Laura Gassner Otting, or LGO for short, or the ‘Wonderwoman’ for those whose life has been touched by her, is our today’s guest. She really is a true Wonderwoman as she is now helping other people break through their barriers and become limitless, just as how she’s blazed her path. She is someone that I know you, our dear tribe, would resonate with. Laura’s vision is to help other people realize that they are bigger than the life they deserve, that they can achieve the life that they demand. She helps other people saw the greatness that’s in them and to become the best versions of themselves.
However, like most thought-leaders and entrepreneurs, Laura spent years discovering what job is good for her, and not just a good job. Laura described her young self as a super nerdy, civics geek. She went to the law school, as she thought she wanted to get into politics but she realized she’s more of a stage left person who finds delight in lifting others up. She ended up dropping out of law school and helped a politician secure his office and then worked in an executive search firm. After a few years of working, she saw a different way that she knew would be a better way to run the firm. She left and started her own firm which she leads for about 15 years. She sold her shares and pursue a path she feels would allow her to make an even greater impact on other people and to the world. Today, we will be blessed with huge chunks of wisdom Laura has freely and happily shared with us.
We will be learning about determining what success really means to us and we will understand that wherever and whatever we’ve been through and are going through, there is greatness inside each and every one of us and that we are able to determine and achieve what kind of life we desire. We will understand that money and comfort should not stop us from achieving greater things. We will understand that we are limitless. Be ready to blaze your own greater path today!
Here’s What You Missed
- Laura’s early career years that made her realize what kind of life she wants to pursue
- How to determine what success means to you
- Who to listen to
- The truth about work-life balance
- What is a side quest and when you should go into it
- What kind of a leader are you?
- Where to find the motivation?
- Dreams come from confidence
How To Carve Your Own Path?
8:18] The success on paper wasn’t happiness to me. I filled in all, checkboxes all along the path that everybody else told me I should fill in. So why aren’t I happy? We are told what makes a job good, but we’re never asked, what’s going to make a job good for you.
[12:25] Ask these questions: What does success mean to me? Is it, making tons of money? Is it having a huge impact on the world? Is it being able to have dinner with my family every night at 6:00 PM? Is it, travel?
[13:33] Nobody gets a vote in this life, except you. The problem is we’re giving votes to people in our lives who shouldn’t even have voices. So the first question to ask yourself is whose vote actually counts?
[16:01]I think that we all need ‘control’ differently. So control, I think is one part of the four elements, of continence. There’s a connection, calling, contribution and control.
[19:56] There’s no work-life balance. I would rather see you build work that actually allows you to manifest who you are all day, every day because then you can be the full version of yourself.
[23:56] Go on a side quest. If you feel like you can’t necessarily do things now, go on a side quest, because dreams come from confidence. People say like, “if you can dream it, you can do it”. But I actually believe if you can start to do it, you can dream about it. As you get the confidence, as you start to display competence, you can develop the confidence, then dream an even bigger dream.
[25:59] Failure is not the finale. It’s actually fulcrum. It’s the place where we learn and we innovate and regrow.
[30:11] My role as a leader is to pull out the best in the people that I’m serving. However, entrepreneurs should be very clear with what brings out their best, when they can serve their people their best.
[38:40] The difference between price and value: It’s not about how fast and how cheaply you can do something. It’s not about how fast and how cheaply you can do something, it’s about the value that you’re bringing to it.
[40:54] Do I feel fulfilled? Never, because with every new success, it’s not that I want more, I want more money, more fame or this or that. But, I want more reach. I want more impact. I want to learn more.
[41:59] We all just get this one big juicy life. That’s all we get, right? Why not live into every moment of it?
[46:01] Internal/Intrinsic motivation is the key to motivation. You cannot be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals, for someone else’s dreams, for someone else’s success for someone else’s happiness, but you can be insatiably hungry for the thing that you actually want.
[48:11] “You would worry a whole lot less about what people thought of you if you realized how seldom they did.“- Eleanor Roosevelt
[49:57] The best antidote to any rut is action. If the antidote to any rut is action, and you’re trying to figure out what action to take, choose an action that allows you to be more of your ‘fundamental best person’ because you already are that person. You’re just not that person enough yet.
Important Reads and Links
Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life by Laura Gassner Otting
Laura Gassner Otting Website: https://lauragassnerotting.com/
Laura Gassner Otting Course: https://lauragassnerotting.com/limitless-course/
Laura Gassner Otting Twitter: https://twitter.com/heylgo
Laura Gassner Otting Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heylgo/
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Click Here for a full transcript of this episode:
What’s up DreamNation. We are back again with another episode and I’m excited for this one. I’m really excited because I get to talk to someone who I would consider a friend and even a sister to talk about how you can go after living your dreams, living a life by your design, which you all know is something that I love to do.
So without further ado, please help me in welcoming ms. Laura Gassner Otting to the show. Laura, you want to go ahead and say what’s up to DreamNation.
Laura Gassner Otting:
What’s up DreamNation!
It’s going to be a good one. So I always like to start off the show by. Really figuring out who the person is that we’re talking to.
And the way that I do that is I compare us as entrepreneurs to superheroes. And the reason why is because we’re constantly, we’re putting on a Cape and we’re flying around the world trying to solve the biggest problems. And so for you, you have been a superhero over the last. I’d say five, 10, 15 years.
You’ve been in spotlight for a while now. And we’ll get into all of that. But before all of your fame, before you became write this book before you’ve helped change the world, if we could take it back to when you were just a young and girl, tell me, tell us who is Laura Gassner Otting.
Laura Gassner Otting:
Well, do I have to give you a superhero?
Cause I mean, I think the obvious choice is Wonder Woman, right? Every woman is on your show must say Wonder Woman, but I have actually ran a 5K in a Wonder Woman, costume, like bustier and everything. So, you know, That takes pretty much a superhero,
think. I am a, giant bag of insecurities and, and, and neuroses that’s wrapped up in an outwardly facing.
Bad-ass demeanor that everybody tells me that I’m, you know, super tough, been incredibly confident and clearly know what I’m doing. And I’m the wizard of Oz. Like the, like all of us, I’m making it up as I go along. I’m just trying to figure it out. Like, go look at the man behind the curtain. Cause I’m, you know, I’m figuring it all out right now.
I was on. Good Morning America a couple of months ago. And from the front on the, on the camera, all you saw was like me and Robert Roberts. And we were like, yucking it up. But from the back, I’m like wearing a shirt and a blazer and then like cut off Jean shorts. And I’m standing inside of this ridiculously, you know, you know, homemade little sound booth that I did with like a bunch of, a bunch of frames and some moving blankets.
And, you know, I mean, I think. Who I am is you, is everybody. We’re all the same. We just have a different outward appearance.
I love it now. The reason why I think it’s so significant that you brought that up right now is because for a lot of people in the social media world, especially we’re constantly being told that we’re not enough.
Right. And you talk about being Limitless and being able to tune out everyone else. Where did you first get the thought that like, Hey. People have more potential in them. And even I have more potential in me because you are somebody who, it looked like you were living a life by your design and you were winning.
Maybe take us through that story to tell us where you get this epiphany moment from, because I know your backstory, but a lot of people will want to hear a little bit more about it.
Laura Gassner Otting:
You know, I think at every age and at every stage of my life, I had an epiphany moment, you know, I thought I was going to run for office.
I was going to be the first. Female democratic Senator from the great state of Florida. By the way that job is still available. So come on Florida, get your act together. But I really, I thought I was going to run for office, was going to solve all the problems. I was like, that’s super nerdy, like, you know, civics geek growing up.
And I of course, went to law school because that’s what I thought people did when they wanted to run for office. And when I was, when I was in law school, I got there and really like immediately on day one, I looked around and I was like, I’ve made a huge mistake. I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be here.
I’m not happy about this. I don’t want to be like the professors. I don’t want to be like any of the students. Like, it’s just, I’m not interested. And so I did. I basically did what anybody does when they’re in a bad. Position. I dated somebody who was terrible. Like one of those, like really awful guys who just like, you would never date him if you’re like, you had like your, your brain screwed on correctly.
But however, I joke around that that guy had exquisite tastes and precisely two things. The first being girlfriends, obviously. And the second being a unknown presidential hopefuls from tiny Southern States. And one day it was raining and he offered to give me a ride home from school. And he said, because I used to ride my bike to school and he said, I just want to stop by this guy’s office.
He’s running for president. And I said, cause you know, this was like back before the internet. So like, if you wanted to pick up information, you had to actually like stop at. Somebody’s like a local strip mall office. And I was like, governor who from where Arkansas, not a chance. So we walk into the office.
And they are in the little corner of the room. And this little tiny TV is a black and white video of bill Clinton. Then governor of Arkansas telling the story and a passion speech about how there’s nothing wrong with America, that can’t be fixed right with America. And he offered us a policy, a solution service, national service, college tuition in exchange for community service.
And I was like, Oh my God, like a lightning bolt that needs to happen. And I went in that moment from I’m going to solve the problems. How can I help too? We need to put the right people in the right positions. That needs to happen. Right? So how can I help? What needs to happen became like the broad question and the right question.
So I had this moment where I was, I had to make this decision and I realized that law school wasn’t the solution, but leaving. And helping this guy get in The White House, volunteering for his campaign was what needed to happen. So I dropped out, much to the chagrin of my parents and my friends and everybody who thought all along the way that this is the path, the obvious path.
And I dropped out and he ended up in The White House and I ended up in The White House, which was great. I helped create, AmeriCorps, the national service program. And, I did that for four years until I had done what I had come there to do. And then I went to go interview. With somebody who ran an executive search firm.
And I was then dating a guy who was much better for me. PS, we’ve been now married for 23 years and he was about to move to Boston. And this guy search firm was in Boston. So I was like, well, I should come work for you. Get the jobs. I like forget finding me a job. And he was like, yeah, you should. And I was like, great, I’ll take the job.
What do you do? And I became a head Hunter and I did that for four years, learning really from the best and the brightest, how to do this work until one day I had this realization that there was a better way to do the work that. Was better for the clients that cost them less money. That inspired us to be more authentic, have more integrity, just do, do it the right way.
It would cost the clients less. I could pay my people more like it made so much sense. And I walked into my boss’s office and I’m like, here’s the way. And he was like, there’s the door? And again, I had the moment of, well, I’m not part of the solution. I guess, I, I guess I’m part of the problem. And again, I left and so I, again, ignored everybody.
I was like the youngest vice president ever in the history of his firm. And I, I left, I walked out and I started my own farm. And then I grew that for 15 years at the 10 year Mark, I realized I hadn’t learned anything new in a while and it wasn’t, you know, exciting me anymore. It wasn’t fulfilling the things that I really wanted.
It wasn’t, it wasn’t in consonance with who I was. So rather than spend my career just kind of mailing it in being successful, but not being very happy. I chose to leave. I sold the firm to the people who helped me create it. And again, I ignored everybody who was like, “well, that doesn’t make any sense.
Like you’re, you are on paper successful and all the way success should be, but you keep re you know, reinventing and leaving and doing other things” because the success on paper wasn’t. Happiness to me. And I think each one of us in our lives hit these moments when we’re like, okay, I filled in all the check boxes all along the path that everybody else told me I should fill in.
So why aren’t I happy? Why doesn’t it mean anything? Why isn’t it mean anything to me? And the problem is, is that we’re told over and over and over again, this is what makes a job good, but we’re never asked, what’s going to make a job good for you. Right. So Limitless was really written around the idea of the 20 years of doing executive search and the thousands of people that I interviewed during this time, along with my own career path and my own stories about how at each one of these moments I realize “I’ve got a good job, but it’s not a good thing job for me”.
And maybe you have a good job, but it’s not a good job for you. And here’s why, and it’s because that idea of success that comes externally. That’s given to us by the parents and the teachers and the friends and yeah. In the internet and social media is never going to be the right one for us because it comes from the outside, not from the inside.
I love it. And there are so many things that I resonate with, especially my audience listening. They’ll know. Cause that’s, I am that person, but I want to ask. How do you know if you’re jumping too soon or not? Because for a lot of people, when you talk about those check boxes and you talk about, this is not right for me, for you, you said I did this for 10 years or 15 years, and I had success in all of these different paths, but how do you know if you’re only like three years in where you say, Hey, I maybe necessarily haven’t had all of the success
that Laura has, but I still feel like right now, this is not fulfilling me. How can I know that it’s still the right jump and be confident with ignoring everyone else around me?
Laura Gassner Otting:
Ah, okay. So here’s the thing that happens to a lot of us. We say, well, I’ve done this for three years. I haven’t had the success Laura has had, should I leave?
Or should I not leave? And the success that I’ve had and the success that you want, may be completely different. Right. So when I was running that company, here’s one of the reasons that I knew it was time to leave because we, I was sitting at our annual retreat and we had about, I don’t know, 25, 27 staff, or so at this point, we were doing executive searches with major organizations all around the globe.
And I literally had staff everywhere from Seattle to Siberia and everywhere in between. I guess if he goes the other way, it’s not that far, but if you can circumnavigate the globe, it can be convenient. So we had, we have staff all over the world and we had an annual retreat. You brought everybody in and we had this, this brilliant facilitator business professor from Harvard come in and she started off the retreat by saying, I want to start by asking this question.
How many do you think is the ideal number of staff members for this firm? And people were like “27, 35, 126, 4″… right?. They were pulling numbers out of their end. So it Gets to me at the very end. And I was like, I think that’s a stupid question, PS, by the way, if you tell a Harvard professor that they’re asking a stupid question, they spend the rest of the retreat, basically playing angry birds on their phone.
Real true story. So I was like, I think that’s a terrible question. And here’s why, tell me what you want. How do you define success? Are we maximizing profits? Are we maximizing impact in the world? Are we maximizing flexibility in our own lives? What are we maximizing? I’ll even let you pick two of the three.
What are we trying to do? And if you tell me that, then I can tell you how many staff we need, because if we want to maximize profit, it may be that fewer people are going to help us get there. If we want to maximize impact in the world, we need more staff and more searches. We want to impact flexibility in our own lives.
Well, That actually doesn’t mean flexibility for me because now I have more staff and more headaches. So maybe I’m going to make the firm much smaller. So tell me what success is and then, and build a business. That’s gonna throw off that, definition of success. And so each one of us in our jobs has to ask that question.
What does success mean to me? Is it, making tons of money? Is it having a huge impact in the world? Is it being able to have dinner with my family every night at 6:00 PM? Is it, travel? You know, am I willing to, to make less money, but feel like I’m manifesting my values every single day.
you know, maybe you’re religious and you want to take off, the Sabbath on Friday afternoon. It all depends on you. And so. How we ignore everybody is to stop letting other people. Influenced that definition is to actually have that conversation with ourselves and say, I know that success is bigger, better, faster, more get the fancy house, drive the fancy car, take the two points, five perfect children to the perfect, you know, private school or whatever those things are.
But it may be that your definition of success is buying an 1800s farmhouse and making all your own energy and food. I don’t know, that sounds terrible to me, like 800 thread count sheets. I want to go to Paris every weekend, but that may not be your thing. Right. Everybody’s thing is different. And so the, the, the most important thing to remember is that nobody gets a vote in this life.
Except you. And the problem is we’re giving votes to people in our lives who shouldn’t even have voices. So the first question to ask yourself is whose vote actually counts? Not whose vote has to count because they’re my parents or they’re my friend, but who do you who’s opinion do you actually really want?
For me, it comes down to my husband and my kids. And beyond that, there’s some friends, I respect, there’s some friends whose opinions I seek, but do I want their vote? Probably not
At what point did you feel like for you, things are starting to really unravel that you had to get control of your life because you said that like, Hey, I have all the insecurities, right.
And you’ve been through so many ebbs and flows in life with this success, with it, then like, Oh, this is unraveling for me. And so I can only imagine what it’s been like in your head, but at what point did you really start to feel like I got to get control of this.
Laura Gassner Otting:
You know, I think that, I think that we all need control differently.
So when I was dropping out of law school and joining up political campaign, I had no control whatsoever in my life. They call me up one day. And like one day they were sending me to Minneapolis. And one day they were sending me the Little Rock and one day. They were sending me to Chicago. I had no control.
And I also, I mean, I was getting the coffee for the guy who got the coffee for the guy who bought the coffee. Right. Like, it’s not like I had any connection. There was no connection to the work whatsoever, but I knew I had this calling. I was so inspired by. Governor Clinton and his idea of, of the community supporting the whole of national service of community policing of, of, of just sort of bringing people together.
And, you know, it’s, I was, again, I was 23 years old or 20. I was 21 actually time. I was young. I was naive. I was, I was optimistic, but I had this calling where I felt like the ideas are right. We can’t possibly lose. And so, so I felt like it, it really, we allowed me to live the life. I wanted it work was contributing to my life and the way that it was, it was allowing me to manifest my values on a daily basis.
And also. It could be a pretty interesting career trajectory, right? If this guy wins, I could, that might be pretty fascinating. So control, I think is one part of the four elements of, of continence, right? There’s there’s connection, calling contribution and control. So I had no control then now fast forward I’m 49 years old.
I have teenagers who have like nine toes out the door. I know that if I’m going to get it to, you know, post COVID, if I’m going to get on an airplane and go somewhere and be away from home for a few days, I better be paid a lot of money to get on that stage to speak because it’s taking from the way that, you know, I’m able to build the life that I want right now.
So. Your question of when did I feel like I was losing control and I needed to, if things were unraveling, it’s really more of at what point in my life did I feel like I needed more control. And those, those are the moments where I was like, you know what? I’m at this firm. They’re not doing work the way I think it should be done.
I think there’s a better way. And I needed to have control over the way that I put my work, my gifts out into the world. And that’s when I started something new. I think a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you that they started their business. Cause they couldn’t not start it right. There was like this thing that was inside of them, that was going to come out one way or another.
They couldn’t not do it. And that, that drive that singular focus. That, that knowledge, that. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And that’s an untenable place to be for those of us who feel like they need control. When you feel that moment, you can’t not, you can’t unknow it.
And the reason why I asked that is because, and I agree with everything that you just said. The reason why I asked that though, is because for so many people right now, it’s hard to identify. Things are running really fast right now, if I’m just getting out of law school or maybe I’m even about to go into grad school or something, but I’m seeing that entrepreneurship, me creating, like you said, the life by my design, you know, is there a such thing as balance or are you really looking for harmony?
You got your parents and everything telling you that you should go this way and then. That’s security over there, but then you see all these entrepreneurs that look like they have it all made up. So it feels right. Like everything is out of control. And so that’s the reason why I asked that question.
Cause for somebody who’s listening right now, they say, okay, what are the things that I can do right now to start to gain control? Cause maybe I don’t have all of those people who their votes might necessarily matter or not, but I don’t even necessarily know if my vote matters and I don’t know how to be real with myself and to say, Hey, am I going after everything that I want?
So that’s the reason why I asked that question about control because I’ve been in that state before as well. And so there’s the quote that comes to my mind is, you know, or full learns from nothing, a smart person learns from their own mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others.
And so when we talk about that, and you’ve just said, Hey, I’m 49 now. And I’ve been through so much. And for somebody listening right now, that’s maybe going down that same trajectory and they say, listen, if I could do this. 10 to 15 years sooner. Where do I even start? Yes, go ahead. And so that was the purpose of why I asked that question.
Laura Gassner Otting:
Okay. So two things. So the first, balance is BS. There’s no such thing as work life balance. It is it’s nonsense. I mean, let me ask you, like, do you have a social media account?
Laura Gassner Otting:
Yeah. Okay. Are you friends with people? And also like that you’re friends with, but also have connections to people on social media that are working colleagues.
Laura Gassner Otting:
Yeah. So you already don’t have work/life. There’s no line between work and life, right? You, it already all over one another. So if you are, or I don’t know, like a dental hygienist and you have a candy making hobby, or if you’re like an oncologist. But you have a cigar club. You already like hiding parts of yourself because you can’t share that because you think people from your work world will see it.
You there’s no work life balance. So rather than looking for, like, I have my work yeah. Over here and I have my life over there. I would encourage people to look for work life alignment. So the work that you do, like, I don’t like people like, Oh, I’m so busy. I’m so tired. I need more balance. No, what you need is you need your work and your life to get along with each other.
It’s not the having too much on your plate. That’s making you busy. It’s the costume changes and the code switching and the constant, like going from one language to the other, in between things that don’t align with each other. That’s what exhausts you. So I am, you know, I’ve, I’ve done. Yeah. Hundreds of podcasts, immediate interviews.
And I have so many people before we go on live that are like, Oh my God. You’re just like, you are like on, you know, on TV or on radio. And I’m like, yeah, I don’t know how to be any other person. Than this person and frankly, it’s too exhausting to try to be two different people. Like if I’m just like, Oh, here’s who I am, you know, in person and I’m of dry and I’m kind of, and then I on, they did a like headline DreamNation and you’re like, Oh, that’s crazy.
It’s also exhausting because I have to pull from so many different areas of energy. So. First thing I would say is just forget the pipe dream of balance, because not only is it nonsense, it’s ephemeral at best, even if you do find it. And also you’re, you’re spending all this time trying to make sure that your life isn’t fighting with each other.
Yeah. I would rather, you see, I would rather see you build work that actually allows you to manifest who you are all day, every day, because then you can be the full version of yourself. I mean, when I ran my company, we would have people who would call into staff meetings and said like, sorry, I’m late. But I was at a PTA meeting.
Awesome. Great. Because half the time they’d say things like, and while I was at that meeting, one of the moms mentioned this thing, which made me think we should do XYZ for this intractable problem we’ve been having. And suddenly we had a solution because I had a staff member who didn’t feel like they had to hide half of who they were.
And they could actually bring it to the table. So number one, balance is nonsense. Don’t look at it, go for alignment. And then the second, the second piece of it is if you feel like you can’t necessarily do things now, because you know, maybe you’ve got a parent or you’ve got debt, or you’ve got, you know, young kids or whatever.
The thing is, that’s where I talk about the side quest. So, do you, do you know, do you play video games?
no. Well, I used to, I used to try to go take my hand at being a professional gamer, but now my son who just turned nine last week, he’s definitely an a, so I’m very familiar with them.
Yeah. So, you know, so, so you can ask your nine year old about the side quest and, your nine year old will.
No, I did not know that what a Side Quest was, but my 18 year old, one day I woke up and I was like, Oh, I’m so tired. I got this chapter that’s due. I’m not going to get it done. I’m so frustrated. And I was just bemoaning, you know, my existence and he looked at me and he was like, why don’t you just go on a side quest?
And I was like, well, what’s, what’s, what’s a side quest. And he said, well, you know, when you’re playing a video game and the main quest is go to the, go to the castle, slay the dragon and save the princess. But you know, your friend hasn’t finished doing the dishes yet, so he can’t log on. So you’re like sitting around waiting for it.
Well, what are you, what can you do if you need to go to the castle? And slay the dragon and save the princess. You’re gonna need a horse. You’re gonna need a sword. You’re gonna need some potions. Right? There are things you can do. And you’re a farmer. So what can you do? You can, you can till your weed, you can take it to the market.
You can sell it. You can buy a horse, you can buy a sword. And then when your friend finally logs on, you can get on your horse. You can go to the castle, you can slay the dragon and you can save. But princess. So if you were at this point now where you’re like, I don’t know, I don’t know if I can make any moves.
I feel itchy. I feel like I, I know that there are things that I want to do that are different, but I. I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I have the money. I don’t know if people will approve. I’m not sure I have the confidence yet to ignore the ones who don’t approve. You can go on side quest. You can listen to great podcasts like DreamNation.
You can watch Ted talks. You can, you can read all sorts of- the universe is at your disposal on, on the internet. You could take courses like my Limitless course. You can read Limitless. There are so many side quests that you can do. Some of which costs money, many of which are free. And that’s how you get to do it because People always, say like “it starts with a dream”, but where do dreams come from?
Dreams come from confidence. They comes from this view of the world. And I know people say like, “if you can dream it, you can do it”. But I actually believe if you can start to do it, you can dream it. You put one foot in front of the next and suddenly. You’re running, right? Like you don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I’ve never run a mile in my life.
I’m going to run a marathon”, you start running for five minutes, then you run for 10. Then you run a 5K. Then you run a 10K and then next thing you know, you’re running a marathon because you wake up and you say, “I want to start”. And as you get the confidence, as you start to display competence, You can develop the confidence, then dream and even bigger dream.
And that all starts with these little side quests that you don’t know what they’re going to add up to, but together you start going, Oh, actually I know more about all of these little bits that I’ve, I’ve done informational interviews and I’ve, I’ve, I’ve expanded my network and I’ve expanded my knowledge.
And now totally. I understand. It’s like your Neo, when you can see the entire matrix because you spent time. While you’re not able to move forward, gathering the swords and the potions and the horses and all the rest. So you can go to the castle and slay the dragon and save the princess.
I think we have to remember that failure is not finale because when you say. I want to have this big dream and I’m going to do it. You know, it’s the problem with follow your passion.
As soon as something goes wrong, you stop because you’re like, Oh, I guess it must not be my passion because there was failure. So I think it’s really important to know that you gotta like, keep doing it. That failure is not finale.
It’s actually fulcrum. It’s the place where we learn and we innovate and regrow.
No. I love that. and you hit it right on the head.
It’s like, it’s not the finale. And then there’s always something that we can take from it. Like who knows what’s good or what’s bad.
One thing I wanted to ask you is how much of it has been a team for you? Because you’ve had a ton of successs and you started off just like you said, you serve the governor at that time, and then you all of a sudden, the started just start your own company and you had to.
Figure out now how to go from being a servant to now being a leader, which is where a lot of people, especially in the entrepreneur world struggle because we want to be entrepreneurs, but we start out as like solo preneurs, and we never figure out how to get to that next level. Was that a challenge for you or because you were always in a team environment, you, you succeeded from it from the beginning.
Laura Gassner Otting:
Oh, no, it was such a challenge. I, I, I was, I was absolutely an accidental CEO. I wanted to run for office when I was younger. And then I got involved in governor Clinton’s presidential campaign. And I, you know, I saw how the sausage was made and it made me realize I had never, I had no interest ever in running for office.
What I realized. Is that I, I love stage left. I love stage left. I love being in the position to help get the right people in the right positions, which is what I did in that campaign to help elect bill Clinton, president of the United States. And then I left and I became a head Hunter. And what you do as a head Hunter is it’s like, have you met Casanova?
Let me tell you about his background. Let me tell you how great he is. Let me tell you about all the things he’s done, because he’s the right person to now lead your organization to where it needs to be focus on him. Right? I love being stage left. I do a lot of. Political fundraising now. And there’s a photo that was taken of me at my house.
We were doing a fundraiser for a Congress person and, and the photo, it’s this beautiful black and white photo where I am sort of on the corner of the photo. And you can kind of see. The side of my face and I’m clear, and the Congress person is in the middle of giving her talk and she’s, you know, in the far back and she’s like blurry a little bit.
And if you look at me in the photo, I’ve got my hands clasped together. And I’m just like looking at her like adoringly, like I’m so proud. I’m just like, I’m so proud of her. She’s just like on fire. And if I were to, if I were to. Give somebody a photo to tell them who I am at my core, that would be the photo because I love being staged left and helping somebody else.
You know, shine in the spotlight. And it’s funny because I then became this accidental CEO where I was running my own company. But again, my job, I always saw my job as being a champion for other people. I am a great friend in the foxhole. I am the person you want in your corner in a bar fight. I will walk over glass and prove fire for my people.
I am a great champion. And now as a speaker where my job, is literally to stand center stage and the spotlight. I only became comfortable with it when I realized that I may be center stage. But the truth is you as the audience member are center stage. I’m just stage left helping you. I’m giving you knowledge bombs, and I’m giving you a framework to think through these decisions.
You’re still stage center. I’m stage left, cause you’re the star of the show, but it became, it was very uncomfortable for me in the beginning when I was like, it’s, the LGO show is very uncomfortable in the same way that when I ran my company, I felt very uncomfortable with people were like, it’s the LGO business.
I mean, I didn’t name, I didn’t put my name on the door. I don’t want to do any of that. Because I understand that my role as a leader is to pull out the best in the people that I’m serving. That’s not to say that I’m a servant leader. I do believe in servant leadership, but I think the problem with servant leadership is that a lot, a lot of times people start off the solo preneurs and then they become entrepreneurs and they, they, they are the servant leaders, but sometimes they forget the leader and they stick only with servant.
And then there, you have this entrepreneur who started off the business because all they wanted to do was innovate and create and change and grab control of their own life and, you know, be able to manifest their values in the work that they do every day and feel connected to the calling that they want to serve.
And they’re busy hearing from like Mary Sue and HR about like this training and you know, that tax reform that they need to, that they need to deal with. Or they’re hearing from somebody in operations about like one ply or two plied toilet paper. And they’re like, I don’t care. Like, I’m not just that they’re so they’re so like bogged down in the minutia of the operations that they don’t get to do the thing that they love.
And so they’re so busy in the serving that they forget the leadership part of it. And I think it’s really important. That that entrepreneurs be very clear with what brings out their best when they can serve their people their best. And some of that is by being the very best version of a leader that they can be.
And I did that in my company because it was a day that I realized that I was really bad manager. And so I called up an old mentor of mine from my old search firm. And I . He’s like, there’s somebody who works for me. Who’s about to move with her husband overseas.
She’s kind of going to get screwed here because we don’t have virtual people you should talk to her. So I called up this woman. And we had lunch the next week and she is about as opposite from me as you can get she’s like this small. Blonde Southern. She’s a classically trained cellist. She has a PhD in psychology.
She like, she was like all like academic and cerebral. And I’m like all like fight in the, you know, the streets gut. And I was like, Oh, This could be good. So what about, he was about five years into the business, my business partner. She became the person who managed all the people. She helped them with their everyday, like, you know, quality improvement, like, you know, step by little step by little step.
And I got to do the thing I do best, which was go out there and be like, my people are amazing. Let me tell you how great they are. And I was the one who was able to say, Hey, Alison, I saw this great work that you did on this thing. Fantastic. And Hey, Carolyn, this work that you did on this thing, incredible and seeing, wow, I love how you did X, Y, and Z.
And I was able to be the champion and she was able to be the manager. And so it, that was the moment where I think I really understood who I am and what my leadership style is. And I think that’s a really important thing for people who are running businesses to understand that it’s very hard to be the person that you’re not, and you can learn how to do parts of it, but I never wanted to be a better manager.
Didn’t make my soul sing. And she didn’t want to be the leader. She hated doing the, like, she’s like, it feels so, like, I hate doing the thing where I’m like, you’re great. You’re great. You get a car and you get a car. And she’s like, it just feels so false. And I was like, Oh my God, I love it. It’s like my DNA.
So, you know, I think that’s, I think that’s a really important understanding for, for leaders to understand what type of leader they are and to lean into that. And then to understand that the rest of it, they can. You know, you can bring a team around you to help you do that. So you could be more of a person you need to be and not be abusive places where you’re not.
That’s that’s so critical to understand. And I would definitely agree. I think a lot of us struggle with understanding what type of a leader we should be. But just like you said, it’s really just thinking about what are the things that make you come alive? What are the things that, in a sense gross you out where you’re like, ah, just don’t want to do that.
And there is somebody out there that does love that, but you have to be vulnerable. Even with yourself to talk about that, that, Hey, here’s the things that I’m not very good at. And I would rather, instead of trying to figure out what my flaws are and capitalize on those, I’d rather double down on my strengths and bring somebody else and that can capitalize on them.
Laura Gassner Otting:
, I’ll just say, I think it’s important. Like you think about someone like Serena Williams, for example, who have, one would argue with the greatest female tennis player of all time, and frankly, maybe the greatest tennis player of all time, she goes to practice and she doesn’t spend her time drilling on the 5% of the things that she might’ve gotten wrong in a match.
She does some of that, but she also spends a lot of her time drilling on the 95% of the stuff she got. Because she wants to groove the pattern. I mean, frankly, half the time we get things right, we’re just lucky. So if you’ve got something right, and you’ve got 95% of it right. But you spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the three things you got wrong, then you’re not actually going to make sure that you are making intentional, the right stuff as well.
So it’s important to know where your weaknesses are. And to work around them and to support them with, maybe other people or maybe more knowledge, and maybe you can get a little bit better with some of them, but it’s also just as important, if not more important to double down and to make sure you’re really grooving the pattern of the stuff that does make your soul sing.
I love it. Let me ask them something. Cause everybody listening to you right now, it’s hard to not feel like you’re listening to a master of someone who has been through ebbs and flows. Right. But the question that I would have, and I’m sure a question that a lot of people listen to this and watching this right now has, is do you feel like now you’re at a place where you are fulfilled?
Laura Gassner Otting:
Oh gosh. No, not at all. I’m I am. can I give you a sneak peek to my next book?
Okay. So my next book is going to be called Wonder Hell. Hmm, Wonder Hell. So you know, those moments when you’ve done something and it’s worked and maybe it’s working even better than you might’ve expected.
Like you’re starting to see some momentum around it. Maybe you’re like climbing a mountain. Maybe you’re starting a business mean anything. Right? Like you, you just you’re feeling you’re in the you’re in the zone when Limitless came out. It, I, it, it came out. I had no mailing list. I had some social media people, but like Mel Robins has a million followers.
I have like, you know, 3000 at the time. Right. Like I just said like totally different thing, but suddenly the book debuts at number two on the Washington post bestseller list, I am at an event where I’m sharing the stage with Malala and Robin Roberts. Right? Like it’s like the weirdest week of my life.
And suddenly I had this moment where I’m like, this is incredible. It’s humbling. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. I’m so lucky. That the hard work that I did ended up looking like this, right? Like it’s not just luck, but it’s luck and hard work.
And let me ask just for people who are wondering, sorry, so sorry to cut you off.
How long did that process take? Was that like a two year process?
Laura Gassner Otting:
The writing of the book, I wrote Limitless in about six weeks. It took me 25 years and six weeks to come up with it. But I wrote it in about six weeks. And then there was like a six month process of like getting it printed and published and you know, all of the marketing that goes around it and the getting, you know, all the blurbs and, you know, running into Mel Robins with cake in the airport.
Right. That’s about like six months, but usually it’s about a year process. I, I was already. Sort of involved with a publisher writing a different book when this book came out of me. So I had a little bit of a shorter process.
Got it. And I was just wondering, because people for anybody, the new thing right now is people want to get their story out.
Right. They want it, they want to get their message out. And so from, I was just trying to get a timeframe on it. And the moment that you said, Hey, I’m going to become an author. So the moment that you got on that stage, and you said, this is surreal, like, was that a two year process? Was that a 10 year process?
Like for people to, to dream and to fathom and to say, wow, this is reality.
Laura Gassner Otting:
It’s about a year
Laura Gassner Otting:
That’s a year.
It’s pretty phenomenal because for some people that could take five, seven, 10 years of sure.
Laura Gassner Otting:
Yeah, but I mean, remember I had 25 years of career leading up to that year. Right. So, you know, I, the, the, my overnight success was 25 years in overnight, you know, it’s why I charge so much money on stages because it’s not the 45 minutes.
I’m on the stage. It’s the 25 years and 45 minutes. That are on the stage. And that’s the difference between price and value, right? So that’s like for the solopreneurs and entrepreneurs out there, not about how fast and how cheaply you can do something. It’s, what’s the value that you’re bringing to it.
And, and, and how much is it worth? Your client to take away that pain point. Right. But that’s the difference in price and value. So I’m on the plane and I’m flying home and I’m like, this is incredible. This is amazing. I’ve never been so humbled in my entire life. It’s so wonderful. And also I am so tired.
I am so like I’ve had two children, I’ve run three marathons. I birth multiple businesses and I’ve never been so tired in my entire life. Is this moment right now. It’s hell. It’s wonder. Hell. And here’s the thing. Wonder Hell is the space in your psyche where the burden of potential comes and unpacks itself and goes, Hey man, what’d you got for me, you are now realizing that your potential is even bigger than you thought it might’ve been.
Are you going to lean into this? Are you going to live into this? Are you going to fulfill this? Are you up for the challenge and your burden that you feel the burden of your potential is only as big as your own ego? And there was a moment on that plane flying home on this red eye from Vancouver, that I said, you know, my ego is bigger than I thought.
Like way bigger than I thought. Like it’s not enough to just do the today show. I want to do good morning America. I want to be under the Oak tree with Oprah. She got to talk to somebody. Why not me? You know, you want to have Mel Robbins on the show, right? We all have this, this ego that goes. You could do more and not bigger, better, faster, more, but whatever the thing is that you want more of, you could have more of that because you’re realizing that your potential is actually bigger than you thought it was.
And now you feel the overwhelming stress, the burden of that potential resting on your shoulders. And so my next book is going to be called Wonder Hell, because I’m fascinated by this moment where the burden of potential unpacks his backpack. And you say either, yes, I will. Or no. Not me. I’m not good enough.
Maybe somebody else. I feel like an imposter. I don’t think so. Maybe next time. And I would love to talk to people who had those moments, because I think some people thrive in Wonder Hell and some people are drowned by Wonder Hell how so do I feel fulfilled? Never because with every new success, it’s not, I want more, I want more money, more fame or this or that.
I want more reach. I want more impact. I want to learn more. I’m fast, the endless fascination of solving the puzzle and figuring things out in code during COVID my son and I started doing a jigsaw puzzle. Yeah, fine. Great. We did the jigsaw puzzle. The next one, we were like, okay. Okay. We did one now let’s pick two and let’s mix the boxes together and then do them at the same time.
And they were two different brands. If it looked different on the back, then we were like, okay, let’s get two of the same brand. So they look exactly the same and do that puzzle together. And then we’re like, let’s do one, that’s all the same color. Right? So it’s like each time you up. the ante, because you want to learn something new, you want to figure something else out.
And I think one of the ways that, you know, Wonder Hell’s going to have lots of different themes, but one of those themes is going to be yes,
figuring out what you sing and then like living into that with everything you have. Cause we all just get this one big juicy life. That’s all we get,
Laura Gassner Otting:
Why not live into every moment of it?
I love it. I love it. And why I think that that’s so impactful is because you stopped well, first off for somebody that’s a wondering, how do you get the motivation, right?
Because you just talked about for a lot of people that’s listening at this, especially if you’re in a nine to five cubicle right now, and you’re saying, I just want to get that first business off the ground, but she’s talking about taking it to the next level. I’ll be honest. And I’m sure a lot of people were one in the same, but I’m sure a lot of people say that.
Is exhausting. So the question then becomes, where do you get your inspiration and your motivation from, is it just YouTube videos and Ted talks like you talked about earlier or is there a mentor? Is there a book where does that come from for you?
Laura Gassner Otting:
For me, it comes from. It goes right back to the beginning.
Right? It’s what I talk about in my book. It’s what I walk people through in the, in the Limitless course, it comes down to my definition of success. So at every age, at every life stage, we all want something different. So if you’re sitting in that cubicle and you’re like, how do I get this? Just one business off the ground.
I would ask you why you want. To get the one business off the ground. Is it because you want to have, you know, a side hustle and some extra money, is it because you want to build it so you can eventually leave the company that you’re in? Is it because that business does something for the world that you’d like to see?
Why are you trying to do it? Because depending on. Why you are doing that work, what you were success, the definition of success you have will be different. And that’s actually going to determine where you spend your energy. So if you say, I just want to go this business off the ground because I got to leave this cubicle.
Cause I’m going to. You know, go crazy. If I stay here, then you should, it’d be thinking, what is the minimum viable number, right. That I need, right? Like what’s the need to make number and what’s the want to make number. And those are two completely different numbers, right? But you gotta figure out the need to make number your, your rent or your mortgage, you know, health care food, et cetera.
But then the Watson make numbers like the fancy vacation, the shiny new car, the, whatever it is, you know, the nice purse, whatever it is that, that you care about. And you just keep plugging away at the need to make number until you get to the point where we’re at the Watson make number. And that may, that may be here we go.
I want to sell a bunch of business. And I also want to make the world a better place. So I’m going to sell business to only certain kinds of customers, or you want to say, I want to, you know, sell a bunch of business. Cause I want to get out of this cubicle. So you may say screw it I’ll sell to anybody, right?
Like it just, you have to figure out what success means to you. And that’s why, you know, in the course, what we do is we sort of break down all of the things that people have been told are success. Right. Like balance is one of them. Follow your passion. We touched on briefly. There are so many other of these, like, I mean, I call them the four horsemen of the success apocalypse.
Right? You have to have purpose. You have to balance. You can, you know, you’ll all be happy with stop saying, I’ll be happy when I get the business off the ground. And start saying, what if the business is successful? Here’s what it’s gonna look like, because that then dictates what you do. And if you’re in the space where you are doing the action, if the work that you’re doing is connecting to that, calling that you have the thing that you actually want.
As defined by you and not everybody else around you, you don’t need the motivation because external motivation is something that you have to continue to refill your bucket. You have to keep going out and finding it because somebody else is giving it to you. It is like food, right? You have breakfast by lunchtime.
You’re hungry. If you, and if you have a crappy breakfast, then you feel. Terrible all day. But if you have a good breakfast that actually, you know, you have energy, right? A half the people who get external motivation get terrible, external motivation, and they feel crappy. Anyway. They feel worse with the self help them before.
We’re just gonna assume you’re getting good. External motivation. It still runs out. You still run out of fuel. You metabolize it. Right. Internal motivation. Intrinsic motivation is different. It’s not like saying I need to run faster or lift more or make more money or do this because all these other people tell me I need to.
Because you cannot be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals. And that is just the bottom line. That is your truth moment. You cannot be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals, for someone else’s dreams, for someone else’s success for someone else’s happiness, but you can be insatiably hungry for the thing that you actually want.
And that thing that you actually want may surprise you because it may not be the thing. Now you’ve been told your entire life, right. We’re going to define success and that’s going to take, you’re saying it’s okay. If all those opinion is, does don’t approve of me. So if you’re looking for that motivation that you need, the first thing I would say is.
Who’s in your inner circle. Who are you surrounding yourself with? Who is in your ear? What social media are you looking at? What podcasts are you listening to? What courses are you taking? What books are you reading? And if you change the inputs to being better and to helping you remember who you actually are, when you’re at your very best, then you will be able to develop that intrinsic motivation, because you’re not going to continue to rely on other people, feeding it to you.
love it. I love it for it. Anybody that wants to know what is your favorite quote that you live by and you try to run your life by, and I’m excited to hear this because you have so much wisdom again. Is there one that like times are hard for you, or even if you got that new opportunity that you’re going to say I’m going to go at what’s that one thing that you always got to live your life by?
Laura Gassner Otting:
Oh, boy, there are so many,
but we want the top one.
Laura Gassner Otting:
Okay. Here’s my quotes. When the chips are down and I’m feeling bad and I tend to then worry what everyone else is going to think. If I’m going to embarrass myself or it’s not going to work, or do I want to take this risk? I think about Eleanor Roosevelt, who said. You would worry a whole lot less about what people thought of you, if you realized how seldom they did.
Laura Gassner Otting:
People are so worried about themselves that they’re not actually paying that much attention to you. Right. So when the chips are down and things are terrible, I remind myself that no, one’s actually paying attention. It’s going to be okay.
Right, right. And that’s an escape. We never really think about that.
But I think that’s such a great point because we brought up social media so much and everybody has a cell phone everybody’s on. Some social media channel, but if you just really sit back and you think about when you put, when you pick up your phone, whether it’s Instagram or LinkedIn, how quickly you scroll, you might stay on one post for a max of 60 seconds.
But if you think about it, Right. And we might like it. We might even put a comment on there, but if you give yourself 10, 15 minutes later, you don’t remember what that stuff was. Cause you’re constantly bombarded. But on the other side of that, we’re like, Oh my God, this post has to be so perfect. Right.
Cause everybody they’re going to live off of this post for like eight years
Laura Gassner Otting:
from now paralyzed. And we don’t know, we don’t do anything. We
don’t do anything. So that’s so great. I know we’re wrapping up now and I want to say thank you so much. This has been a phenomenal conversation. I want to ask this last question for somebody that’s out there, that they are inspired or by you.
They want to blaze their path similar to what you’ve done, but they do have that little voice in their head. And that little voice maybe says it, they’re not strong enough. They’re not smart enough. Or maybe they just don’t have enough resources. What is the one thing that you would say to that person to get them to just take action?
Laura Gassner Otting:
Well, I would say you are Limitless obviously. one thing I would say is that the best antidote to any rut is action. Action. Just some form of action. So if you feel like you, you know, if, if you feel like there is something that is in your way, that you can’t do it, you’re not sure I want you. I’d like you to think about who you are when you’re at your very best.
So each one of us has a moment, even if it’s just one moment, some moment in our life where we feel like we were our fundamentally best version of our, and for some of us it’s out and it’s onstage. And it’s like the big moment with the client. It’s the, you know, whatever it is. For some of us, it’s this quiet moment when we’re helping a loved one through a difficult situation, or maybe we’re like, you know, crunching the numbers for a presentation.
And it’s just us, you know, working by ourselves. Each one of us has this moment when we’re like, yeah, I was really good in that moment. And I want you to write down. A list of adjectives that describe yourself in that moment. What was the energy that you were feeling? What were the words that you were using?
Were you alone? Were you together? Was it quiet? Was it loud? Was private. Was it public? And I want you to make that list and put it, I don’t know, on the lock screen of your phone so that every time you pick up your phone and look at Instagram and feel badly about yourself, compare and despair, you see that list first, right?
Put it on the, on, on, you know, on your computer screen, put it on the, you know, right in lipstick, on your bathroom mirror. I don’t care, but put it somewhere where you see it every single day. Choose one action. Something, even if it’s a tiny little thing that allows you to live into being that person a little bit more, because when we choose to become that person, our fundamental best person, that person becomes muscle memory.
That becomes the person that everyone around us expects us to be more often, that becomes a person that we put out into the universe. When you’re writing a post, when you’re doing work, I want you to ask yourself, is this, if you can name that person, right? But like, is this. Like, would that person be proud of me?
Right. And if antidote to any rut is action, and you’re trying to figure out what action to take. Choose an action allows you to be more of that person because you already are that person. You’re just not that person enough yet.
I love it. That is the perfect answer. And that’s one of the best answers that I’ve heard to this.
And that again, is why you’re the Wonder Woman when it comes to anybody being Limitless. And I think that’s why you and able to step into it as well is again, just taking that action. And so I’m proud of you. I’m sure there’s a lot of other people that are going to hear this that are going to be inspired and that are very proud of you. For anybody who wants to. To stay connected with you. We’ll definitely have all that, the links in the show notes. but tell them where can they find you at.
Laura Gassner Otting:
So my name is Laura Gassner Otting a lot of names. So all my friends call me LGO. So if you’re looking for me online, you go, Hey, LGO H, G Y L G O. So heylgo.com and on all the socials I’m at Hey, L G O.
I mentioned, during this a couple of times that, I have a book and a course, so the book is Limitless. How to ignore everybody, carve your own path and live your best life. And you can find that on Amazon Barnes and noble anywhere fine books are sold. and, the course is at, heylgo.com/learn.
Well, we’ll definitely have all those links in the show notes again. And I just want to be the first one to kick off the thank you train. We appreciate you coming on here, sharing your wisdom, sharing all your ups, but showing, also all of your downs as well, because it shows us how authentic that you are, that you’ve always been and why you continue to be successful.
So remember DreamNation, just as she said, if you are in a rut. The way out of that rut is to take action because if you don’t take action, it will only merely be a fantasy. That’s all we have for this one. We’ll catch you on the next one.