You’ve likely heard the phrase “Success breeds success,” but you may not have heard the full quote from Felicity Kendal where she said, “Success breeds success, and failure leads to a sort of fallow period.”
I found that interesting because, often, success too can lead to a sort of fallow period. A time where we thought we should be thrilled and celebrating our victories but perhaps found ourselves even more overwhelmed. Even more stressed. And struggling even more with imposter syndrome.
If you’ve ever achieved success and then still wondered what the heck you’re doing there and what you’re supposed to do next… you’re not alone.
That’s what we’re covering in today’s episode of Partnership Unpacked.
Welcome back to Partnership Unpacked, where I selfishly use this time to pick the brains of experts at strategic partnerships, channel programs, affiliates, influencer marketing, and relationship building… oh, and you get to learn too! Subscribe to learn how you can amplify your growth strategy – with a solid takeaway every episode from partnership experts in the industry.
Think about the last time you accomplished a big goal at work – maybe you launched a really successful campaign, or perhaps you brought in a huge partner deal. Or maybe… just maybe… you managed to book an interview with a celebrity author and speaker.
That was great, wasn’t it?
But what happened next?
Were you expected to accomplish even more the next time? Did you wonder if you could? Did you question yourself and wonder how you managed to get that point at all?
That’s Wonderhell, and that’s what Laura Gassner Otting is here to help us with.
She’s a frequent contributor to Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, Harvard Business Review, and Oprah Daily, and has had a profound presence in corporate America for over thirty years. And our friend Mitch Joel writes, “When doubt creeps in (or when the ego wails, ‘You deserve this!’), Wonderhell is here to provide balance and a healthier approach to keep things going in the right direction.” She’s worked in the White House, her own tech start-up, and with the full gamut of mission-driven corporate and nonprofit executives.
Partnership Unpacked host Mike Allton talked to Laura Gassner Otting about:
♉️ How CMOs and Partnership Leaders can more effectively visualize goals and success
♉️ Why it can be so hard sometimes to deal with success and look beyond to the next goal
♉️ What the keys to overcoming failure and impostor syndrome are
Learn more about Laura Gassner Otting
Resources & Brands mentioned in this episode
- Wonderhell: Why Success Doesn’t Feel Like It Should . . . and What to Do About It
- Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life
- Subscribe to the show calendar: agorapulse.com/calendar
- Learn more about Agorapulse with a free demo
Full Notes & Transcript:
How CMOs and Partnership Leaders Ride The Roller Coast of Success with Laura Gassner Otting[00:00:00] Mike Allton: You’ve likely heard the phrase success breeds success, but you may not heard the full quote from Felicity Kendall where she said, success breeds success and failure. Leads to a sort of fallow period. I found that interesting because often success too can lead to a sort of fallow period, a time where we thought we should be thrilled and celebrating our victories, but perhaps found ourselves even more overwhelmed, even more stressed and struggling even more.
With imposter syndrome. If you’ve ever achieved success and then still wondered what the heck you’re doing there and what you’re supposed to do next, you’re not alone. That’s what we’re covering in today’s episode of Partnership Unpacked.
This is partnership unpacked your go-to guide to growing your business. Through partnerships quickly. I’m your host, Mike Alton, and each episode unpacks the winning strategies and latest trends from influencer marketing to brand partnerships and ideas that you can apply your own business to grow exponentially.
And now the rest. Start today’s episode. Welcome back to Partnership unpacked, where I selfishly use this time to pick the brains of experts at strategic partnerships, channel programs, affiliates, influencer marketing, and relationship building. Oh, and you get to learn too. Subscribe to learn how you can amplify your growth strategy with a solid takeaway.
Every episode from partnership experts in the industry. Now think back about the last time you accomplished a. Big goal at work. Maybe you launched a really successful campaigner. Perhaps you brought in a huge partner deal, or maybe just maybe you managed to book an interview with a celebrity author and speaker.
That was great, wasn’t it? But what happened next? Were you expected to accomplish even more the next time? Did you wonder if you could, did you question yourself and wonder how you managed to get to that point at all? That’s wonder how, and that’s what Laura Gasner Ting is here to help us with. She’s a frequent contributor to Good Morning America.
The Today Show, Harvard Business Review at Oprah Daley and has had a profound presence in corporate America for Oprah. 30 years and our mutual friend Mitch Joel writes, when Doubt creeps in, or When the ego Whales you deserve, this wonder Hell is here to provide balance and a healthier approach to keep things going in the right direction.
She’s worked in the White House, her own tech startup, and with the full gamut of mission-driven corporate and nonprofit executives. Hello, Laura. Welcome to the show. Hi, Mike.[00:02:33] Laura Gassner Otting: It’s so great to be here. Thank you so much. [00:02:36] Mike Allton: Now, for those listening who haven’t yet picked up a copy of your book, and there’ll be a link in the show notes, just tell us about Wonder how, what’s the book about and why did you write it? [00:02:45] Laura Gassner Otting: Well, first of all, I wrote it because I found myself in Wonder Health. So what is Wonder Health? You know those moments when you’ve accomplished something and you’re like, this is amazing. It’s exciting. Like the things you talked about in the introduction, I can’t believe I did it. It’s energizing. It’s wonderful.
And also as you peek through those doors of what you did and what could be, you’re like, oh, there’s even more out there that I didn’t even know was available to me. Not in this bigger, better, faster, you gotta keep grinding weight, but in this. How cool that I have another gear type of way. Let me explore that.
And as you start to explore it, anxiety and uncertainty and doubt and imposter syndrome and envy and exhaustion and burnout start to creep their way in. So it’s wonderful, but it’s also kind of hell. It’s wonder hell and wonder hell is the space in your psyche where the burden of that potential, the burden of your potential walks in.
Unpacks its backpack and goes, Hey, what you got for me? What are you going to do with this newfound potential? You didn’t even know it was there last week, last month, or last year. That’s wonder hell.[00:03:49] Mike Allton: Love it. So let’s, let’s unpack some of the things that you talk about, because one of the initial topics is this idea that once we begin to imagine ourselves in this new successful situation, it’s hard to settle for anything else.
Would you agree though that it’s possible to dream up too large an elephant, and if so, whether an idea is really a good goal or just a pipe dream?[00:04:08] Laura Gassner Otting: So I am a firm believer that there is an adventure around every corner if we just look hard enough. I am a huge fan of the giant pipe dream. I have never met a revolution I didn’t like, right?
Like I love the crazy goal. I run marathons, not because I love running, in fact, I hate every single step of running, every mile I’ve ever run. But I love the idea of being like, I’m gonna go run 20 miles today in a training run, cuz it’s. Bizarre. It’s crazy, it’s enormous, and you figure out what you’re made of in those moments.
In 20 years of executive search, I had people come to me with the craziest, hairiest, most audacious goals, and I can tell you that the ones who were actually able to be successful, the ones who were actually able to make it happen were the ones who whispered those goals, who revered them so much that they were afraid of them.
You can’t cram for the test in a big giant. Crazy goal. You can’t cram for a marathon, right? Like you gotta do the work, the quiet work in the dark that nobody sees. You gotta keep grinding away at it for four months in order to do it. So I don’t think that there are goals that are too big, that are too audacious.
I just think there’s bad plans. I think that we set goals and we don’t respect them enough, or we don’t believe in them enough and we decide at the very last minute we’re gonna cram for them, and that’s why we fail spectacularly. But the goals that are super huge, the ones that we set and we respect and we revere and we put in the work and we do the, you know, we have the accountability, we may find that we’re not gonna make it.
Or we may find that we fail, or we may find that we don’t like it in at the end. We’ve learned something about ourselves. But in the process of doing the work leading up to that big, crazy goal, that’s where we begin to figure out who we are, what we like, what we wanna accomplish, and whether or not that goal is for us.
So failure doesn’t end up being finale, it ends up being fulcrum. This place where we learn and we grow and we iterate and we change. So I don’t think that there are goals that are too big. I just think that there are plans that are too small.[00:06:04] Mike Allton: Love that approach. In the partnership world, there’s a book and an approach called The Sumo Advantage.
With the idea being that you’re a business and you’re a certain size, maybe you’re a relatively smaller business, there are larger, much more established, well known businesses in that space that you could potentially partner with. And because they are a sumo wrestler, In the industry by partnering with that much larger business, you get to take advantage of that brand name.
And that’s one of the challenges that a lot of us in partnerships have is we see that big name business in the space. Think like a Microsoft right, or, or an Apple that’s in the news today. And to think, ah, they’re too big. That’s too big of a goal. That’s just too big of an elephant for me to try to tackle.
And I love this idea.[00:06:47] Laura Gassner Otting: Well, it’s not too big. Well, and it’s not, and so here’s the thing, okay, so I write in the personal development and leadership space. In that space, Mel Robbins is huge, right? Like she’s a big giant name. Mel doesn’t know me. I don’t know Mel. I’m not gonna be able to call Mel up and be like, Hey friend, could you please blurb my book?
She’s gonna be like, who are you, you crazy lady? Like, I don’t, goodbye. But who does Mel know? Mel knows Jonathan Field. Mel knows Amy Cuddy. Mel knows Marshall Goldsmith. Mel knows Susan David. So do I know them? Yes. Can I get one of them to blurb my book? Yes. And then if they blurb my book, then I can be like, okay.
Now when I approach Mel, I can say, Susan and Jonathan and Marshall and Amy have blurbed my book. Would you consider it? And suddenly I look realistic. So, I’m not gonna be able to go to take the marathon example again. I’m not gonna be able to go from never running a mile to running a marathon. That seems too huge.
But I could go from never running a mile to doing a 5k. From a 5K to a 10 K from a 10 K to a half marathon, and so on and so on. So if we wanna get to the Microsoft, for example, well, who does Microsoft Respect? So how do we get to them and how do we sort of ladder our way up to the goal that we want by setting up these steps in between, so it’s not this giant leap from here to Microsoft.
It’s a giant leap from here to whatever the next thing is. That then gets us to the next thing that gets us to the next thing that gets us to Microsoft.[00:08:10] Mike Allton: Love it. Love it. And it’s a, it’s a perfect segue to my next question because those of us who have been in the marketing and the partnerships world for a while, we’ve become accustomed to paying attention to how other companies, campaigns, and their partnerships are run.
And sometimes it’s hard not to marvel as someone else’s. Incredible, good luck. Mm. And I think, wow, I can’t believe how lucky he is for landing that deal with a Microsoft or an Apple. But is it really luck?[00:08:37] Laura Gassner Otting: I did a lot of research about this when Wonderhell came out because I am in a job right now where I get paid to travel to events and speak on stages in front of giant conferences, and I would always notice that there were people who were on those stages who I didn’t know how they got there.
Like how did they get to these bigger stages and make this bigger money? It didn’t seem to always be merit based, like the best ideas and the. Best speakers were not the ones who were getting on the biggest stage and making the most money. So I wanted to figure out like, are they just lucky or did they do certain things?
And what I learned is that there’s actually science behind luck. You can make your own luck and you can make your own luck by doing four things. Dr. Richard Weissman talks about this in a book from 2003 called The Luck Factor. And these are the four things, creating and noticing chance opportunities.
Number one, listening to intuition. Number two, having positive expectations. Number three, and then adopting a resilient attitude that turned bad outcomes into good outcomes. Number four. So what does that look like? That looks like if you’re creating chance opportunities, you’re saying yes to things.
You’re acting like an introvert. You’re going to the event. You’re going to the party, you’re. Getting on the webinar, you’re making that phone call, right? You’re sort of putting yourself in the deal flow. The second piece is listening to intuition. So does it feel right, like, should I go for this thing?
Should I try? Should I make the leap? Does it feel like this is a good deal to make? Right? Our bodies, we have a lot of data that comes in every moment. In fact, We have 11 million bits of data that come into our bodies every single minute. So everything like, what’s the sound of Laura’s voice to where do I think she’s going next to?
How am I feeling in the sweater that I’m wearing right now, and where are my feet on the ground? And what is the temperature? There are, so there’s like almost like something like 53 senses. We can only process 50 of those bits of data every minute. So when we have taken in all of this information over time, that’s a storage bank of intuition that we should be listening to.
The third is having positive expectations. If we don’t think things are gonna go well, we’re not gonna go, we’re not gonna try, we’re not gonna put ourselves out there. So just having this not. What could go wrong, but what could go right. Mindset actually lets us take more chances. And then lastly, this adopting this resilient attitude is the same thing we were talking about before, that it’s not, failure is the end failure’s finale.
It’s actually failure. Even if I fail, I’m gonna learn and I’m gonna grow. And so the people that I. Spoke to when I found myself in wonder, Helen, I don’t think I mentioned this, but I talked to a hundred different glass ceiling shatters, Olympic medalists, startup unicorns, CEOs, entrepreneurs, thinkers, creative philanthropists, activists, everyday people like you and me.
And what I learned is that every one of them did these things to allow them to be in the deal flow, to say yes, to be available, to be top of mind. So it’s not. Oh, they’re so lucky that that person thought of them. When there was an opportunity to make a deal, it was, they did the work to put themselves top of mind and to be there and to feel like somebody that somebody wants to interact with.
They did these things, and now if you’re listening to this and you’re like, I don’t wanna do that, I’m an introvert. That sounds horrifying. What I will say is that I am a raging introvert. I could talk one-on-one all day long. I can get on a stage in front of 10,000 people and crush it. Because that’s anonymous, right?
Like I can’t say anybody’s face is in a giant room, but if you ask me to talk to an audience of 10, I’m gonna be curled up in fetal position on the corner. If you ask me to work the room at a party, no way. It’s terrifying. But I know I need to do these things sometimes. So I just pretend to be like a situational extrovert.
I’m like a good luck tourist. And I go and I do the thing I need to do for like a half hour. Or an hour at the event and then I go back to my hotel room and I curl back up in fetal position. So we don’t have to be the person who is always doing those things, but we can adopt the mindset of doing those things in the moments that put us in the deal flow in sort of the luck channel.
So what I would say is that it’s not that people are lucky and it’s not the harder I work, the luckier I get, it’s the harder I work at doing the right things, the luckier I seem to get.[00:12:42] Mike Allton: Absolutely brilliant. I couldn’t agree more when I started writing in the late two thousands. I didn’t have an audience.
I didn’t really know anybody and I wasn’t really progressing. Mm-hmm. And like you, I’m an introvert. I wasn’t doing video. I was far more comfortable doing writing here in my dark, dingy office. Yes. Right. Where I could just, just me in the keyboard. But then I decided, To take the step to go on live video.
Back then it was Google Plus Hangouts on Air. So those of you listening, I just dated myself. Google Plus Hangouts on Air was a big deal back then and people had regular shows and they could have up to 10 guests on a show back then, and I did not want to do it. But I could see the potential. I could see the opportunities that going through that door was gonna open for me, and it worked.
Suddenly I had an audience, suddenly I had people inviting me to be on more and more shows. Suddenly I was guest blogging for major publications. And that just opened incredible opportunities for me. And one of the things that I love that you mentioned, this mindset of, hey, you know, sometimes as an introvert we just have to.
Put our extrovert pants on for a second, right? One of the techniques that I’ve learned is anchoring where I remember the times where I have done this thing in the past, this thing that I was uncomfortable on, but like you said, you went on stage and you crushed it. We’ve all done that. And I’ve used a technique called anchoring to remember it.
So the next time I go on stage, I can recall to mind the last time I went on stage and did really, really well.[00:14:07] Laura Gassner Otting: Well, I mean, this is a great way to get through imposter syndrome, and I know we wanna talk about that. Yeah. The power of self-talk is quite, Incredible. One of the people who I interviewed for this book is Dory Clark, who I think some of your listeners are familiar with.
Dory is We love Dorry. Yeah, she’s amazing. Gloria’s a Wall Street Journal bestselling author of multiple books, and she is an expert in reinvention, right? How do you play the long game? How do you network? How do you create these relationships? How do you reinvent yourself repeatedly? Now, Dori went to college at 14 years old because she’s a genius and she.
Always had this idea that she had to sort of prove herself, right? Like she needed to collect all of the things, the bestseller status and the publications and all of that. And she had this hanging over her head that she hadn’t had the Wall Street Journal bestseller yet until this last book. And when I saw her right after it came out, she was like, I’m so relieved.
Like it’s done. It’s finally the monkey’s off my back. It’s finally done. But. What’s amazing is that even though she’s had all this success, she never quite felt like she was fully there until she had the Wall Street Journal thing. Now on the side, Dori also has this hobby that’s now turning into a second career that she wants to learn how to score Broadway musicals.
And that seems sort of strange, right? Like she’s like a business professor, she’s all about leadership and reinvention. And also now she’s reinventing herself in this way. That’s completely outta left field. So Dory applies for the best program in the world to do Broadway scoring, and she immediately gets rejected from it cuz she hadn’t scored any songs yet.
So she took a note from her own page. She’s a coach, so she got a whole bunch of coaching, learned how to score three songs, reapply, got into the program. On the very first day she’s sitting there, everybody is introducing themselves, and this one has scored a whole Broadway show. And this one’s got, you know, a Tony nomination and this one is, you know, written 18 songs with Andrew Lloyd Weber, like whatever, all this incredible stuff.
And she’s like, I’ve scored three whole songs. And she said I had a choice to make. In that moment, I could either like put my hoodie up and scrunch down the strings so nobody could see me and slink out of the room. Or I could say, you know, Dory, you’ve had a lot of success in your life. Things you had no idea how to do.
You went to college at 14. Who knows how to do that, right? Like you wrote these books, you didn’t know how to do that. You got on stage, you didn’t know how to do that. You’re teaching in an MBA program. You didn’t know how to do that. It’s not that you didn’t know how to do those things, you just didn’t know how to do them when you started.
So it goes to show that if you figured out how to do those things, You can probably figure out how to do this thing too. It’s not that you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough yet. And by adding those three little words, yet she gave her permission to be an imposter, to be proud of herself, that she’s in a place she’d never been to before.
And to pat herself on the back and say, you never thought you’d be in this room. How amazing that you’re here, everything that got you to here won’t get you to there. But everything that got you to here shows that you know how to build new skills. You know how to learn how to create networks. You know how to invest, how to fall down, how to pick yourself back up.
You’ve developed grit, you’ve developed resilience, you’ve developed curiosity, right? Everything that got you to hear won’t get you to there, but it is a foundation on which you build exactly what you need to get to there. And so that power of self-talk in these moments when you’re like, I don’t know how to do it.
I can’t do it, I’m not really sure. Just by adding that moment of. I’m just not sure yet. Really fundamentally changes everything.[00:17:25] Mike Allton: Love it. And I love how you tackled imposter syndrome. So head on in the book. That’s something that all the CMOs that are listening, all the partnership leaders that are listening, all the influencers that listening, we’ve all been there.
So we’re talking with Laura about how to actually deal with success, a topic that isn’t addressed enough. Another topic we don’t talk about enough in marketing is how to show actual roi, particularly when it comes to social media. For that, I’ve got a quick idea for you.
It’s the Arc de Triumph. Can you imagine if you’re in charge, if you’re the CMO of marketing Paris, what are your main channels?
Wow, there’s. The arc of Triumph. There’s the Eiffel Tower, there’s the Louvre. Those are your channels you’re gonna use to drive tourism dollars in. Okay, now, but you’re not the CMO of Paris. In fact, you’re the CMO of your company product service. So what are your main channels? So I’m gonna guess they’re things like pay per click, maybe trade shows, events.
Maybe content. Those are all pretty predictable, right? Let me ask you this question. Are you treating social media as a main channel? By the way, only 1.8% of you today measure social media and can prove an ROI in that investment. HubSpot and Gartner say, social media is the number one channeled invest in this year.
Are you doing it? If not, I can tell you why you’re not doing it. Because you don’t have the tools, you don’t have the mentality, and that’s okay. We’ve got you covered. You changed the mentality. We’ll give you the tour of Go Pulse tracks all the ROI for you. One place to manage all your social media, Tivity, your number one channel, change your success.
Treat social media as a Channel one CMO to another. My name is Darryl. I’m with Agorapulse. I’ll talk to you soon.
All right, Laura. Now one topic that you kind of already touched on earlier was that cause one of the constant struggles for CMOs and partnership leaders is dealing with failure marketing campaigns that don’t achieve results, partnerships that fall apart. How do you think we should consider or frame failure?[00:19:27] Laura Gassner Otting: Well, you know, as I said, I think failure is not finale. It’s fulcrum. And I think we have been trained. Look, here’s what happens when we’re kids, we don’t know how to do anything, right? Like you go to pre-algebra, you figure it out, and you finally get to algebra. You don’t know how to do algebra. You struggle, you fail.
You figure it out. You get to geometry. On and on, geometry, trigonometry. Calculus, whatever comes next. I don’t know. I make my living with words, not math, but we are taught that we’re not supposed to know anything, and we spend time learning it and getting better at it. I think what happens then later is we get hired because we show expertise in something, right?
We show competence in something, they hire us, and then we keep doing that thing and we’re scared to step to the left. We’re scared to step to the right because if we do, we think we’re going to fail now. What that does is it stops us from being experimental. It stops us from dreaming, it stops us from doing something new, and yet all of the things that we look around that other people are doing when we’re in the sort of comparison IIS stage is we’re like, wow, what a crazy.
Creative idea what a sort of a neat, unique thing that that person did. We don’t go, oh wow, that person did exactly what the last seven CMOs did. That doesn’t get our attention. So we have to remember that how we are defining success isn’t perfection in the same iterative thing we’ve seen before. Success is doing something new.
Doing something exciting, and for that we’re going to have to have some flops, right? We don’t go to the cocktail party and tell the amazing success story of the thing that we did perfectly. Like nobody wants to hear that story. Like that’s, you don’t get re-invited back if you’re that blowhard. But everybody wants to hear the story of the giant risk and the colossal failure and how you pulled it out of thin air and you made it work.
And here’s the thing that I’ll say. Eleanor Roosevelt said that we would worry much less about what other people thought about us if we realized how seldomly they did. So it turns out that most people aren’t paying that much attention if we wanna do something that’s big, right? If we wanna do something that’s exciting, we have to figure out why we’re doing it, what success means in that thing.
So if success means we’re gonna do something new and unique and different, then we should set that as a goal, and we should know that failure is an option. But in order to avoid failure, there are steps in between. So like if you are taking a boat from New York to Boston, if you’re one degree off, when the time you get up to like New England, you can probably course correct and get to where you wanna get to.
But if you’re taking that boat from New York to Paris and you’re one degree off, you’re gonna end up in Morocco. Like you’re gonna end up on a different continent. So there need to be moments along the way where we say, what does success look like in this project? And what are the checkpoints that we need to have to make sure we’re on the right track?
I hired a marketing firm for me for when this book came out, and instead of saying, great, I’m gonna hire you for six months, and at six months, we’ll see what happened. I said, what are we going to know? In three months says that we’re gonna get to where we wanna get to in six months. What do we need to know in six weeks that tells us that at the three month mark, we’re gonna be getting to the right place?
What do we need to know in two weeks? Like what do we need to be seeing at each point to know that we’re on the right track? Because it’s not that we either succeed in this colossal thing that we’ve set or we fail in this colossal thing we’ve set. We live and die by the checkpoints in between. And so I think that this fear of failure is sort of a two-pronged thing.
The first is I think that we’re setting the wrong metric of success. We’re defining it in the wrong way. We’re saying it has to be perfect and I have to not get in trouble, right? Like that. That’s not. It’s perfect and I’m not gonna get in trouble because other people have done it before, so it’s not risky.
If we wanna do something that’s exciting and creative and risky and gets attention, then we have to say, okay, what does success look like at all the different points along the way as well? And so I think if we can start redefining success as what it really is, the thing we really want, and then understanding what sort of the micro successes are that need to happen, then I think it becomes less scary.
Because if you fail at one of the smaller things in the beginning, that’s something. That nobody’s paying attention to. Like nobody is seeing that on the outside world. And you can course correct inside or you can decide that you’ve wanna do something completely different because that’s how we learn along the way.[00:23:37] Mike Allton: So, That makes a lot of sense to me. At Agorapulse, I report to Darryl Praill, the CMO that, that we listened to a moment ago, and we create a document together at the beginning of the year. What does success look like for me? Yes. What does that include in terms of specific, not only measurements, but what are the initiatives or the activities?
What are the challenges that I, that I think gonna happen? And then how are we gonna measure that along the way? Right. I can’t get to the end of 2023 and say, well, Didn’t make it, or maybe I did. And it’s just no, we, we gotta have those, those checkpoints and those way points. And I love that you mentioned that there are smaller iterative steps along the way where we’re learning.
I did this great baseball analogy. I say great, because I really loved it. A lot of people didn’t really read it, but I’m, I’m a blogger, so I’ve written over a thousand blog posts in my life, right?[00:24:26] Laura Gassner Otting: And you know, some of them go viral and some of them get read by three people, and you can never predict which one’s gonna be which, right?
Like I know that some of the things that I spend the most amount of time writing and perseverating over and perfecting. They get like five likes and I’m like, what’s, did people not like it? Did I not get the algorithm right? Did I have the wrong hashtag? And then there are things I write for 10 minutes in the back of a cab in New York City that 250,000 people read.
So we have to keep just throwing out all these little bets cuz you don’t know which one’s gonna work.[00:24:53] Mike Allton: That’s right. And we don’t know who’s gonna read, who’s gonna be one of those five people that read that one unpopular blog post or that one unpopular article. But because that individual person read it, they might be the next person that hires us or reaches out or makes a connection.
Totally. I called those purpose pitches, like that baseball analogy, right? Where. It’s gonna be a ball. You know it’s gonna be a ball when you throw it, when it releases your hand as the pitcher. But there’s a purpose behind it.[00:25:20] Laura Gassner Otting: Yeah. I mean, you don’t like, look, so, as I mentioned, I am a personal development writer.
I wanna sell my books to thousands, tens of thousands of people. Like lots of people. I have friends that are writers in sort of the business consulting space. They need 50 people to buy their book, 50. The chief strategy officer of the Fortune 50 companies read their book and they have consulting work for the next 10 years, right?
So everybody’s goals are gonna be different. Success is gonna look different to everybody. But I’ve hired so many consultants and vendors in the past that are like, we’re gonna grow your newsletter list to a hundred thousand people. And I’m like, great, how do we know? And they’re like, well, we know when we get to the end of the year, it’s a hundred thousand people more.
And I’m like, no. What does it look like? Does it look like. I have 8,000 people every month. Probably not. Does it look like I have 3000 people by the end of the third month maybe? And then it hockey sticks from there. Like, what are the numbers that we need to get to, to know that we’re hitting the right things?
And I can’t tell you how many of these vendors cannot answer that question. Like almost 95% of ’em I would say, when I ask them questions like, okay, if you wanna grow my social media or grow my newsletter, or whatever it is, What are the metrics that we know we’re hitting along the way? Like, who are the partners and how many do I need to have on each channel?
And how many retweets and how many story shares? How do we know that we’re hitting it? They literally say to me, well, that’s, that’s a really good question. Like, let, let me do some thinking about that. And I’m like, how are you not thinking about that yet? Because if you don’t know what the way points are in between here and the goal, how do we know if we’re gonna get there?
Like, I just pay you money for 12 months and then at the end of the time we’re like, whoops. Sorry. That does, that doesn’t work for me. Like that is not, I think at the end of the day, we don’t sell partnerships, right? We don’t sell social media. We don’t sell like, and when I was running my executive search term, I didn’t sell talent.
I didn’t sell great references. I didn’t sell research. I didn’t sell. I sold trust. I sold trust and the only way to sell trust is for your clients to know that your problem and their problem are the same problem, right? If I was saying, you just need to pay me for 12 months, end of the 12 months, we’ll see what happens.
Then You’re solving my problem, which is that I need cash flow. We’re not solving your problem is that you need to see steady growth to make sure we’re getting to the right place. And so if you can’t sell trust with your client, then you should take down that shingle you’ve got hanging up because you’re committing malpractice.
That was a little ranty, but like, I feel very strongly about this.[00:27:52] Mike Allton: No, that was great. In fact, that’s, that’s exactly why we built that ROI feature that Darryl was talking about, because for years, agencies like the ones that worked with you who were managing social media on behalf of other clients, To report the results, the quote unquote results of their work.
All they could do was point to likes, comments, shares, engagement. Yes. But that doesn’t sell books, that doesn’t land partnership deals, that doesn’t do anything to help the business. What are the actual results? So, right. We had to create some. Technology to actually help agencies be able to deliver on that promise, that establishment of trust, like you said,[00:28:29] Laura Gassner Otting: I mean, it’s like saying we’ve got five influencers, Laura lined up to help you share your book.
Okay. Well, if those influencers are John Deere tractors, And hunting rifles and H V A C companies like, well, those are all great companies, fine, whatever, but nobody’s gonna care about my book. Who follows them? It’s not just like throwing numbers. We confuse busy for impact all the time. We’re like, I’m so busy.
My calendar is so full. I’ve got all these meetings, I’m doing all this stuff. But like, is it impactful? Right. Like if you find me again, Mel Robbins, Mel Robbins, telling her people to go buy my book is going to be way, way, way more impactful than say, I don’t know, the CEO of John Deere Tractor Company.
Right? Like, it just, we have to be doing the right kind of work. And that starts by understanding, you know, the purpose. Like what is the purpose behind this pitch? What am I trying to get from it? So, There are clients for whom I will do a keynote for free because on that stage there are other people who I wanna meet.
I’m getting beautiful video. It’s a logo I wanna put on my website. They’re clients for whom I’m not getting outta bed for less than $25,000. Right. Like it just, I think we all have to like Linda Evangelista, right. I think we all have to, that’s dating me that reference. I think we all have to understand what success.
Means to us, and I wrote about this a lot in my last book that I think we spend a lot of time pursuing successes defined by other people. Once we define it for ourselves and we get there, that’s when the stakes get higher. And I think understanding where like, I think not enough people stop and ask themselves, what does success look like?
Where am I going? And we also don’t ask our clients that. So when our clients say, I want a hundred thousand people on my newsletter list. Well, why? Right? Like I could put a hundred thousand people on your newsletter list, Laura. They are all gonna be random bots and, you know, stream. But do you have a hundred thousand people who are picking up what you’re laying down?
Who love the topic that you write about? That’s a totally different a hundred thousand people. I.[00:30:28] Mike Allton: That is so true. My friend Anne Pacio, who will definitely be listening to this, she’s a social media management agency and she had a client where they were paying her to manage their social presence. And so she’s focused on trying to drive actual business results.
And they kept coming back to her saying, no, we want you to grow our follower account. How many followers did we get today? How many followers are we gonna get next week? And they were so obsessed about follower account and she didn’t understand that. And it wasn’t until much later and she’d had real good conversations with them.
This wasn’t on her, but it was later that they came back to her and said, oh, we’re trying to sell the business. Not grow the business. Exactly. And they wanted their social metrics to look a certain way and that was a, what success looked like for them. But they didn’t tell the agency that.[00:31:14] Laura Gassner Otting: Yeah, you know, this need to know.
This is really interesting. This is a problem that I saw repeatedly when I was an executive search. So I would walk into a client and they would say, our c e o just left. We need someone exactly like her. Or they would say, our CEO just left. We need somebody, nothing like her. Right? It was like one or the other, and I would stop and I would say, well, okay, so why don’t we stop for a second before we just basically recreate their resume and then advertise that.
What does success look like in this organization? In six months, in 12 months, in 18 months, in two years, what does your strategic plan say? Where do you wanna get to? How will you know? How will your funders know? How will the people, the causes that you serve, know that you have been successful in 6, 12, 18, 24 months?
And then they tell me that whole story of like what it looks like two years from now. And I’m like, okay, what kind of c e o gets you there? And usually the answer wasn’t exactly the same or nothing like the answer was completely different. The answer was, oh, well we need somebody who has this kind of background, or who has experience in those sorts of things, or who comes from this sort of the world, or whatever it was.
And then you are like, okay, now we’re not just. Solving for the past, we’re actually solving for the future. And, but I think it starts by asking that question, what does success look like in this project? Because so many times we ask the question, well, how can I help? What can I do? And when we ask somebody that, they tell us what we can do, cuz they’ve seen us do it before.
But if we ask a question, what needs to happen in order to get to success, the answer that we end up giving is very, very different. And so I think it’s sort of stopping and pausing and these moments. To go back to Wonder Health for a moment, why success doesn’t feel like it should and what to do about it is often cuz we have this idea of what success looks like only from what we can see.
So if you’re at the bottom of the mountain range and you look at the top, you’re like, I wanna go there. You point to the top, I wanna go there. But when you get halfway up the mountain and you see that sign for that vista ahead, you walk out to the little veranda over and you look out over the view and what do you see from halfway up the mountain?
You see the top of the mountain, you’re climbing, but you see what else. More mountains, bigger mountains in the future. And you’re like, well, actually, maybe I wanna go there. And so you stop to think, how much water do I have? How many snacks do I have? How much daylight is left? How much energy do I have?
Can I get there? So what happens is every time we’re partway up a goal, we think we got to the end. We think we’re at like the finish point, but the finish point is actually just the midpoint for the next point. So there are times where we say, I actually don’t wanna go there. I wanna turn around and go down.
It’s been a great day. Amazing. Perfect. That’s your definition of success. Awesome. Have at it. Then there are some people who are like, actually, I wanna keep going. And so I think we have to be super flexible because even when you write, you know, I mean there’s that whole thought that the minute you finish writing a strategic plan, it’s already out of date.
Right? Because you start going and partway through, you start learning things. You learn about your. Clients, you learn about your prospective clients, you learn about who could be a partner. You learn about what makes sense for you in that, and you start to adjust your goals. And so we have to be super flexible, not just in not sticking to the definition of success that we’ve always had, but also that our definition is gonna grow and change as we do.
I mean, think about all the people who finished beautiful, incredible, strategic plans on February 28th, 2020. Right. So what does success look like by March 15? Completely different. So we have to keep being flexible and allow those goals and that definition to change, and then allow us to change the action so it’s not just busy, it’s continues to be more and more impactful towards that new ever shifting goal.[00:34:52] Mike Allton: Absolutely. Now, for those listening, Laura’s earlier book was limitless. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes, but there was an idea that you shared and wonder how that really resonated with me, and I think many of the CMOs and partnership leaders, you know, which was about whether or not we really need to be center stage people.
You said we’re thrust to the head of the table when really the relationships and the networking happen elsewhere. Can you talk about that?[00:35:16] Laura Gassner Otting: Yeah. So when I dropped out of law school and I joined a presidential campaign, I ended up in the White House. Which was insane. I was 22 years old and I’m sitting around this giant oak table in the old executive office building right next to the White House, and all of these very fancy prep school, Harvard types were all buzzing around and they were all walking in with.
Their like little leather satchels that I think they probably, you know, inherited from their great-grandfather who also went to Harvard and they had their tattered New York Times in their paper and they, you know, had, had highlighted any these pads full of paper. And I would look at these young and hungry, so all of their like big ideas sitting around the table waiting for the meeting to.
Start, I’d be like, I have no ideas at all. I don’t even know what I’m doing here. I’m literally wearing my mother’s suits, like my mother’s hand-me-down suits. I’m 90, I’m like wearing somebody else’s clothes sitting here. And I was so nervous that I would take out my little legal pad and I would start writing stuff down.
And the stuff I was writing down was like, do laundry. I. Clean the dog, right? Like I just, I didn’t have anything. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was so busy trying to fake it till I made it that I actually missed what was actually happening. When I stopped and I stopped trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing, I noticed that all around me at that table.
People were having conversations, they were creating relationships, deals were being made. They were talking about plans they had for the weekend where they were inviting everyone else where the relationships were being built. I was so busy trying to fake it till I made it so that I looked like I belonged at the table, that I didn’t actually.
Do all of the stuff that would allow me to feel confident at the table. And so I tell people as they’re getting thrust closer and closer and closer to the head of the table. As a leader, we’re expected to have all the answers we’re expected. You know, you’re at the head of the table, you’re expected to run the meeting, you’re expected to talk more, but the more we talk.
The less we’re able to listen and the less we’re able to listen, the less we’re able to learn, the less we’re able to learn, the less we’re able to grow. And so the closer we get to the head of the table, we actually start to stagnate in our growth. Just like when I was 22 years old trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing.
We find ourselves thrust to the head of the table and we’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I have to pretend because if I don’t, everyone’s gonna know I don’t belong here. I think there’s a lot of power in saying, I don’t know the answer to that, or I’d love to hear your opinion. What do you think we should do?
Because that does a couple of things. First, it allows us to keep learning and growing, and second, and most importantly, it allows our team members. To be the hero of the story. So rather than them trying to, looking at us and having us solve their problem all the time, we’re actually empowering them and we’re, we’re letting them grow.
We’re letting them learn, and they’re also teaching us so we can get better and we can get stronger as well. The last thing it does, which is something that. I’ve learned just from a three-year study that we did from January, 2019, all the way through the end of 2021, we did an online firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re actually still running it now if anybody wants to take it, and it’s based on Limitless. It talks about all the reasons why people are engaged or disengaged in work. I started doing the number crunching after the pandemic, during the great resignation, I realized that I had data from before, during, and after the pandemic, 6,000 responses from 74 different countries across every possible demographic.
And here’s what I learned. I. We know that bad leaders bleed out people. We know it’s obvious. We think that good leaders keep people, but it turns out that if you are a good leader, say you’ve gone to the training and you’ve studied good leaders, and you’ve got great mentors and all of that, you consider yourself a good leader.
If your people also consider you a quote unquote good leader, cuz you’ve done those things, but they don’t have any relationship with you, then you are just as at risk of losing those great people as if you’re a bad leader. So I’ll say that again. If your people think you’re a good leader, but they don’t feel like they have a personal relationship with you, then they consider you actually, I.
A bad leader. Why do people think they have a good leader? People think they have a good leader when they can say yes to the following questions. My boss makes decisions that impact me while thinking about how they’ll impact me. I feel like I’m encouraged. I’m empowered to get feedback on a regular basis from my boss.
My boss considers how decisions will affect me before they make them. I have some say in the kinds of projects I get assigned, the people I get assigned, my boss listens to my ideas. Basically they have an open line of communication. So this helps you learn. It helps your people feel like they’re the hero of the story, and they feel like they actually have a relationship with you, which means that they’ll stay longer and invest in you because not only are you a good leader, you’re a good leader who actually has a relationship with your people.[00:39:54] Mike Allton: That is super powerful. I’m gonna pull that out and share with my boss. My boss is a good leader, I think. I love him and I’ve been reporting to the ceo, uh, Emrick at Agora Pulse for years, and he’s fantastic. He’s visionary and I love that his approach towards managing people is very relationship. Driven, which is why I have just one or two more questions.
But one of the last questions I wanna ask you is my favorite question. I asked this of all my guests, and we’ve already been touching on this topic, so I already have an idea how you’re gonna answer, but it’s important. And so how important have relationships been to your career and your professional success?[00:40:26] Laura Gassner Otting: I mean, relationships have been everything, right? They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I mean, it’s cliche. It’s cliche for a reason every. Single breakthrough moment. Actually, you talked about Mitch Joel in the introduction. I love Mitch. Mitch is, he is like my work husband. We always joke around that like once one of us retires, we’re like never gonna know each other again, cuz it’s like until retirement to his part.
So it’s a very quick story about Mitch. So when Limitless came out, I ended up on Good Morning America. And everyone was like, how did you get on Good Morning America? Like I literally, not only did I not have a big mailing list, I did not have a mailing list. I know every person listening to this is like cringing right now.
Like I didn’t even have a newsletter. I had no mailing list, I had no crm, I had nothing. The book comes out, I end up on Good Morning America. How on earth did that happen? Well, a year earlier I get a Facebook message from Mitch saying, I’m gonna be in Boston. You’re in Boston. We don’t know each other.
Would love to have lunch. Okay. I had a meeting that day. I canceled it. I went, I had lunch with him. We had a great lunch. We realized that we were like, you know, it was my brother from another mother, and after that we started texting and talking and he sort of understood who I was. I was very, very early in my speaking career.
Obviously I hadn’t written. My first book yet, but he just invested in me. He gave me great advice. I asked him for like advice 18 times a day. So, you know, he became this very great friend and mentor to me. About four months later, he said, Hey, you’ve had a background in politics. My company is sponsoring an event tomorrow in Montreal.
Vice President Joe Biden is gonna speak there. Do you wanna come? We can hang out. We’ll be a green room. Maybe we’ll get a picture. And I was like, cool. And he’s like, you know, he is like, what are you doing? And I, so I again, had some meetings, canceled those meetings, and he is like, here, he’s like, these are the flights you should book.
He’d like already researched. He already knew like, it’s like a, it’s like a 45 minute flight from Boston to Montreal. So it’s like, it’s not a big deal. It’s tossed like 80 bucks. Like it was like a no-brainer kind of thing to do. I fly up to Montreal, spend the entire day hanging out in the back of the room with him.
He introduces me not just to Vice President Biden, but he introduces me to the guy who puts on the event, right? The art of leadership for women in Canada. Little do I know because Mitch’s company sponsored this, he’s able to like have this one-on-one conversation. Mitch had like this idea in the back of his head where he’s like, Laura’s got this book that she’s writing.
It’s gonna come out. She should be on this stage. I’ll make this introduction. He didn’t do anything else other than make that introduction. And then he was like, and now it’s yours. Take this relationship and run with it. And every couple of months I reached back out to that guy who ran the event and I was like, Hey, just wanna let you know I submitted the manuscript, it’s coming out, here’s what it’s about.
When’s your event next year? And I kept staying in touch with him until finally the book was gonna come out. And I was like, look, the book’s coming out. I know you have an event. I would love to come. And I’m happy to just, if you wanna buy books, which will help me get on lists, right? If you wanna buy books, I won’t charge you.
I’ll just, I’ll fly out, I’ll do the events. So I took it on the chin. I. Think I lost money on those events, but because of that, I ended up speaking in three events. I sold 1500 books all through Barnes and Noble, so they gave me their window. Barnes and Noble, fifth Avenue. Barnes and Noble, union Square.
Barnes and Noble, Copley Place, which by the way has a Starbucks there. So I was in Starbucks. Oh my God. I’m in Barnes and Noble. Oh my God, I’m in Starbucks. To the outside world, looked like this big deal and one of the people speaking on that stage was Robin Roberts. Robin got a copy of my book. Liked it, loved it.
Read it on the flight home, tweeted it out to her 5 million followers and then handed it to her senior producer and said, book her. Now, I’d already been rejected with my publicist from Good Morning America, but the reason I got on is because a year earlier I made my own luck, right? I said yes to the lunch.
I went and I met him. I worked the relationship. I assumed good things would happen. Did I know when I said yes? To that lunch that I was gonna end up on. Good Morning America. No, but that’s the value. That’s the power of relationships.[00:44:16] Mike Allton: I love it and I love how virtually every single time I ask this question, everyone says relationships are everything Absolutely true.
But then they go on to give this brilliant story and example of how their entire life has been impacted due to just one out of probably thousands of relationships they’ve had throughout the course of their career in life. Thank you for sharing that.[00:44:37] Laura Gassner Otting: And you ne you never know. You never know who it’s gonna be.
Like, it’s not that. It’s always like the president of the company. Like sometimes it’s the intern, like, you have no idea. So just be abundant. Say yes to everything. Be kind to everything. Cuz you never, you never know.[00:44:55] Mike Allton: Absolutely. Now look, I’ve made it a point to really only focus on the first third Yeah. Of your book and our conversation today.
There’s so much more for our listeners to experience and take to heart. Can you tell them a little bit about what you cover in Downsville and in burnout sit-in where they’ll mentally be by the time they get to this souvenir shop at the end of this magnificent ride?[00:45:15] Laura Gassner Otting: Yeah, so Imposter Town is that moment where we have to learn how to embrace our ambition and just go for it.
What I learned from the people who I interviewed, these glass ceiling shatters, Olympic medalist startup unicorns, et cetera, was that there are three towns that we all visit at some point in some order. So there’s Firsters, imposter Town. Then Dotsville and Dotsville is where we learned to renegotiate our relationship in these moments.
Of wonder, but also hell, when we feel the anxiety and the exhaustion and the uncertainty and the envy, all of that, we have this tsunami of emotions that come at us and we think that they have to be difficult, stressful, these unwanted side effects of getting the thing that we wanted. But it turns out that that’s a lie, and that lie I think is holding us back.
From capitalizing on our wonder health, cuz Wonder Health is the joy and the uncertainty. It’s the fear and the excitement. It’s the punishment and the progress, right? It’s the pressure and the promise that we feel when we know that the only one who gets to decide which one of us we become. Am I gonna be the me who I was or the me who I just envisioned is us?
We have to make that decision. And so in Downsville we learn how to renegotiate our relationship all with all these emotions and learn that they’re not limitations, but actually invitations to everything we can do. Then we get to Dotsville, and Dotsville is the place where we wonder, okay, I’m working really hard.
Can I survive this? Sorry. Burnout city. Burnout city is where we get to the place where we’re wondering, can I actually survive this? I’m not so sure. I thought. That once you reach that final level of success, you’re done. Like I’ve done it, it’s gonna get easy. And it turned out that each time I achieved a level of success, it got harder and harder and harder because there’s not a finite limit to our success.
There’s not a finite limit to our growth. It turns out that wonder how loves itself a repeat visitor. So we are continuing to find new parts of ourselves and new layers to our onion, but we’ve never been taught that this. Feeling is going to be uncomfortable. This feeling of unknown. This place we’ve never been to before, we’ve never been taught how to deal with the discomfort.
And so we try to solve it really quickly with all these different like dopamine hits or whatever it is that we need to do to get through it, and we crouch down and figure like this has to be it. But it turns out that the people who thrive and wonder, hell learn how to look forward to these moments to learn from them, to be excited by them.
Not just to survive them, but how to thrive in them instead. And so by the end of the book, by the time we get to the souvenir shop, what I hope people will be able to do is renegotiate their relationship with this experience of uncertainty to know that not only is it sort of this temporary place, it’s a temporary place that will continue to grow and to shift and to change as we grow and we shift and we change.
And what I’m hoping is that they’ll take away all sorts of tips and tricks and tools, both mindset and actually. How they actually operate in the world that will help them not just sort of survive this, but thrive in it and really enjoy the ride.[00:48:14] Mike Allton: Love it. Thank you so much, Laura. This has been amazing and this has been such an important interview.
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve enjoyed the book so much, and I hope that everybody listening, you’ve taken a lot from this talk, and you go and you read more outta the book, but tell everybody where they could go to learn more about you, where they can follow you, connect with you, and so on.[00:48:34] Laura Gassner Otting: Yeah, so my name is Laura Gassner Otting.
All my friends call me Lgo. So I’m at Hey Lgo on all the socials from Instagram, to Twitter, to LinkedIn, Facebook to even Peloton. You find me? I’m at, hey Lgo, everywhere. So you can find me there. The book is obviously available, Amazon barnes noble bookshop.org if you wanna. Use your local independent bookstore, and if you want to go to Wonder hell.com, you’ll find much more about the book and also a quiz that will help you figure out where in wonder hell you are and how to handle the ride you’re currently on.[00:49:08] Mike Allton: Amazing friends. That’s all we’ve got for today. You’ll find all the links, you’ll find Mitch and Dory and, and Laura and, and everything we’ve talked about today in the show notes. You won’t find me on Peloton, but you’ll find me on LinkedIn. So follow me on LinkedIn. Not only do the podcast come out every Monday, but the new partnership on Fact Newsletter comes out on Mondays as well.
So follow me. Subscribe to that. Until next time,
talk to you soon.
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