Mindset: the Key to Professional Growth

Dustin Hill FINNEA Group

Dustin Hill, today’s guest, is a Director at FINNEA Group, a middle-market investment banking firm. He joins us to talk about how mindset is a driving force for our success (or lack thereof). We kick off the conversation with a look at soft skills, their importance, and how they contribute to success. We also discuss having a ‘why’ and the role this plays in motivating us.

Growth is not easy. In fact, we are hardwired to shy away from change, so how do we lean into it and accept it as par for the course if we are to grow? Dustin shares his approach to this and how talking to people who have done what he may be fearing sets his mind at ease.

Another key part of growth we touch on is task prioritization and strategies you can use to separate responsibilities. No matter how busy you might think you are, if you are intentional about making time for what nourishes you and helps you grow, you will be able to fit it in. We wrap the conversation up by debunking the myth that growth means increased working hours and why progress rather than perfection counts when developing essential soft skills.

Key Points From This Episode

  • The difficulty that comes with developing soft skills; they are not easily quantifiable.
  • It is so important to have a ‘why’ when it comes to personal and professional growth.
  • How Dustin views growth and getting closer to your why.
  • Work Dustin has done on his mindset: Why you need to change your perspective.
  • Why making to-do lists can help you focus in on what is truly important for the day.
  • The benefits Dustin has seen from turning off his text and email notifications.
  • How Dustin deals with change and leans into it.
  • Getting over fears and vulnerabilities looks different for everyone, so find what works for you.
  • Dustin’s childhood and how his early life has framed his why and motivated him.
  • Making time for self-reflection and how to use this to understand where you need to grow.
  • Balancing the day-to-day grind with carving space for personal and professional growth.
  • Professional growth should not be confused with doing more work.
  • It is so important to distinguish between tasks that are urgent and those that can wait.
  • How Dustin approaches task importance and assigns values to things on his to-do list.
  • A call to action for you to start working on your mindset.
  • Apply the 80/20 rule when it comes to developing your soft skills.


[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders 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.

[00:00:20] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. I’m excited to welcome everyone back as we kick off the second season of the podcast. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to go back and catch up on all of our episodes from season one. t the time the show is airing will be in early January. Now I find that this is the time of year that many of us make commitments to personal and professional growth. I know I do.

To help you get off to a great start in 2021, we are dedicating the next handful of episodes to exploring what it really means to invest in your professional growth. This is an exciting topic for me and one that I am personally passionate about. For today’s guest, we have Dustin Hill, a director with FINNEA Group, a middle market investment banking firm based in Birmingham, Michigan. Dustin and I spent time discussing what it means to invest in our professional growth and how mindset is a driving force for success or a lack thereof. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:01:17] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.


[00:01:25] AD: Dustin, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m looking forward to the conversation today.

[00:01:29] DH: Yeah, likewise. Yeah, thanks for having me.

[00:01:31] AD: So, Dustin, we’re here today to talk about investing in your professional growth. And what we really are saying here, and just talking to the listeners for a minute, you can look at growth and investing in your growth both as the hard skill investments, the technical skills. Our audience being a largely technical audience, maybe it’s learning Excel or becoming more proficient at PowerPoint, and those are very important skills to invest in early in your career when that’s a core part of your job. But as you continue to grow into your career, it really becomes a larger focus around soft skills and the importance of soft skills.

So when we have this conversation today, our focus is really around investing in those soft skills and how to make that happen. So, Dustin, the question I have for you to start us off is when you think about investing in your soft skills, what does that mean to you?

[00:02:23] DH: Yeah. It’s hard, and the reason I think people often focus on those hard skills is that they’re easily quantifiable, right? Like, for instance, in my industry, right? I didn’t know how to build a financial model. Now I know how to build one. Or if you want to enhance your skills, I know how to build a financial model. Now I know how to build a very complex model. And every industry is different. But those hard skills are easily quantifiable. So they’re the ones people often think of and they try to, I guess, pursue, right?

But like you said, they only take you so far, right? If you want to become a leader or an entrepreneur or develop a base of business as a services professional, right? Those really require soft skills. And that’s often difficult to quantify, right? What does it mean? So many people look out, “All right, I got a network,” right? “I’ve got X-amount of business cards. I shook Y-number of hands,” right? And that’s great and it’s quantifiable, but it doesn’t really mean much when you talk about soft skills because there’s so much that’s not on paper that you can’t quantify. And so it’s really hard for people to kind of think about how do you invest in growth, because they don’t know what it means, because it’s really hard to measure.

[00:03:17] AD: Let me jump in there for a minute, because I agree with you wholeheartedly. And as someone who is building a business around investing in soft skill growth and helping people achieve that growth, this is something I’ve put a lot of thought into. And you are so spot on. There’s no way to measure it. There’s no way to know if you’re doing it right. The number one question I get is we build out some of our work is, “Well, how do I quantify success? How do you prove results?” Well, I can’t. Maybe in five years come back to me and I can show you something. But it’s very difficult in the short run to point to truly tangible results that are truly correlated and causation in there as well. Not just finding the result, but then also proving what specific action drove to that.

So we know that it’s very difficult. So maybe let’s talk for a minute on how do we make that easier. And something you and I were chatting about before we turned on the mics here was starting with kind of the why, right? And obviously I don’t want to say it’s cliché. Simon Sinek has done a great job building a brand around that. But let’s just talk for a minute on how that concept, the starting with your why in your professional growth is so important.

[00:04:26] DH: Yeah, I love his book because it’s great at taking it to the next level, right? I mean, so many people know what they want and even let’s know how to actually obtain that. And very few know why they even want it in the first place, right? So when people try to define their soft skills and growing and stuff like that, they think that they know what the end goal is, but what they miss out on, and what we’ve talked about before, it’s constant iteration. It’s a mindset. There is no real end result. It’s something you’re just all the time going after. You’re constantly iterating what you’re doing and along the way you’re going to learn how to get better at. But it does not come with instant gratification. And it’s also different for every person. So without a why, I don’t believe you can actually truly define growth or even how you quantify it, right? Because you have no way of measuring it, right?

And so my way of thinking about growth is when you achieve growth is when you understand your why further and your capabilities start to converge with that why, right? As you develop your capabilities and your soft skills and things like that, the closer you can converge on your why and when you start to realize that and realize that taking place, that’s when you know that the growth is actually happening.

[00:05:29] AD: I think you’re spot on there. And I want to get in the mindset for a minute. So we talk about mindset and mindset being very important behind that. And I wholeheartedly agree that growth is a mindset. Growth is a mindset of I can get better tomorrow than I am today that. There’s an opportunity for change. And I want to address that first and foremost. So you have to be asking yourself questions of, “What am I thinking? What are my thoughts? What are my internal thought patterns?” And if your thought patterns are, “Well, I’m good at that already. I can’t improve there.” That, number one, is going to get in the way more than anything you can do. So you have to have that mindset, and we all struggle with it. Everyone has it in their own ways. Anything come to mind? Any thoughts around where you struggle with mindset or things you’ve done to help you embrace your mindset better and be in the right mindset for growth?

[00:06:20] DH: I think part of it’s just perspective. I mean people always think about role models or people that have done it. And so often they think that person has the X-factor right and they’ve reached it right away. I think just having some examples you can kind of latch on to would really help you get in the right mindset. For instance, I know somebody in our local Detroit M&A community that the second you meet and the second you’ve seen what they’ve done, you’re like, “That guy’s had it. He’s always had it. He’s always been good.” But what you don’t realize is that he was in the industry for more than 10 years before he even brought in a client. And just realizing, taking a step back and thinking like, “Somebody like that, it took him a lot of years to grow into that.” And that kind of gives you perspective as, “I can’t do this tomorrow. I can’t do it next month. It is going to be a process that I’m going to have to be going after my whole entire life,” right?

And until you kind of take a step back and dive a little deeper on trying to understand how some of those people achieved their success and realized it was not day one. It was day 100, day 1000, right? It’s really long. That’s something that’s really hard to latch on to. But for me, having that conversation with that person understanding it, I mean, it was the lights went on. If it took them that long, I really need to work hard and I need to really set my mind to it if I’m to achieve what they achieved, right?

[00:07:29] AD: You’re so spot on there. And when I think about the idea of 10 years, 15 years, that long-term growth, one thing that I it was very true and I can’t remember where I originally read this. I’ve seen it a few times. But the human mindset traditionally is – And this is I think natural for many of us, is we’re very bad at predicting in making the right estimate of how much we can accomplish in a short-term period of time and also very bad at making that assumption a long-term period of time. And it tends to be the inverse. In the short run, we think we can get a lot more done than we can. In the long run, we really underestimate how much we can do, right?

How many times do you say, “This is what I’m going to get done this week,” and you get to Friday and you’re like, ‘Well, I got Monday’s work done.” But at the same time do you ever get to the end of the year and look back and be like, “Whoa! That was a heck of a year. Like we did a lot of stuff in that year,” right?

[00:08:24] DH: Yeah. Yeah, you completely underestimate it. It kind of goes back that it’s the same kind of mindset as that soft skill versus hard skills, right? Soft skills are not very tangible. And one year from now is not very tangible. And so it’s very hard for you to envision what can happen between now and then, right? And so I completely agree with you. I mean every week I have that reaction. I didn’t get enough done this week. But at the end of the year when I think about, I’m like, “Wow! All right.” I can feel good about that year looking back on it, but it doesn’t happen in the moment.

[00:08:50] DH: So let’s talk on that for a minute. I want to share something – And for those of you that know me. Well, I probably have shared this before, but a new skill set I’ve really been working on. And it’s writing down a list of to-do’s on a weekly basis, on a quarterly basis, using it even in a monthly basis at times. Just in different levels, in different forms, and then journaling and writing around that. For me, the practice, one of the big things – And there’s multiple reasons why I originally started this practice. But what I’ve learned that I never expected from it is the ability to keep myself in the right mindset.

And let me tell you how this works at least from my perspective. So during the week I write down, or on Sunday, I write down a list of what I want to accomplish in the next week. And every week, at the end of the week, I look back and see what did I accomplish and what did I not accomplish? And I journal on that. And that’s every Sunday I’ll write, and I’ll just do a little bit of writing around what went well? What didn’t? And what’s happened over time is I identify what I’m not getting done and why and helping me kind of get back on track. But more importantly, I’m getting better at setting reasonable levels of expectations for myself for the week. And then this is the part I didn’t see coming, I feel more motivated because I feel accomplished. I don’t feel beat-up. I don’t feel like, “Wow! This week.” It keeps you saying, “Huh! I got what I was supposed to get done. It may have felt like a busy week, but I completed my to-do list.”

So all that said, it took a lot, and I’m still not great at it, but it took a lot of work to build that habit and to figure out how to do that and become better at that. But that’s helped with that mindset. In the weeks that I don’t get my to-do list done, the weeks that I feel really off, it messes with your head. It gets you down and doesn’t help push you forward.

[00:10:36] DH: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. And I think it also allows you to crystallize what you really want to focus on that week too. I mean, I’m very similar and I used to always have a big matrix and a to-do list that probably have 40 things on it. And, candidly, I still do today. But that sits on my computer. And what’s changed when I realized that I can’t accomplish all those things and I can’t do it in a quick fashion, is usually every morning or every other morning, kind of depending on what I’m doing, I just write down like three things. I come in, I write down three things, and that’s all I’m going to focus on. And what it really allows you to do is not only are you not bouncing around to all these different urgent tasks or anything like that. It really allows you to focus. And so you’re not distracted by a lot going on. You’re really focused on it, and it allows you to incorporate into your day the important, but not urgent type things, right?

And so this would be a perfect example of investing in growth. If one of your three things that day is develop a plan for me to grow my network, develop a plan for me to do that. It forces yourself and it’s spending that time throughout the day to actually think about that and block all else out and think about it. And what feels like less productive in the moment, but like you said, at the end of the week you feel a lot more productive because you’re like, “That’s something I’ve been wanting to get done for months,” right? And so by being able to block everything out, it really allows you to kind of crystallize what’s important to you.

[00:11:49] AD: So you hit on a few things I want to make sure we really dig into there. So, first, when we talk about the keeping a task list, and I do a similar approach where I have a bucket of tasks list that I can kind of pull from and then I have my task list that I’m actually doing in the moment and the stuff that I’m actually working on. And when you actually set yourself up to have a limited number of tasks that you have thought through and you have prioritized and you’re doing the right tasks, that is the growth. That is the investing and then finding the time to move forward. That in its own is a skillset to build. Just that in its own is one heck of a soft skill to be able to have, time management, true prioritization time management. And where that does really play in to your professional growth and investing in growth is growth takes time. Growth is hard. Growth takes energy. It doesn’t just occur. There’s no way that it’s going to just magically happen in your day unless you make time for it. And we’re all busy. We all get out of control.

Number one thing I had to learn was the to-do list will always be never ending. I remember, and most people I think can relate to this especially when you start a new career or a new job, it becomes relatively easy to keep your inbox clean. Like you’re not looped in on a lot of things. You’re not in a lot of emails. And it’s kind of nice. And then over time all of a sudden you take on more and more responsibilities. There’re more and more demands on your time.  You have more and more decision-making responsibilities. You have to have more and more knowledge of what’s going on. And, “Oh my gosh! I can’t keep up with everything,” right?

[00:13:28] DH: Right.

[00:13:28] AD: And that’s tasks, that’s emails, that’s people you have to call back, that’s to do. There’re so many things. That’s when the growth, the investing in your growth, that’s when it’s important, right?

[00:13:39] DH: Yeah. You mentioned something I do to help me focus on those three things during the day, and I probably shouldn’t be broadcasting this because some people might be trying to get a hold of me and now they’ll start calling me. But I don’t get email notifications to my phone. I don’t get text where I can actually read them. I have to actually click it on my phone to see any of that. I do the same thing on my desktop. I don’t get email notifications. That way I’m not working on the right and on my left I have my email inbox open. Something pops up, I instantly go over look at it. I did that for a long time, and I’m very kind of particular when it comes to that. So my email inbox has to be clean, right? And I don’t feel like I’m doing my job if it’s not, or if I don’t respond right away. But you kind of get to that point where if you do it long enough you’ll realize those things can wait a little bit and those two hours you’re going to spend ignoring your inbox are going to do more for you than it ever could the other way around. And it really allows you to kind of focus on the things that matter. And so unless someone calls me during those two hours or two hour periods while I’ll block off, I’m not really paying attention to it.

[00:14:33] AD: Turn your phone on silent. Don’t even answer the calls.

[00:14:35] DH: That’s right. Yeah. My wife won’t let me do that. Yeah.

[00:14:38] AD: Fair enough. Fair enough.

[00:14:41] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.

[00:14:49] AD: So there’s two times you’ve said this, and I want to tie back to it. You don’t feel like you’re being as productive. You don’t feel like you’re doing the right things. You don’t feel like you’re growing. I can’t remember that too, but you said feel. You’ve brought this up, right? This idea of I don’t feel like. And I think that’s a really important point for us all to step back and look at for a minute. So there are so many times where I’m doing something and I feel like there’s so many things I should be doing that I’m wasting my time and I’m not being productive because I should be doing those things. When the reality is I need some space, some time to work on either another project or to calm my own mind, my own self or to go to the gym or whatever it might be. And it’s so easy to feel like you’re not doing the right work. When the reality is the long term mindset, those are actually the right things. By prioritizing and doing those things. And, again, it’s all mindset. It’s all that thought process of I don’t feel like this is productive. I don’t feel like this is adding value. I don’t feel like I’m doing the right thing. And you have to catch those thoughts and really address them with yourself. And I think that all ties back to where we said, the why. Understanding what are you growing for? What are you trying to achieve? What does growth really mean for you?

And as you sit back and get a better grip on that for yourself, I believe it gives you a much better ability to just to simply say, “Hey, I have these thoughts and feelings. But, hey, that’s not it. Those aren’t real. That’s a false belief I’m having right now. I’m going to go do what I said I was going to go do.”

[00:16:27] DH: Yeah. Inaction is very comfortable, especially when we’re talking about like what we are with soft skills where you’re not really sure if what you’re doing is the right thing, right? And so you get this sense of comfortability because you’re afraid of doing the wrong thing. If I spend two hours working out in the wrong way, I’m hurting myself, which the reality is you’re not at all, right? You’re moving in the right direction. You’re going to figure it out as you go. So, so much of it is just kind of diving in head first and just trusting that you’ll figure it out along the way.

[00:16:52] AD: So, the comfort. Let’s talk in that for a minute. So when we’re talking change, and the next question that I was actually going to take us down was what gets in the way of growth. And I’m just going to lead off with what I think gets in the way and growth. And I would love your response around it. So growth at its core is having some kind of change, some kind of difference in how you approach something. Some improvement from where you are today to where you are tomorrow. And change is uncomfortable for everybody. And we all fight change. Again, it’s human nature. It’s a comfort. It’s a safety. It’s I know what to expect. And unexpected things change is really hard, right? And I think 2020 has taught us all a lot about change and discomfort and things that where you recognize, “Hey, I don’t like to have to all of a sudden change everything I’m doing. I don’t like to have to behave in a different way. I don’t like to have to do things differently.”

And when you really want to seek out growth, that means that you have to be comfortable leaning into that change, leaning into things that you don’t want to lean into. So how do you – Again, it’s mindset. But how do you address that? How do you think about that with yourself? How do you react to kind of that feeling of change and being uncomfortable in it?

[00:18:02] DH: Have kids. Your life will change real quick and you’ll figure out how to deal with it. No.

[00:18:04] AD: It’s good advice.

[00:18:05] DH: But in all serious, I mean, it certainly does change things. But in all seriousness, I think getting a lot of different perspectives really helps you because if you’re thinking about pursuing something, whether it’d be a new job, a new degree, a new skillset. Finding somebody who’s been through it and done it and just having a conversation with them instantly gives you that level of comfortability. And things that are known to people are much more approachable for yourself. There’s a great example, and I’m going to not give credit to whoever it was, who I read this from, but when you meet someone, if you have a bad impression of them and you move along, one year later you meet two people again. That one person who you had a very bad impression of, if you recognize the name, recognize the face, you will automatically prefer that person over the other person that you don’t know anything about despite the fact that you had a bad first impression with them. And the reason is because it’s a level of comfortability.

So if you want to go pursue a new skillset, it could be anything. I want to go skiing. I’ve never gone skiing, right? By talking to somebody who’s done it, it instantly becomes more relatable. You feel actually like a level of comfortability with it. It removes that fear or removes that vulnerability when they tell you the story of, “Oh, it took me three years to figure out how to do it.” Whatever it may be, right?

So realizing that having that sense of familiarity with something can go a long way just in terms of human nature, I think seeking out people that have done that. And sometimes that’s really hard, because a lot of those people are not approachable. I mean, if you think about if you want to go be a great attorney, let’s say. You’re not going to go to the head of some 300-person attorney firm who you really want to be that mentor, and sometimes it’s really hard to reach those people because it’s scary, right? But I think you just got to go do it.

[00:19:35] AD: You do have to go do it. And when you make the comment around you have to go out and find someone, right? And finding someone helps you become more comfortable. Build some level of understanding that does take some of that fear. And I want to come back and talk about some of that fear and where that can get in the way in a minute. But in terms of reaching out and finding someone, I just want to say to listeners, go reach out to people and ask people for advice. You’d be shocked how many people are willing to give it. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a hold of everyone you want to get a hold of. But especially for our listener base as a middle market service provider, there’s no doubt that you can reach out somewhere and find someone that will respond to you. Just be nice about it. Reach out. Put a bunch of goodwill out there and accept a few no’s along the way, but you will find someone that will give you some kind of comfort level to understand that from a career standpoint, right? Now, outside of that, I think that applies to hobbies, life, sports, anything you want to do, right? Find that for that comfort level. But let’s tie this back to the fear, vulnerability. Just this idea of having to put yourself out there. That’s hard. It’s really hard.

[00:20:36] DH: Very hard.

[00:20:37] AD: So how do you deal with it?

[00:20:39] DH: Well, if I was 90-years-old, looking back on my life, even if I just think about the last six months. I mean, you can regret, “I ate too much pizza. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t do this,” and regrets are very easy. I mean, it’s easy for me to just say, “I want to live a life with no regrets. I have one life, right? I just want to go out and do it.”

[00:20:53] AD: I think that’s yolo.

[00:20:54] DH: Yeah, that term. Yeah. For me, it’s very easy to get over that hurdle because that’s tangible for me for many reasons. And I think part of that is growing up in a family that didn’t have much success. And so I got to see a lot of those stories that I didn’t want to be. And other people don’t have that, right? And so it’s one of those things you have to find out what works for you, because getting over your fears and vulnerabilities is not going to be the same for everybody else. It’s going to look different. But the one thing that’s, I guess, common throughout is do it once and you’ll do it again. And even if you close your eyes and just dive head first and just forget about what it’s going to do to you, forget about being embarrassed or anything like that, if you do it once, you’ll do it again.

[00:21:32] AD: I think you’re spot on there. And, again, we’re talking about professional growth and investing in professional growth. I want to go to insecurities, vulnerabilities. And you shared growing up in an environment where you didn’t see a lot of success. You have experiences from that. Did I hear you right on that?

[00:21:46] DH: Yeah.

[00:21:47] AD: So you have that, and that gives you perspective. I too, I grew up in a similar environment and I look back, and at times that’s given me a lot of insecurities. And even to this day it does at times. But what I have learned for myself at least and my experience around it is when those insecurities set in, and I’m telling myself, “Well, I don’t have this. I didn’t do that. I can’t do that because of this,” or I don’t even know where to start, or if I had only. All of that is the noise that’s getting in the way of growth, because the reality is you’re standing here today, period. You’re nowhere else. It doesn’t matter. It is what it is. Deal with what you have. Look at everything in your life, every circumstance and recognize that it’s molded you into the person you are today. Use that skillset and then go invest in your growth. Go be better. Go improve. Go build upon it.

[00:22:36] DH: That’s right. Yeah. I mean, you can really tie this back to the why that we were talking about earlier. I mean, if you know why you’re doing something, it’s so much easier for you to take that leap. I’m still trying to figure out my why. I think a lot of people are. But if there’s one thing I know, is that I’m in an industry helping clients sell their businesses, right? Allowing them to kind of reap the rewards of years of blood, sweat and tears and everything that went into it and actually realizing all that work that they put in, right? And that’s meaningful for a lot of people. But, for me, I grew up with a father that despite like an unflappable positive demeanor about business, failed at every turn. You know what I mean? All the different businesses he had, none of them materialized to anything. But there were points in time where he could have converted that into something. He just never did, right? And similarly like my mom worked at a business that didn’t have a succession plan in place. So for 10 years successful and all of a sudden that succession plan had to happen sooner. Everybody lost their jobs. The business folded.

And so it’s seeing those examples, that actually gives me some why in what I’m doing, right? I mean, helping those owners really realize all those years of hard work is something that I didn’t see happen in my life. And looking back on it now, wishing that they had somebody similar to what I do today kind of in their ear a little bit about those inflection points where you can realize that value. That gives me part of the why.

And so when I’m talking to a client which can be very scary things sometimes, just about their business, the options they have and how much their business is worth. And I mean you’re really getting into very emotional conversations with them. When you have a why like that, it makes those conversations easier because you know why you’re doing it. You’re not just trying to sound good to the client. You’re not just trying to complete the deal. You actually have a reason for doing it.

So for me, I can just take a step back. Think about some of those examples and instantly it makes that conversation so much easier. And so I think that kind of flows through a lot of different things in life. If you have a reason for doing something, it makes it so much easier to kind of take that leap of faith and having a meaningful way about going about it.

[00:24:23] AD: So, Dustin, I really appreciate you sharing that and the passion that you have behind that. It’s very clear just kind of watching you and hearing you tell that. What I really think is important there for our listeners to take away as you think about this is you have explained, you have looked into your life and have found things that drive you in your career today that make you want to do well at your career and give you greater purpose, greater meaning, greater why of serving and helping your clients and doing what you do.

That has nothing to do with the fact that you have to be good at modeling or formally had to, because you graduate out of that. And then at some point in your life you have to understand the M&A transaction. You have to understand all these things. You have to service the client well. But the key to really being successful with that client is walking them through the most emotional thing they’ve gone through and helping them really understand that and communicating it in a way that is true and genuine and is driven by that passion that you have. And we’re talking about investing in your professional growth. This is it. This is like figuring that out. Figuring out what that why is. Spending that time understanding that and then putting energy and effort around that. That’s investing in that. That’s growing. That’s a soft skill, if I’ve ever seen one in growing that out.

And it was just such a great example where I think everyone should step back and say, “Okay, what does drive me? What makes me excited? Why am I doing this? And then how do I turn that why into the energy in the drive that I need to lean out of my comfort zone to truly seek that change and make the investment where I need to to continue to fuel that growth?”

[00:25:59] DH: Yeah. I mean, you’re exactly right. And what also makes that easier is kind of that point of self-reflection. And Matthew McConaughey, very incredible business mind. Nonetheless, an extremely successful guy. He said something one time which was he was once asked who his role model was and his answer was, “My role model is myself 10 years from now. And then in 10 years my role model for myself is going to be myself 10 years older,” right? And what that does is it doesn’t sound that profound, but there’s a distinction for me at least when I heard it that resonated quite a bit.

And that’s so many people can think about what they are doing today, right? And, “How do I be a good role model today? How do I do a good job today?” And it’s so easy to not do that thing. And the only person you disappointed was yourself. But when you’re trying to think about it 10 years from now and that self-reflection, of course, you’re thinking about the accomplishments you’re going to have over the next ten years. What does that person accomplish? What have they done? Which business they lead? Whatever it may be. But when you think about it a little bit further, it’s always how do the people around me perceive those accomplishments? How do the people around me respect what I’ve done? How do the people around me believe in what I’ve built, right?

And when you think about self-reflection 10 years out, you want your team members to love you. You want your kids to spend more time with you during the day. You want the people that you’re around to really kind of appreciate what you’ve done. And that helps bring clarity when you’re trying to think about where do I need to grow, right? Because it’s not I need to hire 10 new people. It is how do I get my team to love me and then the rest will take care of itself?

And so when you’re trying to define exactly what you’re going into, having that clarity is really helpful because you won’t be spending time trying to figure out what skills do I need? What skills do the people around me need? It’s what do I do to make their job easier? What do I do to really get everybody to buy into the same thing? Or how do I develop a skill to be able to speak to people and articulate why I’m doing what I’m doing? It’s those soft skills that become clear at that moment. There’s that important distinction of thinking about it in the future and then self-reflecting back was meaningful.

[00:27:57] AD: I love that. And thank you, Matthew McConaughey for the insight there.

[00:28:02] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:28:10] AD: A thought came to mind as you were saying that that I think’s interesting to look at here. So, again, putting this in a professional growth sense. Leadership is a word that’s thrown around a lot. Or management leadership, teamwork, just the soft skills of working with other people, right? Fundamentally it’s about working with those around you. And your comment of if I look at myself 10 years down the road, what do I want?

I want to know that – And just speaking purely in a professional sense. I want to know that my team likes to work with me. That they respect me, that I have built trust and rapport with them and that they like me. Not because I’m insecure and I need people to like me, but because that’s just who I want to be. I don’t want to be the asshole that everyone’s looking at. I want to be the guy that they’re like, “Oh, yeah. I like Alex. He’s done a lot of good things. I appreciate what Alex has done.” Or, “Alex has done this for me.” And if that’s important for you, that you want to be able to be in a place where you’ve given and you’ve helped and you’ve created a good environment an opportunity for other people. Where does that correlate to the day-to-day taskmaster work that we all get sucked into, right? That noise? That nonsense that we talked about earlier here around when you’re trying to prioritize and find time to invest in growth and to put that extra time and that effort in? That’s not happening in the taskmaster world.

And we all, myself included, it I get stuck in that at times where you’re just, “I’ve got to get things done.” And you forget about the humans and the people around you and spending time and worrying about how other people are doing. And the human element side of things. And that is deteriorating that soft skill component. That is deteriorating that relationship. That is not driving towards the relationship you are trying to build and have. But in the short run, it’s hard because you have to say, “Well, I’m just going to do less work. Or I’m not going to get this done.” Well, yeah.

[00:29:57] DH: Yeah. And that’s – Especially in the services industry. Most of your growth comes outside of business hours. And that’s the hardest thing people to realize because they execute, execute, execute all day and you’re tired. And there’s always a very easy excuse for going home, laying on the couch, turn on Netflix, right? And it’s very hard to remove yourself from that because you get really exhausted from that execution and that day-to-day in and out monotony of what can be some task, right?

And so, understanding that growth is extracurricular. Something that happens outside the four walls of your office, which is not always the case, but in many cases the self-initiative that takes place beyond that is hard to realize. But if you really want to grow, you got to take it upon not just – You can’t think about it fully in the context of your office or your business, right? You’ve got to think about it that it’s becoming a part of you. It’s becoming everything you do. And I’m not saying you got to go work hundred hour weeks trying to grow, but it’s just taking that meaningful time outside of the four walls of your office or your cubicle, whatever it may be, to really invest in that.

[00:30:53] AD: So I’m going to throw just some thoughts around that. When you say find the extra time outside the office, I 100% agree with that. And you also say don’t work 100 hours a week. And I’ve done that bad idea. Don’t do that. It’s not healthy for you. And actually when I think about investing in growth, the reality is working 100 hours a week is doing the opposite. And trying – So I agree, you have to do stuff outside of work.

But how can we start rethinking about what investing in our growth really means? And I say that, so read a book. Grab a book and read a book. Or I’m an audiobook guy. Go to the gym, which is good for your health, and listen to the audiobook while you’re doing something, right? Find ways that you’re doing stuff that is shaping your mind, shaping your thoughts, helping you grow at journaling, meditating, reflective things. Things that are helping you look around and understand and grow that skillset. That is all helping you with growth. That’s all investing in growth. None of that is doing more work. What that really is doing is putting barriers up to what we traditionally call work and saying, “Hey, I’m going to take a little bit of time for this because this is important to me, because the long term, this is where I want to go.”

For anyone, because a reaction that I hear at times is, “I just don’t have time. I have too many things going on. I just don’t have time to put more effort into things.” And you know what? And this is my own experience I can speak from. For me, as I’ve invested in growth more, and I make it a daily habit or I try to make it a daily habit I should say. I’m not perfect at it, but I spend a lot of time really just trying to say, “Okay, how can I make myself the best version of me?

And you said it earlier about, “Well, it doesn’t feel productive,” and there’s so many times I have felt that way. But I’m absolutely experiencing my productivity curve getting drastically steeper. The ability, the amount of things that I’m accomplishing or at least the impact of the things I’m accomplishing. I shouldn’t say the amount. Let’s not measure it by numbers. Let’s measure by macro impact, right? And I see that getting greater and greater by focusing that time, by frankly working a little bit less on some things and spending more time on those skillsets. In that idea of, “Well, I don’t have time today.” Well, make the time today, and over the course the next three, four, five, ten years it is going to come back with compound interest. You are going to get that time back in ways you could never imagine.

[00:33:14] DH: Yeah. I mean, even if it’s just as simple as blocking two hours off in your calendar three weeks out from now, as long as you don’t schedule around it, you’re going to be just fine. And so you have to prioritize it. You have to be very proactive about it, because it’s the first thing on the to-do list that gets eliminated, right?

One of the things that I guess helps me is when I think about all those urgent tasks and how I’m using quotations, no-one can see here on the podcast. But how important it is, right? And you take a step back and you think about even just something as little as – I’m going to use a poor example here, but I really need to spend time and try to shop for cheaper car insurance to save $50 every six months. You might spend three or four hours doing that and you paid yourself almost nothing to do that. And if you just spent that four hours spending time developing a strategy about how you’re going to network within a new group or something like that, that alone can pay dividends that’s far in excess of $12.50 an hour.

So it’s really trying to understand what is important and what is urgent. And to some extent, removing those things that are perceived urgent and important, when in reality they’re not, and it’s hard for people to reconcile that because you grow up your whole life thinking that we live in a society that’s now, now, now and everything needs to get done. But in reality there’s a lot of things probably on your to-do list in the back of your head that don’t really need to get done or they don’t need to get done now.

[00:34:36] AD: So, you keep referencing urgent important, and this the Eisenhower Matrix. We’ve talked about it here on the podcast a few times. We’ll make sure to link this in the show notes. But this is this concept that on one axis of the chart you have the urgency in. Is it low urgency? Is it high urgency? And then on the other axis you have important and not important. And what you want to make sure is the urgent not important stuff is where so much of the noise sets. And where you really want to be putting all of your time is in the important, not urgent. Because, typically, the really important things aren’t the urgent things. They aren’t the things that are right in front of you.

Now, finding that in identifying that can be difficult, because we in the moment, “Well, this is important. Of course, this is important. $50 every six months of my car insurance. That’s $50. Why wouldn’t I do that? That’s important to me.” That’s obviously a little bit of a dramatic example. But where I find it for myself helpful is when I feel overwhelmed. And I get an overwhelmed feeling sometimes once a week, sometimes once a day and sometimes less often. But we all hit that, “Oh my gosh! I have so much to do.” And when I feel that, one of the tools, especially when I feel myself really wound up around that. Stop what you’re doing and just write down everything you have to do. Just start writing down the list. What is it? Just write it all down and start prioritizing it. Start figuring that out. And it’s not all going to fit in the urgent bucket. It just can’t. It just simply can’t all be there and you’re going to have to start cutting stuff out.

[00:36:00] DH: Yeah. And a good way to do that, I mean, for me being a numbers guy, right? Somebody else might have a different strategy that works for them. But for me being a numbers person, when I have that urgent category, I try to assign how much is this worth to me? How much time am I going to spend here? How much value am I going to get out of it, right? And so like the car insurance example. $50 for four hours. It’s very easy to kind of figure out. And not everything you can assign a dollar amount to. But for me trying to place a number on it, I mean even if it’s just a scale of zero to ten, right? How valuable is this to me? And you’ll very quickly see there’s a lot of things in that bucket that are not that valuable.

And then just take a step back and look at the section that’s not urgent and that is important and just think about what that can provide for you in your life. I mean, those things can provide 10, 100 times full what is in that urgent category. And when you have that perspective of assigning some form of value to each, it’s really crystal clear as to what you really should be spending your time doing.

[00:36:55] AD: Dustin, it’s a great way for us to wind down our show. I think that is great, great advice there. And ultimately just standing back in assigning priorities to what you’re doing and looking at those priorities in a multi-dimensional fashion. What is the financial impact? What’s the dollar impact? What is the time impact? What’s the future value to me? And starting to say, “What do I really want to spend my time? How do I really find the things that are going to have the real impact that I want to be and help me move towards who I want to be?”

So doing a quick recap here, and, Dustin, jump in if I missed anything. But starting off, we talked about hard skills versus soft skills and we’re really today talking about soft skills. And Dustin and I discussed just the fact of the why matter so much and really bringing an understanding of what does growth mean to you. Why is it important to you? What are you trying to achieve? And then what is your perspective of growth and how do you look at growth and think about it from a mindset standpoint from where are you trying to go? And where that all ties back to is that if you really want to achieve the growth long term, you have to have the right mindset. You have to overcome your fears. You have to lean outside of your comfort zone. You have to go through change. And none of that’s fun. But it’s part of growing. And if you’re always comfortable, then you’re missing that opportunity for growth. And to achieve all of this, it takes time. It takes energy. And that’s the resources that we have very limited of. So you have to prioritize. You have to sit down. You have to really prioritize on it and make sure that you’re finding the time and energy. Not just the hours, but the emotional and physical energy to dedicate to put in to your growth if you really want to achieve that.

And so my call to action for everyone this week is find time in the next week and carve out 30 minutes, just 30 minutes of your time, and write down three things you want to achieve in the next seven days. Not little tasks. Just three things that are things that you should have been spending some time on. Maybe it’s call someone you should have been calling back. Or maybe it’s finally responding to that email that’s in the bottom of your inbox. Or maybe it’s go to the gym. Or eat clean one night, whatever it might be. Write down three things that are important to you and then go get them done in the next seven days.

So, Dustin, anything to add there?

[00:39:17] DH: The only other thing I’d add is just Pareto’s principle here. I mean, 80/20.  You don’t have to do any of it perfect, especially soft skills. You don’t have to do it perfect. As long as you’re doing most of it right and you keep iterating what you’re doing, you’ll figure it out and you’ll make it.

[00:39:30] AD: What is perfect? Just keep doing it, practice and you’ll get better and better. That’s all. It’s growth at its core, right? So, Dustin, awesome. Really appreciate your time. Appreciate your contribution today. For our listeners, how can they get a hold of you?

[00:39:42] DH: Yeah, you can email me. So my email is [email protected]. That’s F-I-N-N-E-Agroup.com.

[00:39:51] AD: Awesome. Thank you so much. We’ll make sure that’s linked in the show notes. Dustin, thank you again for your contribution and looking forward to continuing this conversation in the future.

[00:39:58] DH: Yeah, thanks a lot, Alex.


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