270. Russ Wheeler: Hire Athletes, Then Teach Them the Sport

Any career contains thousands of S Curves, large and small, and Russ Wheeler's journey certainly embodies this. He's the CEO of BBQGuys, a retailer for all things grilling, smoking, and camping, but he's worked as an executive in the home improvement business for decades. That means many tough decisions about how to balance the needs of his employees, customers, and himself.

But Russ' core values keep him grounded, even when he's not sure if his decision is right. As he explains in this candid conversation with Whitney, “sharing the gains” with every member of the team was a way for him to take leaps he was initially skeptical about.

Russ shares the difficult choice to not take the company public, despite years of work to do so, and why he loves hiring people at the beginning of their careers so they can grow into mastery on the job.

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269 Susan Cain: The Upside of Seeking Sadness

Nobody wants to be sad. We actively avoid it, and use all the technology in our power to distract ourselves from it. But Susan Cain says, maybe we should seek sadness out.

She knows a thing or two about it. Her books about introversion and quiet reflection are New York Times bestsellers, and her TED talk has been viewed 40 million times.

Her latest book, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole,” is about what we miss when we stop confronting sad feelings. Susan explains that reflecting on pain — including the pain of others — is something we need more of in our lives, especially in a digital world, where we increasingly only see vacation photos, smiling kids, and job promotions.

This practice can be about deep personal connection, or simply seeking a sad song or choosing a heartbreaking movie once in a while. After all, there's a reason history's most enduring art is about longing and loss.

This episode references Whitney's recent newsletter, which you can read (and subscribe to!) here:

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268 Roger Martin: The Single Worst Thing You Can Say to an Employee

“The way we've always done it” is often not the best way. This is the very definition of disruption, but getting “stuck” on old habits can sneak up on us — in our personal lives, and our companies.

That's what Roger Martin explores in his latest book, “A New Way to Think.” Roger has built his career as an author and professor studying disruption, mainly identifying business models that we've relied on for decades, and then asking, “Does this really work?”

Roger returns to the show for another rousing discussion about career satisfaction and employee retention, especially in the wake of “The Great Resignation.” He also contends that we've structured modern knowledge work too rigidly, and why that can stifle innovation.

He also shares the single most discouraging phrase you could ever say to a member of your team, and how to avoid it.

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267. Marshall Goldsmith: If You Want Happiness, Redefine Your Success

Achieving something that's important to you: That's probably a big reason you're listening to this podcast. But what is it about success that drives us? Do we achieve for its own sake, or is there something more?

That's what Marshall Goldsmith is exploring. He's one of the most recognized thinkers and writers on the topic of leadership, but in his latest book, “The Earned Life,” he asks: Why are we doing all this? Does success really make us happy? And what if those two things were not so deeply connected?

Whitney and Marshall sit down for a conversation that turns traditional Western views of success and happiness on their head. He notes that some of the most successful leaders are great at delaying gratification, only to look back on what they missed out on in life. In fact, after we accomplish something great, we should stop expecting more, but default to a new beginning.

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266. Patrick McGinnis: FOMO Isn’t Always Bad (Until It Is)

“Fear of Missing Out” or “FOMO” is wired into our brains for a reason. When our ancestors flocked to greener pastures, it was advantageous to follow. FOMO can inform modern, strategic decisions as well, but Patrick McGinnis says we should be vigilant against its more dangerous sibling, FOBO: “Fear of Better Options.”

This is a kind of decision paralysis that's catastrophic for personal well-being and companies. Patrick has studied it closely. After all, he invented the term “FOMO” back in 2004, written multiple books on the topic, and hosts the podcast FOMO Sapiens.

He and Whitney discuss how the breakneck speed of 21st century FOMO can trick us into “fear-based decision making,” and why outsourcing low-stakes choices to Siri or a coin flip can be incredibly liberating.

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265. John David Mann & Ana Gabriel Mann: 5 Secrets to Improve Any Relationship

John David Mann is a writer and the co-author of more than 30 books. Ana Gabriel Mann is a professional therapist, speaker and coach. Together, they’ve been married for more than 25 years, which also happens to be the subject of their latest work.

The Go-Giver Marriage is rooted in a framework of gratitude, kindness and self-disruption that John has been writing about for years. When Ana thought to apply this to relationships, it was a “light bulb” moment for both of them.

They join Whitney to discuss the 5 secrets that don't just apply to relationships in trouble, but can help an already good relationship (marriage or professional) become great.

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264. Jami & Jeffery Downs: Why Tiny, Laughable Steps Lead to Huge Achievements

Running a marathon, writing a book, or learning piano. These are big undertakings that require discipline and practice. The harder we work each day, the faster we'll succeed, right?

Wrong, say authors and podcasters Jami and Jeffery Downs. Biting off more than our daily chew can lead to a cycle of discouragement. Instead, commit to laughably small steps: Write one sentence a day. Practice for five minutes. These micro goals are much easier to sustain, and when you keep the streak going, you'll find that sentences turn into pages, and minutes turn into skills.

A revelation in their personal lives lead this husband and wife team to develop “Streaking,” a philosophy of personal accountability that applies to anything: Learning, personal relationships, and health.

Jami and Jeffery speak with Whitney about the myths of habit forming, and why some tasks — no matter how often you repeat them — will never become automatic.

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263. Kim Scott & Trier Bryant: The Invisible Tax of Workplace Bias

We've covered bias in previous episodes, but this week we tackle it head-on — specifically, how our language choices affect people, and the difference between bias, prejudice, and bullying.

Kim Scott is a coach to some of Silicon Valley's most influential CEOs, and known for her groundbreaking book Radical Candor, about the complexity of giving critical feedback, even when it's hard.

Trier Bryant is the CEO of Just Work, a consultancy specializing in identifying harmful bias and injustice in the workplace, and providing the tools to overcome it.

Together, they help employees and managers develop a shared vocabulary so everyone feels safe to say, “that word/phrase is not OK.” It's a crucial, but often missing step on the path toward true diversity, equity, and inclusion. It's harder than it seems, but making the effort to own your language — even during this very interview — is a great first step.

Kim, Trier, and Whitney go deep on how caring for others can go hand-in-hand with challenging them directly, and why casual word choices take a heavy toll on marginalized people over time.

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262 Johnny C. Taylor: Our Relationship to Work Is Changed Forever

Hybrid offices. Work-from-home. Unlimited vacation. Parental and sick leave. Diversity, equity, and inclusion. The scrutiny of company culture has intensified during the pandemic as millions ask: Is there a better way to work?

Johnny C. Taylor set out to write a book about this in March 2020 when we all expected a 2-3 week “pause” in normalcy. Two years of pandemic later, the thesis of his book transformed.

RESET: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval is Johnny's analysis of a radical post-COVID re-think. But he's not just an observer.

Johnny is a lawyer, longtime HR pro, and currently the CEO of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), an organization that educates and advises HR professionals. And while HR was previously viewed as the team to nag about payroll and benefits, Johnny says they've become the “emotional first responders” in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

Johnny explains what workers want and expect from companies in 2022, the power of the perfect CHRO + CEO partnership, and why Diversity & Inclusion efforts require more than passionate good intentions. He also shares how firing one employee long ago changed his life forever.

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261. Amy Webb: The Future Isn’t So Scary When We Talk About It

If you feel like the world is “speeding up” technologically and culturally, you're not alone. “Future shock” is real. We are faced with daily decisions that our grandparents could never conceive. This makes planning your life, career, and family rather hard.

Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist, who uses data to imagine the unimaginable. She doesn't predict the future, but plans for every possible outcome so companies can be better prepared.

One area she's been particularly fascinated with is synthetic biology. It's the merging of computer science and genetics. Imagine a world where we can program cells like tiny computers to cure diseases, grow corn in a city warehouse, and manufacture real meat without ever killing animal. It's already happening, and the benefits are huge.

But when people hear about modifying DNA and growing chicken cells in a bio-reactor, they bristle. The “newness” of this science, filtered through politics, media and social media, often disrupts honest discourse about it.

In her new book, The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology, Amy explains that healthy skepticism of new things is good, so long as it's tempered with a good faith discussion of the data.

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