Leadercast Live 2018: Dr. Jim Loehr
Mark Twain once said the two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why. Jim wants to add a third: the day you intentionally decide to align your life and energy with that why.
In his talk at Leadercast Live 2018, Jim said we need two coordinates to navigate through life: 1) discovering where we’re going or how we are “getting home,” and 2) understanding where we are now relative to that home destination.
Happiness, health, achievement and being a good person are the most commonly stated life goals. It is possible to accomplish all four of those desires if you let your moral and ethical character be the center of your life from which all decisions are made. People with a sense of purpose beyond themselves have good health, achieve much and reach a level of happiness that’s indescribable.
Muscles of moral and ethical character are just like muscles of the physical body. We need to exercise our muscles of caring, compassion and integrity so that our “scorecard is brilliant in the end,” said Jim.
Insightful Nuggets From Jim:
- Great leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. weren’t pushing for happiness. They were pushing for something they believed must happen.
- The only way to win is to win with character.
- You justify the gift of life by giving it away. Your life was never about you in the first place.
Watch the video to hear Jim's full talk from Leadercast Live 2018, and click HERE to download a printable PDF of these takeaways.
I'm a data guy. I love measurement. I love science. And we've had over 250,000 people from just about every arena of high performance from medicine, Special Forces, Navy SEALs, hostage rescue teams. We've had business leaders from all over the world and 17 number ones in the world plus all kinds of other people is fort. That has been a treasure trove of insight into the human system, how human beings perform under pressure. And I wish I knew much earlier in my career what finally all this data has presented to us. And I am shocked by what I'm going to deliver to you because it didn't come out of any formal education. We had to grind it out looking at trend lines and mountains of data, a treasure trove of data over 30 years. So the title of my presentation is "The Gift of Life." And I wanna marry that with the theme of this conference, this notion of leading yourself.
I wanna begin with the very special quote from a very special man. His name was Mark Twain. And he says this, "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." The day you find out why. Unfortunately, lots people, lots of folks never really get to that point. And he was actually referring to that. I wanna add a third day. The third day is the day you intentionally decided to align your life and your energy with that why, with that why. You know, we're all navigating in life. We're trying to figure out, you know, come to terms with what is it that we are supposed to do here on planet Earth.
We know that we have but a short time here, and we're all struggling with trying to understand what is the purpose of our existence? What is really the endpoint of what we are chasing? And to navigate, you have to have two coordinates in life, whether you're in the wilderness, whether you're in your car, wherever you are on planet Earth. The first thing you need to know, you need to know where you're going. You need to know what the destination is. I'm gonna call that in the big picture "getting home." You need to know what getting home really is. The second coordinate you have to have is you have to understand where you are now relative to that destination to getting home. Without those two coordinates, or if either one are fuzzy, you are lost. You are lost. You know, I want you just for a moment to think about the odds that you were ever born.
Man has been on the planet for some 56,000 years. Give or take, a few thousand years. Think about all the combinations and permutations that had to take place for you to have happened. The probability of your existence is zero, it's so beyond our human comprehension. And we just kind of take it for granted. And you didn't do anything to make the cut, nothing. You just showed up. And then you show up and go, "Hey, what am I supposed to do with this gift?" And think of the gazillions of people who didn't make the cut. You won the lottery of life. You know what? It was a gift of pure gift and the question is, when you're given a gift, are there any responsibilities? Is there anything you need to do to justify the gift?
And let me just say, what is the gift of life? What is life? It's two things. Number one, it's consciousness. You have for a period of time, however long you are on this earth, you have the opportunity for consciousness. The second thing you have, and it is the most important resource you have as a human being, and that is your energy. You can take energy from your body that you produce in your body and you can make something happen.
Einstein once said that nothing moves until energy causes it to move. The gift of life is the opportunity to do something with this precious gift of energy. You can move mountains with your energy if you take responsibility for it and you know what to do with it. You know what to do with it. You know, here's the question I have for you. Why you? Why were you granted this gift of life when so many others were not? It could be just pure accident. But, again, what are you supposed to take this gift to make sure that you haven't somehow just accepted it and moved on and just, you know, I showed up, and that's it.
So, in order for you to try to answer some of these difficult questions, and we do this at the institute all the time. I wanna raise some questions for you and have you do some thinking. And some of this may be, you know, really push you a little bit outside your comfort zone. But how many here have children? If you wanna know what is really important in your life, let's just start talking about your children. The question is researchers have been asking this for a long time. What do you want most for your children? What's the highest priority for your children? This is the list, the total that typically comes.
At the top of the list invariably is I just want my kids to be happy. I love for them for the life that they have. I like them to enjoy their life. Another one, I'd like them to be a good person. I'd like for them to be a good person. Another, if they're here, I'd love for them to achieve something extraordinary with this time they have. I'd like them to do something with their life. And the fourth is I'd like them to be healthy, because if you don't have health, you don't have much of a life. The healthier you are, generally the more energy you have. So, how many agree with those, generally speaking, for your children that's what you'd like to see? Okay. And the one that tops the list invariably is this issue of happiness. How many of you'd like to have your kids be happy? That was one of the things you'd like to really. If you could give them something, you would give them happiness so that whatever time they're here they're happy.
All right. I'm gonna set up a hypothetical situation and see how this plays out for you. Let's assume that a pharmaceutical company has developed an amazing breakthrough. What they've been able to do was to do an assay of your neural chemistry when you are absolutely the happiest you can possibly be. They look at everything from serotonin levels. They look at dopamine to see the choline. They look it at norepinephrine peptides, the whole thing. And they develop an algorithm that enables them to create the exact chemistry in the form of a pill that needs to be taken only once a day and there are no downsides to it, and it's extremely affordable. All you have to do for the rest of your life to be happy at the highest level is take the pill. And all that your children will have to do for the rest of their lives to be happy they will take this pill. Let me ask you. Would you take the pill?
I don't see a lot of hands. You're going, "Well, maybe not. I mean, I'm not sure." What are you holding back? Is that our purpose, is that why we were given the gift of life was to, in fact, be happy? How would you like to have this on your tombstone? The dude or the dudess was happy? How does that feel? You know, how about this one? The dude or the dudess was healthy? You spent your whole life being healthy and that's how we remember you. Is that what it's all about? Probably not. Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, were they chasing happiness or were they pushing something with their energy that they believed in their soul had to be done was the right thing aligned with their sense of purpose. And that's the challenge, is to try to figure it out.
So the second thing on this list that people often, and it's interesting what the research shows that people who really try to make their kids happy, and that becomes their number-one objective, they surround them metaphorically with marshmallows and pillows. And when they leave the nest, the world is not marshmallows and pillows and they're back in the nest. They do a grave disservice to them because life is not one big joyous ride.
Now, the other one that when you ask people what do you think you put the most energy into for your children and even for yourself the word achievement comes out. So how many here when you look at all the energy you're investing in your children help them to get good grades, good high marks, good sports team for success on and get into colleges, valedictorian, and all that. You spend a lot of your energy trying to get them, and maybe that's the reason we're here, is to be unbelievable achievers. I have built my career around achievement in extraordinary, almost superhuman people, breaking records, number one in the world as an interesting database. To see what's happened to people who are the very best in the world and no one has beaten them at that particular point in their time or their life.
I'm gonna ask you some questions here, and I want you to think about them. Can you be high achieving and not happy? Yeah, probably so, absolutely. Can you be high achieving and not a good person? Oh, my goodness, Bernie Madoff,. Bernie Madoff with all the goods. Prisons are full of people who achieve like crazy, but they were not a good person. Can you be high achieving and lose your health? Oh, my gosh, how many people you know were chasing success and fame in the corner office and end up blowing their health, losing their health along the way, which is really the cornerstone of energy production is health. But it's not about health. It's about what you can do with the energy when you produce it.
And how about this, can you be not high achieving...I mean, can you be not high achieving and still be a good person? Do you know people that don't have a huge resume but they're extraordinary people to you. You love them to death. They're just incredible people. Yes. How about this one, can you be high achieving, can you be healthy happy, and can you be a good person? Is it possible to do that? And I'm gonna tell you, yes. But it's a very tricky matrix. And I'm gonna give you what is this.
Summation of my career, which has been a long career with some really extraordinary opportunities. I want you to look at this. This graphic is for me the whole thing. This is the wheels, the Wheel of Life. And at the centerpiece of that wheel, the hub of that wheel, is something I would call your moral and ethical character. It is your goodness as a human being. From that, everything comes. It's the way in which you treat other human beings. This is ultimately for when we find the secret sauce of life, it comes right there. And from that, happiness flows because you have a sense of value because of what you've brought to others.
Your health, there's some 18 areas of research now that shows that people with a strong sense of purpose that extends beyond themselves, it's almost like a magic pill from longevity to control of diabetes and insulin resistance and everything else. The data is in. This is evidence-based data that health is driven by a strong sense of purpose that has nothing to do with you.
Achievement, I wrote a whole book on it. The only way to win is to win with character. The only way to lose...I've shown what happens to people when they have the core right when their commitment is to other people, not so much about themselves. People start achieving like crazy because it relieves them a pressure. They're doing it for others, not for their own self-interest.
You know, it's kind of an interesting...here, I'm gonna give you again a choice of a tombstone. Let me just see how you gonna react here. So here's the first one. You can have one of the two. You can't have them both. We don't have enough room on the stone for both. Here you are. We had an extraordinary achievement in both sports and life. You became a multi-millionaire by the age of 35, multi-millionaire by 35. You earned a bachelor degree of Science from Harvard University, and you were the first person in your extended family to ever get to college. Wow. It's pretty big.
Now, here's another one. Courageously kind to everyone from grocery clerks to world leaders, care deeply for family and inspired everyone to be better, always grateful and humble, reached out to the forgotten and less fortunate, and displayed integrity in all things. Which of those two would you most want to represent you in the time you were here so that you might, in fact, get home? How many is it the second? Where do we put most of our energy?
The scorecard that matters really often is almost like we hope we get it. What we have done at the institute is make it possible for us to try to make go directly into this face with intensity even greater than achieving achievement at the highest level. I'd love to take you through this exercise. This is a goldmine of insight for people. Have you list the six words that describe you when you're absolutely at your best, when you are most proud of yourself, when this is the best you can be. This is when you show up under stress or whenever, when you are really proud of who you are. Then I want you to put down the six words that you would like to have represented on your tombstone that represented who you were when you were here at the highest level.
This will take a couple hours for people, and when they...sometimes we do it over homework at night, and they bring it back. Everyone is freaked out because it looks like everyone cheated because of this pretty much the same what they are, are the very same things we see on this tombstone, your best self, who you are at your best, how you wanna be remembered. They go to the center of that wheel. It's your goodness, your sense of connection to others. And that I believe is the greatest insight, and we had no idea we were going here. This was not driven by some preconceived notion that data has taken us here.
You know, this question of character. Let's just take a look at a little more closely. I believe the muscles of moral and ethical character are just like the muscles of your physical body. They are built as how we build them. At the institute, we build them by investing energy, and kindness, and honesty, and integrity, caring. We find ways to invest energy every single day and they grow just like your bicep grows when you go and invest energy by weightlifting. We need to do lifting of these muscles and they will carry you through, so that at the end, your scorecard is brilliant and you haven't gotten fooled by the clutter around you and you understand what the gift of life was all about, gratefulness, compassion, fairness, respect for others, trustworthiness.
Now, there's a little confusion here, and it is often in this category. These are great. These are what we call performance character strengths. Then these are also muscles. But these are all about you. This is what helps you achieve in life. We need a boatload of these as well. Bernie Madoff had most of these. There's no morality here. Confidence, optimism, perseverance, courage, mental toughness, resiliency, self-control, concentration, decisiveness, and commitment, these are just partial list of both, but these are fantastic. But this is not the center of the wheel. The center of the wheel is who you are and who you are becoming as a consequence of the chase.
And if you're becoming kinder, more compassionate, more loving, a better human being to others, that's the gift you are here to give. That's the one that never stops giving, and that's how you want to be remembered when you're gone. So, when you look at this, how do you justify the gift of life? I will tell you how you justify it. You give it away. It was never about you in the first place. Your energy, which was given to you as a gift of life, is to be given away, not for your own self-interest but to help others. And in doing so, you reach a level of happiness that's indescribable. Your health blossoms and you start achieving, but you do it for the right reason.
So in leading yourself, you lead yourself by making sure your scorecard of what matters most, your connection to others, your moral and ethical character has no equal. That is always your first and highest priority. The most important thing you can do with your life is to give it away to others.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Dr. Jim Loehr is a world-renowned performance psychologist and author of 17 books including his most recent, Leading with Character. He also co-authored the national bestseller The Power of Full Engagement.
Dr. Loehr’s ground-br...
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