Continually Seek Growth Opportunities

Elliot Holland Guardian Due Diligence

Stepping out of your comfort zone is a difficult thing to do, but it is absolutely essential for growth, in both a business and personal capacity. The world is changing at a rapid rate and if you aren’t continuously growing, you are going to get left behind. Our guest on today’s show, Elliott Holland, Managing Director of Guardian Due Diligence, believes that your most frustrating experiences will often be your biggest learning opportunities, so you shouldn’t shy away from situations that are difficult or stressful. Elliott also shares why and how he maintains a practice that has been invaluable to his success in business; reflection. There is always room for improvement, and if you don’t look back and figure out where you went wrong (or where you went right), you will struggle to move forward. Learning from the experiences and the reflections of the more senior people in your field will also benefit you greatly. Don’t let fear prevent you from fulfilling your dreams; most people suck at the beginning, and you have to start somewhere!

Key Points From This Episode

  • The world is rapidly changing, and it is so important to stay up to date in terms of your knowledge and skills.
  • Invest in yourself in order to move forward and grow in your chosen career.
  • Elliott mentions an example of how things can go wrong when people aren’t keeping up with the times.
  • Growth can occur in numerous ways, not just through books and the internet. Elliott shares examples of different ways of investing in oneself.
  • As you grow, you will realize how much your younger self didn’t know.
  • Make sure that in every situation, you are either winning in monetary terms or you are learning and growing.
  • Don’t be too quick to walk away from deals that aren’t working out; instead, use them as an opportunity to learn a lesson.
  • Books are helpful, but the best way to learn how to negotiate is through on-the-job-training.
  • Looking back at your previous work and figuring out where you went wrong (i.e., reflection) is an extremely valuable practice.
  • Smart, dedicated, well-prepared people don’t often make mistakes; look at their behavior and learn from it.
  • See stress as a blessing because it means you are learning, but make sure you also take time to recover.
  • Don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone; everyone ‘sucks’ in the beginning.
  • Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll get to where you want to be!
  • Elliott shares some of the toughest things he has had to learn in his career.
  • In order to grow, you need to let yourself be vulnerable and open to change.
  • Knowing when and when not to trust your intuition is a skill that comes with growth.
  • Listen to and learn from the more mature people in your space.



[0:00:04.5] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a connection builder’s podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.

 [0:00:21.0] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. I’m your host Alex Drost. Today’s episode, we continue the conversation on investing in your professional growth and we have Elliott Holland, a managing director with Guardian Due Diligence. Elliott and his team specialize in helping family offices execute on direct private equity deals.

We spend time today discussing how we must always be seeking opportunities for growth in both our professional and personal lives, and some of the challenges that come along with this. I hope you all enjoy.

[0:00:53.2] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network, we are on LinkedIn, search for Connection Builders.


[0:01:00.0] AD: Elliott, welcome to The Branch Out Podcast, looking forward to having you on here today.

[0:01:04.0] EH: Yes, good to be here. Thanks for having me.

[0:01:06.9] AD: Elliott, you and I are here today to talk about investing in your professional growth. Maybe it’s helpful if we just start out with you just sharing, you know, what does it mean to you if I say, “Hey, invest in your professional growth.” What does that mean? Share some of your thoughts around that?

[0:01:23.8] EH: Yeah, I think for me, a lot of us start professional growth sort of when we finish college or grad school or whatever sort of our, you know, entry level job is. I think investing in your growth is sort of recognizing that you get paid to solve problems, to solve problems, you need skills, skills are changing every single day and so, every sort of day, week, month, year that you’re not investing in yourself, you’re almost moving backwards relative to those who are.

Whether that’s reading with the sort of influx of classes you can take online, through Udemy or even through top rated institutions. Investing in yourself is just making sure that you’re managing the knowledge you want to have to deliver sort of whatever you’re delivering in the marketplace at the highest level.

[0:02:11.8] AD: I think that makes a lot of sense and I really want to hook on to something you said there, “You’re paid to solve problems”, right? In our listener base, being what we say middle market professionals, being people that are in a service-based industry typically where you really are being paid by your clients simply to solve problems, right?

You do a lot of financial diligence work and ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re giving them a report that highlights the same things that arguably anybody else they hire should find the same things, relatively speaking.

[0:02:43.0] EH: Yes.

[0:02:44.4] AD: You’re being paid to come in there and add value by solving the problems and challenges that they face, right?

[0:02:51.3] EH: Yes.

[0:02:52.6] AD: To successfully do that, you have to have the knowledge and the skillsets and you hit on the point that’s really important there. The world keeps moving. Life keeps going on and things evolve and change, and if you yourself don’t evolve, change and grow with that, then ultimately, you’re getting left behind, right? There is no standing still because the world moves.

[0:03:09.3] EH: That’s it.

[0:03:12.1] EH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even one of the – like most recent examples I love, cryptocurrency was sort of this thing that the more stable, sort of older school investors didn’t touch. Now, Ray Dalio, one of the more classic sort of temporary [inaudible 0:03:26] investors is looking at cryptocurrency.

You know, even that trend that may have started 10, 15 years ago is now something that even a guy who is you know, maybe 50s or 60s, I’m not sure, maybe even higher than that, now has to go invest in and learn. The world will pass you by. I mean, another example is, think about when all the technology companies from Silicon Valley had to go testify in congress. If you watched any of that, that’s what happens when you don’t stay up with the times, with the technology, with whatever is cutting edge in your industry.

[0:04:01.1] AD: Well, and you make some good points there around, it’s not – I think so many times, with investing in your growth, we get stuck in this mindset of “Well, I have to go to a workshop or I have to read a book or I have to have a coach,” or things like that that are more traditionally associated with investing in your growth. I think all of those are very important and are all fundamental parts, especially in the soft skill development.

But the point that you’re making is this is just about knowledge in general of your industry and skill sets and understanding. Technology I think is a great point around this is that technology changes and you don’t necessarily need to know every drop of everything in technology because –

[0:04:38.1] EH: Right.

[0:04:38.2] AD: There’s just too much to know.

[0:04:39.2] EH: Right.

[0:04:39.3] AD: But you’ve got to keep up, you’ve got to have an understanding, you’ve got to feel comfortable in the stuff. Because if not, things will pass you by and you have to make that intentional approach to learning and investing in those skill sets.

[0:04:52.9] EH: That’s it. You can even invest in your network, keeping in touch with people. You can invest in proprietary analysis, not on the internet or not in a book, right? People oftentimes assume that it’s all written down in an available book and that’s not the case.

You can invest in managing your creative side of your mind, right? Arts and other things of that nature, non-profit boards, you know, and your mental health, right?  All these things sort of encompass your total person that you bring to work. When you’re investing in your growth, you really have to think through, what is your pathway to getting your optimal performance through all the activities you do?

[0:05:31.2] AD: Pathway to optimal performance. I like that. If I’m hearing you right on that, what we’re really trying to do is say, “Okay, I’m here today, I want to go somewhere in the future which is a better state, a better future that I’m in today.” I think inherently as a human and especially as a service provider, we’re all typically pretty driven, motivated people.

We want to make our lives better, we want to improve, we want to get to that next level and the one thing I’d love your thoughts around this, growth. I think this is applicable in many ways. But growth doesn’t have an end point.

You don’t achieve professional growth, you don’t accomplish and, “I’m there, I’ve grown, I’m done”. Rather, it’s a journey, it’s a process, it’s something you’re –

[0:06:14.0] EH: Yes.

[0:06:14.0] AD: Continuously doing, and it never ends, right?

[0:06:17.6] EH: Right. I think every five or 10 years, you sort of realize how much you didn’t know. If you look back at your like, 18-year-old self, you thought you knew something and now, think about your 25-year-old self, you thought you knew something. I don’t want to go too far because I’ll age myself.

But maybe even your 30-year-old self and thought you knew something and now you’re thinking back and you’re like, you didn’t know squat and the five years of knowledge or seven or 10 or whatever it is between you and that last goal post, you almost feel like you’ve learned more than you may have learned in the whole body of learning before that because you get more specialized, sort of the speed of understanding things changes or in the financial service industry, what ends up happening is you get all these academic things that you learn in sort of business school, you know, the greatest one is started on efficient market, where everyone has equal access to data and all access trade, at the highest bidder and sort of the highest market price.

Then, when you get into your finances or practitioner, you realize there is almost infinitely imperfect data and very seldom do assets trade at the highest potential price outside of maybe public market things that I think mirror that but sort of, all these vendor market stuff that you and I focus on, don’t.

When you start learning this, you’re saying, “Okay, so now I just learned something today, what’s the thing I’m going to learn 10 years from now that I don’t know now?” Then, when I’m sitting across the desk from a professional that may have been in my line of business for 20 years more than me, “What things do they know that they may be competing with me on – that it may take me the next 20 years to know?” You just keep going.

[0:07:56.7] AD: You do, you continuously grow, you continuously learn. I love when you say, think about yourself 10, 15, 20 years ago, whatever the right time horizon is, and I argue to people, “If you look back,” I would say even as short as 12 months in many cases. “If you can’t look back and clearly, very clearly see where you understand something or act differently or think differently or have some improved state of being today than you did previously, something’s wrong.”

[0:08:29.2] EH: Yeah.

[0:08:29.7] AD: You have to always be able to find that.

[0:08:31.2] EH: Look, you need to either win money-wise or win lesson-wise. You shouldn’t be in situations where you’re not doing one of the two. If it’s great, you actually win in both but you know, I’m an engineer undergrad so you know, sometimes I have to go back to nerd land. But if you think about design of experiment for anyone who is sort of in that capacity, if you don’t set up your work such that you can gain the maximum knowledge, you’re sub-optimizing too.

For instance, in due diligence on a company, right? You got your 90-day window, plus or minus to go from letter of intent signed to deal closing. Now, I’ve been in situations where, call it a 60 days into that deal closing, I find something or major sort of fib told by the seller, a major market trend that no longer gives me interest in the business, a broker who I lose all confidence in their integrity and so therefore the business they’re marketing has all types of new risk. You can just say, “Oh, forget this, I’m out. Bye.” A better approach may be to actually unravel what’s here, what fooled you earlier the first 60 days that you didn’t see? How far were certain people willing to go to hide the truth?

You know, we have these quality [inaudible 0:09:46] reports that we do for clients to actually check the financials of private companies. Most people, when they decide that something’s wonky in a deal, they cut the quality of earnings.

I’m not saying go infinitely far. But you may want to actually call your service provider and ask them sort of, “Where did the guy hide the salami?” Right? “How did this happen and sort of, if I was smart next time, how would I find that out, you know, maybe before I started diligence on this company?”I think that’s just one example of investing in your growth, you know? I’ve been on trip where the seller did something so crazy in the first half day of a two-day trip that I should have flown home. I finished the trip to get the lesson.

[0:10:30.2] AD: You make a point there and I want to – tell me if I’m right on this. In some way, it’s the power of reflecting and in part, you have to finish the engagement, you have to kind of see things through and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to see everything to the end but you have to see things through, not just walk away when things get tough, but what I heard there clearly, it’s the reflecting and it’s looking back and saying, in your analogy or your example was, you’re doing a quality of earnings, a due diligence report on a business you’re closing on, you get two months in, 60 days in, you’re 30 days from close and you realize, “Oh, something is bad, there’s fraud, there’s this, there’s that.”

So yeah, it does make sense, you probably don’t want to close on the deal, especially if it’s a really big impact and so you walk away from the transaction. But the key is, to really understand what happened, why and where did you end up in that situation, what caused that challenge to happen and then, more importantly, how do you prevent it from happening in the future?

How do you learn from the lesson? How do you learn from the mistake or the oversight or whatever it is so you can grow?

[0:11:33.0] EH: Yes. One of the most difficult things you do as a deal maker is negotiate. I have a lot of great negotiation books on my shelves and I read a lot of stuff on the internet because it’s so difficult to do. But there’s nothing like you know, live bullets flying, right? It’s on the job training, OJT. Sometimes it’s good to negotiate to get better at negotiating.

Now, again, I’m not saying wasting people’s time. But I think sometimes we shy away from things because it’s painful or difficult and sometimes, that’s an opportunity, that’s a classroom. I mean, that’s really what it is.

You have another live negotiation, that’s a classroom. You have another evaluation to do, that’s a classroom. Every experience, particularly the tough ones, are a classroom. One of the things I used to do with my partners when I was an independent business buyer under Ellsworth Partners and Spartan Capital is every quarter, if we were good, but definitely every year, we’d do postmortem’s on each and every deal.

We’d spend way more time than we’d spend on almost anything else going through, you know, “On day one, day eight, day, you know, whatever, here are choices we made to allocate time and resources, here’s where we screwed up, here’s where partner one got it better than partner two, partner two got it better than partner one.”

Those are classrooms, those are opportunities to learn and they’re in your data set. But if you don’t take the time to invest, then it’s just, “That thing didn’t work,” and on to the next, you kind of wasted the opportunity.

[0:12:58.4] AD: Why not? Well, in postmortem, I love that, I think postmortems are a great way to look at this and I cannot remember where I heard this, some book somewhere that I read and this is certainly paraphrasing what the quote was but, “Experience is the best teacher so long as you slow down to listen to what they have to say.”

All too often, we all want, “Experience, experience, I need more reps, I need” –

[0:13:22.8] EH: Right.

[0:13:23.4] AD: Yeah, totally, right? Experience does make you better at stuff, that’s how we learn. But you have to actually hear what the experience is teaching you. That doesn’t happen just by doing. That happens by stopping, reflecting, looking and saying “Okay, what went wrong?” Or even, “What went well?” Right?

One of the – a question I love and this is a prompt that I use with clients, I use it in my own life a lot, to really sit down and ask yourself at any situation, “What would you continue doing, what would you stop doing and what would you start doing?” Or, “What went well, what didn’t go well and where can you improve?” Right?

These simple little prompts that you just ask yourself that, really sit and ponder on that for a little bit and when we’re talking about investing in your growth and improving and really taking yourself to the next level of growth, it is that reflection time of your experiences and asking those types of questions to yourself and being thoughtful and intentional around that, that does open up where you’re like, “Oh, wow, that makes more sense now, I’m not going to make that mistake again.” Or “I’ve identified a weak spot that I can now go find a resource to help me learn it or wherever it might be”.

But if you don’t stop to do that, then what happens, right? You never get anywhere.

[0:14:40.6] EH: You don’t get anywhere, one of the methodologies I use oftentimes, or sort of methodologies that I negate or disagree with almost on face. Because it actually doesn’t really happen in nature all that often.

So how many times have you been around somebody who doesn’t get what they want and they say that rich, smart, brilliant person is stupid? They made a mistake. You know what I mean? “I was talking to Bill Gates and he said this, he made a mistake”. “Oh, I’m talking to Warren Buffett and he passed on this deal and he made a mistake”. Smart, dedicated, you know, well prepared people don’t often make mistakes, you often don’t understand all of their constraints –

[0:15:21.4] AD: Thoughts.

[0:15:21.7] EH: Or motives. When you get into the situations and you work with them. “Oh, this dummy did this,” and you’re like, “Let’s actually unpack that. Because I think he’s well prepared in everything else I’ve seen him or her do. I think there might be some essentials here you didn’t understand, let’s white board this and try to figure out what kind of motives or incentives or constraints might actually define the behavior that you observed.” Now, look at those and kind of say okay, “What one of these or ones of these did you miss in this sort of calibration of how you actually react within the situation?”

Now that you understand it, you know, these unwritten motives or intentions, whatever, now you can sort of look at it and say, “You know what? The next time this happens, A, I might have something to say to kind of open up that thing that they wouldn’t tell me proactively but I might need to know.” Or, you know, we both market ourselves our services, right?

When you think about a persona, you might think a persona is a single entity and find out, it’s really persona one and persona two, based on this thing that you’ll find out as you experience it more. I think there’s a lot of interesting ways to think about maximizing the utility, maximizing the benefit of the situations we find ourselves in.

Like, the other one I use all the time. You know, I’m trained to sort of keep my cool, right? Because I negotiate a lot. When I find myself like in my top 10% of frustration professionally, I’m either at like, at a tremendous point of growth, right? Because if you push me to that last piece, a bunch of things happen where none of my safeguard prevented this, right?

I’m frustrated –

[0:16:55.8] AD: Yup.

[0:16:55.7] EH: Probably at myself for not avoiding the situation. But if I’m ever doing business and I’m like, “Oh, I can’t find a good virtual assistant,” or, “My gosh, I can’t find a good CRM”. When I get to that like last 10% of like frustration or being upset about those things, I know its competitive advantage in sort of learning it.

Therefore, even like that most frustrating day you had, that actually may be the most intense learning environment you had.


[0:17:25.4] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a connection builder’s podcast.


[0:17:35.0] AD: Undoubtedly. Elliott, I want to hit on this and this is going a little bit of my own soapbox around this. I’m a fundamental believer that growth – and we can talk about this in any aspect of growth in your life – it requires you to go outside your comfort zone, it requires you to be uncomfortable, the analogy that I always think to is you’re pushing a boulder uphill.

To grow, that boulder is going uphill and actually, snowball is a great example. Because it gets heavier the further you push it up that hill. If you are not feeling uncomfortable, if you are not feeling pushed and pressured and stressed in some aspect of your life, then you’re missing growth opportunity. You’re simply not going outside your comfort zone and you have to go outside of it if you really want to achieve growth.

[0:18:16.7] EH: I totally agree, totally agree and so that’s sort of the coin, right?

[0:18:21.7] AD: Yeah.

[0:18:22.6] EH: I’m stressed, I’m blessed because I’m learning, right? I’m not stressed, I’m blessed because I have some time to recover but I can’t stay in either place too long.

[0:18:32.4] AD: Always a balance, it’s always a balance between, which I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s talk about something you said earlier that I think is really important. This idea that practice makes perfect and I think this goes for anything. I speak on networking a lot in my job and I always talk about this idea that if you want to get good at networking, well, go network. Like I can give you any tool or skill or anything you want but ultimately, you have to practice it if you want to get better, period.

That’s anything in life and so I want to attack this from two angles. Number one, if I want to grow, I have to know and in anything, if I want to get better at, a great example for me, I’ve wanted to get better at my ability to write. I force myself to write and journal every day because in doing that, I am practicing. I’m getting better and I can feel myself get better as I do it more and more and more consistently. The other side of that is just growth in general.

If growth is important for me, I have to practice growing. I have to practice going outside of my comfort zone and putting myself in uncomfortable situations and really leaning into areas that I am not good at so that I can get better. So, any thoughts around the power of practice and have a real question for you, anywhere where you can see in your life where you have just practiced something again and again and again and eventually you gained some level of expertise or mastery in it?

[0:19:54.6] EH: Sure, so I am going to comment on some of the things you said and then answer your question.

[0:19:59.8] AD: That’s good, yeah.

[0:20:00.8] EH: Hopefully my mind can hold it that long, let’s see how good I am. One of my favorite books on my shelf is You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar.

[0:20:11.5] AD: So true.

[0:20:12.8] EH: Because it hits the nail right on the head. Hard stuff is hard because you’ve got to practice and then so, you know, look, I’m a mid-career professional now. People all the time are like, “Oh, it’s too late” or, “Oh, you know there’s other people who know this,” and I kind of break it down and say, “No, you’re not okay with sucking at that thing,” because the beginning of practicing is, you suck. You know, you’ve done way more podcasts than I have, right?

I am just getting started. Compared to you, I probably still suck and I need to be okay with that to continually get better so that in a couple of years, whatever, there’s some person outside that’s like, “Hey, how did you do this podcast thing?” And now they can suck if they want to grow and then continue going but it sort of like in the ride a bike analogy, if you’re too scared to scrape your knee, biking is not for you.

Alternatively, the best bikers probably scraped their knees the most times. That was sort of some commentary to what you said. See, I lost that question, you asked a good one. What was it?

[0:21:16.1] AD: Where have you seen practice paying off in your career and your growth?

[0:21:20.6] EH: Probably the two hardest things I’ve had to learn professionally have been how to do a leveraged buy-out model for an M and A transaction and how to do it –

[0:21:30.3] AD: All deal models are fun.

[0:21:31.4] EH: Yeah, you know how to do it in a can, how to do it the land, how to do semi-M, how to know when you’re looking at a good one, how to know when you are looking at a terrible one, how to know when somebody’s 12-tab model is bull, shitake, when to know when somebody’s three-tab model is probably the best you’ve ever seen, which happened to me last month. I got a model from a bank no less, that described the LBO experience better in three-tabs than I have seen some people 10-tabs stuff do. So I would say that was one-time.

And talk about, you know when I started, I remember going to work at a private equity firm that I was investing in my growth. I actually worked there for free during my first and second year at Harvard Business School. I was making 50, $60,000 in the summer. I invested in my growth but that meant I walked in everyday, didn’t know what I was doing, learned as much as I could, called my friends who knew it, admitted right away that I didn’t know and needed help, did a bunch of work that night, woke up in the morning I still don’t know it, get a little bit more help and go to work, not know anything, learn, do it again and again and again. So punched in the face a bunch of times. The second thing, and I’ll put this out quicker, is just learning how to sell. People get scared of sales; they don’t like marketing. They don’t like it. I’ve had to work on it and get better at it.

I wouldn’t claim expert but I’ll tell you, I remember when I was still scared to cold call. I remember who was sitting there with me kind of chuckling and laughing at me and I just had to get over it.

[0:23:02.0] AD: Well and Elliott, I like it’s okay to suck. It is okay to not be good at something and it’s okay to admit that. One of the words and for anything that is a Brené Brown fan and I know we’ve talked about a little bit of her work on some of the other podcast but her work around vulnerability is something that I’ve spent a lot of time myself studying and learning and trying to open my mind to and what’s jumped out in that is when we talk about growth and we really talk about wanting to improve in anything, it requires vulnerability in our parts and it’s something we all as humans we struggle with, right? You never want to not be good, you never want to admit, “Oh, I have a flaw. I have a weakness. I have something that needs improvement,” but growth by its definition means that I am not at my peak performance. It means that I can get better because if I was at my peak performance, if everything was as good as it possibly could be, then what would I be growing at? There is no growth to occur if I’m already perfect.

[0:23:55.1] EH: I think you would just combust.

[0:23:56.9] AD: Exactly, right? Because you hit the ceiling already, right?

[0:23:59.6] EH: I can’t get better at anything, boom.

[0:24:01.4] AD: Yeah, but your point, you’re making that’s so powerful there is that if you really want to grow, if you really say, “Hey, growth is important for me. I want to go, I want to continue to improve,” then I have to really step back and say, “Well, I’m not that great at this,” or even if you are good at something, you have to be able to say, “I have room for improvement. I can get better,” and that can be a hard mindset. It really takes that vulnerability, that willingness, that openness to say, “I suck,” and maybe it’s not even suck, “I’m good but I can get better” right?

That mentality of open for improvement, open in saying, “I can improve,” and I will say, when we talked earlier about the power of reflection and looking back at what you do to really see where you improved, when you go at that with an open, vulnerable mindset that says, “Hey, where can I get better? How can I improve?” And you look at that with that critical eye of looking for areas of improvement, that’s where you’re going to see that stuff, even if you do reflection like, “Well, I’m perfect, but I’ll reflect on how perfect I was,” that’s not getting you anywhere, right? You have to be open to, “How do I get better at this?”

[0:25:11.6] EH: Entrepreneurship is sort of a perpetual vulnerability because you are always pushing stuff out before it’s ready.

[0:25:17.5] AD: Yes, it is.

[0:25:18.3] EH: Or you’re always waiting too long and missing opportunity. I mean it’s kind of – it’s a sliding scale, right? I’ve known people who are like, aim-aim-aim-aim-aim-shoot. I know people who shoot, aim, shoot again and either their way is probably imperfect. I don’t know anybody that would claim like a really good balance in that. I think the other thing entrepreneurially that’s been incredible in growth, right? You can’t measure it. It’s like the value of your gut, meaning –

[0:25:46.5] AD: Intuition.

[0:25:47.8] EH: Intuition and there’s a market kind of concept here, right? You know, you learn about the market, “I want to buy a share of stock. Am I the smart person buying or the dummy because the seller is smart and I’m going to take the L on this trade?” Right? You’re constantly figuring out, “Am I the smarter person or the dumber person in trying to evaluate where I am?” Well, that goes into even having conversations about reflections.

One of the things I’ve had to get better at from an intuition perspective is, something happened that blew up. You tell a couple of people that you have counsel with and they give you all these opinions about where you messed up or what happened or whatever and you have to sit back and say, “Which one of them [inaudible 0:26:28] take in jest,” right? And sort of act on versus some of the stuff that you’d get back and even some of the stuff that hurts us, right?

Some of the stuff that hurts was sort of aimed at you and being sort of comfortable enough with yourself to say, “That comment, that hurt, it does not matter based on my gut and intuition about what I know of this situation. I think I know it better than that person. I am going to keep going,” and you win and lose on your intuition but as you develop it, you get better at, at least knowing when to trust it.

[0:27:03.6] AD: I could not agree more and I believe that intuition and we said this a couple of times now, the power of reflecting, I believe that intuition can largely be driven and improved by that reflection, that time to think, that time to process outside of the situation, right? Because by definition, intuition is a gut feeling. “I know this, I know what to do. I just kind of have the feeling of what to do without having to process and think about it.”

That’s because your brain and this is the human brain is just such an amazing part of being human, you have this ability to underlying synthesize the information, the knowledge and the facts that are available to you and make a gut reaction and say, “This is how it is,” and many times and that this is my own experience, I lean into my intuition a lot. I think as an entrepreneur you have to but I think in general to really be successful in a fast-paced environment, leaning into your intuition is important.

That does not mean my intuition is always right. Like actually, I know my intuition is wrong from time to time and that’s the learning opportunity, right? But you have to be able to lean into it and focus on when it is wrong, looking and saying again, “How do I grow? How do I learn? How do I improve? How do I make sure that the next time I’m faced with a similar decision, I come up with a better solution?” All of that comes down to finding that intentional time to really sit back and figure out how to invest in that growth, how to invest in yourself to increase your knowledge and your thinking and the way you approach things.

[0:28:32.2] EH: You know there are times when my body tells me days before my mind can get there. I’ll feel tight, tense. I’ll be able to tell you like a level one rendition if you will of what the situation is and then three or four days later, when my sort of mind catches up somewhere –

[0:28:48.5] AD: Yeah.

[0:28:49.0] EH: My gut, my intuition I’ll say, “No, it wasn’t that. It was this other thing that was at the core of sort of what happened,” and I think I’ve experienced that more and more. I think it’s probably the sign of growth and also particularly developing my gut, which, to come back to the thing with your podcast, comes from reps.


[0:29:08.7] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle-market professionals.


[0:29:17.2] AD: Elliott, this has been a great conversation. I want to just give a quick recap for our listeners here. Feel free to chime in at the end if there is anything I missed but we started talking about this idea that as a service provider, you’re paid to solve problems and problems will change. The world will continuously evolve and there are multiple ways to accomplish and solve those problems so ultimately, if you really want to continue to move forward and you really want to improve yourself, your life, your career, that requires an intentional focus on growth and that’s where you have to be willing to invest and put that time and that effort into growing and ultimately, you have to say, “What is the pathway to growth? Where am I trying to get? What can I learn? What resources can I find to really step back and make sure that I am on the right direction, I’m heading in the right place but also that I am looking for those opportunities?”

And the way I find those opportunities is reflection and we hit on reflection a lot in here but it is stopping and saying, “You know, what went well? What didn’t go well? What would I start, stop or improve, continue?” Simple questions. Really simple questions but more importantly, finding the time to ask them and ask them with an open mind and then from there, we went into this idea that you have to go outside of your comfort zone.

You have to really be willing to put in the time and the energy to lean into stuff and then when you are outside of your comfort zone, it takes energy. It’s not easy, it’s psychologically, mentally, physically, anytime that you are doing something that’s outside of your comfort zone it will be draining. It will take more from you and you have to lean into that discomfort and really use that as an opportunity to grow and reflect from it.

Then practice makes perfect, this goes with anything. You have to get reps and experience. So, if you are not good at something, go do it.

[0:31:03.5] EH: Correct.

[0:31:04.2] AD: You will get better. That doesn’t mean that we’ll get better at everything. You know certain things, we just – some people have strengths and weaknesses but find out areas that are important for growth for you and then go practice them. Go look for opportunities because it is the only way that you’re going to get better and then we talked about vulnerability and being okay at sucking. I like that.

[0:31:22.5] EH: Yes.

[0:31:23.3] AD: It is a powerful statement but you know open-mindedness and say, “Hey, not everything is great, like, I have room for improvement. I know that I’m competent with who I am. I feel good about who I am. I feel like I am doing my best but I know that there’s room for improvement so I am open to looking, seeing and hearing what that improvement might be and slowing down and listening for it.” All of that really drives to our last point of intuition.

The power of intuition, the power of your gut and really that as you invest in your growth more and you spend more and more time reflecting and gaining that knowledge and that insight and building that kind of internal mental awareness, that’s what drives your increased ability to have the right intuition, the right gut reactions, the right thoughts and feelings but again, it all comes down to, you have to make time. You have to invest in your growth. You have to put the time in. Elliott, anything you’d add to that?

[0:32:14.3] EH: I would say listen to the more mature people in your space even if you think they’re sort of past their prime, whatever that means to you. What you’ll hear often is them telling you what they are terrible at and if you see somebody 20 or 30 years past you admitting that they are terrible at something, you should be emboldened to do it too. I think it’s this maturity that sort of gets you there.

[0:32:38.4] AD: I couldn’t agree more. So, we are going to have this episode with a call to action. Usually, I do one call to action. I am actually going to do two today because you just added such a great point in there. The first call to action, I want everybody in the next week to find time, just find 30 minutes of your day to stop and think about what’s the last big challenge you faced. What is the last time you werre in an uncomfortable situation or you’re annoyed or frustrated or felt like you might have failed?

Something that you have done that was a challenge for you and find 30 minutes to just ask yourself, “What went wrong? What went well? How would I improve that? What will I continue? What would I change?” Again, simple questions but just really think on that and I think you will uncover growth opportunities and bonus points, do that with a journal. Write down your thoughts, capture them and find and track that so you can act on those afterwards.

The second call to action based on what Elliott just said there, I think it’s so powerful, go find someone that is senior and mature in your industry or in your field, someone that you look up to and this is I understand, I’m not going to say do this in the next seven days unless you can but just find some time. Reach out in the next seven days, reach out to this person at least and go ask them if they’d sit down, have a coffee, have a virtual coffee, just spend some time and say to them, a real simple question, “You look back in your career, what would you do differently? What mistakes did you make? What would you change?” And just listen. Just listen, it’s not about you telling them anything. It is about you listening because you’re so spot on. People will share that and talk about things. They’re like, “Wow, I wish I’d have done this different, done this different,” and that’s your opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes which saves you the pain of going through the same thing, right? Absolutely, I want everyone to find time to do that. Elliott, this has been a great conversation.

[0:34:24.6] EH: Absolutely.

[0:34:25.6] AD: Again, I really appreciate your contribution and being on here. For our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?

[0:34:30.3] EH: Sure, so my email is [email protected] and then I am on LinkedIn at Elliott Holland, two L’s, two T’s and then at the handle on my email, you can find all kinds of information and I’m responsive in all of those places.

[0:34:56.7] AD: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. We’ll make sure that’s linked in the show notes here for you and Elliott again, I appreciate your time and your contribution to the show here.

[0:35:02.4] EH: Yes. Thank you, Alex, it’s been great. Thanks for having me.


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