Have you ever just wanted to rethink everything you’ve ever read or heard about finding your passion and following your dreams? Well, you’re in luck!
On this special edition of the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast Chris Goede is joined by founder of Sseko Designs, a socially conscious fashion brand, and the author of Beginner’s Pluck, Liz Forkin Bohannon! Join the conversation as they discuss how to build your passion rather than find it and so much more.
Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Chris Goede, Executive Vice President with Maxwell Leadership. Welcome and thank you for joining.
Now, if you’re a regular listener, you already know something is different because Perry Holley, who rides shotgun with me usually, is the first voice that you hear on this podcast. But today I have a surprise for you, not only because of my voice is first is in the introduction, and it probably wasn’t as good as Perry’s. But we have a special guest for you and I am joined by one of our Personal Growth Day speakers, Liz Bohannon.
You can see her live on March 13th in Orlando, and more on that in just a moment. But she is known for many, many reasons, one of them, for those that are listening, that you are fans of John Maxwell. John has named her a top transformational leader. She’s also the founder of Sseko Designs, which is a socially conscious brand, and the author of Beginner’s Pluck. And Liz, I can’t wait to talk to you a little bit about that title because I’m intrigued by how that happened.
But as I mentioned, not only is she a top transformational leader, but Forbes also named her a top 20 speaker. And so she spends her days encouraging and equipping women to build lives and businesses of purpose and impact. And she spends her nights and weekends … This is probably my favorite part of what I’ve learned about Liz, wrestling and wrangling her three sons. She’s a boy mom, I love that and her husband, Ben. Well, Liz, it’s great to have you. Thanks for joining us.
Well, I am so excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Absolutely. Well, we invited Liz to join us on the podcast really to discuss a little bit about a couple of different things just to expose you to her world before our Personal Growth Day on March 13th. And Liz, where I want to start is I’d love to just hear a little bit about your new book, Beginner’s Pluck. And if you could just talk about it from a high level, and just how people can expand their influence, and their impact through that book. Talk a little bit about that genesis of it.
Yeah, thanks so much for asking. So Beginner’s Pluck really came out of my own lived experience of going out into the world, building a life, and a career, and a vocation in a community that I believed was deeply impactful, and filled with lots of purpose and passion mainly through my story of starting and growing Sseko Designs, the company that you mentioned. And through that journey of building this company, I started speaking and sharing about this story and people would ask me, “How did you do it? How did you build this company? It’s so purposeful. You have so much passion for it.”
And I would say things and I said a lot of the things that I had heard out there kind of in popular culture, and that kind of seemed like fine enough, they resonated, I guess. But I noticed this really interesting thing started to happen, and that was I started asking myself the question of, by reiterating some of these messages that we just hear all of the time. I mean, they’re just common lexicon at this point, go out there and dream big, and you just have to go find your passion.
That those kind of platitudes that we’ve become very familiar and comfortable with, especially in the kind of purpose and passion space. When I really leaned in and got super curious, what I realized is that that message was not inspiring people. That message was actually contributing to this kind of sense of, “I’m overwhelmed, I’m behind, I’m not where I should be. I’m not equipped to make this impact that I thought maybe I could.”
And so I really just started diving in and going like, “Do you even believe these things that you’re saying?” And if you were to start with a blank slate, if you had never read a self-help book before, if you had never gone and seen a motivational speaker, if you had never opened up Instagram and followed an inspirational guru, how would you distill down the most helpful mindsets and mentalities that joined you along the way?
And what I ended up realizing is that actually the things I believe in most deeply, not only are not the things that you’re hearing all of the time, but they’re actually the exact opposite in a lot of instances. And so I just started looking at my story through this lens and teasing out some of the most important principles that I’ve held close to me over the course of the last decade or so in building this life of purpose, passion, and impact, and then I put it all in a book called Beginner’s Pluck.
And one of the main kind of theses, if you will, of the book is that while there’s definitely a place for expertise and for excellence, that as leaders, we need to actually put as much of our energy into channeling our beginner’s minds as we do into becoming experts in our field. Because when we do that, when we intentionally channel our inner beginner, we are more curious, and ultimately more effective in our work. And that that is actually a huge key to effective leadership that I don’t believe gets talked about enough.
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We could literally, now, we’re not going to do it today because we’re going to keep this podcast short, but we could unpack what you just talked about for probably a couple of hours. And what really gravitated towards me in my mind and just as a leader, a couple of things, and I just want you to react based off of it for me. Number one, I love the fact that you said, “Hey, what we hear on a daily basis, all of a sudden, do we really believe that?” Or we believe in, we all get the head nod when everybody goes, “Hey, how you doing today?” Everybody’s like, “Oh, great.” Well, that’s really not going on internally.
When you went back and you looked and you were going through that growth journey, and you were really kind of being very introspective and becoming aware of, what was it that your mind was? What was the one, not just to tease what was in the book, you don’t have to give away [inaudible 00:06:37]. But what was the one that had the greatest gap that when you began to journal and write it down and say, “Man, there’s a statement that of this, but that’s really not what I believe after I’ve spent some time with a blank sheet of paper and I’m growing through this process.”
What was the one that just stuck out in your mind the most that you became aware of?
Oh gosh, I feel like you’re asking me to choose between my favorite children right now. So, so many of the principles feel so near and dear to me, but I think if I’m honestly just kind of going more chronologically, I think a lot of the mindset around having goals, visualizing what the end goal is, kind of breaking it down, having objectives before you go into a situation being critical to your success as opposed to having some white space,
And some true curiosity and freedom on the front side. And for me, in my journey, I had a lot of … I mean, shame might be a strong word, but when I moved to Uganda, I did not have a plan, I did not have a goal, I did not have a vision, I did not have a job, I did not have money. All of the things that would be like, “Hey, this would do you well to set you up for success.” I had none of that.
And I think in the moment I felt like, “Man, I’m clueless. I’m a loser. I don’t have an objective. What am I?” There would be days where I would wake up and it would just be the white, blank space of nothingness of, “I don’t have a job, there are no expectations. I don’t have a goal.” I got in my head at times and I’m like, “What am I doing here?” I’m like wasting time. All of my friends, we just graduated from college, and they’re all off, and they’re on the track, and they’re setting goals, and they’re getting jobs, and they’re getting promotions.
And what I can see so clearly in hindsight is that that was the greatest gift. Actually, when you don’t have an objective, when you don’t have a preconceived idea in mind, what that allows you to do is to become actually truly curious. And I really likened the analogy that I like to use is around becoming an investigative journalist in your own life. Because so often we come up with these ideas and we’re like, “I want to do this. This is the product I want to create. This is the team I want to create. This is the mission I want to create in the world,” whatever.
And when we get emotionally attached to our ideas, what ends up happening is we may ask questions, but we’re really hoping we get a certain answer to that question. And we might only be asking the questions that we think are going to, it’s called confirmation bias, confirm what we’re already hoping the world needs from us, or this product that people supposedly really need, or this problem in the world.
When you truly come to a place where there is white space, and blank space, and you can be truly unbiasedly curious, that can actually be a superpower. You are going to be able to see needs, to see opportunity, to see problems in a way that other people can’t because they’re so narrowly focused on only getting information that’s going to align with what they already believe. That not only does that not make you aimless, or left behind, or whatever narrative you might be telling yourself, that could actually be your superpower as a leader, a visionary, and a creator.
That is so good. I think what you’re saying too, in today’s world, you removed yourself from so many distractions, and we’re able to discover that. And now I think leaders, their own personal journey, also leaders of teams and people, and family, communities, volunteers, there are so many distractions that if we were to say, “Wipe away the slate and start at the beginning.” There’s a lot of undoing that has to happen.
And I think in today’s society, we could do a better job of leading our families, of our organizations, of our teams, and could accomplish even more if we would apply and put into action what I believe is what you’re going to communicate to the team on March 13th. And then obviously in the book that you’ve written, I love the principle.
So you go through this growth phase and that was a massive growth phase for you. Now, you’re successful, and you’re leading a team, and doing speaking, and writing books. What’s your personal growth journey look like right now? How do you on a daily basis attack personal growth and develop yourself?
Yeah, well, one of the things that I love about the message of Beginner’s Pluck in this whole kind of school of thought is that it applies very directly to anybody who actually is a beginner. So you’ve started a new career, you got a promotion, you took on a new job, you are in the state of conscious incompetence, which is stage two of the learning journey, which is the hardest stage for anybody to be in.
What ends up happening, though, over time is if you stick with something and you’re like growing, you actually move out of stage two into stage three, which is conscious competence, and eventually into stage four, which is unconscious competence where it’s like you’re so good at the thing that thing that you used to have to really try to do, you can kind of do in your sleep. And the message of Beginner’s Pluck and the 14 principles that I outlined on how we can really intentionally harness our inner beginner and grow our be our beginner’s minds, actually I think becomes even more important as you actually do become a leader and an expert.
Because the temptation is to really camp out in those spaces where we’re comfortable, where people look at us, they know we’re an expert, we can do this thing in our sleep. And so for me, it really is putting myself consciously in positions where I know I’m going to be a beginner. It’s just like any other muscle. It is like any other muscle that if I am not showing up in spaces, and listen, this doesn’t have to be like I’m suggesting you restart your career every three years. For instance, I just took up roller blading.
Did you really?
And I did, I did. I had this moment where I was like, “Why did roller blading stop being a thing? That sure does look fun.” And I got online, I just ordered myself a pair of roller blades. By the way, I haven’t roller bladed since I was, I mean, eight, nine. This is not something that it’s like I even used to be good at that point. And I will say, so I got my roller blades, strapped them on, I got a little helmet, went to this park by my house, put my roller blades on for the first time. And as you can imagine, it was a disaster.
Roller blading is very hard for somebody who hasn’t done it as an adult. I’m slipping, I’m falling all over, I’m fumbling, and I want to give up, of course, because I’m like, “Listen, I’m a serious adult. I run a company, I have a family, all of these things. What am I doing out here roller blading falling on my butt over and over?
You’re looking around, you’re like, “Who’s watching? Who sees me?”
Of course. And let me tell you, you will get a lot of attention, not the good kind of attention when you are an adult who doesn’t know how to roller blade, who’s attempting to learn how to do so in public. And in addition to being a great cardio workout, the reason that I do things like this, that’s not just a fun little like, “Oh, I’m just going to go roller blade.” It’s actually really intentional because now I know two or three times a week I have baked into my schedule a moment where I’m failing publicly where I don’t look cool, where I don’t look like I have it all together.
And even in something so simple as roller blading, there’s a lot of things and way you start to rewire your brain to go like, “One, okay, so what if I look like an idiot? That’s actually not the end of the world.” Two, “You know what? I don’t think anybody’s really thinking about the girl that they saw roller blading falling on her butt for more than 10 seconds.” That’s not changing.
And I think so often our insecurities of, “But what if I try and fail and I look like an idiot, and what will people say?” We kind of say, “Oh, that’s an insecurity.” What I would actually say is that is actually an over-inflated sense of ego. You believe that people are actually thinking about you more than they are. You go out, you roller blade, you look like an idiot, someone sees you, they may laugh. 10 seconds later, they’re thinking about their own job, their own promotion, how they’re going to get to their kid’s soccer game on time that night, whatever it is.
There’s a real sense of freedom that you can start to cultivate, but you have to actively choose to put yourself in those spaces, and really exercise that muscle. So whether that is taking on a new project at your workplace, something that’s actually a little bit more serious. Or just choosing to do things that force you into that place of, “I’m a beginner and it’s going to hurt it first, and it’s not going to feel good.” And there’s actually a lot of joy in life and freedom to be found in that.
That is a fantastic story. And we may or may not have to get a picture of you roller blading, and I’ll have [inaudible 00:15:38] put it on the front end of this podcast and we’ll be like, “Hey, learn why Liz decided to start roller blading.” I absolutely love that. That is so fun.
All right, so when you think about right now the world, and we’ve talked about distractions, we’ve talked about how do you get a clear state. We talked about how do you not be the smartest person in the room and how all of that can help leaders.
What do you think is the greatest challenge? What are you hearing? What are you seeing? What are you reading? What are you experiencing as a leader yourself? What’s the greatest challenges that leaders are facing right now? And then I know you’re big about the other side of that, the opportunities that if you’re prepared come from that. What do you think those are right now? What comes to mind?
I think one of the things that comes to mind for me is just the immediacy that everything people are doing, they’re then putting on the internet, and waiting for affirmation from complete strangers that may or may not be the people that they’re actually trying to serve or target. And I think that that is a huge distraction for so many leaders.
I think we have gotten it in our head. I mean, talk about kind of skipping over the beginner stage, that it’s like there’s this sense that the shortened amount of time between it’s like, “I launched this project, I have this idea, and it should be in a form where I could put it out on the internet and get tons of like accolades and excitement.” And we’re placing our validation again a lot of times on complete strangers, that’s not even who we’re trying to serve in the first place.
There’s actually studies that have shown that over the course of the last 15 years, one of the things that’s happened in our mind. So it used to be we did a thing, we climbed a mountain, we got to the mountaintop, and when we summited that mountain, our brain would release dopamine and go like, “Man, you did it. You made it to the top of the mountain.”
Then it started to shift and it actually started to be, “Okay, you made it to the top of the mountain. I’m going to take a selfie.” … Picture and I made it to the top of the mountain, that’s when my dopamine starts to release. Then it shifted to, “I’m going to take the picture, I’m going to post the picture,” then I’m getting the dopamine release. And now we are at a place where literally we have this delayed response.
I summited a freaking mountain, and my brain isn’t giving me that neurological kind of stamp of satisfaction and approval and all of these things until I take a picture, I post about it, I say something about it, I wait to get affirmation from other people about it. And that way that our brains are actually rewiring themselves to who we’re looking for approval, and that timeline, and how that impacts like our energy that we have for what we’re working on, I think is a potential huge distraction.
And I think that leaders who can rise above that distraction and who are willing to kind of exist in the suck for longer, if you will, actually have a huge edge and advantage over what they’re creating over their longevity, and just the sustainability of the passion that they have towards what they’re building.
The example you gave is so relevant to our world today from a personal standpoint, and you just tied it together so nicely as leaders that if we’re not careful, the same thing’s going to be happening not only with us and our leadership, but also with those that we have the privilege of walking alongside with, and leading, and just need to be aware of that. That is a great example.
Well, I learned already from you in less than 20, 25 minutes, five key things that are awesome, and made some notes, and I’m going to go dig a little bit further. Matter of fact, I may even bother you on Personal Growth Day. I’m going to say, “Now, tell me a little bit more about that. I want to learn more about that and-“
I love it. You’ll find me, I’ll be the girl on the roller blades so that’s how you’ll find me.
Only if [inaudible 00:19:33] roller blades coming up on stage will I talk to you. But again, I wrote down three to five things that are just pivotal, what you said that really kind of just struck me mentally, and I really appreciate that. Those that are listening that are coming to Personal Growth Day. And by the way, if you haven’t registered for Personal Growth Day, I want to encourage you to do that. It’s going to be an incredible day. You can do that by visiting maxwellleadership.com/personalgrowthday, and I’ll tell you a little bit more about that in just a minute.
But Liz, as we wrap up, what can they expect to hear from you on March 13th? What are you thinking about? What do you want to share with them? Anything in addition that you haven’t shared already today that they can be looking forward to on March 13th?
Well, yeah, I want as many people as possible to be there in-person learning with us. So we’ll be diving more into some of the principles that we shared about, but some principles that we didn’t of how do you, whether you are a actual beginner, whether you are coming to this day going like, “Okay, I’m embarking on this new adventure, this new career, this new vocation.” I am going to teach you how by being a beginner is actually your superpower.
You don’t have to fake it until you make it. You can show up and say, “Actually, part of my superpower is that I haven’t done this before. I haven’t learned this yet.” And then for folks in the room, room who truly are, they are leaders, they are experts, you have whole teams that are looking up to you for guidance, for vision, for feedback I’m going to teach you about how channeling your inner beginner, and a few really simple principles can totally transform how you lead, how you show up, and how you inspire others to build lives of purpose, passion, and impact as well.
That is awesome. It is going to be awesome. It is going to be a great learning time. Even just personally, Liz, what I might do with my children and social media, because I’m on the other side of, as you said, kind of the suck moments. I’ll be like, “Listen, guys, this is my superpower. I am a beginner on social media.” You have to teach me everything that I need to know. But what I love about everything you shared is so applicable to our own personal growth journey, to leading ourselves, and to leading our team and leading our organizations.
And so thank you so much for carving out time. We are super excited that you’re going to be joining us on March 13th. And once again, for those that have not signed up, and aren’t going to be there, you’re going to miss out. But I want to encourage you to don’t hesitate. Whether you’re going to be there in-person or even virtual, I want you to go and visit maxwellleadership.com/personalgrowthday. Liz, thank you so much. Have a great day.
Thanks so much for having me, and I look forward to hopefully seeing a lot of you on March 13th.