can still change a few things. There are things that we can do for ourselves. We can learn tactics to re-imagine the trigger and the source of the discomfort. We can re-imagine the task so that we can see the tasks that we’re doing differently so it’s not causing us as much of these uncomfortable emotions. The third is we can re-imagine our temperament. This is where I take on some list in folk psychology that many of us have.

One of the studies that hasn’t replicated well is ego depletion. This idea that we run out of willpower. My routine after work used to be I’d come home and say, “I’ve had a hard day. I’m spent. I’m out of willpower so give me that Ben & Jerry’s, I’m going to sit on the couch and watch Netflix.” This was my routine day after day and it turns out that there was this theory of ego depletion which said that you run out of willpower after difficult tasks. Unfortunately, those studies hadn’t replicated very well. Macro studies have shown that ego depletion doesn’t exist, except for the work of Carol Dweck at Stanford found that ego depletion does exist in one group of people. That group of people are people who believe in ego depletion.

This is important because that means that we should question our temperament in many other areas of our life. For example, if we believe this negative self-talk of, “I’m easily distracted. I’m lazy. I have an addictive personality. These products are built to hijack my brain.” All of that stuff makes it true. It’s important that we reconsider our temperament when it comes to what we think are these fixed traits or our perception of these products. This pernicious narrative that’s being portrayed these days in the media that technology is hijacking your brain and that it’s controlling your behavior is hurting people. It’s teaching people not to even try and change the situation and then it backfires. That’s the three ways that we master our internal triggers. We re-imagine the task, re-imagine the trigger and re-imagine our temperament. There’s a lot more detail but we don’t have time to cover. That’s the three big steps.

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And Motivation
Understanding Distraction And Motivation: The theory of ego depletion says that you run out of willpower after difficult tasks.


I research a lot of Carol Dweck’s work for curiosity. One the factors that keep people from being curious was assumptions. You touch on how we ruminate and we do certain things that keep us dissatisfied and we have to re-imagine. All these things are all that assumptive thing or voice in our head that I don’t think people are aware of how much that controls their lives. When you watch media and you read all these things, it reinforces so much stuff and people pick the news stations to reinforce their thinking or they’ll pick certain things. How do we get us to not do that?

We start by recognizing the sensation or recognizing the internal trigger. The first step when it comes to re-imagining the trigger is to simply note the sensation. In the book, I give a distraction tracker and the idea here is that there are only three reasons for every distraction. It’s either an internal trigger, an external trigger or a planning problem. If you find yourself getting distracted, we want to catch ourselves as quickly as possible when we’re off task and to say, “What was the preceding emotion?” Step two is to get curious as opposed to contentious.

Most people as I did when I went off track, I would beat myself up. “I see you’re lazy. You’re easily distracted. There must be something wrong with me.” Many people do this self-talk that we do to ourselves. If we talk to our friends the way we talk to ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends. Yet somehow, we allow ourselves to talk to ourselves with this berating contentious tone. The idea instead is to get curious with that sensation. It comes from acceptance and commitment therapy by simply noting that sensation, writing it down, getting curious about it and then sitting with it for a few minutes. I love this ten-minute rule that comes out of acceptance and commitment therapy where you can go back to the task at hand or sit with your sensation for ten minutes in curious contemplation. That means, “I’m reaching for my iPhone because the task that I’m working on right now is hard. Why is this task hard? What am I feeling right now? What’s behind this sensation?” Ten minutes of what’s called surfing the urge and then telling yourself at the end of those ten minutes, “I can give in to that distraction.”

The reason of this is so important as opposed to what most people do which is to say, “No, don’t do it.” They preach abstinence as opposed to surfing the urge and telling yourself, “I can check my email, I can have that piece of chocolate cake in ten minutes to see if I do want it or is it an internal trigger that will pass if I surf the urge and get curious about this sensation for ten minutes.” What we find is most of the time at the end of those ten minutes, it feels like a long time when you do this practice, you either go back to the task at hand because the urge has crested and subsided or you don’t want the thing at the end of those ten minutes and so you don’t get distracted. 90% of the time, that technique is very effective.

I had not heard that expression, “Surfing the urge,” is it one that you’ve created?

No, I can’t take credit for that. That comes from acceptance and commitment therapy.

Distractions fundamentally are an emotion regulation problem. Click To Tweet

It ties into so many different things. Even Mel Robbins in her five minutes, rethinking what you were going to do kind of thinking. It’s focusing on how we think. I know a lot people don’t put a lot of validity behind Myers-Briggs, but it brings to mind the J versus P discussion of somebody who is structured as a J where they have to be on time. You give them a task, they do it right that second or the P who likes to do it the last minute. They can work well if you wait until the night before your final to study, where for me I’d be so worried about it because I’m a J. Is there a personality component to this? For people who do work better at the last minute and can be better if you wait to do this or is that all hooey?

I think it’s mostly hooey. The reason is because if you ask people what they want, very few people said they enjoy the procrastination process. They feel like they don’t have a choice. They feel it’s who they are and I would challenge that assumption. I don’t tell people what to do with their time. I don’t tell people what their value should be. What I want people to do is to live up to their own values and do what they want with their time. I don’t care if you’re introverted, extroverted, conscientious or neurotic, it doesn’t matter what your personality type is. If you say you’re going to do something, I want to help you do it. It doesn’t matter what that task is as long as it’s consistent with your values.

The reason this is so important is that lying to yourself feels horrible. We know when we were kids and we told a fib, that conscience when you feel that you lie to someone else. It feels horrible and we lie to ourselves all the time. We say we’re going to exercise and we don’t. We say we’re going to work on the big project and we procrastinate. We say we’re going to be fully present and make time with our kids, with our friends and our loved ones, and we delay. That takes a psychological toll on us. It feels crappy. It doesn’t matter what your personality type is. That has a time pressure for everyone, yet some people can perform when that time pressure occurs. My challenge would be yes, but you don’t know how much better you could be if you didn’t have that time pressure. If you worked on that project in small steps and got it done in a relaxed way because you committed to doing something on a schedule that then followed through.

A lot of people who say, “I’m better when I have a deadline,” I would argue. You’re completing the task but you do it despite yourself. You don’t know how much better your performance could be if you did it in an indistractable way. Some of the evidence of this is in the book. I talk about this study that was conducted at UCSF around nurses who were making prescription mistakes. It turns out this is a huge problem in the healthcare system in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people are harmed every year when they’re given the wrong medication inside hospital settings. This is a 100% preventable human error. It happens because these nurses are constantly distracted, they’re interrupted by their colleagues, by patients while they’re doing their medication rounds. The horror of this is that the nurses don’t even realize that they’re making the mistakes. It’s only after time passes that someone gets sick or someone dies because of a prescription mistake that the nurses even realized that they made this error.

This happens to us as well. Knowledge workers, we as well have this problem all the time. We think we’re doing a good job, but we don’t realize how much better our performance could be if we could work without distraction. They found a solution that reduced prescription mistakes by 88%. The solution was not some multi-million-dollar program. It wasn’t some amazing new technology. It was cheap plastic vests that were bright red that the nurses wore that said, “Medication rounds in progress, please do not disturb.” This is what I call hacking back external triggers. It’s changing the ability of external triggers of these ping, ding, and rings or other people drawing you towards distraction so that you can stay on traction. That reduced the prescription mistakes by 88%. What can we do about this? How can we use this question in our own lives?

Every copy of Indistractable comes with a pull-out card stock sign that is in the back of the book that you pull out. You fold it into third and you put it on your computer screen monitor. If you have an office, this isn’t a problem for you. Many people now work in these open floorplan offices or this hotbed of external triggers and distraction. The idea here is that we can tell our colleagues, “Not right now, I’m doing my focus work. Please come back later. I’m indistractable at the moment.” This is a way that we can stay on task and we can do what is that we want to do.

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And Motivation
Understanding Distraction And Motivation: You don’t know how much better your performance could be if you did it in an indistractable way.


I like the whole baby steps. When I worked as a doctoral chair, a lot of my students would freak out because they had to write their dissertations. If you look at everything in a huge amount of things. You get overwhelmed and it’s that how do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time. It’s thinking that you have to look at things in smaller pieces. A lot of what you said is so important. I teach so many students and I take a lot of these clips to put into the courses. I could see that this would be very helpful for them. I love the idea of the fold out and a lot of people can learn so much from your work and your books have been amazing. If people are reading this and they want to get more from you, Nir, how would they do that?

My website is If you want information specifically about my next book, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, you can go to and there is a free 80-page workbook. There’s a lot of stuff that couldn’t fit in the book that’s complimentary, they can get there at

Thanks, Nir.

Motivational Currency With Dr. Rob Fazio

I am here with Dr. Rob Fazio, who is the Managing Partner at OnPoint Advising. He specializes in global leadership and organizational success. He’s a licensed psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania. He’s got an assessment that deals with motivation and a book that you’ve probably seen, Simple Is The New Smart. I’m excited to have him here, welcome Rob.

Thanks, Diane. Thank you so much for having me as part of your show.

Dissatisfaction can be very helpful. It is the uncomfortable sensation that drives us to progress. Click To Tweet

I was looking forward to this because you and I have so much in common. This is going to be such an easy conversation. First of all, for those who aren’t familiar with you, I always would like people to give a little backstory. Can you give us a little how you got here story?

I’ve always been fascinated around people and how people think. I started out in sports psychology working with athletes around performance enhancement, resilience and mental toughness. Early on in graduate school, my advisor said, “You’re great with the sports stuff but you seem to enjoy business as well.” That’s what I went into the corporate side working with businesses and working with executives on all different aspects of the psychology of business.

It’s so fascinating how they overlap. When I wrote my dissertation, I focused on both business and psychology with writing about how emotional intelligence impacted sales performance and you can combine so much of psychology. I wish they gave more psychology courses in business. Do you wish you had more business courses in psychology?

It’s interesting you mentioned that we have a lot of common. I also did my dissertation on emotional intelligence and I looked at it as a predictor of post-traumatic growth when people go through a crisis. To answer your question, yes, I do wish. It was almost like two opposite sides of the campus and if you were in one course or you were in one major, you need to get run much interaction than the other unless you pursued it, but it’s becoming more integrated now.

It’s fascinating how they overlap and I’m curious which assessment you use to measure emotional intelligence?

My dissertation I use the BarOn EQI-Short. It was a helpful tool and I still use some of the EQI stuff in my work.

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And Motivation
Understanding Distraction And Motivation: No one likes to feel empathy or to be helpful to someone who is an alpha personality or dominant and pushes people around.


They’re all good but I picked that one because it had stress tolerance at the time and since I was dealing with salespeople. It is an easy one for people to take as well. Some of them are fun to look at for different aspects because whenever I teach emotional intelligence in my courses, I always have them look at different definitions. There’s not one overall. Everybody comes up with their different factors and their different ways of describing it. A lot of that helped me be interested in creating assessments later. Did that tie into why you were interested in creating your assessment for motivation?

Being in the business, you know this. It is finding that synergy which is tough to do between something that has some of a theoretical and research background and making it easy so someone can use it. That I found to be a fun challenge to take on. Emotional intelligence is such a big umbrella. It’s like almost everything is falling out of an umbrella. It’s great when people like you can help people isolate what they’re talking about so they can make it actionable.

When I was writing about emotional intelligence originally, I fell into it by accident. I thought, “It’s an interesting thing.” You don’t expect it to blow up to be what it turned out to be in some respects at least when I was doing it. All these years later, it’s still something that many people don’t even understand or appreciate as much. It will continue to be something that people need to still learn about. It ties in well to a lot of the stuff that you and I talk about. I know you deal with a lot of dominant personalities, alpha personalities and looking at motivation. What drew you to have an interest in that area?

I didn’t pursue it, but it’s likely a feature or quirk of my personality that I got pulled into it. I always was fascinated on how certain people can make others feel insecure and then how people respond to that. I started trying to get myself in a mindset where I wasn’t as intimidated. I almost approach situations with more of a curiosity. What has been fascinating to me is no one likes to feel empathy or to be helpful to someone who is an alpha personality or dominant and pushes people around. If you’re able to change that interaction in some way where they feel like you get them, they’re much more willing to be influenced by you. It was more of an interest of mine. I somehow fell and started doing work with surgeons and execs that are at elite levels. It’s become another one of my passions and interests.

Surgeons are interesting, I’m married to a surgeon and I was a pharmaceutical rep forever. It’s an interesting subgroup to go. Being in pharmaceutical sales, I didn’t call on so many surgeons as physicians. That group, excluding my husband, is sometimes low in emotional intelligence. A lot of times they’re forced into being alone, reading, studying and doing all these things in there. They don’t have that social interaction. Have you found that to be true?

Yes. The other thing I found to be true and what they taught me over time was they’re trained at a very early time in their careers to approach every situation without vulnerability. In other words you have to demonstrate that you have complete confidence in your approach. That creates the situation where people are intimidated. It’s the opposite of what we teach around collective wisdom. They told me that and they described it as like you go into a meeting and you need your sword and your shield. That’s how you approach it. It’s been amazing to hear about that. They’re also trying to take on the challenge of like, “Can we make a little bit of a shift here?” where they keep their brilliance but they’re not pushing other people away to the extent where they’re not going to give them information or making someone on their team in the OR literally cry.

Distraction in the workplace is a symptom of cultural dysfunction. Click To Tweet

It’s a different world and that’s an interesting group to take on. I wish there was more business in the medical field and some of the psychology in the medical field as well because they missed a lot of those important tricks and tips. I’m interested in your assessment. I want to go back to that because motivation is an interesting thing to test. What does your test look for that’s different than any other test dealing with motivation?

It’s called motivational currency. It’s based on a Harvard psychologist social motives theory. What it looks at that other tests don’t is it has three parts. A lot of self-assessments have that element of self-awareness or recognition. You get a sense of what drives you and what are your underlying motivators. It takes in a step further to how good you are at picking up on cues and other people’s motivators are. The third step is how good are you at picking the appropriate leadership style in any given situation. It’s all about influence. It’s similar to emotional intelligence which is the better you are to be aware of what’s going inside of you, the better you see it in others. The more effective you are with intentional influence in trying to get people to go in a direction that you don’t think will be helpful.

There’s so much information out there. I looked at Dan Pink, Simon Sinek and Carol Dweck’s work when I studied curiosity. When I’ve had Francesca Gino from Harvard and others who talk about curiosity on my show, I’ve often asked them, “What comes first, curiosity or motivation? They all say curiosity. How do you deal with curiosity when you’re dealing with motivation? Do you think it comes first?

It comes first from a perspective of when you’re trying to influence someone else. The motivators come first with in how you approach situations and what motivates you. Where the curiosity would come in is when you’re trying to understand yourself and then also trying to understand others. There are underlying motivators that are formed in our early years.

Can you give some examples?

There are basically four motives that drive us. The first one is performance, which is about results, getting things done and achievement. The second is about people which is about relationships, teamwork and harmony. The third is around power and that’s around influence, advising and then purpose which is around wanting to have something that has greater meaning, something for the greater good, something outside or yourself. Those are the four motivators and then what’s been interesting is starting to look at some of the differences in relation to generations. Our assumptions were Millennials are going to be so much different than everyone like the whole stereotypical generalization, but Millennials score highest on power and purpose.

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And Motivation
Understanding Distraction And Motivation: If you’re leading someone with an alpha personality, they have to know that you have their ambitions in mind.


I don’t find that as surprising, but a lot of people would find that surprising though. What I find more surprising is the new Gen Z data. What do you find surprising about them?

A lot of clients talk about open workspace as an example. We went to this place where we’re going to have all open up space and we’re going to work together. What they’re finding is Gen Z’s are like, “I want to put my head down and get the work done.” It’s not that they don’t enjoy working together, but they’re more task-focused. That’s what I’m hearing from my clients. Some of it has to do with what was going on when people were growing up. What about for yourself, which aspects have you found interesting?

I found that they were less curious than the Millennials in a few different things. They say that they’re stressed in some areas that I wasn’t seeing in other generations. There’s a whole other level of issues with each generation that fascinates me. I love to look at all the different generations. There’s no question that we all lived through different experiences. Gen X with whatever and they had Gen Y with post 9/11, whatever that hit them at a certain age. I always find it fascinating to look at the different generations because you’re getting more and more to working together and living longer and working longer. It’s a big challenge in the workplace to make sure everybody’s motivated. It can be hard to be in leadership. I know you’re on the Forbes Coaches Council as I am. I know that they always ask for lots of input for different questions and insights. One of the things that we hear so much about is the generational issues in the workplace, conflict and engagement. There are certain words that you almost can’t hear anymore. What do you think the buzz words will be in the next decade? We’re going to hear a lot of innovation and artificial intelligence.

Anything that has to do with the word technology or cloud is cool. I think we’ll hear that. I haven’t paid attention to that. I need to hang out with more Generation Z people and hear what they talk about and the language that they use. I found this old book when I was cleaning out a storage unit that my dad had on what they were trained in. It’s all 100% command control like, “Here’s how you manipulate another human being.” It’s almost like you would get in trouble for using the titles of the chapters.

It is interesting to look at some of the old ads and things because I teach a lot of advertising. We pull up some of the things that flew in the past that could never fly now. That could have formed a lot of these dominant and alpha personalities, I’m sure. Are you dealing with more people from a certain generation that have that personality type?

It’s definitely Gen X and Baby Boomers but that may not be because of generation. It might be because they’re at that level where the company is paying for the executivizing or such. In technology companies, I see a lot of it with software engineers and people having that sense of, “I’m the best, therefore this is the way we approach things.” I do see some of that.

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It can be hard to lead somebody who has that personality type. I’m sure you talk on how you influence that type of personality. What advice do you give people on that?

If you’re leading someone with that alpha personality, they have to know that you have their ambitions in mind. In all the decisions that you make, they have to feel like that you’re trying to help them in some way, shape or form advance their career. They also have to get to a point where they feel some of the pain of their natural personality. For example, an investment banker that realized he’s not going to get a certain payout if he doesn’t stop burning through junior bankers. It could be someone that realized the team stops working for them and being productive. They don’t want to be successful with this other person on the team because the person never lets other people have an idea or victory. What I’m trying to figure out is how much of it is intentional and how much of is it unintentional? There’s a good mix there for some people that have these types of personalities.

How would you have dealt with Steve Jobs?

People always say Steve Jobs is a great example. He didn’t have to be a boss with soft skills and he’s the exception not to rule. There’s one Steve Jobs. With someone like him, you’ve got to know what you got yourself into. If you want to be able to sacrifice a certain type of culture to get one thing as an informed decision, that’s fine. Something like that has got to be a calculated decision. For him, you’ve got to let him run and do what he does. He was a bully in many ways. I do think that there needs to be a culture where there’s a point where that’s not accepted. However, in that case, you’d probably lose someone’s innovation. He was thrown out of a company once. It has to be something where it’s calculated. I would say nine times out of ten, I wouldn’t want that person around especially at the highest levels because they’re going to end up damaging a lot more people than helping.

The research that they show about CEOs having lowest levels of emotional intelligence is an interesting thing to look at. I know Travis Bradberry posts that a lot on his site and of different things that he’s shared. Why do you think CEOs can get to that level? I’ll give you my theory. They’re interacting a lot at the beginning with people and they’re promoted to a certain level because they are good with it. They get alone by themselves without as much interactions with people. They’re more based on dealing with numbers and different things than they are with people and relationships. That can have a big impact. What do you think?

In order to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you’ve got to have an incredible amount of drive and have the edge. What I also think about is it completely depends on which emotional intelligence tool you’re using in these studies. I’m not sure I’m convinced with that literature. I don’t think that there has to be a correlation that the less emotional intelligence you have, the more likely you are to become a CEO. I don’t see a correlation there.

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Simple Is the New Smart: 26 Success Strategies to Build Confidence, Inspire Yourself, and Reach Your Ultimate Potential

Probably for me, one of the most important aspects of emotional intelligence is empathy. We’re going to need a lot more of that to develop our cultural quotients and our ability to perceive people properly. I mean perceptions reality to people. How do you work with having people understand that their perception could be different than someone else’s?

You have to have as much dialogue as possible. At least in the States, we’ve gone so far to being so nervous around what we say to each other. I like more of being able to have some conversations where people can disagree and see their perspectives. It’s not me versus you, it’s me with you and we’re trying to understand one another. I don’t know what it is about, what’s going on, but it’s so much of confirmation bias. Some people dig their heels and the second something comes up that was against their mindset or their worldview, all we have are arguments instead of conversations.

I know a lot of people don’t put a lot of faith into the Myers-Briggs MBTI, but I did get certified to do that when I was getting my EQI certification and other things. It was interesting to me to look at the feeling versus thinking dichotomy within Myers-Briggs because people who had a high F would make their decisions based on their values. People who had a high T made their decisions based on facts and figures and things. I had a 100% T and had zero F. It’s hard to do a lot of research with MBTI. People don’t take it seriously that much but if you look at it, some people do make their decisions based on their values more than others. Other people are able to take in data and overlook their own perspective. That can be important to do that when you’re dealing with cultural quotients and understanding perception. Do you think that or is it because I’m a high T that I think that?

I’m a high F but every once in a while, I throw a little thinking in there. What I try to do is when I get people caught up in those conversations, people always say like, “What do you do to someone you always disagree with?” I say, “Approach the conversation the next time you go in with someone you like and always agree with and think the conversations with that person. Try to think through different approaches and see if you have come through a different solution as opposed to not being able to see what they see.”

I did that training, that’s a good point. I was thinking when you said you have a high F. They separated us. Have you done the Myers-Briggs by any chance or just taken an assessment?

No, I didn’t do that. I grasped what we got trained on and I’ve used it a number of times.

They put you on one side of the room if you’re a T and they put you in the other side if you are F. I remember the thing she asked, “How many of you appreciate when somebody bakes you cookies or something to that effect?” All the F ones say, “Yeah.” All the T’s we’re all looking across the room and I’m like, “Why would you want cookies?”

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I’m an F but I’m extremely results-oriented so I’d be like, “Don’t waste time making cookies. Let’s achieve something.” There’s a difference in the way things interact.

It’s a sense that people want you to appreciate them the way they want to be appreciated. It’s important because a big part of empathy is seeing that they want you to bake them cookies or whatever it is they like. It opened up my mind. What these assessments do is not tell you so much what you are because you know what you are, especially because they’re self-assessments. It helps you see what others are or what you’re missing that others have and different things that could open up your mind to the other side. That’s why they’re so popular because if you’re surprised by your own answers to what you are, that always surprises me.

It’s so second nature to us because as you are learning and training, you are constantly the guinea pig. You’re getting videotaped and you’re taking assessments, but not everyone has that experience. Before I came up, I was looking at some of your stuff and your curiosity assessment. You were in an interview talking about there are some things that get in the way of curiosity and I was like, “Assumptions.” I haven’t taken an assessment yet but I plan to. Assumptions have to be what gets in the way of my curiosity because I’m like, “I know the answer.”

It might be interesting or you don’t like it in the past, all the things you tell yourself. It’s that thought process of we’ve already decided whether we like something or not based on rational or irrational reasons. Assumptions are that voice in our head. That voice in our head can hold us back in so many ways. It’s important to work on all these things because motivation is huge. We want people who are innovative, motivated and all the things that you and I talk about all the time. A lot of people could get some help from taking your assessment, reading your book Simple Is the New Smart and learning more about what you do. How could they find you if they wanted to learn more?

If you go to, you’ll see everything up there. The assessment is up there and the book. There are also free resources, video and blog. I’m big on the simplicity of things and I like to get people actionable ways that once you see it in a minute or less, you can do something with it. It’s one of my big passions.

Thank you so much for being in the show, Rob. This was so much fun.

I enjoyed the conversation. I look forward to staying connected.

I do too.

I’d like to thank Nir and Rob for being my guests. We get so many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to You can go to the radio section there. You can also find out more about curiosity. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.

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About  Nir Eyal

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And MotivationNir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business.

The MIX. Technology Review dubbed Nirr “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.”


About Dr. Rob Fazio

TTL 614 | Understanding Distraction And MotivationDr. Rob Fazio is the Managing Partner at OnPoint Advising specializing in global leadership and organizational success.

His approach to advising combines original research on power, influence, conversations, and motivation as well as over 20 years of consulting to elite performers.



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