Growth Habits for Success

Bob Doyle Michigan Association of CPAs

While personal growth is incredibly important for moving our careers and ourselves forward, it is not something that happens on its own. We need to set time aside to be intentional about our growth! Today’s guest is Bob Doyle, President and CEO of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA), and he joins us on the show to talk about how he is investing in his personal growth. We begin our conversation with the idea that everybody wants to grow and get better and our intention to discuss how we can actually accomplish that. Bob has a whole list of personal habits and areas that he is trying to improve on, many of which fall into the category of what are conventionally called soft skills. For Bob, soft skills are so important for success that they might better be reframed as ‘success skills.’ We dive into Bob’s morning routine, hearing him talk about how he begins the day with journaling and gratitude. We zoom into the importance of these two practices, highlighting the idea that journaling can help us to be more reflective and shift our mindsets towards becoming more grateful for challenges because they are often what make us grow the most! Bob shares a great quote about approaching self-improvement in baby steps, and then we dive into an exchange about how we can rethink 2020 as a year that encouraged growth in all of us. Toward the end of our conversation, Bob shares his current intention of becoming a better listener – a more active and empathetic listener. We explore how much people appreciate being heard and how listening well can make you a better leader and human being.

Key Points From This Episode

  • The idea that people fundamentally want to grow.
  • Bob’s view that personal growth is a muscle that you have to exercise.
  • The morning routine Bob practices for personal growth; journaling, gratitude, and more.
  • How important it is to practice gratitude, even for things that seem hard or bad.
  • Bob and Host Alex’s journaling practice; the reflectiveness and intentionality it produces.
  • Advice from Bob for implementing new habits by starting small and improving in baby steps.
  • A way Bob has implemented growth at MICPA by making the move to virtual.
  • The mindset piece of implementing good habits; it is essential to believe it is possible.
  • Seeing 2020 as the year that pushed us out of our comfort zones and the growth this produced.
  • Understanding that past challenges overcome have made you into who you are.
  • Reframing soft skills as success skills to drill down on their importance.
  • Bob’s goal to become a better listener, and how he is training his team to do the same.
  • The need people have to be heard by you, rather than have their problems solved by you.
  • How Bob incorporates listening into his morning routine and the effects this has.
  • Keeping a growth mindset because every moment is an opportunity for growth.


[00:00:01] 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.

[00:00:22] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today we’re finishing up the last of our four-part series on investing in your professional growth. We’re fortunate to have Bob Doyle, President and CEO of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, or as it’s better known, the MICPA. Bob and I discuss what successful habits we have implemented into our own lives, to ensure that we are constantly moving forward in our growth and we also explore how these small daily habits, ultimately, allow us to accomplish things that we never thought possible. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:00:58] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.


[00:01:05] AD: Bob. Welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. Excited to have you here today.

[00:01:08] BD: Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here.

[00:01:11] AD: Just before we jumped on here and recorded, Bob and I were just having a little bit of conversation around what exactly do we want to talk about. What really came out is we want to just talk about this idea of people need to grow and how do you build the right habits for that? I want to explain that a little bit. We’re in episode number four in our four-part series around investing in your professional growth. You’ve heard me say this again and again, I fundamentally believe that investing in your professional growth, investing in yourself is one of the most important things you can do to really move your career forward, but to also move yourself forward.

I believe, if you’re a listener of this show, you believe that and you want to invest in yourself. I really believe that people show up every day, wanting to become a better version of themselves. Sometimes we get off track. Things get in the way. I do believe we all innately want that improvement and growth. Let’s talk about how we actually accomplish that.

Today, we’re going to dive into what are the habits and what are some of the skills that we’ve really focused on to help make that happen. Bob, my first question to you is really, when you sit back and say, okay, you have a handful of habits, or a bunch of habits built in your life for success and for growth, what are the ones that are most impactful to you?

[00:02:24] BD: Oh, sure. You know what? To me, growth is like a muscle. You have to exercise it. Everyone, hopefully, finds their outlet, whether it’s running, or working out or anything. When you do that, you know how much better you feel afterwards. That’s why when you think of growth and you think of how you’re going to grow, whether it’s in your career, your personal life, as you said, to be a better person, you have to put in that time and find that time to focus on it. Whether it’s scheduling in your day, whether it’s me where I get up early and spend my mornings, just that quiet time, that time to think, that time to prepare for your day, the time to reflect on the previous day. All that, I think, is what helps you grow and helps you become a better version of yourself. I think, it’s just focus on that. Exercising that muscle of growth.

[00:03:19] AD: It’s a muscle. We know we have to make a priority for it. We have to carve out time for it. You said you have some morning habits. I do as well. Let’s talk about them. What do you do? How do you start your morning? Just take me through a morning in the life of Bob and how you get up and start that day and focus on the growth.

[00:03:33] BD: Absolutely. I wake up early, hopefully before my kids wake up. My youngest tends to be an early riser. I try to get that time even before him, where I make my coffee and first of all, and I don’t mind sharing, I spend time with my faith and in prayer. It really just sets me up. Then, I spend that time before I log on to my computer and go to my home office. Then that starts the day.

What I do first is I read, whether it’s different articles on leadership, or anything of that nature. It really just helps set up my day. I do some journaling. I also write down something I was grateful for in the previous day. Something that made me think, wow, I was grateful for, whether it was a great meeting I had at work, or grateful for time with my kids, or grateful for a great conversation I had with a friend.

One thing you can also sometimes be grateful for something that wasn’t necessarily good that happened. One thing I learned is you always want to be grateful for both the roses and the thorns, because the thorns is what help you grow.

[00:04:41] AD: I want to touch on that. I want to dig into that for a bit and then we’ll come back to some of the other habits you have. On this idea of gratitude and just gratitude in general. Not gratitude for what’s going right, but just gratitude. Real genuine gratitude. I struggle with this myself, as I think everyone does from time to time right, especially 2020 has taught us all how crazy things can get and how stressful life can be.

It’s easy to have the mentality like, “Oh, this is terrible and this is awful and my life’s hard.” Yeah, your life’s hard. So is everyone’s. Everyone has challenges. Everyone is dealing with their own series of challenges. When you find the gratitude, when you find that time, the mental feeling, the mental thoughts and the ability to overcome those negative thoughts really lies in that ability to be thankful, to be grateful for what you have. Do you have any stories, or experience that you can share around where focusing on gratitude has been helpful for you, but also, maybe where it’s been a challenge for you at times to keep that focus?

[00:05:41] BD: Oh, sure. Especially, everyone knows, this year has been difficult. It’s difficult to find some of that gratefulness in the challenges that we all face. I would say that in every challenge is opportunity. In every, even perhaps negative situation you’re in, there’s a way to find something valuable; something that came out of that that teaches you, that allows you to grow. That’s what you can be grateful for, even if it is a trying and difficult time.

It is a mindset for sure. I’ve gotten better at it, because I continue to practice it. It’s taken me years. It’s something that you just continue to think about and it’s just personal growth in this –  just feeling of just being grateful for life, grateful for your job, just grateful for your family, everything like that.

[00:06:38] AD: You said there, it’s something you have to do continuously. You have to constantly, to mindset, you have to think about it and put the time in. I think this goes for all habits. I want to come back to reading, journaling, faith. I want to dig into meditation even for a minute and just some of the morning habits. Gratitude, all of those is not something that you’re just going to wake up one day and be the most grateful person around and have a constant practice and attitude of gratitude.

The way you’re going to get there is by making it a priority and a habit and a focus of yours to do it every day. Especially on the days you don’t feel like doing it. That’s the day you need it the most. The mornings where you’re like, “No, I’m upset today, or I don’t feel good. I’m stressed. I have this going on. I’m not thankful for anything. I don’t have any gratitude today. I’ll do that tomorrow.” No, that’s when you need it the most. Really, if you want to be that person, if you want to have those habits, you have to stop and make that happen, period.

[00:07:33] BD: Absolutely.

[00:07:34] AD: It’s never going to happen, right?

[00:07:35] BD: Absolutely. Yeah. I like what you said, the attitude of gratitude. It’s something that it’s a mindset. It’s a good reminder. Maybe even just put it on your wall or something like that, a reminder of how to think about your day, what you’re planning for for that day and how to move forward with and being grateful in it. Again, it just sets up my day for me.

[00:08:03] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders Podcast.

[00:08:12] AD: Let’s talk for a minute on journaling and reflection. I know, you and I have talked a little bit about the value around that. Again, any experience around that and what you’ve seen in your life and how do you actually implement that into your daily habits?

[00:08:23] BD: Yeah. I’m actually, I still write by hand in a journal every morning. It’s just a again, a little bit of a reflection on the previous day, what went well, what didn’t and how can I learn from that and make the next day a little bit better? Sometimes it’s just chicken scratch. I have terrible handwriting. It’s just that mind to paper that again, helps just set up my day, just to prepare for it. Whether that day’s full of Zoom calls, or hopefully, a day that I have a couple hours to spend some time on myself. Whether it’s take a webinar, a success skills webinar, or to read articles, or even read a chapter of a book. I mean, those are all things that you need to make sure you put into your day, to ensure that you’re focused on that growth.

[00:09:24] AD: I love what you said around that. I’m going to share my own experience around journaling. This is something for anyone who knows me and any listener of the show knows this is a skill set that I’ve been working to develop. I do not write by hand. My handwriting is awful. The listeners obviously can’t see this, but Bob’s sitting in a room with me and you can barely read my writing, I’m sure. I luckily am someone who grew up using a computer from a very young age and have typed a lot of my life. It’s just the way that works for me.

I know a lot of people argue that the handwriting side of it is really important. Personally, for me, I feel that the typing is okay. Now all that said, how I do my journaling is I sit on my laptop and I write into an app. I’ve mentioned this app before. It’s called Penzu. I’ve for about a year now, I’ve been using Penzu and writing in it. It would have been earlier this summer, I was struggling. I’d sit down and maybe get a 100 words down and that was the most I could get myself to come to thoughts and didn’t see the value in journaling, but I was like, “Oh, I hear everyone talking about it. I need to make this happen.”

I would do it a little bit. I’d miss a couple days and then finally, I just said to myself, “Okay. I’m going to sit down. I’m going to make this a habit. Every single day, I’m going to write.” I told myself, I was going to write 750 words a day. That was my original thing. I read it somewhere online. There’s a great writer practice that says, just write every day 750 words. I actually ended up going to a 1,000, because I’m extreme in everything I do and I push myself to that next level.

I am now – I roughly 150 days in at the time of recording this episode that I’ve written daily, every single day. I will tell you, this is one of the hardest habits I’ve ever built in my life, because I’m not a writer. I’m an analytical – I did investment banking. I love Excel models. I’m a CPA. I mean, that’s my background. The writing is not my normal comfort skill set.

What’s interesting is I’ll tell you, the real reason I started doing it is because I want to write. I want long-term. I want to write and share my thoughts and I needed to practice every day if I wanted to get better, just like anything in life. The benefit that I did not see coming, but now I’m starting to really feel is the reflectiveness and the intentionality that comes from it. For me, it’s in the morning, I sit down and I write on.

Actually, at this point, I have a series of prompts. Seven days a week, each day I have a different prompt that I rotate through. I try to roughly spend about half of my time writing on that prompt. They’re things like, what’s going well in my work life? What’s going well in my professional life, or my personal life? Where am I growing in life? How is my faith doing? How is the relationship with my spouse going? Those things that I think are really important to me. It forces me to think through those things and write down and reflect on them and it brings the gratitude, it brings the mindsets and it brings me awareness of how I’m feeling on those things and the ability to think through them, to process them.

Then the second half of my writing and maybe, I guess, 75% is probably that. The last 25%, I spend a little bit of time just, what am I going to do today? This is purely just how am I going to plan my day. I start with things like, as soon as you finish writing this, you’re going to get up and do this. That’s me just telling myself, this is the game plan. This is the game plan, dude. This is what you’re going to do. I say that to myself when I’m writing this out and you say chicken scratch. I don’t think anyone could really read my journals. It’s choppy sentences. There’s no periods. Capitalization once in a while. It’s not meant to be something that’s public that I’m sharing.

Frankly, I don’t even go back and reread them all that often. They’re there. The whole point and again, this is what I never saw coming in doing this, what happens is all you’re doing is organizing your thoughts. You’re thinking things. You’re processing things. You’re reflecting. You’re creating a plan to go and tackle your day. You don’t have to do it nearly to the extreme level I do. That’s just by nature of my personality. That’s how I like to function. Just doing it. Just a little practice, a little bit. Even a couple days a week, I believe it will make such a big difference in your life if you can find the time for that.

[00:13:27] BD: What you just talked about was exercising your growth. I mean, you started at the very beginning, it’s like that couch to 5K, where first, you start walking, then you start run-walking and then you’re starting to run. It’s from the couch or even the marathon. It reminds me of a quote that I love is first, start doing what’s necessary and then you’ll start doing what’s possible. Pretty soon, you’ll realize you’re doing the impossible.

It’s just something that stuck with me, especially in this challenging time this past year, when everyone had to pivot to changing the way they do business, changing to a virtual environment. No one would have thought of all the things we could have accomplished, especially at our association, to provide the services that we provide to our members in a virtual environment. That was still a very much in-person.

I joked that when I first started, had I told them that throughout the year, we’re going to do all of our education, all of our training virtually, they would have told me I was crazy. But we did it. They would have said that was impossible, but it was very much possible. It has certainly changed the way that we do our business, changed the way we serve our members. That’s going to continue into the future as we find what – I don’t like calling it our new normal. I like calling it our new better. Our new better way of doing business. Our new better way of serving our members. Our new better way of serving our community. I think that’s part of all of us growing as well.

[00:15:05] AD: Let’s talk on that for a minute. The new better. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I like it. We all look at 2020, everyone has had change in their life. Everyone has done the impossible this year in their own ways. We’ve all seen things that we never thought we would see and experience things in a way we never thought we’d experience. To your point, all of this is proving and demonstrating to us that anything’s possible. I mean that in a pragmatic view of if you’re sitting back and saying, “I want to accomplish X, Y and Z,” and you say in your mind, “Well, that’s not possible,” you need to start asking why. What’s getting in the way?

Maybe you’re right. It may not be possible to do exactly what you want to do on the exact timeline and as quickly as we all want to accomplish something, but you can strive towards it and you can work towards it. The second in your mind you’re saying, “I can’t do that. That’s not possible.” What is that thought? I’m a big believer in what the mind thinks is really what drives the way that we act and what we’re capable of completing.

When you’re telling yourself, “That’s impossible. I can’t do that, or that will never work,” that is sure not helping you get there. You may be able to say, “That’s challenging and I think there are a lot of obstacles to overcome and it’s going to take time, energy and resources and practice and all these things that will be difficult to get there,” but that’s a way different statement than “That’s not possible.”

[00:16:29] BD: Oh, absolutely. We’re sitting here now at the end of 2020 as we’re recording this. I’ve been hearing a lot lately like, “I cannot wait until this year is over. Let’s flip the page and go to 2021.” I don’t subscribe to that, because last – Some may remember in, I believe it was in June. There was this viral poem that went around that said like, “What if 2020 is the year that we needed?” I remember reading that then and I recently read it again. I was like, “You know what? 2020 was maybe that year that we needed.” The year for us to grow, for us to change.

It was uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Can you imagine how much we’ve grown and how much, whether it’s in your professional life, your personal life? Embrace that and utilize that and look at yeah, it’s going to be nice for that calendar to change over to 2021. Think about everywhere we’ve been and the challenges we’ve all faced and that opportunity for 2021 and into the future. I’m super excited about that. To find that, like I said, not a new normal. Who knows what even normal is anymore? It is that new better.

[00:17:44] AD: The year we need it. I want to hit on that. I really like that. I like that thought. I actually agree with your thought process around the not being, “Well, I can’t wait for 2020 to be over. I can’t wait to be a new year.” At the same time, I have as probably most of us do something like, psychological thing like, “Oh, my gosh. This has been a year.”

I get that. I get like, great, we’re starting, turn a new page. We’re going to kick off a new year, but that doesn’t mean that it’s because 2020 was awful, terrible, bad. This all back to where we started this attitude of gratitude, this thought process. I’ll challenge all of our listeners to stop. We’ve all faced challenges in our lives. I’m a big believer in we all only know the challenges we faced. Everyone feels like they have faced the same difficulty and the same level of challenges. I understand that in the real world, certain people do face different struggles, but we all feel challenged only to the extent we’ve overcome it.

I challenge everyone on here to look back and really think about, what are some of the biggest challenges you had in your life, in your career and whether that be recently, or just in the span of your life, but really think about those challenges. I bet, you’ll sit here today, especially the ones that have some distance between them, especially the ones that have allowed for you to see some of that time lapse and some of the progress you as a person have made.

I think, you’re going to realize that those events, those challenges that you overcame are really what made you exactly who you are today in the good ways, in the really, really good ways. That’s where you have to step back and say – I was raised by a marine for a stepfather, who was very much always told me, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” That was something I was told very much early in my life. I believe it. There’s an extreme way you can look at that.

The reality is everything’s making you stronger. If you’re moving forward, you are getting stronger from it. When you find yourself in that, “Oh, I can’t wait for this to be over,” that’s that opportunity to reframe, rethink about this, be thankful and say, “Hey, I might not see the growth today indirectly.” I bet you can’t see more growth than you realize if you slow down and look, but also, recognize what this is going to do. Your example of the way we work, the difference of the way that we approach things, that’s a change today. Imagine what that compounding effect is going to be in five or 10 years from now.

Just think about technology. Think about technology. Think about how we’re going to be living in 10 years, because of the effects that this had, in positive ways. There’s negative effects to everything. I get it. We have to look at the positive. We have to look for the growth. We have to look for places that we can always move forward.

[00:20:14] BD: Absolutely. That really is what defines growth. I mean, growth is just learning. Learning from challenges and turning those challenges into opportunities, as well as learning from success too, because even when you have success, you need to make sure you grow from that. Because if you’re just not growing from success, then you can become stagnant. Then that brings challenges in the future.

[00:20:38] AD: I like that. Grow from the success. Grow from anything. This is learning. we’ve talked about this on a few of the other podcasts now around, if you really want to be a learner, you have to be open. You have to be open-minded. You have to openly say to yourself, “Where can I improve? What can I do better? Where can I –” I think, you can apply that anywhere.

I will tell you that the journaling, the writing, the reflection habit is a huge driver for that. Again, I said, I journal daily and that’s a big help for me. I’ve also applied that in other parts of my life. In the podcast, when I finished up the first season of the podcast, I spent a week or so working on a document that essentially, outlined what went well, what would I change, what did I like, what didn’t I like, how could I improve things? That process of reflection help me stand back and say, okay, well, and any of our listeners are realizing that this season, we do recaps at the end of the episodes. We have call to actions.

There’s a little bit of change in how I do stuff, because I was like, hey, by listening to all the old episodes and seeing what I did, this is a place to improve. That happened, because I sat down, I found the space, I reflected on it. Again, that’s an easy example I can give right here, but you can apply that anywhere.

It’s finding that time. I believe that experience can be the best teacher, so long as you slow down enough to actually listen. So many times, we’re running so fast through all of our experiences that we haven’t slowed down to hear what we’re supposed to be learning, both good and bad, the wins and the losses.

[00:22:06] BD: Yeah. It’s funny when you mentioned listening, because it’s something that I think you always need to think about where you can improve upon. I mentioned success skills earlier. I like that terminology, rather than soft skills, because I think it better defines that time that you’re spending. Because as I said, in the CPA profession that I’m in and other technical profession, there’s if not a requirement, at least a need to continue that education on their business. To make sure they’re providing their clients, or their businesses –

[00:22:41] AD: The technical side.

[00:22:42] BD: The technical side. Absolutely. It’s that success side, that success skill side is what’s going to drive you, hopefully, improve your personal life and improve your professional life. That’s something that consistently need to focus on. Like me, when I look at – one of the things that I know that I can improve upon is listening. Being an active listener, especially in this environment of virtual Zoom calls and everything. It’s like, you’re talking on a computer screen and yeah, you’re talking to a person, or talking to a group, but your other computer screen is lighting up with e-mails, your phone’s lighting up with text messages.

I knew that it’s something that it’s like a muscle. You need to exercise. You need to focus on. You need to help it grow every day. One thing I did recently is I was actually, I’ve not only learned about it personally, but I trained. I trained my team on active listening. I admit it at the beginning, I’m doing this because as they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.

[00:23:48] AD: Absolutely.

[00:23:49] BD: We had an all-staff meeting and I went through like, these are the tips and tricks to help you be an active listener, from focus, to putting the phone away, to turn the e-mail off, to your body language. Even body language, I think, is even more important in a virtual environment. That helped me. Now it’s like, when I have these conversations that reminds me, “Oh, yeah. I need to make sure I’m focused on this person. They’re the most important person in the room,” even though we’re in different rooms a lot now. Turn the e-mail off. Make sure the phone is off. Make sure that person, it feels like they’re the most important person in the room. It’s amazing how that conversation can change, when there’s really active listening. That was just one example, thinking of growth of how we can all focus on growth and it allows us to become a better leader, a better person.

[00:24:41] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle-market professionals.

[00:24:49] AD: Let’s explore that a little bit more, because I like that. I think it’s a great topic to dig into. Active listening and just the skill set of listening in general. As with you, I’m challenged at listening. It’s something I’ve had to absolutely learn and to grow and there’s always room to improve around it.

My experience around this and I’d love your thoughts on this as well, but one of the big experiences I’ve had is finding mindfulness, finding awareness. We hear that talked about a lot in meditation and the power of it. I don’t want to dive too deep into that in this episode, but I think there’s a lot of power when you do spend time meditating, calming the mind and finding time for that and what that power does, at least in my experience around it, is it helps me be more mindful of where my head’s at, what I’m thinking, where are my thoughts at.

Listening, at its core is looking and you could say, looking at the other person, the body language. I believe all that plays in. I don’t want to discount that. It’s really hearing what the other person is saying and being interested in it. Really wanting to know what are they sharing, what are they caring, what are they trying to communicate to me. Not just the specific words, not write down every word and be able to regurgitate the words to them, but what are they trying to communicate to me? What is important to them? The way you have to do that is your mind has to be on what they’re saying, not somewhere else, right?

[00:26:12] BD: Absolutely. Actually, it’s empathetic listening. It’s with empathy. I’m guilty of it. When someone’s talking with me and my wife would probably tell you the same, it’s like, I’m thinking about how to solve their problem, or what I’m going to say next. Empathetic listening is really focusing on them, diving in, listening and understanding. A way to do that is to help – is to ask questions like, “Was this how you’re feeling? Or, help me better understand what you’re saying here.” Or there’s another term for it, reflective listening.

That really helps you put in that mindset of really understanding, really listening, realizing a lot of cases, they don’t want you to solve their problem, they just want to be heard out and especially in a leadership position, that is so important.

[00:27:05] AD: You have such a good point. People don’t want the problem solved for them. That’s not human nature. Most of us just want to talk about our problems and we solve them on our own. I believe, that’s because most of the problems that we face are in our head. It’s some limiting thought, some limiting belief. It’s something in our own minds that is getting in the way of us really overcoming the challenge we have.

Right now, if it’s okay, I need more resources. Well, that’s a different to like, “Listen to me. Give me the resources, or explain why I can’t.” I think, most of the time, the real problems and especially those heavier, more important that the conversations that you have as a leader, or when you’re developing relationships with people, it really is just hearing them out, just being a sounding board, just listening. Ultimately, showing interest in it.

I know for myself when I have someone that I can have conversations like that with, I process my thoughts. I come through them a lot better. All of a sudden, it’s like, oh, that that makes sense. I talk myself through my own problem, right?

[00:28:00] BD: Absolutely.

[00:28:01] AD: That way, if you are, if you’re a leader, if you’re in a position where you are in the listening side of that conversation, what you’re really doing for that person on the other side of the table is helping them solve their own problems. That’s setting them up for success. What better thing can you do than listen to them, right?

[00:28:18] BD: Help them create the solution when the problem comes to you. Exactly, and that’s what can make it a success then. It’s like, “Wow, that was a great conversation. It’s helped me solve this problem. I wasn’t told how to do it. I came around to it and that person that just listened to me was fantastic and I appreciate that.” That really just builds that relationship. It builds that trust. That’s so important in, especially in the work environment.

[00:28:47] AD: Well, we started all this talking about the need for growth and to find ways and time to grow. We talked about your morning habits. Where do you see your morning habits helping you be a better active listener?

[00:28:59] BD: I spend my morning listening to me. Then, that puts me in the mindset to spend the rest of the day making sure I’m listening intently to others. Especially, I keep saying in this virtual environment, but my days are filled with lots of virtual meetings. As I said, at the end of the day, sometimes it’s exhausting. It’s just how we have to do business today.

To start the morning listening to myself, preparing myself for the day and then that puts me in that mindset, to know that for the rest of the day, I’m going to be focused on others, focused on leading the organization, leading the individuals, leading them to solutions for their problems, or challenges that might be facing the day. I think, again, I keep going back to that, but that morning is what sets me up.

[00:29:59] AD: I couldn’t agree more. I like the listening to me, the listening to myself. I’ve never said it in that way, or thought in that way, but when you said it, I popped up in my chair, because I’m like, “Yeah, that resonated with me.” That really hit home, because I feel that. I feel the okay, I’ve gotten my own thoughts organized. I’ve listened to myself. I’ve made a plan. I know what I’m doing. It does not mean that my head’s not scrambled during the day. It does not mean that I’m actively present in every conversation that I’m a part of. It does not mean that I’m a perfect listener, just because I’ve listened to myself in the morning, but it sure as heck makes things a lot easier. It really does.

I think ultimately, and we’re talking obviously, specifically around listening here, but I think with every part of growth and every part of the soft skills, or as Bob likes to call it, success skills, which I wholeheartedly agree with, if you really want to accomplish and achieve those, you have to do it consistently on a constant practice. You have to be aware of it, mindful of it. Be telling yourself, “Hey, I’m walking into this to listen, to improve that listening skill, to make sure I’m doing better.” Honestly, I’ll just share part of the podcast. I said, I did the reflection document. I said to myself, “What can I improve?”

I created this, where I do a recap, episode recap. Part of that for me was saying, I want to listen better. I want to make sure I’m really learning what guests have to share, because I think people are so interesting and there’s so many things you can learn from people. If all I’m doing is sitting on the other side of the mic thinking, “Oh, that’s a good comment. I want to say this back.” Yes, I want to share my thoughts. I want to make sure I’m contributing, so I do have to make sure that I am thinking and sharing my own side of things. I also want to make sure that I’m hearing what you have to say, because that’s how I can then process, learn, understand new things. Ultimately, I’m growing as a person. I’m growing by listening to you. That is active listening.

We’re not here solving a problem today, but it does make the conversation better when both of us, and I see we’re both – we’re very both clearly into this conversation, hearing each other. That’s what makes them good conversations is because we are listening and understanding the other person and learning. I hope listeners walk away, learning something and doing something. I think, both Bob and I and I think many of the guests that we have in the show, you can walk away saying, “Yeah, that was really fun. I learned X, Y and Z, or I have a new thought that we probably came to together in some ways.”

It wasn’t just one person talking. It was a shared collective thoughts going back and forth, because it was an engaging conversation that we both listened to and we both come into it ready to do that. That’s a practice. That’s a challenge. That’s something that you have to practice and do again and again and again, if you really want to be better and you have to be mindful of it when you’re going to practice that.

[00:32:39] BD: That’s what defines growth.

[00:32:41] AD: 100%.

[00:32:42] BD: Is the focus on it. The practice of it. I mean, I’m going to walk out of here feeling this was a fantastic conversation. I’m learning from it. Just the active nature of it, what I’ve learned from you. How maybe I should start typing up my journaling every morning, instead of writing my chicken scratch. Every opportunity you have is an opportunity for growth. That’s what I would encourage listeners to think of it in that, through that lens, because we’re all growing. Really exercise that muscle for growth.

[00:33:14] AD: I could not agree more. What a better way to wind down our episode. Have the mindset for growth be looking for that growth, be looking to exercise that muscle. Let’s do a quick recap here. Again, we started our episode at the top talking about the idea that people want to grow. We all innately want to grow. We want to get better. We want to improve. Really, a lot of that is soft skills. Bob’s term of success skills, instead of calling them soft skills, very much agree with that.

Think about it that the soft skills, the success skills are really what do drive you forward. We know those are important. We need to prioritize them. We have a need for growth. We know they’re like a muscle and we know that we have to carve out time in our day to make that happen. Then Bob shared and I shared some of my thoughts around morning habits and ways to start your day in a way that really sets you up for success, and talking about reading and spending time in your faith and journaling and reflecting. Then most importantly, gratitude and looking for the lessons in what you’re doing, and understanding that when you step back and you find daily practice to make an attitude of gratitude, that’s where you’re going to be the most successful and really achieving that mindset that’s going to move you forward and help you ultimately find that growth.

Then from there, we went into the value of writing things down, the journaling, keeping track of what you’re trying to accomplish. Then Bob brought up this really great quote around, if you start with the necessary, soon you’ll be doing the possible. Before you know it, you’ll be doing the impossible. I probably slaughtered that a little bit. Ultimately, this thought process of run, walk, crawl and with any of these habits that you want to do, write down, tell yourself you’re going to do this habit, then start it. Start small. Just do a little bit. Just start something and do it again and again and again, like a muscle, to make yourself focus on it and continue to grow. Before you know it, you will be doing the impossible.

Then we talked about the new year and what’s going to happen here. We’re going to 2021. We’re all ready for a new year. At the same time, Bob’s point was really, 2020 was the year we needed. It was the year that helped us learn so much, that helped us understand what’s really possible. To really achieve the value of that and to reflect on that, you have to be thankful and have that gratitude and look back at the year and look at those challenges and say, “Wow, that’s really what helped me grow.”

We’re not going to the new normal, we’re going to the new better. We’re learning, we’re coming out of this and really being in a better place. Bob, your thoughts there around if you look back and say, “Well, we thought we could never do X, Y and Z this year,” I think everyone has that situation, realize that. Realize what’s really possible, by anything, if you just set your mind to and start accomplishing it. Look and find that positivity.

Then lastly, we dove into a specific success skill here, in really talking about active listening, or empathetic listening and recognizing that when we spend time with ourselves and listening to ourselves and find that time to settle down our own thoughts and then we’re also intentional, mindful, thoughtful and empathetic when we go into a conversation, we listen to the other person, that ultimately allows us to not only build a better connection and build a stronger relationship and help that other person potentially solve their challenges, or ultimately just feel better about themselves, but it also sets us up to be in a place where we can learn and we can really gain knowledge and value.

The only way that’s possible is by really going into the conversation with the right mindset, being mindful of where your head’s at, what you’re thinking and it’s a daily practice. You’re never going to be perfect at it. You can always improve on it, but you have to spend time thinking about it and putting effort into it and building those right habits. For example, the morning habits that can really help put you in the place to be able to do that best. Bob, anything you’d add to that list?

[00:37:13] BD: You summarized it perfectly. I love talking about this stuff. I really appreciate you inviting me. Just, let’s get out there and keep growing.

[00:37:21] AD: I love it. To our listeners, for this week, I think that the call to action I want to give to everyone is find time in the next week to journal, to write something down. Sometime in the next seven days, grab a piece of paper, get up in the morning if that works for you, or do it at the end of the day, whatever works in your time, but just find time and write down your thoughts. This is such a challenge for everyone. I’ve been there, especially early on. Just write whatever the heck you’re thinking. What are you challenged with? What are you feeling good about? What are you not feeling good about? Just start writing it.

You can throw it away. You can delete it. No one will ever see it. It doesn’t matter. Just write it. Just start doing it and make a habit of it. I say in the next seven days, find time – I said once. I really actually want to challenge you to do it twice in the next seven days, because I think you need to start getting in the habit of that and just start to find that time. I know you can make it happen.

You don’t need all that much time. Frankly, sitting down for 15 minutes and doing it as a starter is a perfect – Just do it. Just find that time and eventually, you’ll continue to grow in it. Again, make some time for journaling in the upcoming week here.

Bob, how can our listeners get a hold of you?

[00:38:29] BD: Connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, also Twitter. Or my e-mail address is [email protected].

[00:38:38] AD: Awesome. Well, Bob. Again, thank you so much for coming on the show and contributing your thoughts here.

[00:38:42] BD: It was a real pleasure, Alex. Like I said, just get out there and keep growing.

[00:38:45] AD: I love it. Thank you.


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