Deepening Relationships Through The Art Of Connection with Michael Gelb

In this digital era, many people are more focused on connecting with their gadgets rather than interacting with another human. Long before the age of the cell phone, survey after survey listed communication as the number one problem in corporate culture. Michael Gelb, bestselling author and the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking, says that the missing link in this problem of forgetting to build rapport with other people is in building relationships. His book, The Art of Connection: 7 Relationship-Building Skills Every Leader Needs Now, teaches us how to think creatively and develop innovative cultures in the workplace to deepen our relationships and transform our lives; because at the end of the day, what matters is how we connect with other people more than anything else.

TTL 432 | Art Of Connection


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Michael Gelb. Michael is the world’s leading authority on application of genius thinking. He is a bestselling author. This guy could do a lot of things from juggling to who knows what. I’m looking forward to this. He has so many bestselling books. This is going to be a great show.

Listen to the podcast here

Deepening Relationships Through The Art Of Connection with Michael Gelb

I am with Michael Gelb who is the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. He is the pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning and innovation leadership. It’s so nice to have you here, Michael.

It’s great to be with you.

I know you have written so many books and you’ve done so much research in the area that I’m interested in. You have fifteen books on creativity and innovation or is it more than that now?

I’m finishing another one, but that’s close enough.

They’ve been translated into 25 languages. You’ve appeared on the Washington Post, Amazon and New York Times Best Seller list. You have some amazing work. The reason we even met is that I cited your work in one of my books. I started researching and I was like, “Who is this guy? He is so interesting” I’ve seen you do other things, but I didn’t realize how much you did in this area that I was interested in, which was curiosity. I knew you from How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci the most, but you’ve got quite a bit of other research out there in so many different areas. I don’t even know where I want to start. Your other book is The Art of Connection. Is that what you’re promoting? What are you working on at the moment?

The Art of Connection came out. It is my most recent book. I wrote it because in teaching people how to think creatively and develop more innovative cultures in the workplace, the missing link is always relationships. It’s relatively easy to come up with creative ideas and the tricky part is getting people aligned around actually applying them. That is something that I’ve always aimed to help my clients with. Because I’m like you, I do real consulting with companies. I don’t just give keynotes and ride off into the sunset. Many of my clients, I worked with for decades to help create innovative cultures. That always comes down to how you lead innovation and the way you lead innovation is you become very skilled at the art of connection.

I was lucky that I was in sales for many decades and we were taught a lot about how to connect well with people and interpersonal skills and things like that. A lot of people don’t get that training in the day-in and day-out jobs. Do you think companies should be training more in that area? Do you think we should be getting it in college? How do you learn to connect?

[bctt tweet=”Learn how to understand people who look at the world in a way that’s different from yours.” username=””]

It’s becoming trickier because everybody’s connected to their device instead of to other human beings. The funny thing is that long before the age of the cell phone, survey after survey of the number one problem in corporate culture invariably listed communication as number one. I know you have tremendous expertise in various personality typologies and these disciplines. One of the ways that people aim to cope with the inability of many managers and leaders to connect with people is by helping those managers and leaders realize that not everybody looks at the world the same way you do.

It’s so funny how much that’s an eye-opener for people. At this point, there’s so much written about communication and emotional intelligence, but many people still are struggling with this. You brought up the digital devices and how we’re addicted. You said we all have ADD to some degree I think due to our addiction to this. There are a lot of things you wrote about in your work that not only do we need to connect. You write about our emotional brain and how Buddhist monks think. There are all these brain thinking. How did you get interested in looking at how we think? What’s the background that you had that led to your first interest in all of that?

My mom is a psychologist. I remember when I was very young, she shared with me the idea that one had a choice about how one thinks. She suppressed upon me the power of the mind and that really registered. When I was growing up, it was the time of the Vietnam War and lots of racial conflicts and the society was divided. It’s hard to say whether it was as bad as it is now. I don’t know what the metric is, but it was not an easy time. At first, I was interested in politics. I was going to study political science when I went to college. This is a parallel unfortunately with our time now. It was very rare to find anybody, whatever side they were, whatever their position was, who was genuinely thinking, who could credibly give a fair assessment of an alternative argument to their own.

It seemed to be that people were just acting out their prejudices and defending their preconceptions, and this seems to be a problem. I want to understand how can we learn to think, how can we learn to be inwardly free so that we are not preprogrammed? It seems to be the most important thing that any person could learn. I wanted to learn that quality of inner freedom. It also seemed to be powerfully important in terms of society. I switched my major. I majored in Psychology and as much as I was fascinated by psychology, it was academic. It was theoretical. I didn’t necessarily see the qualities that I was looking for in my psychology professors, even though they talked about how to cultivate them. I switched my major to Philosophy, which was fascinating. I love philosophy. I love especially studying logic. Once again, it was still disembodied.

A long time ago, I figured out that the way to learn more about this was to find people who genuinely embodied this kind of inner freedom. I was lucky enough to find a fabulous meditation teacher when I was nineteen years old. I thought, “This is a path to cultivating that inner freedom that I was seeking.” In 1982, I moved to Washington, DC because I still was hoping to influence politicians to think more creatively but, they weren’t interested. I also thought maybe I could work with schools and with children so that they could grow up learning these kinds of skills. Most schooling was pretty dominated by a bureaucratic mindset that was focused on keeping things the way they were. Fortunately, I found that businesses were very interested in learning about thinking creatively or learning about understanding one’s self and how to change and evolve. This coincided, I was lucky. It was an exciting time because I was right there when companies for the first time took diversity initiatives seriously because there wasn’t as much need for all this.

When everybody went to the same school, had the same background, looked the same and pretty much thought the same, there wasn’t quite as much of a sense of the urgency of learning how to understand people who look at the world in a way that’s different from the way you look at the world. I remember one of my clients was DuPont. I train every DuPont chemical engineer in a three-day seminar on creative thinking. For several years, I work with all sorts of groups there, the marketing people. I worked with their senior scientists. I even worked with their pension and investment fund for many years.

I remember this was right at the time when DuPont started to take diversity seriously. My client was one of the internal champions of the whole diversity initiative. They were wondering why it wasn’t catching a cold because people would understand this makes sense and so on and so forth. As I often share with clients over the years, understanding is not the same thing as remembering. These are smart people, they understood it, but they didn’t remember to do anything differently. When DuPont first started, they were in the gun powder business. Early on, they had a couple of accidents and a number of people were blown up.

TTL 432 | Art Of Connection
Art Of Connection: The best leaders, managers, parents, partners, and humans are those who are able to see and bring out the unique expression of each person.


DuPont became good at safety. If you go to any DuPont facility in the world now, safety is their religion. They’re so good at it. They outsource it as a profit center. They consult to other companies on how to be safe and you can’t escape it. I’ll never forget my first engagement at DuPont is with their learning resources group. I spent the morning with them and then my client was going to take us out to lunch. I got in his car. There were four of us in the car and he wouldn’t even start the car until he heard the click of everybody’s seatbelt. You watch a safety video before you go into any facility. It really pays off. What my clients realized in this diversity initiative was they had to treat diversity the same way they treated safety. It had to be something that was being so passionately, continuously reinforced that you couldn’t miss it. The world has changed a lot since then in very positive ways. These are great developments.

People tend to view these diversity issues as issues of people from different backgrounds or different gender. Obviously, that’s true, but the real diversity is every individual is a potential universe of creativity. The best leaders, the best managers, the best parents, the best partners, the best humans are those who are able to see that in others and bring out the unique expression of each person. People love to be around that kind of person. They love to be around that kind of leader. Everybody always says, “My best teacher, my best coach, my best boss was the one who saw something in me that I didn’t even see myself and encouraged it and brought it out.” Part of my passion is to help people live that way in their everyday lives. If they happened to be in a business, it does pay off because it makes your business much more productive. That’s how I actually earned my living, but it’s also just how I live my life.

You talked about DuPont. When companies see it ties into productivity and costs and they see the financial benefit of changing a cultural thing like the safety issue, it’s obvious to them. You can’t have people blowing up. Is DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware? I’m trying to remember because I worked for AstraZeneca for twenty years and I always flew into Wilmington. I remember they were pretty big there.

AstraZeneca has been a major client of mine as well. How did we not meet there?

I was a pharmaceutical rep.

I used to talk to the pharmaceutical reps.

I wonder if I ever saw you. I left there a long time ago though.

[bctt tweet=”Every individual is a potential universe of creativity.” username=””]

I did stuff there a really long time ago.

We had the most amazing entertainment they would bring in and people to talk. I remember one time they brought Larry Miller. He was so great. He has these five levels of drinking talk he does. If you ever get a chance to look up that video, it’s hysterical because he does a great delivery.

I still love doing big programs for the pharmaceutical reps because they were invariably very charming people who were very skilled at getting into the doctor’s office and getting the doctors to pay attention to them.

It was hard. Your whole job is to chase around the guy who didn’t want to have a conversation with you and force them to talk to you for 90 seconds. That’s a tough job.

You have to go from being super charming and really good at connecting and getting their time and attention to being scientifically very sharp and accurate and making a strong case for what you are representing. It’s a special skill set that I’m not surprised that you have.

It taught me a lot of things. I started in agricultural chemicals before I switched over to pharmaceuticals actually. I was in it for a long time and they would test us. They gave that personality test to even get the job. This is 1980 when I first went in, it was a long time ago. Every year, they would rate us on our concern for impact. I’m thinking that’s really your emotional intelligence, how much you care about how you come across to other people and what they think. They were ahead of their time. You didn’t see that in the early ‘80s. Daniel Goleman didn’t make his book popular until after ‘95. It’s a real credit to AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical companies at that time. They were trying. They do a lot of the things that you tried to teach and I tried to teach to companies now that people still struggle with this stuff. Why do you think that the people still struggle when there’s been so much time and so much written about it?

They’re not paying attention. How many consultants, authors and coaches does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. A lot of people don’t change until they have to. They don’t change until there’s a crisis, until they lose their job because they haven’t adapted, until their marriage falls apart because they didn’t tune in to their partner or connect with them. Don’t wait for trauma to learn about how to shift and change internally.

TTL 432 | Art Of Connection
Art Of Connection: People we call geniuses are the ones who maintain that passionate curiosity and are frequently what contemporary society might call a learning disability.


Did you get a lot of good light bulb jokes when you innovate like Edison?

Yes, we heard them all. We got to see Edison’s original light bulb too.

Talk about that. You wrote that with Sarah Miller Caldicott. She’s the great grandniece of Thomas Edison.

She called me up in 2006, 2007 and she said, “This is Sarah Miller Caldicott. I’m Thomas Edison’s great-great-grandniece. I read your book about How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci. I was very inspired and I wanted to talk to you.” She told me that she had an NDA from the Dartmouth Tuck School of Business. Right in that nanosecond, I conceived a creative idea. A light bulb turned on in my brain and I thought, “Let’s write a book together about Edison.” We did and it was a wonderful process. I immediately realized it with Sarah’s remarkable family background, we get access to the world’s leading Edison Scholars, which we did. We were able to work primarily with Dr. Paul Israel who runs the Edison Papers Project at Rutgers University. He was very helpful to us. The other cool thing about Sarah’s background is that besides being related to Edison, she’s also related to Louis Miller, who’s a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. I realized we would be able to get access to the contemporary members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The first thing we did is figured out what was Edison’s strategy for creating the world’s first innovation culture? We came up with five core competencies and each competency has five elements. We laid them out and then we backed them up with stories from Edison’s interviews, notebooks and writings. We aim to translate them into practices that people could apply in their own businesses. To make sure that this was not just a historical tour through Edison’s genius and something really relevant, we went to members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Contemporary Members and we laid out the five competencies and the 25 elements. We said, “Here’s what we found that Edison did and here’s the system we like to present. What we need to know from you, does this resonate with you? How does this relate to what you did to get into the National Inventors Hall of Fame?” They all said to us, “That’s exactly what I did. Thank you for articulating it.” It’s such a detailed, practical way and at least half of them told us, “By the way, when I was growing up, Thomas Edison was my hero.”

Thomas Edison is cited so much for so many good reasons and I could see why you’d be interested in following what he did. You’ve won some amazing awards based on some of your writing. You won the Brain Trust Charity’s Brain of the Year Award. Other winners were Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Gene Roddenberry. If you look at some of the stuff you’ve won, you know how to master the art of storytelling, but you get deep into the historical background as well. When I was watching your talk that you gave at the Singularity University, you were talking about how you actually got to literally walk in Leonardo’s footsteps. You talked about the importance of curiosity and you said it in Italian, which I like. I’m Italian, but I can’t speak Italian, I’m only half. I thought it was a really interesting talk about getting people interested in Leonardo Da Vinci’s relationship to curiosity, just like you focus on that with Edison. How do these people in your research become so curious? Everybody’s born with curiosity, but not everybody can hold on to it like they had. Did you find anything about them that was unique in that respect? Was it their family? Was it some other influence? Who knows?

What they all have in common is they keep their birthright alive. We all have this birthright. What we all have in common is that every child is born really curious and they’re asking questions all the time. They’re also wildly imaginative. They love to daydream and create alternative worlds and universes and they have phenomenal energy. What happens is for most of them, they go to school and they start to learn that answers are more important than questions and that natural passion is stifled. Imagination is limited and the energy level is muted. The people we call geniuses are the ones who for whatever reason maintain that passionate curiosity. It is oftentimes what contemporary society might call a learning disability.

[bctt tweet=”The more curious you are, the more imaginative you become. The more imaginative you become, the more energy you have.” username=””]

Edison was taken out of school. His teacher said that his brain was addled. His mother actually homeschooled him and recognized his exceptional intelligence and encouraged it. Leonardo was reported by Vasari, the first art historian, to have asked so many questions that he confounded his schoolmasters and he was sent to vocational school. His father was not married to his mother. Children born out of wedlock weren’t allowed to enter the academic track. His father sent him to the studio of Verrocchio, which was probably the greatest possible vocational school he could have gone to where he learned everything from goldsmithing to sculpture to painting, architecture and lots of very practical skills that really nurtured his amazing intelligence.

Here’s the good news for all of us is at any age, you can turn that light bulb on by awakening your curiosity. As you awaken your curiosity, you find that you have more stimulus to your imagination. As your imagination is stimulated, you discovered that you have more energy. The more energy you have, the more passionate you can be about your curiosity. The more curious you are, the more imaginative you become. The more imaginative you become, the more energy you have. This is a virtuous cycle of genius that we can experience a personal renaissance, a personal rebirth of our original birthright at any time in our lives, but now is the best time to begin.

I interviewed Rich Karlgaard who wrote Late Bloomers. He writes about how it’s not too late. There are a lot of people that have set their sights that you have to do a certain thing by a certain age or you’re a failure if you’re not a 4.0 and you haven’t gotten into Harvard. A lot of people have yet to explore how much they can really do. That’s what I love about your work is that you look at some of these genius minds and what we can learn from them. Your overall goal is to make people more creative and more profitable, more interesting and more innovative. Everybody’s trying to be innovative with the advent of technology and everything replacing jobs that they’re worried about that. If we could work on our curiosity and we’ve got that to motivate us, we’ve got the drive and all that, how important is it to look at our perception of how we view other people and how do you work on that?

It begins with knowing one’s self. We talked about inner freedom. You’ll notice whatever reaction you might have to meeting someone and becoming aware of what’s going on in a given moment. Is it free or is it totally conditioned? Usually, it’s totally conditioned.

We get this thought in our head that this is the only way things can be because that’s all we’ve ever known. We fall in love with our ideas and then you close your mind to other people’s ideas. I know you’ve got a lot that you’ve written in this book that you talk about. Is it Aikido that you study?


TTL 432 | Art Of Connection
The Art of Connection: 7 Relationship-Building Skills Every Leader Needs Now

That and juggling, you’re an interesting guy. A professional juggler who performed with Bob Dylan. As you’ve focused on some of these mind-controlling ways to get control of our mind, but we want to open it as well. Can you have control and still have it open? How do you do that?

Yeah, those two things go together. Part of it is by not separating your body from your mind and your emotions from your body and your mind. It’s shifting out of the way. Unfortunately, most of us have been encouraged to look at ourselves and others in this oddly disembodied way, as though the mind was one thing, the body is something else and the emotions are yet another thing. Recognizing that this system always functions together for better or for worse. If you learn to become aware of your kinesthetic sense, your proprioception, you begin to notice that someone walked into the room and you felt this tightness in your chest and this constriction in your throat as soon as you saw that person. You started having thoughts about them and then you said, “I don’t like this person.” Can these things tend to happen automatically and completely unconsciously?

As you start to become aware of what’s happening at the most basic level of your being, you develop choice because then you can say, “I’m going to now shake hands with this person or be introduced to them.” Instead of, “Let me just check. Have I held my breath? Am I shortening my stature? Am I constrained internally? Let me free myself from those automatic impingements and be open to seeing this person and listening to them and being receptive to them.” It doesn’t mean you have to like everybody. You could still decide, “After my psychophysical inner work, I decided I really don’t like that person.” That’s a legitimate decision, but now there’s some internal freedom.

The simple point I’m making here is that the way to change your mind or your feeling is often to change your body. In the simplest terms, if you are depressed, you must slump. It’s impossible to be beautifully upright, poised and feel depressed. If you’re going to be angry, you will tighten your jaw. What if you release your jaw and then consider how you feel? Waking up and developing control through being able to make these subtle shifts with your physiology creates the openness in your psychology to maybe see something you might not have seen. The other thing too by the way and I know you know this, emotions are contagious for better or for worst. A lot of what brings out the best or the worst in other people turns out to be these micro body language expressions. One of the classic things here is the Rosenthal effect, also known as the Pygmalion effect.

We’re talking about the teacher or the boss who brings out the best in people. When they tell the teacher, “These children are difficult and slow,” the teacher is interacting with the child and the child’s trying to answer a question, having a hard time. What we could observe is that the teacher is subtly shaking their head in a negating way. The body language is disincentivizing to the child’s continuing attempt to solve the problem. When the same teacher has been told that this is a gifted child and the same child has hesitancy in answering the question, the teacher is nodding and being affirming and the child feels encouraged while they come up with the answer. This applies in not just with teachers, even with army drill sergeants. When army drill sergeants are told that recruits are below average, those recruits perform below average even though they weren’t. When those same army drill sergeants are told that recruits are above average, they perform on an above average level in which is not some airy-fairy thing.

This is the number of push-ups they can do after six weeks of basic training. When they tell the army drill sergeants, “These recruits were both averages. The only difference was the expectation we planted in your mind,” the army drill sergeant refused to believe it. All this is mediated by micro body language cues. Your attitude is affecting your body language. Your body language is bringing out the best or the worst in other people. There’s a world of possibility for when we talk about inner freedom, we talk about change and transformation. Learning to be more aware of these subtle things that are happening in your body and then how to change them.

That’s a big question when you’re dealing with cross-cultural organizations. You’re dealing with different cultures. You may be opening a new branch somewhere or you’re trying to have a diverse workplace. You’re talking about expectations based on body language and that impacts of perception. How do we teach people to create the proper body language when we’ve got so many different cultures that read each nuance differently?

Start with getting good at it in your own culture. If you’re a New Yorker or you’re from California, you’re from Texas and you can’t roll within that framework, forget about going to Japan or the Middle East.

I saw the movie Hotel Mumbai. When you were talking about some of the stuff you were saying of how people have these perceptions and these ideas of what people are really thinking or how they’re feeling. They touched on it with the way people reacted and the people that were hiding out from the terrorists who were shooting guns in the other room. It had Dev Patel, the guy who was in a lot of these great movies like Slumdog Millionaire, and he plays a Sikh where he’s got his hair up in his scarf. It’s for freaking out some of the people in the room because they don’t know who’s the terrorist. We’re at this point where we’re looking at people, we’re looking for everything from their language to the body language, to how they dress. Everybody’s afraid of so many other things. Do you think this is a harder time than ever to improve our perceptions of what we think, what we expect out of people?

[bctt tweet=”Emotions are contagious for better or for worse.” username=””]

There is the whole minefield of crazy overreaction to relatively meaningless gestures that people are over-interpreting and that’s always hard to control. We live in a hysterical time as far as a lot of that is concerned. For most of us in terms of living a good life and bringing out the best in other people, people ultimately sense whether you genuinely care. They sense when you genuinely have their interests at heart and if you’re authentic, sincere, genuinely caring and empathic about other people. You also at the same time know yourself and know how to request what you want. That’s what leadership is. Leadership is meeting more and more needs. Having skillful means to meet the needs of different constituencies and to aim to bring out the best in everyone. We can sense when people are sincere about that versus the old thing, which they say in Hollywood and DC, “Sincerity is the key to success and once you fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Is that part of the Alexander technique? Did you learn it from your training in that?

I tell people it’s what everybody discovers eventually and now we have the research behind it. This is in Waldinger’s long-term study. The number one correlate of happiness, fulfillment, longevity and health is the sense of genuine connection with others. It’s the giving and receiving of love, kindness and caring. Build your life around that. Build your life around being about kindness, empathy, compassion, humor and you’ll also learn how to know what you need and ask for what you want. You would think that doesn’t sound too complicated but it’s something that a lot of people have no clue how to do. They wonder why they feel taken advantage of or they’re unfulfilled because they don’t know how to request and ask for what they want. They don’t know how to help other people learn to discover what they want and ask for it and meet other people’s needs and you’ll be very happy.

It’s very Zig Ziglar. If you give people what they want, you’ll get what you want. How do you ask for what you want if you don’t know how?

First of all, it helps to step back and try to consider what’s real in a given circumstance. Can you separate your reactivity, your interpretation or your evaluation of the situation from the actual objective data in a situation? This is challenging for a lot of people. They see everything as it’s right or wrong, it’s good or bad, I like it or I don’t like it. That’s legitimate but just to spend that and lay out what’s really happened. You ask yourself the question, “How does this affect me? What are my feelings about it?” A lot of people never asked that question and nobody ever asked them, “How do you feel?” so they haven’t practiced it.

You have to practice, “How do I feel about this?” and then you say, “What are my needs that are not being met that led to these feelings? What are the needs of the other people in this circumstance?” Only then you have a hope of making a request to meet your needs. If you don’t know what your needs are, you don’t know what you’re feeling and you don’t know what’s happening, how are you going to make a legitimate request for something? These are foundational fundamental skills and they take practice. In The Art of Connection, I try to give lots of examples and take people through exercises and a couple of questionnaires around all this. This aspect is based on the brilliant work of Marshall Rosenberg on what he calls nonviolent communication.

TTL 432 | Art Of Connection
Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History’s Ten Most Revolutionary Minds

There’s so much to be learned from some of the people you’ve researched and all your books about how to open yourself up to different ways of thinking. I know when I wrote about curiosity, I tried to help people get over the things that kept people from asking questions or providing solutions like you’re saying. People fear that people are going to look at their question as insubordination or whatever it is. They don’t want to look dumb. There are so many important things that people have to offer that they’re holding back. I love that you focus on genius in general, with da Vinci and with Edison and even your book, Discover Your Genius. You looked at Einstein, Gandhi, Columbus and Shakespeare. I know how you picked Edison because you gave us that story, but what makes you pick somebody to include in your list of geniuses? It’s hard not to include Leonardo da Vinci and Einstein but on the other ones, what led to your interest in what they did that made them stand out as a genius to you?

For Discover Your Genius, I set criteria. I was looking for geniuses whose ideas change the whole world, whose influence was obviously positive, whose influence was not likely to end, that it seemed to be timeless. Shakespeare’s in 50 languages now. That’s a pretty good sign that he’s here to stay. I also looked for individuals who whereby we could attribute a breakthrough to one person, even though we all know that these great ideas are part of their time and that there are many people working on these things. That there are oftentimes people who didn’t get credit for great work that they did do or for very similar work to the person who became famous. Nevertheless, I wanted to find those who we could say it was reasonably attributable, that Einstein really did come up with the Theory of Relativity. He did write the equation E = mc2. Even though there are lots of other people who are getting close to the same thing, there was only one Einstein who made it. It had to be attributable, positive, universal and timeless.

I also was looking for examples that would be useful for my readers. Once I established the criteria, I had so much fun because I sponsored all kinds of fun dinner parties with the absolute smartest people I know. I would serve them lots of great wine. I laid out the criteria and asked people to nominate their geniuses and then defend who they were nominating. We had all these fabulous debates with all these brilliant people. I chose the ones for that book and sometimes people get very, “How dare you have this person in? How could you leave this person out?” I say, “Thank you for sharing. Write your own book.”

I was noticing that you had Elizabeth, who is the only female on that list as I recall. Do you think that coming in the future, we’ll see more women on a list like that? Is it just the time?

Of course, we will. I wrote a section at the end of Discover Your Genius because people always ask me who do I think are the contemporary geniuses and there are a lot more women on that list as you might imagine. I wasn’t going to just do some politically correct affirmative action thing. People said, “What about Marie Curie?” She got two Nobel Prizes. She was definitely a genius, but the influence of her work didn’t change the thinking of humanity on a broad and universal scale. Whereas Elizabeth I, in my view really did. Curiously enough, the genius characteristic of Elizabeth, I didn’t put her in because she ran for 45 years and was the leader of the Elizabethan Golden Age and was the sponsor of the arts, theater, and Shakespeare. She helped to create the beginning of the notion of tolerance and bringing together her Catholic and Protestant subjects and she colonized the New World. Virginia is in the final four and Virginia is named after her. All those reasons are not why I put her in. I put her in because more than any other figure in history, Elizabeth changed the world’s notion of the capabilities of women.

If you look at literature from before the time of Elizabeth, it’s rare to find examples of women who are portrayed as multidimensional, highly intelligent and independent beings. They’re usually portrayed as either goddesses or prostitutes. It started to change from the time of Elizabeth where you start to get Jane Austen, you’ve got Shakespeare, you’ve got all these writers and suddenly they’re expressing the intelligence and the personhood of women. In the book, I worked with some scholars of women’s studies who liked my thesis and helped me support it by showing the chain of evidence of the evolution of the notion. The greatest human rights movement in the history of the world is the contemporary empowerment to women. Even though it’s still in process, if you look at it in the big picture of history, there’s been more liberation of human potential through the empowerment of women than any other big societal shift. It’s unstoppable at this point, it has more than enough momentum. I see Elizabeth as a key transformational figure in that evolution. She made it in purely on her merits and paved the way for many more women to be on the list when another version of this book is written in 50 years or 100 years.

It will be interesting to see who gets added to the next list. In my mind, I’m thinking of somebody like Stephen Hawking or Mother Teresa. I’m sure you probably had the hardest time limiting who you put on this list. It’s quite an interesting assortment of genius on here. Your books are all very fascinating to me. It all ties into everything I’m interested in and I was really looking forward to having you on the show. I hope a lot of people take some time to take a look at your work because I know that the connections are such a huge part of what makes people successful at work. Coming from a sales background, I was fascinated just the name of the book, The Art of Connection: 7 Relationship Building Skills Every Leader Needs Now, is so important. I think a lot of people should read this. If they want to do that, how can they find your book? How can they find you if they want to hire you or have you speak and that type of thing? is the best way. We have a free newsletter and there are also lots of free articles and videos on the site. They could also get the books there and I’m sending in the manuscript for my newest book. It’s called The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World.

[bctt tweet=”One has a choice about how one thinks.” username=””]

Is it a mindfulness type of focus?

It’s more of how to transform capitalism so that it fulfills its original intention as articulated by Adam Smith. We all know that Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations. We all know about the importance of free markets and the invisible hand that tends to yield the greatest good for the greatest number. Adam Smith also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Somehow we’ve focused on The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments has lost its way. We are making a powerful argument for bringing back The Theory of Moral Sentiments and integrating that into The Wealth of Nations with my co-author, Professor Raj Sisodia, who is one of the Founders of the Conscious Capitalism movement. It’s more of what we were talking about before in The Art of Connection. If you are human-centered, if you put people first, if you care for all the stakeholders you interact with, if you focused on making the world a better place through your endeavor, you will be more profitable over time and you’ll sleep much better every night.

I assume we’ll see some of Mackey’s work in that?

John Mackey was the co-author of Conscious Capitalism with Raj Sisodia. John is great and has received a lot of attention for his pioneering work, especially with animal safety. He’s done amazing stuff and he is trying to bring healthy, wholesome food to more and more people. In this book, we’ve profiled a lot of companies that haven’t been written about so much before that are doing amazing things. They’re really living this dream. They’re healing their communities. They’re healing their stakeholders and they’re much more profitable than their industry peers. Once you realize that that’s possible, why would you do anything else?

Thank you so much for being on the show, Michael. This was so interesting. This is definitely up my alley of everything I love. I was fascinated with all your work and I was lucky to have a little snippet of your work in my book. I am fascinated by everything that you do, so this was quite an honor to have you on the show.

It’s an honor to be with you. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.

I hope everybody checks out The Art of Connection. I’d like to thank Michael for being my guest. We get so many great guests on the show. You can also find out more about Cracking the Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index at If you just want to reach out to me on my website to find out more about speaking and consulting that we do, it can all be found at I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Michael Gelb

TTL 432 | Art Of ConnectionMichael J. Gelb is the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. He is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership. Gelb leads seminars for organizations such as DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Roche, and YPO.

He brings more than 35 years of experience as a professional speaker, seminar leader and organizational consultant to his diverse, international clientele. Michael Gelb is the author of 15 books on creativity and innovation including the international bestseller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. (1998) How to Think Like Leonardo has been translated into 25 languages and has appeared on The Washington Post, Amazon, and The New York Times bestseller lists.


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