INTRO: Welcome to today’s show where I have the honor to interview Fred Kofman. Fred is the newly appointed advisor for leadership development at Google and was formerly the vice president of executive development at LinkedIn. I don’t have a corporate background. I’m a scrappy entrepreneur, so I definitely did my homework so we could have a really great conversation. What I quickly discovered is that you don’t need to come from a corporate background in order to dive in deep about a conversation around leadership.
In fact, when I asked him about his new position with Google, he said, "Well, I don’t work for Google. Google works for me." You’re going to learn a lot more of what he means by that on today’s show. We started off talking about his growing up years in Argentina. I’m actually a Latin-American studies major and know about Argentina’s history. I wanted to give you a bit of a background.
Fred grew up under a military dictatorship there. Everything seemed perfectly under control. He went to school every day, the economy was stable, and it wasn’t until the late 70’s–when he was older–when rumors began to circulate about kidnappings, and concentration camps, tortures, and murders. As it turns out, there were 30,000 missing people.
This idea that Fred had grown up in this peaceful–which he thought was a peaceful—time, which was in fact not, led him to a deep sense of shame. He had been so unconscious. How could he not know? How could he have been so blind? After years of wrestling with these questions, he accepted that he had done the best he could in the moment. In order to redeem himself, he committed to learn from that experience so it wouldn’t happen again.
The best way to deal with the reality that you possibly have not been conscious is not to judge it, but to touch it with compassion and awareness. His life passion now is to help people become transcendent leaders–leaders who are awake, leaders who are conscious, leaders who are able to put aside their self-interest and help others feel connected to their team and be on fire with a mission.
“The best way to deal with the reality that you possibly have not been conscious is not to judge it, but to touch it with compassion and awareness.” – Jessica Honegger
This episode is for anyone who wants to better understand their impact on the world, on your neighborhood, on your family, and grow into the leader that you are meant to be. Give it a listen.
Fred Kofman’s Waking Up Moment
Jessica: Hey there, Fred. Welcome to The Going Scared Podcast.
Fred: Thank you, Jessica. Pleasure to be here.
Jessica: I’ve been really excited to get to talk with you today, because Noonday Collection is a B-Corp and we’ve been involved in the conscious capitalism movement here in Austin. We have so many aligned values, and I know this is going to be a great conversation.
As I was reading your first book–I know you just launched your second book, which we’re going to get into that. As I was reading your first book, I was really struck by how growing up in Argentina and learning about the Desaparecidos really impacted you; and as a Latin-American studies major, it was so interesting for me to hear about the Argentinian perspective.
I’d love for you to start off with just describing for us the impact growing up in Argentina had on you, and how learning about your country’s history led you into this idea of consciousness.
Fred: Yes, the shock was not living through it, but then learning what I have really lived through, while believing that I had been in a different reality. It’s a little bit like waking up and realizing that you are in a dream, and you are walking through walls, or flying, or doing absolutely impossible things. In the dream, they all seem not true. They all seemed reasonable. You never thought twice that that was your current reality. I felt a little bit like that. It was this sense of, "What the hell happened here? Where was I when all this was happening?" Because I was living in the middle of it, but I was completely unconscious and so were most of the people around me.
“The shock was not living through it, but then learning what I have really lived through, while believing that I had been in a different reality.” -Fred Kofman
After You Wake Up, What Next?
Jessica: Can you explain about for those of us that might not have that Argentinian history–what was your waking up process?
Fred: I remember very clearly, I got a hold of a book–after the Falklands War, the military regime was quite discredited–this was in 1982. Their censorship wasn’t as tight as before. There was a book, it was called, "The Crazies of Plaza De Mayo," which referred to the women, the mothers that have lost their children or grandchildren and would go to that plaza. It’s a plaza between congress and the pink house. It’s our White House, the office of the president. They would go there every Thursday to march around the fountain or monument with handkerchiefs where they have embroidered the initials of their missing loved ones.
I worked not very far from there. I was about 18, 19, 20 years old when all that was happening. This is in 1978, 1979 and so on. I just knew that there were these women that were strange, that were marching, and it wasn’t safe to come close to them. I then just walked past giving them a wide berth. That’s all I knew. Then I read this book, and this book described what happened to them, but more than that, what happened to their disappeared loved ones. I couldn’t stop crying. I was crying all night. I read the book in one night. I started around 8:00 PM and I finished it at 6:00 AM. I couldn’t stop reading and crying all night.
I was thinking, "Where was I? Where was I when all this happened? How could I not know?" There was such a propaganda machine and in a sense the term "fake news" is quite appropriate for that, but it was fake reality. It wasn’t just the news, it was everything.
Jessica: Because how many people had "disappeared," which basically had been military operation murdering thousands?
Fred: Yeah, thousands. Many thousands. The numbers oscillate greatly, because nobody really knows. There are no records, but I’d say pretty surely more than 10,000. There are numbers up to 30,000. It’s hard to tell. But one is too many, so it doesn’t matter. Ethically, the fact that that happened, and I wasn’t aware and I was acting as though nothing was happening made me feel so ashamed, so guilty in a way, particularly being Jewish, and having the history of The Holocaust. I’m wondering, "How could the Germans not do anything when they saw the Jews being taken away?" Then I became the one who didn’t do anything when people were taken away. It was really hard.
Jessica: Now, you relay that journey to realizing something happened right in your backyard, and yet you weren’t aware, and then you became aware. Is that how you described what consciousness is?
Jessica: It’s just being simply being aware? I love this quote. You say that when we’re more conscious, “we can better perceive our surroundings and understand our situation, and remember what’s important to us. That when we are not conscious, we’re basically just being swept away by instincts, and habits that may not serve us.” Talk to us a little more about that.
“When we’re more conscious, ‘we can better perceive our surroundings and understand our situation, and remember what’s important to us. That when we are not conscious, we’re basically just being swept away by instincts, and habits that may not serve us.’” – Jessica Honegger quoting Fred Kofman
Checking In On Your Reality
Fred: Yeah, I think consciousness is about the external world and the internal world. Being unconscious of the external world, I mean, my story set perfect illustration. I just thought things were one way and they were completely different. I still remember with some shame going out in 1978 and celebrating that Argentina won the World Cup, and believing that the campaign of discredit to Argentina was fostered by people that were against Argentina, as opposed to human right activities that really knew what was happening.
Knowing what’s going on around you, it’s essential. If you’re an entrepreneur and you have a company, you might think everybody’s happy, because nobody’s complaining to you, and you may be dead wrong. Maybe, nobody’s complaining, because they’re afraid of you, or maybe nobody’s complaining, because they’re afraid for their jobs. You may think you live in a certain reality, and then it turns out you’re not really there. Then, even if you’re aware of the external reality, there’s also a question; how do you navigate it? I could be a great taxi driver and I know exactly the streets of the city, but in order to go somewhere, I need to define “where.” I need to have a destination. I need to know where I’m trying to get to. Then, I can plan the route, and consider options, and what streets, and so on.
“You may think you live in a certain reality, and then it turns out you’re not really there.” – Fred Kofman
You’re in Charge–Not Your Genes
Fred: In life, it’s very similar to that. You may have great information of what the world that surrounds you, but if you’re not clear about where you’re going, and what values you want to express in the path to where you’re going, you’re going to be swept by … It’s like a GPS that has a random point—a random objective that is programmed arbitrarily. Then, you just follow the instructions of the GPS. Your instincts are not really designed to make you happy in having a meaningful life. Our instincts are the product of Darwinian evolution and are purely biological attempts to carry genes from one generation to the other.
In a sense, your genes do not want to make you happy. Your genes want to use you as a transportation device to get to the new generation. That’s why, many times, what tastes good or what feels good is not so good. What is good, doesn’t taste good. Think about diet. We all know there’s good foods and foods that are not healthy, but the foods that are not healthy are so delicious in a way; they’re so tempting, because in a sense, they hack our brains. They are the foods that our genes for millions of years relied upon to get nourishment–like quick calories— sugar, sweets, fats. Now that we have plenty of food and we are not at risk of starving to death, we still want those things.
If you don’t consider what really matters to you both personally and professionally, you’re going to end up guided by genes, or the program, or of this GPS in a direction that is 180-degrees from where you want to go. You want to be healthy, you want to be happy. You want to have a meaningful life. You want to participate in a community. You want to be proud of yourself. That doesn’t feel so good when you have to do things aligned with that. Many times that requires sacrifices. It requires discipline. It requires swallowing bitter pills that are not exactly what our taste buds would prefer.
Jessica: Gosh, it’s so true. It’s like our brains are wired to just take the easy route.
Fred: They are. That’s how it is. Biologically, that is perfect, that’s science. I’m not using this as a metaphor. This is called evolutionary biology. It’s Neo-Darwinism, and it describes how genes develop into organisms that mutate to survive. They don’t mutate to be happy.
Jessica: Right. I think we hear consciousness and awareness, and we can think “unicorns and rainbows,” but actually it requires work and intention to rewire our brain in order to live a conscious and awake life.
“It requires work and intention to rewire our brain in order to live a conscious and awake life.” – Jessica Honegger
Fred: Exactly. The best terminology I’ve seen is in The Matrix. Our overlords are not the machines, our overlords are the genes. If you just live your life normally, you’ll end up in a life of “quiet desperation,” as Thoreau said. Most men live lives of quiet desperation, because they are never really in-charge of making choices that work for them; whatever our consciousness is. This has nothing to do with butterflies and rainbows, and unicorns. This has everything to do with a fierce discipline to own your life.
“This has everything to do with a fierce discipline to own your life.” – Fred Kofman
“Be Transformed By the Renewing of Your Mind”
Jessica: I love that you brought up this example of the entrepreneur earlier. I cringed a little bit, because I just got full 360 feedback last week from my team. So, I’m there right now–the person you described. We’re about seven years in to Noonday. We’ve made it past that 4% where so few companies are able to actually be successful, and profitable. We’ve made the Inc. list of fastest growing companies where we’re really soaring. I’m finding what once worked for me as an entrepreneur is no longer fitting. The entrepreneur who had an idea that’s scaled is now needing to grow into a transformed leader.
It was about 18 months ago, I read this scripture in the Bible in Romans and it says, "Do not be conformed by the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." I knew that that was a call to me to begin a journey of really being a transformed leader. I can say I’m 18 months in, and I feel like I haven’t even–I think–begun in that.
Jessica: Can you describe that journey from that unconscious hustling entrepreneur to the transformed leader?
Fred: Yes. That is so profound. Can you say that verse again? It’s really powerful.
Jessica: Yeah. It’s in Romans, it says, "No longer be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." It goes onto say “so that you can understand what pleases God and I think ultimately others.” I think in the original language it’s “metamorphosis.”
Jessica: So that’s this idea of metamorphosis. I’m ready to go there, and I think that that is a lot of what you talk about.
Fred: Yeah. I use the archetype of Joseph Campbell, "The Hero’s Journey.” Joseph Campbell was a mythologist who studied the sacred text, and the traditions, and stories of many, many peoples. He found that no matter what this surface of the stories was, there was a plot or a structure underneath that was the same. He spoke of the hero of a thousand faces, because it’s always the same hero, but it appears in a thousand different ways. His plot, which is also the plot of Star Wars, he was an advisor to George Lucas when the first three movies came out.
The plot is that the hero is living a good life–or just normal–enjoying him or herself. Then something seriously bad happens, or as Joseph Campbell calls it, “there’s a call to adventure.” The call to adventure is usually some breakdown that makes you unable to confront to the patterns of the world. I would say, I’m sure that maybe it was the 360, maybe it was passing the seven-year mark. Maybe it was realizing that what got you there was not going to get you forward. Something happened that called you to a higher level of attention saying, "This is not all I want."
It doesn’t have to be something tragic, but there has to be an ambition that you realize you’re not going to fulfill if you keep doing what you’ve done in the past. That is the beginning of every journey. In other words, there is no reason to move. If you are content, you are complacent, and you stay in your comfort zone. Only when there’s something very valuable that you are afraid you’re going to miss, you start the journey to go wherever you need to go. At that point, as Campbell would say, "You’re going to the underworld." Once you start in that process of metamorphosis, you are not in the same world. For example, in my case, reading that book, the Las Locas: The Crazies of Plaza De Mayo, that book was a call to adventure. It really opened a trap door that brought me into a horrible underworlds of concentration camps, and torture, and kidnappings, and killings–just a bottomless pit of desperation.
“When there’s something very valuable that you are afraid you’re going to miss, you start the journey to go wherever you need to go.” – Fred Kofman
It’s always the same attitude of the hero, which is trying to run away. It’s like, "Oh no, I don’t want to know this. I don’t want to read this. I don’t want to just deal with this. It’s just too dark. I want to go back and live in my pretty little world." In these hero stories, there’s a higher intelligence or a higher pattern that propels the hero forward to the underworld. You can think, I don’t know, The Lion King, just to take a Disney movie. Again, the father dies, the evil cousin takes over the throne, and Simba the prince believes he killed his father. So, he goes out into the bush and tries to forget about everything and just, "I don’t want to deal with this. Hakuna Matata. There is no problem.”
That’s part of the journeys—is escaping or trying to escape. Then getting a call. The Sufis would say, "The call of the beloved," which in The Lion King is the call of the lioness that comes to look for Simba the prince to come back and take his rightful place, because everyone is dying, the evil is taking over. In Star Wars, again, Luke is very happy doing his thing and then he gets pulled into being a Jedi and fighting Darth Vader and doing all this. It’s like, "Oh hell, I’d rather do anything else.”
The Courage to Transform
Fred: I would like to ask you; what was it that called you to the adventure of realizing you had to transform?
Jessica: Yeah. For me, we went through a really, really challenging time in 2015 where I wasn’t sure if our company was going to make it after all. We were able to rise through and get through it. Then, I think just realizing where I want us to go–that we are around a $20 million company right now–but really have every intention to be a household brand. I think, understanding what kind of leadership that’s going to require, has caused me to just seek out–I think realizing too that it just requires work. I think entrepreneurship has required one type of work, but growing as a leader requires a different kind of work.
Fred: Yes. Absolutely.
Jessica: I love that you brought up The Hero’s Journey. Actually, I’m publishing my first book in August and I actually write about The Hero’s Journey a little bit in my intro. I feel like I used to think courage–when I heard the word courage–I would think of firefighters, or Martin Luther King. Of course, those are extremely courageous people, but I think we’re all called to lives of courage.
Some Are Leaders, All Are Heroes
Jessica: When you think about The Hero’s Journey, do you think we all have this hero’s journey, and are we all meant to rise up as leaders in our own realm and spheres of life?
Fred: Absolutely. I wouldn’t say we’re all called to be leaders, but we’re all called to be heroes. I think it’s very, very pernicious how our culture has created this illusion that you need to be a superhero. Meaning, you need to have super powers or be a firefighter, or in the military, or doing something tremendous. Heroism is about small things. Heroism is about the moral courage to stand for the truth, to stand for justice, to stand for integrity, to care about others, to be vulnerable, and to be present. That is so frightening. Even people who will go into a building on fire, or into the fire in a military operation, they will not open their hearts and be vulnerable with others.
“Heroism is about the moral courage to stand for the truth, to stand for justice, to stand for integrity, to care about others, to be vulnerable, and to be present.” – Fred Kofman
Fred: It’s a totally different kind of heroism, the one we’re talking about. It’s a moral heroism. It’s the commitments to values and their expression in your everyday life. As Mother Teresa said, "Not everybody can do great things, but everybody can do small things with great love." The small things with great integrity, with great courage, with great justice, with great beauty. That’s open to absolutely every single human being. In fact, I don’t know how you could live and be proud of yourself unless you’re engaged in that journey.
“Not everybody can do great things, but everybody can do small things with great love." – Mother Teresa
Leading By Example
Jessica: You write about integrity and personal responsibility in business. Talk about how something that we may regard as inconsequential, or as little–like being five minutes late to meetings consistently–which I want to hang my head in shame when I think about that, or telling a little white lie to a client. How does that affect our leadership effectiveness?
Fred: Yeah. As a leader, you’re always giving an example. It’s like being a parent and your kids are watching all the time. Whatever you do, they will learn the way to succeed. Because, in your children’s eyes, you are the archetype of success. You’re an example of somebody that’s powerful, and strong. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re not very successful or what you think of yourself for your kids. You are everything. They will look at you and they will think, "Okay, if I want to grow up and be successful, this is the way to do it." Your employees would think the same.
They will look at you and say, "Oh, to succeed in this organization, I need to be like Jessica." They will watch whatever you do. If you for example say, "We need to be on time," and then you’re late, and you don’t apologize, they will learn a couple of things. First, they’ll learn that you don’t need to be on time, but the most dangerous thing is they will learn, we say we have to be on time then we don’t do what we say. Then we pretend that didn’t happen, and we go along as though we were on time.
That is the same kind of unconsciousness, the same kind of mirage that I was describing about Argentina. Of course, the Argentina one is tragic, and it’s massive. This one is small, but over time, it’s equally tragic, because it creates this fictionalized world that everybody knows it’s false, but everybody cynically upholds as the image of what’s true. That is so destructive for everything, for organization effectiveness, for relationships, for personal growth, for everything. You have to be very mindful of how you live day to day, and how you do things.
For example, I’m not saying it’s wrong to be late. Things happen, but it’s wrong to be “late blaming.” It only causes out of control like people show up and say, "Oh, sorry the other meeting ran over." Yeah, that may be true.
I am very compassionate with people, and I don’t blame people for doing this. It’s an unconscious thing, because it’s true that the other meetings run over, so that’s not an issue. It’s also true that you chose to stay and you chose to finish the other. That’s not necessary about decision, but using the meeting running over as the only-
Jessica: As the excuse.
Fred: … well, as the only cause of the delay is presenting it as an excuse, which takes away the personal choice, the personal responsibility. If you say, "I was late because of traffic," then every time there’s traffic you’re going to be late, as opposed to acknowledge, "I did not allow enough time," because even with traffic you can arrive on time, but you have to plan for it and you have to prepare, and you have to pay the price of taking more time on the road. Most people don’t want to take that, don’t want to do that, don’t want to pay that price, but then when they have to account for their breakdown, they will blame external causes like, "Oh well, it was the customers who didn’t like our product."
I was like, "Yeah, but you produced something the customers didn’t like," or, "Our supplies didn’t deliver on time." Well, you chose the wrong suppliers then or you did not have a clear conversation over their commitment. The truth is that it’s the combination of both, external causes and your internal capability, but you can change the external causes.
Jessica: Right, and there’s so much power I think in owning your personal responsibility, because you actually can change that, right?
Fred: Exactly. So even though 99% of things are out of your control, the only relevant part is the 1% that is under your control, because that’s where you can do something to change the undesirable results you’ve been getting.
Leadership: Sparking Commitment to Accomplish Mission
Jessica: Let’s step back a little bit. I love how you distinguish the definition between a hero and a leader saying, "We’re all called to a hero’s journey." In fact, if we’re not pursuing it, we’re living a life of being asleep. The definition of a leader, because in some ways, how you described how we influence our children, you could say that every parent is playing that role of a leader in their family. How do you define what a leader is?
Fred: Every parent could play their role of a leader. I’ll define leadership as eliciting internal commitment to accomplish a mission. If I’m leading, I’m inspiring people. I’m getting their own internal engagement; not threatening them or rewarding them with external things.
Let me give you the example of not being a leader with my children. I wanted them to read, and I couldn’t find a way to make them read, so I came up with a great incentive system. I gather them and say, "Guys, if you don’t read, I’m going to take away your devices." That scared the hell out of them. So, no phones, no computer, no videos. They will-
Jessica: That scares the hell out of me and I’m an adult.
Fred: Yeah. So, just imagine, it’s a good threat, a good stick and a carrot where you then-
Jessica: We’ve all done it.
Fred: I saw them read, because they did read when we confronted them with that. Of course they read, but they were reading with such a bad mood, that I realized, “I don’t really want them to read. I want them to want to read. That’s a completely different problem, because I can’t tell them, "Unless you want to read, I’ll take away your devices." They’ll lie to me and will say, "Yes, daddy. We want to read," and just continue as they were.
Being a leader as a parent requires fulfilling this definition, which is eliciting your family’s internal commitment. Being a leader as a CEO, or as the founder of a company, or as an entrepreneur, requires eliciting the internal commitment of the people that are joining you in the adventure.
It could be co-founders, it could be investors, it could be employees, it could be your first customers—whoever–could be a bank that’s loaning you money, whoever-
Jessica: We actually are a direct sales company–a social selling company–and so for us, it is–we have thousands of contract people who really could quit at any moment and they can just decide, "You know, I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be a Noonday Collection entrepreneur anymore. I’m just going to quit." We are constantly really engaging in their intrinsic motivational forces, because that actually is really what creates a long-term sustainable person to be with us for the long haul. I love that that’s how you define leadership.
Fred: That’s leadership. The other one is bossing people around with carrots and sticks, but as you said, that’s not going to create the long-term, sustainable relationship. People will only give you what you can extract, but they will never give you their best.
Harnessing Motivation: Start With a Purpose
Jessica: Strategies. What are some strategies then, for harnessing–as a leader–those intrinsic motivational forces in others?
Fred: What have you done? I’m curious, because you are doing it with thousands of people. You have more credit than I do. So, let me understand. I’ll build on what you say, but how do you do it? How do you transform your social sales associates into fellow travelers or people to buy in?
Jessica: Our mission is to build a flourishing world by creating dignified work, empowering women, cherishing children, and creating a world where we are all connected. Our mission, we are a socially conscious brand, and we literally are changing the world by working with vulnerable people and creating jobs. It’s really the mission that has absolutely, it’s such a higher … It’s greater than ourselves, the mission. It is really harnessing this idea that we are created with a voice when we’re created to make change. People have found that irresistible.
Then the actual economic reward to being one of our entrepreneurs really has played a secondary role. We’re finding that we absolutely need to have a strong economic path for those who are choosing to work with us, but it’s not the primary reason that people are staying with Noonday Collection.
Fred: Exactly. That’s exactly what I say in the book. You have to start with purpose. In another book I’ve phrased and I really like this, "I aim, therefore I am." I liked it quite a bit, that what gives us a direction is a sense of purpose, a mission. When people are inspired by that mission, then they feel your company works for them rather than they work for your company. It’s the company becomes a platform where they can pursue their own mission, which is aligned with yours and in ways that are ethical, in ways that make them proud.
“‘I aim, therefore I am’…When people are inspired by that mission, then they feel your company works for them rather than they work for your company.” – Fred Kofman
We all want that, and that’s how you inspire people. You create an invitation that will attract those that see your project as a platform for them to flourish by offering something beautiful to the work, to the customers, to other parties that are affected positively by what you do.
“Create an invitation that will attract those that see your project as a platform for them to flourish by offering something beautiful to the work, to the customers, to other parties that are affected positively by what you do.” – Fred Kofman
What Would People Say About You At Your Funeral?
Jessica: Fred, you talk a lot about helping people find their passion and their essential values. I feel like so many people seem to struggle to identify those things and then they end up doing work that they dread. I think that if you walk up to a lot of people on the street right now and said, "What’s your life mission?" I don’t know how many people would actually be able to answer you. Can you give us some steps, like if we’re going to sleep at night and we could begin some activities, some journaling activity, what are some of the ways we can just take those first steps to begin to discover our life mission?
Fred: They say, "Die before you die, so you can truly live." The cool consideration of your limited time on this earth—it’s a very good place to start thinking about what would make you proud. What would be significant? What would create a meaningful life for you?
I have a little exercise there that I ask people to think how they would they…Imagine you go to a living funeral. You have an incurable disease like the one in the book, Tuesdays with Morrie. Beautiful book. Then you organize, or your friends organize a funeral, but while you’re still alive. So, instead of missing all the beautiful things that people are going to say about you when you die, you get to hear them. I dream of having something like that. It would be such a wonderful farewell party.
Imagine you go there, and people say the most amazing things about you, the things that make you glow with pride, with satisfaction, with fulfillment. You’ve lived the most beautiful life you can possibly imagine. Then what would they say? Write it down. Literally, write down the speeches you would like to hear about you. That will give you a sense of your life mission or what could you do to actually achieve those statements by the end of your life.
I also like to give people an image of hell. This is the image of heaven, the image of hell or the other side of this exercise is imagine if you died now. What are all the things that you will regret, that you haven’t finished, that you would be sorry about missing? If you have a district attorney or the devil’s advocate challenging you on all the things that you didn’t do, the dreams you didn’t pursue, the adventures you never experienced, the trips you never took, the laughs you didn’t express, the regrets or resentments that you never forgave, or didn’t ask for apologies, and so on and so forth.
Then write that. So, that’s your image of the dark side. What happens if you don’t do anything, like if you were to die right this very minute or if you were to die in 50 years, but you did not transform and you didn’t go through the metamorphosis that you mentioned before. When you put those two things together, that’s a good place to start.
The Work of Defining Your Mission and Values
Jessica: It is. That’s a really, really good place to start. Let’s land here. This idea of metamorphosis with the transcendent leader, because perhaps you would say the transcendent leader is one who has gone through metamorphosis, but of course I would say that you are constantly going through metamorphosis, right? There’s no arrival point.
You say that they’re rare. You say it’s rare to reach this place of being a transcendent leader. What does it mean to be that sort of leader, and how can we go beyond just the financial appeal and appeal by walking alongside them and stoking other people’s belief that they’re making a difference in the world?
Fred: To use the traditional image, you have to be on fire to light them up. It has to start with you. That’s the problem, so to speak, of leadership is; you cannot buy it. You cannot pay for it. You cannot do it with external means. You have to inspire people with who you are. You are your instrument. It’s like you’re going to make music with yourself, and you have to tune yourself up to do it. That requires very hard work. It requires you getting in touch with yourself, finding your life mission, committing to your values, courage to stand for it and give the example, courage to hold people accountable if they are going to be your friends, or they’re going to be in your company or your community.
Because whatever someone does with your sanction, meaning; with your endorsement as a friend, as an employee, as a partner, you do. If you allow whatever is taking place, it’s on you. You’re a hundred percent responsible and accountable for not challenging that person to be aligned with the way you’ve chosen to live.
This is so incredibly difficult to define your mission and your values to exemplify the commitment to your mission and your values in everything you do, and then to create a community around you of people who are equally committed, and that will hold you and will allow you to hold them accountable to stay in sync.
I think that’s the hardest work in the world. It’s a life work. It’s not just professional. It’s in every aspect and every area of your life. That’s why it’s so hard, but on the other side, that’s why I create such a tremendous competitive advantage. Because people are desperate to be in the presence or to be in the energy field of a person like that, because that energy field is like the sun. It makes flowers bloom just with the light, with the warmth, with the energy that emanates from that kind of commitment.
If you can become inspired and on fire by this, then, you start shining like a sun, people will approach you. Then they’ll feel, they’ll give you their best, but they also feel that you are giving them the best, because you are serving them in a way that’s very unique. You’re giving them the chance to participate in a project that will help them transcend their limited existence, to go beyond their egos, and help the world in a way that they could never do alone. That’s how I feel about my time at LinkedIn, and how I feel about my current opportunity with Google.
These companies have been a blessing. They are a blessing to the world, but they’re a blessing to me by enabling me to give my gift to the world in a way that I couldn’t do it alone. I couldn’t do it in other places. That’s what attracted me to them and what makes me infinitely grateful and committed to give my absolute best to them.
Jessica: I love that. I often tell our social entrepreneurs, our ambassadors, the product is not the greatest gift that you’re bringing to your customer, it’s you. You are your greatest gift. I think for some reason, women especially, we don’t own our voice. We let it stay quiet. We diminish what we have to bring to the table. That’s where I’ve seen transformation happen is when I see women own that they matter, that their voice matters. They start showing up for their lives, and that is when transformation happens in their community, and in their businesses, when they realize it’s not about what I have to sell, it’s me. I, my greatest gift. It’s so powerful.
Fred: Yes. It’s the same with employees. You are the gift. You are giving them the inspiration and the content of your soul.
Going Scared at Google
Jessica: So good. Okay, so let’s go ahead and wrap up. I like to ask my guests how they are going scared. The Going Scared Podcast is all about helping our listeners move through their fear towards a life of impact and meaning. What’s a way right now that you are moving towards a fear that you might have, moving through it?
Fred: It’s coming to Google, it’s a frightening thing. I have a very blessed position at LinkedIn. I’m loved by everybody, and connective in wonderful ways, but I felt my mission there had really taken place. I’ve accomplished it and so did they. It was more the affection and the warmth of the community, and the way I was helping them. I don’t know, it was not a help that in my opinion would merit the full-time position that I have. I open myself up and an invitation came from Google. It was after I discussed with Jeff and the people at LinkedIn that I wanted to be open in the marketplace to help other people as well.
I accepted to try this mission, which is at a totally different scale. Google is one of the most influential companies in the world. It’s a bit daunting and frightening. I’m trying to find my way. I’m learning about extraordinary things that they’ve done. Is there something I could contribute? That’s where I’m going scared, but I’m going, and I’m very excited about it.
Jessica: I think courage–I know courage–is contagious, and so I think as we see someone like you, who really has arrived in so many ways to make that switch, to probably suddenly feel like a little bit of a small fish in a bigger sea. I’m just making that assumption that it would take or require a lot of courage. I’m sure you’re already experiencing some of the reward of that risk.
Fred: Yeah, I’m excited. I don’t know if I would say I’m experiencing the rewards physically or materially. It’s very early, and I feel very welcome, and I love this place. I’m experiencing the rewards of living on my path and doing my own hero’s journey. That is what really matters, regardless of how this turns out at the end. I’m giving it my best and so are the people that I work with. Yet, it’s like everything in the world, it depends on a lot of things that are outside of our control and what is totally within our control is to do it with great love.
Jessica: Yes. I think the courage to go and find your life mission and then to live according to that by actually stopping something that looks really good. We, especially as entrepreneurs, we talk a lot about starting. We don’t often talk about stopping; and you stop something that was really good, because your mission was complete, and now you’re getting to live out of your values and alignment with your mission in a new place. That really is courage.
Fred: Thank you. That’s really high praise and I take it to heart.
Jessica: Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. So if we want to find you and learn more about how we can be part of The Meaning Revolution, where can we find you?
Fred: The book is available in all the book sellers, but online of course at Amazon. If you would like to find me, the easiest thing is to look at my material at LinkedIn. If you look under my name, you’ll find it, but also there is a microsite that I created with all the content that I put on LinkedIn, which is organized there. It’s called, conscious.linkedin.com.
Jessica: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much for serving other people through just sharing your resources. We look forward to learning more about The Meaning Revolution. So, thanks a lot, Fred.
Fred: Thank you, Jessica. It was a pleasure to speak with you.
Jessica: Thank you.
In Leadership, Our Passion Inspires Others
Jessica: I love this idea to start with an end in mind. Once you understand where you want to go, remember that it’s not about what you’re selling, but it’s about who you are. So many times, our ambassador community ask me for tips on how to be a better public speaker or a better salesperson, or better at social media. I always remind them that the best thing that they have to offer their customers and hostesses isn’t a perfectly polished business. It’s themselves. Their authentic messy selves. Because when we’re passionate about something, it will naturally inspire others. All we need to become leaders is a commitment to our mission and a desire to bring others along on the journey. People are influenced by your vision and your passion.
In this episode, I shared a little bit about what my life looks like as an entrepreneur and as a CEO. I took full advantage of having Fred’s attention to get coached myself. If you want a little bit more of that, please join my email tribe. A couple times a month, I share what’s going on in my life–everything from photo shoots to kids’ birthday parties, to travel, to my favorite trends. Go to jessicahonegger.com and scroll down to subscribe to my email.
Thanks so much for joining me on today’s episode of Going Scared.