Is it pain that holds us back when we push our self or discomfort or unpleasant sensations? When it comes to stretching the body’s elastic limits, elite athletes and everybody else feel pain pretty much the same way. But the human body’s incredible pain threshold that goes way beyond athletics, as Alex Hutchinson explores with his work. Alex is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, And The Curiously Elastic Limits Of Human Performance. He is also a National magazine award winning journalist. On the other hand, Raana Zia shares her brilliant insights on the hidden light in emotional intelligence. She is a former CFO who followed a different passion. Raana also wrote the life-changing book Your Hidden Light: A Personal Guide To Creating Your Desired Life.
We have a great show because we have Alex Hutchinson and Raana Zia here. Alex is the author of Endure. He is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist. Raana Zia is a former CFO who left to work on a book and follow a different passion. Her book’s Your Hidden Light: A Personal Guide To Creating Your Desired Life.
Listen to the podcast here:
Elastic Limits Of The Body With Alex Hutchinson
I am here with Alex Hutchinson who is a National Magazine award winning journalist, writing mostly about science and endurance sports these days. He’s currently a contributing Editor at Outside, a Columnist at The Globe and Mail and a Senior Editor at Canadian Running. He was previously a Runner’s World columnist and contributing Editor at Popular Mechanics and his work appears in many other publications including The New York Times and The New Yorker. His book is Endure: Mind, Body, And The Curiously Elastic Limits Of Human Performance. It’s nice to have you here, Alex.
Thanks so much, Diane. It’s great to be here.
I’m writing a book on curiosity, so I liked the title of your book had the curiously elastic limits of human performance. I watched your interview with Malcolm Gladwell. I like some of what you were saying about the differences of what athletes perceive as pain as compared to what we perceive as pain. You’ve written about some of the things that a lot of people will find fascinating in terms of the stuff that I deal with on the show, in terms of leadership, and some of the things that we need in terms of endurance in work. I like some of the studies that you cited. How you said that some of these athletes that we think they’re stronger than we are or they don’t feel pain, it’s actually not true. They do feel the pain but their reaction to it is different. I like that idea of perception. Can we talk a little bit about that and what you found out in your research?
I love that you highlighted the word curiosity because that’s what this book started out for me. I’m a runner by background. I was curious about the ultimate physical limits and what it would say about how fast humans could run or how fast I could run. What it was about for me was following my curiosity. Trying to understand how our bodies and minds work when we push them. That’s why the conclusions and the lessons we can draw from them are general. It’s not just about running, it’s about all sorts of intuits and all sorts of situations. The thing about pain and discomfort, there’s this idea that the people who achieve the most are those who are willing to push themselves hardest and suffer the most. I was curious about that.
Is it pain that holds us back when we push our self or discomfort or unpleasant sensations? Some people, they just not feel like the same as the rest of us. It turns out there’s a ton of literature on this, trying to understand people’s pains, thresholds, and how they perceive pain. Elite athletes and everybody else, they feel pain pretty much the same. If you give people a mounting series of electric shocks, the champion athletes and the ordinary person will say, “Ouch that hurts,” at roughly the same point. The difference is that the athletes are willing to keep enduring it for longer. Even though they feel it the same, they’re willing to tolerate it. What scientists think is that this isn’t about that they’ve deadened their nerves or anything. It’s that they’ve developed psychological coping strategies. They’ve developed the ability to distract themselves from unpleasant sensations and also to reframe them so that they’re considering pain as a source of information, not as an emotional thing that they need to overreact to.
All stimulate both positive and negative. They’re assimilating it and saying, “If my legs are hurting and my heart is pounding, that means I can’t continue at this pace forever.” Rather than thinking, “I’m going to die. I have to have to stop.” What’s interesting is that this then translates into other facets of life that athletes are able to tolerate other forms of pain better than most people. The lesson here is that regular exposure or practicing by exposing yourself to difficult situations, you get better at it. You learn these psychological coping strategies.
You talked a little bit about how they almost like it. I was thinking for myself how I’ll do things that I know are awful because I want to learn something new, but it stretches me outside of my normal comfort zone. Listening to you talk on some of your interviews, looking at your book and different things is that training ourselves to deal with pain. Some of us like it a little bit, the good and the bad that go along with it.
I heard a researcher refer to this as benign masochism, the idea that you enjoy a little bit the suffering. Not that some people are born loving to suffer. It’s learning to zoom out and see that, “If I do this work, I’m going to get fitter and that’s going to make me feel good. Or if I eat these good foods, I’m going to feel better tomorrow.” You start to associate the positive effects even when it’s a challenging thing to do, whether it’s going through a long negotiation, studying for an exam or all these things. You start to enjoy it, not necessarily because it’s intrinsically enjoyable but because you love what it’s going to do for you.
The dopamine is increased when we’re curious and we’re also getting a release of cortisol to some extent. If you get too much of it, that’s not a good thing either. You want to have a certain level. I was interested in some of the studies you had on the elite swimmers when they were tested for their pain sensitivity. Want to tell about that?
We tend to think about pain sensitivity as something that’s static. Some people are tough and some people aren’t. Some of the classic research tracks pain sensitivity and pain tolerance, in this case in elite swimmers, over the course of the year and seeing how it waxes and wanes so that in the off season they have relatively low pain tolerance. When they’re approaching their peak competition, they’ve been training hard. They have better and better pain tolerance. It’s something that you have to work at all the time or continuously at least. It’s not something you become tough once and then you’re done. It’s a process and an ongoing one for all of us.
You’re chasing your limit always. If you’re trying to come back to get control of your brain for different reasons, to either handle pain, to have more endurance or whatever the reason is, we’re working on changing our narrative in our brains? Is that what it is?
That’s a good way of putting it. The big message that I took away from all the research I did into the limits of endurance is that it’s less important. You’re not held back by how fast your heart is beating or how much lactate is in your legs or anything that. What matters is how your brain interprets those signals. What matters is what your brain thinks about how fast your heart is beating and how much lactate is in your legs. That is a general message that whether you’re in a social situation, a business situation or an athletic situation, ultimately what matters is how you perceive the feedback you’re getting both from your body and from other people and from the environment. What that means is if you’re telling yourself, “This sucks, this hurts, I’m going to fail,” that affects how you interpret the signals you’re getting from yourself and from other people. If you can change that narrative, the exact same situation or the exact same physiological feeling is going to produce a different result in your brain and it’s going to allow you to push on, persist and endure a little longer.
You said some of the things that we tell ourselves that are negative. How do we get ourselves to do this, to tell ourselves to positive things? How do you get to the point where we recognize we’re capable of more? I think people get in these spirals or they’re used to being a certain negative way. I’ve said this about my book that the people who need to read it may not be curious enough to pick it up. Those are the people you want to help. If your book is to help people push themselves a little bit more and the people who need to read it, how do you get them to recognize that?
The people who’ve been most eager to read my book are the people who are already making a habit of pushing their limits. The important thing to understand is that if we’re talking about changing your narrative, it’s not something you wake up tomorrow morning and say, “I’m going to be a more positive person.” I wrote a book on this and I spent many years doing it, but it’s not like I’m at the end zone and it’s all finished. It’s a process that I’m still early in the stages of trying to learn to do this. You can think of it in three key stages. First of all, you have to recognize what your internal monologue is telling you. In a stressful situation, what do you say to yourself? If you ask a lot of athletes they’ll say, “I don’t think about anything or I think about the game.” If you get them to start paying attention, they’ll discover that they also have this monologue that’s either encouraging them or holding them back. Once you’ve recognized that internal monologue, you want to identify which parts are problematic and think of better alternatives.
That’s not a trivial process because what can be a motivating thing to say for one person can be a hokey cliché for someone else and it’s not going to work. You have to find something that fits with your personality that has meaning to you. Find a few things and think about different situations. What do I want to say to myself in this situation? What do I want to see myself in that situation? Then you have to practice it. In the context of sports, it’s a question of going out in workouts and trying out different forms of internal monologue. Seeing which ones you can get comfortable with and then repeating them over and over again until they become second nature so your mind slips into that groove and knocked to the previous group. It’s a process that takes time and it’s not something you wake up in the morning and decide to do.
For businesses they can help people with what you’re talking about. Leaders can be listening to this and they can realize the importance of what your research shows and help people realize that they need to work on these things. Sometimes it helps to have mentors and somebody to point out the things to people that isn’t naturally drawn to pick up books like this. A lot of people listening to this could help their employees by looking into this. You’ve got a lot of real science that shows that this isn’t just mind over matter type of things. You can quantify this. Your limits are not just about your muscles. You were talking about a time to exhaustion test was done? Can you talk about that?
I’m a skeptical guy by nature and I was a track athlete in the university twenty years ago and we had a sports psychologist working with us. All of us thought it was ridiculous. We dismissed all this stuff about self-motivation or self-talk. It was a process for me of starting with this question of what defines our outer limits and then following the science, reading through it and coming to the conclusion that there is real science behind this. Some of these ideas like self-talk. There are some great examples that opened my eyes. One is a study that was done in Britain a few years ago, using subliminal images of smiling faces and frowning faces. They’re flashed up on a wall for sixteen milliseconds at a time, so you’re not even aware that there’s a smiling face or a frowning face in front of you.
When they had cyclists do a time to exhaustion test with either smiling or frowning faces flickering on the wall in front of them. The ones who saw this smiling face we’re able to last 12% longer even though they weren’t aware of having seen the smiling face. This goes back to the idea that subconsciously seeing a smiling face generates a sense of ease or comfort which influences how the brain is interpreting the signals from the legs, the heart and all these other things that are getting tired during cycling. That’s a great example of something where there’s no placebo effect because the cyclist weren’t even aware that there is an intervention. By altering what was going on in the brain, they were all able to alter the limits of endurance.
It’s interesting how certain people have the way they tell themselves things mean one thing to them but compared to somebody else. Strategies to get past the pain that you talk about are important because we’re talk about reframing the meaning of pain and discomfort. It’s reframing the way we look at what some people look at as negative signals. I’ve had people say to me, “That’s crazy. Why would you want to do something that makes you miserable?” It’s not that it makes me miserable. It makes me a little uncomfortable to do certain things but I look at the value of what I get out of it. How do you get people to focus on the value is the hard part? It’s all what you tell yourself in your mind. A lot of people get to that sense of panic when they feel something bad but we need to respond rationally.
One of the best things you can do is incrementally expose yourself to a little bit more discomfort and a little bit more discomfort and gradually. The best way to convince yourself that something is possible is to do almost that thing. If you achieve one thing then you always know you can achieve the next step. Thinking incrementally and experiencing a little bit of discomfort helps you to tolerate the next level of discomfort. It takes a change of mindset to appreciate that pain can sometimes be good. Another analogy from endurance sports, there are there are studies where they use fentanyl as a spinal block, you inject in the spine so cyclists can’t feel their legs. They can move their legs, they can cycle but they don’t feel any discomfort from their legs. It sounds like the dream come true where you could pedal as hard as you want with it or any discomfort.
What happens is their performance suffers because they can’t pace themselves properly without pain. They go too hard at the beginning and they hit some real physical limits. Their legs basically stop working after a while. That’s a great metaphor for why it’s important to experience discomfort and not to try and block it out but to take it as a source of information. You can’t walk on the edge of your capabilities. You can’t push your limits if you’re not paying attention to those signals that your body is sending you or that your mind or organization is sending you. You have to feel the discomfort in order to understand when you’re right up at the edge of your limits.
It’s understanding the process of why your body is doing certain things and telling you certain things. I was thinking of that line from Star Trek. There was a line that Bones said to Spock, “Our fear of death what keeps us alive,” and it’s that fight or flight response that we get and the different sympathetic, parasympathetic systems. You have a natural reaction to how you respond to certain things. If you can rationalize what’s happening by what you tell yourself, then you can overcome.
When you feel anxiety about something, when you’re nervous about something, you can reframe that as excitement. You tell yourself, “I’m anxious or nervous about this.” Another way of phrasing essentially the same thing is, “I’m excited about this.” There are these sympathetic nervous system responses, like the fight or flight response, they’re powerful. You want to be able to tap into those things. You want to be able to feel the surge of brain chemicals that that allows you to push harder when the stakes are highest. You want to harness that excitement and view it as something positive rather than something that’s debilitating and negative.
I have a lot of speakers on my show and a lot of them say, “If you’re not nervous, you’re not going to give a good performance.” You want to have a little of that anxiety. When you had Malcolm Gladwell with the camera in your face, you probably felt some anxiety. That’s normal.
Like so many things, it’s one of those sweet spot phenomena where if you’re not excited, you’re not nervous and not anxious, you’re not going to give you best performance. If you’re too excited, nervous and anxious, you’re not going to give your best performance. Everyone has a slightly different curve and you have to figure out where is it that you perform best. Is it on the mellower side of the arousal curve or the more jacked up side of the arousal curve? You don’t want to not feel anticipation. That’s why doing things that scare you a little bit, setting big goals that you’re not sure you can make. If all the goals you set for yourself or things that you’re confident you can achieve, then there’s no fear of failure. It’s unlikely that you’re getting the best out of yourself because you’re not putting yourself in a situation to trigger those responses.
I remember when I was getting my doctorate, my reason was I wanted to see how hard it was. I want to push myself a little bit. When I later was a doctoral chair for people, people would freak out when they saw they had to write these hundreds of pages for their doctoral dissertation. I used to tease my students by saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” which is a dorky to say, but it’s for fun. Playful to try and show them, you’ve got to do a little bit, a little bit and push ourselves a little bit. It’s the complacency that to me would be boring. It’s like thinking about instead of climbing a mountain and having somebody set you on top of the mountain, you’re missing the experience.
You’re going to get some deep philosophy of life things. As cliché as it is, it’s about the journey being more important than the destination. How do we get meaning from anything if we haven’t struggled for a little bit? We can say that in the abstract, what I’ve come away with thinking is that if the journey is hard, if it takes some struggle that means that it was worthwhile because it’s hard and other people can’t do it. It helps us to get the best out of ourselves because our bodies are wired to respond to adversity and to discomfort and to get the best out of ourselves in those situations. It’s great to appreciate the journey and also to understand that the journey should involve some struggle and that’s what gives it meaning, within limits. I’m not advocating that life becomes more meaningful if you whack your thumb with a hammer or anything like that. You’d want to have productive discomfort in the service of a useful goal. I do think that I’m a benign masochist but I think there’s value.
You described yourself other than a benign masochist as science. A science journalist, that’s how you put it. In your research for this book and you listed a couple of the studies that you found fascinating and there was one where they pushed a core temperature up by a half degree in different things that I heard you talk about in other podcast. Was there one most interesting study or a couple that you found is the most fascinating in your research?
The thing that surprised me the most because as a runner and someone who’s written about the science of endurance for a long time. I was familiar with a lot of the research on the brain endurance and things like that. One area that I wasn’t familiar with was the free divers and extreme breath holding. I was interested in when does oxygen become a limit? It feels like I’m running out of oxygen as I run, but is that the case? I looked into what free divers can do and I was astounded to discover that the record for the longest breath hold is eleven minutes and 35 seconds.
This isn’t by somebody whose lungs are nine times as big as mine. Most of us end our breath holds not because we’re out of oxygen, but because carbon dioxide levels in our blood have risen too high. That triggers this automatic reaction where our breathing muscle spasm and forced us to breathe. Free divers learn. They can’t suppress the muscle contractions, but they can choose to keep their mouth closed and not breathe, even though it’s uncomfortable. They can keep going almost twice as long in some cases as what their carbon dioxide warning system tells them to. I was astounded that someone can hold their breath with no tricks, no breathing of pure oxygen beforehand or anything. No tricks. They can hold their breath for eleven and a half minutes. It’s a great metaphor for when you feel like you’ve hit your limits, how close are you to the actual edge? For breath holding, it looks like there’s a factor of two in safety reserve that you can learn to access.
That brought to mind that last Mission Impossible when Tom Cruise is underwater for four minutes. The anxiety you feel watching that.
I would watch these movies and I’d be like, “Come on, nobody can do that. This is stupid, this is crazy.” Then I’m reading scientific papers I’m like, “People can do that. What do you know?”
Everything in your book is fascinating and I’m sure many people are going to want to know more about this. You’ve been so great to be on the show and I would love for you to share how can people find out more about what you do?
Probably the easiest place to find me is on Twitter. My handle is @SweatScience. Whenever I have new articles or whenever I come across interesting articles by other people, I post them there. I do have a website AlexHutchinson.net and that has a little more background, old articles and links to my book and so on. Those are probably the best ways to reach me.
This was so much fun, Alex. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Thanks, Diane. It’s been a lot of fun to chat about this.
Hidden Light In Emotional Intelligence With Raana Zia
I am here with Raana Zia, who was a Corporate Finance Executive turned self-help author. She’s spent her career holding executive level leadership roles in large Fortune 500 retail companies, including the position of Chief Financial Officer. Her passion for personal and leadership development and an intense desire to discover her own purpose and potential lead her down an unexpected path of self-realization. Her research and personal experiences compelled her to write the book, Your Hidden Light: A Personal Guide To Creating Your Desired Life, where she shares with others what she believes is the most direct and efficient path to achieving your desires and living a life of happiness, continued growth and fulfillment. When the book was launched it was selected to be part of the course at a business school, the Suffolk University in Boston, called it Happiness: How to Get It. Raana has now left the corporate finance world and she’s followed her true desire to help others awaken their power to create their own positive reality. It’s nice to have you here, Raana.
Thank you so much.
You’re welcome. I’ve been looking forward to talking to you. I was interested in your background that you were a Chief Financial Officer before you even went into this. This is a little different path. How did that come about?
It’s a very different path. I spent my entire career in the corporate finance world and growing my career up to Chief Financial Officer in apparel retail finance. This switch all came pretty suddenly and unexpectedly. I received an opportunity and offer to become a Chief Financial Officer of a billion dollar retailer in the New York area. I was living in San Francisco at the time. It was everything I wanted. It was the perfect job. It was the perfect location. We wanted to move our family from the west coast back to the east coast because my parents and in-laws were on the east coast. When this happened, it felt like it came out of nowhere. What I mean by that is obviously I had been working my career up the up the corporate ladder and I did have a desire or a goal to say I want to eventually become a Chief Financial Officer. I was already on that track so it made sense.
However, this opportunity came a lot sooner than I expected it to happen, essentially from a crew standpoint, it was a double promotion. It seemed to be something that came pretty easily. When this happened, I was obviously so grateful for this opportunity. I had accepted it and moved to the East Coast. At the same time, there was something inside of me that felt this was a sign essentially from the universe showing me my power. I know that sounds strange, but there was something within me that knew that I had done something inside of myself, meaning I had lined up my thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs and essentially I didn’t worry that this was going to happen. I knew it would one day. It came a lot sooner than I expected.
At the same time of being extremely grateful to go pursue this opportunity, I also thought to myself, “If I could create this in my life and if I can know exactly what I did to create this in my life, what else can I create for myself? What is it that would truly make me happy? Maybe my life would look different than the last twenty years. That started my journey of self-discovery, personal growth, which eventually led to the writing of this book.
I’ve had some jobs I turned down, several C-level type of position. Even in my early career when I was a pharmaceutical rep, everybody used to always say, “That sounds like the best job. It sounds great.” It’s perspective from somebody else’s vision of what is perfect for them and may not be perfect for you. Do you address that, how to determine what would make us happy?
At that time when I got the job, the opportunity, it was what I wanted. It was just, “I have it,” but then at the same time, knowing that, “If I can then achieve what I set out to do. If I achieve what my goals are, then can I spend some time going within to say, ‘What makes me happy?’”In my career, I never thought I would stay in finance and I never thought it’d be a CFO. When you get on a track, you seem to be doing well. You get joy out of it because you get pretty good at it. That was what was happening for me. It was like, “I’m on this track. I’m getting good at it. I keep moving up the ladder. I keep getting more experiences,” and you keep going, going, going. A lot of times there isn’t that moment that we tend to stop and reflect and say, “Am I just, going, going, going? Is this what I want to do?” I took that moment. I took that time to say, “Figure it out. If you think there’s something else out there to do, your heart is calling you to do something else, figure it out. That’s what I do. I have to spend four years trying to figure it out.
When I was writing one of my first books, I had taken a writing class. I had worked in sales of loans and I was in a financial mindset. I wrote in this course I was taking, it was a writing course. I wrote about lending or something like that. The teacher was an author and an agent. She wanted to represent me and I wasn’t even thinking of writing because she wanted me to write about personal finance. I wasn’t interested in that. She wanted me to do the Suze Orman route. I’m like, “I’m hardly Suze Orman. I would never be able to keep up with that or even want to.” Sometimes people guide you in directions that they think are our best for you, but it’s not necessarily so. You came up with some four-step process to decide what your desires are. Can you talk about what we can do instead of listening to other people tell us what we’re good at?
You hit on the nail by saying that we often listen to other people and what they think is good for us based on what they know about us. When I put this book out, everybody close to me was probably scratching their head being like, “What is she doing?” This is a spiritual self-help book in a lot of ways different than the analytical person they knew me as in the finance realm. If I had listened to all of the people very, very close to me in my life, telling me, “You’re not a writer, you can’t do this, you’re not able to do it.”
It’s a four-step process. Three of the steps are all internal steps. It’s all internal work. It’s being able to sit with yourself, get quiet and get clear on what is it that you desire. It could be anything. It could be something big in your life and it can be something small in your life. It might be like, “I want this business meeting to go my way. I want it to be productive.” It can be small things, it can be big things, but the key is to get clear on what it is you want. Believe it’s possible, because belief is key. Feel good about it. Don’t worry about it. Don’t fear it. Don’t fear judgment, what other people going to think.
When I got clear that I wanted to write a book, I had to spend eighteen months building a belief. Sometimes belief is the hardest part of this process. If you have a belief, then all your time building a belief, and I felt good about it. If I were to go talk about this book to everybody before it was published, I would have created all sorts of anxiety. You’ve got to believe in yourself. It would’ve never come out because it would have brought up all these sorts of negative things like, “What do people think? What did they think?” No, it’s really what you think. Feel good about it. Don’t have fear, don’t have doubt. That first step, I bundle it all in one step, but it’s the most important step. It’s getting clear, it’s believing, it’s true beliefs, and it’s feeling good and confident in yourself. Once you have that, you’re 70% there. That’s step one.
Step two is gratitude. We all know how to feel grateful. When I say gratitude, it’s because gratitude is positive energy. It’s an exchange of energy with the universe. You feel good. You make yourself feel good with gratitude when you’re grateful for something and you express appreciation. You send out positive energy into the world or to whoever gave you something. It’s beautiful, strong, positive energy. If you take that energy of gratitude and put it into your desire, meaning, be grateful as if you already have it. If you have enough belief in faith in achieving what you want to achieve, take that moment and feel grateful for it. That’s step two.
Step three, I call detachment. Detachment isn’t detaching from your goal because you have a goal. You have a desire. That’s already set. It is detaching from any negative emotion associated with achieving it. For example, there something big in your life that you want to achieve, if you want to achieve a certain job or a relationship, it may take longer. It may take longer, it may not happen overnight. It could, but it may not. Sometimes when things take longer to come into your life, we tend to go down sometimes a negative mindset. We start to doubt ourselves. We get frustrated. We get disappointed if things don’t work out the way that we think they should work out. In this step is a reminder to detach yourself from those negative feelings. Sometimes you have this feeling of striving, like I really want something, and your body gets tense. It’s being able to notice when your body is tense and to relax because when you can relax your body, you can get clear on what your next steps are. It’s so powerful to relax and that speeds up the creation process because you’re going to more quickly know what you need to do next.
Step four is taking action. Taking action only aligned with what you desire in the direction of what you desire. A lot of times when you are relaxed and detached, you can more clearly hear your intuition and your inner guidance. That’s a very, very powerful guidance system that we all have within ourselves that a lot of times we ignore. When you’re in step four, if you’re going to take action that’s going to be the most impactful, the most effective, those actions are going to be told to through your intuition and to your guidance, your internal guidance. That’s a four step process. It’s a lot.
I’m writing a book about curiosity and there are four factors that I’m looking at that have an impact and you cover some of them in what you’re talking about. Fear in some of the stuff you’re talking about. When you’re looking for what it is that you want to do, sometimes a lot of the things that hold us back are what people think. You’ve got family, friends, peers, whatever.“ You’re good at this. You need to go this way or here and there.” Sometimes we don’t even know we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t know which way to look for the next thing that we do desire, when you’re talking about our desire. I’m interested in how we can build this natural sense of curiosity to look at our options. You say emotions play a big part in that and I did look a lot at emotional intelligence because I wrote my dissertation in emotional intelligence, so I was interested in how emotions and different factors impact our choices and our curiosity. How do you open yourself up to the possibilities or know you’re not looking at things?
I love that you say curiosity because even in the workplace, that was one thing that I wanted everybody to have on the team, be curious. Be curious and ask questions. In my own life, I can speak to my own experience. When I had a feeling within my heart that you need to be doing something different, I didn’t know what it was, I had no idea. Logically and linearly, I was thinking it could be something somewhat related to the business world, things that I had been doing, not writing a book. What I did need to do, and what I encourage people to do is a lot of people don’t know what they’re supposed to do, what they should do next. Ask the question, be curious, and start to open yourself up.
What I had done is I started to read a lot of books. I started to read a lot of different self-help books where I was getting such profound pieces of wisdom in all different places. I just wanted to them all in one place, that’s why I wrote the book. I read a lot of books. I got a personal coach. I went on seminars. I traveled. I was looking for inspiration and a lot of times I would go to these workshops or conferences and I wasn’t sure why I was going? I was looking to get inspired and I was doing things that I thought would inspire myself. I talked about this step one. It’s okay if you don’t know what you desire yet, but your job is to go figure it out, it’s to go ask the questions. It is to get inspired because your inspiration will come if you’re open. If I wasn’t open, the thought of writing the book would have never happened. I had to open myself up to say, “I have this feeling, this creative urge. I’m getting guided that this is what I’m supposed to do.” It literally was inspiration. It was inspiration.
You were talking about curating content and putting things together into your book and that’s a book or blog or when you write a curriculum or all these things, we always say the best way to learn something is to teach it, to write about it or develop things. That’s because you are curating all this content so that you’re learning and you’re not only learning but you’re sharing it in a book. It’s opening yourself up to all the different doors. Just writing a book, if anybody’s listening who hasn’t done that, we get a lot of people who’ve written books listening to the show. You opened up many doors that sometimes it’s hard to know which way to go or when to stop. Sometimes you can write forever. You don’t know when to stop sometimes. It is an interesting experience. I used to do this when I wrote blogs many years ago. I would find something that I didn’t know much about but sounded interesting and I’d write a blog about it so that I’d have to learn it. That’s helpful for people. You give a lot of advice. That’s a piece of advice I used to give but I’m curious what advice do you give somebody who’s feeling stuck in their life and their career?
When you’re feeling stuck and there was a point in time where I was feeling stuck like, “What am I supposed to be doing?” You need to take the time to invest in yourself. I know that can be difficult for people because they don’t think they have a lot of time. Invest time in yourself to whether it is reading books that will inspire you or help you. Taking workshops, going out exploring, meeting people, networking, do what you need to do to go out and get inspired. That’s my biggest recommendation is go out, take action and invest in yourself because you never know what you’re going to find. You really don’t. If you don’t want to be stuck, your desire has to be stronger than your feeling of stuck-ness. If it’s strong, go out, there many resources that’ll help you get unstuck. Test out this four-step process, because you can do it in twenty seconds. The whole point of this process is to show you your own power to create. What I would do every morning, I would set an intention for my day and then I would meditate for about ten minutes, clear my mind, relax your body, want to get yourself in a calm, relaxed state, set your intention. What I’ve found more than not when I would go to work every day is that I had great days to the point where I don’t want to not meditate because I don’t want to react to my day anymore. I want to create my day.
Knowing what you want is literally the ability to set your intention. Believe it’s possible, feel good about it, relax and then move through. Do what you need to do. That’s the key for me. People are powerful and it’s about lining yourself up, taking the moment, taking the twenty seconds or 30 seconds or however long it takes to get clear on, “This is what I want. I believe it’s going to happen. I feel good. I’m not going to worry and I’m going to move through and take appropriate action.”
It’s always interesting to me to see what people do to get their day started. Tony Robbins takes an ice bath, which I know I could never do that. Everybody’s got their things that work for them. They get them energized and I think that there’s so much to be learned from what works. You pick and choose, for me at least, you find out what everybody does and you go, “I can’t do that but maybe I can do this.” You go through the list. I’m interested in your book being chosen at the University in Boston. I had one of my courses I taught my book was required reading at one of them and it’s interesting to see how you can build a course around a book. The focus of the course was called Happiness: How to Get It? Is that the name of the course?
It was not my course. It’s a course that’s being taught by a professor and it is a course on happiness and it’s part of their business school. I love the fact that there is a course on happiness in business school. I wish there was a course on happiness when I was always in college. He got my book, liked it and asked me if he could add it to his syllabus and come speak at the university. I was more than happy to do that. It was wonderful being able to speak to students around these ideas of the power of your mind, the power of meditation, the power of setting an intention and the importance of belief, the importance of emotions. I had someone ask me like, “What will you tell your younger self now?” People get that question and I say, “I don’t have to tell myself anything, I just give myself the book. I wrote it. Just read it. I read it to my daughter to remind myself.” For me, I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to share it with students at Suffolk and that it’s part of the course. Opportunities just show up sometimes.
It’s important when I did the program review when I was MBA program chair. One of the main things I pointed out in the program was I thought it was important to include soft skills in business courses I’m developing emotional intelligence, critical thinking, a lot of the things that tie in, that aren’t like the same old Evita stuff. We need to know more than what they were teaching us because people are being hired for even in knowledge, but they’re being fired for their lack of interpersonal skills. Some of the things that we need to develop and the soft mushy stuff that’s hard to describe and they didn’t use to include in business schools. They need to include more of that because that’s why people are getting fired.
I love that because that’s exactly how I felt as a finance executive. Even my teams that were hiring their teams it’s like, “Anyone can learn the finance skill set. Anyone can learn but we need it to find people who did have the emotional intelligence, who could be business partners, who could influence.” Within the finance function, that’s required more and more because it’s not so much a back-office function anymore. It is a function where you’re interacting with all aspects of the business. In particular in retail, because you’ve got a lot of a different crazy personality, which is fun and you’ve got to build the credit credibility. I would agree and it wouldn’t be that easy to find people with that balance, the analytical as well as the emotional intelligence.
It’s challenging. That’s an interesting way that you’ve directed your path. It’s definitely from one extreme area to the other. You have the balance of both and a lot of people need more of that. They’d probably be interested in finding more about your book. How can they find out more about you and your book? Can you share your links?
You can find out more about me and the book at www.YourHiddenLight.com. Your Hidden Light is the name of the book as well. If you go to that website, you also have links to all of my social media: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Do you have more books in you or was this a one-time thing?
I’d like to believe that I do have more books in me. I’m beginning a whole new journey and connecting with another part of me that I didn’t know existed before, which is exciting. I do expect to continue to write upon the same genre over the next period of time.
I look forward to that, Raana, and so nice of you to be on the show. Thank you.
Thank you so much for having me on.
Thank you so much to Alex Hutchinson and Raana Zia. It was so nice to have you on the show. We’ve had many great guests on this show. If you go to DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com, you can listen to past episodes. Please check that out and you can also subscribe to listen to episodes that will notify you every time a new one comes out. You can also listen to us on iTunes, iHeart, Roku, just about everywhere that you can play a podcast. We can be found just about everywhere. I hope that you join us on the site and I hope you come back for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
About Alex Hutchinson
Alex Hutchinson, Ph.D., is a columnist for Outside magazine and was a long-time columnist for Runner’s World. A National Magazine Award winner, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker online, pens the weekly “Jockology” column in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and writes for the New York Times. FiveThirtyEight recently named him one of their “favorite running science geeks.” He was a two-time finalist in the 1,500 meters at the Canadian Olympic Trials, and represented Canada internationally in track, cross-country, road racing, and mountain running competitions. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge, and has worked as a researcher for the U.S. National Security Agency. He lives in Toronto, Canada.
About Raana Zia
Raana Zia is a corporate finance executive turned spiritual, self-help author. She has spent her career holding executive level leadership roles in large Fortune 500 retail companies including the position of Chief Financial Officer. Her passion for personal and leadership development and an intense desire to discover her own purpose and potential led her down an unexpected path of self-realization and spirituality. Her realizations and personal experiences compelled her to write the book Your Hidden Light: A Personal Guide to Creating Your Desired Life in order to share with others what she believes is the most direct and efficient path to achieving your desires and living a life of happiness, continued growth, and fulfilment.
- Alex Hutchinson
- Endure: Mind, Body, And The Curiously Elastic Limits Of Human Performance
- Alex Hutchinson on Outside
- Alex Hutchinson on The Globe and Mail
- Alex Hutchinson on Canadian Running
- Alex Hutchinson on Runner’s World
- Alex Hutchinson on Popular Mechanics
- Alex Hutchinson’s interview with Malcolm Gladwell
- Alex Hutchinson’s Twitter – @SweatScience
- Raana Zia
- Your Hidden Light: A Personal Guide To Creating Your Desired Life
- Suze Orman
- Raana Zia’s Facebook
- Raana Zia’s Instagram
- Raana Zia’s LinkedIn
- Raana Zia’s Twitter
- Take The Lead on iTunes
- Take The Lead on iHeart