The One Mistake We All Make That Hinders Success

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[The following is the full raw transcript for a LEADx Podcast interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Kevin Kruse: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the LEADx Show. I'm Kevin Kruse, and this podcast is just one of the ways we are sparking intentional leadership in a hundred million people over the next 10 years. If you want to stand out and to get ahead in your career, visit for the free course of the day, and check out the dozens of training programs I've curated for you in the LEADxAcademy.

Today we talk to one of the most brilliant, and also humble, leadership gurus I know. I love this guy. Unlike many who make their living just giving advice, today's guest is the CEO of a thriving company that does hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue. Despite his full-time CEO job of a mega company, he still reads a book a day, and then he shares his book excerpts, summaries, and interviews with the authors as sort of a form of giving back. He does all of this through his personal blog. Today we talk about his unusual house guests that he had when he was a kid, mistakes that hold us back from success, and your challenge of the day is to get outside your comfort zone. He's going to give you suggestions on how to do just that. But first, our quote of the day: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” -Mother Teresa.

Our guest today is an accomplished CEO, author, keynote speaker. He's known for his track record of successfully repositioning companies and dramatically improving results while improving the corporate culture. His views have been featured in the BBC, New York Times, CNN, NPR, Harvard Business Review, and many other publications. His new book, I'm very excited for this one. It's The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future. Our guest is Skip Prichard. Skip, welcome to the show.

Skip Prichard: I am so glad to be here with you, Kevin. Thank you for inviting me.

Kruse: Oh, my pleasure. I'm looking forward to diving into your new book in just a minute, but I have a tradition where all of our guests get the same first question. It's kind of interesting because your new book is actually about mistakes in a way here, and I ask about mistakes, more specifically great failures because I think there's no win or lose. It's ‘win or learn.' I'm hoping you'll start off and tell us one of your best failures, and what did you learn from it?

Prichard: Sure. It's a great question. In fact, you're right. The premise of my book is that we learn more from peoples' mistakes than we do from their successes. At least I do. I identify with that. You know, as a CEO having run multiple global organizations, I could give you a list of many, many, many mistakes that I've made: wrong hires, or should you buy this company or do that? But the one thing I would step back and think about, there was a quote from someone who I just love, Jim Rohn, the late Jim Rohn. He always said, “To work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” What I have found is whenever in my career… It sounds counterintuitive as a CEO. I often tell employees, “Work harder on yourself than your job.” They look at me like, “Wait. You're the boss.” But it seems counterintuitive, but I found a key mistake is whenever I'm working really hard on my job, I might have a really good quarter, but I haven't changed my trajectory of my career, or of my life, or of my earnings potential, or of my impact.

If I work hard on me… At the same time, of course, I'm working hard on my job, but if I work harder on me than my job, and don't make the mistake of reversing that, then I get better, then I change my skills, and then I'm able to make more of an impact and more of a difference. It literally changes the trajectory of your career if you're working harder on yourself. My mistake is whenever I got off track and worked harder on my job, I might do really well for a while, but then I'm stuck in a rut, I'm stuck in that job, I'm stuck where I am because I haven't gained the skills to get the next job, to do the next thing, or to do something more impactful even in the job that I'm in.

Kruse: It's really wise, and in this “crazy busy” world that we live in, it's so easy to only work on the job because there's so much to do, always more to do at the end of the day, and we're feeling that pressure, so it's natural to like, “What's next on the to-do list?” rather than pausing and sort of investing in yourself, becoming a little bit better ourselves.

Prichard: So true. I mean, just look at your email box, text messages.

Kruse: Right.

Prichard: Look at all the incoming social media. You can just get sucked into reaction mode, and then you're not able to be proactive and make a difference.

Kruse: That's right. That's right. Skip, your new book is called The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future. What led to you writing this book in the first place?

Prichard: Kevin, I've always been a student of success, really since I was a kid. People would come into our house. My parents had this idea that we would help people, and we would have people that came into our house that were abused, addicted, abandoned, troubled. They were all troubled, so addicted to drugs, homeless. We had the whole range. I would watch one person leave and succeed and kind of get a job and get their life back together, and then I'd watched someone else fail and circle back in and not be able to do as well. That started me studying success, and then I've been a passionate student reader, interviewer. Like you, I've interviewed over a thousand of the world's most successful people, and all of that information kind of in my head, I was looking and I thought, “You know, really there are nine core mistakes that people make that often hinders their greatest successes.” I wanted to write about that. I wanted to share that information and help people look at that and not make those same mistakes, and instead, grab for something new and higher.

Kruse: That's incredible. I mean, your own wisdom. In your book you talk about growing up in a household like that. That must have been really something, as a kid, to encounter so many different people. In a way, it's a gift, because a lot of people growing up in privilege really don't ever see that side of the world or that other side of society.

Prichard: It's true. I found that you can learn more sometimes from somebody who's homeless than somebody who's wildly successful, by knowing what not to do. I mean, they'll tell you. Like, “How did you get here?” You listen, take notes. It's like, “Wow.” It was a very strange way to grow up. I mean, it's strange. I mean, you don't think of it when you're a kid because you think it's normal, but it was really different. You see all different people from different races and different walks of life and ages. We had multiple personalities. I mean, it was incredible, but you do learn. You learn from each person, and all of a sudden you realize, “Wait a minute. We have all these blessings. We have all this opportunity, but there are certain formulas that work and certain things that don't.”

Kruse: Right, right. You decided to write this book in the form of a fable. I've got to interject that I like fable as a form of teaching, and I like business fables, but I find most business fables are poorly written. I won't name names. Some of the most popular business fables, I sort of cringe at. They might be great fables, but not well-written. Although, yours could stand alone as a great story, like sentence to sentence, the style and everything. It's very, very good. But anyway, so tell us what is the story about?

Prichard: Well, thank you for that. It's funny. I'm with you totally, in fact. I get all these fables mailed to me, and business stories, and I often don't want to read them and don't interview them because they're so difficult. But at the same time, I was trying to write something that you would really be engaged in and want to read, even if you had no interesting in leadership and success, but you just want to read the story. I'm pleased to say that the feedback so far has been really positive on that front. But I wanted to write a story because Stanford marketing professor, Jennifer Aaker, she says, “Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts,” and the founding director of the Center of Neuroeconomics Studies—I think that's the title—Paul Zak, I interviewed him, and he talked about how stories increase the oxytocin production in the brain, literally making you more empathetic and remembering things.

Story really became important to me in terms of doing something unique, but I did want to do it well. I think it's Nelson Mandela's quote where he said, “Don't address their brains. Address their hearts.” Story is a way that you can do that. You can get at peoples' emotions and hearts and pull them in. They empathize with a character and maybe identify, maybe not, and see themselves in a way that … Have you ever seen those cookbooks where you're sneaking the kids the vegetables and they don't realize it?

Kruse: Right, right.

Prichard: That's what I'm doing, right? Like you're in the story, and it's like, “Wow, that's a really compelling story,” and then you don't realize like, “Wait, I walked away with something that I can take and make a difference in my career.” The story itself is an ancient manuscript, powerful secrets, a young man named David whose life is not the greatest. He's struggling. He gets a job. He finds himself locked in a cube. He's like, “This is not what I wanted, and I have all these bills piling up. I don't know if I did a budget right. Actually, I never really even did a budget.” Then all of a sudden he meets this mysterious young woman, literally smacks into her in the park, and he goes on this journey where he meets nine people who have discovered these nine core truths for being successful and living a happier, rewarding life. The goal is to just walk away with many more ideas to be impactful and change the trajectory of your life.

Kruse: You know, in some ways it's hard to do the interview because I don't want to give away too much of the story of the fable, but give us a taste in terms of what's one or two of the key messages from the book?

Prichard: Sure. I'll use mistake number two. I'll just tell you: mistake number two is allowing someone else to define your value. Now Kevin, we think about money, for instance, a penny or a nickel in the United States. In the United States, to manufacture a nickel, it actually costs north of 10 cents, which is crazy, right? You think, “Well, how much is a nickel worth? Five cents.” Why is it worth five cents? Because the label that we slap on it is a nickel. We make that mistake too often. We let other people smack these labels on us, and they stick, right? Maybe when we're a kid, “You're not good at sports…”

Kruse: Right.

Prichard: … or, “I don't think you’re a good speaker,” and that's sticking with us in our 30s. Or maybe your first boss said, “You know, you're really not good at marketing,” so you steer away from it, or, “You're not good at sales,” or, “You're not technical.” Whatever that is, we let these labels stick. It's very important to reflect on those, to think about the labels that you want people to know you for, and to distinguish those, and get rid of those old labels, and don't accept them, and really accept your value. Part of that story is about that journey for how that is taught. There's nine of these. Those are examples for us to be aware of and not to get caught in that big mistake, which we can so often make, which is letting someone else define our value.

Kruse: Absolutely. That's great. On the LEADx Show, I often challenge our listeners. I say, “Listen, it's not all about becoming a whole new you instantly. Let's just try to get a little bit better every single day. Let's march day by day in the right direction.” Is there anything from your book or from your experience that you can sort of challenge us with, like something we can do today, something we can reflect on today to get a little bit better?

Prichard: One of the main things that I've heard you talk about too before, Kevin, is exploring outside of your comfort zone. So often, it's so easy for us to get stuck in a rut. I have found some of the silliest things that seem mundane: driving a different way to work, reading different magazines than I would, tuning into the opposite side of the political spectrum than I would be accustomed to. All of these things push us slightly out of our comfort zone, but they're going to give you ideas to understand the other side, to understand and empathize with different people, and it's the connections that we want to make with other people that really fuel our own success. We do that by exposing ourselves to such a wide variety of ideas.

I had that benefit growing up, but it's very important, I think, for us to push the edge of that comfort zone. If you're in your comfort zone, you're comfortable, so that's a key question. What are the things that you do out of habit that really if you just tweak them a little bit, would be different? Listening to different music, being exposed, going to an art museum if you have never done that. All of those types of things, and doing those things consistently, will push you outside of your comfort zone and make you more successful at work, which doesn't always compute with people. But read a different book, pick up something you wouldn't normally read, and expose yourself to a different part of the world.

Kruse: I love that advice. I'm 50 years old now, and it seems like as every decade goes by, I feel that this is more and more important. I don't know if it's really … It just feels that the world, or perhaps just our country right now, is very divided, very polarized, and not just politically, but just socioeconomically. Like you don't get a lot of variety in most settings. I love this advice. Even, as you say, the easy things of just … I often will start my day, and I go to one news organization on the internet, and then I'll go to its opposite and sort of see which stories each side is covering, or how they're covering it if they're the rare days when they're covering the same stories.

When I go into a doctor's office, for example, and I have to wait for my turn, there's that table of magazines sitting there. I always intentionally grab the magazine that I would be least likely to want to grab. It's … I don't know what … Women's Weekly Knitting, or something. I don't knit. I'm not a woman. Never read that magazine before, but that'll be the one I grab if it's most unusual to me. I think it's an interesting way to live, and Skip, also I generate some of my better ideas by going completely into a different direction, then say, “Huh, how could I apply that back in my job, back in my career?”

Prichard: Well, I think we've now determined why there are so many pictures of you circulating on social media reading Women's Knitting books. That's your explanation.

Kruse: Hey, I'll take the exposure no matter where it is, Skip. You know me.

Prichard: That's great. It is true. It's a great thing. I'm with you too though. You end up with ideas that go into your mind that you're like, “Well, where did this come from?” because you're reading something that is just totally out there, or listening to a totally different point of view. That's so much better, and it makes you happier than just getting angry at the news and yelling back at the station. That won't do any good.

Kruse: Yeah, absolutely. So Skip, how can our listeners find out more about you and your new book, which is again, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future?

Prichard: Several ways. @skipprichard on Twitter, or any of the other social media sites of your choosing. I am delighted. If anybody visits the site, there's a number of resources that teams and others can use in conjunction with the book to help them become better, and their teams also.

Kruse: Great. We will put all of those links in the show notes and wherever the article goes out. Skip, thanks for coming on to the LEADx Show.

Prichard: Thanks, Kevin. Keep inspiring us. I love your show.

Kruse: Thanks a lot.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at