Peter Shallard is owner of The Shrink for Entrepreneurs. As a renowned business psychology expert and therapist gone renegade, he works with all types of entrepreneurs around the globe as these people strive to reach greater goals of wealth, freedom and social impact.
That last one is important. He is obsessed with the pursuit of for-profit business that simultaneously makes a positive change in the world. Helping entrepreneurs create such businesses is his mission. Through application of highly effective psychological models, he helps entrepreneurs like you master the psychology of reaching their goals of success faster. Better. More effectively, and with more impact and results. Together we’ll:
- – Rapidly re-program mental habits keeping you down and replace behavioral patterns that aren’t useful with highly effective ones
- – Shed light on what’s holding you back by providing insight and helping you make sense of people in new, meaningful ways
- – Create practical, achievable, measurable action steps and strategies that make a big, big difference to your bottom line
- – Implement powerful blueprints and formulas that create profit and build a career or business where extraordinary is mandatory
- – Ignite powerful motivation and consistent drive for long-term stamina so your success grows exponentially
His approach focuses on actionable psychological insight that creates practical, measurable results, making me an ideal choice for the busy entrepreneur who wants to fast-forward success – the kind of person who wants to rapidly leave roadblocks behind and make big things happen quickly.
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JASON HARTMAN: It’s my pleasure to welcome Peter Shallard to the show! He is known as the Shrink for Entrepreneurs, and he’s got a rather renowned business psychology angle on things, and he likes to say he’s a therapist-gone-renegade, so we’ll talk about how to achieve success as an entrepreneur, and some very interesting recent blog posts that he’s done. Peter, welcome, how are you?
PETER SHALLARD: I’m doing great! Thanks for having me.
JASON HARTMAN: Good! Well, it’s good to have you. And you’re coming to us today from the Big Apple, New York City?
PETER SHALLARD: That’s right, yeah.
JASON HARTMAN: Fantastic. Well, I became interested in your work when I read a couple of your blog posts, and one of them was about the dangers of becoming superhuman, and how being over-optimized can really hurt us, and be a disadvantage, and another one that really interested me was on emotional intelligence, and then the concept of, another one on having tons of potential, and why that can actually be a disadvantage to people. So, I want to dive into those. But before we do that, I just generally thought, from your practice, you call it, I think, the clarity couch, or something like that? Which is that tell us about your childhood type of thing? Lay back on the Freudian couch there.
PETER SHALLARD: Right.
JASON HARTMAN: And I wanted to ask you, what do you see as some of the things entrepreneurs are really doing wrong, Peter, and then some of the things they’re doing right.
PETER SHALLARD: Hmm, that’s a really, that’s a really big question. It’s a good one though. So, I’m focused on the mindset pretty much exclusively. I work with people, with entrepreneurs right at the place where their thinking, and their behavior caused by their thinking, intersects with their business’s bottom line. And I guess the mistakes, if I was to say that there were mistakes that people are making, the, kind of—they’re the kind of mistakes that people make as a result of their psychology really being in development, really being in a phase of kind of growth. There’s certain things that we all have to figure out in life, and when we throw those psychological issues up against a business, we’re forced to figure them out in order to produce business results, to progress the business forward. So specifically, I kind of come up against emotional baggage.
That has to be the first category. Is, when an entrepreneur, someone who’s aspiring to be an entrepreneur, has had things happen in their life, whether there’s been a lot of negative emotions, or a lot of kind of “trauma”—when they’re running their business, they might encounter situations that are similar to that thing that happened to them in the past that caused them to freeze up or become paralyzed in some ways. So, I think that having those kind of psychological blind spots is often, yeah, is often a huge deal. It’s a thing, it’s a mistake that people make, in the sense that they don’t realize, running a business is basically running a self-development machine. You know, businesses exist primarily to make profit in the capitalistic sense. But I like to say that businesses are human-growing machines, because they take the founder, the entrepreneur, and force them through all of these cathartic processes where it’s sort of survival of the fittest; you have to wise up, your thinking has to change and evolve, you have to overcome those negative emotions from your past.
You have to overcome limiting beliefs, and really identify the capability gaps that you have and fill them. You know, that’s the—so, I don’t like to think of like general mistakes that every entrepreneur makes that I notice. But if I think about what trends I do see in people who are kind of figuring it out, it’s that—it’s developing that self-awareness to be able to look at yourself, look at your past, look at where you’ve come from, and see, what kind of limitations are there in my thinking, or in your thinking, around your beliefs, around your capabilities, on what you’re really capable of achieving, and around your behavior. Are you disciplined enough to be successful? Are you doing the right things on a daily basis to be successful? And I think developing that ability to really truly and honestly see yourself, is—when it’s lacking, that’s the biggest mistake anyone can make, and when it’s there, I think it’s one of the #1 causes for success. Being able to see those capability gaps. Does that kind of make sense?
JASON HARTMAN: Sure does. I mean, does that go back to the concept of, we don’t what we don’t know? And, how that puts us at a disadvantage?
PETER SHALLARD: Well, I think that—I think that regular civilians don’t know what they don’t know.
JASON HARTMAN: Regular civilians [LAUGHTER].
PETER SHALLARD: Right. But the great thing about running a business is that very rapidly, as you and I both know, very rapidly your business will teach you what you don’t know. It’ll point it out with a flashing neon sign, and be like this, my friend, is an area that you need to work on. And I think that’s what’s great about kind of committing to that journey of building a business. And I think that that’s something to focus on that a lot of entrepreneurs can kind of get distracted from. Your number one job as an entrepreneur is, you’re the asset. You’re the number one asset of your business. Certainly when you’re starting out, you might be the only asset that your business has, so you need to identify any of the weaknesses. You need to figure out, are they areas in my kind of capability and skill set that are holding the business back? Are there areas where my belief about what I’m capable, maybe my self-confidence is holding the business back. And I think one of the most obvious places that we see this in small businesses is sales. When the founder, the CEO, the entrepreneur’s involved in actually selling their own product or services, all that psychological stuff can really get in the way.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, that’s true. When you talked about—you made the remark, it was kind of funny, about regular civilians not seeing their weaknesses, but as an entrepreneur, you know, the marketplace will point them out to us usually rather quickly.
PETER SHALLARD: Exactly.
JASON HARTMAN: And that—right there, Peter, is a huge testimonial for why capitalism and free market systems work so well. Because we get feedback pretty quickly, and we can iterate, and we can make course corrections, and do that. Whereas in government, people can work for four decades and they don’t care about feedback. There’s no real feedback, because the marketplace—you know, because it operates on no rules. I mean, when you can print your own money ad infinitum, and you don’t have to have a budget that works, or a system that works, or a product people want, or anything. It just doesn’t work. I mean, it’s—dysfunctional, non-working things can perpetuate almost indefinitely.
PETER SHALLARD: Absolutely. And I think, you know, the civilian joke is kind of a term I used to just kind of joke around about people who aren’t entrepreneurs, who aren’t on that journey. And I think there is a very big line in the sand. You know, even people who are just working, you know, the traditional 9-5 corporate job. When you’re working for a large organization, and the buck doesn’t necessarily stop with you, you’re not the person who’s ultimately accountable, the founder, the CEO, whatever, you’re kind of in a place where there’s a lot of things that could go wrong. If you’re not performing—let’s say you’re a salesperson working for a Fortune 500 company. If you’re not performing, you may be able to say, well hey, the product delivery guys are letting me down, and I don’t have faith in them, so I’m not able to go out and sell consistently. I don’t—you know, there’s something wrong with this company, it’s not my fault. Right? So there’s all that kind of dialogue that can happen, and does happen, to be quite honest. There’s a lot of people who have—they have reasons why they can’t produce success.
When you’re an entrepreneur, the only thing that you produce is results. There’s no reason, there’s no rationale. It’s like, it’s a result, and it’s either a good one or a bad one. So you can’t say, oh, you know, the product delivery side of my small business is letting my sales team down, because you’re talking about yourself, you know? You have to quickly figure it out. And that’s what’s great about the entrepreneurial journey; if something is wrong with your business, the results you get will point that out to you. It’s kind of like radar. You know, it’s like a homing system that will zero in and say here’s what you need to work on, here’s what you need to fix. And I think it is possible—you asked me about mistakes, which I think is just a fascinating question, what mistakes people make. And I think that the biggest mistake, and it is possible for people to do this, is to ignore that market feedback. Is for people to really not pay attention to their results that they’re getting, and kind of keep striding away trying to do the same thing. Trying to maybe develop the same product that there never really was interest in the market for that product, or some example like that. So, yeah. Having the perception is really important to know when we’re getting that feedback, and what we need to change, is, I think, you know, that’s the key to psychological clarity. That’s why entrepreneurs do well to pay attention to their thinking, and everything that’s going on between their ears.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, no question about it. So, where is the difference? Where does the distinction lie between these—the concept you just mentioned, where we’re talking about getting feedback, not passing the buck, being accountable, making course corrections, constantly iterating, and giving the market what they want, giving the marketplace what they want through that iteration, and the difference between, you know, we’ve all heard lots of stories about famous entrepreneurs who kept doing something, kept doing something, kept banging their head against the wall, they were incredibly persistent, they overcame incredible odds because—and, you know, the only reason we hear their story is because they ultimately became successful—but like Tom Peters, I think he was the one who said, the only thing that ever—the only person that ever achieves anything great is a monomaniac with a mission. And you know, the concept of the Colonel Sanders story: over a thousand times he was rejected. The marketplace kept telling him no, but he believed so deeply that he would be a success, that he just kept on keeping on. And ultimately he was. Where do we—at what point do we decide, okay, the market is telling me this is not the plan. This is—I’m getting feedback here, and I need to change my course, quit, give up, go back to my corporate job in the cubicle, whatever it is. Or, I just need to be so persistent, and keep going.
PETER SHALLARD: Hmm. Yeah. That’s a fantastic question. I think that this—this is why the whole kind of lean startup and agile business building methodology has become so popular recently. Because those methodologies exist as a framework. They offer people a framework for validating their ideas in a way that you can kind of believe in. Like, you can sort of believe that you’re doing it the right way, you’re iterating and testing the right way. And I think that that’s a huge problem. What you’re talking about is kind of the dichotomy between just continuing to iterate and iterate and change what you’re doing and test things out until something takes, versus, you know, trying to make your thing work, and then maybe just giving up because the market doesn’t want what you have. I think that it’s the difference between entrepreneurs—like, that dichotomy is the difference between somebody who’s obsessed with building a business, and somebody who’s obsessed with bringing a product to market. And I think that there are success stories on both sides of that fence, but it’s the odds of bringing the product to market are much—on that side it’s a much, much riskier kind of prospect. It’s kind of like trying to be an artist.
Just really believing your paintings are the best, and hopefully everybody else recognizes them for their genius that they are. In the case of Colonel Sanders, he had really good chicken, so I think that really helped. But we don’t hear the stories—we don’t hear quotes or interesting inspirational stories about all of the people who believed in themselves relentlessly but had bad chicken, and so it never really got anywhere, and kind of ended up giving up, or leaving this planet in one way or shape or form, you know, feeling massively unsatisfied. And I think there’s millions of stories like that, you know? There’s very, very few people who have some product, some thing, that they really want to birth into the world, and they show up with it, instantly hit a home run, and then kind of rocket their, you know, just enjoy their retirement. You know what I mean? Doesn’t happen that often. I think that there’s always some form of iteration. There’s always some packaging, there’s something that has to be changed. And I think that, you know, I certainly encourage my clients to be, to also start to develop a love for the game itself.
Start to develop some value, some sort of like, attraction and fascination with the game of actually building businesses themselves. I’ve known very few entrepreneurs who at the kind of, the peak, the summit of their career, in the golden years, are actually more kind of passionate and obsessed with the product, or whatever their business is about. The chicken, let’s say, in the Colonel Sanders example, than they are kind of obsessed with the structure, with the economy, with the business that they’ve built around it. And I think that that’s where that iterative focus and that whole philosophy lies. And I think that’s where entrepreneurs really create massive success, is where they become obsessed with playing the game, you know what I mean? With sort of building the thing, and then actually, we get entrepreneurs who arrive at a place in their career where they’ve made some successful business around selling chicken, they’ve fallen in love with the process of building that business, then they realize that they can build a whole other business, they can jump sideways and build another huge, great big empire, but instead of chicken, it’s like yo-yos. Or it’s something on the Internet, or I don’t know. It could be anything. And at that point, you’ve got a true entrepreneur—somebody who’s about the game of business. Rather than about the chicken.
JASON HARTMAN: Right, right. Yeah. That’s an interesting distinction there. Well, as I was mentioning to you before we started, I just—I had Steven Kotler on the show before, and I just finished his book, the Rise of Superman. I bought it originally, Peter, not knowing what it was about, really. Or in detail. I just thought it was gonna be about super health, and super optimization, and that kind of stuff. But it was more about extreme sports and things like that, which is kind of interesting. But, what intrigued me is that you wrote a blog post about the dangers of becoming superhuman, and how to avoid the over-optimized entrepreneur syndrome. And you know, this is a popular topic nowadays! There are all kinds of websites like, you know, LifeHacker, and websites, you know, the Bulletproof Executive, about hacking your body, hacking the system, optimizing everything, multi-tasking—we just want to do this, you know, as entrepreneurs, instinctively. This all sounds great. Is there—there’s a dark side, you’re saying?
PETER SHALLARD: Yeah. And I think that, the article that you’re—that I wrote, caused some controversy. And I think that—I think that I want to kind of establish that I don’t think that aiming to be superman is necessarily a bad goal. I think it’s the way people are approaching those goals that is kind of hurting their chances. And that article, the reason that it really resonated, is that a ton of my clients are wrestling with this stuff. So when that one went to press, I was sort of typing out an article based on the session that I had the hour before with one of my clients, and with about a dozen of them. This is a really massive problem. It’s something that’s happening all over the place. I would say it’s particularly—if there’s a kind of a bell curve, I think that the majority of people that have this problem are younger male entrepreneurs, who are having this kind of superhuman pressure happen in their lives.
And what it is, is it’s the desire to have optimization in every area of their lives. So, business success, number one, first and foremost. Health success: gotta have the six pack, or the flat stomach or whatever. You’ve gotta have a great relationship, like an inspirational relationship. Your significant other should be blowing all of your friends away with their awesomeness. In some cases, people that have kids, you have to be raising these Mensa-level genius children at the same time, you know? Spirituality, you should have a meditation habit on top of all of that. And, there’s nothing wrong with aiming to have genius children, six pack abs, a multi-million dollar successful business, and, if not a billion dollar business, and all of that. But the problem is reaching for it all at the same time. That’s the dark side of it. Where I see entrepreneurs tearing themselves up, because they’re blowing through their own expectations. They’re failing to meet these massive expectations they have, because they’re reaching in so many different directions at once. In the article, I talk about a psychological concept called splitting, which is basically all or nothing thinking, and for entrepreneurs, the way that that manifests is that they say, this is my goal: to be superhuman in all these different areas.
And then they split the goal. They have this black or white, all or nothing thinking, where if they’re not at 100% of that goal, they’re failures. And so, I’m working with guys who are independently—they’re massively successful. They’re phenomenally wealthy, they have phenomenal relationships, lots of stuff is great. But maybe they had a couple of pizzas in the last week because they were working really hard on their business, and they feel terrible about themselves. They feel like a failure. Because they’re not optimized in every sphere of life. And the point of the article, and certainly, my professional advice to people who are wrestling with this, is to recognize that all of the people who we look at now as superhuman, and there’s some—there’s a lot of business leaders who are speaking at conferences, and you know, they’re kind of publishing the type of bestselling books and stuff who are like that. I think Richard Branson is the classic example of someone who—billionaire genius playboy philanthropist, you know what I mean? He’s the whole package, right?
Those guys didn’t get there by doing it all at once. They built these things incrementally in their lives. So what I encourage people to do is like, pick one or two or maybe three areas in your life, and focus on optimizing those incrementally. You know what I mean? Don’t put the expectation on yourself that while you’re building—I had a client, I think I mentioned this in the article. I had a client who was at the most critical year—if not the most critical quarter of the most critical year, of his business, in the sense that he had run a massive kind of pre-selling campaign, had raised tons and tons of money, and had to deliver big time for all of these customers who had been pre-sold on the product that he was pitching them. So, he had huge, huge pressure. Now, if I was that guy, I would focus on doing that, pretty much first and foremost. But he was also trying to get a six pack. He was like ruthlessly juicing, and cleansing, and working out. He was also telling himself, now that everything’s optimized with the business, and he’s in the zone, it’s time to start dating again and meet that dream girl. And there’s all this other stuff going on, and it’s just kind of like, dude, you know, this is not how anyone built their superhuman empire.
You’ve gotta do it one brick at a time, incrementally. And when you’ve got the super successful business, and it’s operating, and it’s optimized, then you’re gonna have the psychological bandwidth to take on another goal, and then get the six pack, or whatever. You know? Like, I think—that’s really the point. Is that the article was a big psychological explanation, and ultimately, a call for like, moderate, incremental success strategies. Because the alternative is these guys setting these unrealistic goals, they have black and white, all or nothing thinking, they don’t accomplish them, because you can’t do everything at once, so they kind of flame out, and then in some cases the tragedy is that they’ll quit altogether, because they just feel that it’s too difficult, and then the world loses another cool business, the world loses another cool entrepreneur, right? And ultimately, that’s the point. That’s what I’m getting at.
JASON HARTMAN: Okay. So, I remember Stephen Covey, the late Stephen Covey, talking about seasonal imbalance. So, if this is the season where you really gotta just shut everything out of your life and work on your business, for example, it’s a critical time. Or, this is the season where you’ve really gotta work on your relationship, or your fitness level. I mean, is that what you’re saying? Kind of, work on one thing at a time? But don’t we want to always sort of balance everything out? You know, like if you’re working hard in your business, shouldn’t you be going to the gym too?
PETER SHALLARD: Yeah, and I guess what I’m saying is that I think that if you have balance, you have to set the goal—like, you have to have incremental goals. You kind of have the expectation of, I want to be a multi-millionaire, but your business is only making a few thousand dollars a month. And I want to have a six-pack, but you’re like 40 pounds overweight, or whatever. Or even 10, 20 pounds overweight. You can’t have goals in that area that you’re massively reaching for, and then be working on all of those reaching in a huge way, all at the same time. There has to be—like, you have to reel in—you have to find balance, absolutely. You have to find that moderation. So, I know people who are ruthlessly committed to business. Their ambition knows no bounds. They’re relentless, and they’re successful in accomplishing their ambitions, because that’s pretty much all they focus on. Do I want that life? No, I love balance too much.
I want to be able to go to the gym. I want to find time to be present in my relationship as well. I want all of these other things. But, I think that there’s no real prescription. I think that everybody gets to decide what their balance is. But what’s important is sustainability. Because building business success takes time. Living a life well-lived takes time. So you don’t want to flame out. And that’s really the point—that’s kind of my concern around the superhuman movement, is that the pressure that people put themselves on, entrepreneurs are notorious for having enormously high expectations for themselves. But this life hacking movement has kind of upped the ante with that, to the point that I see remarkably talented people who are capable of changing the planet, flaming out early, before they really do their best work, because they’re putting so much pressure on themselves not just to have balance in their life, but to have every single sphere of life, spoke on the wheel of life, category, whatever you want to call it, at like 110% at all times. And realistically, that’s not how you get there. It may be possible. I think it’s debatable. Can you be at 100% in every part of your life at once? Maybe you can. Maybe Richard Branson is. I don’t know. I don’t know the guy personally. But I think that you have to get there step by step by step.
JASON HARTMAN: Well, I think part of the Branson thing—and you know, I spent some time with Richard Branson. I went to Necker Island about a year ago and hung out with him a little bit. And you know, one of the things I take from him is that—and from reading his books too—is that his—part of really his whole business model, was yes, he wanted to do great things, and change industries, and you know, obviously he succeeded at doing that. But part of the whole model was, having fun! Making it—you know, his brand is a fun brand. The whole concept of the Virgin brand is really—fun is just part of its personality.
PETER SHALLARD: Right.
JASON HARTMAN: So when we talk about okay, he’s living a big life, and traveling, and being a playboy, and all of that kind of stuff, that’s really part of the business model.
PETER SHALLARD: Right, absolutely. In some cases, that’s literally part of the brand. It’s part of his marketing expenses, you know, to pay for the party, because it’s—they film it, and it’s part of the whole cache around how Richard Branson is this playboy. So, absolutely. And I think that that really serves to kind of prove the point in some ways that there has to be—there has to be focus on fun. There has to be that kind of balance. You know, I think that a lot of people—a lot of entrepreneurs wrestle with, do I ease up on myself? Do I allow myself to have that fun? Do I have the night off? Do I—you know, do I take that—do I go to that party? Do I have the fun? And I’m talking about, people I work with are all incredibly high-performing individuals. There is this internal kind of wrestling match that they do with themselves. And I think that the drive to be superhuman often takes them in the other direction. It takes them towards no; work harder, be more disciplined. You’re not there yet. You’re failing, miserably, in all of these areas. You’re not being superhuman.
I actually—an interesting example of the fun thing, I spent some time with Tim Ferriss recently, and he was talking about like, some of his realizations post-4-Hour Workweek, now that that book’s sort of years in the past, was really around the importance of, aside from the business hacking strategies to get your business to the point that it’s optimized and all that kind of stuff, and you don’t have to spend so much time on it, he’s really noticed the importance of stressing, hey, you’re supposed to actually fill up all of that extra time that you have with the work, like, the mini-vacations, going and doing fun stuff, living life, doing extreme adventure sports, and having a really great time, basically. Traveling, and being on vacation. The reason that that’s so important is, he’s noticed people will read the 4-Hour Workweek, they’ll implement the principles, and then they’ll fill all of the extra available time they have with more work. That’s what entrepreneurs do. That’s like a unique thing about entrepreneurs, about the entrepreneurial mind. The entrepreneurial brain will fill all available time with work, if it’s given the chance. And I think that—yeah, I think that this makes for this kind of burnt-out, hyper-manic, aspiring to be superhuman entrepreneur thing. And yeah. I think when Richard Branson is successful not despite partying, but perhaps because partying. Because he’s been partying. Maybe we need to look at that. And yeah, bring some of that balance into our quest to be superhuman.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah. Peter, I like what you said. I’m looking at the comments on that blog post, and one of the things you said to one of your readers is, you said that all or nothing usually results in nothing. And I think that’s a very good point. So, they either make the thing, you know, the other thing like the fun example part of the brand, or you know, just understand that there will be seasonal imbalance, and you do this, and then you do something else. Work on the next part of it. As long as you don’t totally neglect one thing as you’re doing something else, because then it will completely go away. Like fitness, you know. Because it’s really hard—if you get up to 300 pounds, it’s really hard to reverse that, and fix it.
PETER SHALLARD: Exactly. I had a conversation with one of my clients who’s wrestling with this, and we were actually joking about the old mockumentary Spinal Tap, I don’t know if you’ve seen it. But there’s this old joke about turning the amp up to 11. Like, most amps only go up to 10, but my one goes up to 11. It was this whole joke. And I said to him, you can’t live your life with like 4 or 5 switches, or 6, or whatever, in front of you. Spirituality, relationships, health, business, and turn them all up to 11. Because you’ll do that, and then you won’t be able to maintain it. And you might be able to be that disciplined for about two and a half days before you’ll totally collapse and be like I need to just sit on the couch and watch Netflix and order a pizza. Which is not really serving any of those life categories. In my experience—and I’ve worked with a lot of massively successful entrepreneurs; I’m seen their kind of climb, their meteoric rise to that level of success.
It starts with people with the dials down wherever they’re realistically at in your life, and then you turn one up, and you feel what that balance is like, and what life is like, kind of putting a bit more juice into the business. And then you maybe turn up the health juice a little bit, and then you kind of are like ooh, that was a bit much, I should ease back a little bit, and it’s just this tweaking game, and slowly but surely, you learn things, you become smarter, you wise up about the ways of the world, and how businesses are run, and you keep turning up the switches. And then maybe you become Richard Branson, and you have everything turned up to 11, including partying. But it’s that incremental approach to building success, rather than setting out to be superhuman from day one. And like I said, this is a symptom of typically like younger entrepreneurs, who actually haven’t yet built massive multi-billion dollar empires. So, the a problem is overzealous expectations, and then when the results inevitably come in a little bit under those overzealous expectations, these people get very depressed. And that’s the part that really bothers me. It’s so unnecessary that they’re killing it. They should be feeling great about it. Why not be happy and enjoy success, rather than being miserable because you’re never quite superhuman enough?
JASON HARTMAN: Very good things. Hey, I want to try and ask you about two more topics, with our limited time here. So, one is about emotional intelligence. A lot has been written about that. What is emotional intelligence? And how will it make or break business success, and how do you get more of it?
PETER SHALLARD: Emotional intelligence is a huge topic. Let’s talk about it—let’s define it in terms of how it’s relevant to entrepreneurs. So, I do a huge amount of work in this space, and I think that emotional intelligence is the ability of an entrepreneur to be able to take that sometimes confusing mess of input, like the things that we feel as we’re operating in the world, and really make sense of them and use those emotional feedback kind of inputs as tools to make decisions. So there’s kind of a saying that decisiveness is everything in business, and I definitely agree. Being an entrepreneur, certainly once you start building your organization, working with staff, being a leader, that type of thing—everything is about making rapid decisions. The quicker that you can make—the person who makes the fastest good decisions is the person who wins in business, period. Right? That is the name of the game. And so being able to make rapid decisions is not about being able to run through complex frameworks and lattices and matrices of logic. It’s about being able to make gut intuition work for you.
It’s about being able to make intuitive decisions. That’s how we make our quickest decisions in business. To go left or right at that key tactical crossroads. So, emotional intelligence is the thing, or lack of emotional intelligence, is the thing that prevents entrepreneurs making good gut decisions. So, when you don’t have emotional intelligence, you don’t know what you’re feeling, you don’t know how you react to certain scenarios, you don’t know that every negative emotion is an action signal, and you don’t know the meaning of them, then you don’t really know what you’re feeling, so you’re not getting that valuable feedback from your gut. There’s a lot—there’s a school of psychology that believes that at the unconscious level we’re plugged into something, i.e. the collective unconscious, much greater than ourselves. There’s a deep kind of well of wisdom that potentially we have access to. And if that sounds woo woo, it’s only because I don’t have time to kind of get into the real scientific background for some of these ideas and where some of the stuff is actually pretty serious. But you know, maybe that is—let’s say that is a concept that is true. Or, let’s play with it and pretend that it is. That’s what we’re tapping into when we make those rapid decisions, when we make those gut decisions. And yeah, emotional intelligence, cultivating and developing emotional intelligence, is what lets us do that. It’s what lets us overcome uncertainty, and kind of overwhelm and all of that self-sabotage, and just know what we want to do, and when to do it, and how to do it, and yeah, be able to take in that vast amount of data that our business is always serving up before our very eyes, make decisions, move forward, kick ass, etcetera, etcetera.
JASON HARTMAN: You know, there’s a great quote that I read, I don’t know, many, many years ago. And it goes something along the lines of, successful people make decisions quickly, as soon as all the facts are available, and change their minds very slowly if ever. While failures make decisions very slowly, and change them often.
PETER SHALLARD: Mmm.
JASON HARTMAN: So, being decisive is definitely a critical business skill, I would say. You know, we’ve all seen the people with the paralysis of analysis that just—they just never get out of the starting gate! I mean, it’s just—I see that with my real estate investor clients, and then like, you keep track of these people, and look back, you know, years later—gosh, if you just would have made a decision three years ago, or five years ago, look at how much better your life would be now. I see it over and over.
PETER SHALLARD: Exactly. And I think—I think that’s true for everybody. I don’t know anyone for whom that’s not true of, regardless of industry, even myself. I wish that there was—the only reason, the only regret that I’ve ever had about anything that I’ve done has been not doing it quicker, you know? Like even some of the biggest failures I’ve had in my career—I just wish I had done them faster, so I could have had those great learnings, reframed all of the pain into learning experiences, and moved on faster. Because acceleration is key. One of my best friends, one of my really good mentors, who’s actually on the board of one of my companies, once said, there’s a brilliant, eloquent quote—he just said, in business, the most certain guy in the room wins. The most certain guy in the room wins. And I think that certainty—like, certainty and decisiveness are two sides of the same coin, and that is ability, a kind of a character trait that we want to kind of cultivate as entrepreneurs.
JASON HARTMAN: But someone would say you could be certainly wrong! I mean, right? I don’t know. People can be reckless, right? You know, that’s the opposite side of this.
PETER SHALLARD: Right. But emotional intelligence is where—I think emotional intelligence is the missing piece of the puzzle, right? Because, I would say that people who live in a world where they’re just certain about everything, but they’re wrong about most things as well—so, that person must have a terrible life, by the way. They must get into all kinds of trouble. But I would say that person probably doesn’t have a huge amount of emotional intelligence. So, if we cultivate emotional intelligence, which really comes down to being able to really clearly identify particularly the negative emotions that come up in our lives, and what they are, and what the meaning behind them is. What it is that our unconscious mind is seeking to change about the situation, or about our behavior. If we can really start to pay attention to that stuff, and come through that process, and arrive at certainty on the other side, then the quality of our decision making, the quality of our certainty, will be that much better for it. So, that’s really the point of emotional intelligence. And yeah, you’re totally right. Without that, without emotional intelligence, certain is certainly the last thing that you want to be. Although that doesn’t stop a bunch of people.
JASON HARTMAN: Right. It doesn’t. The bull in the china shop, right? Yeah, yeah. That’s for sure. Well, hey. You know, I know we’re running long here. But I just gotta ask you about one more thing, because it’s such a fascinating topic.
PETER SHALLARD: I have time if you do.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah. So, you wrote a post about why having tons of potential can put you at a serious disadvantage. Now, most people would read that on its face and think, well, I mean, I assume you mean by potential, you mean having talents, or resources, or ideas. Aren’t those all good things?
PETER SHALLARD: Well, actually, I don’t mean having those things when I say having potential. Because if you had those things, you would just have those things. But having—I mean, maybe ideas could, having a lot of ideas is like having a lot of potential. The point with having a lot of potential is that I think that a lot of people get comfortable. They find a lot of comfort in the thought that they have a lot of potential. So, I’m always doing little experiments with my client population. I’m always kind of surveying them, and sort of learning stuff about entrepreneurial traits. Because everybody asks me—and you are kind of unique, because you haven’t asked me this classic question, which I hear every day.
JASON HARTMAN: What did I miss?
PETER SHALLARD: No, seriously, I’m so bored of answering it. But it is, what are the common traits amongst entrepreneurs? What does—and they’re all different! Because I work with people in all different industries. So everybody’s a unique, beautiful snowflake. But I always try to find out what makes entrepreneurs the same, and I’ve noticed, at least in my client population, there’s a huge number of people who were pretty solid achievers in some area when they were young children. They had a good academic or sporting background maybe, or in some other part of life, if it wasn’t to do with school. And they always were told that they have a lot of potential. So entrepreneurs—the vast majority of my clients would get report cards from school when they were kids that would say, did pretty well, has a lot of potential. So, the teachers were always basically saying, the kid got like a B+ or an A, but they really could be getting an A+. They have a lot of potential. And I think that that’s a really interesting statement. I think it’s kind of interesting that we have this whole dialogue with young people, with children, where we tell them they have a lot of potential. Because the thing about having a lot of potential is that you’re not actually using it.
And I see that in entrepreneurs a lot, who have a lot of potential, and who derive comfort from the knowledge that if they were to really give something their all, like a business that they’re working on, or an idea, or a product or something, then if they were to harvest every scrap of potential, then they would absolutely crush it. That’s what they tell themselves. Because their whole life they’ve been told, you have a lot of potential. You’re hugely talented. You just need to use all of that potential. And so it becomes a sort of a psychological crutch. But the truth is, having a lot of potential is kind of like wanting to pull a little bit of cash out of your bank without really checking your balance on the ATM. It’s like, don’t look at it. You don’t really want to know how much money is in there. You just want to draw from it a little bit of the time. Because if you were to harvest every scrap of your potential—if you were to empty the account, and invest it all into the one business, and that business didn’t succeed? How would you feel about that potential that you’ve been told you’ve had your entire life? It wasn’t enough. And that’s the problem right there, is that I think a huge number of entrepreneurs that were familiar—and it won’t be everybody, but if you’re listening to this, and you’re familiar with this kind of, you have a lot of potential narrative, if that’s been a part of your life, ask yourself, is having a lot of potential—is believing that I have a lot of potential something that’s allowing me to just be comfortable? Is it something that’s allowing me to really never commit to anything, because it’s much more comfortable to hold back a little bit, and then be able to blame it, if the business doesn’t work out, you can say oh, it didn’t work out because I didn’t give it my all, I still have potential? That’s the problem right there, with why having a lot of potential is a huge mistake.
JASON HARTMAN: I would also think that that concept of having a lot of potential, you know—if someone has been told that, or they’ve told themselves that in their self talk over the years, it can create, obviously, a cockiness, an arrogance, that could be detrimental. But it also creates this kind of “someday I’ll” concept.
PETER SHALLARD: Exactly.
JASON HARTMAN: Where it’s like, okay, look, I’m so gifted and talented, and you know, I got so much going for me. It’s really not that big a deal whether this thing works out or not. I’ll just go on to the next thing. You alluded to that when you talked about the ATM example, right?
PETER SHALLARD: Yeah, exactly. When you’re always leaving a little bit of potential in the bank, it means that you’re never really on the line to make the thing that you’re working on right now actually work, right? Because it’s just so comfortable to believe, well, I still have that potential tucked away for a rainy day. I’ll use that some day, you know. And I think that—frankly I think that it’s nonsense. I think that there’s people that have lived their entire lives and they’ve never actually tested the tank. They’ve never actually measured and looked and seen, how much potential do I really have? How far can it actually get me? And I think a better metaphor than this ATM concept, which I think is accurate for people, by the way, but I think a better metaphor is like, what if potential was like a muscle? You know, you use it. We know how to lift weights and build muscle. You train to failure, right? You lift as much as you can possible lift, and then you go back to the gym the next week, and you lift a little bit more. That’s how you get stronger. Maybe you could develop your potential, and thus your results as an entrepreneur, that way. But to do that, you actually have to get out of that comfort zone of always leaving a part of yourself on the bench, and overcome the fear of the vulnerability of giving something your all. And that was the point of that article. That’s the message that I’m trying to preach across there.
JASON HARTMAN: Very good point, very good point. Well Peter, this has been a fascinating discussion. You’ve got two websites that might be of interest to the listeners. Please give both of those out, if you would. Explain what they, maybe what the distinction is between the two.
PETER SHALLARD: Yeah, well, everything we’ve been talking about today is over at www.PeterShallard.com. That’s first and foremost my home on the Internet; the Shrink for Entrepreneurs, I have a blog there were I publish these kind of—where I tend to be deep and meaningful about some of these concepts. And yeah, we do some awesome stuff, talk about some awesome things, and people can find out all about how to work with me as a client on that website. I have another thing; we haven’t talked too much about it today, but I’m obsessed with defeating procrastination, and it’s been something that in the past I wrestled with a lot when I was building my business, and I’ve helped a huge number of clients successfully defeat it in our one on one work. And recently we started a—I built a startup dedicated to fighting the war, and defeating procrastination once and for all. So, it’s called Commit Action. It’s over at www.CommitAction.com, and yeah, we do some really cool stuff there. We work with the professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. We have a whole team of coaches who are kind of productivity ninjas who work with people to help them overcome procrastination and basically kick ass in life and business.
And yeah, we’re just, we’re doing interesting stuff. We’re currently running a free tutorial, a series of cool video tutorials, on what we’ve learned about the neuroscience of defeating procrastination, and how you can kind of implement that stuff in your life right now. So, all of that is available over at Commit Action. It’s something I suggest you should really go check out. Yeah, I think that for a lot of entrepreneurs, procrastination is really like the final obstacle. There’s a lot of stuff that we have to learn in life and business. We’ve been talking about this all today; you’re gonna have ups and downs, you’re gonna learn stuff. The one thing—the only real magic bullet that I believe in, that I believe is real, in business, is acceleration. Is moving through the learning curve of entrepreneurship faster. And the thing that stops us doing that is procrastination. So, when I created Commit Action, it was because I wanted to build a tool that has the highest impact kind of value to business owners. So, it’s all about just defeating procrastination, and literally each week having you do more stuff, move more balls forward in your life and business. So that you can hit that learning curve faster, learn from it, fill those capabilities, and grow, level up, become superhuman, all that great stuff. That’s what it’s about.
JASON HARTMAN: Fantastic. Well, that procrastination stuff, I’m gonna get around to that later [LAUGHTER]. Just kidding.
PETER SHALLARD: Exactly. So yeah, everybody listening in, just write down that link, www.CommitAction.com. And maybe in about a week, when you think you’re ready, start thinking about checking it out. Then put it off for another few days. I want—when you arrive, I want you to be serious. So, just sit on it for a while, right?
JASON HARTMAN: That’s right, that’s right. Just meditate on the whole thing for a while. You know, I tell you, with all the salespeople I’ve trained over the years, especially in the real estate industry, I’ve found that there’s this mentality of smart person that they come off as though they’re really gonna go somewhere and do something with their career, but they have this—it’s not exactly paralysis of analysis, which is sort of another affliction, but this one is—I call it the getting ready to get ready syndrome.
PETER SHALLARD: Right.
JASON HARTMAN: And they’re always preparing, and you know that some day, if they ever go out and make a presentation, which may never happen, it’s gonna be amazing. Because they’re just gonna have all their ducks in a row, they’re gonna have all the latest tools, and all the greatest looking stuff, and the best materials, and they’re gonna know exactly what to say. But they never do one!
PETER SHALLARD: Absolutely. I think it’s people like that who keep the productivity software industry in business, right? Downloading like all of the latest to do list apps.
JASON HARTMAN: Oh, yeah.
PETER SHALLARD: Endless systems where you can categorize all of your best intentions and file them away so that they never actually get accomplished. So, we try and do the antithesis of that. That’s kind of my focus, so. But yeah, it’s a huge issue, that whole getting ready to get ready, and then one day you’ll almost be ready. Planning, brainstorming, can be a part of that as well. I think at least when people are starting new businesses, there’s a fine line between creating their master plan, and actually just jumping in and doing it. And yeah, I just can’t talk enough about the learning curve of entrepreneurship. I think that the #1 reason people get obsessed with these systems, and planning and getting ready, is because they’re hoping to take actions that will insulate them from making mistakes and having to learn things the hard way. And then—so there’s that going on on the one hand. And on the other hand we look at every successful entrepreneur in the history of the planet, and they all unanimously tell us that they got spanked, they learned things the hard way, they got educated on the streets, they got beat up, they picked themselves up again, they kept on going. So, that’s the reality of business success from the people who have done it. But then on the other hand there’s the kind of, like, this urge that people just starting out have to avoid all of that. And I just encourage those folks, if you’re one of them listening to this, step back. Look at yourself planning and preparing to get started, and ask yourself, am I trying to avoid the learning experience? Because if you are, it’s inevitable. Just dive into it. It’s gonna happen anyway. So, you might as well, you know, embrace it.
JASON HARTMAN: You might as well do it, and if you’re gonna fail, fail forward, and fail quickly, and you know, just—it’s so cheap to fail nowadays.
PETER SHALLARD: Oh my goodness. The Internet has lowered the cost of failure to basically zero!
JASON HARTMAN: I know. And it’s just—it’s a great time to experiment with things! Because it’s cheap to do it! Whereas in the old days, you’d have to put a hundred grand into something to try it out, if not more than that, obviously. So that’s great. But Peter, this has been a wonderfully enlightening conversation. And you are the Shrink for Entrepreneurs, I can see that you do a lot of value. So, if anyone wants to find you, of course the websites you gave out, but you can just Google Shrink for Entrepreneurs, and you come right up as the first result, so.
PETER SHALLARD: Absolutely.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Well hey, keep up the good work, and thank you for joining us today, and sharing some great insights with our listeners!
PETER SHALLARD: Yeah, thanks for having me! And for everybody who’s listening in to this, I’m super stoked that you’re committing to an entrepreneurial journey. I think that—I like to kind of wrap up with this thought. I think that the world is kind of heading in a lot of interesting and slightly scary places, and I’m stoked. I think that entrepreneurs are coming up with answers to some of our most pressing, pressing questions. So when we talk about this whole overcoming the learning curve, just do it, embrace it, all that type of stuff, the reason that I, and certainly I’m probably speaking for Jason here too, are encouraging people to do this kind of stuff, is, we need you to do it. We need more entrepreneurs. So, yeah. Make it happen.
JASON HARTMAN: Excellent point.
PETER SHALLARD: Thanks for having me, Jason.
JASON HARTMAN: Alright. Thanks, Peter.
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Transcribed by David
The Jason Hartman Team