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Unlocking Leadership Potential Suraj Ethirajan
Episode 111th September 2023 • Six Figure Business Mastery • Kirsten Graham & Jeanne Willson
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In this episode of The Marketing VA Advantage, hosts Kirsten and Jeanne sit down with Suraj, founder of Grow You Now, a career coaching company dedicated to helping tech professionals enhance their skills, become more employable, and achieve the success they deserve.

Suraj, who has a remarkable journey from being a refugee during the Kuwait invasion to becoming an entrepreneur, shares valuable insights on leadership, personal growth, and the power of discipline.

Join us as we delve into powerful vectors that can help you become a stronger leader in your career or business.

Key Highlights:

1. Leadership Before the Title

Suraj emphasizes that leadership isn't limited to those with formal titles; it can start before you even have one.

He encourages individuals to lead without authority and shares strategies for gaining leadership roles.

2. The Journey to Entrepreneurship

Suraj discusses how his experiences, including being a refugee, shaped his perspective and contributed to his career and entrepreneurial journey.

He highlights the importance of seeking help, working on personal growth, and taking things one step at a time.

3. Creating a Safe Space

Suraj emphasizes the need to create a safe space for both yourself and your team.

He shares examples of how this approach can foster innovation and collaboration in organizations.

4. The Power of Consistency

Consistency, according to Suraj, is key to achieving long-term success.

He explains that discipline and the ability to do the work consistently, even when no one is watching, are essential traits.

5. Being Kind to Yourself

Suraj discusses the importance of self-compassion and the impact it can have on personal growth.

He advises treating yourself with the same kindness and respect you would extend to others.

6. Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

The hosts and Suraj emphasize the significance of finding supportive individuals who understand your journey.

Suraj recommends finding someone who can be your sounding board and uplift you in challenging times.

7. The Discipline of Learning

Suraj shares a practical tool for career growth: a two-minute message for requesting promotions or pay raises.

He stresses the importance of discipline in continuously learning and expanding your skills.

In this inspiring episode, Suraj from Grow You Now reveals the secrets to becoming a strong leader, whether in your career or as an entrepreneur. From creating safe spaces to practicing consistency and self-compassion, Suraj's wisdom offers valuable takeaways for anyone looking to level up their leadership skills.

If you're ready to embrace discipline and unlock your leadership potential, don't miss this enlightening conversation with Suraj.

Connect with him on Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube, or reach out via email at suraj@growyounow.com.

Helpful Links:

The Marketing VA Advantage

Six Figure Business Coaching

Mastering Online Marketing for Entrepreneurs

Double Your Income with a Marketing VA, even on a tight budget

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Transcripts

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Hey

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everyone, I'm Kirsten with Six Figure Business Coaching, and

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that's my partner, Jeannie.

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And we are the co creators of The Marketing VA Advantage.

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We help our clients leverage video marketing with a marketing virtual

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assistant doing most of the work for them.

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So Jeannie, would you like to introduce our guest today?

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I would.

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I'm so happy that we have this young man.

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He's amazing.

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His Atherogen.

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Atherogen.

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Ah, shoot.

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I was

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so close.

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He's not only an amazing person, but he's also a career coach and he's

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founder of a company called grow now.

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And he helps tech professionals enhance their skills, become more employable

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and achieve the rewards they deserve.

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He coaches people in corporate and individuals, customizing

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the coaching that they need and providing role playing exercises

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to prepare them for the real world.

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He develops and offers easy to use tools to support you.

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He helps.

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secure significant compensation increases for his clients and assist them in

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overcoming their self doubts, cognitive biases, and toxic work challenges.

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Being a refugee during the Kuwait invasion in 1990 shaped his life perspective and

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we are so grateful to have you here today.

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So welcome.

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Thank you

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guys for having me here.

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We're so excited about the conversation today on leadership and just, because

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that is one of the things you're helping your clients with, right?

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Is to step into leadership so that they can get promoted with

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their career and move forward.

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Is that right?

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That's

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absolutely right.

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You can be a leader even before you get the title and that shouldn't be limited

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to just leading without authority, but also how do you get that title and move

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forward and lead others along the way?

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Awesome.

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What made you decide to go into this

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business?

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I always loved helping people.

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So I think that was a very strong foundation.

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I also had a passion for starting my own business and it occurred to me,

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why don't I do something that does not include a product, maybe I'm the

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product, so the variables are less.

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And took a nosedive and started grow you now in 2021.

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So I'm excited.

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That

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is so awesome.

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And you right now have a large corporate client, but you also work

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with individuals and let's talk about some of the ways that you help them

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with their leadership skills, because I feel like that's something we can

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all learn more, whether you are at a corporate job or self employed.

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Learning to be a strong leader is something I think we don't really

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learn like in school, or even maybe from our parents sometimes,

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right?

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We don't learn, and we can also choose to learn, and that's a hard thing, right?

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The backstory.

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If I talk about a superhero or a supervillain, it's more or less the same.

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Uh, the superhero, if you notice, had a very tough childhood and a

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supervillain has a scar and has a very tough childhood or backstory as well.

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And people fall in two categories.

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Either they look at it and say, the world hurt me and I'm going to hurt

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the world, or they look at it and say, the world hurt me and I'm going to

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make sure that no one else gets hurt.

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So I think when you talk about leadership, it's in the same breath where.

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If you do not have a leader that you had, become the leader you wish you had.

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And that's essentially the motto of Grow You Now.

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And it's identifying and helping people find that leader within themselves

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and unleashing the greatness that already exists within themselves.

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It's so amazing because you came here as a refugee and under

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really extreme circumstances.

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And then you were able to move into tech here and then also now

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evolving into entrepreneurship.

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So how do you feel like your journey to get here really?

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contributed to that?

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Definitely not a straight line.

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Definitely with the help of so many people.

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Very grateful, and I think that's the part where it's easy to see the

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struggles but it's also important to see what help you get, number one.

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And number two is working on your draft.

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And sometimes it's hard to do that but ask for help and work on one thing at a time.

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And I think that's what helped me along with the great support that I had.

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Under the circumstances, actually, where do you feel like I gave you a leg up?

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Cause I do feel like immigrants often do well when they come to this country.

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Because I think sometimes as Americans, we get complacent about like the American

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dream is just owning a home where if you're coming from somewhere else and

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there's been really dire circumstances, your dream is a little different.

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And so how do you feel like that played into your successful career in corporate?

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And now you're building a great business.

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How did that play

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into that?

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Yeah, there are two, two aspects to that one.

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I really believe that even if you were born and raised here, even

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with the silver spoon, you can also be very successful in the sense of

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what is a true emotional leader.

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And there could be some aspects of being an immigrant that also helps.

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And I would not write that off.

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But I think it's really comes down to the individual and how they choose like

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the superhero and supervillain story.

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And I think in my case, what really helped was going back to the same

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thing is if I can be there for someone else, Can that help me?

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And I can pick up the story with when I first became a manager and the team

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that had their previous manager for 20 years, some of them reported to that

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person for 20 years, and then comes this individual who blindsided them

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and their world was falling apart.

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I'll skip the first question that was asked to me to protect the innocent.

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It was pretty tough.

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But the second question was, what did I deserve for getting the role?

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At that moment, my apprehensions completely dissolved.

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Because I was very scared coming in, but it didn't matter anymore because I saw

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how scared the team was and that took precedence over whatever fears that I had.

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And now, in hindsight, I see that how it was good for others, but

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I think today I would also make sure that I protected myself.

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So going back to how people become leaders is a lot of the times they will do better

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for others, but not for themselves.

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That is the balance that I'm trying to help people figure out.

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You can do for others, but also do for yourself simultaneously.

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Oh,

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that that's huge.

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Especially for women who have children and households and careers.

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It is so easy to put the needs of others ahead of someone else, of

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yourself, but the needs of others.

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But I guess as a leader, you also have to lead by example is what you're saying.

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Absolutely.

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You have to lead by example.

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And the way you do that is you give respect, but you also command

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respect in a healthy balance.

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And that is the part of emotional intelligence.

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I think leaders tend to, or even individuals, tend to skew

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on either side of the spectrum.

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And that's either they're passive, where they disregard their feelings

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and give importance to others.

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But then there are others who disregard other people's feelings

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and give importance to theirs.

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I think they own that, whether they do it purposefully or not.

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And what I'm trying to do is create leaders who are assertive.

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where they give and command respect simultaneously.

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That's so

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needed.

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And you have what you call three powerful vectors that can

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help you lead win win outcomes.

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Tell us a little bit about those.

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So again, it comes to creating a safe space.

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That is non negotiable for me.

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Create a safe space for others and for yourself.

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Going back to the situation where I was asked, what did I do to deserve

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to be in that leadership position?

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It was to make sure that they could speak without any repercussions and

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that even customers came second to them.

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And once people know that it's a safe space, there is no hierarchy.

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It's more of a functional org chart.

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So everyone does.

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Particular work, a great idea not only can come from anywhere, but will

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be endorsed by everyone in the team.

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So leadership changes depending on who brings that.

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And I really loved how the company that I worked for at the time Intel, they

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actually had this in their managing an Intel program where one of the

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biggest things and takeaways I had was.

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create a safe safety net.

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And so that is like the person for most important vector.

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How do you tell people how to create a safety net?

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Give me an

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example.

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Another particular example was If someone goes in and makes a decision on behalf

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of the team, and even if they report to me, and this actually happened, the

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counterpart organization came to me and said, your employee made this decision.

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Is that the right decision?

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At that time, it's the worst time to say that they made a wrong decision.

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The right time to figure it out is way in advance, do we all agree

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on certain baseline principles, foundations, and things that

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we'll agree to working together.

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If you're trying to fix something later on, it's like curing it and prevention

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is definitely better than cure.

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So even if they make a tough decision, can we all rally behind the one

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individual and have that person's back so that they can truly innovate

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without any boundary conditions.

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And all the system is applied at the very start before the battle even starts.

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So just reiterating that, and you would have to do that numerous

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times because a lot of this might be uncommon, so you just have to put in

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a lot of effort and effort takes time.

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Yeah.

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When I had my mortgage company and, and it was a fairly large team, one

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of the things that I realized is you have to empower people to make

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decisions and being able to say, at the end of the day, no one's gonna die.

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If I make the wrong decision, or you make the wrong decision, we'll learn from it.

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And again, most decisions aren't completely wrong.

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Maybe you got 80 percent of it right, but part of it didn't turn out.

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But we just learn from it and we move on.

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And we can always say sorry.

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We can always fix whatever we made a wrong decision about.

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But it was so awesome to be able.

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To empower people, to make those decisions.

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And then, like you said, like you never say it was a wrong decision.

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Just that you asked them about the decision and you talk it through.

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And then sometimes it's maybe this would have been a better direction to go.

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Or I feel like a lot of times that people have made the wrong decision.

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They come to it themselves really quickly.

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Oh, I think I made the wrong decision.

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And it's just, okay, I've made the wrong decision a million times.

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Let's just figure out how to shift gears and change it.

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I think that's amazing that you're talking about giving your

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team that power to be leaders.

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And I think the word there is power, right?

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We always think about the leader of the group as the all

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powerful one, and it's not.

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The leader who can give power to everyone in the team is the powerful

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one because they don't need the power.

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Does that make sense?

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That makes perfect sense.

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And if I were to articulate it in a different way, a leader is someone who

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has to make themselves obsolete, when the team doesn't need them anymore.

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And the true leader would then be able to do even bigger and greater things.

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And similar to the Chinese proverb, when in need, do good.

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The teacher will arrive, and when the student is ready,

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the teacher will disappear.

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So that's the kind of leader that I want to be and create around me.

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Awesome.

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And that, I will tell you, that is more true for, that is equally

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as true for entrepreneurs.

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I think when people start a business, it's, it looks like your baby is

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yours, and being able to be a true business owner can sometimes mean that

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your business can run without you.

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It can still be a fabulous business that you can be a part of it every

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day, but being able to look towards a business that could run without you

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and giving the people who work for you and with you the power to make those

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decisions is just, it can be a game changer with your business and your life.

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Absolutely.

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And I want to give a shout out to both of you and the services that you provided.

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Starting with my first VA that I was able to get with you guys, I'm

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actually heading in that direction.

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I think I found more than a BA, I think I found not just employee

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number one, but a leader who would now lead even when I'm absent.

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And I think that speaks to how you guys operate, think, and recruit people.

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And I think if GrowU now does become successful, you guys have a huge...

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Play in it.

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So thank you.

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You're welcome.

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And not if, but when that's right, come six already is.

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Well, you've got client and you're changing people's lives.

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So it is already successful.

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I'm very

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grateful for that.

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Yeah, we're thankful for you.

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All right.

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So what's vector number two?

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So I think it's consistency.

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Even if you're tired, can you be consistent and do things repeatedly?

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Atomic Habits is one of my favorite books.

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I stumbled across that a few years ago, and it's been phenomenal.

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I've been brushing with my left hand since.

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I'm a right handed person.

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Only cold showers and things like that.

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It's not about whether I like it or not.

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I mean, maybe this is where being that immigrant and going through

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a war and stuff helps because it toughens you a little bit.

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It builds calluses.

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It's just powering through.

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Motivation is great, but discipline is even better.

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So I think that is the other thing.

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It's when no one is watching.

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Be like the flower in the middle of the Amazon forest.

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You're not doing this because I'm here to impress you.

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I'm not doing this because I'm here to impress my clients.

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My kids, my spouse, my mom and sister who mean the world to me.

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It's not about impressing anyone.

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It's just blossoming because you must.

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And I think that consistency is key.

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So that is vector number two there.

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Yeah, I love that.

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There's somebody that we follow too and he says, do the boring work.

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And that sometimes is what consistency feels like.

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It's the same thing over and over again, but it's so important

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to build that foundation.

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It's very true.

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I think this is where it's not about skill.

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It's about will.

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You've heard this from many other people who have achieved success

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in entrepreneurship, sports.

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cinema and whatnot.

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But it's true.

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Like someone might be smarter than me, tougher than me,

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more good looking than me.

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I don't care, but no one's going to outwork me for sure.

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Love that.

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And I feel like your examples of the cold shower and brushing with

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your left hand, sometimes we think those things are silly or irrelevant.

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But they're not, they're building blocks.

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It's that getting up and saying, I can do hard things.

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Yes, it's easy for me to switch the toothbrush, but I'm not

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going to, because I can do hard things and I can learn the skill.

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The cold shower, same thing.

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A hot shower would feel better, but this is just a great way to

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wake me up and to prove to myself that I can take on the day.

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Very true.

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All right, what about factor number three?

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These are all

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so good!

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Vector 3, it evolved over time.

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So I used to believe that my superpower was being comfortable

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with what made me uncomfortable.

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But I also realized that was my kryptonite because I was living

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up to other people's judgment.

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I was living up to other people's perception and I was putting too

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much force and emphasis on that.

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I think just letting go and accepting mistakes and being kind to myself,

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and that's the same thing with a lot of the people that I coach.

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It's incredible.

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I'm tempted to say it's almost a hundred percent of them would be kinder to

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someone else rather than to themselves.

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So my biggest advice to them is imagine that you have a direct report,

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whether you're a manager or not, even if you're an individual contributor,

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a lone engineer, imagine there's always one person reporting to you.

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And that is you.

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How would you treat that person?

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And I think that has been a self reflection for me as to prioritize myself.

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I might be smiling, but that has been the most emotional heart piece for me.

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Yeah, I

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can see that.

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It is hard because again, we generally want to help people and serve people.

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So sometimes that serving can turn into you being a doormat.

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Yeah, and that's not serving at all.

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I feel like you can really lose yourself in it.

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I, I think we all probably listen to ourselves, talking to ourselves.

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And I definitely didn't lay out my team like that or my

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client, but I lay myself out.

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So what are some tips that you have found that have really helped

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you to be kinder to yourself?

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I think it's just recognizing that you matter.

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Going back to the atomic habits along with the brushing them.

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The key, I have a post it note that says, I'm smart.

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I'm hardworking and I'm lovable.

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It might be very simple.

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And people around me might be thinking, Oh, this guy's a social butterfly.

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He has a happy family, but we all carry these demons and shortcomings,

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cognitive biases, saboteurs in ourselves.

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It's a reminder every day for that.

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So that's number one, writing words of affirmation.

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And that happens to be my love language.

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It my love language.

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For someone else it's acts of service.

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You could write yourself a card or keep that, you can gift yourself.

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And I don't know if you can see, there are some Legos in the back.

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My childhood fantasy of building Legos started by just doing

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things that make you happy.

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Setting time, not for tomorrow, not for a month from now.

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Not when you go on vacation, but right now.

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It's doing things that can make you happy, as a kid.

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As your five year old kid, ten year old kid, what made you happy?

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Coloring books.

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I have several around, and it's really funny how it can help me solve problems.

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I love that.

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And for me, it's just like, sometimes if I've had a stressful conversation, I'm

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personally just beating myself up for whatever reason, or sometimes even...

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Just a mental break, just sitting there and coloring makes me so happy.

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And then when my hand starts to hurt, usually I'm ready to get back to work.

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And there's another piece where these are things that you can do

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by yourself, but we're socially creatures at the end of the day.

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If you're an extrovert or introvert, we still are.

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And I want to share this where one of my best friends, even during the pandemic.

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We've done this now hundreds of times, if not thousands, where we would walk

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together for an hour, have dinner, and then walk back for an hour.

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And I think that bond was very strong in us having each other's back,

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being each other's sounding board.

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But more importantly, we were not venting and dumping toxicness on each other.

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So, finding someone who can be there for you along the way is also very important.

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It can be your spouse, it can be your partner, it can be your child, it

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can be your friend, it can be many people, or it could be just one person.

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That is also mighty helpful.

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So I think that would be another advice is find someone who would prep you

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up, talk positively about you, and especially when others are around,

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they don't have to fight your battles.

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But they'll stand next to you.

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So important to find people like that.

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And suddenly he said, people like that.

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Yeah,

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I love that.

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And I think as entrepreneurs, it's really valuable to surround

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yourself with other entrepreneurs.

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When I left corporate and started my business, there was no one

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around me who had done that.

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They didn't understand the nuances and the challenges and they

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didn't know how to support me.

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And that's fine.

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I had to find those people.

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The best one I found was Kirsten.

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That was really important and something I didn't expect.

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You know, you hit the nail on the head there.

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You need someone who would understand you very well, who,

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not empathizes, but sympathizes.

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And those are two different things.

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One is imagining how it would be, and in this case you guys probably have

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this, shed the same tears together.

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You have the same labs together, and that means the world.

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If you

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were to give one piece of advice, If someone who wanted to grow their career,

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or we can say grow their business, which is to drive themselves into

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being a strong leader for themselves and for others, what would that be?

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I mean, you've already given us great advice, but

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there's just one little nugget.

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If I have to pick one, I think it would be discipline.

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Just be disciplined about growing yourself, which then includes learning.

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Don't stop short of what you already know, because what you

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know got you to where you are.

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It's not going to take you to where you need to go.

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So be disciplined about learning.

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And there are many ways that you can learn or many reasons

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to learn if there's a need.

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If you come across it, if someone teaches you, and there might be other reasons, but

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create a need to learn and be disciplined about it and be consistent about it.

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And then I think the more you surround yourself with people,

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then the rest start adding up.

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It starts with discipline.

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So anchor in discipline and learn more.

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Don't just stop at what you already know.

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That would be my biggest advice for entrepreneurs or professionals.

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I

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totally agree.

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I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, especially if we're quick start, which

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means we are really big picture thinkers and we have that shiny object syndrome.

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It can be disciplined.

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It can be one of the hardest things for us.

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I think it always comes back to that.

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And I think like discipline can look a little bit different for people,

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especially if you think about like really creative people and they're told that

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they can't have a messy desk or whatever.

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Sometimes like being disciplined and having.

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The structure of the things that we need, it doesn't always look the same.

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And a lot of times I think we beat ourselves up for failure because

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maybe my discipline looks very different than Jeannie's or yours.

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I think at the end of the day, if that discipline is helping you achieve

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the things that you need to achieve to get to where you want to go, then

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you need to celebrate it opposed to comparing it to other people.

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And I

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think the discipline supports the moving forward in what sometimes

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we get frustrated with, but it's slow pace, slowly increasing your

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knowledge, slowly expanding your business, doing all those things.

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In a controlled, but consistent way, and we all want the fast, we all

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want the instant gratification, and we just have to understand the big

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growth is over a long period of time.

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So, if you

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don't mind, that triggered a thought and I wanted to share a precise tool.

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And this is something that one of my business associates created.

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It's called a very simple two minute message, nothing fancy,

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you know, the boring things, but there are just four pieces to that.

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If you want to get a promotion, you could use it.

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If you want to get a pay raise, you want to get a new project.

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We start with the audience context statement, we start

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with a key statement, supporting statements and closing statements.

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Now with your audience context statement, what people typically think about is I

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need to know my audience or do they do and stuff like that, which is great.

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But this is your opportunity right now to show that you care

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and that you care about them.

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So don't make it about you, make it about them.

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Hey, manager, I know that you're responsible for all of these people.

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You're responsible for the project to go from point A to point B and go

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into production, whatever the case is.

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You're busy.

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You're reminded some different places and you are also partially

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responsible for my career growth.

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I'm very thankful for that.

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Showing gratitude and making them feel safe.

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That's number one.

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But your audience context statement is make them feel safe.

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That is the intent.

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Your key statement is going back to being assertive, giving and receiving respect.

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So.

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I'm requesting a pay raise of 15 to 20 percent because what you're going

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to get from me in terms of outcome in the next six to seven months meets

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the company's goals and objectives.

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That's your ask.

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This is no dancing around this straight to the point.

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Then you're supporting statements, which is you might have 10, 20, you

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want to beat our chest and we have the right to, but it doesn't help us.

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So that's when you identify three things that you want people

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to remember at the very end.

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So you state those merits.

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In terms of outcomes, not past accomplishments because in business

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past accomplishments are like some cost.

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It's money that's spent, it's gone.

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I've already paid your salary before.

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So outcomes.

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And this is where the last and most important piece comes, which is the

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closing statement or statements.

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Are you opposed to succeeding with me in getting this promotion or race?

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instilling skin in the game.

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Love that.

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I'm, I'm open to any decision you make.

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You want to support it or not, I'll endorse any decision you make.

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I want you to feel safe.

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But are you opposed to succeeding with me?

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And going back to the discipline, write, writing this down, crafting

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it, repeating it, time after time.

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Then when you come into some of these sessions, we practice

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it out, it feels very awkward.

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People are like, oh my god, I have to say it, I'm like, I'm gonna pause here.

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It's a lot of work.

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So it's not about impressing anyone, you're being assertive,

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you're being disciplined about it, and you're just going about doing

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your job of being a good person.

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And that's That's a perfect

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wrap up to this conversation.

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I love that.

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So how can people get in touch with

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you?

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You can definitely email me at suraj at growyounow.

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com that's G R O U N O W dot com and on Instagram or on LinkedIn or

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a YouTube channel, again, Grow You Now, that's where you can find me.

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Perfect.

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And we'll put links in the comments and descriptions so you can reach out.

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So I am Kirsten with Six Figure Business Coaching and that's Jeannie.

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We are so thankful that you're here today.

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Double your income with a marketing virtual assistant.

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We'll put that in the comments and description below.

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So thanks everyone for being here and so much.

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Thank you for sharing all your wisdom with us today.

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Thank you guys one more time for having me.

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Of course.

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