We have Dan Hill and Harold Leffall here. Dan is a speaker, author and President of Sensory Logic. He’s a facial coding expert and he’s got a new book out. Harold is a public speaker empowerment strategist. He’s an author as well and he has conquered cancer. He’s got a lot of interesting stories to tell us.
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Facial Coding with Dan Hill
I am here with Dan Hill, who is an internationally recognized expert on emotions, as captured through facial coding tool made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, Blink, and the Fox hit series Lie to Me. Five out of seven universal core emotional facial coding reveals were also highlighted in Pixar’s Inside Out. Dan’s work spans applications from market research to legal, behavioral, finance and professional sports as well as the analysis of executives, politicians, cultural icons and in serving as a facial expression biographer of famous newsworthy individuals. This is going to be interesting. I’m so glad to have you, Dan.
Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
I loved watching Lie to Me and I watch Bull. I don’t know if that has any relation to what you do. I’m curious how you got involved in all this? I know a little bit about the background of the science that you use behind it but in case people don’t, I think it would be interesting if you could give a little bit about Paul Ekman’s work and how you got into this.
I got lucky in 1998. Someone at IBM sent over an article from a now deceased Cornell University publication talking about the breakthroughs in brain science from fMRI brain scans and how much we are intuitive, emotional decision makers. In fact, the conservative estimation is at least 95% of our mental activity is not fully conscious. That blows the barn doors off of how we historically looked at ourselves going back to Descartes’, “I think therefore I am,” conclusion from the 1730s. I started looking around for a tool that would let me get access to emotions because they were so central. My research led me to Charles Darwin, the first scientist to take emotions seriously. Darwin came to realize that in your face, you best reflect and communicate your emotions. Darwin was not available for conversation when I started my company. A man named Paul Ekman was. He is the modern Charles Darwin. He works with a colleague at the University of California San Francisco over about fifteen years to figure out systematically which muscle activities corresponded to seven core emotions, which are happiness and surprise, as well as anger, sadness, fear, disgust and contempt.In your face, you best reflect and communicate your emotions. Click To Tweet
This work was highlighted in Pixar’s Inside Out, and Anger is probably played by the best choice of Lewis Black. One of my favorite bits of him, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen his letters, people send him random stuff and he reads them. A guy that hated pickles, he read this letter and he did such a great job. He’s so angry when he does his thing. You want to have interpersonal skills and all of the awareness that we talk about was emotional intelligence, which I wrote my Doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence. I’m fascinated by what you do because emotions are something that I find interesting to study but hard to quantify, especially a lot of it is self-assessing. Did you find that it’s hard to quantify what you’re talking about here?
Dr. Ekman didn’t have a scoring system or norms but what he did have, and he put the seventeen or fifteen years of work in so I didn’t have to, is knowing which muscle activities went to which specific emotion or emotions. Sometimes they do indeed go to two or three or occasionally more than that. That was essentially the sauce. Then it was refining the scoring system in a way to approach this going forward. You’re not alone in terms of emotional intelligence both the interest in it, but the difficulty of trying to apply it at times. In my book, Famous Faces Decoded, I gave people the opportunity to vote on what they thought were two dominant characteristic emotions by celebrity. I facially coded the celebrities and the accuracy of the voting was about one-third, which is very similar to Emotional Intelligence 2.0 where they use an online survey to ask people to essentially or guesstimate their emotions in different situations. My percentage was 34.5. Theirs was 36. We’re more Watson than we are Sherlock Holmes.
I had to create an assessment to determine curiosity, things that hold people back from being curious. It’s challenging to come up with ways to measure things that you just take for granted, emotions and curiosity in different state versus trait type of things. That’s what was appealing to me when I was watching some of your talks that you gave and how you do this was just that how you’re able to look at somebody. You were saying you looked at these celebrities and you looked over spanning years to see how they changed like Bob Dylan and some of the others.
Dylan’s an interesting one. He’s pretty happy. He always has a corrosive sense of humor, I suppose. He was relatively happy in the earlier years. I think fame worn him and his father was a bit of a grouch. I think over time, he became his dad. Although he can still get to what I call pleasure, the second level of four levels of happiness that I decode for, the anger certainly picked up over the years. He got darker, let’s put it that way emotionally.
As we get older though, we’re losing elasticity in our face. My husband’s a plastic surgeon so he’s probably screwing it all up for you on how to figure this out. For those who have changed their faces through other means or through aging, is it harder?
Yes. When I started my company, we also used biofeedback, which only looks at two muscles in the face versus the 44 from facial coding. In those situations, we screen to make sure people hadn’t had Botox injections. Plastic surgery is a whole another level. You watch Celebrity Apprentice and someone who has got plastic surgery says, “Joan Rivers, she’s fast and furious with her words but the face is hardly moving at all,” or Michael Jackson. That knocks us out of contention if it’s pervasive enough. That leaves a lot of people.
Surprise would be the top emotion, I would think, on all of those faces. It’s a very unusual thing to specialize in. Can you become certified to do what you do? Did you teach yourself this just based on researching it? If somebody else wanted to do what you do, how do they go about that?
There’s a fairly small number of people who have been certified. Dr. Eckman does have a test people can take. It’s pretty rigorous. They could take a course. He’s retired at this point, but there are people who do offer week-long courses or you can buy literature that’s available on his website. I’ve also demarcated all of the emotions in my new book, Famous Faces Decoded, and it’s far simpler but thorough than the 500-page manual that Dr. Ekman gave me that I had to start from. This is a far easier way to approach things, plus you have the fun of the celebrity stories. How I got into it is probably a little bit of a gift. My family moved to Italy when I was six years old. My father worked for the 3M company. I suddenly found myself in an Italian first grade in a fishing village on the Italian coast.
I did not know the language at first. I had a lot of time on my hands to observe body language, with which Italians are famous for. My mom was an interior designer. She took me around all the famous art museums in Europe. I was in love with Rembrandt by the age of seven, who does facial expressions extremely well. I didn’t happen to start my business until the age of 38 when an IBM person sent over the article and I pursued a pathway. This was probably a latent career that was just awaiting me once I was ready. That said, I think everybody who takes the interest, if they have reasonable visual acuity and some discipline and patience, they can definitely get there.
I’m half Sicilian and I’m thinking of how animated my family is. My mom and I are probably more animated than other people. Does that change? Do you have to take into effect in your calculations or whatever it is you’re doing when you’re looking at people what their culture is?Gestures are not universal. They are affected by gender and culture. Click To Tweet
Yeah, you do. First of all, we should make a distinction between facial coding and body language in general. Experts in the field would agree that facial coding, academics never agree on anything, but you have 80% plus agreement on the validity of facial coding. It drops to 51% on body language. The big part of the reason is that the gestures are not universal. They are affected by gender and culture. A hand gesture that might be fine in Brussels could get you killed in Palermo. That’s one issue. Another one is that they’re just a little bit easier to fake. They’re large and easy to identify in general terms and they could be coached. Just watch a presidential debate. You can see the impact of a debate coach on the candidates doing these fairly contrived hand gestures at times. With facial coding, it’s what Dr. Ekman calls the display rules. The fact is you’ve moved to different cultures, the intensity and the duration of the expressions will vary, but not the underlying physiology that is in fact universal. Even a person born blind emotes the same way as you or I. Those basic patterns are intact.
If we test in Japan or looking at something from Japan, that’s easily the most difficult. It reminds me of a Haiku I heard once in Oxford University Poetry Festival where someone said, “Only problem with Haiku form, just as you’re about to say something, you.” That’s a bit how it is. Around the eyes, you get some movement but it’s fairly subtle. Dr. Ekman uses the term micro-expressions that in one-fifth of a second or less, they will give away how they’re feeling. You’ve got to look for those quick fleeting signals. You’re going to have some display rule biases. That’s Japan. At the other end, it might be something like Brazil. Not that it’s not sometimes difficult to see how they’re feeling because we’re not all Sherlock Holmes, but the intensity and the duration of the emoting in Brazil is a lot like how they play soccer. If I can’t outscore you, forget about it. They’re not a culture that champions subtlety, which on the other hand is very much true in Japan.
It must be interesting than looking at so many pictures. You focus on a lot of celebrities on Famous Faces Decoded. Is there a particular one who interested you more? Do you have a few that you can share of what you’ve learned from them?
We should start with President Trump. He’s definitely emotive. I’m not discussing parties or policy per se. I am talking about personalities. I have 173 celebrities, Donald Trump shows the least amount of happiness and he shows the most sadness. Richard Nixon is number two. That’s pretty profound that you would be least unhappy and the saddest. People who have commented on his nature say, “He is someone who does indeed have a large number of grievances. Although he was certainly his father’s favorite, it was hard to please his father, Fred, the real estate developer.”
I’ve watched you analyze Obama in the debates. When he would purse his lips a certain way, he looks like he was scared or about to answer the question or whatever. Were there any presidents that stands out that’s more positive?
Obama was positive before he got into office. He had this great true smile. I remember I was in Iowa for the caucuses in 2008. The two people who won were both people with great true smiles where the muscles around the eye relax and you get the twinkle in the eye. It was Obama on the Democratic side and it was Mike Huckabee on the Republican side. Once he got into office and all the partisan gridlock took place, Obama got profoundly frustrated so much so that the skin below his lower lip got loose and rubbery puffy because he just pushed against his lower lip so frequently with disgust, sadness and anger. It literally changed his face, which brings to mind an epigram I used in the book, which is from George Orwell who says, “By the age of 50, a man has the face he deserves.” I’m not sure that’s the face Obama deserved, but it’s certainly the face he got as a result of the partisan gridlock. We do have muscle memory and over time, it can indeed affect the face.
Did you happen to look at Hillary?
Yes, I certainly looked at Hillary. Hillary has a problem both with contempt where the corner of the mouth rises in a smirk. That’s what I call a pocket tornado where there’s a little bit of tension. It rises a little bit like happiness.
Bruce Willis’ smirk?
Yes, but a smirk reflects disgust and anger as well. She does have anger. The lower eyelid will get very tense, taut and straight. Her lips will set firmly together. Both her and Bill definitely have issues with anger. In the book, the anger is so prevalent I break out all the emotions including certain anger by different forms of it including the intensity. The most intense version of anger is heavily populated by politicians. Both the Clintons are there. Trump is there and so forth. We often say politics is a blood sport. It tends to show ultimately.
Did you happen to take a look at Oprah? She seems to have changed a lot over the years. Her expressions, to me, seemed a little more happy-go-lucky and then she’s more serious to me now.
Yes, I did. The early Oprah I would say was in the wow category. There was a good deal of happiness, although not always a joy. There was joy but also that second level where the smile was very broad, what I call pleasure. There were some eyes wide open in surprise. It was a soft or strong wow depending on the occasion. I would say the happiness level generally held, but it came down a notch or two to a lesser smile or even a brief, more begrudging smile over time. The house was settled, in a manner of speaking. What I would say on the other hand is that she tended to be always very low on contempt. She does show anger. She can show disgust but contempt as an emotion, that involves tending to feel superior to others and perhaps given her powers of empathy and extremely modest childhood to say the least, where potato bag was actually one of her dresses at one point. Contempt isn’t something she went to readily.
How about the Dalai Lama or somebody like that? Have you done any research on that area?
The book was pretty much all on Americans with a few Europeans like Audrey Hepburn when they came to the States and made their fame in Hollywood. The Dalai Lama will be a future book where I’ll be looking at world leaders. Everything from Hitler to the Dalai Lama. It would be quite a spread emotionally.
If I say, “Look at this video of me,” I’d be curious to see if you’d see something. I wish I sent you one of me just to see what you’d say.
The number one question I get asked is, “Can you tell if people are lying?” We can’t per se. There’s no lying muscle on the face. Number two is, “How am I feeling?” which I’ve been asked about a half a million times at this point by various people. My wife likes the fact that I’m emotionally literate and she also likes the fact that I never divulge to others how she’s feeling.
It would be interesting to watch the news, maybe watch CNN and then watch Fox and then watch the expressions. Is it similar to every reporter’s faces? Do they buy into what they’re saying equally on each of the stations? Is there a difference? Have you ever done any research into something like that?
I certainly have looked at the anchors. They’re not in this book, but I have on my own out of curiosity. Also just being on the set, I’ve done a lot of interviews on the various stations. I would say when you tend to go to the outer end of the spectrum, whether it’s Fox or NBC, you start to see more anger. The anger I would say does tilt for conservatives. I know that both from the political leaders I’ve looked at, from other people’s research and even my smaller studies involving more formally looking at the anchors. I would say CNN will vary by who’s on there but that tends to start to be more neutral. I wouldn’t say CNN is in the middle of the political spectrum, but I would say is more neutral. What’s neutral is the anchors on CBS, ABC and NBC. They try very hard not to show a lot of emotion, which I think makes it maybe both more authoritative because you don’t think there’s a bias, but it makes it a bit more boring.We do have muscle memory and over time it can indeed affect the face. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting to consider the uses for this. My research into curiosity, I want to know what people are curious about and what’s holding them back. I think that curiosity is the driver for everything, for being ambitious, for having the drive, for having the motivation and all that leads to better engagement, better innovation and better productivity. Are you able to look at somebody and tell whether they’re curious or not? What would that fall into in this realm?
You’re talking about surprise, but surprise is a complicated emotion and that it’s two different impulses. The positive version is curiosity. You see the world as an opportunity for discovery. I think I would certainly fall in that camp part because going to Italy as a six-year-old boy, remember we landed on the ocean liner in Naples. I looked to my left and there was a baby octopus hanging from a meat hook. That wasn’t something I exactly saw in my neighborhood in St. Paul growing up. You could have recoiled, but I was fascinated. Curiosity drives me.
The other version of this is wariness, which is what happens for a lot of people because when a change occurs, one way to respond to that is, “I have to exert effort. I have to adapt. I have to try to move forward.” It’s interesting how much fear and surprise overlap until they show on the face. In business circles, it’s common for you to say, “No surprises, please. Tell me the report results before we get into the meeting,” that sort of thing. You’re looking at those two varieties. Surprise, probably the most transcendent way is the eyes are wide. You’re literally wanting to take in more information. If it’s fear and wariness version of surprise, the most reliable signal is the corner of the mouth will pull out in an egad type expression.
If I have an employee who maybe I want to encourage to be more curious, if they’re doing the pulling out mouth thing, maybe they’re interested but they’re afraid of what it is they’re interested in. Is that what you’re saying?
I would say they’re probably just purely afraid because it’s only fear. It’s not fear and surprise combination. If you are hoping for an employer who could be an innovator, they’ve got to take some delight in the discovery process.
Their eyes should be wide open more?
Their eyes should be wide open but definitely with some smiles occurring simultaneously around the vicinity or at least with some of their proclivity. Otherwise, they could just be on guard. On guard is a hard way to get into innovation.
It ties in a little bit on the other show I mentioned, Bull. I’m curious what you think of that. It’s Michael Weatherly who plays the lawyer. Have you seen that?
I have watched it on a few occasions because when I’m giving speeches and Q&A, people will bring in the show. What I like on Lie to Me better was you know specifically how he was getting there as opposed to an intuitive genius as it were. What I liked about Darwin was that he was curious indeed, but he tried to apply it and he looked for a methodology. I think that certainly when you’re in a business and trying to be an innovator, you do need a methodology so that the skeptics don’t just say there’s nothing there. I’m reminded of what someone said to me about being an innovator. He said, “Just remember, you’re a missionary. You go out and the cannibals eat you alive. 300 years later, the church canonizes you but you have no offspring.” It can be a little like that sometimes. I know emotions were clearly important, but I wanted the methodology and I wanted metrics because then I had something firm that I could give back. That’s probably being the son of an engineer speaking a little bit, but there’s also my experience having worked directly for executives.
One of the first things you said was about intuitive emotions are for decisions. I know a lot of people don’t think that Myers-Briggs has a lot of substance behind it, but then I am certified to give the MBTI. I got certified because it was part of emotional intelligence training I was going through at the time when I’m writing my dissertation. I thought it was interesting on the F versus T dichotomy on that. Some of the people who came out as feeling would make their decisions based on their values and then the other end of the spectrum where people made their decisions based completely on just facts and figures. You say that we have intuitive emotions for decisions, but we tend to be either a facts and figures kind of person or a values kind of person according to that. How much do you think that Myers-Briggs has anything of value to add when it comes to looking at that type of decision making?
I’ll start with just a specific feeling versus thinking and then go broader back to Myers-Briggs. It is true that the more you think, the less you feel. The cognitive activity will suppress the feeling to some extent. None of us are Mr. Spock from Star Trek. We are a lot closer to Homer Simpson. The truth is that we have biases and so the information and the facts and figures that we choose will reflect that. I kept showing my father various economic statistics that were giving me concern. He didn’t choose to believe any of them until they were all pulled together in a Fortune Magazine article. The moment he read them from that source, which is something that was familiar to him and that he believed in, then his son was speaking something that he would accept. It was valid. Until then, even though I was citing New York Times, Wall Street Journal and a lot of other sources, those weren’t things my father read.
We are selective and that’s just inevitable. We’re selective in what we initially choose. We’re selective in how much value we put in it. We’re selective in what we choose to remember. Even a thinking person might slip the noose a little bit but not truly, not entirely. As to Myers-Briggs, any method that’s gotten that much circulation has to have something to it. It’s an interesting way to start to explore. I will admit that what I like better is the big five factor for a couple of reasons. One, it doesn’t get into as much dichotomy between thinking versus feeling. The other thing is that it brings in that one that is particularly neurotic. Neuroticism is a very large factor. It’s weighed out of the five factors with the other four having a lot of similarities to Myers-Briggs, but this one is not a Myers-Briggs. It’s about 40% of human nature because people are much more fragile than we might imagine. I correspond neuroticism to a comment that Napoleon said in retreating from Russia which was, “Mud is the fifth element.” Neuroticism is the fifth element in this case.The more you think, the less you feel. Click To Tweet
I used a lot of openness to experience in my research on curiosity and big five. All your work has been fascinating to me. I love having you on the show, Dan. A lot of people would like to know more about how they can find Famous Faces Decoded and any of your work. Can you share any of your links or how they can find you?
Famous Faces Decoded and a supplemental shorter advice book called Decoding Faces are both available on Amazon. If they want to know about me more broadly, there’s my company website, www.SensoryLogic.com. I also have a blog called Faces of the Week where I’m looking at notable people in the news in a variety of realms, politics and otherwise. It’s very similar to Famous Faces, just tracking the news. That can be accessed or joined by going to EmotionsWizard.com to get to the blog.
Thank you so much, Dan. This is fascinating.
Thank you. It’s been a great conversation.
Empowering Leaders with Harold Leffall
I am here with Harold Leffall, who is an empowerment strategist, speaker, author and nonprofit executive. He owned his own full-service staffing firm, the Leffall Employment Agency, which was named one of the top 25 permanent placement services by the San Francisco Business Times with gross annual revenue reaching close to $4 million in annual sales. He later became the CEO of a startup social enterprise in Atlanta. It has gross revenue exceeding $20 million annually. You’ve seen him on ABC, NBC, Black Enterprise, Best Self Atlanta. It’s so nice to have you here, Harold.
It’s so nice of you to have me on your show, Dr. Hamilton. I’m very excited.
It’s so nice that you had time to do this because I know you’re doing a lot. You launched the You Are Enough Now movement. You’ve done all these different things. What’s your latest thing that you’re working on?
I launched the You Are Enough Now movement and we had our big conference in Atlanta. It started out as a workshop, a workshop that I wanted to give to help people disrupt some of the self-limiting thoughts and beliefs that hold so many of us back. I thought I had learned lessons and had gone through a lot because for me, I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Many people didn’t know it because I wore this mask. I have achieved a certain level of success, but people never knew that I was struggling with this feeling that I wasn’t enough.
Even with having started two successful businesses, I always had this feeling that I was an impostor and that someone was going to find out that I wasn’t as smart as that they thought I was and I didn’t belong in the rooms that I had the opportunity to be in. I felt that because of my experience, maybe there were other folks that also suffered from feeling like they weren’t enough. I just did a workshop in Oakland. I didn’t expect much but just wanted to share some of the lessons that I learned. To my surprise, there were a lot more people who were in that space and in that place that I was that was looking for answers. That’s how the movement started, just from that one workshop.You never feel complete because you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself. Click To Tweet
I have had other guests on my show who say that a lot of leaders feel that way. You’re not alone. Anybody who sees your information used to go, “This guy looks like self-confident. He’s got all of this stuff going on.” A lot of leaders keep thinking they’re going to get found out that maybe they’re not good enough. Why do you think that occurs so often?
We live in such a competitive society where we’re always being compared to other people. You always feel like you’re being judged. I grew up in poverty, lived in the projects on welfare. I never felt confident growing up. Feeling inadequate and not confident, that’s what led to the success I had in business because I thought if I work hard enough, if I get this degree, if I get this title, then that would make me feel confident, that would help with my low self-esteem. I kept pushing myself and kept working hard and kept having more and more success but my self-esteem didn’t grow. There’s a difference between self-esteem and self-confidence.
My self-confidence seemingly grew. I started to have all these achievements, but my self-confidence was based on my achievements. I always felt like if I wasn’t making millions of dollars or I didn’t have this stupid title, then they will find out that I was not enough because my self-esteem wasn’t there to support the level of success that I have. So many people suffer and have all this anxiety because we make our achievements the basis for our self-confidence. We don’t have the self-esteem to support our self-confidence.
I grew up in a super competitive family. My dad locked my brother out of the house one time because he didn’t win the baseball game. When you grow up in that atmosphere, you become hard on yourself. I notice that sometimes I have family members that if they don’t think they’re going to win, they don’t even play because you’re going to look bad if they don’t win.
There’s this constant pressure to prove yourself and you never get to a point where you feel you’re enough. You reach this level and then there’s another level to go on another level. You never ever feel complete, you never ever feel whole because you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself. We’re often looking for the external validation, where true self-esteem comes from that internal validation. You being able to validate yourself without the external trappings of success. That’s one of the things that I have to learn because even after I had my first business and I made millions of dollars, I went through this slump. I lost everything. When I lost everything, I lost my self-confidence because my confidence was based on what I had achieved. Not having that success, I was trying to figure out who am I? What are people thinking about me? It’s what will people think about me if I don’t have this? If I don’t achieve this or if I lost that. We are so sensitive to the opinions of others, which keeps us trapped and keeps us on this treadmill of trying to prove ourselves to others.
I do see a lot of women who find that if they become successful, it’s almost worse than other people judge them. Sometimes it’s women holding women back. Sometimes it’s men. It’s both. It’s hard. What advice do you give people if they are suffering from low self-esteem? What advice do you give them to not care so much about what other people think?
One of the things that we do in our culture is that we put people on pedestals unnecessarily. We put a person on the pedestal if they achieve a certain level of success, which is unfair to us and it’s unfair to that person. No one should be put on a pedestal ever. One of the things that helped me soothe my anxiety and begin to rebuild my self-esteem up is the reality that every human being is your equal. All of us, we play a different role in this life, we have different assignments. Everyone is your equal. In our culture, we’re taught to make other people believe that they are better just because they’re the CEO and maybe you are the accountant or the janitor. Once I started looking at everyone as my equal, that began to help me to truly start to build up my confidence because I wasn’t basing my confidence in my self-esteem based on my job title or the amount of money that I earn.
It was about my intrinsic value. A part of the competitive nature in our cultures, why there’s so much anxiety so much depression in our culture because we are chasing this proverbial level of success that we think if we get there it’s going to make us whole. It’s going to make us feel complete. Most of the time, it takes us losing those things in order for us to get in touch with who we are and truly discover our value. For so many of us, we’re on a path that maybe our parents chose for us. We’re on a path based on the amount of money or prestige that goes along with that path. We’re not often pursuing the things that are in our hearts and the things that we want to do. If you’re doing something that isn’t your thing, you can’t feel you. You will never feel good about yourself because you’re operating out of who you truly are.
I agree with you that we’re never as good as people say we are. We’re never as bad as they say we are. We’re probably somewhere in the middle. Social media makes that a little bit challenging. I’m thinking how you’re saying the parents choose your path or maybe not doing what we wanted. My research is on curiosity and a lot of the things that I think hold people back based on what I’ve created in my model are fear, assumptions, technology and environment. The environment would include parents. A lot of the times, people don’t like their jobs and they aren’t engaged. They’re not discovering what’s good for them because of their environment. Also, assumptions that could be wrapped around what their parents have taught them. Maybe no one ever liked that in their family and they never thought it was interesting, so you think it’s not going to be interesting. I think we need to discover those things that hold us back from being curious. You were able to come out in the projects on welfare. What about your environment do you think impacted you to be curious enough to get out, to get to that next level?No one should be put on a pedestal. Click To Tweet
For me growing up in the projects, the one gift that I am so glad that I had, as a kid, I used to always dream and envision my life being better than it was. Even as a kid in our apartment in the projects, I would always make my bedroom into an office. I would envision myself and pretend that I was in business. I always saw myself being a businessman. I would take pieces of paper and write checks. I would have my mother buy me newspapers and I was reading the stock market. I don’t know what I was reading, but I knew that’s what businessmen did. Even in spite of what was going on, the negativity and the impoverished conversation that was taking place around me, I was always thinking that I could have more and do more. I think that is what helped me not get suffocated by my environment. It’s so easy to get suffocated with where you are.
Where did you get that though? That’s an unusual trait. We all start with this natural sense of curiosity, but then at four or five years old, you start to lose some of it. Maybe teachers aren’t meeting the questions that you have or your parents. Did your parents encourage you to think that way? Is there somebody in your family where you saw that? I’m just curious where that came from.
My father wasn’t around. My father was in prison most of my life. My mother was on welfare. Her self-confidence wasn’t high. For me, the only thing I can attribute it to was as a kid I was very much introverted. I spent a lot of time alone and I spent a lot of time dreaming. Because I was alone a lot of times, I didn’t have the distraction of other people telling me what I couldn’t do or distract me from dreaming. For so many people, we don’t allow ourselves to dream enough.
I have that in common with you. I was quite a bit younger than my siblings, so I was all alone quite often. I think sometimes it helped me because if everybody was considering going one direction, I wasn’t hearing all that. I had to come up with my own direction. I think that there’s so much focus on self-esteem and some of the issues you talk about. They did a movie, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. They were following how he was telling everybody that you’re important and you’re worth loving that he would tell kids. There were actually people who are mad about that, blame the entitlement generation on him, criticism for trying to tell everyone that they had a sense of worth. You walk a narrow line in this world. If you tell everybody that they’re great, then you’re telling them they haven’t earned it or they’ll never be competitive. It’s hard to be a parent now. What do you do with them telling people what to say to their kids without making them feel entitled that they’re going to get a blue ribbon for just participating?
We’re seeing a lot of that with the Millennials. As I talked to a lot of HR individual and they talk about the challenges they have with the new workforce, the entitlement that they feel, one of the things that I say to that is it’s so important that we instill in our kids a sense of who they are, their worth, their value, without them having to do something to earn it. I think what happens is when people have true high self-esteem, they have the awareness to know what it is that makes their heart sing. They know what it is that they want to do it. When they’re on the path of doing the things that they want to do, they are driven towards that. What we’re seeing a lot of is that it’s not that these young folks have high self-esteem, they’ve been told about the things that they can have. It’s not based upon a pure self-esteem. It’s based on you can have whatever it is that you want and we’re giving them a false message of what’s possible for them.
The defenders of Mr. Rogers’ situation, he was saying you’re worth loving. It’s not you deserve to have all the money in the world. It is interesting to see how much of an impact he had on so many people. I’m interested in what you’re doing to help people with your You’re Enough Movement. Who is interested in what you’re doing? Are you talking to CEOs? Who’s your focus group?
Most of the individuals that come to our workshops and conferences are professional women who are frustrated with where they are. Many of them are wanting to do other things, but don’t have the courage to pursue those things. They feel stuck in the success ladder that they are on. One of the traps that happen when you are on a path to success, you start to accumulate things. You start accumulating homes and cars. You may not be on your path but you feel stuck because the path that you’re on has afforded you the opportunity to have those things. That becomes a trap because you may want to do something else that doesn’t feel that you have the ability because you’re sucked in, “I have to maintain this lifestyle.” Probably 70% of the folks that come through our workshop are professional ones who are just frustrated with where they are and want to do something else but don’t yet have the courage to make the changes necessary to live the life they truly want to live.
What changes are those that they need to make?
In one of our conferences, we have folks that are stuck in relationships that had expired, that are past their expiration date, second jobs that are past their expiration date and they don’t have the tools and the information to make the changes that they need to make. For us, our goal at our workshops is to give folks real tools and real strategy and transparent examples of how we have walked it out. Myself and other speakers talk in a very open and transparent manner, “What did you do? How did you deal with being in a relationship that was no longer fulfilling? How did you deal with making a career switch? You were going to have to take a significant loss of income. How did you do it?” For me, I always know that we teach what we need to learn. I am able to share from my experience all the things that I’ve learned from starting a successful business, losing everything, filing bankruptcy, dealing with cancer and how I was able to move to that.
One of the things that I also share in our workshops is that if you stay in a place where you are constantly in fear, you’re constantly in worry, you wake up anxious. You go to sleep anxious. You are in this perpetual state of just heightened worry and fear. That your fear is going to show up in your life. It’s just going to show up in some type of disease. To me, it showed up as cancer. Cancer, for me, was such a wakeup call and such a shock for me. I’m one of those, “My body is my temple,” person because I’ve always taken good care of myself. I drink wheatgrass and I did all the things that I felt would keep me healthy yet I was diagnosed with cancer. Then I realized I had normalized worry and fear. I was in perpetual worry. When things are going good, I worry. When things are not going so good, I worry. That worry will wear you out and it will show up in your life in so many different ways.
It reminds me of a friend who was just like you, very super health conscious and he ended up having lymphoma. I’m like, “Of all the people, he’d be the last person in the world,” but he has a very stressful job. I don’t know what cancer you had, but that’s how it manifested in him. What you’re saying is important.
For me, my whole goal and my whole purpose is to help individuals to take a look at their lives. Your lives tell what you think about yourself. Your lives tell what you are believing. It’s so important that we look at our lives before they have to fall apart. Unfortunately, sometimes a life has to fall apart. In the Chinese language, the word crisis has two meanings. One means danger and the other one means opportunity. Even in crisis, there’s an opportunity for us to grow it to get better if we’re willing to get the lesson, if we’re willing to open up, if we have the courage to make the changes that we need to make. It’s difficult sometimes because when you’re used to living, thinking and believing in a certain way for a long period of time, it becomes difficult to change your thinking.
The longer you do something, the harder it gets. We have a lot of people in the workplace that are having a lot of issues because a lot of Boomers, we’ve been in it so long all these changes coming along. A lot of them put on the brakes. I’m thinking of my dog when I tried taking her to the vet with the feet, “No, I’m stuck. I don’t want to go in there.” It’s very hard for a lot of people to deal with change. I love that crisis, I had not heard that. You have a lot of great information that you offer. I was very interested in hearing your story. I did not know about your cancer story. Thank you for sharing that because a lot of people think that they’re invincible sometimes, “It couldn’t happen to me.” It can. We’ve got to keep taking care of thinking that way. What changes have you made since you’re already eating wheatgrass?
It was about dealing with stress. First of all, recognizing that I was in a perpetual state of stress. For me, stress has been to become a normal part of my reality. I had just gotten used to feeling stressed. Soon as I wake up worrying, the mind starts to turn and you’re worried about all of these things that you don’t have any control over. You’re going to sleep worrying. For me, I have had to be very intentional meditating, about relaxing, about doing things like walking just to relax my thoughts and being very intentional about not allowing my thoughts to take hold of me. I can get the negative thoughts and blew it up and make a whole drama about it and I scare myself. I learned to stop that storyline once it starts. I learned to stop running away from fear.
What I know is whatever you’re running from will chase you. What I found and what I started to do in my own life after cancer is starting to address things as they come. If you don’t address them, you’ll build them up in your mind and make them be this large and monumental thing. Just addressing things as they come. James Baldwin says, “You can’t fix what you won’t face.” It’s about facing things as they come. That’s allowing them to marinate in our mind and blow them up to something bigger than they are.We're not often pursuing the things that are in our hearts. Click To Tweet
That’s a good way to end the show because that’s a great line. What you’re doing is important and I have enjoyed this conversation. A lot of people are going to want to know how they can find out more. I know you’re a public speaker. You’ve got the You Are Enough Movement. How can they find out more?
It’s been so nice having you, Harold. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much, Diane.
I want to thank Dan and Harold for being my guests. It’s such a great show.
- Sensory Logic
- Dan Hill
- Paul Ekman
- Lewis Black video about pickles
- Famous Faces Decoded
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- Decoding Faces
- Faces of the Week
- Harold Leffall
- You Are Enough Now
- Harold Leffall on Facebook
- @HaroldLeffall on Instagram
About Dan Hill
Dan Hill is an internationally recognized expert on emotions as captured through the facial coding tool made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller Blink and Fox’s hit series “Lie to Me.” Five of the seven universal, core emotions facial coding reveals were also highlighted in Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Dan’s work spans applications from market research to legal, behavioral finance, and professional sports as well as the analysis of executives, politicians and cultural icons in serving as a facial expressions biographer of famous, newsworthy individuals.
About Harold Leffall
Harold Leffall is an empowerment strategist, speaker, author and non-profit executive. Harold owned his own full-service staffing firm. Leffall Employment Agency, which was named one of the “Top 25 Permanent Placement Services” by the San Francisco Business Times with gross annual revenue reaching close to $4 million in annual sales. He later became the CEO of a start-up social enterprise in Atlanta that today has gross revenue exceeding $20 million annually. He has been featured on ABC News, NBC, Black Enterprise, Best Self Atlanta and Entrepreneur magazines and authored three books: Brother CEO, Living from Within and I AM ENOUGH. He is the founder of You Are Enough Empowerment Movement whose mission is to disrupts self-limiting beliefs that have the masses living below their potential.