Coaching and Developing Organizations with Joshua Miller

Coaching has become a more complex job mainly because of how technology has changed the way people perceive and interact. Bestselling author Joshua Miller talks about his journey as a coach and how he realized how much technology has held back people from being curious. He recalled how falling on the street of New York changed his life for the better and how he was influenced to be a coach through the mishap. He also talked about his experience in preparing for a Ted Talk and coming up with the assumption topic. Joshua also discusses his book and highlights diversity and inclusion and how relevant they are to the world of coaching.

TTL 552 | Coaching


I’m glad because we have Joshua Miller here. He is a best-selling author and a Master Certified Executive Coach. He’s got an amazing TEDx Talk. We’re going to talk to Josh about his work in leadership, engagement and so much personality-based stuff that I’m interested in talking about.

Listen to the podcast here

Coaching and Developing Organizations with Joshua Miller

I am here with Joshua Miller, who’s an Amazon best-selling author, a Master Certified Executive Coach, and Creative Leader in the personal and professional development field. He is the author of I Call Bullshit: Live Your Life, Not Someone Else’s. It’s so nice to have you here, Joshua.

Thank you so much, Diane, for having me. I’m excited to be here.

You’re welcome. I’m always looking forward to this. We both know Dov Baron and a lot of people. We have a lot of things in common. I was looking through different things that you write about and things that you talk about in your TEDx Talks. You deal with StrengthsFinder, MBTI and DISC. All that stuff is fascinating to me. You were in advertising and now you’re coaching and all that. Can you give me your background?

I’m born and raised a New Yorker, in New York City. Now I’m on the West Coast. I never thought of that. I never even thought that I would transfer here to California. I’m born and raised in New York City by two amazing parents who were artists. I found out that my uncle was college dorm roommates with Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol babysat for my brother and me when I was growing up.

Are there any good pictures of you anywhere?

There is one picture floating around that I have yet to find but I’m on the hunt. I can’t even imagine. I was a creative kid growing up in New York City. I was on the path to creative stardom in the advertising world. I talked about this in my book. At the ripe age of around 24, I fell into coaching. I literally got hit by somebody on the street at rush hour. I wasn’t paying attention. This has never happened to me. I spun around and I landed right on the cement, right in the middle of Madison Avenue on a Friday at around 5:30. People were walking over me. It’s New York City. This woman had come up to me and said, “Are you okay? Can I help you?” Normally, I would say, “No,” and ignore the person, even if I was in a coma. I said, “Please help me.” It turned out that this person was a coach. That conversation changed my entire life. It was from that moment that some adversity turned into a miracle or a magical experience.

TTL 552 | Coaching
Coaching: Coaching is about helping people get out of their own way and discover that they have a choice.


She introduced me to what coaching was and what it could be. That conversation lasted in the ambulance. As a New Yorker, I asked her to come with me in the ambulance to the hospital because I had fractured my nose in two places. She was like, “Get some help. Let’s talk tomorrow.” The next day, with gauze pads, black and blue eyes, and everything, I met her. We talked for about three hours to understand what coaching was. That was my first real entry point into coaching, which turned into learning and development. Fast forward, many years later, I’ve spent a few years here in the Bay Area with my family and two amazing kids. I’ve had my own practices. I’ve spent several years coaching and working with organizations. I love it. I found my passion, my purpose, my calling.

I don’t hear a New York accent. You do sound like California more than New York.

People say that all the time. I have to correct people. In New York, there are five boroughs. The boroughs that have the real strong accents are Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, The Bronx, a little bit. I was born and raised in Manhattan. We got less accent and more attitude.

You said you found out what coaching is and what it can be. What is it? What’d you learn?

What coaching is, it’s about helping people get out of their own way. It’s about helping people discover that there’s a choice and that they have a choice. They don’t have to settle and that there is a possibility if you look for it. In no uncertain terms, when I’m asked to coach somebody or I’m coaching somebody, I think it’s an honor. I feel privileged. You’re letting a stranger into your life to poke around, find those blind spots, the places that you don’t want to talk about and then find a way to get to talk about them. That journey is creative. It’s beautiful. It’s inspiring and aspiring. Coaching to me is working with people so that you can develop them to be the best versions of themselves.

Did you hire a coach to help you do your TEDx Talk?

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I’ve had a coach for several years. That’s my personal coach. I had a coach before for two years. Did I hire a coach to help me with my TEDx Talk? No. It took me for about eight months.

Tell what the topic is, so everybody has this vision.

It’s all about assumptions. It’s about how we make assumptions all the time. They derail us from being present, from being happy. It’s an autopilot type of phenomenon. When I was coming up with ideas to talk about for my TEDx, I said, “I’m honored. What would you like me to talk about?” When you ask that question, people say, “Whatever you want.” I was like, “Please give me something to go on.” There was nothing. It was a completely blank canvas. I struggled because my ego got in the way, my creativity got in the way. I had to revise and show it to a bunch of different people. It came to me naturally through the process. I realized what I was doing the whole time was assuming it had to look a certain way. I was assuming everybody wanted a version of Joshua Miller on stage. The Joshua Miller I think that they think they want to see. In the process, I completely forgot who I was. That’s the genesis of how the assumption topic started for me.

In my book on curiosity, I found that four things keep people from being curious. They’re fear, assumptions, technology and environment. I hadn’t seen your talk at the time when I wrote that. Assumptions were a huge factor in curiosity. We have this voice in our head that we tell ourselves, “They want to see this.” That’s tough for a lot of speakers. You watch somebody else speak and you go, “Maybe I should be more like that.” It’s not who you are.

I suffered from that imposter syndrome. Prior to doing a TED Talk, I must’ve facilitated on various stages of various sizes in my whole life, but there was something about this. Immediately put it on some pedestal, which we all do. It’s like, “It’s the big day. It’s the big thing.” We immediately put so much onus on it that we’re already setting ourselves up for some failure or hurdles that we know we’re going to have to achieve. The assumptions, as I’m writing about it and talking about it, I’m also present to my own assumptions. The curiosity thing, it’s mind-boggling to me. I have a three-year-old and a seven-year-old.

On the statistics, correct me if I’m wrong, something around kids, before the age of seven or three to five, ask around 280 questions a week or a day. I’d have to check my facts. The number’s accurate. I look at my three-year-old. He’s at that amazing age where he’s like, “Why is this? Why is that? How is that?” With my older son, we went through the same thing, but I had not done the research or done a talk on it. We talk about curiosity. I’m a huge proponent of getting curious, asking questions. Raise your hand. Your ego and your pride are going to keep you from wanting to ask questions, especially as an adult in the corporate arena. Curiosity is a lost art. I wish more people would engage in it.

TTL 552 | Coaching
Coaching: We’re living in a world where technology and social media has us acting and thinking quicker than we’re capable of.


Another statistic was that curiosity leads to creativity. At two years old, 98% are creative. By the time they’re eighteen, then it’s 2%. It flops. The number with curiosity is, about age five, it starts going down. There are so many people that impact that voice in our head or the assumptions we make. Somebody cuts us down in a work setting or they’d tell you that you’re better off being seen and not heard or whatever it is that you hear as you grow up, curiosity kills the cat and all that. You incorporate that. It’s an interesting topic to do your TED Talk on because it’s such a huge part. It ties into the environmental factor that I found too. We get all this from our family and friends. You said you were different with your younger child. You learn more. What kinds of things do you do differently?

Parenting is a 24/7 nonstop job. I’m more present, number one. It’s not that I wasn’t present with my older child. Number two is, I’m not as hard on myself. People always say, “Your first one, you’re going to put the baby music on. Everything is regimented. It’s got to be that color. You play Mozart during bath time. You get crazy.” Somewhere between the first one and the second one, it’s between segueing away from Dr. Mark Hyman and maybe more conscious parenting with Shefali. I grew as a parent. “With age comes wisdom.” I’d like to believe that. I’m being more intentional, more mindful, more present, but more hands-off, which sounds like an oxymoron, like a paradox. There’s something to be also said about the personalities. Every time I’ve talked to someone or we know people that have two children, and I have an older brother and my wife has an older brother and older sister, everyone’s different.

Everyone says, “If your first child is calm, your next child is going to be like crazy,” a different personality. Our older child is cerebral, sensitive, kind and smart. Our younger child is more tactile. He’s more of an experiential learner. It requires a different way of dealing. It requires a different way of showing up. One way or another, it’s unforced. I would like to say that I’m more engaged in being present versus, “You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that,” and giving him the playtime and the freedom to define who he is versus everything being so structured, which is what parents do.

I remember being structured with my first. Anybody who’s had two kids, it’s hard not to see that your personality starts beginning. They’re night and day. It makes it so much fun. I interviewed somebody who had fifteen kids. I didn’t even get into that with her about how fun it would be to see the differences of each one. You’re coaching. You’re helping. You’re doing the things that you’re doing. You work with coaches to help build them into better coaches. You probably learned some of that from having children too. That helps me. I know a lot when I talk to other people.

Being a parent, I’ve learned. It’s like my second Master’s or getting a PhD. It’s truly on the job training. When I speak with people, for example, coaches, specifically, who may be struggling with how to coach a client or building up their practice that doesn’t have kids and/or maybe married, it’s a different conversation. I’m not going to say it’s one dimensional, but there is another dimension when you’re in a relationship with a significant other and when you have children or a child. I always said when I was working in my first career in advertising that I would never work for a boss if he or she were not married or had kids.

My theory was, they’d be married to their job, which means I would have to constantly be at work. That was not a healthy mindset. Unfortunately, that was also the culture and the mindset of what I saw in the advertising world at the time I was in it. It was a lot of long hours in a long time. As I grew out of that career and moved into this one, I was very clear that when I was going to work with clients or, in this case, coaches and help them, I was always going to ask, “Are you married? Do you have a partner? Do you have kids?” It does evolve you. It rounds you up. It also humbles you a lot. Humility is probably one of the most important things that we can possess and embrace as humans.

[bctt tweet=”Humility is one of the important things that we can possess and embrace as humans.” via=”no”]

It is one of the most humbling things. You stop focusing so much on yourself. You have to look outside of yourself for the first time. You’re like, “This is hard.” I had a boss that you reminded me of, as you were talking about wanting to have a boss who didn’t have kids. She had two kids, but her husband stayed at home and took care of them. She wanted to work extra hours like, “I’m going to stay at 8:00 to 6:00.” She got a divorce and had to take care of her kids. It was a little bit of a difference. I don’t think a lot of people who have other people to help with their situations that they’re in have that empathy. It’s like having a kid. It’s a humbling thing that you finally realized, “I can’t ask this of you.” You’ve got to have some life balance. It’s led to a lot of things that I see are problems in the workplace with engagement and everything else. You talk about all that stuff like I do because we’re behavioral people. We love all that. You said that you deal with personality issues and too many people are looking for shortcuts. What do you mean by that?

We’re living in a world where technology and social media has us acting and thinking quicker than we’re capable of. Decisions are being made that are not always in the best interest of the individual. For example, I was talking to my son about this. My seven-year-old goes to a library to look things up, not the Dewey Decimal System but take out books. When he’s home, he’s like, “Can we Google that?” I didn’t have Google growing up. What’s happened is, we’re evolving based on technology. The world libraries are going away. Kids are not learning how to write in print or script. They’re learning how to type. Some of the basics are getting lost. It’s disappointing to me. I don’t want to bash on Millennials or any specific generation but, to be clear, they’re the ones growing up right now in a specific area or industry. What happens is, there’s a sense of entitlement. Now we’re talking about there’s a lack of application. There’s this potential of more arrogance possibly. Like, “I deserve this because I can get it or I see other people.”

There are these people that are on social media who are influencers, but they abuse their influence. They’re selling, “Scale your this in ten days with 90 this and that or ten X this or twelve X that.” It’s a lot of yes. It could work. As a doctor, as a coach and someone that you know people very well, if you’re not getting to the root cause or the core of what is challenging somebody, you’re not addressing the issue. That ten X, the whole concept of that, has been blown out of proportion. People are looking for a quick fix. It’s not going to be sustainable. A lot of times, I get people coming to me that says, “I got bought into this mastermind group,” or “I tried to scale my business in 90 days, spent all this money and it didn’t work.” I’m not saying it doesn’t work for everybody, but I caution people to slow down and do your homework. Do your due diligence.

I tell people, all the time, who read my book like, “This is great. It changed my life,” I’m like, “Are you sure?” I didn’t write it to change your life. I’ve never read a book that changed my life. It changed my perspective. I’m playing on a figure of speech, but let’s be clear. There are a lot of things out there in its totality that’s going to help you along your way. I don’t think one movie, one TED Talk, one book or one conversation is going to help. That may spark it, but you’ve got to find the next one. A lot of people just go. They land on that one-week in that one seminar. They walk on fire. They do whatever they’ve got to do. They feel enlightened. We all know it’s not sustainable. They go back to an environment that won’t support that or, this is something I talk about in my book, they don’t have the right friends or the right support structure. They go back into a conversation that’s not designed to support the learning or the enlightenment. What’s going to happen? It’s going to slowly go away. That’s why I caution people. Before you jump into that ten X or that “learn about how to scale this in 30 days this,” make sure you’re set up for success.

There’s no real book that can give every answer. I interviewed Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments. He’s the billionaire genius behind all that. He had a lot of great things to say about Susan Cain’s book. It made a lot of sense to him and opened up a lot of explanations for how he felt of wanting to be an introvert. All these books can be helpful, but I agree that there’s no one panacea. I want to know a little bit more about your book. How much trouble do you have because of the word in it, that I’ll say BS? How big of pain has that been, having that in the title? Are you sorry you did that or are you glad?

You’re the first person, out of all the interviews I’ve done since the book has come out, to ask me that question. I’m grateful. Here’s the answer. When I was working with my editor and my publisher, they constantly said, “Are you sure you want to spell it out?” This went on for about two months. I said, “Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I?” They go, “From marketing, SEO, Google, Amazon and Apple, we may run into some issues.” I said, “I would not be true to myself.” I dare to say the word authentic. I cringe at that word, but I would not be authentic to who I am. It’s counterintuitive to the actual title of the book. They said, “We’ll do what you want to do. On the record, we strongly urge you not to spell it out.” One of the reasons I didn’t want to do the whole put a poop emoji or an asterisk as other people do is because that’s been done. I didn’t want to do it. The answer is, has it been a challenge? Yes and no. It’s hard to answer the question because I don’t know where I would be with the book had I done it differently. That’s one thing. I don’t regret doing it. It was a great learning experience. I’m proud of, most importantly, the book itself. My hindsight is 20/20 but I can’t go back.

TTL 552 | Coaching
Coaching: If you’re interested in improving yourself, you got to do the work.


This is an AM/FM radio show. We can’t say it. Normally, I would if it was a podcast. I always wonder if you run into some issues because of that stuff. That fascinated me, but I’m more interested in what the book is about. Give me a little background on that.

First of all, I’m going to tell you how I got to the title of the book. I was approached a couple of times in the last couple of years. I feel humbled and honored to write a book. It was always, “Write a book on leadership,” or “Write a book on the tenets of vulnerability.” I kept saying, “No way. I can’t sit down and do that.” “Why not? That’s what you know.” I said, “There are about 150 other books out there that are better than I could ever write. I’m staring at them on my wall right now, so why should I?” That was my narrative for a couple of years. Eventually, when I was in a bookstore and I was with my wife, Kim and I went through the self-help section and something triggered me. It was like this visceral reaction. I saw all these books and I was like, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m giving up the narratives that I can’t do this or I can’t put out something equal or better.” That’s when the switch flipped for me. I was like, “I’m going to do this, but I’m going to do it my way. I’m going to write my book.” The title came from that. I was saying I call BS on the whole self-help industry.

I’m not knocking the industry. What I was taking a jab at was the way in which some books are overtly marketed, meaning, one week it’s leaning and the next week, it’s stepped out. The next week, it’s this. Every month, there’s a flavor. Coming from a marketing background in advertising, I understand it. I’m not going to hate on that. I also know that there’s an element that, from a marketing standpoint, is preying on people’s needs, wants and insecurities. That’s part of marketing. It’s the ugly side that people don’t talk about. When I said, “I call BS,” it’s, “Stop looking for these books to solve your problems. Live your life. Don’t live somebody else’s. Don’t pick up a book and say, ‘I’m going to go follow those ten rules,’ or ‘I’m going to do these five things,’ or ‘I’m going to step in or step out or lean in, lean back or drive backward.’ Find who you are. Find peace in that.”

Is it ironic that you’re saying, “Don’t read a book,” to tell you what this book says about other books that should be nominated? Is it a circle?

It’s a little bit. People always say to me, “You wrote a self-help book.” I said, “No. I wrote a self-respect book.” Here’s the difference. As a coach, I fundamentally believe that people are not broken. They’re not ill. They’re not sick. There’s nothing wrong with people. They don’t know where to look to be happy. It’s in their blind spots. I was like, “I’m going to write a book. I’m going to take everything I’ve learned from coaching people over the last several years, from all walks of life, and I’m going to put in what I think works.” I say it right up front in the book. I say, “This book is not going to solve your problems. This is not the solution. Most importantly, you’ve got to do the work.” If there’s one thing that I want people to take away from reading my book is, “Here are some tips. There are some tools.” I put that in there because I want people to be easily engaged and demystify some of the stuff that’s out there that have been convoluted for years, things about mindfulness and stuff. We can go super deep on a scientific level and that’s warranted. Sometimes people just need, “How do I apply it?”

My intention was, “There’s nothing wrong with you, but if you’re interested in improving yourself, here are some basic ways and an easy way to better yourself.” That’s number one. Number two, you’ve got to do the work. Don’t read this book and think, “I’m enlightened. I feel good. Life’s going to change.” It’s not. I learned that the hard way. Prior to getting into coaching, I thought, “My life is great.” I was pretty arrogant about it. I wasn’t doing the work. As soon as I fell on my face, that was my wake-up call. The first couple of years of coaching, working with a coach, doing an LP and all this other stuff, it drove to my core. There was a lot of crying, a lot of tears, but I’m better for it. I’m proud of the book I wrote. I wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it is. I didn’t want to write a book that was too whimsical, funny or satirical. I didn’t want to write a book that was too clinical because that’s not who I am. I wanted to say, “Here are the things that I know have worked for my clients and me. It’s basic. It’s simple. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you get it. I hope you apply it.” That was the intention.

[bctt tweet=”People are not broken or sick. They just don’t know where to look to be happy.” via=”no”]

It’s interesting when you’re talking about intention because I can relate to that. I had an agent who wanted me to write a book about personal finance. As you said, you were looking around going, “I can’t write better than this.” I’m thinking, “She wanted me to be like Suze Orman. We already have Suze Orman.” It wasn’t my passion to write about finance. It’s hard sometimes to like, “You’ve got this agent. You’ve got this great deal. You could probably go this way,” to say, “That’s not what I want to do.” I like that you call things out. Ford Saeks is a friend of mine. He did my website. He’s an amazing speaker and all-around smart guy. We were talking about possibly having a conversation on the air about all these crazy things that drive you crazy. There are certain words I’m tired of hearing, certain expressions. I talk to certain people in certain jobs. If I hear value proposition one more time, that’s going to explode.

I want to be on that show, please. In fact, let me produce it.

Let’s talk about a few words that, “Can we not say ‘drive’ but for a while?”

Let’s stay away from the proposition. Let’s stay away from OKRs. Let’s stay away from KPIs. Let’s stay away from authenticity. For the love of everything, let’s stop calling people influencers, putting people on a pedestal that is not warranted. Authenticity, that is probably one of the biggest trigger points for me. Here’s a perfect example. This happens all the time in Corporate America. I get called in to work with that leader. The company will come to me and say, “We have an issue with one of our senior leaders.” “What is it?” “We need them to be more authentic.” I immediately go back to when I was in advertising and I have a client say, “We want our brand to be better.” “What is better?” “We want it to be edgy and cool.” Edgy and cool were the two words. I am like, “Authentic. Help me understand.” “We need him or her to embody our art values a little bit more.” Let’s fast forward. I’d go talk to that person. I was like, “This is news to me. I’m being myself.” That’s the challenge. That’s the breakdown. When we talk about authenticity in the workplace, what you’re talking about are people being true to themselves.

The challenge is that certain companies or organizations, we’re talking about culture fit, what they want is for you to be more like what they want. There’s the irony. It’s inauthentic to who you are as an individual. That leads to a much different conversation, which is, “Are they an actual culture fit?” If you keep following the thread, it goes back to, “What are your hiring practices?” It becomes a conversation around recruiting. It went from leadership to culture to recruiting. If you’re talking about authenticity, let’s get clear about what exactly you want. You could bring somebody on that has all of these amazing attributes and a great resume, but if they’re not “following” your values or they’re not a culture fit and you’re asking them to be more like something they’re not capable of, that’s a lose-lose. In fact, it’s not fair. When people throw around the word authenticity, I struggle with it because, as a coach, I naturally get curious. I’m like, “Help me understand. What exactly is inauthentic with this individual? Let’s get to the root cause.”

There are certain workplaces that adopt this, “Let’s change your paradigm,” or “Think outside the box.” They get onto this phrase. It doesn’t mean anything after a while because it’s a hackneyed expression. It’s challenging when you’re dealing with each generation. You want to do these things, but how do you get it, where we do not want to kill ourselves when we hear that word one more time?

TTL 552 | Coaching
Coaching: If you are playing a big game, mentors make sure your support structure is bigger than the game itself so it can catch you.


As somebody who goes into these organizations and helps them around performance, culture and talent, you see a lot of people leaving or you see a lot of people that are truly not engaged. I won’t name names, but there are some big companies out there that are known for their incredible culture. I would challenge that and say that they may have an incredible culture, but that may not be what the people are there for. The pushback is, culture is people and people are culture. Let’s look at what you’re defining as your culture. A lot of companies have adopted perks to become a culture. It’s a slippery slope. We’re talking about things that are saturated or done. DNI, Diversity and Inclusion, it’s important. It’s sensitive and it’s relevant. It’s become almost tokened, in the sense that a lot of organizations are like, “We need to check the box,” but they also don’t know how to do it. You’ve got companies that have decided, “They’re the benchmark because other people are going to follow what they do.” Everyone’s following the other person. It dilutes something that I don’t know if it was ever clear or strong, to begin with. It erodes its impact.

I’ve seen so many leaders that try to check off the box. I’ve had leaders that look at me and say, “We promoted her because she’s a black female.” I’m like, “You actually said that to me.” That’s not right. That’s probably why I studied that for my dissertation. I was so fascinated by what ties into performance and what helps people. You were talking about in your book that you give tips and tools. You want them to do the work. Give me some tips and tools that you give to people. 

I’m huge on the support structure. That’s one of my biggest things. I’ve learned that it takes a village. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, how smart you are, what you look like, how much money you have in the bank. It’s going to depend on who’s supporting you along the way. Anybody who I’ve met that is successful on any level had at least one person to help them at some point in time, a mentor, a teacher, a loved one, whoever. I’m a big proponent on ensuring that if you’re playing a big game, then make sure your support structure is bigger than the game itself, so it can catch you. I work with my clients to help them define what that looks like. One of the areas, one of the tools in the book and something that I do myself is what I call relationship audit.

You go through your whole context, all the people that you say are “your friends,” coworkers or whatever they may be to you. You put them on a sheet of paper, who they are and what they do. You look at, on another sheet of paper, what are the goals? What are you playing for? If you don’t have any goals, that’s a whole other conversation. Let’s assume you’re looking for a new job or you want to fall in love and get married. Look at the people in your life. It’s a quote that I love to say, “Make sure the people in your circle are also in your corner.” It’s a powerful but true statement. A lot of times, we surround ourselves with people because they enable us or they enable a conversation, but not necessarily an empowering one, not necessarily the one that’s going to move us into action and do the work, back to the work. I always have people. They can tell me, “Joshua, I want to do this. I’ve got this great idea. I’m going to start this business.” “That’s great. Who’s going to help you?” “What do you mean? I have you. You’re my coach.” “Who else is going to help you?”

You’re going to need more than one person to get this done. If it’s something as simple as, “I need to wake up at 5:00 every morning for the next three weeks,” then maybe I can help you with accountability because the game is small. When the game gets bigger, you need to make your support structure. It’s not always about people. It’s so critical that the people you spend time with are the ones that are going to support and champion you, not just through the good times but through the bad times as well. I have a whole piece in there around relationship audit. It’s simple. You write out the names, who they are. You look at, “What are you playing for?” and ask yourself, “Are these the people that are going to help you? Are these the people that are going to motivate you?” If they’re not, they’re not the right people. That doesn’t mean you cross them out of your life, depending on the situation. You need to find other people that are going to help support you with your goal. That’s all it means. It’s clarity. It’s a perspective. It’s an opportunity to gut check.

You’re running through my book. I have the four things that hold people back from the research that I did. They were fear, assumptions, technology and environment that hold people back from being curious. We’ve talked about assumptions. The voice in your head, the things that we assume that are probably not true or could not be true that maybe hold us back. What you talked about ties into environment, how our people impact us. Let’s talk about fear, technology and examples you’ve had from your coaching. Let’s start with technology. How have you seen technology hold people back from being curious or good performers? Have you seen much of that? We talked a little about foundations before.

[bctt tweet=”Technology has robbed people of their ability to engage and get curious. ” via=”no”]

Technology is the culprit. It has robbed people. It has dumbed down people’s ability to engage and get curious. There’s EQ, IQ, all of that. One of the things I struggle with, especially from a coaching standpoint, I’m guilty of this because I had this idea and I launched this in 2008 or 2007, which was the first life coaching app for the iPhone. I say it but I was way ahead of my time. I hadn’t thought through it. I’ve yet to see technology be used in a way in the coaching context or therapy on demand to be successful. I’m being specific about your question because I’m thinking about it in terms of coaching or self-help space. There’s something about talking to people, having a human connection. All the technology is slowing us down from art to social nuances, graces and etiquette.

Everything is Amazon Primed, “Get it in an hour. Get it in a day. It’s drones.” Have you ever seen the movie Idiocracy? It’s a great movie. I always tell people when they ask me this question. If they haven’t seen it, I’m like, “Go download it on Netflix.” You get me going. Technology can play a great role but in doses. It’s like an iPad. My son, my older one, he’s like, “I want to play my games, this and the other thing.” He gets his homework done and we time it. We make sure he’s only on it for a certain amount of time. You’ve got to be careful with any technology. Anything that’s not in moderation can backfire. That’s my two senses on it.

It can be a crutch if you don’t have the foundations behind it like they didn’t realize that electrolytes are not good for plants. You have to watch the movie to get it. I also want to talk to you about fear though, how fear holds people back. I want to get people more curious. I always give examples of different experiences I’ve had where leaders have said certain things, but it’s not just our leaders. It’s our friends or family and everybody we’ve ever interacted with. We have this built-in mechanism, this fight or flight. We have the cortisol levels that’ll get too high.

We’ve got all these different things that will impact us. How do we get past fear to the point where we get a culture, where we get people to be more curious to develop ideas? Oftentimes we’ll say, “Don’t come to me with the problems if you don’t have a solution,” so people don’t come to you with any problems. You don’t know about the problems because they don’t have the solutions. There are all these things that cut people off from exploration. How do we get around that?

Forgive me for being so particular. I don’t think we get past it. I don’t think we get around it. We embrace it. I don’t think we have fully embraced the role that our egos and fear play in our lives and in the workplace. How often does it take some goal cast, some video of someone doing something to evoke some emotion? When I say emotion, I mean tears or laughter because that’s emotion. That’s in public, which brings us back to vulnerability. We are so bottled up. A lot of organizations in the workplace, it’s not promoted. “Don’t cry. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Stay safe. Keep your job. Don’t rock the boat.” Some of it is ingrained in the culture.

My thing is, there’s no winning in the game of fear. If you’re going to be fearful of being open, being honest, being vulnerable, raising your hand, then you’re going to live a secluded life. You won’t be able to connect with people. I don’t know if happiness is something that you’ll ever touch at the core of your heart. This is coming from somebody. I grew up incredibly arrogant, not from my family but because I thought I was this incredible art director, this incredible designer. I lived in New York City. I believed my own stuff. As a result, I didn’t address the fear. The fear was that I was insecure. I wasn’t sure who I was or what I was doing. I thought I was doing what I needed to do. I was lost and probably depressed to some extent. That’s almost all fear based, the things that drive us, ego and fear.

TTL 552 | Coaching
Coaching: Emojis are enabling bad behavior and lack of curiosity.


I would tell people, “What is the fear?” The question I’ll ask those specific clients, “Tell me what the fear is.” “I’m not afraid of anything.” I’m like, “Let’s keep peeling back the layers of this conversation and we’ll get there. It may take a while. What’s the fear?” The fear is driving us, but people are not aware of it. When you can embrace it versus getting passed and around it, it’s not easy but it’s worth it. It’s so freeing when you realize that most of the things that you’re afraid of are never going to come true. Most of the time, we think people are thinking about us. They’re not. We make ourselves so important in the eyes of other people that are not even thinking about us. It’s quite comical. We give away so much of our power because of fear. That’s another thing that is sad. It’s also an opportunity. If somebody is afraid of something, I would ask them, “What is the fear?” It’s never going to be the first thing you say. It’s probably going to be the fourth or fifth thing. It would help if you had a good support structure, somebody you could go do to help you peel back those layers. It goes right back to having the right people in your life. You can’t have these conversations on your own. It’s tough.

Forget about your primitive, primal brain. Your friends are going to love you up. Their job is to keep you safe. Their job is to make sure you’re happy. They don’t want you to be afraid. They don’t want you to be sad. You’re going to have to work with somebody like you, Diane, a coach or somebody who’s not biased and is going to help you peel back what is driving that conversation. What is the fear? I love this conversation about fear. I’m still afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid I’m going to mess up being a dad all the time. I’m afraid that I’m not going to be the best husband. I’m afraid that my clients may think, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” I could come up with tons of fears, but are they based in any reality or truth? They’re probably not.

You used the word embrace and I used the word recognize. That’s what I was trying to do with the assessment that I created. I don’t think a lot of people focus on what they fear. That’s what we’re both saying. A lot of people, they’re thinking the worst things sometimes. I have so many people who will contact me and go, “This guy said this,” or “This woman said that,” and “Listen to this email.” I’ll hear it and they’ll read it in the snotty voice. I wouldn’t have taken it that way because I don’t know that person. They’re reading their own interpretation. Now they’re annoyed. They react a certain way. It takes an outside perspective to say, “Why are you reading it in that voice?” I don’t know if we all do that. It’s important to focus on some of these fears and what holds us back in. You’ve done some things that would probably be scary to a lot of people. A lot of people who are on my show want to do a TEDx Talk, for example. They find that terrifying. Was that scary for you?

It’s the only time I’ve ever spoken publicly where I got nervous. Let me be clear. I get nervous. I embrace being nervous. I get the jitters. It wakes you up and tells you’re alive and present. This was different. I assumed I had to be giving the apple keynote. I assume that was the expectation. I had all of about three minutes to work through that fear, that conversation and find my place to be present. I knew that if I wasn’t, it wasn’t going to be authentic. Public speaking, we all know, it’s the number one or number two thing people fear. I always tell people, “Go to Toastmasters. Do whatever you’ve got to do.” It’s the skill that will help so much in life. You mentioned somebody reading an email. That is a culprit. We add our own inflection, our own syntax, tone and all that’s there. If you read what’s there without any of the emotion, it’s not that interesting. It’s all the layers. It’s all the fear and the layers. It’s fascinating to me when you can have someone else read it and they’re like, “The report needs to be done at 4:00.” Yet, you read it, you’re adding words that are not even there. It’s like, “Are we reading the same thing?”

I’ve taught thousands probably of online courses. One of my favorite courses I ever taught was the first-year online students, to teach them tone and what we call netiquette, etiquette on the net. It’s just not, “Do in all caps. That’s yelling.” We probably use a little more of tone interpretation training in Corporate America. If I wrote it that way, my perception would be this. It’s building empathy to understand how to read somebody else’s voice. I don’t think we do it. Do you see a lot of corporations or organizations doing that? I don’t either.

What I am working on with companies and clients of mine, I’m asking them to intentionally scale that from using emojis in emails or on Slack. I’d been doing research on this. For starters, it’s incredibly annoying. It’s enabling bad behavior. It’s also enabling a lack of curiosity. I did this in my TED Talk. There are different ways you can communicate a message without even using words now. It’s a whole sub norm of how cultures within organizations and different social media. You could alienate. This goes back to DNI. You’re not even being inclusive because you’re trying to communicate. Someone may get offended because you send them an emoji of a taco when it’s Tuesday. What’s you’re saying is, “Let’s go eat lunch.” They don’t realize that. Maybe they read it as, “You think I’m overweight because I had tacos.” That person has no idea. This is what happens.

Are we becoming too sensitive?

I do. One of my clients, I said, “Try this for 30 days. See what happens.” They’re doing it to see what happens. We’re working on how we’ll quantify, “Are people happier? Are people less angry on Taco Tuesday?” I don’t know. I do think there’s something to be said about getting back to some of the basics, some of the block and tackle stuff like, “How are you?” One of the funniest thing I like to do when I’m working in a Corporate American office, if somebody says, “How are you?” and they keep walking, I’m like, “I’m great. How are you?” I’ll turn around and start a conversation with them, even if I don’t know them. If you’re going to ask me how I’m doing, then let’s engage in a conversation. I’m not trying to be arrogant or standoffish, but I’m generally curious. Are they willing to have a conversation or has that just become breathing? I could go on. I do hope you do a show on the buzzwords. A friend of mine, he is a futurist. It’s incredible work. I wasn’t even aware of what that even meant. He wants to do some platform called Thoughtless Leadership or Thoughtless Leaders. We make fun of ourselves and some of these KPIs and all this language and stuff in acronyms.

The acronym thing, I almost didn’t do it in my book because there are so many acronyms. I started to think that it’s such an easier way to remember things. Every industry has its own unique little language. People start dropping all these little words, acronyms and abbreviations. People call abbreviations acronyms when they’re abbreviations. There’s another issue. If it doesn’t sound like it is, it’s an abbreviation. A lot of people don’t look that one up, about acronyms versus abbreviations. It’s interesting to talk about all this stuff. You and I would have plenty to chat about. We have a lot in common of things that we find interesting. Our movie taste seems to be similar. A lot of people are going to want to know how they can reach you. They can buy your book and hire you to speak in anything that you do. How do they do that?

The easiest way would be to go to my website, which is From there, you can find me on LinkedIn. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, as well as my book. It’s on Amazon, Barnes & Noble. You can get everything from my website. Go there.

This was so much fun, Josh. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure. I enjoyed it.

I want to thank Joshua for being my guest. We get so many great guests on the show. This was a fun show. I thoroughly enjoyed that. If you’ve missed any of the past shows, we have so many wonderful guests. It’s all at We talked a lot about curiosity on this show. I know a lot of people are interested in learning more about what we’re doing with the Curiosity Code Index Training and the book, Cracking the Curiosity Code. We’re working with companies all around the globe with this. The book is required in reading in universities around the world. There’s so much to be found. You can go to to find out more about that. To contact the show or me or find out more about my speaking and consulting, you can go to I hope you enjoyed the show. I did. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Joshua Miller

TTL 552 | CoachingJoshua Miller is an Amazon bestselling author, a Master Certified Executive Coach and a creative leader in the personal and professional development field. His career experience spanned both the advertising world and the world of organizational development. In advertising, he was the Creative Lead. He was responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator, developing and supporting executive development and change management for many of the same companies.


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