For the past twenty-five years, Marcus Buckingham has been the world’s leading researcher into strengths, human performance, and the future of how people work.
In his new book, Love + Work, Marcus helps us discover where we are at our best—both at work and in life. He is the author of two of the best-selling business books of all time, has two of Harvard Business Review’s most circulated, industry-changing cover articles, and has been the subject of in-depth profiles in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, The Today Show, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In addition to his research and author work, Buckingham is a sought-after speaker who has addressed audiences worldwide on using our strengths to achieve success. As someone who has dedicated his career to helping others reach their full potential, Marcus Buckingham is an inspiring figure whose work is sure to have a lasting impact on how we live and work.
Marcus kicks off this podcast, explaining how, at the age of sixteen, he met Don Clifton, the CEO of Gallup polling, and how it has led to a life of examining what is right with people rather than the traditional psychological approach of looking at what is wrong with people.
This curiosity subsequently led to Marcus building a company called “Strengthfinder,” which focused on exploring what makes people the best in their industry and how employees can develop their strengths in the workplace.
Noticing Trends In Top Performers
What do the best of the best have that others do not? Excellence is not the opposite of failure! If all you do is study your failures, you get an expert overview of what failure is.
Healthy and unhealthy marriages have the same amount of arguments.
One of the biggest misconceptions about marriage is that a healthy relationship should be free of conflict.
In reality, even the happiest couples argue from time to time. However, what sets a healthy marriage apart from an unhealthy one is not the absence of conflict but how we manage the conflict.
In a healthy marriage, couples can express their differences without resorting to name-calling or hurtful language. They can also resolve their disagreements in a way that leaves both partners feeling heard and respected. In a healthy relationship, arguments are a sign of intimacy and curiosity.
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In contrast, unhealthy marriages have a persistent conflict that is never resolved, leading to resentment and bitterness and eventually causing the relationship to break down completely. People in this type of relationship need to step back from the conflict and protect themselves rather than examine the argument’s true nature.
While it’s normal for all marriages to have their share of arguments, how you handle those arguments makes the difference between a happy and an unhappy union.
What goes on in the space between the arguments is what defines the relationship, and studying bad marriages does not help you understand what makes the good ones stand the test of time.
Take your red threads seriously every bloody day.
In this section of the podcast, beginning at 13:30, Marcus explains how, at 23, his first job at Gallup was interviewing the best eight housekeepers at Disneyworld, handpicked out of around 4,000 housekeepers.
What makes these people so good at what they do? Why are they driven to excel at a position many people consider mundane?
The answer is that each individual found love in the work they did. But each person had a different reason for doing so.
For example, one employee said she loved to see the tight lines as she vacuumed her way out of the room. Another would lay on the bed and test the ceiling fans to ensure that the guest would not be disappointed with malfunctioning equipment when they flaked out on the bed at the end of a hard day at the theme park.
Another housekeeper would make a show of the fluffy toys by arranging them on the bed in cute poses with the TV controls and changing it up every day.
What makes these employees need to do the extra work over and beyond the job description?
The answer lies in what Marcus describes as “red threads.” The energy fields make people fall in love with the task. When you become immersed in a job and the time flies by, this is what Marcus refers to as a red energy thread.
Marcus says there is a ton of data detailing that the most successful people are involved in their red threads daily for around 20% of the time.
Successful people are involved in their daily activities rather than using them as a to-do list to get through the day.
Whether a housekeeper, a basketball star, or an entrepreneur, people who take their uniqueness seriously lead the most fulfilling lives.
Your Uniqueness Is Your Weirdness
Who else lies on a bed and turns on the ceiling fan to ensure it works? Your uniqueness is what makes us, as human beings, so unique.
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The Norse have a term for your uniqueness called WYRD (a spirit or daemon), a noun intended to mean that each of us has a weirdness we were born with that we should celebrate. It is what marks us out as different from everyone else.
The people who thrive on life the most are those who pay attention to their own WYRD and develop and nurture it, which makes the individual unique.
How do we combat the fear of being seen as weird?
I asked Marcus how we reconcile our weirdness with people we imagine are more intelligent or rounded than we perceive ourselves. How do people, particularly teenagers, who are just starting on life’s journey listen to their weirdness and pursue red threads rather than being told they could become doctors, dentists, or astronauts?
You can be anything you want, telling you that you are an empty vessel waiting to fill up with ideas.
Your brain contains trillions of cells called neurons. These interconnected neurons have electrical signals that allow them to communicate with each other.
The junctions where these signals pass from one neuron to another are called synapses. By the time you’re 19, you’ll have a unique 100 trillion synapses in your brain. The connections between neurons lead you to like some things and loathe others, leading to your uniqueness.
The process of synaptic pruning begins in adolescence and continues into adulthood, one of the reasons why teenagers are often more impulsive than their adult counterparts. As the synaptic pruning process occurs, the brain becomes increasingly efficient in its function, developing better connections and becoming more adept at solving problems.
Your growth and development are, therefore, a result of your uniqueness. This concept is also explored in “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle if you would like to explore the subject further.
Marcus says that to stand out in your field of work, you must take your WYRD seriously. Your WYRD is your unique combination of talents, strengths, and passions that make you who you are.
When you know your WYRD, you can use it to your advantage in everything you do. You will be more productive, creative, and successful when working in line with your WYRD.
Achieving Excellence Through Teams
If you want to build a business, then you need to instinctively get good at building teams by recognizing people’s red threads, strengths, and weaknesses.
Bringing the individual strengths of each employee together as a team makes rapid development and growth possible.
I asked Marcus if a community is a good word substitute for building teams.
“It’s not WooWoo,” says Marcus.
He replied that putting aside race, religion and other preconceived notions was essential to building a community.
Ask the question and then shut up and listen to the answer!
In the best communities, people are seen and valued for bringing their uniqueness to the party. They are built by bringing the psychological strength of each individual together and harnessing the psychological curiosity of the individual, the secret sauce of what makes a great team.
Life is so short. The people who love you are waiting for you to show yourself.
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Life is so short. We only have a limited time on this earth and must make the most of it. Too often, we put off doing what we want because we’re afraid of what other people will think. We’re so scared of failure.
We’re fearful of not being good enough. But the truth is, the people who love us are waiting for us to show ourselves. They’re waiting for us to be brave enough to go after our dreams. They’re waiting for us to take risks and live life to the fullest. So don’t wait any longer. Show yourself. Be brave. Live your life with no regrets.
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Marcus Buckingham: For anybody going, "Life has passed me by, I'm too frightened of what might happen if I do X or Y or Z. I can't move because I'm stationary and I'm stuck." The only thing I would say is if you start paying attention to the specifics of what you love, you can use them to... For me, it was unlocking my own voice. For you it might be unlocking something else, but your loves aren't just for thriving, they're for flipping problem solving as well, and forgetting you moving. And if there's anything we know about love, Chase, it's an energy. It's got a flow.
Chase Jarvis: That quote was from the one and only Marcus Buckingham. Marcus, if you're not familiar with his work, he's a global researcher, a New York Times bestseller, and he's focused on increasing performance, unlocking strengths, and pioneering the space of the future of work. This episode was really meaningful. I think you're going to get a lot out of it. I'm going to get out of the way. Yours truly, Marcus Buckingham, here on the Chase Jarvis Live Show. Marcus Buckingham, thank you very much for being on the show. Welcome.
Marcus Buckingham: Thank you for having me. Excited.
Chase Jarvis: Prior to me hitting record just a moment ago, I was sharing with you that I think your latest work, which is called Love and Work, a book, is incredibly well-timed. I want to talk specifically about that. But I also want to start out by zooming back a little bit, and for the few people who might not be familiar with you or your work, if you could orient us around how you describe yourself, the work that you do, and what are areas of interest and focus for you and things that'll help us get into the conversation?
Marcus Buckingham: Well, my focus really has always been... I was super fortunate at 16 years old to meet a chap by the name of Don Clifton, who was the chairman of the Gallup organization at the time, and the founder of the approach to positive psychology that then Marty Seligman blew out through the University of Pennsylvania. So Don's whole focus was to study what was right with people? I was about to go up to university, Chase, to study psychology, and a lot of psychology at the time, still is, is focused on what's wrong with people, which is fine, studying neurosis and psychosis and depression and so forth. I mean, those things deserve a lot of study. But his approach was let's study what's right with people as well and see what we can learn about excellence, see what we can learn about success. Joy isn't just the opposite of sadness. It's different. Contribution isn't just the opposite of struggling. It's different. Excellence is different. You can't infer it from studying pathology.
I don't know why, but at 16, that was really interesting to me. So while all of my friends, I think, during college were doing internships in London, Paris, and New York, I went to Lincoln, Nebraska for every summer during college, because that's where Gallup was headquartered. And for whatever lucky reason, and I think a lot of it is luck, I was just instinctively fascinated by interviewing the world's best housekeepers to find out what makes them tick, or interviewing the world's best dentist to find out what made them tick. And that's really what the focus of the work at Gallup was, was interviewing people that are really, really, really good at what they do to find out what's unique and special and different about them.
And then we built something called Strength Finder, which at the time was really the first really methodologically sound approach to studying strengths. I then left Gallup, actually, after Don died in 2003, and rather like you, I searched for a way to take... I think my expertise had been measuring. Measuring strengths, measuring employee engagement. And that's really my background as a psychometrician. But at that time, 2003, I wanted to see whether we could actually not just measure strengths, but build them. Not just measure employee engagement, but build better teams. So rather like you, built a company, saw that there was a need, where there really wasn't a lot of good content and software and tools to help managers really build great teams. So did that for about 10 years, did the whole entrepreneurial thing, which we can get into because it's [inaudible 00:04:36].
Chase Jarvis: Indeed.
Marcus Buckingham: And then sold my company to ADP, the large payroll provider, in 2017 and they fund an institute, and they said to me, "Do you want to run the people and performance side of our institute, just studying in a rigorous way, globally, every month, just get in the field with ways to measure inclusion, employee engagement, resilience, strengths." And of course, for someone like me, that was catnip. That is catnip. There's a lot of opinion out there in the world today, so it's lovely to be able to have data... I'm a data geek, so to have some data to go look at something like inclusion. Well, are we getting any better or worse on inclusion? Well, we can all have opinions about stuff like that, but what's the data show. So in a nutshell, that's been my focus for the last 25 years.
Chase Jarvis: It's easy to put your life in a nutshell in a paragraph. I'm sorry for the heavy question to kick it off, but I think you did a nice job orienting us. And the human performance aspect of this... A lot of the human potential movement that started in the '60s, people started thinking about what's possible, and you had Roger Bannister running the four minute mile and there's... We started to see the psychology of these breakthroughs and some of what was possible. When you started talking to the world's best... That's what I'm personally obsessed with, that, that is the basis of this show, which is now more than 12 years running, you have researched in a way that is obviously professional. You've got data gathering and all these more sophisticated measures than, say, someone like myself, who's... I would call myself an armchair professional on this stuff.
But clearly you have noticed trends, trends in top performers, trends in... You talked about joy, for example, and excellence. Just again, as an orientation, what are some of these macro trends that you've seen for the world's best, whether you're in talking about... You mentioned house cleaners and dentists. We've talked about athletes and artists and entrepreneurs. Is there some sort of... If you squint your eyes a little bit, are there a handful of fuzzy ambiguous things that this posse who leads us around the world, that are the best of the best, that they have, that others do not?
Marcus Buckingham: First of all, it is a fascinating subject. I mean, to go and study excellence. And I know we can learn from failure. There's no question that, as you know as an entrepreneur, I'm sure you tried a whole bunch of things that didn't work and that's always useful. But it is interesting to think that excellence isn't the opposite of failure. That if all you do is study your failures, you get an expert understanding of failure, but you can't just say that excellence is the opposite of failure. I mean, if you study really unhappy marriages, for example, you find that they fight a lot. In unhappy marriages people argue a lot. But the weird thing, Chase, is if you study really happy marriages, and you count the fights, or the arguments, it turns out there's no statistically significant difference in the number of disagreements or arguments in a happy marriage from an unhappy marriage.
So if you're not careful, you'd say if you studied an unhappy marriage, you'd say to someone, "If you're in a happy one, you should not argue, because you're arguing a lot." But you study the really happy marriages, they argue a lot. So what turns out to be the difference maker in happy relationships, just as it happens, is not the number of arguments, it's what goes on in the space between the arguments. Somehow in the unhappy marriage, each argument is proof that I need to protect myself from you, that I need to armor myself against you, and I step back, back, physically and psychologically separating myself to protect myself. Somehow in the best relationships, each argument, funnily enough, is a sign of intimacy. It's a spur for curiosity, for getting closer.
So whatever that is that pulls two people together in the space between the arguments, the point here, I suppose, would be you learn nothing about that from studying the rotten marriages. It's just different. You got to get into the specifics of excellence to understand it. So if you study excellent performers in anything, and it feels like a weird place to start, but my first job at Gallup was in... We were interviewing the eight best housekeepers at Walt Disney World. And I was, I think, 23, 24 at the time, and didn't know anything about housekeeping, but we had the eight best housekeepers. And I promise you, there's a point to this.
Chase Jarvis: No, I love it. This is fascinating.
Marcus Buckingham: So housekeeping you think to yourself, A, that's a rotten job, or B, maybe that's a really easy job, and C, I wouldn't want to stay in that job very long at all. So you think a few things about jobs like that. But you go into the eight best, and they didn't know each other, because there's like 3, 4,000 housekeepers, but these were the eight handpicked. The ones where the guests would be like, "I want to go back in her or his section of rooms." That kind of quality. And it was the most bizarre thing, because they would talk... I'd ask them questions. And the two things that came out of that focus groups was one, they all found love in what they did. I don't think I called it love at the time. But they all found specific loves in what they did and it, and each one of them loved different bits. So there was idiosyncrasy.
So one of them would say, "Well, what I love is vacuuming myself out of the room and seeing the lines. Every room for me is just creating lines as I vacuum myself out." Someone else said, "The way that I love the room is I love to sit on the toilet or lie in the tub or lie on the bed and turn on the ceiling fan," and I remember at the time going, "Wait, what? Why?" And she was like, "Well, that's the very first thing a guest will do after a long day out in the theme parks. You come in, you flop down on the bed, and you turn on the ceiling fan. If dust comes off the top of the fan, the guest thinks that the whole room is as dirty as the top of the fan. So I love seeing the room from the guest perspective. That's why I sit on the toilet or lie in the tub."
Someone else goes, "I make a little show for the kids with the fluffy toys on the bed, so one day they'll come in, Mickey and Minnie will be on the bed with his arm around her and her arm on a remote control for the TV, so the kids think all day long Mickey and Minnie just hang out in the bed, snacking and watching TV, and the next day it's Goofy and Donald dancing on the window sill or something." So you hear all this stuff and you go, "Wow, that's so specific." By the way, none of these things are mentioned in the job description. In fact, the job description had some things that prohibited you from lying on the bed. Prohibited, specifically said, "Don't touch more of the guest possessions than you needed to clean a room."
So none of these things that I just mentioned were in any of the description of the job, but they had all taken them really, really seriously. And it was one of those big ahas where you go, "Wow, the activities of a job itself are energetic. There's energy in activities." And each one of us gets different energy from different activities. What in the book, the Love and Work book, I came to call red threads. Every single job has many, many, many, many thousands of activities in it every day, a bit like a fabric. So today's Thursday, but it's not a Thursday, it's actually thousands of stimuli that are hitting you. That are hitting me. It's a conversation here. It's an activity there. It's an email here. It's a confrontation there. It's thousands of stimuli every day. They're like threads in a fabric. Some of the threads are black and white and green and gray, a little up a little down.
But some of them are red, are red threads. They're activities that are a bit like the woman vacuuming herself out of the room, or the other one making a show for the guests. They're just things that have love in them. They're joyful. They lift you up. You positively anticipate them. Time flies by when you're doing them flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called that flow. So every one of us has red threads in our day. And rather than seeing our day as something to get through, like a to-do list that rolled over from yesterday, the most successful people, if you really, as you said, like squint at it and go, "Gosh, let's not generalize too much, but do they have anything in common at all?" I would have to say that what it is is they take their red threads really seriously every bloody day. It's not like, "I save up my month and one day a month I do one day filled with things I love." It's like, "No, no, no. Every day I've got to find some red threads to weave into the fabric of my work today."
Not all day. It's almost like the data doesn't showcase that the best people do all that they love. There's actually no data that says that they do all that they love, but there's a ton of data, as well as anecdotes like the one I shared about housekeepers, which show that they find love in what they do. They find red threads every... It's like, "Which bit of my day to day is going to be red thread like?" And there's a bunch of data, even from the Mayo clinic, looking at doctors and nurses and burnout in them, that suggests that 20% is a really useful threshold for all of us. You don't need a red quilt. You need 20% of your day to be activities that you love, red threads. And everyone else is colorblind as to what your red threads are. You're the genius. You're the only genius.
So if you really push on what the most successful people do, it's like they take their loves, the specific activities that they love, their whole life is like a scavenger hunt for red threads. And it sounds almost... I don't know, almost too simple to say it that way, if you look at all the different sorts of excellence that I've studied over the years, but actually if you really push on it, whether it's housekeepers or whether it's basketball stars, they're so serious about their own uniqueness and the combination of their uniqueness with the world. What's the best way to be an entrepreneur? Well, it really flipping depends on the entrepreneur. And the most successful entrepreneurs are like, "The bit of my job where I soar is this and this and this and this. And I'm going to take that seriously every day."
Chase Jarvis: This is fascinating. Which comes first. Do we build careers and jobs for ourselves around the things that we love, around our red threads? Or do we have the jobs, do we have the careers that we have, and we look for the red threads and pull on them?
Marcus Buckingham: Well, if you were going to wave a magic wand, you'd do the former before you'd do the latter. The former is... Because you could do this. My daughter came to talk to me during the pandemic. She's about 16 at the time. And was like, "What's the difference between rhombus and a parallelogram?" And I remember this is now a couple of years ago, going A, I don't know, I can't remember, and B it just struck me that somebody's taken geometry really seriously. She's had 10 years of geometry, there's tests and there's grades and geometry. Serious, but all the stuff that will wake her up when she's asking the question that you just asked, like, "Should I look for a job that really fits the best of me, or should I take any job and try to mold it so that it actually plays to the best of me, and how do I even think about the best of me without bragging, or how do I even share that with my new team without sounding like I'm self involved, how do I get curious about what my other teammates or colleagues..."
All this stuff that wakes you up when you're 29, she got nothing on that. Zero. There's no rigorous... I mean, you might take Strength Finder, you might take Enneagram, you might take a Myers Briggs and God love those assessments, because I'm a huge fan of strengths assessments, but they go in a drawer. There isn't a 10 year curriculum on you or my daughter where somebody's going, "Hey, what are your passions? What is your calling? What do you love? What are your red threads," to use that metaphor. Which is a shame because it means you pop out the top after college perhaps and you're kind of clueless as to how to answer your question. You don't really know. You just get any job and then you... "Ah, does it fit me? I'm told that I could be anything I want to be if I just work at it. I'm told that I'm an empty vessel."
And we even couch it in positive language like, "Well I ought to have a growth mindset, which means there's nothing inside me at all, really. I can just be anything." When really what should happen is we should start early helping people go, "No, no, no, no. You are not a function of your race, your gender, your age, your sexual orientation. Those things are important, but you share them with millions of other people. You're you. And you're really different than your brother or your sister or your cousin. You're just weird. I mean, you really are weird. And that's a good thing. So during your teenage years, let's help you figure out what are your red threads? What do you lean into? Where do you see sparks of learning? Where do you learn quicker than anyone else? Where were you singled out for praise? Where do you find something interesting that everyone else finds boring? Come on, let's help you do that because life is showing it to you all the time."
If you did that, then you pop out the top of college and you would be actively looking for roles in which those red threads were there for you. That's kind of the perfect world. We actually live in the real world, though, so probably the answer to your question in the real world is... Because we don't do anything that I just described. We've got graduates graduating, they're jacked up on Adderall or there on Xanax to take the edge off the Adderall, and they don't really know who they are and they're alienated, not to paint too gloom a picture, but alienated from themselves, and they pop into a job. And most of those jobs, frankly, are defined on Indeed or LinkedIn with job descriptions that frankly are generic, and they don't see you at all. So we pop into jobs, and then probably for us, we should think about our careers as, within a job, let's scavenge for red threads in that job. We know that 73% of American workers say they have a chance to maneuver their job to fit themselves better. That's pretty good. 73%.
There's 27% of us going. "I'm stuck," which is bad, and we should talk about that. But 73% of folks say, "You know what? I do have some room to maneuver in this job." Unfortunately only 18% of us say that we have a chance to do what we love every day. 18. So in psychology, we call that an attitude behavior consistency problem. Many of us think we can do it, but we don't do it. So to some extent, a lot of what I wrote Love and Work for was the 27 year old, in a sense, going, "What the heck? This job doesn't fit me. All of the performance management systems that I live within, the rating systems that give me a performance improvement plan at the end of the year or a grade or a number, I'm a three out of a five or... All of it seems to ignore me in. In fact, my uniqueness is not just irrelevant to my job. It feels like it's an impediment to my job."
So for all those people who go to work going, "This job doesn't seem to fit me," I was, I think trying to write Love and work to go, "Don't worry. You're not crazy. You do actually have probably quite a lot of room to maneuver in your current role before you start throwing it all in for some other brand new job. So the grass is greener on the other side. Why don't you start thinking about red threads in your current job? Just try that." My simplest counsel is always just take a blank pad around with you for a week, draw a line down the middle of it, write loved it at the top of one column, and loathed it at the top of the other column, and just take it around with you for a week, and any time you see an activity, that's got one of the signs of love, and I would say there's three really good ones. Before you do it, you actively look forward to it. There's some positive anticipation for it. You don't really know why even, but there just sort of is.
Second, while you're doing it, to go back to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's term, there is flow, time does speed up. And third, when you're done with it, you're not drained. "Thank God that's over." Somehow you're up. You're invigorated. And those are feelings, and only you know the feelings. So take that around with you for a week, the love it, loathe it, and scribble... Anytime you see one of those three signs, just scribble down exactly what you were doing. Not generic stuff like, "Working with people," but which people, what are you doing with them? What's the verb? Scribble it down. And on the flip side, scribble down the loathed its. And you'll have some, everyone will have stuff where you procrastinate it and try to hand it off to someone else or time drags on and you're bored out your mind and you've been doing it for two minutes, but when you're done with it, you're drained.
And it's a beautifully simple inventory of your emotional reaction to the activities that fill a week. And what is great about that for you is it's a great place for you to start... Wherever you want to go, you got to start with where you are. Well, where you are, you're the only person that sees your red threads. So take a blank pad around with you for a week. Just pay attention to some of those clues. You'll see activities. And know in the back of your head you don't need to have a job where it's entirely loves. You just don't. No one does. And yet a job with no loves is psychologically and emotionally draining. And the people who feel it the most are the people at home, the people that you love, "Oh, suck it up. Your job isn't supposed to love you back."
No. Your job is 40, 50 hours a week of activities. If every one of them is loveless, please don't imagine that you're not psychologically damaging yourself. So to help people start off and go, "This is doable." And then if you just do love it, loathe it, maybe just twice a year for the rest of your life, then you'll be using the raw material of your own wisdom about your own life to start weaving more red threads deliberately into your life. And of course, if you don't do that, no one's going to do it for you.
Chase Jarvis: So true. I love the attention and I just I'll hold up the book here. Congratulations. It's brilliant. Love and Work. It's also incredibly well-timed. As many of our watchers and listeners will have heard and or seen in the news, terms like the Great Resignation and we're all completely rethinking our relationship with work in part because of the pandemic, in part because people are finally recognizing that feeling included and belonging and connecting to what we do with so much of our time, all these , they're entering our awareness unlike they have at previous times. So A, congratulations on having an incredibly well timed book on this topic. More importantly, did this... I would just call it maybe a collision between our values and our reality, how did they inform the work that you put into in order to write this book?
Marcus Buckingham: Well, probably like many people during the pandemic, you have some really difficult days and you have some really clarifying days, and some of the difficult days, I don't want to speak for you, but I know for me, the days when you look in the mirror and you go, "What the hell are you doing with your life?" And then there's other days where you think, "Well, thank goodness I'm still alive, because I've got an opportunity to go and try to do something that really feels like an authentic contribution." So for me, right before the pandemic and during I lost my marriage, I lost my dad, I sold my company. We were talking about that. That's your baby. You build it, build it, and of course you're happy that someone sees value in it and that you could scale it, but that's jarring.
And then of course now we're all isolated. So that all happened to me. And then you're all by yourself. So I thought I wanted to rehabilitate the word love. Because if somebody had asked me the question you did at the beginning, which is your 25 years of just interviewing really, really, really successful people and shutting up. What do they all have in common? The answer I said before really is that it's like, "Oh my gosh." They seem to realize that activities themselves have love in them. And yet everyone loves different ones and psychology, the practice of what's called individual different psychology. Why is Venus different than Serena Williams? Why is George Clooney's sister Ada someone we've never heard of and not an actor? Why did Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, but Dean Armstrong, his elder brother, was a bank manager?
Like we don't, we have lots of discussions about our trauma growing up and how that biography affected us, which is all true. Or we have generalizations of, I said, as I said before, race, gender, and so forth to explain ourselves, which is all important. But the really interesting questions for everyone of us is what bits of me are just me, and different than someone with the same race, gender, age, socioeconomic... My brother, my sister, This here, this is Beyonce Knowles. I'm fascinated... Sorry, that's Solange Knowles, so that's Beyonce's sister. So why are they different? And they're so different, but why? And where's the language around why are we different from the people we grew up right next to?
Maybe that doesn't interest everybody, but I'm fascinated by that because I've got an elder brother who's a pianist and a younger sister who was a professional ballet dancer for 20 years. And I don't have any musical talent at all. Not none. And I played the trombone for 10 years. God love Malcolm Gladwell, I had 10,000 hours of playing the trombone and I went from terrible to bad. That was the limit of my growth. I'm sure everybody listening or watching has this, where you go, "Why am I so different than my brother or my sister? Why? Can someone give me a language please?" Because all the other languages, race, gender, age, or biography are okay, but they don't really explain this bit. So the writing of the book at the time was like, "Wow, people who excel have figured out that the uniqueness of them and their emotional reaction to activities in a job is real, it's super important, and it's the precursor to contribution."
So love doesn't always lead to excellent performance. Sometimes we love some things that don't lead to excellence and we call those hobbies. And that's cool, they bring more love into our lives. But often love does lead, and we know this biochemically, it leads to the dysregulating of the neocortex. It leads to what Barbara Fredericks and the positive psychologist calls broadening and building. It really does lead to an opening of your mind to more learning. So the idea that the best people take love seriously, that for me, was like, "Gosh, let's write a book about love. Let's do it with Harvard so that people can go, 'No, they're taking this seriously,' and then let's try to help through the book, I guess, through the other things that we're doing around it, can we help people have a healthier, more intimate relationship to their own contribution in life?"
Some of which will be on the job, some of which... And I define work as creating something of value for someone else. So sometimes that happens on your job, but also raising a family is work in that sense, raising friendships is work. Community activism is work. So there's a lot of different domains of contribution that we make in our lives. And now, of course, we come out of the recession... Sorry we come out of the pandemic, kind of maybe hit a recession. We've got this great resignation. So now, kind of, as you said, I suppose, fortunately, and I hope usefully, when people are thinking, "What should my relationship to my job be? What should my relationship to my broader contribution be? Where's me in that equation?"
My hope is that when people start asking that question themselves, which many of us are... And of course we need the money, we need a salary, we need a job. We need to provide for ourselves, our families. I mean, there's a transactional element to a job that is non-trivial. But at the same time, surely work doesn't have to be loveless? We've designed a lot of loveless work. You go to some big factories or big distribution centers and there's a lot of loveless work that's been designed. I mean that we can design... Look at some schools, with the underfunded teachers. Look at all the burned out nurses. I mean, we can design loveless work even in hospitals. But that doesn't mean that it has to be loveless, and in fact, for all of us coming out of the pandemic, I want it to be very non idealistic, very in the real world to go, "Hey, there's something special and distinct and unique about you and the activities of your day help reveal that to you. You can find red threads. You can. No one can do it for you, but you can."
So if the book helps people take their angst, that overall feeling that many of us have about, "Well, what should I be doing in my work?" And take that question and actually put some very, very specific doable answers to that, and if it helps people in this time right now, then jolly good, because otherwise I think we're going to have a whole bunch of bitterness in about nine months time as people realize that we're basically just sliding back to where we were before.
Chase Jarvis: Well that would be catastrophic and I don't believe that's going to happen. And again, that's one of the reasons I was so fascinated with your book and why I think it's so well timed. And I'm going to play back to what I just heard, our own attention on our individual skills and delights, and to use your word, the things that we can find love in, in whatever job we are doing or a job that we want, that is where all the best stuff is. We have to learn to pay attention to that. My question, if I got that, just give me a thumbs up or close enough [inaudible 00:31:48]-
Marcus Buckingham: Absolutely. Your emotional reaction to certain activities... Go back to those housekeepers, take those three housekeepers. The stories they told about that which they loved were totally different, but super vivid and emotionally resonant. Positive emotional reactions to lying on a bed and turning on a ceiling fan. But that doesn't mean that every single one of them did that, but it does mean one of them did that, and one of the things that they'd done is made it... To your point, they paid attention to that, took it seriously. It wasn't like, "Well that was irrelevant, or that's everyone's life." I mean, sometimes we get so close to our own loves we assume that everyone's like that, and sometimes we actually devalue that which we love, because we assume everyone must be like that, so it can't be that special.
And in fact, one of the greatest gifts I hope people get from the book is to go, "No, nobody, other than you maybe lies on the bed and turns on the ceiling fan. That is weird. In fact, the Norse, the ancient Norse had this idea that you all have a wyrd, every one of us has a W-Y-R-D. It's a noun. And it means a spirit or a daemon. When you're born, you have this kind of unique wyrd in you, and although you can grow and learn and develop, you don't get someone else's wyrd, you grow into your own. So yes, in terms of what you play back... The most successful and happiest, the most thrivingest, if there is such a word, people are people who do take that weird seriously and they pay attention to the, "Oh my gosh, I lie on the bed and I turn on the ceiling fan, I get a kick out of that. And it manifests a bit differently in every room, but that's me." Is every housekeeper like that. No. Is that part of what makes you special? Yes. Sorry to reiterate that.
Chase Jarvis: No, no, no. So here's my follow on. So if we get that bit right, what I have played back and you just reiterated, we've got to lean into our own weird. We got to lean into what lights us up regardless of how it may appear to others. How do we combat the fears that we have of being seen as weird or that that is unacceptable and I couldn't make a living doing that? All the things that we hear from... Which is part of this most confusing message that I felt growing up as a white male born in America, had basically every privilege, I did not get the inputs that pursuing my passion as a creator, as an entrepreneur somehow was valuable. I did not get that input.
So how do we manage the fears that we have around fitting in, around getting what ostensibly is misinformation from people who love us, from our parents, our career counselors, the leaders within the places that we do work? How do we manage those fears, when, go back to the housekeeper, when I love sitting on a bed and turning the fan on and feeling that this room holds me in a cocoon, rather than there's dust flying everywhere, how do I lean into that when I'm getting none of these positive messages around embracing my weirdness from people who should be smarter, should be better, should be more talented or further along in the job and life tack than I am? How do we reconcile that?
Marcus Buckingham: Those are really important questions that if you and I had oceans of time on our hands, what we should really do is we should go build a curriculum starting at about 10 and help all of these teenagers who go from particularly 14 through 21. You think about those seven years and all the transition points that kids go through during 14 to 21, and we give them really no guidance at all to answer those very questions. All these sometimes well intended teachers and parents saying, "Well, you should be a dentist," or, "You should stay in school and get..." "You should not stay in school. You should go get an apprenticeship and you should, and you should, and you should." There's a lot of shoulds and a lot of noise. So to begin with, we should just honor the fact that it's hard to listen to your weird when there's so many people shouting at you, some of them very well intendedly basically saying there's nothing in you. That you're an empty vessel. You're a tabula rasa.
And they're saying that not to be mean. They're saying that to be developmental. "Hey, you can be anything you want to be," just sounds so good to say, doesn't it, to someone else? But in fact, for the person that means, "Well, there's nothing in me at all." The red threads, your loves are just completely, endlessly malleable. You could maneuver them, manipulate them into your brother. You could become your brother. Dean Armstrong could be Neil Armstrong. Ada Clooney could be George Clooney. So to begin with, we need to help everybody understand that we don't need a spiritual weird to describe the fact that you are unique. We do know, and this is just fact, so we should start with people with fact, by the time you're 19 years old, you have a hundred billion synapses in your brain, which is a huge amount. But of course, the real source of your uniqueness is the connection between the neurons. And you have a hundred trillion of those.
Every single person has a unique, totally unique hundred trillion synaptic connections in your brain, which leads you, by the way, to love some things and loathe others, to lean into some things, lean out of others, to find some things funny and some things not, some thing's interesting, something... All of your uniqueness is a function of this incredibly massive filigreed synaptic connection that is bigger than the number of stars in 5,000 Milky Ways. So that's where we have to start with you and go, "Listen, there's a utterly unique network in your brain. It's real. It's not fake, and it's not a function of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, nationality. It's just you. But it's there, and it's huge. When you die, no one will ever have that pattern again. You're amazing. And we're not doing that just to puff you up. That's actual fact."
Second, you will learn all the way through your life. Yes, we have blame brain plasticity, absolutely you will. You're like every human. You'll learn. But we actually know you learn the most where you have the most preexisting synaptic connections. We know that. Where the infrastructure is there, the blood vessels [inaudible 00:38:12] proteins, you grow, you learn more where you already have more. It doesn't mean you can't learn elsewhere. It means that you learn most in those parts of your brain where you've got a big thicket of synaptic connections already. So what that means for you is that your uniqueness over the course of your life is actually... In fact brain scientists say learning for you is new buds on existing branches. It's not new branches.
So we can help. So first of all, you've got this incredible unique network of connections. Second, your growth and development is actually going to be an amplification of your uniqueness. So take it really seriously, because yeah, you could get a little better over here and yeah, you could get a little better over here, but if you are going to really stand out in work, I'm sorry, you're going to have to take your weird seriously. Now that does mean you should learn new skills. It does mean you got to practice. It doesn't mean you don't work hard. It means though that practice becomes more like an obsession than like a discipline. So that's the second thing we got to tell you.
And the third thing is we humans have always, always known that excellence in anything happens on teams. The oldest human art we've ever found, Chase, is a 50,000 year old painting on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, and it's not a painting of a hand print, it's not a painting of a god, or... It's a painting, which they only found in like 2017, but it's 50,000 years old, which is at least 20,000 years older than the paintings in Southern France, and it's a painting of a team. It's a bunch of very clearly humanoid figures with ropes and spears, and they're chasing animals. It's a hunting scene. But what's super cool about it is that the artists, which I think was a woman, she'd painted animal characteristics, different ones, on each of the humanoids. So one of them's got the chunk of elephant, one of them's got the tail of crocodile, one of them's got the face of a wild cat.
So they think what... As a creative, you'll know this, with art, you can sort of see into the mind of the artist. So it's kind of... I don't know, it gives me the shivers to think you can see into her 50,000 year old brain. But they think she looked across the smoke in the cave and went, "Oh, he's got the strength of an elephant and she's got the wile of a crocodile and she's as brave as a cat, and this one over here similarly knows where the animals are going and... Why don't we pull them together into a team. We'll call it a team. And together these four fingers will turn into a fist and we'll be able to do something together that we couldn't do alone." Well, when every CEO asks me, which they do, "Well with all this incredible uniqueness, isn't that chaos? I've got a bunch of housekeepers who've got to clean hotel rooms, I've got a bunch of nurses that've just got to show up in the emergency room. All of that uniqueness is really annoying to me. Isn't that just chaos?"
The response is always no, we figured out what to do with uniqueness 50,000 years ago. The team. I know we always say there's no I in team, as though the point of a team is to remind you that you're not as important as the team. But it's like, "No, that's a complete misunderstanding of teams." We designed a technology called teams because we have uniqueness in us. And the team is the organizing unit which makes value out of your uniqueness. So going back to your question, number one, you've got this unbelievably real unique network. Number two, you'll grow most through the uniqueness of that network. And number three, you don't have to have a red quilt yourself. You could join teams where each person is bringing their uniqueness to that team, and together because you're bringing all your red threads together, the team's the red quilt. You aren't.
And that's real. You're an entrepreneur. You know this. You were probably really good at building teams out of different people. So if anyone listening that's trying to build a business, yes you got to start off with your own red threads, but really quickly the first big decisions you'll make will be what's the first team I construct, and do I know the red threads, if you like, the loves, the callings of each one of these people on that team? Am I like the painter 50,000 years ago, who can kind of go, "Ah, I'll put him and her, here her, here..." And if you want to build a business, instinctively, you've got to get really good at building really good teams.
Chase Jarvis: This is so obvious on the backside of, as you talked about, building a company, or building anything, you look backwards and you realize that even if you are a solopreneur or self-employed, that there is a sea of people who contribute to your success and who enable your greatness to shine, and whether you're bringing in people to help with accounting or account management or any n number of possible teams, even in a solopreneur environment, you start to look... Or at least for me, I remember thinking about this, like, "Wow, this indelibly connects me to the community around what I love." Now I've been a huge advocate of community ever since I discovered this, I'll say, 20 years ago. I didn't have a good vocabulary for it, but I've developed this over time. And would it be a fair word, in your world... I know you work mostly around team and in career. Is community an okay substitute for that word?
Marcus Buckingham: Yeah, community means that we need to rely on one another. I mean, one of the most beautiful things that I hope Love and Work, for those that read it, that what it gives them is if you've got more stars in your brain than 5,000 Milky Ways, then so does the person you're just about to bring into your community. Don't assume anything. Just shut up and ask your questions and listen, because their uniqueness... I don't care what they look like. So in a sense, put aside your unconscious bias about anything. I don't mean just race or gender, but anything, because you could meet someone that might look a lot like you, maybe they're the same race as you, the same gender, the same age, the same schooling as you. But in terms of the red threads, in terms of the things that they love, in terms of the things they lean into, you don't know anything about him.
Because I have a brother that looks a lot like me who is weird, who if you, Chase, if you met us both, you might assume that he was very similar, but it couldn't be more different. So community is a good word because what it is really saying in the community is we need to know where we can rely on you the most. We therefore need to be able to see you. We can't rely on what we can't see. So in the best communities you feel seen and you're seen as valuable because of what people see in you, and for all of us that have ever been part of a great community, it's not because we abdicated our uniqueness or our idiosyncrasy and we became... I mean, this is the worst community sort of where it's, "I don't have any idea who I am, so I'm going to join a bunch of people that look and think like me, and then we will define ourselves as amity within, enmity without. I don't know who I am, so we're going to say we are together because we're not you."
I mean, that's bad... That's unhealthy community where people have no psychological understanding of themselves as individuals, so they band together and create prejudice. In terms of the way you are talking about community, that is super healthy community, because it's built out of psychological strength for each individual, and psychological curiosity of each person to each other person, which again, isn't woo woo. It's like you built a business, you built a business because you were really curious about what each person's uniqueness was and how, perhaps, perhaps it could get turned into contribution, whether it's part of a community or part of a company or whatever.
I mean, that's kind of the secret sauce for any kind of significant achievement. It's being really curious about the uniqueness of that human. And sometimes it gets annoying because that human isn't wired the way you are wire and you don't always understand when... I'm not saying it's always easy. I've built some teams that crumbled. I'm sure you did too, where you're like... But if you stay curious, keep asking your open-ended questions, where will this person contribute the most? What do you love about what you do? When does time fly by? When were you picked out for praise and singled out? Those sorts of questions yield really specific answers for people. And from that builds a really strong community.
Chase Jarvis: I was going to lead into... My question on community was... Specifically I'm reading from the book now, it's chapter 16 and part three, I see you, I love you. And this is under the heading of making Love and Work come alive. So I want to explore this topic of seeing and being seen. I want to go to the being seen part first. So I'm hoping that you can dissect the misunderstanding that society has labeled introversion and extroversion. So I'm sure there's 50% of the listeners here or more are introverted, and can you give any advice on being seen in a world where you might want not want to share the spotlight because this idea of being seen is so critical to your work and to basically the framework that you're sharing with us today. How does one do that and not violate what feels like their internal values?
Marcus Buckingham: Well, gosh, that's an interesting question. It's it's really on some level as simple as changing your language. Sometimes we label people extrovert or introvert based upon their willingness to brag. I'm not saying always. But often we might say that an introvert is someone who is really uncomfortable with any sort of self claiming, and of course the actual definition of introversion and extroversion is where you get your energy from, and extrovert gets it more from other people, and introvert more... Which frankly to be, I mean, if you really pushed on that from a psychometric standpoint, those two categories are way too broad, way too broad. When we are faced, as you know, with the complexity of other human beings, we tend to get overwhelmed and we start going, "Well, you're an extrovert, you're an introvert. You're organized, you're disorganized. You're motivated, you're..."
And we do that because we just get a bit of overwhelmed by the fact that you're... I mean, it's funny, my step kids here, one of them, when he walks in and into the kitchen, the first thing he does is Purell his hands and clean them. And any time anything's brought out of the pantry it's put immediately back and you think, "Wow, he's organized." But you go up to his room and it's like the towel fairy came in last night and threw up all over the room. And the other one, who's younger, his closet is color coded, the sock drawer, the next day's clothing is laid out. But if he makes anything, it's like strawberries just exploded out of the walls. And you're like, "But one's organized, one's..." No, we oversimplify at our peril.
But beyond that, if you are one of those people, which is probably most of us actually, who don't want to go, "I'm the best at this. I rock at this, I crush at this." I mean, I know we're supposed to live in a world where we're all comfortable with those kinds of claims. But for most of us, we don't know... We've got imposter syndrome apart from anything else, so do we really believe that? Well, to some extent, your point about community is super well taken because if we just changed the language... Not, "I'm the best at," which is a braggadocio statement. What happens if you turned it around and you thought about, "What would the team want me to say? If the team had a personality itself and it was asking me to do something right by the team or by my community, what would it ask of me?"
Well, what it would ask of you is to say, "Well, could you tell us not where you're the best, but tell us where you're at your best." Why don't you just flip the language a little bit. When are you at your best? Where do you want people to really rely on you? Where do you feel really good when people turn to you for it? Just put a little detail about those three questions, because we don't know. And maybe initially, maybe you haven't thought about it for a while, but if you could, the team would go, "Good," or the community would go, "Good, because we can't read your mind or your heart. But we do want to rely on you. We do want to turn to you. We do want to know where you're at your best so that you don't get burned out. So could you tell us?"
So for many of us, if you just change your language a little bit and think about it in terms of contribution and responsibility, it's not about bragging. It's about contribution and responsibility. So tell people where you're at your best. One of the things that we would suggest is have a Love and work day at work. You pick a day. If you were still running your... This is what I would suggest to you. Take a morning, take your best team or the team that you lead, and just take a morning, go around the table, ask those three questions of each of the people on your team and scribble. Have everyone scribble down, listen to what they say, because it's real.
And then flip it around and say, "Now tell us where you need help. Because not all of your threads are red, right? Some of your threads are different colors. You need help. Some of the time, some of the activities is like you're a deer in the headlights, aren't you? I know you're not supposed to have any weaknesses at work, but why don't you tell us where you'd like help, where you want to reach out to other people, where you find time drags on? Not that we can take that all away from you. Some jobs are always going to have some bits of them that don't really fit you. But tell us about some of the other threads with other colors. Why? Because we can help, probably." So that's a really simple love and work day where the team leader and the team, or the community, will have an opportunity to see one another. Not as perfect humans, complete humans, but as the individual unique contributors that we all are.
Chase Jarvis: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. The changing of the language is an unlock, I feel like. It's a massive unlock because-
Marcus Buckingham: It's one of those things where you want to teach it to a 12 year old. How cool would that be? Anyway, sorry, didn't mean to interrupt.
Chase Jarvis: No, no, this is... I mean, this is in part the purpose of the show is how can we, through simple behavioral changes, unlock huge pieces of us or our communities or our potential, where it's just basically hiding in plain sight all along and we've been just getting it just a little bit wrong.
Marcus Buckingham: Yes. And the thing we're getting wrong is we haven't taken seriously the fact that each individual human gets energy from different, very specific activities. I mean, my sister was a ballet dancer. I know Ken Robinson famously was like, "Well, she's not sick. She's a dancer." And was a genius. But my sister was a dancer and she knew when she went to Royal Ballet School at 13. But what the Royal Ballet School never taught her is, "Well, what kind of dancer are you? What are the specific activities of being a dancer, a ballet dancer who's in one of the most respected ballet companies in the world?" But there's a million different kinds of dancers. It actually took her about 15 years to realize she's a lyrical dancer. She shouldn't be at the Royal Ballet Company. She shouldn't be at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
She should be at the Netherlands Dance Theater, NDT, which is probably the most renowned lyrical ballet company. Because she can't do the four pirouettes in the four pirouettes, and doesn't want to. It's too quarter ballet. It's too rote. She's very long. She's quite long for a dancer, five foot six and a half. And that works when you're lyrical. And that's what she loved. That's where she was like... And I'm sure you found this as an entrepreneur, too. When you're in your red thread zone, you are so much more charismatic. People, they almost can't express it, but they lean into you. You're a better leader when you know which bits of your day are red threads. People are like... Because all about leadership as we know is about confidence. You're engendering confidence in others. Well, when you playing to something that's a red thread of yours, you're just more attractive and you're more confidence inducing.
But we haven't taken that. No one took my sister's red threads seriously. They just said, "You're a dancer." Which is okay, but really they should have gone on to go, "Now, over the next five or six years, we're going to expose you to a ton of different sorts of dancing, ton of different repertoire. You got to kind of figure out... And we can't do it for you. You got to kind of figure out where your thing is. And you may have many things, but you don't have everything. So we got to figure out where you are extraordinary and that's a scavenge for your life probably, but certainly the next five years." That's the part, Chase, that we haven't taken seriously at all. And that's what makes so many of us alienated from ourselves in our lives. We're just not given a language to talk about it.
Chase Jarvis: In the book, this idea of scavenger hunting, of looking for these things as an active process and we have... The audience who are listening, that are watching right now are not likely not teens. I'm sure there are some of you. Good on you for those of you are out there. But I know from the demos that we're largely in that 25 to 45. And regardless of where you are on the age spectrum, this idea of starting to take this seriously. If you have taken it seriously to date, good on you. If you have not, I can't emphasize this advice that we're hearing here from you, Marcus, enough, that is where the best stuff in life is. And as you talked about being charismatic and dynamic and having energy, for many of you who don't have energy, it's because you're not pursuing those things that light you up. It's catastrophic, almost that we're just now talking about this.
Marcus Buckingham: And it's based on... It's individual different psychology. For those of you that want to dive into the subject in more detail. If any of you studied psychology, it's weird, you'll get very little of that. I don't know why we do it, but we don't really help you understand what's the rigor. As I said about geometry way back, we take geometry way more seriously than we take the uniqueness of you. But if you're 45 and you're wondering why you have been struggling lately, or if you are 35 and you're wondering why the first two or three teams you tried to build didn't work, or if you're 25 and you're thinking, "Well, what is the right ladder for me to start climbing?" The answer to all those questions is the same. Scavenge for red threads right now. Start right now to figure out what your life is trying to show you.
Because the most important thing I was trying to do, I think, with the book, Chase, is to get people to change their relationship to their own life. So often we do think that life is something to be withstood or got through. And certainly some of the HR functions, you're now part of a big company, some of the HR tools really feel like you are invisible. You are irrelevant to the thing you are being measured against. So we we push things at you that seem to not really see you at all. So unfortunately, or fortunately it's incumbent upon you to go, "All right, no matter where I am in my career, my life is actually trying to put on a show for me every day. My life is trying to show me, 'What about this thread? What about that thread? What about this one? What about this one?'"
That's kind of how we should see our life. It's doing a song and dance. It sounds kind of silly, but every day it's putting on a song and dance going, "What about this? What about that? What about this?" And to your point about attention, if you turn away from your own life and you don't look at it, it's still doing its show. It's just you're... Maybe because of other people telling you what you should be doing, maybe because of HR systems trying to tell you what you should be doing. But if your attention is down here, you're missing what... I love this idea that my life is trying to decode me, and if I can pay attention to it, I will thrive. Now that might mean earning more money. It might mean building a super successful business. It might mean staying in my current job and just finding a way to really thrive in the current role. But the answers are in my life. That's not rah rah. That's real.
So I don't know, if the book can help people go, "Oh, the secrets are there in my own life if I know how to pay attention to it," even if we push you to go, "Look, just write three sentences. Write yourself three..." In the book I call them love notes, but I love it when as the sentence stem and then finish the sentence. You don't even have to show it to anyone, but if you could pay attention to your red threads, then the output of that would be write three sentences that are real for you. I love it when, and the next word better via verb. Not when someone's doing something to you. I love it when I'm praised. No. I love it when I what, what? And then as I say in the book, then dive into, does it matter who you're doing it with? Does it matter when? Love lives in the detail, man, it lives in the detail. So could you write... Maybe start with one love note. Can you look at your own life and go, "God, I love it when..." And just keep it for yourself.
What's powerful about it is that it's true for you in your life. And then obviously from that, you can think about how to turn it into contribution. Not 100% of the time, no job's like that, but can I start at least thinking about how do I turn that into contribution? Then do another one, then do... Boy, if you look at the most effective people, that's kind of what they've done. They haven't believed in the myth of completeness. Instead they've said, "I'm not complete. I'm really specific. Now, can I use my life to decode this specificity of me so I can do something? Something distinct. Something cool. Something that actually nourishes me?" Work can nourish. I mean, we design a lot of really bad work, but done well, work can... As you know, I'm sure you've had this in your career.
Chase Jarvis: Of course, of course. Again, I have to take a moment and congratulate you on the book, Love and Work, and incredibly well-timed. And thank you for, in this time we are now finally looking more closely at the way we spend so much of our time and trying to make sense of it. You've helped so many of us make sense of this through your work, your lifelong work, but especially this most recent book, Love and Work. Highly recommended. I want to say, thank you very much, recognize you in the work, and thank you for sharing some of your vulnerable stories today around the transitions that you're making in your life and the work that you did during the pandemic, for example.
One last question to wrap up with, for those who are... The time is always not now. The time is always like, "I'll do that tomorrow or later, or it's too late for me. I'm X far along in my career, or..." I'm wondering if you have any advice for those people who might feel like they've missed the bus on this one, because to me that would be horrible. So how can we save a few people from that thought pattern right now? Is there any advice that you'd give, having done all of the research and spoken to thousands of people around the world on all courts of different conditions? Give that people a piece of advice.
Marcus Buckingham: Well, I think the first thing for us all to remember is we're here for such a short time. Life is so short, and all the people who really love you, they are waiting. They are waiting for you to show yourself. I promise you they are. They might give you bad advice. They might say, "You should do this or you should do that." They might not really know what your red threads truly are. But deep inside them, if they truly care about you and love you, they want you to express and contribute the unique, the super unique fingerprint that is you. They really do. They're waiting. So on one level I would say, "Please don't make them wait too long." Life is so short. It might feel long to you. "Oh, I missed my chance." No, you didn't.
No matter how comfortable your bed is, tomorrow, you've got to get out of it. Or no matter how uncomfortable your bed is, tomorrow, you've got to get out of it. And tomorrow is going to try to show you what it is that you love. No matter what age you are, you've still got so much of your uniqueness to contribute, and we're waiting, we're waiting for you. And I suppose the only other thing I would share, Chase, is that if you do have fears, if you think there are things that are holding you back, I shared in the book that, yes, loves can help you thrive, but loves can help you push through your fears.
Growing up, I had a stammer. Until I was 12, I couldn't speak. And I got really expert in what was wrong with dysfluency. Even as a young kid, I was a researcher, I guess. So I was reading and reading and reading, and it just got worse and worse and worse and worse. And I had one day where as I was 12 years old and they picked me, I don't know how or why they did, but they picked me to read aloud in chapel, which I'd never done before, for obvious reasons. And the night before I was in an empty chapel with the headmaster practicing, and it went really badly. And I was petrified and... And I was just getting worse, actually. I think over the course of my young life, I was just getting worse and worse. At some point I couldn't see my own name. Marcus Buckingham for a stutterer is just a disaster of a name.
And that night before, empty chapel, it was 15 minutes. It was a five minute piece, but it was 15 minutes of just suffering for him and for me. And the next day I got up out of the choir when I was called up, and every part of me was dripping with swears. Whether you're 55 years old or 35, all of us still have those moments of deep fear. Well, I had that one at 12. I walked up, turned around, looked at the faces, 400 faces, and I'd never been in the situation before, so this was this first time. And the faces somehow unlocked... They triggered some different synapses or something happened in my brain and it felt like a little hum or a glow, and I said the whole piece perfectly. I think I stammered on the word criticism, but not in a stammery way, in a normal way, like I was a normal kid.
And I wasn't brave, I wasn't smart. All I did was I paid attention to the fact that, "Oh, my word, this is a red..." I didn't use the language of red threads, but I can't speak to one person, but put me in front of 400 and it flows, man. And the only smart thing I did at the time, Chase, was I just played a trick on myself. I said if I can only talk to 400 people, when I'm talking to one person in the schoolyard, why don't I just pretend that I'm talking to 400? Why don't I use a red thread, the language of love? Why don't I take something that I love and just weave it into something that I hate, that I'm fearful of? And my stammer went away in a week. And I know that's an extreme example, but love is really powerful. So for anybody going, "Life has passed me by. I'm too frightened of what might happen if I do X or Y or Z. I can't move because I'm stationary and I'm stuck."
The only thing I would say is if you, if you start paying attention to the specifics of what you love, you can use them to... For me, it was unlocking my own voice. For you it might be unlocking something else, but your loves aren't just for thriving. They're for flipping problem solving as well and forgetting you moving. And if there's anything we know about love, Chase, it's an energy. It's got a flow. So the people that really love you... If you've ever been in a relationship where you're not seen, you know what it feels like when your love is blocked, when it doesn't express itself, it can turn into a super caustic, acidic substance really quickly and burn you up from the inside out.
So for all those people, I would say the people who really love you, they want you to manifest yourself and they want you to take your loves seriously. I'm not suggesting you blow up your job and you start something else immediately. I don't know the specifics of your own life. But your loves will hold so many whys answers to how do you keep moving healthily in the course of your life. So start now, life's too short.
Chase Jarvis: No better place to end than that. I wish you could go on for another hour, Marcus. Thank you so much for your time, for your contribution, for your latest book, again, Love and Work. Highly recommended. Grateful for all that you've done. And consider the show a friend of yours. We're happy to have you on at any time. This is the stuff that our community really needs to hear. And thank you so much. We're grateful. Is there any place you'd steer us away from... Obviously supporting you in buying the book. Any place you'd want to direct the attention of this community?
Marcus Buckingham: Yeah, the only thing I would say for those of you that have the book, Harvard and I put together a six part series on loveandwork.org, that if you've got the book just takes each one of these ideas... We talked for an hour. I don't know about you, but it whipped by for me. There's quite a lot of unlearning that we've got to do. There's quite a lot of unlearning. So if any of you want to go and do a six part series diving into what's a love and work team look like? What's a love and work relationship look like? What's a love and work leader look like? HBR, and I have put that together on loveandwork.org. So if any of you are into this sort of subject and really want to dive into it, loveandwork.org, your book gets you access to all of it. Because some people don't learn best by reading. Some people learn best through lectures or notes or activities. So we've tried to put all of that together based upon the fact that everyone's different.
Chase Jarvis: Brilliant, thank you again so much. And for everyone out there in the world from Marcus and I, thank you very much for your attention and we bid you adieu until next time.
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