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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on April 19, 2021. It featured Fred Diamond’s favorite author, Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap and the newly released The Genius Zone.]
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GAY’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Take 10 seconds and give yourself 10 seconds of pure appreciation for everything you are and everything you are not. Just 10 seconds of pure appreciation of yourself. It’s an essential nutrient. We don’t need a whole lot of it, but if you don’t give yourself just a little bit of it, you’re not going to feel centered all the time. So take a couple of breaths and give yourself 10 seconds of solid, loving appreciation. Then go do that with a few other people you care about today, and watch the magic unfold.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a great show for you today. How often do you get to interview the author of your favorite book? For me, that’s today because I’m interviewing Dr. Gay Hendricks and we’re going to be talking about The Genius Zone. Of course, he is the author of The Big Leap and this is my very dog-eared notated copy of The Big Leap. I was telling Dr. Hendricks that I actually read it for the second time last night out loud to my significant other and it’s been very impactful.
Dr. Hendricks, first of all, congratulations for all your success. We have sales professionals around the globe who need to know how to take The Big Leap and how to get into The Genius Zone. It’s a pleasure and honor to have you, you look great. It’s great to be talking to you today. In The Big Leap you talked about the upper limit problem. Let’s get started with that and then let’s talk about eventually how we get into The Genius Zone.
Gay Hendricks: Upper limit problem is something I started discovering about 30 or 35 years ago and I started noticing it first in myself and also in people I was working with. At the time, I was working with a lot of really talented executives primarily in the high-tech area, because I was in Silicon Valley. I’d just gotten my PhD from Stanford and a lot of my practice had to do with people that were executives in those firms that are now household names. But at the time, a lot of then were just getting started.
I got to work with a lot of great folks, and one thing I kept noticing is that almost every time they would have something good happen at work, they would create what I started calling an upper limit problem. It was like we were allergic to things going well for very long. Something would start to go well, for example, one of my clients had a big breakthrough at work when he got funded this thing that he wanted to fund, a $350 million project.
That was a great high and he walked off the job that day in a state of euphoria and went home that night. Then he and his wife had this colossal argument that night. I kept seeing things like that happen and I started noticing on myself too. I was losing some weight at the time and I would do well on my diet for a couple of days, and then I would sabotage myself by going out and eating a bunch of stuff that wasn’t good for me. Then I’d put back on a couple of the pounds that I had laboriously lost.
I started thinking, human beings have this upper limit problem. It’s like a governor on a motor. Due to our early programming, we get up to a certain speed and then we put the brakes on ourselves and that keeps us from discovering what our true Genius Zone is. I started calling that the upper limit problem and I’m grateful that it caught on, because I think it’s something that everybody needs to know.
Katie and I, my wife and I have been together 41 years now and in that time, we’ve been around the world the equivalent of 33 times now teaching our seminars over the past 4, 5 decades. One of the things we’ve noticed is the upper limit problem is everywhere. It’s not just something that’s an American thing. In Australia, they actually have a name for it.
We didn’t discover this until we started doing seminars, but they call it the tall poppy syndrome. They say don’t be the tall poppy, don’t stick your head above the crowd because the farmer will cut the poppy off. That’s the mythology of don’t be too much, because if you’re too much, you stick out above the crowd and that’s not a good thing.
That’s in a sense what the limit problem is all about. But what I did that’s in The Big Leap and why a lot of people get a lot of value from The Big Leap is I look under the hood of the upper limit problem and say here’s why it happens. Here are the fears it’s based on, here’s how you can take care of those fears so you don’t create an upper limit problem. When you do that, you start having access to this beautiful new creative area I call your Genius Zone. I think everybody has one.
Grown-up life is a lot about asking yourself the question, what is my true genius and how can I best express it in the world? I’ll tell you, if you’re in sales, you’re in the perfect type of work to do what I’m talking about. I would say that a good half of the fan letters we get for The Big Leap are from people who are in sales in one way or the other that have lifted the upper limit off what they’re doing and then can function at a whole different level.
Fred Diamond: Can we pursue that a little bit? Again, it’s the Sales Game Changers podcast so we have people who are typically in sales, B2B, enterprise sales. You mentioned some time in Silicon Valley, you heard our sponsors before. I’ll get emails or calls from sales professionals who will say, “I had three great years in a row, and this year I just can’t quite figure it out. What’s going on?” Talk a little bit about the upper limit problem specifically for sales leaders and sales professionals.
Gay Hendricks: Great question, Fred. One thing we need to all know is the upper limit problem is all in your imagination. In other words, there is no limitation on you, it’s just the limitation you think you have. For example, if you look at me now, I look like a very successful guy that’s written a lot of books and made plenty of money and all that kind of thing.
But if you’d looked at me at age 24, I was a completely different person and I hadn’t made any of these discoveries. I was in a really toxic relationship that I’d been in for a couple of years and I didn’t like my job and I hadn’t really even invented the body I have now. I hadn’t started working out or anything like that.
The beauty of human beings, though, is no matter how stuck we are, we can always start a process of changing the game, like you say. The way you do it is by first just hatching one positive new thought. Then you’re on a different track if you can change one of your “I cannots” to an “I can.”
There was a point when I didn’t have a very healthy body. And then I made that change just saying, okay, today I’m going to go out and run for as long as I can. I only lasted a quarter of a mile before my head was between my legs and I was panting, but it was a start. Because the next day, I could go a little bit further.
You need to start with one little willingness moment where you say, “I’m willing to have my life be different.” Then the next thing you need to do is make a commitment to that. “I commit to this new goal I’m on.” That’s the beginning of every transformational process in yourself. From then on, it’s encountering those upper limits and then dealing with them one at a time.
And that’s what life is all about, is finding out our limitations and moving beyond them so that you can operate in that free clear zone that I call the Genius Zone. The way you know you’re in the Genius Zone, Fred, is that you’re doing what you love to do and you’re doing it in a way that inspires other people to do what they love to do. That’s when you’re full-on in your Genius Zone.
When I first started thinking about this, I was only spending 10% of my time in that zone. Over the past 30, 35 years, I’ve worked up to now where I spend all my time there, I don’t do anything else anymore for the last 15 or 20 years. But there was a time when I was in transition, and most of your listeners and viewers will be in that transition also of really opening up to what their real genius is.
Fred Diamond: Talk a little more about the Genius Zone and how you tap into that for sales professionals. Again, most of the people who are listening to today’s webcast or podcast sometime in the future, they’re typically B2B or enterprise sales professionals, again, for some of the big brands that we talked about before. They have to sell, they have a quota typically in order to be successful. They have to deliver each quarter for their companies to continue having the privilege of working for those companies.
How can they determine what their Genius Zone is if they like to present, or if they like to work with customers but it’s stopping them from closing business? How do you do what you really want to do and still achieve your goals in sales? At some level, it’s making a number.
Gay Hendricks: It is about making a number and I’m all for numbers, I’m a numbers guy myself. I did counseling psychology when I was at Stanford, but I also did a lot of statistical work at the same time finding out how to measure clinical results in clinical psychology settings. So I’m a big believer in numbers.
Here’s what I say. First of all, everybody is in the business of selling. We’re all in the business of sales, it’s just most of that selling is being done unconsciously selling something we don’t realize we’re selling [laughs]. So the person who has a defined sales job is operating at a higher level of the game.
Sales, for me, is a lot about authenticity. I have been a salesperson myself and let me give all of our salespeople out there a $20,000 gift out of this conversation. When corporations send their CEO here, they pluck down $20,000 to send their executive here for a day. Let me tell you the very first thing they get for their $20,000, and I will tell you that many of them come out after this and say, “I got my money’s worth” and it’s only ten past nine.
Because we ask them to go in a room by themselves, it’s a little room that doesn’t have anything in it but a chair. So there’s nothing else to stimulate you in there. You go in that room for 10 minutes and you simply engage one thing we call a wonder question. The first wonder question we do in that 10 minutes is we ask them to go in and do nothing but say the following question. “Hm, what do I most love to do?”
Actually, we ask them to say the question with the “hm” and then take two to three easy slow breaths and then say it again. And let me just invite, it sounds kind of silly and weird but go in a room by yourself and just for 10 minutes, focus on nothing but your genius. What is my genius? Just keep living in that question.
It doesn’t even matter if you get any answers during your 10 minutes. What you’ve done is you’ve seeded in yourself a wondering that you’ll have the rest of your life about what you’re truly supposed to be doing here.
Here’s the thing. If you’re in a job, like most of us are, there are some parts of it you don’t like, some parts of it you do like. What I ask you to do is go find the part of it that you’re an absolute genius at, the part of it that you most love to do. Then find out how to do more and more of that.
I don’t ask ever anybody to throw out their own job or quit what they’re doing and paddle off to Tahiti to live on an island the rest of their life or anything like that. It can be done where you’re sitting right now. In fact, if you don’t do it where you’re sitting right now, you’re cheating yourself out of one of the major aspects of life which is its ability to birth and rebirth our genius.
Fred Diamond: For those of you who are listening to today’s podcast, again, I’m a geek on The Big Leap, I’ve read it at least a dozen times, I’ve literally read it out loud. Two things I want to talk about based on what you just said. One of the most powerful things in the book is there was an example where you talk to two co-owners of a business, a #1 and a #2. They were opening up a factory in South America, you went to coach them and you sat in a room silently and you just kept asking, “What is the problem?” Then eventually, #1 disclosed what the problem was.
How important is silence in figuring out your zone of genius? Literally just being silent. The second follow up question is should we be asking other people? For example, when my significant other and I were reading the book the other day, I asked her. I said, “What do you think is my genius? Where am I in the Genius Zone?” and she gave me an answer that I didn’t expect to see. Those two answers. How critical is silence? Then secondly, how critical are other people to helping us understand and determine where our Genius Zone is?
Gay Hendricks: One of the great things about early clinical and counseling psychology training is that you learn something really profound when you work face to face with a lot of people. That is healing is not just about putting in information into somebody that’s not feeling well. It’s inviting them to listen to themselves.
What you’re calling silence I often think of as space, giving a person space to reveal themselves. One of the things I learned early on is how important silence and space are to helping people. Because if you ask a person, “What is your true genius?” that’s a difficult question. We don’t usually go around asking ourselves. Or, “What do you most love to do?”
Many people that come out of that room say nobody’s ever asked them that before and they never asked themselves that before. You’d think we’d get pretty good at doing more and more what we are here to do, but that’s not the case. The crucial importance of giving yourself some space.
In fact, another book that I’m sure you’d love, Fred, is have you ever read Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet? It comes out of that. I think you may have known Victor Frankl, the author of your other favorite book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
Anyway, Rainer Maria Rilke was a great poet of the last century. This young poet wrote him a letter saying, “Can you help me be a poet?” and these letters that Rilke wrote back are some of the most brilliant pieces of advice. But one of them is especially good for us, people in the sales business and in the transformation world, we’re helping people change their lives.
Here’s one thing that you really need to know, and that is it’s a lot about opening up and giving the person the means and the space to be more and more of who they are. It’s not about convincing them of anything. A lot of times, what I found in sales is you want to give the person enough space to convince themselves. Rilke’s advice to the young poet is get good at asking the big questions, don’t worry about the answers. If you get good at asking the big questions, your life itself becomes the answer to that question.
If you ask yourself, “Hm, what is my genius? What is my true thing that I love more than anything to do?” Your life begins to give you more and more opportunities to do that. That’s, to me, one of the greatest pieces of advice I could ever imagine giving anybody. It’s like another great writer, Franz Kafka, said, “You don’t really have to do anything. Just sit and the universe will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Here’s what’s really going on, and here’s a word to everybody in sales as well as any other industry. This is a time where a lot of us are being called on not to give more, but to receive more. We’re always being focused on giving and that’s a great thing, but everybody needs to balance the amount of giving they do with the amount of receiving they do.
If you give and don’t receive, you become a martyr. And of course, if you receive and don’t give, you become one of those people that everybody avoids being around. What we need to do in life is balance out the doing factor with the receiving factor and work on, “How much do I need to change in order to fully be embracing of my genius? What do I need to let go of in order to fully operate in my Genius Zone?”
You see, Fred, most of us get stuck in our excellence zone, we don’t get stuck doing stuff we’re not any good at, we get stuck doing things we’re pretty good at but it’s not quite our genius. The seductive power of excellence is that you get good at being excellent and then don’t have time to jump into your Genius Zone.
Fred Diamond: Dr. Hendricks, we have some questions coming in here. Is it possible to extend this interview for three hours? Do you have anything going on? [Laughs]
Gay Hendricks: [Laughs] It’s funny you should say that, because one night I got on for a 6:00 o’clock one-hour talk and we ended up till about 1:00 a.m. I promise not to do that today, though.
Fred Diamond: Someone just sent me a note saying, “Fred, stop geeking out here.” We have a question here that comes in from Genie, Genie says, “Dr. Hendricks is the expert on relationships. Can we talk about that for a little bit?” Let’s shift a little bit and this is probably still within the realm of The Genius Zone. You’ve written some of the most seminal work in the last number of decades on relationships. And of course, you’ve been on Oprah and other shows where you’ve gotten a lot of attention for that, you’ve been in tons of places.
Let’s talk about relationships. It’s interesting how you just said it’s not just about giving. We’re doing webinars every single day and we talk about how people have to be of service if you’re in sales, and you have to provide more value than ever before. But there also needs to be a receiving as well. Let’s talk for the next few minutes about relationships, and I know it’s a huge broad topic. But relationships in regard to right now with sales professionals and what they should be conscious of to be successful.
Gay Hendricks: Thank you for mentioning our relationship work. My wife, Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks, we call her Katie around the house, so you can call her Katie too. We wrote our first big book on relationships in 1988, that’s the one that landed us on Oprah a couple of years later, around 1990. And we were then on other times with other books.
I always say that we went overnight from working with 10 couples in our living room to working with 10 million people on Oprah [laughs] it really changed our lives. People all the time ask me, “What’s it like being on Oprah?” and I say, “You can duplicate it. Go down to the coffee shop and order 10 shots of espresso and drink them rapidly. And then for the next hour, you’ll feel what it’s like to be in that kind of environment.”
Conscious Loving is about several big things. One, it’s about how to become more transparent in your relationship so that both individuals or all the people around the table have access to things they’re angry about, things they’re sad about, things they’re scared about, things they’re happy about. But people are more transparent with their feelings. Because if you’re not, a lot of drama can happen if people cap off their feelings and don’t tell another person, “That really made me angry” or, “That hurt my feelings” or whatever the communication is.
If we’re not transparent to our feelings, the first lie is always to ourselves where we say, “That doesn’t matter” and we stuff something down inside. Like Freud said, secrets make you sick and nobody wants to be sick anymore. In order to do what we need to do in the realm of health, we need to be more transparent to ourselves.
The second thing that needs to happen in relationship is you need to find a way out of the blame and shame game. Because what happens in relationships is often one person will express a beef to the other person. In other words, they’ll make a run for the victim position, say, “You’re mistreating me.” The other person, they never say, “You’re right, I am mistreating you.” What they do is they make a run for the victim position and say, “Wait a minute, you’ve been the one that’s mistreating me.” Then it goes back victim, villain.
I’ve literally had couples in this very office where I’m sitting here that have been stuck in the blame and shame game for decades. Where they haven’t ever found a way to get out of it, where they just recycle that month in and month out. Interestingly enough, one of the big secrets I learned in my own relationship life is there’s really only one way out of the blame and criticism and shame game.
That is to learn how to take healthy responsibility for the stuff that comes up in relationship. When both people can take healthy responsibility, that means that you’ve got two people operating as 100% responsible beings. If two people are fighting over who’s responsible, that can be an endless drama.
The second thing after becoming more transparent in your relationships is to become more ownership-oriented. When things come up, you don’t waste your time in three weeks of blaming each other. Both of you say, “Why would this be coming up right now? It’s because we’re both scared about X, Y and Z.” The second big factor in relationships is how you handle blame and criticism. Can you find a good way out of that?
The third thing that’s missing in troubled relationships is the level of appreciation. Many people that leave relationships when they do surveys on, “Why did you leave this relationship?” One of the main things people say is I did not feel appreciated. He or she never expressed any appreciation toward me.
There’s a lot better information now on how to appreciate other people. You know there are popular books like Five Love Languages, it’s good stuff, it’s all about how to appreciate your mate better. If you look in our book, conscious loving, we have a whole list of ways you can appreciate each other more.
The famous relationship researcher, John Gottman at the University of Washington, their discovery out there many years ago that relationships thrive when there’s a five to one ratio of appreciation to any kind of negativity. Make sure if you say one negative thing to your significant other today, Fred, make sure you balance it out with five things you appreciate about your partner.
Fred Diamond: I try to communicate zero negative things. Luckily, I’m in a tremendous relationship right now. Dan also says, “Get out of the compare and despair game” he calls it. We have a question here, “Dr. Hendricks speaks about Einstein time. Could he talk about Einstein time and what that means?”
Gay Hendricks: That is a great question. I will talk on Einstein time until you tell me to shut up because here’s the payoff. The payoff, if you really get what Einstein time is all about, is you can get twice as much done in half as much time. That’s the promise of it and why it’s worth spending some time.
Go read the chapter if you haven’t read the chapter, but let me summarize the key points here. There’s a lot of detail in the chapter and some stories that are helpful in learning it. This is a little bit of a tricky thing, but take a moment and just think about time and think about how often in your life you’ve used time as an excuse. Somebody says, “Will you do X, Y, Z?” and you say, “No, I don’t have time to do that.” You’ve used time as a force external to yourself.
People say, “I’m in a hurry, I don’t have time to do that.” Or some people have another problem with time, is that they’re behind time, they’re always showing up late. You hear that saying, a day late and a dollar short. There are a lot of people that have chronic lateness issues, that’s another kind of unbalanced relationship with time.
Whether you’re being out in front of time or behind time, the key thing in Einstein time is to understand that you are where time comes from. It doesn’t come from your watch or it doesn’t come from outside, we’re where time comes from, we made up the whole thing. It is a fact that you can look at a river and see a river flowing and you say, “A boat is up here and it took some amount of something to get down here.”
Human beings have made up this enormous concept called time and we use it to brutalize ourselves with. When it originally started, it was about sun dials and looking at the position of the sun. Then in the industrial revolution back in the middle ages they came up with a clock, this Swiss gadget that you could actually make more precise.
Time becomes more and more of, in a sense, a negative factor in our lives. I always say, you’ll never have enough time to do all the things you don’t want to do anyway. Most of us get stuck using our time to do a whole bunch of things we don’t want to do anyway. I want you to go radical, claim ownership of time. “I’m where time comes from and I’m going to apportion my time doing the things I most love to do and then the things that I’m obligated to do by the roles I’ve taken on in my life.”
I’ve taken on a role of being a proud owner and companion of two cats. I’ve never been around a cat before I met my wife, but Katie is a total cat person. So marry Katie, you marry a cat [laughs] so I’ve taken on the role of being the guy that takes care of the kitty litter every few days. I’m not a genius at that, that’s not necessarily my Genius Zone but it’s something I took on as an obligation of the role I’m in here. I try to inject as much of my genius into it as I possibly can.
In life you’re going to be doing some things that are not necessarily calling on your genius, but get busy this very day saying I own time and I’m going to spend it doing the things I most love to do and what makes the biggest contribution to people’s lives around me.
Fred Diamond: We have a comment here from Daniella who says, “Time is our most precious asset in life.” Again, we’re doing webinars every single day, Dr. Hendricks. We started when the pandemic kicked in, prior to that we were doing over 50 live events per year for sales professionals around the globe. I want to ask you a question, we talk about recognizing your upper limit problem. Do you believe that people can change in an instant?
I’ll tell you why. It’s come up a number of times over the years. Every Thursday we’re doing a show called the Optimal Sales Mindset and prior to the pandemic, Dr. Hendricks, we would do one three-hour session on a Friday in October on mindset. Now, every single Thursday I’m bringing on a world-renowned expert such as you, famous athletes, famous comedians, motivation coaches, to talk about the half of the brain, the mindset side.
I’m just curious. In all the work you’ve done, you understand these things. Can you change in an instant? Can you make a declaration and change or is that really not possible? And that may be a loaded question.
Gay Hendricks: It’s a great question and it’s a question we all need to answer. The quick answer is yes, I have seen many miraculous things. Of course, I’ve worked with 20,000 people live so I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot more change than the average person would. But I’ve seen many, many things where change happens in an instant. Let me just give you an example.
I was playing golf yesterday with a good buddy of mine and he made a declaration 17 years ago that he has stood by. He stood up at an AA meeting and he said, “My name is Jim and I’m an alcoholic.” And he made a commitment to not having a drink that day. Now 17 years later, what’s 17×365? It’s a lot of days later, thousands of days later he’s still honoring that commitment. And God bless him, because that program other things like it have changed the lives of so many people.
Often times it is an instantaneous kind of thing. But what I tell you is that it’s not just making the commitment that makes the difference, it’s recommitting. It’s like the time I went on a big diet and I lost a lot of weight. I passed by an ice cream store and that was an upper limit for me. I went in and ordered an ice cream sundae, I’d lost 35 pounds and had been just pure on my diet, and I went in and ordered and ice cream sundae. The upper limit problem.
I felt great for 20 minutes, but after that I felt like I was going to die or something. In life, it’s recommitting. It’s getting back on the horse again after you’ve fallen off the horse, that makes the difference. Commitment gets you into the game, then recommitment every day keeps you on the path.
Fred Diamond: One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Nelson Mandela, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” The classic book, of course, The Big Leap, the new book, The Genius Zone, it’s coming out in June. Tell us a little bit before we wrap up here about how different is The Big Leap versus the new book, The Genius Zone.
Gay Hendricks: The Big Leap shows you what’s keeping you from your genius and how to jump into your genius zone. The new book, The Genius Zone, shows you how to live there all the time on a daily basis, moment by moment, how to keep honing in and making The Genius Zone your home. The Big Leap is about the leap and The Genius Zone is about living there full-time.
Genius is like the wind that’s always blowing and it’s our job to, like birds, make little adjustments that open them up and allow them to fly effortlessly in the same currents. If they weren’t making those good little decisions, they would get buffeted around in the same wind. Think of your genius like a breeze that’s always blowing, and The Genius Zone shows you how to operate your wing so you stay in the zone all the time.
Fred Diamond: The example you used about losing all the weight and then stopping to get ice cream is such a clear example. If we’re in that zone and we know it, you probably knew as you were walking into that ice cream place, “Gay, don’t do this, not necessary.” When you drive past a Dunkin’ Donuts you think, “Should I go in there?” and you still make a decision but you’ve got to keep recommitting. I love that concept of recommitting.
In sales, the top sales performers that we deal with, they do the right things every day. They make the 10 phone calls, 15 phone calls, they don’t get up before they do, they follow up. Dr. Hendricks, one of the key thing that we see all the time that people fall short in in the sales profession is follow-up. Maybe they do one email and they don’t schedule the follow-up call.
Ladies and gentlemen, again, I could talk to Dr. Gay Hendricks for the next three to four hours. I encourage you, if you’re listening, if you ever want to have a fun time, find your favorite author, reach out. If it’s J. K. Rowling, whoever it may be, just reach out. They’re probably at home right now anyway.
Dr. Hendricks, I want to thank you so much. I first became aware of you on the great David Morelli’s podcast, Everything is Energy, and participated in some of your programs. Obviously, I bought the book and loved it, recommended that, Man’s Search for Meaning to everybody I talk to. I just want to acknowledge you for the tens of thousands, if not millions of lives that you and your wife have affected positively, helped people reach their goals and stick with it.
You’ve given us so many great ideas, but give us one specific action step that listeners should do today to take their sales career to the next level.
Gay Hendricks: Take 10 seconds and give yourself 10 seconds of pure appreciation for everything you are and everything you are not. Just 10 seconds of pure appreciation of yourself. It’s an essential nutrient. We don’t need a whole lot of it, but if you don’t give yourself just a little bit of it, you’re not going to feel centered all the time. So take a couple of breaths and give yourself 10 seconds of solid, loving appreciation. Then go do that with a few other people you care about today, and watch the magic unfold.
Fred Diamond: Dr. Hendricks, thank you so much. Again, the book, The Big Leap, the new book, The Genius Zone. This is the Sales Game Changers podcast. Thank you so much, sir.
Gay Hendricks: Thank you.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo