What Will You Intentionally Underperform at Right Now? (Question of the Week)

A client of mine recently sent me a LinkedIn post from Katelyn Strobel that really landed. In it, she shares big goals she has for this quarter, then adds:

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this idea of “strategic underachievement” from the book Four Thousand Weeks. The core concept: You’ll inevitably underachieve at something. When you decide in advance what you’ll fail at, you take control and eliminate any shame.

Katelyn goes on to share things she’s going to intentionally “suck at” including networking and cooking. I loved this so much that I immediately did this exercise with a CEO client who was feeling overwhelmed by the countless tasks in front of her.

We first brainstormed all the things she might intentionally underperform at. Next, we reviewed that list and landed on three areas she’d deprioritize in the next few months: investor meetings, events, and strategy sessions. I noticed an immediate change in her and this new clarity energized her.

Whether you’re a CEO or entry-level worker, it’s easy to add new things to your list. But what are you doing to substract from that list?

I invite you to answer the question: what will I intentionally underperform at right now? What can in my life can I deprioritize so I can focus on the most important things?

In Katelyn’s words, “Deciding in advance what you’ll fail at, allows you to take control and eliminate any shame.”

Give yourself space to intentionally underperformed more often.

Don’t Focus on the Gap. Focus on the Gain Instead.

Top performers are keen at identifying the gap from where they are today and where they want to be. Herculean effort gets poured into closing that gap. 

But often that gap can feel so distant it becomes paralyzing. We lose the motivation to move forward. Authors Dan Sullivan and Ben Hardy discuss this in their book, The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success.

Most people, especially highly ambitious people, are unhappy because of how they measure their progress. We all have an ‘ideal,’ a moving target that is always out of reach. When we measure ourselves against that ideal, we’re in the Gap. However, when we measure ourselves against our previous selves, we’re in the Gain.

As a coach, I’ve found that most clients obsess about the Gap. They set an ideal for themselves that is worthy, but ends up feeling out of reach. They get frustrated by their lack of progress. They get mad at themselves. They start losing motivation and want to give up. 

When I see clients beat themselves up like this, I challenge them to focus on the Gain. A simple question gets them there: “Go back to the person you were one year ago. What would that person think of the progress you’ve made?” It takes some effort, but they always are surprised by their progress. We spend time celebrating those wins and highlighting personal growth. This has enormous psychological benefits.

When we measure our progress by our Gains rather than by the Gaps that still remain, we liberate ourselves from feelings of failure. Instead, we appreciate just how far we’ve come, and that positivity fuels even more progress. It’s energizing and motivating. It’s a better way to live and work. It leads to greater happiness and satisfaction. 

Negative energy can fuel you in the short term but it won’t sustain you over time. Be mindful of the Gap, but celebrate how far you’ve come. 

Focus on the Gain. You’ve put in massive work to become the person you are today. Don’t lose sight of that.

Want People to Tell You the Truth More? Do These 4 Things.

A key part of my coaching work is creating a 360 feedback assessment for my clients. This consists of a collection of quantitative and qualitative feedback I’ve gathered from their manager, peers, and direct reports. I then build a thorough report, sharing everything with them, the good and the bad.

360 assessments are a way to hold a mirror up to clients. It gives them candid feedback on how they’re perceived by those who work closely with them. Clients are often surprised by what they hear. They tend to focus on the negative themes, but the positive feedback is just as insightful.

At the end of the 360, they inevitably tell me, often in frustration, that they wish their colleagues would be as candid with them as they were with me. Why weren’t people telling them the truth?

The reality is that we rarely see ourselves the same way others see us. For example, I was once told by a newly recruited colleague that I came off as smug and aloof in team meetings.

I was shocked. I had recently been promoted and felt uncomfortable speaking up so I mostly stayed quiet. My behavior, largely driven by my insecurities, had been interpreted as arrogance.

I’m grateful my colleague spoke up. Most people don’t.

Unfortunately, being told the truth only gets harder as you rise the ranks. I’ve found that the more senior a leader gets, the less candid feedback they hear from others. These leaders, whether intentionally or not, isolate themselves from how others truly feel. An echo chamber is created. Both they and their company suffer.

So, how do you get people to tell us the truth?

First, you must ask for feedback. This may seem obvious, but many don’t do this. In fact, one study shows that only 50% of managers ask for feedback. Simply asking for feedback is literally half the battle.

Second, share how others can give you feedback. Do you prefer it immediately or after time has passed? Do you prefer it in a one-on-one? Let them know.

Third, open things up even more by sharing specific areas where you want their feedback. Tell them you know you have room for improvement. This shows a willingness to improve and creates space for them.

Finally, thank them for the feedback and promise that you won’t hold it against them. Then, don’t hold it against them! It’s really, really hard to give upward feedback. Commend them for their bravery.

If their candor comes back to hurt them, not only will they not tell you the truth, but they’ll tell others you can’t handle it. Trust is built over time, so continue to follow steps one through four until you’re getting the results you’re looking for.

Some leaders legitimately want to be surrounded by yes men and yes women. That’s where growth dies. That’s not you.

Build an environment of truth telling. Create space for those who speak their mind. Reward those who give feedback. Your future depends on it.

What is Your Daily Practice? (Question of the Week)

It’s been said that we don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems.

Last week I had lunch with a friend who’s a startup CEO. Despite experiencing constant pressure and increasing challenges to his business, he’s been able to operate effectively with a manageable level of stress.

He told me his routine is everything. He now wakes up at the same time every day, works for an hour, spends time with his kids then takes them to school every day, exercises, and then is fully ready to dig in on the day’s work.

My friend has found a daily practice that sustains him. These daily habits allow him to show up consistently.

For me, my daily practice consists of three core activities. I’ve found that if I read a spiritual or inspirational text, exercise, and journal, I’m already 95% of the way to having a good day. This daily practice helps me show up as my best self.

I invite you to answer for yourself: what’s my daily practice?

Want to Lead? Here’s Why You Must Read Hundreds of Books.

When I was 19 years old I hit pause on my college studies and moved to Oklahoma. I spent the next two years as a missionary for my church, teaching and serving others.

I lived in four different cities. I saw extreme poverty and extreme wealth. I saw loving families and broken homes. I developed close friendships with a black university professor, a 70 year old widow, and an American Indian janitor/rapper. A man once chased me in his underwear, cursing and screaming at me.

Those two years were really hard but I look back on them with fondness. My eyes were opened. I grew up.

Our view of the world is shaped by our experience with it. We see life through our eyes and too often assume others view the world similarly. We make the mistake that our view is the “right” way of looking at things. But our view is based on our limited life experiences.

To meet the challenges in front of us, we need additional perspectives. We need to learn from others. I love this quote from General Jim Mattis: 

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”

Our firsthand experiences may be limited, but we can always leverage the experiences of others. This is one of the reasons I love reading biographies. Through books we can, in a way, live the life of someone else. We can learn from their experiences and leverage their insights.

It’s been said that not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. Want to lead? Read books. Read hundreds of them.

Never stop learning.

Laid Off From Work? Here’s What You Should Do Next

You just lost your job. You may be devastated. You may be in denial. You may realize your work was toxic and be genuinely happy you never have to go back. Or you may not fully understand how you’re feeling.

Regardless of where your head’s at, it’s hard, and starting a job search can be even harder. Many people simply update their resume and apply for positions that look interesting. That’s one approach, but if you’re like most, you need to give yourself time to process the loss.

I’ve been in the exact spot you’re in now. I was laid off from an investment bank at a time when finance roles were hard to come by. Through personal experience, and through my work as a coach helping countless people find jobs, I’ve put together a timeline of how to handle that first week after layoffs.


The very first thing you should do after leaving the office is find someone to talk to. You probably won’t be in the mood to talk to everyone about your situation, but speaking with a close friend can help.

Once you’ve had the opportunity to vent, it’s time to start writing. I’m serious. Write about what just happened, how you’re feeling, how this impacts your plans, and what you might do going forward. The goal isn’t to come up with a game plan for what’s next. The goal is to capture the thoughts and emotions you’re experiencing so you won’t replay them over and over in your mind. Just write.

I recommend that every day during this period you spend at least 10 minutes journaling. Journaling consistently has been found to help people visit the doctor less, feel better, and have healthier immune function.


When I was unemployed, I spent days sitting on the couch. My wife would get home from work to find me in the exact spot as when she’d left in the morning.

Without the structure of a job, you’re likely to feel less productive and your well-being might suffer. That’s okay. But even if you’re not ready to start looking for work, there are other things you can do, including filing for unemployment benefits if you’re eligible. This was a step I didn’t take for a few months and I missed out on a lot of money. Don’t let that happen to you.


The next step is to update your resume. Depending on the condition it’s in, this may take more than a day. There are countless resources to help you here, but I’ve found The Muse to be particularly valuable.

Once you’ve updated your resume, I recommend sending it to several trusted friends or mentors for feedback. Know that resumes have evolved so you may get feedback that’s no longer relevant.


With your resume in good shape, let’s turn your attention to LinkedIn. Here are two articles I’ve written on how to get your profile looking amazing:

But seriously, if you’re not ready to go there yet, take another day or two.


Make a list of companies you’d absolutely love to work at. Start with a minimum of five, but no more than 15. Once you have this list, think about people you know at each company. LinkedIn’s a great tool to help with this as the company page will show the first and second degree connections you have at each one.

Starting with companies rather than just looking for openings will put you in the mind-set of pursuing opportunities that energize you, rather than looking for what’s available. Interestingly, most roles never get posted, and the majority of people find jobs through networking.


With your networking efforts underway, now you can start searching for positions. Depending on your industry, you may also find these niche job-search websites valuable.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to set up alerts on each site as this will automate a lot of your search, saving you both time and energy.


Make a list of 10 people you haven’t connected with in awhile and invite them to lunch or coffee. This may take you out of your comfort zone. Do it anyway.

Then, I strongly recommend sending an email to your network letting them know you’re looking. Head over to LinkedIn and click the “My Network” tab. In the top left, you’ll see your total number of connections. Select “See all.”

From this list, identify people who can help. Put them into two groups: those who’ll receive a personal note and those who’ll get a mass email. In your message, explain what you’re looking for and how they can help. The more specific you are, the better they’ll be able to help.

Final Thought

Everyone experiences layoffs differently. This is A LOT to do in your first week, so if you’re not ready to update your resume or your LinkedIn profile, that’s okay. Give yourself space. Get outside if you can. Spend time with loved ones. Read a book. Do things you enjoy that your work schedule didn’t allow. Then dive back in.

Losing your job is hard, and we all handle it in different ways. Give yourself the space you need. Be confident in how you’ve grown. You may even find a that’s better than the one you had before.

How Are You Complicit in Creating the Conditions You Say You Don’t Want? (Question of the Week)

This is a powerful question that helps us reframe the problems in front of us.

When we’re faced with challenging circumstances, it’s human nature to point the finger at others. Our boss is a jerk, our coworkers are to blame, The markets are awful, etc.

As long as we’re blaming others, we won’t take ownership. As long as our focus is outward, we won’t do the hard work of looking inward.

When we identify where we’ve been complicit and how we’ve contributed to the conditions we don’t want, we’re no longer an innocent bystander. We take ownership for our behavior. This allows us to see things clearly. We take our power back.

So I invite you to ask yourself this question: How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It (Book Notes)

I recently finished reading the book Chatter, an excellent book on the power of positive and negative self talk. This topic is very relevant as much of my time spent with clients is helping them identify and overcome limiting beliefs. They want to break free from stories that have hold them back and no longer serve them. They need help moving forward.

Here are my two biggest lessons from the book: the power of journaling and using distance self-talk.

The Power of Journaling

Chatter author Ethan Kross writes:

Although journaling has surely been around nearly as long as the written word, it is only in the past few decades that research has begun to illuminate the psychological consolation it provides. Much of this work has been pioneered by the psychologist James Pennebaker.

Over the course of a long and distinguished career, he has shown that simply asking people to write about their most upsetting negative experiences for fifteen to twenty minutes—to create a narrative about what happened, if you will—leads them to feel better, visit the doctor less, and have healthier immune function. By focusing on our experiences from the perspective of a narrator who has to create a story, journaling creates distance from our experience. We feel less tied to it.

I’ve seen the power of journaling in my life and the lives of others. For example, my wife did a study abroad in Israel for four of the six months we were engaged. This period was really hard on me. Due to the time difference, there was never a good time for us to speak. And when we could speak, our time was limited as there was one phone for her classmates to share.

To say I didn’t handle this period well is an understatement. I’ll spare the details, but as the weeks went by, I grew anxious and depressed. I knew this was an incredible opportunity for her, but I started to resent her for being gone. I knew that if I didn’t pull myself together, I risked permanent damage to our relationship.

After discussing this with my dad, he invited me to journal. He told me that if I wrote down everything I was experiencing, every single day, I’d find the strength and peace I needed to get through this period. It worked. Journaling gave me a place to pour all my feelings, which allowed me to put a halt to the constant replay. Journaling helped me self regulate and see things more clearly.

When my clients are experiencing persistent negative feelings, I invite them to journal. They’ve seen similar benefits.

Using Distance Self-Talk

This was a new lesson for me. (Note that the author defines chatter as negative self-talk.)

The ability to “step back” from the echo chamber of our own minds so we can adopt a more objective perspective is an important tool for combating chatter. One way to create distance when you’re experiencing chatter involves language.

When you’re trying to work through a difficult experience, use your own name to coach yourself through a problem. Doing so is linked with less activation in brain networks associated with rumination and leads to improved performance under stress, wiser thinking, and less negative emotion.

Another way to think about your experience from a distanced perspective is to imagine what you would say to a friend experiencing the same problem as you. Think about the advice you’d give them and then apply it to yourself.

I love that Kross invites us to imagine what we might say to a friend experiencing the same challenge. I’ve found this approach effective with clients as we’re often harder on ourselves than those we care about, and it reframes the problem to be more solvable.

Overall, I thought Chatter was a great book that explores a topic we experience all the time but don’t talk about enough.

What Is Your Top Priority Today? (Question of the Week)

As a coach, I’ve found that if you don’t ask yourself the right questions, you’ll never get the right answers. 🤷‍♂️

So I’m trying something new. I’m calling it Question of the Week. Each week, for the next six weeks, I’ll make a video with a quick lesson and a question inviting you to self reflect or take action.

In this first one, I discuss priorities. This question has been a gamechanger for my clients and has helped them ruthlessly focus on what’s most important.

The reality is, you can’t do everything. But you can always do the most important thing.

I invite you to ask yourself every day, what is my top priority today?

You Always Have the Power to Choose

The last quarter of the Book of Alma is filled with a great war between groups of people who despise one another. Hundreds of years later, a man named Mormon summarizes the impact this war had on the people.

But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.

Alma 62:41

Everyone experienced tragedy and loss. But not everyone responded the same way.

It’s easy to tell ourselves that no one has been through what we’ve been through. And if others had, they would be equally bitter or angry.

Possibly. But what I love about this passage is that these people went through the exact same thing. Some came out the other side of the war and chose hardness. They chose anger. They chose bitterness.

Others experienced the same war but chose an alternative mindset. They chose hope. They chose humility. They chose to focus on the good things in their life. It says that they were softened, which I interpret as being willing to learn and grow. They looked at their life and said, this was something really difficult I experienced. What can I learn? How can I grow from this?

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond.

Don’t give up your power to choose.