Episode 4: Life GPS - Helping You Overcome Being Overworked and Overwhelmed
CALM. CLEAR. CONFIDENT. A hyper-connected, do-more-with-less approach to work and life leaves too many leaders feeling overworked and overwhelmed. The solution? Mindful leadership. Drawing on the research behind two best-selling books and the experience of working with thousands of clients in dozens of the world’s best-known organizations, Scott Eblin helps his clients arrive calm, clear, and confident. Jeff will be discussing with Scott best practices, tips and solutions for helping leaders achieve greater productivity while still living a good life. We will share stories from working with our clients and provide actionable ideas for our listeners to implement today.
Scott Eblin is the cofounder and president of the Eblin Group, a professional development firm that supports executives and managers in exhibiting leadership presence by being fully present. As an executive coach, speaker, and author, Eblin works with senior and rising leaders in some of the world’s best known and regarded organizations. He is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success (2010). Eblin is a graduate of Davidson College, holds a master s degree from Harvard University and a certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University where he is on the program faculty. He is also a Registered Yoga Teacher.
Jeff: Welcome. So happy you could join us today. It is a bright beautiful sunshiny day here in Virginia. You are listening to Illuminating Leadership. I am your host, Jeff Smith. We are just so excited about our guest today. I will introduce him in just a moment. But I also want to just say hi to everyone that is out there. We had listeners last week from everywhere from the United Arab Emirates to London to Iran and lots and lots of places in the United States. Thanks for being here and want to give you all the contact information so you can reach out to us. If you’d like to call us during the show, please call 1-866-472-5788. You can e-mail me at email@example.com. Our website is www.voltageleadership.com. You can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership and connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith, Voltage Leadership Consulting. Finally, follow me on Twitter, @jmujeff.
Today, I am going to just have a great time having a conversation with Scott Eblin. Scott is a dynamic,emerging and fantastic engaging leader who informs and inspires his audiences around the world. His audiences ranging from twenty to more than a thousand people. Scott, informs and inspires and develops leaders around the presence that comes from being fully present in a day in and day out life. Drawn on his own experience as a Fortune 500 Executive, more than 15 years of coaching top leagues around the world. He has also written two books and has amazing lessons to share from overcoming a life threatening health crisis. Scott will give us listeners a real strong understanding of the research he is done over the last 25 years as well some tips and tools. Scott is married to Diane, they have two grown sons. He is also a yoga instructor. He loves life and basically is just an all around great guy. Let me bring in Scott and welcome to the show.
Scott: Wow, Jeff. Thank you. That is the nicest introduction I have ever had. From one great guy to another I guess, thank you.
Jeff: Absolutely. Well, I think you were saying in California today. I here it is a bright and sunny day out there.
Scott: And it rains in Southern California.
Jeff: Love it.
Scott: It is becoming a problem actually. Yes, it rains in Southern California.
Jeff: We may have to send you water one day but in the meantime, enjoy it.
Scott: Indeed, indeed.
Jeff: Well, Scott, maybe just ground us. How did you started on executive coach? You and I both shared that as a passion but I do not know, I have never asked you why did you decided to become an executive coach?
Scott: Yes. I suspect our answers may be similar, Jeff. I had been, as you alluded to in the introduction, I have been a corporate manager and executive for about 15 fifteen years. Coming out of college, then graduate school, and I was in financial services for about six years. Moved to the energy industry for about four and a half and had some public sector work in there as well. But what I always loved about my corporate experience, well first thing I have loved since I was probably six years old and with a bobcat and Cub Scouts, was leadership.
I just have always gravitated towards anything that had to do with leadership and just been fascinated by leaders and the whole practice of leadership since I was a little kid honestly. Then the other thing that developed for me over the years that I really enjoyed in the corporate life was strategy. What is the plan for getting from point A to Point B and they got a macro question, it is also a micro question at an individual level. I have got 15 years of the corporate life, I concluded that those are the two things I love the most. Leadership, development, and strategy and the way I view coaching and broadly speaking the other work that I do. It is the intersection of those two things. It is leadership, development, strategy.
Jeff: You got fantastic. I think the past are similar and it is a fun career. I know you get to work with a ton of great leaders and so what I am curious about is what made you go from working for the leaders to wanting to sit down and write two books. I am working on writing one right now and I know how energetic you are and how much you like to be outside and do things. Maybe, offline you can give me some tips on writing myself. But how did you slow down and get your thoughts down to write the next level and then overworked and overwhelmed the mindfulness?
Scott: Right. You just said my first book was called The Next Level. What insiders know about executive success and that is in a second edition now. I guess it the old thing about right what you know. That is the advice for first time authors frequently, is to write about what you know about. The next level is all about what do you need to pick up and what do you need to let go of when you are moving into new situations that require different results. Quite often moving into the executive level for the first time or even just a much bigger job that is below the executive level. Different results are expected and doing what you have always done is not going to get it done.
In this cases, there is a whole process of picking up and letting go. I have been through that myself in my corporate career, my last corporate job. I was in the first 18 months of that job so far over my head. I had gone from being a regional bank vice president to being a vice president on a Fortune 500 Company, Fortune 250 actually. Just the scale and the scope was so much bigger and the expectations were so much higher but they really were not very clearly defined. I just knew they were different. When I started coaching, I was working with a lot of clients who were going through similar situations. They kind of felt like they were in over their head. They were really talented people but the jobs were much bigger, seemingly, than they were. The first three or four years of our business, the Eblin Group, really just focused on coaching people like that and it is a longer story that probably we do not have time for today, but I was encouraged to write a book at a conference I went to this.
Main speaker is Marshall Goldsmith actually. He encouraged everybody there to start working on a book and I thought that whole weekend about what book I could write. Then I went home and the next level was an idea in my mind as a title and that construct of picking up and letting go was in my head. I just kind of worked it through the year of 2004 and to a full blown book proposal. I got a contract on that in the fall of 2004 and from that point it was go to Starbucks every weekend and write a chapter. Like you said, I had a pretty full business calendar with my clients so there was not time to carve out that think time and the time it takes to do a creative project like that during the week. I write a chapter at Starbucks every weekend, send it to my editor on Monday morning, we would have a little talk mid-week about what I could improve on that draft and then I would go start working on the next chapter. That was about a 10 or 12 week process and the rest as they say is publishing history. Not that it is war and peace or anything. That is how it all happened.
Jeff: Thanks, Scott. That is great insights. I just want to reinforce for you literally this week, I had one of my client, and he got promoted from general manager to a vice president role. I had him buy the book and the concept of the picking up and letting go is just fantastic. I use that all the time. It is really important with the leaders I get to work with, they do not always understand that, there is this new level responsibilities. I talk about the sort of the secret handshake almost that happens when you get into the C suite.
You have arrived and you are really not suppose to talk about your business as much as it is sort of forward looking. What is happening in the community, what is our next merger and acquisition, what are we doing in the in our community, what is or was happening with our whole workforce? I find that folks that still want to get down. I am coaching a CFO right now and he still wants get down into the details of what is happening with capital from the last quarter and he was having some trouble. He was kind of out of stride. That seems to be a common challenge.
Scott: Sure, absolutely. I mean there are nine different pick up and let go distinctions that I talk about in the book. Organized around three categories, personal presence team, presence in organizational, and presence like your new client or the client that you are working with. Probably could focus on picking up an outside and view of the entire business and letting go of an inside out view from his functional perspective, right? Because he has come up through finance but now he is an executive for the whole company so he really got to look at it from outside in versus inside out kind of point of view.
Jeff: That is great. Scott, I want to shift gears just a little bit. We are both out there working with companies all across the US, the world, etc., I am just curious, what trends are you seeing in today's workplace?
Scott: One big trend is that everybody has to do more with less. For sure that is probably the biggest trend I see. I do a lot of public speaking and usually the larger groups of a hundred or more usually fairly not super senior people but rising people like senior vice presidents in banks and so forth. The question that I will always ask them to respond, raise their hand if they have a polling system in the room, click on as many of these that apply to you. Their last week with a bunch of people in finance. Have you got a new assignment in the last year, are you in the same job you are in a year ago but the scope is much bigger today than it was a year ago and then two other scenarios. At least 80% of the people in any given room raise their hands or click the button on, same job bigger scope, which just tells us it is a leading indicator that everybody is going to do more with less environment.
I think that started in the financial crisis in 2008. The economy has recovered and many parts of the world, certainly the United States, but that do more with less dynamic continues big time. I would say the other one really is working in a matrix environment. Working globally in a matrix environment is even more complex. Working within a network of networks is what really requires a lot of brainpower and a lot of you talked about presence. It requires a lot of presence and being present these days in a super complex, always connected, network of networks kind of world to be aware enough and intentional enough to make the right decisions at the right times.
Jeff: Well, that is great. I love these insights, Scott. One that I see is absolutely doing more with less. It is also this always being connected, it is always had to be on. After the break, what I would like to do is pick up from your work about The Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative Book. We will come back after break here and we will pick up with Scott Eblin, talking about overworked and overwhelmed. We will see you in two minutes.
Jeff: Welcome back. So glad you could be with us today. We got Scott Eblin, author speaker, and leader and all around great guy that is been with us so far. Talking about, so far, his first book, The Next Level. We are going to now move into Overworked and Overwhelmed. This has been a fabulous book, just the title so well describes so many leaders that I work with. Even, gosh, my friends, my spouse and unfortunately, my high school kids. This is the world we live in. Just a few steps to sort of back that up.
This says now we are connected to those things called the Smartphone 72 hours a week. Let me repeat that, 72 hours a week, 48% percent of Americans report that their stress is up and the number one source of stress is being connected 24/7 and the job pressure always being there, how we stay connected. There is just really no white space on our calendar. As Scott says from his book, we are racked and stacked. It is all day, every day, back to back. I know so many of my clients, when I look at their schedule, I was working with one last week Scott that had 42 hours of meetings before he set foot in the building.
Jeff: It is just crazy. I am working with him to try to say how do we delegate, how do we get a few things off the plate. But you wrote the book, you did the research, why do we feel so overworked and overwhelmed, Scott?
Scott: Well, I think you alluded to it. I mean we all start with 168 hours in a week, 24 x 7. If you have a Smartphone and you are an executive manager, professional, the center for creative leadership's research, tells us that you are connected to your work, paying attention to your work for an average of 72 hours a week. That is the biggest chunk of that 168 and then there is 56 hours a week, eight hours a day times seven days a week that you probably had do some basics, right? Like sleeping everybody, 95% of people need at least seven hours of sleep to be fully functional and be at their peak performance and just be healthy. Most of the audiences I talk to when they raise their hand, it is maybe 30% raise their hands on seven hours or more and the others do not. Meaning that I hope they are in the 5% of the human population that can get by with less than seven hours. The 5% that can do that have a rare genetic mutation that enables them to do that while that 70% of the people of the room do not have the genetic mutation, right?
Scott: You got to sleep, you got to eat well. Ideally, you got to take care of yourself personally. Personal grooming and bathing, kind of important. That leaves 40 hours a week out of that 168 to do everything else you can want to do in your life. The household maintenance ensures the kids, if you have kids at any age, great joy but big investment of time no matter what age really, extended family commitments, commutes, exercise, the little things that pop up in your life like the plumbing breaks or whatever. I mean you have got to deal with all of that. It just feels like too much in too short amount of time for a lot of people. I think the other thing is the emergence of the 24/7 technology. The Smartphone that we carry around have 200,000 times more computing power than the supercomputer that landed men on the moon.
Jeff: Oh my God.
Scott: Yes, it is crazy. We could go to the moon and back with the Smartphone or maybe to Mars even, right? But the thing is they enable us to do anything from anywhere. And whatever boundaries that we may have used to have, just because we did not have the access to the world in our pocket like we do with the Smartphone, that created boundaries that we may not have been aware of but we benefited from them. Now, the boundaries have collapsed for a lot of people. I can check on my work whenever, wherever, and it kind of leaves me in a chronic state of fight or flight if I am living that way. Your body sympathetic nervous system working overtime and the impact on that of that on your professional performance but more importantly your health and well being is extremely severe and scary. Now, do you feel depressed now, right?
Jeff: Well, but I think you are describing accurately the way many of us feel. I know the leaders I work with feel. One of the things I have done in this, I will be coming to you to sort of say what is our alternative into a second but I go to Disney World probably every 18 months or so with my family, and one of the things that I have done, just to your point, Beth is my wife, we switch our phones. I walk around Disney World with a pink phone because I just check e-mail. We still want to be in contact with each other about I got this kid, you got this kid, which ride we will ride next? But I know I cannot stop myself if I had it. If I am in line, I would just sneak a look, well next thing you know I am back in Virginia, thinking about a problem and completely missing out that connection time. A simple tip is to walk around Disney World with your wife's phone but I do not think that that is like the solution. What are some of the alternate solutions here that is the possibility for this overworked and overwhelmed state that we live in?
Scott: Well, I think your example is actually a good one. What I like to talk about, in the book I like to call them habit hacks. What are simple things that you can do that are relatively easy to do and likely to make a difference? For a lot of people, we talk about routines coming in four areas. The whole goal in life is to show up at your best and we have a framework that we talk at length about in the Overworked and Overwhelmed book called The GPS. Three questions to ask and answer for yourself on one piece of paper. It is like a one page or it is kind of like a guiding system for you just like Google Maps on your phone. How are you at your best, what are the routines, physical, mental, relation, and spiritual that enable you to show up at your best and what outcomes would you expect to see in the three big arenas of life, your life at home, your life at work, your life in the community, if you are consistently showing up at your best?
The easy things to do, likely to make a difference kinds of routines, can really help like the one that you did with your phone at Disney World. That has benefits in both the mental domain but it also has benefits in the relational domain because you are actually more present with your kids by having a phone that does not do everything that you are used to your phone doing, right? One woman that I talk about in the book, she has a similar routine when she pulls into the garage in the evening she has to walk through her laundry room to get from the garage to the kitchen. She has got her iPhone charger plugged in over the top of the washing machine. When her hand hits the laundry room door, she pulls her phone out of her purse, plugs it in over the over the washing machine, turns it face down and leaves it there until her grade school age kids are in bed two or three hours later.
I said “when did you start doing this?” “Like a few months ago.” I said “was it hard?” “Oh my gosh, I felt like I had cut my right arm off.' Because she was literally addicted to checking her phone. There is a chemical called dopamine that releases every time you check your phone, neurochemical, she had to get over that. But she said “the benefits of that, even the first night, were so apparent and so immediate I knew I had to keep doing”. Like what were the benefits, 'Well first of all my kids were a lot easier to be with because they knew that they had me. That they had my attention, so they were not competing for my attention, and being kind of annoying like little kids can be if they are competing for attention. But my husband and I connected more deeply and now four of us connected more deeply, so I knew I had to keep doing it. That was something relatively easy to do, plug your phone over top of the washing machine and leave it there until your kids are in bed. Likely to make a difference? Yes, absolutely makes a difference.
I talk about mindfulness being good combination of two things. It is awareness plus intention. Awareness of what is going on around you and your response to what is going on around you and then being intentional about what you are going to do or not going to do next. If you can raise your level of awareness a little bit about what is making you feel overworked and overwhelmed because it is just that, it is a feeling, and then look for something simple that you can change easily like plug your phone in the laundry room, that is way you get at it. It does not have to be all about the phone.
We just have two examples on that. What you are trying to do, if you are overworked and overwhelmed during that chronic state of fight or flight, your sympathetic nervous system is working on overdrive. You need to activate the complimentary system in your nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system. The nickname for that is rest and digest. They are designed to work together like the gas pedal and the brakes in a car. Fight and flight to the gas pedal, rest and digest is the brakes. They need to be in what scientists call homeostasis and we are trying to help our clients identify simple routines that will activate their rest and digest response throughout the day so they can perform at their best.
Jeff: Absolutely, a lot of great stuff there. One of things that I like, Scott, from what you have taught me and our working together as well as in the book is mindfulness, is this mentioned gap between your thoughts and your actions. I think that is just really important. For me, I am going back to this rack and stack, the leaders that I am working with, back to the guy that has got 42 hours worth of meetings, literally my greatest gift sometime is ending the coaching session three minutes early and saying why don't you just breathe deeply for three minutes. Just relax or go see where you direct report and have a conversation about the weekend. But what happens is they just go from meeting to meeting to lunch at the desk or lunch with a colleague and there is no space between sort of the thoughts are coming in and the actions. In the next couple of minutes, what are some thoughts that you have that we can sort of break that up and we can just have space and turn down that middle chatter a little bit?
Scott: Yes. It is interesting that that gap between stimulus and response. I first learned about that in college. Actually, a classic book called Man's Search for Meaning by a gentleman named Victor Frankl who was a holocaust survivor in the camps and then went on to found a school of psychotherapy called Logo therapy. No matter how overworked and overwhelmed anybody feels who is listening to this, the good news is you are not at Auschwitz or Dachau. You are not in a concentration camp. I mean that can be a result on that overworked and overwhelmed experience. That is when Frankl picked up on that. He said, 'They are going to do whatever they are going to do to me, that is an extrinsic input that I cannot control.' All I can control is my response to that. That is kind of the thing, right? When we work with clients, we draw on a little equation from a really great coach named Tim Gallwey. It is P = p-i. What that means is your performance equals your potential minus the interference.
We really encourage our clients to think about and have conversations with each other about interference in two different flavors, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic interference, we have no control over. Those are all the triggers in our life that set off what I call the itty bitty shooty committee, which is that little voice inside our heads saying wow this really sucks or man I am not ready for this or man I am so stressed out or whatever it is. All of that voice stuff inside your head is intrinsic interference. To deal with that, you have to understand what your triggers are and then take steps ideally easy to do likely to make a difference steps that are going to mitigate the impact of those external triggers on your intrinsic thought process. Because we could get rid of the interference, the intrinsic interference especially, your performances equals your potential. Straight up, right?
Scott: That is what we are trying to get to. Show up at your best, your performance equals your potential.
Jeff: Scott, that is a great formula. Performance equals potential minus interference. I use it all the time, I talk to folks about the interference. I know that one of the big interference with folks that I deal with is about time management, priority management, be able to stay on track of all these things. There is also some things around routines about how do I juggle these routines of my physical, my mental, all that kind of stuff. When we come back from break, we will talk about some best practice tips and tools to help you with your own time management and be able to perform at a better and higher level and hopefully enjoy life a bit more. We will see you in two minutes, right after break.
Jeff: Welcome back. I am with Scott Eblin today. He is an author, a speaker, a leader and a business coach. We have been talking about his books as well as his interactions with his clients. Before the break, we were talking about the book Overworked and Overwhelmed. We are going to continue that conversation now. Scott, as I was saying before the break, a lot of my folks, the biggest interference they got is just an inability to prioritize. To be able to get it all done in a day. In your book, you had some time tips that I thought were just brilliant. I was wondering if we could go through a few of your sort of favorite time tips and how you use them with your clients.
Scott: Yes. Sure, I would be happy to. I was really lucky when I was writing this book. I got to interview around 50 people who just about anybody would consider to be successful in their chosen fields. In talking with them, I was really interested in how they thought about themselves at their best and what their routines were and things like that. But again and again, I started hearing, almost unsolicited, their time management tips. I felt like I really got to cover that because you cannot really expect to be successful with some routines. It will help you show up at your best unless you are creating space for those routines. There is a chapter in the book called, What is their secret?
The one commitment you have to make to yourself and how to keep it in. The commitment basically is to create space in their lives that is going to help them have a little bit of margin and bandwidth for the routines that help them show up at their best. Like one of the people I got to interview was Admiral Thad Allen who retired a few years ago as commandant of the US Coastguard and is well known to a lot of people as the person who helped lead the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. He also helped coordinate with the federal response to the Deepwater Horizon oil direct situation in the Gulf of Mexico a few years later.
He talked to me about how to overcome the tyranny of the present. I have never heard that phrase before. I said, 'Admiral, what do you mean by that?' He says, 'Well, you said there is so much stuff coming in on any given day that you could just spend your entire day doing the stuff that is coming in.' He said, 'That is the tyranny of the present. All that stuff coming in the moment can just totally paralyzed you if you let it.' He said the way I thought about it and the way he still thinks about it in his private sector career now is it is about table stakes. Like when you play poker, you have to put in an ante but you do not want to put in an ante any bigger than you need to stay in the game. You want to minimize your table stakes and he said that is the way I look at my calendar.
He is really trying to be intentional about doing the bare minimum of the incoming, responding to the bare minimum. It really is just making some decisions about what he is not going to deal with at all on any given day or maybe delegate to somebody else. Just having that level of awareness about making some different decisions about what is coming in and what I am going to respond to. Kind of related to that, there is a really talented executive that I interviewed named Caroline Starner. Caroline is the head of HR for Oakley, the sports apparel and sunglasses company. She and her assistant have got into a couple of routines. One is they regularly asked themselves all the different requests at a time and the things that we are doing is it really even necessary? Like what is the purpose of this, what is the object? I have a client right now who has concluded that she is going to be very diligent and not accept any meeting where the objectives are not stated for the meeting in advance and the agenda is not published in advance.
That is kind of putting a line down about how you are going to spend your time. Caroline has another routine with her assistant. Every Friday, they look at her calendar for the upcoming week with the goal of eliminating 20% of the things on her calendar in the upcoming week because when things got scheduled three or four weeks ago, it seemed really important. Maybe now it is not so important for Caroline's presence or maybe it is just not as important as other things or maybe it can be pushed out a few more weeks or whatever. When they hit that 20% goal, she basically gets back the equivalent of a day of her time. Every Friday, she gets back a day of her time for the coming week. It is not all eight hours in a row usually but it is an hour here, half an hour there.
Jeff: That is fantastic.
Scott: A lot of people can do that and that has been a big eye opener for a lot of people. I think another one, this is kind of coming from Stephen Covey, scheduling the big rocks first. I got to interview Christopher Nassetta, who is the CEO of Hilton Worldwide Hospitality Company. Chris has had a standing Tuesday night dinner date with his dad who is in his 80's for like 40 years or maybe longer than. He actually told me since he was ten years old that is because Chris is in his 50's. Chris travels a lot internationally, you expect the CEO of Hilton to do that but the deal is when he is in town, he really tries to schedule himself. He is in town at least two or three Tuesdays every month. He and his dad and whoever else from the family is around, the family tree to whoever, they are going to have a great big Italian dinner.
Him and his dad have been doing that most of his life, so he is very close to his family because of that and that is a big rock for him that gets scheduled first. He puts that on the calendar and schedules around that. A big rock for me is yoga. I have to do yoga to feel good and to be fully functional, and we could maybe talk about the why that is the case later but I know every week what time of day I am going to be doing yoga on any given day. I travel a lot so sometimes that yoga is 20 minutes in my hotel room in the morning. My preference would be 90 minutes in a class in Santa Monica but I am not in Santa Monica a lot of the time. I have to make adjustments, but the big rock for me is yoga because the leverage off of that and the benefits off of that are enormous. Well, it is for the well being.
Jeff: Mine is running and unfortunately I got a torn up knee, so no one in my family is having a lot of fun. One good thing that we do have here is it has been a great fall so far. We have ping pong tables. I have never played so much ping pong as I have this fall just because I need to do something. One thing I want to go back to is, some of these rhythms that you alluded to earlier is the intentionality of what you are doing. So often, the leaders I work with have lost sight of that. Is that awareness and intentionality that makes up mindfulness and often our job is to just help people get aware first and then that intentionality.
So many clients, unfortunately, just say, 'Jeff, you do not understand my schedule.' I am sure they say the same thing to you, Scott. 'We are so busy we just do not have any time for that,' and I think these tips are good but I am curious to maybe go into these four routines and rhythms that you have created because I know my leaders they just need to break out of there, come in and do the same thing day in and day out. Could you maybe walk us through some of those?
Scott: Sure, absolutely. I mean it is kind of based on the premises. The other thing these 50 people that I interviewed had in common is they all had a common belief and the common belief is the only person who is going to take care of me is me.
Jeff: Me, absolutely.
Scott: You got to be in tune with what you need from a routine standpoint. What kind of routines do you need in your life to show up at your best, physically, mentally, relationally, spiritually and just in total in an integrated kind of way? What do you need to show up at your best? So that does require some awareness and then it requires intention to follow through. People are really busy and we got four domains of routine to encourage and then to work on and to be intentional about physical, mental, relational, and spiritual. There is a lot of good things you could think of in any one of those four categories that you could or should do.
For people who are already feeling overworked and overwhelmed, I would say forget about most of those. For now, let us just focus in on where the leverage is for you right now. There is probably some good places to look and some good places to start which we call killer apps. What is the killer app for each of those four domains of routines like in the physical space you should definitely eat well. You should definitely get seven hours or more sleep at night. But you maybe are not going to start there. But one thing you could definitely start with is movement, which I think is really the killer app for the physical domain. All the research that comes out, you see a new article almost every week on this new study that you can summarize with their headline that sitting is the new smoking. That if you sit on your butt for eight or nine or ten hours a day like most professionals do, the impact on your life expectancy is the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.
Jeff: Wow, that is crazy.
Scott: Yes, it is. You got to move and movement activate your parasympathetic nervous system and activate your rest and digest response. You get a lot of health benefits from that. You also get mental benefits from that. The research at UC Davis shows the people who take a five to ten minute physical break every hour, which is really what you should shoot for as a goal which is relatively easy to do to get up from your desk every hour for five to ten minutes, you are going to be 30% more mentally focused when you get back to your desk after the break. It is a productivity enhancer as well. That is a simple example.
Jeff: That is great. Do you have one maybe for relational before we wrap up this section?
Scott: In a relational space, lots of people they think about it, they already have relational routines that they practice in their lives. They might have date night with their partner or they might have time set aside for their kids in the evening or on the weekends or they might go to lunch with colleagues periodically just to connect. That is all good. Pretty much what any of those kinds of examples have in common is what I think is the killer app for the relational space and that is listening. That any good relational routine is going to have a strong element of listening in it and it is not just like the trance and listening that we do when we are not really listening in a busy day and it is not even the transactional listening that we see a lot in the workplace where we are just trying to solve problems and move on to the next step.
We are listening with the goal of getting something done. It is actually transformational listening where we are listening with no other agenda but just to connect with the other person. It is like you talked about whether it is on the break or during the show here today, Jeff, that you talked about. If you have got an extra few minutes, go check in with your team and ask just how is life and what is going on with your kids? What I have seen we do this exercise in a lot of our workshops. I will have people in groups of three. Speaker, listener and observer will do three rounds of that for four minutes each. In the first three minutes of each round, the speakers is talking to the listener about something that is important to them. It could be anything. Work related, not work related, family, hobbies, whatever.
Then there is a minute of feedback for the listener about how they did on listening to the speaker and can engage with the speaker on that. What is amazing, after 12 minutes, three rounds of four minutes each, people are stunned by how connected they feel to the other two people they were teamed up with. I point out to most that was only 12 minutes and you went to a really pretty deep level of connection, didn't you? Yes, so how did you do that? Well, we just carved it out. We were intentional about being with each other. I say yes, how many opportunities do you have for that during a regular day? It does not take that long to establish that kind of connection with someone but we just kind of blow through a rack and stack day and overlook the opportunities to establish that kind of connection. Which by the way improves our immune system, which by the way increases our life expectancy to be in strong relationships or really strong studies that validate both of those points.
Jeff: Well, that is, Scott, fantastic. A couple of takeaways for me was movement is absolutely a killer app for the physical and listening is a killer app for the relational. I am just going to tie a little bit of that together. For me, I have shared the story with you, you and me blogged about it. Probably three days a week, I take Henry to school, my youngest son, and it used to be just a regular task. When I found was when I got intentional, I turned off the radio and I just listened to Henry. I am going to be taking him to school regardless and then go on about my day. I put the phone away and then I just have a conversation with Henry.
I had forgotten just how funny he was. I also can do like Scooby Doo voices, Miss Piggy, a few other things. Things that I kind of forgot about myself and Henry will like throw me these things and just say, 'Hey, Daddy. Do a Scooby Doo or do this.' But we have this chance to connect to and talk about his day. It is really a fantastic chance to connect and at the end of the day I know what to ask about and it really has been fantastic. We are getting ready for our last break here. When we come back, we will talk about some wrap up tips, some take away that we want you to take forward into the rest of your week. We will be back in two minutes and look forward to seeing you again.
Jeff: Welcome back. I was laughing, I was looking at one of the e-mails that came in. Someone has requested my Scooby Doo imitation. I think I will save that for another episode because...
Scott: Awesome. Jeff, do it.
Jeff: 'Scooby dooby doo.' 'What is up, Scooby Doo?' Anyway, we will do a little of that for some future series. But I have got Scott Eblin. We are going to wrap up the show with some of Scott's life stories. Scott is an author, a teacher, coach, and business leader. Scott, you said in the book that you had a serious health challenge and that that was significant to you. Could you maybe expand on that and what impact that it had on your life?
Scott: Yes. You and I were talking off air about how you are a runner and that is kind of your preferred form of physical activity. You mentioned that a little while ago last segment. I had shared that with you for most of 30 years of my life. Summer of spring, summer of 2009, my legs when I was running started to get like led. I just felt like no spring in my legs. After a couple of months of that, I did what any type A does, I got on web MD and self diagnosed. Myself diagnosis was a lumbar stenosis. Like a pinched nerve on my spine. If you will ask, it would be pretty easy to fix. I went to a specialist to say I think I have lumbar stenosis, I just need you tell me what to do. It is not really an interesting theory but let us run some MRI.
They ran the MRI and then the intervening couple of weeks, I could not feel my legs anymore. I could not feel my feet when they were touching the ground which makes it kind of challenging to walk. I was losing a lot of strength and losing a lot of cognitive ability honestly. Long story short, the MRI showed lesions on my spine and in my brain, further testing with the neurologists showed that I have Multiple Sclerosis. That was the summer of 2009 and that was kind of a downhill slide the rest of that year well into 2010. My physical, and mental frankly, capabilities were diminishing pretty quickly and it was really hard to walk around the block even. Brain was pretty fuzzy which is scary when your life depends on putting words together in a coherent fashion. A friend of my wife, Diane, is a holistic health expert and yoga instructor. She said, 'Scott should try yoga.' I saw that is an interesting idea but I can barely stand up straight, how am I going to do yoga? But I went and I noticed physical benefit.
The teacher said, ‘If you come here three days a week, it will change your body’. If you come here more than three days a week, it will change your life. She was right about the body part. I noticed physical improvements and what I could do within a month probably or less really. But then I started going more and more and I just noticed changes in my life in terms of how I thought about things. My attitude about things, my moods, all of that. What I have learned since then is yoga or any other rhythmic repetitive motion, walking around your office, walking outside, breathing deeply from your belly, any rhythmic repetitive motion activates the parasympathetic response, the rest and digest response. When you have any chronic illness, whether it is a MS or anything else, I am sure the people listening that have a chronic illness in their life, you have to manage your stress. I absolutely have to manage my stress.
My MS has not gone away but I have learned a lot about what triggers stress for me, the extrinsic interference, and how to manage it when it triggers. Like you, I am traveling around the world and doing a lot of writing and speaking and so forth. I feel, honestly, as good as I ever felt in my life. I still have MS but it is these routines, the physical, the mental, relational routines, is very important. Spiritual routines are very important to help me stay connected with why I am here. I think part of the reason I am here now is to share what I have learned. Not just in my personal experience but through the research that I have read and done and the work that I have done with my clients. We make the world a better place one person at a time, and that starts with us, each of us. That is whatever small contributions I can make to help the world be a better place. That is why I am here and I have got to stay healthy and in every respect, physical, mental, relational, and spiritual, to do that and I have tried. I try to be aware and intentional about what I need to follow through on that.
Jeff: Scott, I am so glad you shared that story. It so humbling to know. All that you do, all the travelling you do, and all the people you have helped. It is also important that we remember that everyone has a story. We walk around and we think that everyone is a super hero. We look at these leaders and think that they are invincible. We get sometimes the speakers and coaches, we get put up on a platform. Everyone kind of thinks our life is just perfect and that we never have a down day or get frustrated and all. That is just really not the case. I think that is the world our leaders live in. Scott, any wrap up here as we close our time together?
Scott: I could not agree with you more that everybody has a story. Robin Roberts, the host of Good Morning America, just started a new podcast. It is called Everybody's Got Something. She is a cancer survivor, as most people know in the United States. Anyway, she is just interviewing well known people who you would think ‘oh my gosh their life is perfect’. Well, no it is not. That is just part of life, right? It is really about the resilience factor and what do you do to keep going. My wife, Diane, at the height of the MS, I have it on my desk, I have a paper weight with a quote from Winston Churchill, 'If you are going through hell, keep going.' Yes, that is what we all need to do because we all have challenges. It is really just a question of what are the things that we can do that are relatively easy and likely to make a difference in getting us back on track and moving forward. That is really just resilience and understanding the things that you need in your life to help show up more at your best.
Jeff: Well, Scott, it has just been an honor and a privilege that you are a great friend.
Scott: Back at you on all respects, Jeff. I am honored that you asked and really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.
Jeff: Well, absolutely. Again, Scott Eblin has been with us today. The author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, as well as the book Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Both excellent books that I use with my clients. If you want more information about those, they are available at amazon.com and we will have on the radio show you will be able see more information about Scott. Thank you for investing the time with us this week. Next week on the show, we are going to have Marisa Keegan. Marisa is a former employee of Voltage Leadership Consulting. We still do work together on a regular basis. She has a podcast called Other Brilliance. She has a book called Culture is More than Genes and Margarita Machines. It is a great title, it is a great book. We will be talking about engagement and how to incorporate this into your sched, into your culture. Next week we will be back here at 1 o'clock Eastern and at 10 o'clock Pacific Time. If you want to contact us throughout the course of the week, please reach out to us. You can reach me by reaching out at area code 540-798-1963 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is www.voltageleadership.com. Like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership and connect with me on LinkedIn. You have been listening to Illuminating Leadership. We are so happy you could be with us from all around the world. Again, look forward to seeing you next week. Thanks again, Scott and look forward to talking to Marisa next week. Everyone, have a fantastic week.