There probably is no person in the world who dreams of being average. In one way or another, we all want to be successful. The problem is we don’t know how to do that. Dr. Ruth Gotian, the Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, is an expert in optimizing success. In this episode, she joins Dr. Diane Hamilton to share with us a blueprint to achieving success. She talks about its four pillars and the way curiosity plays a huge part in one’s success. Dr. Ruth then taps into the importance of having a mentor, learning to find your passion, and taking it through towards the results you want. Gain insights from people who have cracked the secrets to success as you follow this conversation.
Almost anything goes through its own cycle. This much is true in business that even the great ones meet their demise sooner or later along the way. But what if there is a way to conquer this premonition? Daniel P. Forrester, the Founder of THRUUE Inc., is taking lessons from mobster businesses that endured and teaching their practices to entrepreneurs out there. He sits down with Dr. Diane Hamilton to share some of these with us through his book, Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices. He then offers fresh insights on how mobster businesses persist decade after decade through what he calls vision envisioning. Join Daniel in this discussion and learn the secrets to business longevity that no one has shared before.
We have Dr. Ruth Gotian and Daniel P. Forrester here. Ruth is a Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine. Daniel is the Founder of THRUUE Inc. and author Relentless. We are going to be talking about many fascinating things in terms of leadership and so much more.
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Optimizing Success With Dr. Ruth Gotian
I am with Dr. Ruth Gotian who is the Chief Learning Officer, Assistant Professor of Education in Anesthesiology, former Assistant Dean and Executive Director of Mentoring Academy at Weill Cornell Medicine. She is an expert in optimizing success and I’m so excited to have her. Welcome, Ruth.
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Congratulations on getting on the Thinkers50 Radar list for 2021.
Thank you. That is big and I’m still pinching myself.
It’s a big deal because it is the Oscars of management thinking. They only look at people who are doing amazing things. I want to talk to you about those amazing things you’re doing and I want to get a backstory. How did you get such a long title?Extreme success is not only for other people. It is for everyone if you know what to do. Click To Tweet
It’s never a straight line. I started out with Bachelor’s and Master’s. I studied business and tried my hand at finance and international banking. After two years, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t whistling on my way to work. I went back into working in higher ed which is something I have been actively part of since I was eighteen years old. I didn’t want to work with undergrads. I thought, “Too many disciplinary issues. I’ve done that. Let’s try grad students. What’s the most competitive program I could find?” I ran what’s called an MD-PhD program for students who get a dual degree and have a 3.5% acceptance rate. I figured there won’t be disciplinary issues because they’ve got too much to lose and I’ve run that for over two decades.
At the age of 43, while working full-time, I decided to go back to school and get my doctorate. I was looking. Since I was working around physician-scientists, I wanted to see how we could make extremely successful physician-scientists because millions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent on this every year. I started looking at that and researching Nobel laureates and impressive physician-scientists. After I finished that, I wondered if the results that I found are transferable to other industries.
I started looking at astronauts, Olympic champions, Fortune 500 CEOs, more Nobel laureates, NBA champions and NFL Hall of Famers. I noticed the pattern kept coming up over and over again. I said, “We’ve got something. We found something here. We need to teach it to people.” I don’t think anybody wakes up in the morning saying they want to be average.” I do believe that everybody wants to be successful but we don’t have a blueprint as to how to do that.
I always thought that extreme success is only for other people. It’s not for people like me but I realized that it is for everyone if you know what to do. Now here I am talking about that blueprint, writing and teaching it. What makes it special is that it’s not just habits. Because one person did this, I need to copy-paste and do that. That doesn’t work. An Olympian is different from a Nobel laureate but there are a lot of things that they have in common. What we can do is we can customize the ideas for our own busy life. My busy life is different from your busy life and we can’t copy it, but we can keep that same umbrella and make it customizable for who we are and everything we have going on in our lives. I become obsessed with success.
You love the stuff that I love. I like quantifying things. I like figuring out why this works and why this doesn’t work. Having background work in pharmaceutical sales, ground doctors and be married to a doctor I could appreciate it. I was interested in the anesthesiology aspect. How did you get into that?
I’m not an anesthesiologist but I do help with the education and scholarly work, and help people become successful. It was the foresight of the chair and the executive vice chair who could see things twenty steps ahead of everyone else, “This is where we need to be. This is the gap in what we have and we need to bring someone with this skillset.”
It is a great skill that I teach to my students because I’ve taught thousands of virtual courses throughout my career. Having worked as a doctoral chair and the MBA program chair at Forbes, you learn and look for gaps in the literature. This is what you’re trying to teach people, “What’s missing? How can we improve this?” That’s an important skill. You are writing about some of this in your book, The Success Factor: Developing the Mindset and Skillset for Peak Performance. I think what you’re working on is so important. In your book, you have written about the four pillars of success. What are those four pillars? Can we get a sneak peek of what’s coming?
There are four pillars in the book. I talk about and share the stories of people like Tony Fauci, Apolo Anton Ohno, and Peggy Annette Whitson, the first female commander for chief astronauts. She spent more days in space than any American astronauts. I shared their stories to underscore all of these ideas. I interviewed more than 60 of them.
Did you do factor analysis? How did you find these four pillars of success? Did you look for commonalities?
It’s a lot of qualitative interview and coding themes. The first one is they found their passion and purpose, which means they have found their intrinsic motivation. It’s important and different from extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic means we do it for ourselves. We do it for free if we could and often do. Extrinsic means we do it for the diploma, promotion and recognition. Those are the people who burn out, failed out and never finished the project. Those who are intrinsically motivated would do it because they feel this is why they were put on Earth. They have to answer these questions. They found their intrinsic motivation and passion.
The second one is the work ethic to go and get it done. They are going to do a great job and they do whatever it takes. These are not the people who drop their pen at 5:00 and say the day is over. They will stay until the work is done and will do it over and over again to make sure that it is perfect. This is important because they have challenges just like the rest of us, but they view challenges differently. They don’t wonder if they will overcome the challenge.
They know they’re overcoming a challenge and that’s not a question for them. What they focus on is how to overcome it and where they put all of their focus. They know that they will go over, around, under it, and get to the other side. The question is, “How?” They know the answer is there. They just haven’t found it yet. Their focus is not on the self-pity of, “This is the bad thing that’s happening to me. This is the problem that needs solving. I need to control what I can control and focus on how to solve it.” That is a completely different mindset.
The third one is the strong foundation, which is constantly being reinforced. The same things that they do with the elite level are the same things they did early in their career that haven’t changed. An example is the Olympic champions. They are still doing the same drills in their gyms as they did back in junior high when they started playing. The difference is that they have more expensive sneakers, better gear and expensive coaches, but the drills are exactly the same. They don’t stop doing them just because they got the gold medal. They continue and it doesn’t matter what field you’re in. You continue to do it because that foundation constantly needs to be reinforced.
The last one and this was something I wrote about in Forbes as well is that even though they have received their terminal degrees and they got whatever is the biggest accolade in their field, they are constantly learning. They haven’t stopped, but the difference is they’re not sitting in a classroom all day, instead, they are learning informally. They might be talking to people. The interesting part is they will talk to people who are senior to them. Our mentors are supposed to be older. They also talk to their peers and people who are junior to them.
If the expert in something finished college two weeks ago, they’ll talk to that person and learn from them. It doesn’t matter if they have the Nobel, they will learn from whoever is that expert in that field. There’s a lot of informer learning, talking to people and a ton of mentorship. They all had mentors but there are other ways that they learn. Some read books, journals, articles or listen to podcasts. They’re open to learning in different ways. That’s the key point, it doesn’t have to be one way.
We always hear the billionaires read for 3 to 8 hours a day like Mark Cuban, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. You don’t have to do that. If your life does not allow you to read or you can’t focus on a book for eight hours a day, it’s not about reading a book. It’s about being open to new knowledge and you can do that from a podcast, Clubhouse, reading on a blog, listening to a conversation like this and talking to people. The point is you need to be open to it and they all are.
It has great points and it ties a lot into the research I did for curiosity because I wanted to find out what kept people from being curious. If they were curious, that will have led to innovation, engagement and everything that we’re trying to fix. I researched mindset and some of the words you were talking about are exactly what I found in terms of you have to find out what’s stopping you in order to move forward. You might see that certain people have certain successes and you’ll think, “Why can’t I get there?”
It’s that fear, the assumptions we make and they’re afraid, overuse or underutilized technology, and there’s someone in their family who said, “You should this or shouldn’t do that.” There’s so much background to some of these issues. It’s important to be able to quantify where you are in order to get to the next level. Knowing what other people have done to get to that level is key. Some of the books like Carol Dweck’s Mindset and Range is a great book about learning all these different things. I work on a lot of boards and one of them is a Global Mentor Network. Everything is going to be mentoring. There’s so much involved in mentoring. The people you interviewed, how much did they talk about being mentored or mentoring others? I bet it was a lot.
Every single one of them had it without fail. Here’s what’s interesting, some of them would be able to tell me exactly who that person was. It wasn’t one person, but a team of people. For some, it wasn’t obvious early on but the more we talked about it and they said, “I guess that person was my mentor.” Some of them had a hard time finding one, but here’s the key, you don’t walk up to someone and say, “Will you be my mentor?” You don’t walk up to someone when you first meet them and say, “Will you marry me?” The key point is that they developed relationships with those people and those people clearly wanted to take them under their wing because they saw that promise, curiosity, spark and passion. Why wouldn’t you want to be with someone like that?
You never want to be the smartest person in the room and it will be boring for some. It’s interesting to think about who you can go to and where you can learn. I still teach a lot of different university courses. One of the universities where I teach is their tech students which aren’t my main focus. I love it but I’m not writing code and into that level. I learn something every time I teach them a course. That’s why I still teach a lot of courses. I’m supposed to be teaching them everything and I do. They don’t know the business stuff. They don’t know the things that I know. I don’t know the things that a lot of them had in terms of their experience. You’ve probably learned a great deal just teaching.
I always say that the best mentoring relationships are so fluid that you forget who is the mentor and the mentee because you’re teaching and learning from each other. Ideally, you’re both open to that learning. That’s the best part of it.In the beginning, when you don't have anyone, you have to learn how to do it yourself. Click To Tweet
You got these people who have been very successful and all these amazing stories and someone reading this might say, “They found their passion, but how do you do that?”
That’s where I bring the passion audit. How they found it was a lot of trial and error. When I work with people and teach them, I take them through a passion audit which is a three-column exercise that includes everything that they’re good at. Everything they don’t like doing and things that they’re good at, but if they had to give it away and not lose their title and salary, nothing else would change. They would give it away in a heartbeat. It includes things that they are not good at, things that suck the life out of them, and things that they might do for free if they could and very often are. If they’re doing volunteer activities, those are the activities that they tend to do.
The readers can find it on my website, www.RuthGotian.com/passionaudit. They can download for free a passion audit worksheet that’ll take them through that. Clearly, you can say, “This is what I would do for free if I could.” What’s interesting is there’s research that shows you only need to spend 20% of your time doing things that you’re passionate about. This means that even if you don’t like to do it, it wouldn’t feel so bad if it was feeding what you are passionate about. For example, you wish to create a summer program for high school girls interested in science, but you hate doing budgets and grants. You just want to do that program development. That is what you love doing but if you had to apply for a grant to fund that program so you can take it national, writing that grant wouldn’t be so bad because you’re feeding it. You can take that program that you’re so passionate about and you can scale it if you had the money to do it. You’re going to apply for that and put your heart and soul into that grant because you know the potential.
Can you get somebody else to do that part for you if you hate it?
If you can, absolutely.
I had Tom Rath on my show from StrengthsFinder and he focuses on your strengths. It sounds like you’re focusing a lot on what you love and what you can do. There is always stuff that no one likes to do. Do you hire people to do that stuff? What if you can’t afford to hire people to do that? Do you try to develop your weaknesses and threats? What do you think about that?
If you can’t outsource it, you have to do it yourself. Why are you going to outsource anything that you don’t know how to do yourself? You’re going to outsource something that someone can do better and faster, but in the beginning, when you don’t have anyone, you have to learn how to do it yourself. The first grant, you’ll have to do it yourself, but then there will be money in the grant for another person who can help you, and then you’ll have someone who will do the social media for you if you don’t like to do it.
You’re talking about the work ethic part, it reminded me of when I was a pharmaceutical representative. I hate driving. It’s like the worst thing in the world to me and that job was not good for me because that’s all you do all day. You go from place to place. The thought of working even fifteen minutes doing that job was torture. Yet, I can work sixteen hours straight and not think of anything if I’m teaching and doing my stuff on my computer. I don’t feel like I’m working. When you’re doing that audit, you’re finding out what things you like and your work ethic will improve because you’re not driving from office to office if you hate driving. The thing is the strong foundation parts are interesting to me. How do you know what to do in the foundation phase to carry up into later on?
You know the basic principles of what you need to do in order to succeed. If you’re the athlete, you have to do those drills. If you’re a scientist, you have to continuously read up on the latest science and write those grants and papers. That doesn’t change just because you got the big award, you continue to do it. All of these things that have worked on the path to success, you don’t drop them. You might get people to help you if, for example, you’re writing a grant to do larger chunks of it. At the end of the day, it has to be your name on it. It has to be your voice and vision. The same thing with the athletes, they can’t outsource those 100 sit-ups that nobody enjoys doing.
There’s a certain amount that you got to do, but it gets easier once you get into a routine. I didn’t mention that you have a weekly show and podcast. You do a lot of the same things that I do. You do research, a show, and Thinkers50. We have a lot of similar things. When you’re talking about optimizing success, where you’re talking about their journey, what kind of people are you interviewing? Are these the same kind of people? If people wanted to catch that show, tell me about that.
I do a lot of mentoring in my day job, but I believe in the mission that even my volunteer role is with an organization, a nonprofit called The Mentor Project. One of the things that I do is host a weekly show on Mondays nights at 8:00 PM Eastern. I have a group of high achievers that come on every week and have different guests that come on. Many of them are from the book, the Founder and original CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, Maxine Clark. We had Tom Jones, the big guy on Wall Street and head of Citigroup and TIAA-CREF and Travelers. He was known for starting the armed takeover of the Student Union at Cornell University in April 1969.
We had one of the world’s biggest branding experts, Martin Lindstrom and he talked quite about his new book, The Ministry of Common Sense, which talks about all this no common sense that we have at work and what we can do about it. Some of the people are highlighted in the book and some aren’t. We then have regular high achievers from different fields. We have people from the mental health, science, and advocacy field, an Olympian and an astronaut. They are some of the regular guests. One of the original Jamaican bobsledders if you ever saw the movie Cool Runnings, he’s one of our weekly panelists. He’s on almost every week. We have Dr. Charlie Camarda, an astronaut who went right after the Columbia disaster. They returned to the flight mission. We have a lot of incredible people and you will notice that they are regular people. They are vulnerable as they share their stories.
I often wonder with the astronauts, once you’ve done that, you go back to regular life, then where do you go? It’s going to be hard to top that.
You can say the same with Olympic champions. They get their gold medal in their twenties.
It’s true. I think that it’s fun to interview some of these amazing people on the show and you’re one of them. I’ve interviewed 1,200 to 1,300 people and everybody who’s been on the show is like what you’re saying. They’re so fascinating and you learn something. It’s such a big part of what I like which is continuous learning. When you teach, you have podcasts, write, and all the stuff that we do, we’re getting that part where we are always learning. If you’re one of those who can’t read eight hours a day, this is part of how I continue to do it. There are many ways that people can build that four pillars. I appreciate you coming on and sharing how people can do that. Until the book comes out, what can they learn from your websites and how can they find you? I want to make sure everybody is able to learn more from you.
Thank you so much, Ruth. This was fascinating. I love the work you’re doing.
Thanks for letting me geek out.
It was fun.
Mobster Business Practices With Daniel P. Forrester
I am here with Daniel P. Forrester who is the Founder of THRUUE Inc., an expert consultancy that assists leaders in bridging the gap between corporate culture and corporate strategy. He is the co-author, with Dr. Jerry Zimmerman, of Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices which we’ve talked about on this show before. I’m excited to have you here Daniel, welcome.
What a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
I was looking at your background. You’ve done quite a lot. I’ve seen some of your clients are impressive. The list is too long but it’s fascinating to get backstories on people on the show in case people aren’t familiar with your work. I want to know what led you to this point.As humans, you just watch a child. Once you become a parent, you look at the eyes of your children. Click To Tweet
I’m a kid from Long Island, New York. I grew up on the North Shore. I went through a lot of Catholic school in my life including Washington DC and the Catholic University of America. I’m a writer and a poet at heart. That’s what moved my soul most of my life. When I realized in college that poetry was insufficient to pay a mortgage, I started to think about other areas where I can apply writing and my creative side. Eventually, I realized that business is a place where you can have a heck of an impact and have a wonderful ride and here and I got an MBA. I’m a father of two beautiful children and a husband. The backstory is, we grew up with two extraordinary parents. I’m the youngest of six and they gave us an incredible chance to be educated and to experience life. I’ve taken advantage of every twist and turn along the way and made a bunch of mistakes. I certainly made some big mistakes in my life that I’ve learned from but it’s been a good ride so far.
When people send me their bios I always love to look at the things that they list. I know that you use the word curiosity. It led you to research certain things and since I’m a curiosity expert, I would love to see that word. That stood out to me. Do you consider yourself a curious person? If you do, I’m curious where you think you got that quality?
As humans, you just watch a child. Once you become a father or a parent, you look at the eyes of your children. I think we’re born with innate curiosity as we try to come into our consciousness and relate to the world. I’m doing a lot of writing about incredible events in people in my childhood. I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island. Every parent plays a huge role in all of our lives in many ways, positive and sometimes challenging. My father is a great man, very busy and always in Manhattan working and helping to put a lot of food on the table for six kids growing up in the North Shore. My mother is still with us.
I study a little bit of the Generational Archetypes. I’m a classic Gen X-er. I remember being very self-directed with a lot of freedom. We didn’t have phones but we had relative times to be home. We had lots of neighbors in the neighborhood that were fascinating to me. To answer your questions specifically about curiosity, it’s interesting that the events that shape your childhood create a presence of curiosity. There were two men that I’ve been writing about. I’m working on my first screenplay. It’s about these two extraordinary men. One of them work for Grumman on Long Island and played an essential role in putting Neil Armstrong on the moon. He was an engineer and one of the 3,800-plus people who were part of building the lunar module.
I had a man down the way who would help me with science projects who helped me to think about problem-solving. He used to say to me, “Daniel, how will you ever get off the island?” He would put the problem back in my court, whatever it was that we were working on. Down the other way. I had another extraordinary guy. How I’m building relationships at 10, 11, and 12 years old with these two older gentlemen speaks to the serendipity of life and perhaps my curiosity.
The other gentleman was retired and came from a family that tied all the way back to the Mayflower, the Carver family. We had an extraordinary time. He was a shipper and he had relationships around the world. He would teach me about Japan and Singapore. He had seen the world at a level and he would constantly push me to think about getting off Long Island and going to see the world. I guess that’s the origin of the curiosity side of it. As time has gone on when I get an idea in my head and there’s something I realize I don’t know and I have absolute ignorance, things come to me like a song. When it comes, it’s a song that gets in my head, and I have to figure it out. That’s a metaphor for me.
I’m curious about what led to your interest in writing Relentless.
Jerry Zimmerman. If you roll back when I went and took my poet mind and figured out I was going to add economics to it. I went to the University of Rochester to the Simon School of Business. Besides marrying my wife, the greatest return of any relationship in my life was going to that school. I met 3 or 4 giants in the world of microeconomics and they rewired my brain to think through, why do people make the decisions that they do? How is it possible to have organizations that are capable of getting 1, 10, 50, and 50,000 people to be aligned around something? That world changed me.
As time went on, I kept in touch with several of the lead professors there. These are luminaries, folks whose work is cited around the world because they’ve helped to unpack for managers and leaders. How do you apply the seven years of Nobel economics? I brought Jerry into a project that I was working on. A tricky project that I was in the middle of was around 200 clients. It wasn’t a tricky problem for him. I briefed him on it and brought him in with my team. He gave us some incredible wisdom and the next thing you know, I’m like, “What are you working on?” Jerry was pretty much retired at this point. He’s still doing some writing and he told me he’s been studying organizations that would outlast Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs.
I thought to myself, “You’re writing the next Good to Great.” He reminded me, “As good as that book was, most of those organizations didn’t survive, and Enron wasn’t great.” He sent me the manuscript. We went back and forth for the better part for two years because telling a mentor of yours that there was a dimension that he was missing is like trying to give Wayne Gretzky feedback on taking a slap shot. I said to him that the angle that I felt was missing in Relentless. What became Relentless was looking at the cultures of these mobster groups.
I’ve worked with dozens of organizations of leadership teams to assess, measure and shift the culture in service and strategy. Never in my life that I imagined that I’d be taking my good Catholic brain and applying it to thinking through how the Bloods and the Crips, El Chapo or the US mafia did it. I’m going to save the email exchanges for my children to read someday because it was amazing to go back and forth. We did a lot of phone calls and eventually, he said, “Daniel, you’ve contributed a lot here and I’d like to put you on the masthead.” We pulled it off. In the middle of a pandemic, to have a mentor to get to think through something like that, besides watching Game of Thrones, and doing all the work that we do, it was joyful to write Relentless with Jerry Zimmerman.
I’m sure you learned a lot from mobster business practices. I remember talking about that on the show. You’re doing a lot of work around vision envisioning and creating a master class in it. Are you using any of the things that you learn from the mobsters in that? I want to learn a little bit more about what you’re working on.
I’m an entrepreneur and I founded my first company THRUUE. Every nine years, I’ll hatch something new. My idea was to build out a way to teach them. As I get older, I’m less consulting and I’m trying to channel and be present for people to teach them at least the angles of wisdom that I’ve been lucky to cobble together. This visioning component, your question specifically, “How does it relate to mobsters?” The mobsters take a longer view of their organizations. That was one of the insights. They certainly scheme at the local level on a daily basis, quickly and resiliently. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy.
Writing the book, Jerry made me think about franchise models and why some succeed and fail. Mobster groups generally are highly decentralized organizations yet at the nodal level, there’s persistence about who they attract, and how they relate to the communities that they are part of. By definition, I don’t know if that’s a vision much as it’s persistence. It’s taking a longer view in the sense that they certainly want to have short-term games. They are parts of communities and ecosystems where there are things that are bad for business.
In the middle of writing Relentless, when we’re watching the behaviors of these groups with regards to COVID-19 and lockdowns. It wasn’t astonishing to us when we saw alerts from Interpol. Of course, the mafia and mobsters are going to be involved in trying to sell Moderna or illegal influent. These people don’t have much bureaucracy, but I don’t know that I would necessarily ascribe in our work the notion of vision and visionaries.
If I was to give them one piece of credit with regards to their domain of vision, it’s the idea of the credo, ethos and values. You could argue the mobsters have a more intentional way of what they stand for and they don’t change these values over time. These are pretty fixed and it attracts in. If there’s a vision to be had, it would be an unbelievable commitment to a simple set of values. They value violence. You need to confront them if you’re going to study mobsters. We watch them on television. They also value freedom, steadfastness, loyalty, loyalty to family, toughness, immorality and belonging. Most of those are healthy. Immorality and violence are not healthy. That’s the connection division in my mind, creating a credo and an ethos that despite unbelievable odds of organizations lawfully trying to take them down, they persist year after year or decade after decade.
You’re creating a masterclass and it means different things to different people. How long is this? What do you foresee it’ll include? Can you give us an oversight?
I’ve learned a lot about online learning.
I’ve taught thousands of courses. It’s a challenge.
It’s hard. My empathy for teachers and lesson plans has gone up. It’s been months now of research and work. I hatched to this new company and venture. I’ve been working with a couple of young researchers and I’ve dug in. I’ve read thousands of things about this. I also had a lot of experience helping organizations and leaders to align around a vision. When I call it a masterclass, if you asked me to sing for my dinner at the age of 50 and try to teach what I call shared vision, that’s where my head is at. My biggest conclusion in digging deep on vision and visioning is that I believe that the idea of a vision statement is such a shallow way in which to try to inspire people in your organization. Is a vision statement necessary? It is.
I’ve been exposed because of the leading thinkers out of Wharton to this idea of fuzzy vision. I led a workshop in front of human beings in Minnesota, and it was nice to be in front of humans facilitating a room again. I said, “There are a couple of types of visions I’ve seen. One is a world in which everyone gets a puppy.” I use that to point out how I’ve seen a delusion of language and a detachment from specificity. I juxtapose that and perhaps, this ties back to the part of my origin story.
I’ve been blown away and fascinated from the time I was a child that we landed a man on the moon. When you study and go in-depth into how the Kennedy administration, inheriting what became NASA, and the boldness and specificity of President Kennedy in 1961 and 1962. He said, “By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon.” He also said, “If Mallory was there to climb one of the greatest mountains, we will climb space,” because Mallory said it was there. Think about how unbelievably visual that is.
The masterclass is an attempt to do the following. I’m trying to teach leaders that vision envisioning is a process. Less than 10% of leaders in the data that I’ve gathered identify as visionary. That means 90% of us have a lot of work to do. Most of us weren’t born Steve Jobs. Envisioning as a process means, you have a lot of work as the CEO or the catalyst at the top of the house of an organization, that you can’t do it alone. You’re going to do it with your leadership team and I believe in this world to go wide with your vision all the way down to the employees. Your employees get to vote on your vision with their labor, energy and effort, whether or not they connect to it.
The class is probably in lectures, I’m doing this in 8, 10 minutes chunk each because people don’t have attention spans. I got a workbook that we’re doing along with it and I’m putting out my initial MVP class to two sets of folks that have been advising me. Masterclass, in the sense that I want to do for the word vision what Simon Sinek did for the word why. Vision envisioning is going to be more shocks that come in our companies. This is not going to end. COVID-19 is not the last disruptive event of our lifetimes. It’s pulling your leadership teams up, imagining and creating the space.
If you’re a doctor by background, I’ve learned from the psychologists and biologists that human beings have the ability to do what’s called mental time travel and that activates two parts of our brain. We are biologically programmed for vision. I want to teach leaders that you can tap into it. It is not just like the apple falling from the tree on Newton’s head. There’s a way to think about this as a process, but one that goes wide by engaging people versus putting up perhaps pithy on the website that said, “This is where we’re going.” I’m tired of pithy vision, I want a specific inspiring vision. The Millennials in the workforce crave this. Let’s deliver for them.
As you’re talking about this vision and envisioning, it reminds me of when I had Amy Edmondson from Harvard, talking about teams versus teaming and the words. She owned that with TED Talk about getting the Chilean miners out under the rock. Have you thought of doing a TED or TEDx to cement that word?
It’s so funny that a lot of friends have asked me, “When are you going to do your TED Talk?” This is the bad Catholic kid in me, when every time one of the brothers or the nuns told me to do something, I hated that. I tend to come around to it. Doing this first-class, given the amount of effort I’ve put into the research is incredible. Perhaps this class is my TED Talk. I do a fair amount of talking and speaking to consolidate my thinking. The other side of it is I don’t want to do a TED Talk on this topic until I believe that I can make a unique contribution to what I’ve learned.We're born with innate curiosity as we try to come into our consciousness and relate to the world. Click To Tweet
I’m assimilating and synthesizing based on experience and a lot of antecedent documents and great thinkers before me. I can’t see a TED Talk until there’s a noble contribution that I make on the shoulders of giants. Every TED Talk sits on the shoulders of giants. I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet in terms of the insights. Maybe in a couple of years when I watch what comes back at me because the universe is going to teach me a lot about vision envisioning.
One of the things I want to do with this course, and I’ve been building relationships with some of the advisors around me, I want to take masterclass content from this course and I want women entrepreneurs to take the course. This white guy does not get to teach women entrepreneurs the art of visioning. I plan to bring in other experts to help me reach other audiences. I’m a baseball fan and I watch every baseball team and I’m a New York Mets fan. Some teams struggle with vision while some teams are unbelievably aligned around it. The masterclass component of this is I want to attract other experts well beyond me to be able to take the core content and apply it to many different industries and domains as part of my journey.
You mentioned how employees get to vote on the vision. I’m teaching entrepreneurship courses all the time. I teach a lot of different courses as I do this show and then I run my businesses. I’m thinking of the one I’m in right now because they’re at the stage of creating their vision for their company. A lot of them are bootstrapping or solopreneur. How do they realize that vision when they can’t have anybody around to vote on it?
I listened to one of your other interviews with a brilliant man talking about YouTube, self-doubt and all the things that creep in to tell us not to do it. This is featured well in the course. My best advice for the solo entrepreneur is that there was a phrase that was taught to me when I wrote my first book. I had the privilege of interacting and getting to know General David Petraeus. He loomed large in my life because he’s an expansive thinker and he gave me a great front-row seat into how he thinks about problem-solving. He and I have gone back and forth over the years. I even asked him if he believed this phrase that he taught me was a proxy for vision. He said, “Daniel, the first job of a leader and eventually a leadership team is to get the big ideas right.”
To answer your question specifically, his point is the same one that I’ve learned from many leaders on the art of vision envisioning, “Get the big ideas, right.” Two things that I tell entrepreneurs, it’s not 50 ideas, it could be one. If you think about Bezos, we all bought the books but he’s playing chess because he’s sitting there saying, “The core concept was around this idea of obsession around the customer.” For the beer drinkers out there, Dogfish ale from Delaware is an incredible beer company. Their vision permeates everything they do. Off-centered beers for off-centered people. The off-centered became the big idea. There’s a reason why they source barley that hasn’t been eaten in the Middle East and they tie that barley into their drinks because that’s what their off-centered customers want to have.
As you think about vision envisioning, if you give yourself permission to get the big ideas right and even when you’re lonely in that room as an entrepreneur and you have what you think is the angle, it’s a way to exploit a marketplace. It’s an unmet need of a customer. All of these is going to be pulled apart in the course. There’s a way to take your loneliness and put it out there in the form of, “What do we do?” Put it in a minimally viable product and hold a conversation with people. Let people poke on your reality. Be careful with the precious vision that’s just emerging because you’ll self-doubt. You teach so much of these courses that you do, be careful about self-doubt and exposing your vision through small pieces. Don’t get it in front of the critics. Get it in front of the customer because they’re going to vote early and often with whether or not they see in you, the product, the service or the offering, something that begins to move towards the vision you have for the customers’ and the employees’ vote.
Based on everything we’ve been talking about, I introduced you as the Founder of THRUUE. Explain that one.
My wife came up with it. I wanted to connect for the company two words and two ideas. Most strategies in my experience are not strategies. They’re giant PowerPoint decks. They’re a wonderful analysis strategy. My definition of strategy is the choices that leaders make. It’s an art of reduction, not of going wide. Because most strategies don’t involve reduction and choice, they’ve never seen through to fruition. That was one point.
The second thing is I watch a lot of organizations and I’ve been part of the view that the core ethos, the credo, the belief system and the value set starts out with a bang and it ends with a whimper. Most organizations I’ve seen over time, as the pressure comes in or as expediency for the immediate quarter versus the long-term view. I see that most organizations don’t stay true to the ethos. This is perhaps why the mobsters are so successful because they stay extremely true. I wanted to combine the word true and thru in the form of execution. I invented the word THRUE and someone was squatting on that word on GoDaddy for a lot of money. I added the second U and it cost me $40.'The first job of a leader and eventually a leadership team is to get the big ideas right.' Click To Tweet
I enjoyed learning about this and I know that your first book Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking In Your Organization did well and as your book with Dr. Zimmerman. I’m excited to see how your masterclass turns out. A lot of people will want to know how they can find out more or how to follow you.
The easiest way for businesses is to follow me on LinkedIn. It’s Daniel Patrick Forrester. The new venture is called aVizhen. It’s a placeholder, but you’ll soon be seeing a lot of content coming forward there. My website is DanielForrester.com. I’ve got a bunch of things I’ve written in the past and I am an amateur photographer and doing some drawing and writing. Those are up on my website.
Daniel, this was so much fun. Thank you so much. This was interesting. I hope everybody takes some time to explore your site and information. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Great pleasure. Thank you for asking me and for sharing some of the stories.
I’d like to thank Ruth and Daniel for being my guests. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com. You can also find out more about curiosity and perception. and all my work, speaking and consulting, everything’s on the site. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode.
- Weill Cornell Medicine
- Tom Rath – previous episode
- The Mentor Project
- The Ministry of Common Sense
- LinkedIn – Ruth Gotian
- Twitter– Ruth Gotian
- Instagram – Ruth Gotian
- Clubhouse – Ruth Gotian
- Dr. Jerry Zimmerman – previous episode
- Good to Great
- Amy Edmondson – previous episode
- THRUUE Inc.
- Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking In Your Organization
- Daniel Patrick Forrester – LinkedIn
About Dr. Ruth Gotian
Dr. Ruth Gotian is the Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Professor of Education in Anesthesiology and former Assistant Dean of Mentoring and Executive Director of the Mentoring Academy at Weill Cornell Medicine. She has been hailed by the journal Nature and Columbia University as an expert in mentoring and leadership development and is currently a contributor to Forbes and Psychology Today where she writes about ‘optimizing success’. She also has a weekly show and podcast by the same name where she gathers high achievers to talk about their journey to success. In 2021, she was one of 30 people worldwide to be named to the Thinkers50 Radar List, dubbed the Oscars of management thinking.
About Daniel P. Forrester
Daniel P. Forrester is the founder of THRUUE, Inc., an expert consultancy that assists leaders in bridging the gap between corporate culture and corporate strategy. He works with CEOs, boards of directors, and c-suite leaders, helping them align around a clear strategy while understanding reputational and cultural risk. He implements methodologies to quantify culture and integrate it into each organization’s mission, vision, and core values and behaviors so that the company achieves its strategic priorities.
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