What labels have followed you throughout your career?
From when we’re young to our adulthood, certain labels can follow us for years. A teacher or coach tells us we aren’t great at math or that we can’t play basketball, and suddenly that becomes a part of our identity. More accurately, it becomes a part of our limitations. But what if you could do away with these labels? What if you could create your own?
Skip Prichard 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 is The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.
I recently interviewed Prichard for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where we discussed the idea behind his newest book, the key mistake we can all make, and how to get out of our comfort zone. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: You decided to write this book in the form of a fable. What’s the story about?
Skip Prichard: Story became important to me in terms of doing something unique, but I wanted 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 to emotions and hearts and pull people in. They empathize with a character and maybe see themselves.
The story itself is an ancient manuscript: 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.” 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 core truths for being successful and living a happier, more rewarding life.
Kruse: What's one of the key messages from the book?
Prichard: Mistake number two is allowing someone else to define your value. Now when we think about money, for instance, a penny or a nickel in the United States. To manufacture a nickel in the U.S., it actually costs north of 10 cents, which is crazy. 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 in sports” or, “I don't think you’re a good speaker,” and that's sticking with us in our 30’s. 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, to distinguish those, get rid of the old labels, 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: What’s something we can reflect on today to get a little bit better?
Prichard: Explore 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.
It's very important, I think, for us to push the edge of that comfort zone.What are the things that you do out of habit that, if you just tweak them a little bit, would be different? Listening to different music, going to an art museum if you’ve 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.
Skip Prichard offers a valuable reminder to reject our need for external validation and past labels, which limit our true potential.