Using Technology To Advance Social Impact With Darian Rodriguez Heyman And Flipping The Script On Human Resources With Laurie Ruettimann

You’ve never seen a business plan without a competitive analysis. It’s ridiculous to think that somebody would run out and start a company without surveying the landscape. That is why it’s fascinating that the whole world of social entrepreneurship or nonprofits lack in this area. Dr. Diane Hamilton’s guest on today’s podcast is Darian Rodriguez Heyman, a keynote speaker, best-selling author, and an expert in the area of nonprofits. Darian shares how nonprofits can use technology to support and advance their goals around social impact and build the capacity of not one or two groups or leaders but the entire set.

With the growth of the gig economy, the number of people who are full-time employed workers is getting smaller and smaller. However, the majority of the HR world we have right now is built for a workforce that existed years ago. They seem to get a lot of things wrong, and so Laurie Ruettimann sees a need to fix it. Laurie is a former Human Resources leader turned writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. Today, she joins Dr. Diane Hamilton in dissecting the need to flip the script on human resources. After all, work isn’t the be-all-end-all. People need to put themselves first so they can take control of their careers.

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact


I’m glad you joined us because we have Darian Rodriguez Heyman and Laurie Ruettimann. Darian is a keynote speaker, best-selling author, and an expert in the area of nonprofits. Laurie is the author of Betting On You.

Watch the episode here

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Using Technology To Advance Social Impact With Darian Rodriguez Heyman

I am here with Darian Rodriguez Heyman who is a keynote speaker, best-selling author, moderator, everything in his life work is about helping people help. It is nice to have you here, Darian.

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be with you.

I’m excited to have you here. I saw that you served as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation. I had Craig on the show and that was a lot of fun. He was interesting to talk to. I’m looking at your background. You have done a lot of things from co-hosting TEDx events, emceeing programs, to building all these programs. You even served as an Editor in Chief of an online magazine. We have some things in common that we’ve done together, which is great. I know your most successful book, Nonprofit Management 101. It came out with the second edition. Congratulations on that.

Thank you so much.

I know you’ve done many things. I would like to get a background on what led to your success. It’s always nice to hear people’s backstory.

I think of myself as a little bit of a dot-com refugee. I started and sold one of the first digital ad agencies. Right out of college, I started a company with some of my college buddies and it turned out to be successful. It was at the right time, right place. It was in the mid to late ‘90s with the internet and the web was becoming a tool for people to use. Everyone was designing websites at that time but nobody had figured out how to advertise through the internet. The people that were trying to do that were taking these antiquated views and applying television and billboard mentalities to the internet and weren’t getting great results.

We were a bunch of kids that got out of school that didn’t know how advertising was supposed to work. We figured it out. The company grew at 600% a year for four years in a row. We had almost 400 employees, over $500 million in annual billings, and grew to offices in over twenty countries at its peak. The thing that was most important for me is we had 22 married couples come out of that company. It’s called Beyond Interactive. It was a family. I enjoyed getting the lead business development. I was the Chief Interactive Evangelist. I did a lot of public speaking and educating CEOs of ad agencies twice my age about how internet marketing was fundamentally different than traditional advertising.

[bctt tweet=”Identifying that first domino – the thing that you need to set the wheels in motion and move your work forward – is helpful.” username=””]

When we got into the economic crash in 2000, 2001, we had to go through massive layoffs. It was a rude awakening for 24-year-old Darian who did believe we were a family. All of a sudden, we had to make some serious cuts and that didn’t feel right for me. I got this illusion. I wound up going on sabbatical, traveling the world for six months, and revisiting my purpose. I’ve had the chance to do that three times in my career which has been transformative every time. On this particular first trip, I had an epiphany that I wanted to devote my career to social impact and then I was done focusing my life on making money for myself and other people. That’s what led me into the nonprofit world, starting and running Craigslist Foundation for five years, and it’s all the work I’ve done since.

You have become the go-to expert. Your book has been hailed as the Bible of nonprofit leadership. What’s that like to hear that response to your writing? That’s got to be amazing.

It’s interesting because, with the internet and advertising, I came into it with a beginner’s mind. I didn’t know much about nonprofits at all. After I got back from my sabbatical, I decided I wasn’t going to focus on the business world anymore. I started organizing fundraisers for different cultural themes and causes and they were getting bigger and more successful. One of my buddies who was coming to the party, I knew him from the dot-com world was on the board of the Craigslist Foundation which had been dormant. He offered it to me as something I could revitalize, run with, and have a brand behind the work I was doing to make the world a better place.

In the process, I got some people listening to figure out what was missing and how I could be helpful in the social impact arena. I discovered it’s a fragmented sector and it works differently than the business world. You’ve never seen a business plan without a competitive analysis. It would be ridiculous to think you would run out and start a company without looking at the landscape, surveying it, seeing who’s out there, what they’re doing, and how you’re different. Whereas, nobody does that in the nonprofit world. People’s mom gets sick and they want to run out and cure disease, save a certain animal, or whatever it is, they get inspired and motivated which is great but then they run out and start an organization. That creates a hugely fragmented sector. It creates a sector with a lot of people duplicating efforts and rebuilding the wheel.

I felt like there was no front door to the movement, everyone was having to learn by doing, and there was a huge amount of inefficiencies. I decided to create something called Nonprofit Boot Camp. It was like Lollapalooza for nonprofits. Within one year, it became the largest nonprofit gathering in the San Francisco area in history. We had 10,000 graduates over the five years I ran it. That was where I discovered my life’s work around helping people help because it’s a mirror image of what Craig and his team are doing at Craigslist which is people helping people. That’s their mantra.

When I looked at applying that vision into the nonprofit and social impact space, I felt like we shouldn’t be picking individual causes or organizations over others. We needed to fulfill Craigslist’s ethos around this egalitarian, open to everybody, and helping little guys. This notion of helping people help and connecting people who want to make the world a better place to the best practices, the helpful resources, and the contacts they need to do that was the vision behind our work there. It became my life’s work.

That’s impressive to get into helping people do this situation. I agree that you have many people reinventing the wheel. Anytime you can make it be less time consuming and less problematic. Your work has helped in that respect. I know it was hard to introduce you on the show because you do many things. With me, when they ask me what I do, I’m like, “How much time you have?” You have these different things. You give a lot of keynotes. You co-hosted both TEDxSoMa and Presidio, right?

I did.

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact
Technology For Social Impact: A full 50% of nonprofit executive directors leave not only their job but the sector within five years because of difficulties and frustrations around fundraising and with their boards.


What’s that like to co-host?

It’s been interesting. The boot camp turned into the Nonprofit Management 101 book project because it was the mirror image of that as a book because there was a much bigger national audience that needed the same information and resources. Once I started getting into the space of producing events and bringing leaders together to inspire them and motivate them to action, especially given the fact that I have a bit of a business background, it was clear that there was a need to play and look at this whole space of social entrepreneurship. It’s the gray area between the for-profit and the nonprofit worlds that are traditionally thought of that is distinct.

I’ve never been a big fan of walls and boundaries. I run Numi organic teas foundation and those guys have been an amazing mission-led business. The whole world of social entrepreneurship is fascinating to me. My mom is a teacher and so I’ve always fancied myself an educator. I love the idea of trying to communicate big ideas and figure out a logical progression so you can encapsulate them. I put them together in a format and in a flow that people will retain and not be inspired by, but be inspired to action. TEDx has a great platform for that.

I was able to work with people from TaskRabbit before anybody knew who they were and amazing leaders from all these different companies and organizations. Chip Conley from Joie de Vivre who went to Airbnb, and all kinds of incredible leaders. It was an interesting format because it forces people to be succinct, concise, and try to sit with what’s the essence of what they want to communicate. That’s a lot of what I do as a public speaker, trainer, and consultant.

As a speaker, you’ve been on stage with many amazing people. You’ve been on with Sandra Day O’Connor, Steve Wozniak, Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader. I haven’t met Ralph but I have met the other two. You had a story. I wanted to hear your Sandra Day O’Connor story.

Sandra Day O’Connor was my graduation speaker at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She was the first female Supreme Court Justice. I’ve always had a passion and appreciation for the law. There was one thing that she said when I graduated that was powerful for me. She said, “The secret to success in life is about learning how to disagree agreeably.” I’ve met powerful, wealthy, and accomplished folks in the world, and in my experience, they’re used to people kissing their butt and saying yes to whatever they suggest. When you take a different approach and challenge them respectfully and with good reason, not for the hell of it, that has been interesting. It’s led to some friendships and kinships with some accomplished folks in my day. I’ve got to work with Richard Branson, Bill McKibben and Paul Hawken. Those words always sat with me.

Fast forward, we were the co-keynotes at the conference of Southwest Foundations which is a gathering of a lot of different foundations and founders. I got to speak first, I quoted her, and talked about her being my graduation speaker. After she spoke, which was amazing, she didn’t have a ride home. She was going to call a cab or something. I gave her a ride home. I got to drive Sandra Day O’Connor home. It was the coolest thing. I got to sit with her and talk to her for a while. She connected me with her son who’s also here in San Francisco. It was lovely.

[bctt tweet=”Everything we do or don’t do, and say or don’t say, creates change.” username=””]

She is a wonderful woman. I had seen her years ago playing golf at the club. She was sitting alone and I hadn’t seen her since the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. My sister got married and she performed the ceremony. I asked her and I said, “I don’t know if you remember this but you performed her wedding ceremony, they forgot their wedding ring, and they had to use the turquoise ring that you were wearing.” She said, “I remember it.”

That’s funny. She’s from Arizona. She’s an amazing woman. She’s always cool. You mentioned Wozniak too. I got to speak alongside him. He and I stayed in touch. He gave me a testimonial for my book. It’s been amazing to see some of the luminaries that are out there. Especially when you look at the overlap between people like Wozniak who are hugely successful in the business world and social impact. There’s an interesting Venn diagram there where a lot of people talk about how nonprofits could be more businesslike. I agree, there’s a lot of things nonprofit leaders can learn from business leaders. I also think the flip side is true. There’s a lot that business leaders can learn from nonprofits.

I have done more than 1,000 interviews on the show. I don’t know if anybody’s mentioned Venn diagrams and then I had two people mentioned the Venn diagrams. It’s interesting. Everything is coming into this intersection of ideas.

It’s a Venn diagram of Venn diagrams.

It is funny. I saw your sample speaking topics and I thought it was interesting to look at trends, philanthropy, social innovation, and some of the things you talked about. Of course, social media for good. I love that. You focus a lot on fundraising tips and building fundraising boards. What’s your favorite speaking topic? I wanted to see what makes you focus on fundraising so much.

There are two questions there. In terms of what makes me focus on fundraising, it’s like the doctor that is fluent in administering penicillin because that’s what people need. If you look at the research and the data in the nonprofit world, a full 50% of nonprofit executive directors, which is the equivalent of a for-profit CEO, leave not only their job but the sector within five years. If you drill down into this leaky leadership pipeline, what you find is the number one reason why they leave is because of difficulties and frustrations around fundraising. The second most common reason is frustrations with their boards. If you put the two together, in my experience, when you look at the topic of getting your board to fundraise, it’s something that perplexes lots of nonprofits. A lot of the consulting and coaching work that I do is exactly on that Venn diagram, that exact topic.

I discovered early on that those are the things that nonprofit leaders and social impact leaders because I do a lot of work with mission-lead for-profits and social enterprises, that’s where their struggles are. For me, my background is in sales and business development, those skills translated perfectly into nonprofit fundraising. It’s something that I learned how to do by doing as the leader of Craigslist Foundation. I also organize conferences, wrote books, do public speaking, coaching, and consulting to help other leaders learn how to refine their skills and engage their boards. Money is the ball bearings of social change. Gandhi and Mother Teresa were all fundraisers. There’s a lot of shame in fundraising. I talk a lot about how to change the lens, perspective, and paradigm around what it means to raise money and do so for a cause that you believe in. That’s something I’m passionate about and it’s something nonprofit leaders need.

To answer your question about my favorite topic, I invented a format that I call Solution Salons. It’s nothing too complicated. In general, I’ve done a lot of work in the United Nations, developing the SDGs and speaking at their conferences. The UN is the best example of a conference organizer who gets amazing leaders together but then talks at them for 2 or 3 days and sends them home. It’s similar to the reason why most nonprofit board meetings are useless. It’s 90% monologue and you’re giving all these updates and FYIs instead of problem-solving and moving the work forward.

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact
Technology For Social Impact: Most nonprofit board meetings are useless. It’s 90% monologue, and you’re giving all these updates and FYIs instead of problem-solving and moving the work forward.


What I did was I created this simple format that I call Solution Salons where you go around the circle and everyone gets to answer two questions. What are you up to and how can we help? Everyone gets to give their personal and organizational elevator pitch briefly but then they get to share one specific challenge, obstacle, or need with the group. What’s amazing is every time I’ve done this, I’ve done it for thousands of leaders all over the world, every single person always gets their needs met multiple times over.

Even the process of identifying what is that first domino, the thing that I need that’s going to set wheels in motion and move my work forward is helpful. It’s an exercise in mindfulness and intentionality. There’s also this strong and visceral sense of community and action where this idea that like, “Even when other people are taking their turn, they’re bringing up challenges and struggles that I have too because we all share so much in common.” This notion, the best way I’ve heard it said is that we’ve entered a world where everyone is smarter than anyone. It’s the concept behind crowdsourcing innovation.

The point is that no matter how much I know or any amazing speaker I could get up in front of an audience might know, we collectively know more. How do we tap the wisdom of the masses and go back to this idea? Every time I do public speaking, one of the first things I say is that if you leave this talk inspired, I haven’t done my job. My job is to inspire you to action to make sure that when you leave this talk, you’re in a better position to move your work forward.

There are many heady ideas, nebulous and abstract concepts, and strategies. Those philosophies are important for context especially in the world of social impact. Nonprofits by design are always under-resourced. If they bring in more money, they increase their programs. The need in general always far outstrips the amount of resources or supply. Nonprofit leaders don’t have a lot of time to waste to sit around talking about heading in interesting ideas that might inspire them but they’re already inspired. They’ve dedicated their lives to these causes. What they need are tactical, practical tips and tools, and that’s my life’s work, whether it’s through books, speaking, coaching and consulting, or running organizations myself.

You do a lot of things. You mentioned advising the UN but you’ve also advised the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You were appointed as Commissioner for the Environment by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and all the stuff you’ve done. How do you advise the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? What advice do they need?

Anytime you have somebody who’s looking to deploy more capital than has ever been deployed in the world’s history, there’s going to be some challenges to that whether it’s about how do you work with the smaller guys who aren’t able to take a multimillion-dollar grant. In the case of the work I was doing with them, it was more around how to use technology to support and advance social impact. That’s also some work I’ve done with the UN and how I started initially working with them. It goes back to this Venn diagram, this overlap of, in this case, how do we use technology? You mentioned the social media for nonprofits conference series that I started. There’s a lot of folks in the social impact world that are not nearly as fluent in leveraging and utilizing some of their technology-based tools out there. How can we put those to work, employ them to advance our goals around social impact, and build the capacity of not 1 or 2 groups or leaders but the entire set?

The focus you take is interesting. I don’t get a lot of nonprofit focus on the show as much as I’d like to. I mentioned your book. Your second edition had come out. You’ve written several books. Do you have more in you?

[bctt tweet=”Everybody is a contractor. We’re all employed at will.” username=””]

We’ll see if my wife gives me some free time. It’s a lot harder than it was earlier. As I said, my mom is a teacher and I fancy myself an educator. I feel like writing books is part of that. It’s been a helpful and useful experience. I’ve got positive comments from thousands of leaders all over the world. Both of the books have been translated into Portuguese for the Brazilian audience. They’ve made an impact. No matter how many people I can reach through a post on social media, an article that I write, or a speech that I give, the audience of a book is significantly larger.

From a standpoint of advancing my goals, which is about maximizing my sphere of positive influence, that was an epiphany that I had on that first sabbatical that led me to devote my life to social impact. The idea that came to me when I was hanging out in Thailand was that the foundation of life is change. Everything we do or don’t do, and say or don’t say, creates change. It emanates and ripples out from us like ripples in a pond. It’s not two dimensional. It’s three dimensional. It’s this sphere of influence. Knowing that we all have our own spheres of influence, how do I make it as big as possible and as positive as possible? This notion of maximizing my sphere of positive influence has become a guiding light to me.

In the context of that, especially because I’ve taken three of these sabbaticals and I’ve had a chance to think deeply with some profound ideas, I call it epiphany hunting, that’s where I’ve come up with this notion of helping people help. Deciding to devote some serious attention to the work I’ve done in the green economy and then decided to become a full-time dabbler. Instead of focusing on any one cause, organization, starting another company, nonprofit, or joining one, when I took my sabbatical in 2015, I made a conscious decision not to do that. Instead to be able to work with lots of different causes and organizations, which is what I’m doing as a coach, consultant, part-time executive director, part-time editor, author, speaker, etc. That’s been rewarding for me. I’m a little ADD. I like to think I have a burst mentality and I joke and say that gray is my least favorite color. I get to dive into different causes, organizations, challenges, back and solve something, move an idea forward, and then move on to the next one. That’s been rewarding for me.

I love that you’re curious. Since I’m a curiosity expert, that’s exactly how I see things. I’d like to learn and push the boundaries a little bit, find something else, and explore that. It sounds like we have a lot in common in that respect. A lot of people will want to know how to follow you and get your books and learn more from you. Is there some site or any social media you’d like to share?

Not so much. The books are both on Amazon. Those are readily available online. I’m happy to have people contacting me on my mobile phone or email. You’re happy to distribute that information. My cell phone is (415) 637-5062. In general, I do a lot of pro bono work. I’m always happy to talk to people at no cost, find out about what they’re up to in the world of social impact, and pointing to some resources. I’m happy to help your readers however I can.

Thank you. That’s generous of you. It was nice to have you on the show. I enjoyed it, Darian. Thank you so much.

My pleasure. You take care and have a great day.

You too.

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact
Technology For Social Impact: Nonprofits, by design, are always under-resourced. The need always far outstrips the amount of resources or supply.


Flipping The Script On Human Resources With Laurie Ruettimann

I am here with Laurie Ruettimann who is the former Human Resources Leader turned writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. CNN recognized her as one of the Top Five Career Advisors in the US. Her work has been featured on NPR, The New Yorker, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Vox. She frequently delivers keynote speeches at businesses and business management events around the world, hosts a popular podcast focused on fixing work. When she’s not on there, she lives with her husband and cats. It’s nice to have you here. I’m looking at the bio and it says Vox, did you mean Fox?

No, it means Vox. It’s a lovely website. It’s got a ton of great information. They publish interesting research and articles. I’m happy to be a part of the team when they asked me to write.

You published everywhere, it’s impressive. You do a lot of work that ties into some of the stuff that I do because I work on human behavior and performance issues. I was looking forward to this. I wanted to get a little background on you. I gave a little bit about what you’ve done but can you give us your backstory of how you reached this level of success?

Thanks for asking. I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up like most people in America. I came from a working-class family. Nobody had ever been to college. My dad had graduated from high school but my mom had a GED. What they did was what many families did, they went to work and complained about it. When I showed an aptitude for education, learning, and reading, my family didn’t know what to do with me. Thankfully, I had a high school boyfriend whose family took me under their wing and said, “This is how you go to college.” I followed in those footsteps and graduated with about $48,000 in student debt in 1997 which in nowadays dollars would be well over $100,000.

I thought, “I can’t afford to go to graduate school. What the heck am I going to do when I grow up?” The answer was to go to my alumni department and say, “I need a job.” Someone found me an unfilled internship in the human resources department. That sent me on an almost fifteen-year journey in corporate HR and it was great. I paid my bills. I did amazing work, but I hated it. I was not a good fit. From there, I sprung out into the world of entrepreneurship and that’s how I am doing what I am now, writing, speaking, and talking about fixing work because I realized how broken it is both internally from my own experience as well as systemically.

That’s interesting because I took a job as a Kelly girl, they used to call them. Kelly now is not just women. We would take a day job a week here or there. I almost didn’t answer the phone one day and I took this one job because it was only one day and I ended up working at that company for twenty years.

[bctt tweet=”The business of running your life is the most important business.” username=””]

That’s a funny story. I have to tell you, I’m dear friends with the former CEO of Kelly. His name is Carl Camden. The evolution of Kelly from providing work daily, which is something they still do, to being this interesting gig economy company that’s in the center of filling STEM jobs and research jobs with PhDs who only work for a couple of weeks. They do the things they need to do and then move on has been a neat evolution in our company. Before if you needed work, it was not something to be proud of. You fill these day jobs. Now, even people with PhDs and scientists are saying, “I’m going to write my own ticket. I’m going to do it on my terms.” I love that. I welcome that. I applaud it. Kelly girls are different than they were in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. I love that story.

That would be interesting. I’d like to interview Carl Camden. I didn’t realize that about the PhDs with them. I have to look at that since that’s what I have. I’m always interested in different opportunities. The gig economy was also affected by some of this stuff. Some of it, I’m sure being done virtually, of course. It’s an interesting look at HR and some of the things that I saw you talk about or how HR gets everything wrong and you got to fix it. Is that a speech you give? What is that? I thought that was interesting on your one sheet.

It’s more of a rant, although I have given speeches. I feel as if the world of HR was built for a workforce that existed years ago. Now, more and more of the sheer of people who are full-time employed workers is smaller and smaller. You have all of these individuals who are falling under finance and procurement because they own their own business or they come in as consultants. They are treated like second-class citizens and HR will say, “We’re not responsible for training them or making sure they’re protected from sexual harassment or deviant behavior because they’re contractors.” It’s like, “Get with the program.” Everybody is a contractor. We’re all employment at will. This idea that full-time employees and contractors are different, it’s only for compliance purposes and tax purposes. The human heart is the human heart and that’s what I try to drive home with HR professionals all over the United States and, increasingly, across the globe.

You drive home a lot of important points. We talked about the four buckets. Did you write about those four buckets in your book, Betting On You, that’s coming out? Is that something in addition to what you’re writing about in your new book?

No. I’m all over the four pillars that it takes for people to put themselves first and take control of their career, which is all I write about in Betting On You and all I talk about with workers and leaders because they are employees as well. We’ve forgotten that work isn’t the be-all-end-all. We suffer from work-ism in this country and within North America. It’s my journey to remind people that the business of running your life is the most important business. If you do that well, work tends to figure itself out.

There’s a great carryover effect from focusing on your own personal well-being. There’s also an amazing carryover effect from investing in continuous learning, learning how to take a risk, and focusing on the thing that I call self-leadership, which is autonomy. These are themes that have permeated my work for the past years. It permeated my research and bring me to this point where I’m trying to democratize the world of human resources and teach people that if you do these four things in your life, you can be your HR. You don’t have to worry about some HR lady telling you no for solving your problems because you can solve them yourself.

I deal a lot to develop people by developing curiosity. If you develop curiosity, you’re asking questions, you’re developing empathy, innovative ideas, and all these things that make you be a better person. A lot of that ties into your continuous learning. All of it ties back to well-being. It all intersects with what you and I do. I want to talk about each of these one at a time, the four of them. You started with well-being. I get a lot of meditation discussions on the show of how people are getting much more about that type of holistic thinking about how to make ourselves not be stressed out. Is that what you mean by well-being? Is that bring into eating and exercise?

I don’t mean that at all. Less than 10% of the population gives a rip about meditation. That is not something that’s accessible or even realistic because our systems are not built to give you five minutes to go and listen to your app. When I talk about well-being, I do talk about three pillars and they’re physical, emotional, and financial. Physical well-being isn’t about going and getting on a Peloton. It’s about making sure that you do what you need to do to guard the only thing that you’ve been given in this world without a bill, which is your body. That means thinking through the decisions you make about how you treat your body.

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact
Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career

I’m not saying everybody needs to run a 5K or do yoga. What I’m saying is you need to get up, move, and challenge your heart from time-to-time so that you’re not this sedentary being. You need to stop feeding your body corporate food. When you do feed your body corporate food, at least understand the decisions that you’re making and try to make a different decision from time-to-time. This is not pushing some wellness agenda but having you step back and realize this body that you have is the only thing you have free and clear. You’re going to have it until the day you die. The relationship with your body is yours. It doesn’t belong to anybody else. That’s my physical well-being rants. Go to Weight Watchers or don’t, I don’t care. At least understand the decisions behind putting that Oreo cookie in your mouth.

The second most important thing that goes along with that is emotional well-being because you can’t have a relationship with your physical body unless you have a good relationship with your brain. That could be through meditation, spiritual journey, or reading more. Many of us have this aspirational life that we want to live and we don’t take the time to pursue it. There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t do this. The number one reason is learned helplessness. I can’t. This is a story you’re telling yourself. There’s no amount of therapy that can make you change your mind. When people break through this bubble of learned helplessness, it almost always comes from a serious inflection point in your life. Are you going to wait for that to happen? Are you going to bring that about yourself? That’s the conversation I have in the book.

The third thing is financial well-being. Quite honestly, none of us run our lives like a business. If we made some key, simple changes with our finances, understanding how much we take in, how much we spend, and understanding that the core of all financial health is saving more than you spend. Until we start to have those conversations, we’re never going to make any traction. That’s what I write about when I talk about well-being in my book. I do that by telling personal stories of growth, failure, and also sharing stories from people I know, successful people and people who are ordinary individuals who’ve made some different choices.

You bring up a lot of good points in that. I wanted to touch on the learned helplessness. I do a lot of training with developing curiosity. One of the four factors that keep people from being curious is, I have the acronym of FATE, which is Fear, Assumptions, Technology, and Environment. The assumptions are what you’re talking about, that voice in your head that tells you, “I’m not going to like this. This is going to be too hard. I can’t do it.” One way of overcoming these things is to even recognize that you’re even saying these things to yourself. I love that you touched on that. I want to go into the second one.

Self-leadership is the second bucket. A lot of people say, “I don’t like it when my boss tells me what to do. My boss is always wrong. I don’t like the rules. This job drives me crazy because it’s bureaucratic.” The key to understanding how to fix work and to get past that is to realize that the only rules that exist are the rules you make up in your head. If you know who you are, what you stand for, and why you go to work, you can start to reframe some of those rules and figure out, “What applies to me and what doesn’t?”

I worked in human resources for over fifteen years in the trenches. It is hard to fire somebody. It is unbelievable. If you go to work and you see something that you think is dumb, you absolutely have the power to change and think through how you can make a difference in your own life and others. You don’t have to be a jerk about it. There are ways to fix work that are within your control. Self-leadership is all about the art and science of individual accountability. It starts with understanding your goals, your values, who you are, and what you believe in. All that other stuff that becomes the gossip and intrigue of your life fades away once you establish the core of your identity. Doing that work to shore up the things you think you stand for and you believe in, is the work of a lifetime.

As you’re saying how hard it is to fire someone, I was thinking about a company I worked for. People would not show up for a year and they still couldn’t get fired. I’m thinking, “A year?”

[bctt tweet=”When you’re in a state of learned helplessness, no amount of therapy can make you change your mind.” username=””]

You can, but there are no self-leaders in HR who will take a risk and do this.

It was crazy. You go on to continuous learning, which is my passion with curiosity. I’d love to hear your take on that.

There’s something interesting happening in the world. Even the phrase continuous learning, when I say it, I want to throw up because it’s not accessible. It’s not realistic for average, ordinary professional workers. They’re like, “Take your continuous learning and shove it because I have kids to raise and bills to pay.” The word curiosity also evokes that in a lot of people. What I like to say is that we are in the golden age of learning. There is nothing that you want to know that you can’t find out for free, whether that’s YouTube, Google, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning. For anybody who wants to get on LinkedIn learning, I have a 30-day free code. Let me give that to you so you can go fulfill the dream of doing whatever it is you want to do. It’s not the learning that’s expensive. It’s the credentialing that often sets people apart.

Don’t take yourself out of the game. Go pursue that learning. Go do that thing that you want to do. If you get to the point where there’s a challenge with credentialing, there are all sorts of scholarships. You can invest in yourself. There are ways to think through that. I listen to people say, “I’ve always wanted to go back to school and be a dental hygienist.” People say that all the time, “I want to go be a yoga instructor. I want to go learn about cellular biology.” All of that stuff is available out there for you. It’s about de-risk-taking. It’s about de-risking the process so that it doesn’t feel like you have to choose one or the other. Your job versus the thing you want to do. Your family versus your passion. These are false binary risks that we create. They’re just stories that we’re telling ourselves.

I agree with you on the words of how they come across. It’s like, “What do you mean by that?” When I was writing about curiosity, what it was getting out of status quo thinking in the workplace. Everybody does the same thing, the same way. Nobody knows why. The bell rings, you stand up, you sit down, and you have no idea what the reason is.

It’s because it pays the bills. There’s something in there about that primary need at the bottom of the pyramid to take care of ourselves. It’s difficult to get out of that thinking, “If I invest in myself and I spend five extra minutes looking at something on YouTube, I’m not going to get fired.” Even professionals, the people who make six figures a year and are bonused are living in such financially precarious times that they’re afraid to take that risk and bet on themselves. I’m here to tell you that no one’s going to fire you because you took five extra minutes or showed up at a meeting late because you were on Coursera. That’s not going to happen.

You can wait a whole year of not showing up.

I love your point around the language. Although I hate this, there’s this gendered language we use around work. There are some individuals who are built into the system where they’re never going to say, “I’m curious,” because that sounds like something that’s antithetical to their DNA. For me, I try not to use that language. I’m trying to use a language with my family. It’s like, “What are you doing with your life? Are you dumb? Do you think you’re going to get fired for being five minutes late to a meeting?” When you start to speak in the language of people’s families of origin, they go, “I’m being stupid.”

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact
Technology For Social Impact: The key to understanding how to fix work and to get past that is to realize that the only rules that exist are the rules you make up in your head.


That might be your next book, Are You Dumb? You want to change that. I think that learned helplessness is an interesting way of looking at it. With things that I picked as assumptions, it’s a hard thing to word certain things. We hear a lot about agility and adaptability. There’s a lot of buzzwords out there.

That turns off heteronormative women. When I worked in human resources, we talked a lot about the locus of control. Nobody wants to hear that when they’re raising children and trying to get stuff done. They’re like, “Do not give me a lecture on the locus of control. External, intro, I don’t want to hear it.” I don’t blame them because they’re busy.

I would like a new word or phrase for value proposition.

I’m raising my hand in total affirmation.

I could think of people say that in every single conversation and I’m thinking, “I can’t take that term anymore. I know what you’re saying, but we have to have more of a thesaurus of choices.”

We have to stop speaking like we’re all part of Corporate America.

I think so. The last one is risk-taking. I want to get into that one. What do you mean by risk-taking?

One of the big themes in my book is that people are afraid and they operate out of this hermeneutic of fear. Although I would never use the word hermeneutic in my book. I tell people, “I know it’s challenging to break the rules and to take a risk but there are things that we can do to de-risk our chances that we take or dreams.” One of the things I teach is something that’s big in the global corporate world but people don’t apply individually and that’s the premortem. It’s a simple exercise where you think about something that you want to do and you ask yourself, “How will this fail?” Not, “How might it fail?” Not, “How could it fail?” You go, “I’m going to do this and it’s going to fail.” How is it going to fail?

[bctt tweet=”You can’t have a better future unless you proactively plan for failure.” username=””]

You set a timer for no more than two minutes, I like 60 seconds, and you get silly and you write down all the ways this thing you want to do is going to fail. You can do it for a project around the house, “I want to paint my office. How is it going to fail? The dog might knock over the can of paint. I might pick the wrong color. My masking job might be terrible.” When the timer goes up, you look at all the reasons that your project will fail and you have in front of you a gift. It’s a roadmap. If you address the things on your list, you improve your chance of success by over 30%.

This is an idea that was formulated and made popular by a professor named Dr. Gary Klein. NASA, Intel, Cisco, and IBM does it. People who build bridges do it. Before pilots set forth on a journey look at the plane and go, “How is this going to crash?” Not, “How might it crash? How will it crash?” “How is it going to crash?” Using that and then thinking about it from a team perspective and looking at it like a Venn diagram. What are our areas of failure that are similar? What’s a blind spot that I didn’t see? If you do this before doing inventory on a monthly basis before redoing your company website, you’re going to improve your chances of success by over 30%.

If you’re interested in going back to school, getting a credential, changing careers, or being a consultant, do a premortem and tell yourself how you’re going to fail. I used to do it before interviews because I knew I wouldn’t make great eye contact, I would be fidgety, or I might talk too much as I’m doing on this podcast. There are a million things that I know about myself and that premortem gave me an opportunity to pause, reflect, and plan.

I like it when people talk a lot on my show. That’s not a bad thing. When you’re talking about that, I’m thinking proactive thinking. I’ve taught courses in foresight where we get into Covey’s The 7 Habits.

Aristotle, Socrates, they all used to practice the premortem. From there, we created systems that we monetized. Consultants got excited about this. I want to bring this down to brass tacks. This isn’t something that’s formal. This isn’t something that you need to pay any money for. The premortem is free, which makes it powerful. Anybody in any position at any space on the corporate hierarchy or not on the corporate hierarchy can do the premortem. It’s available to everybody and that’s why it’s beautiful because you don’t have to write a check or read a book to do the premortem.

Thirty percent is a big thing. People out there are thinking, “How would’ve you foreseen COVID or something else?” You can’t know everything.

We did foresee COVID. Barack Obama put together a task force and said, “One of the things that keep me up at night is this fear of a global pandemic that would wipe out part of the population.” He put together a task force, a playbook, and it was ignored. You can’t necessarily account for a chain of command changing and people not liking a previous administration because of their own racist tendencies. We did foresee something called COVID-19. There was a playbook and it was completely ignored.

Human behavior is such that we never want to default to failure and we never want to default to negative because we’re sentimentally optimistic. We’re almost ruinously optimistic. We think, “We want to dream about the possibilities of a better future.” You can’t have a better future unless you proactively plan for failure. That’s the great lesson of COVID. We know how to fix this. We’ve also seen in Korea what they’re doing in Germany. They’re doing amazing work with testing and contact tracing but we’re not doing that anywhere here in America. I’m sorry to get on a political rant but it’s important for me that we don’t throw out these examples and say, “How could you predict this?” We can predict much of what’s happening in the world. We just choose not to.

TTL 782 | Technology For Social Impact
Technology For Social Impact: Self-leadership is all about the art and science of individual accountability.


I know that Bill Gates, his video got a lot of attention. A lot of things got a lot of attention. Of course, there were those who did see this. I’m thinking in terms of company leaders who maybe didn’t follow politics or those kinds of things. It’s hard to follow everything and know what exactly is true. Don’t you think it’s hard for an average Joe?

I do. That’s a good point. I also think that companies who have thrived well during the pandemic were doing some good things that were best practices that set them up for success. A company that had to go and stand up a work from home program in three weeks was a company that was not tied into the employee experience before the pandemic and had negative or dwindling engagement scores. HR departments that are burnt out were burnt out before the pandemic and not doing the work that they needed to do to structure a credible, authentic HR department that was tied into the business’s needs. They’re still going to struggle during COVID and after COVID unless they follow some 21st Century best practices that are out there.

What is happening is that the pandemic has illuminated a lot of the cracks. There’s a true opportunity to do a post-mortem in an effective and meaningful way. Oftentimes, what happens with the post-mortem is we do it. We put it in a binder and we put it on a shelf, virtually or not. That’s the danger that we’re in. We’re going to learn a bunch of lessons and then we’re going to forget them. Everybody who’s reading this has to channel something that I write about in my book which is being brave, bold, courageous, and making sure that this doesn’t become a secondary thought. We don’t fall into the sentimentally ruinous thinking that 2021 is going to be where it’s at and even 2022. If we don’t learn and implement some of the lessons from this pandemic, we’re going to repeat it in 2023 when the next global pandemic happens or whatever.

This has been a unique experience. It’ll be interesting to see how seriously people recognize what changes need to be made based on what we’ve gone through. Your book is timely. A lot of people are going to want to know how they can get it to read it and to find out more about how to follow you. Is there somehow they can reach you?

The easiest way is to go to, that’ll take you to my website where you can see all sorts of pieces of information, what I’m thinking, what I’m reading, what I’m sharing. You can hear about my podcast and you can also buy the book. I’m super excited to connect with individuals who are doing brave and bold and courageous things in their own careers. There’s a contact me button on Email me and say, “Hi.” Tell me the cool stuff you’re doing. Let me know what you see for the future of work. I’m interested.

That’s great. We need more people talking about some of this stuff. This is fascinating, Laurie. Thank you so much for being on the show.

It’s my honor and my privilege. Thanks again for asking.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank both Darian and Laurie for being my guest. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them on the website. Since we’ve interviewed more than 1,000 people on the site, I’m sure you’ve missed a show or two. You can catch up on them there. Talk about binge-listening, you’d have plenty to listen to. I hope you take some time to check out that. I hope you enjoyed our episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Darian Rodriguez Heyman

TTL 782 | Technology For Social ImpactDarian Rodriguez Heyman is an accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. After co-founding and selling one of the first digital ad agencies, Beyond Interactive, and helping grow the company to almost 400 employees across more than 20 countries and almost $500M in annual billings, his work “helping people help” started during his five-year tenure as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation. There he launched their Nonprofit Boot Camp and grew it to the largest nonprofit gathering in history in only one year. That led to his two best-selling books, Nonprofit Management 101 (now in 2nd ed.) and Nonprofit Fundraising 101 (both published via Wiley & Sons), as well as his work as Editor-in-chief at Blue Avocado, the popular online magazine for nonprofits. Heyman since co-founded several other social impact conference series, including Social Media for Nonprofits, the world’s only conference series dedicated to social media for social good, and Nonprofit Fundraising Masters, as well as the GenderSmart Investing Summit. Heyman is a part-time ED at Numi Foundation and an in-demand fundraising consultant and a frequent keynote speaker at social impact events around the globe. He also frequently works with environmental and green economy organizations, building on his tenure as a Commissioner for the Environment for the City & County of San Francisco, where he helped pass the largest solar rebate program in the country, and Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, plus frequent work with the United Nations Environment Programme. Heyman also believes in the transformative power of music and helped produce the annual Power to the Peaceful festival in San Francisco, a free concert for peace and social justice that drew crowds of over 80,000, where he produced the DJ tent and performed regularly as DJ Hey Man!.

Specialties: Community organizing, public speaking, fundraising & sales, social media, youth engagement, messaging & communication, strategic planning, board development, public speaking, dot connecting.

About Laurie Ruettimann

TTL 782 | Technology For Social ImpactMy career began in 1995 as an HR assistant for Leaf Candy Company, providing operations assistance and recruiting services for an hourly workforce in a manufacturing environment that was heavily unionized and staffed with immigrants from war-torn Bosnia. Since those glorious days, I’ve worked at Monsanto, Alberto-Culver (now Unilever), Kemper Insurance (out of business), and Pfizer (not my best work). Even as my title and compensation grew, I hated my job.

I became a writer, speaker, and podcaster as a result of the heartbreak and outrage I’ve experienced throughout my corporate career. While I love calling out boorish behavior, I am dedicated to the revolutionary and long-overdue mission of fixing work by telling stories and teaching leaders how to create workplace cultures that support, empower, and engage workers meaningfully.

Now I help executives and HR leaders prioritize the employee experience to avoid the collateral damage of a toxic work environment. You can find me all over the internet, shaking my fist and yelling at clouds.

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