About the episode:
Dr. Ian Brooks explains how he uses his Industrial and Organizational Psychology PhD to coach people successfully. Learn how he helps his client identify where they get stuck in moments, and realize the larger reality outside of a moment in time.
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About Dr. Ian D. Brooks
Dr. Ian D. Brooks, the CEO and founder of Rhodes Smith Consulting and Author of Intention: Building Capabilities to Transform Your Story. I work with leaders in organizations to develop key skills in navigating within their organization and working with their teams and with helping individuals build skills toward achieving their tomorrow and helping them master their intentions.
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What Are You Unwilling To Do For Your Breakthrough | Ian Brooks
We always have good content on the show. I need your help. Share this show with three people. We don’t do promotions, sponsorships because we depend on you for help to grow. When we grow, that means there are more people that we can help grow. It requires you to jump along with us. You’re going to be excited because everybody wants to move forward in life, everybody wants to get to a place where they’re not right now. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, most of you probably think, “I don’t want to be in the same place whether it’s even a good or bad place.” I’ve got an amazing guest who is the author of Intention: Building Capabilities to Transform Your Story. That’s powerful. The CEO and Founder of Rhodes Smith Consulting, Ian Brooks, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Rick.
It’s good to see you. Tell me about this, you’ve got a keyword for me in the title of your book, and it’s intention. What does that mean to you? You put it in there for a reason. It seems like that might be the pivot word for you.
It is. As you kicked off the show, we’re all seeking to be better regardless of where we’re starting from. To be better, we have to have a conscious focus on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. For me, that takes purpose and intention. We’re going to have to think differently and act differently. Even at that moment, we’re going to have to even feel differently as well. As a result of that and as we start to embark on a new journey on transforming who we are, it is going to have to be with purpose and with some level of intention for us to, one, take the steps. Secondly, alter our environments so that we can sustain them moving forward.
Where in your life did you screw up big time where you realize this?
I don’t think you have that much time in your show, Rick.
It’s got to be real. You said a lot of good things but everyone is like, “That’s not going to be me.” I’m assuming you have a personal story here to where you’re like, “This is what railed me.”
It’s nearly railed but also, even as you kicked off as well, it doesn’t always have to start by a problem. It could be started like, “This is what I want to do.” I’ve always lived my life with the idea that I have a plan but I’m not here to own the path. My path is my path. I don’t know what the heck is going to happen. It’s similar to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz where all she had was a plan to walk down that Yellow Brick Road to get back to Kansas. Her path was to meet The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, The Wicked Witch, and all hosts of other people. Our lives are no different. My life is no different.
I started looking at my life more intentionally. When I was thirteen years old, I knew right then I wanted to be a psychologist. I also knew I wanted to go away for school, as far away from home so I can learn about myself and get lost as a person. As such, I was intentional about the school I selected. That decision as a thirteen-year-old has guided me through where I’ve lived, the universities I’ve attended, even the jobs I’ve taken.
That’s taken me from living in Atlanta to living in Alabama to moving out here to the West Coast. Even the jobs from working with a who’s who of organizations from Nike to Warner Brothers to Sony to Bank of America to Illumina, places I probably would never have worked at before. Each one with a purpose and distinction of what I am going to learn and offer in that particular moment, while also not dictating the path that was rigid where I was truly learning about myself. As the title of my book indicates, building my own capabilities that are transferable to whatever situation I find myself in.
To your statements, some of it has been successful and joyous. Other parts have been downright a struggle, starting my own business, losing money, being almost broke, losing almost 80% of what I had, and having to start from scratch. I’m treating each one of those instances based on the capabilities I had built in trusting my own self, building my own capabilities of confidence.
Also, recognizing what skills have I built up to execute whatever plan I wanted be it being a good consultant, a psychologist, a coach or even an author, and treating it as a place of reference wherever I’m starting, and not a place of residence where I’m stuck there and living there. As we kicked off the show, we are all trying to be better. Now, it’s a function of what capabilities have I built that will afford me a chance to move forward and also address different situations in which I’m planning for? Like Dorothy, you’d think she can’t plan for her.
What if we don’t know our capabilities and we’re shooting in a spot where we’re like, “There’s no way out?”
A lot of people are stuck in that mindset. Notice when I said mindset because it’s a feeling of what we have at that moment believing that we are stuck. I’m a firm believer that we’re never stuck because we’re always about our opportunity to have a choice to move forward, like we have a choice to stay there and believe that we’re stuck. We all have capabilities regardless of what they are. Some capabilities, we poopoo on ourselves. That may be your strongest capability.
I hear what you’re saying. When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to see those capabilities.
That’s when you start to see your capabilities. You have to expand it. Our moments are our moments. They’re going to test us every time and you’re going to beat yourself up in that point of like, “I’m stuck.” When I lost everything, I was stuck. I was beating myself up, “How the heck did I get here? I know I have a better plan than this. I know I have better capabilities in this. How in the heck did I end up right here?” At that moment, it sucked. One of the things that I told myself and I even tell my clients when they’re in those moments is to own it. Say, “Yes. Great. Congratulations.” That’s how you feel because that’s a true feeling. That’s a true thought.
Why own it when it’s easy to brush it off on somebody else or reasons that we “couldn’t control” that God is here.
It’s easy to push it off to somebody and not take any level of accountability. I’m asking even for myself, “Be accountable whether you could control it or couldn’t.” Let’s now say, “Great. Thank you.” Treating it as a place of reference and not of residence and say, “Am I done complaining? Am I done pooping on myself? Am I done thinking about, ‘What the heck happened?’”
“Am I done self-deprecating? Am I my going to make a choice here?”
At that moment, make the choice to say, “I’ve got a choice in this.” If I want to live here, go for it. That’s my right to do it and tell anyone else it’s right. If you want to move forward, if you want to do something different and take that accountability, quite frankly, let’s move forward and leave that other stuff behind and acknowledge what it was, a moment. We’re bigger than this.
That’s powerful because it is that. That’s probably a key to getting unstuck that I’m hearing from you. It’s a completely different perspective when you say, “Where I’m at right now is a moment.” Rather than saying, “I’m stuck or I see no way out.” Rather than looking at it like, “It’s only going to be temporary where I’m stuck right now as long as I choose to make this not permanent.”
I love the resident, the last half of your phrase that you’ve been saying. Using it as a point of reference rather than of a resident. It’s a choice. Like you’re moving into a house, it’s a choice to pick out a house or an apartment. It’s a choice to stay there versus moving. While it may be hard to move out of where you’re at right now to create something new, the only way that things are going to change is when you’re like, “This is temporary. It’s okay that it’s here because it is temporary.”
We tend to think about our lives as, “This is the way it has to be. This is the way we’re anchored on.” That’s because of our own survival instincts in our environments of which we’ve been supporting ourselves. If we think about our people, places and our friends that we keep around us, that dictates, “Here’s who I am.” That’s also one of the bigger challenges when people think about themselves but also look at their surroundings and say, “Crap.”
To start and embark upon a transformation that’s not only myself and my accountability, I’m also changing the things that are around me as well. People think, “That’s a lot.” In that context, we think we have to do everything all at once. We didn’t get here today unless we were born. That’s not the case. It took time, effort and consistency to get to where we are right here and right now, and even in the place where we find ourselves and believe to be stuck.
In that same mindset and principle, it’s going to take time and consistency to do something different and surrounding ourselves with new people, places and things like that new apartment. We’re going to have a new address, new friends, new neighbors, new driving routine and new supermarket. By the way, you’re going to feel a little bit different about that. If you go to a new job, it’s going to be a different feeling, a different perspective. That takes time. It’s going to be reinforcing as we move forward. It does get hard AF to do something. It takes time to do it. You have to be consistent with it and trust yourself that you can.
I understand shifting mindsets. I’ve done it time and time again in my life. If you want to put it this way, it’s something that’s come a little bit easier for me because I’ve always recognized that in those moments, that temporary spots of resident, it’s not where I want to be. That was the first realization for me. Do you have an exercise or something that people can go through to examine where they’re at right now to find an answer to that question so they can shift from being stuck into being in a place of action and movement to get out of where they’re at?
Yes, I do. One of the activities that I talk about in my book, and it’s built into each one of the parks at the end, is I ask the readers to pause, process and reflect. It’s about pausing into stopping the noise that’s around us. Processing, thinking through what are we sensing from a feeling perspective? What are we seeing? What do we hear? Reflect, thinking back towards what could be some of the contributing factors on how we got to where we are from an emotional standpoint and our surroundings, our choices, and our decisions. Giving that acknowledgment and do.
At that point when we’re able to pause, process and reflect, we’re able to stop everything around us and be in the moment, be conscious of what we’re experiencing. At that moment, bringing that conscious ability to moving forward, we’re then able to say at the end, “What am I now willing to do? What am I now willing to let go?” When we’re able to answer those questions, at the end of that process, we now have clarity on our intention, be it staying stuck or doing something different.
Those are heavy questions because they both start with, “Are you willing?” What if you’re not?
If you’re not willing, I can almost guarantee that you will, one, not likely transform or get to a different place. Secondly, if you’re not willing and start trying to do something different, let’s say you achieve it one time, I can almost guarantee you won’t be able to sustain it. That acknowledgment takes us off the hook. It takes us off the hook because oftentimes, we’re comparing ourselves from a transformative place or the place where we are right now to other people’s expectations, to what they achieved, to expectations people have put on themselves.
When we’re able to sit down and say, “What am I now willing to do acknowledging all the facts of who I am and how I potentially got here?” Let’s also be clear, we can skew the facts and push accountability to other people and other things. Be more authentic to ourselves in our true journey and sit down and think about, “How did I get here and hold myself accountable?” You then say, “Now, what am I willing to do?” Answer that question authentically. We say, “I’m now measuring myself based on choice versus a particular outcome.”
If we discover that we’re not willing, what does that symbolize for us?
It symbolizes that you may not be ready. I work with several people who when they talk about change, it’s that creation and that excitement about doing something different. They see that end result like, “I’ve lost those 10 pounds or I’m no longer overwhelmed, or I’ve got that new job.” Let’s now have the conversation on what we are now willing to do. That idea of that end result now starts to adjust.
They may not be willing to do everything that it would take to do and more importantly, sustain that new behavior, those new actions, those new capabilities. It’s acknowledging what you are willing to do but also what you’re not. If you’re not, that is okay. Also, acknowledge that what you’re not willing to do will also impact your end result. If you’re going to say, “I’m going to lose these 10 pounds. I’ve got to get right for the family reunion or class reunion. I’ve got to look right. Wedding Dress? I’ve got to look good.” If you’re not willing to wake up and work out, that may skew a little bit how much weight you want to lose.
From what I’m hearing you saying is when we want to make a change, it’s important to identify what we’re not willing to do almost more than what we are willing to do. The not willing part will impact the outcome that we desire. It’s not that it just skews it, it could completely blow that outcome out of the water because of what we’re not willing to do. Identifying that will allow you to finally make that change that you desperately desire.
On a positive note, we’re still a pie in the sky. In the beginning, it’s puppies and babies at that moment. Everything is great. It’s when the action starts hitting that people start walking off, “I’m not willing to do this anymore.” It also changes the trajectory of your plan as well. When you start building your plan around doing something different, which you are willing and also unwilling to do, it influences the actions you’re going to be able to take. To an extent, it may change your trajectory. It may change your outcomes. Instead of 10 pounds, now you’re just going to be able to lose 5. Instead of getting that VP job, it’s now going to be a senior manager. You’re not feeling as overwhelmed versus I’m overwhelmed all together. I’ve seen it covered and I’ve seen it full in that respect.
As I’m coaching my clients, it’s extremely important for me and for us to acknowledge what they are and are unwilling to do. As we’re sitting here right now and it’s nice and comfortable in our AC on a nice sunny day, that’s one heck of a story that’s different than when it’s storming outside and it’s 30 degrees. That’s a hell of a lot of different conversation. In that context, establishing those expectations for our own selves and with my clients, it’s extremely important and then say, “Let’s go.”
If it’s storming outside and it’s 30 degrees in Chicago, that means that there’s snow and I am not driving to get my food. I am DoorDashing it. I will be unwilling to get in my car in the middle of that storm to get my food or to go to a nice restaurant. I’m going to DoorDash a burger. That’s a difference in the outcome. It’s a funny analogy but it allows you to accept a lesser outcome rather than what you truly want it to begin with. Those things that you’re unwilling to do puts into motion an outcome that may be slightly better than where you’re at right now.
Think about the storm analogy, 30 degrees, I’m not getting my car in a storm. I’m not getting my car to go anywhere. I can’t go have that nice steak dinner, but I will DoorDash a burger because that’s somebody else driving in that stupid crap outside. That means that I might not be eating as healthy. Burgers are good. I’m a big burger fan. That outcome is still lesser than what I truly wanted to begin with. The question becomes are you willing to settle for the things that you’re unwilling to do?
What’s important? What’s it worth to you? That’s a personal decision. Once we can acknowledge that, we can then say, “I’m willing to go down this road. I’m willing to get that burger because I don’t want to go outside.” That’s okay. There’s no need to beat ourselves up about that because we did it. We made a conscious decision about it. Oftentimes, we get in situations of transforming and believing we’re operating with intent when we’re operating under unconscious bias.
We inherently already know without even thinking we’re not going outside and it’s 30 degrees, with the wind blowing, it feels like 10 degrees. We already know that. Hands down, we’re not going outside. Why even put it in our minds like we were? Yet, we do this all the time when we think about transforming our stories and transforming ourselves as though there’s some magic ball that says, “Yes.” All of a sudden, I’m going to change my opinion about this. We’ve already set ourselves up for failure in that respect and that’s unfortunate.
You got me intrigued. You’re a clinical psychologist. You’ve studied Clinical Psychology. How does that overlap with what you’re doing? There are a lot of coaches out there. There’s a lot of clinical psychology that should be involved in coaching. Some of the coaches don’t understand the overlap, but you do. How does that overlap with what you’re doing for the people that you help?
There’s a huge overlap between what I learned in my experience as a clinical psychologist and what I do as a coach. In particular, when I was a clinical psychologist, for reference, I worked in a 24-hour lockdown ward for adults. I was seeing people directly coming off the street, working with their families, working with these individuals, as well as doing one-on-one and group therapy, working with adolescents doing intelligence testing and personality test. It authored a foundation of awareness of who people are.
It provided context for understanding the environment in which people come in and its influence on how people act. Also as important the accountability and the uniqueness of each individual, be it from children all the way to adulthood. In that respect, it transitions nicely into the techniques and the perspective that I take when I’m coaching. I’m paying attention and using the words and phrases, and their environments as the means to understand who people are, while also acknowledging the plan and path of what we’re willing to do to move forward.
While my clients are “higher functioning” in a number of different ways, they tend to be successful. Now, they’re looking for expansion. That expansion is nothing more as we started the conversation off with a wanting to do better. My clients on the clinical side also, all they wanted to do was do better and be better. Their better was being normal, being able to operate from a day-to-day perspective. Our perspective now from a normalcy standpoint is around expansion, taking what we already know and moving forward.
One of the key skills as a clinical psychologist is understanding who I’m working with, be it individuals or groups, and understanding where they’re starting from and how we move them forward. What also is a key conduit of being a good coach is understanding the steps that someone has walked in. Mind you, I didn’t have to do that as a clinical psychologist, hopefully not, in a number of ways.
While going through therapy is extremely helpful in having a conversation, having a coach who knows the ropes, knows the experience, knows what to do. For those of whom I’m coaching, I’ve already walked through the steps of success and failure, and success again and some failure again. I understand what it means to be a mid-level and senior leader. I understand what it means to be a frontline leader. I understand what it means to test my own skill and abilities. Knowing I could stay right here in this box I’m in and be perfectly comfortable that no one would blink, but that’s not where I want to be.
I want to be expanded. I want to test my abilities and I’m going at least say I tried. If I failed trying, I’m willing to say I did it. My clients have a similar perspective. That’s the separation from what a coach and a clinical psychologist does. Also, marrying what I pay attention to in my clients now and similar to my clinical is understanding who they are, their environments, and understanding how they move forward.
What I’m hearing from you is the path that a lot of your clients take and the importance that you have from a clinical psychologist. It’s leveling up into a coach. Clinical psychology will probably only take you so far. Am I right on that?
Yes. It takes you so far and they’re anchoring you to deal with certain parts of your emotion. It gets to that plateau of how do you normalize life? To an extent, a coach takes you from where you are right now to that next level.
It’s almost like clinical psychology is analyzing why you are the way that you are right now, but not necessarily how to get out of it and move forward. A coach can help you map the path forward into what you want to create.
I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. To rephrase it a little bit, from clinical psychology, we are mapping a path forward so that they’re navigating their current environment in life so that they can sustain that in their current box.
A coach blows up the box and creates something new. That’s what I meant by that. It helps you navigate where you’re at right now, but it doesn’t help you create that new box that you’re looking for, which is what a coach does. I appreciate that. That’s still helping you to navigate your current environment. That’s cool. If you’re not changing it, you’re always going to be in that current environment.
You can develop new skillsets to deal with it. Sometimes, which is not great, even disassociate from it to help you deal with it. Being a coach, what’s one of the most common things that you hear from your clients when they’re struggling? Is there a common statement that you hear across the board that you’re like, “I know how to help that?”
Everyone’s a little bit different. I don’t know if there’s a common statement but there is a common feeling, and that feeling is being trapped. They feel like they can’t move. That might come in the context of, “I can’t move up in a role,” better yet, “My significant other is making these demands. I feel like I can’t move anywhere.” Given our COVID experience, there are laws and expectations of when and where I can go and what I can do.
There are a lot of people that are feeling as though they’ve acquiesced their control, they’ve acquiesced this ability to say, “It’s someone else.” There’s that lack of accountability in that respect. There is that fear, “I’m not powerful enough,” better yet, “I have not empowered myself to move forward and to do something different and take a different action. I have a different perspective on how I treat my career and not treating the job as though I’m dependent upon someone else.” Treating the individual as though the questions that they’re getting from their significant other and where they’re supposed to be playing. How well are they communicating back and forth their own expectations of themselves, much less what’s being projected on to them?
In COVID, quite honestly, coaching a number of individuals, the noise that was pervasive around our lives created that silence within our own minds and our bodies and what we think and felt. People were trapped in like, “Who am I?” Thus, there was that fear of expectations of, “Now I’m trapped here because I’m afraid of who I am.” That’s a common theme across each one of these three scenarios. It also comes down to that acknowledgment of, “Where am I accountable? Who am I at the outset around those expectations?”
I appreciate your perspective. I can tell because when you get into your book, I’m sure this is a lot of things. I love the exercises you’re talking about too. Unless you complete those things, the application is to be able to create something new for yourself. I appreciate you. Thank you. Everyone can go to RhodesSmith.com.
You’re amazing. Thank you so much. You’re articulate, it’s incredible. I get the same compliment too around that, being able to pull out vocabulary words that have not been utilized in so long. I appreciate your intellect. I appreciate your experience even more so and the crap you’re going through in life to get to where you’re at today so you can help many people. Ian Brooks, thank you for being on.
Thank you, Rick. It’s a pleasure being here.
- Intention: Building Capabilities to Transform Your Story
- Rhodes Smith Consulting