Let’s Fix Work is wrapping up its first season at the end of the month. This week, I’m highlighting some of the conversations I’ve loved. Here’s Jason Lauritsen talking about how to start small and get clear on what you want.
Jason has a new book out called Unlocking High Performance: How to Use Performance Management to Engage and Empower Employees to Reach their Full Potential. Get your copy today!
Laurie: Hey everybody, welcome to, “Let’s Fix Work.” I’m you’re host, Laurie Ruettimann. Today’s guest is one of the good ones. Oh man, this guy is so nice. His name is Jason Lauritsen, and he and I have been friends for about a decade. And let me tell you, Jason is on the forefront of fixing work. He’s a writer and a speaker, and he goes around all over America and even internationally and helps companies keep and hang on to their talented workers. He’s trying to make you happy at work. Unfortunately, man, that’s a tough battle to fight because there are a lot of reasons why work sucks. In today’s conversation, we’re gonna talk about that and we’re also gonna talk about what to do if you are stuck in a job and you wanna try something new.
But again, I’ve known Jason forever. I know his family, I know his kids. He knows my cousin, such a small world. And we talk about Jason’s career as a public speaker and what it takes to do that. But also this guy has been a consultant, but he’s had a few jobs since I’ve known him, and I asked him, like, “Dude, why are you unhappy at work? Why doesn’t work satisfy that internal drive for you? And if work sucks for you, how is it possible to be good for other people?” So I hope you enjoy the conversation with Jason. I’ll be back at the back end to wrap it up and let you know where you can find him. Enjoy.
Automated Voice: Work is broken, so is the way you think about it. Host Laurie Ruettimann is breaking things down so you can put them back together and make work something you can enjoy. Let’s fix work together with the, “Let’s Fix Work” podcast. Here’s Laurie.
Laurie: Hello everybody. Welcome to, “Let’s Fix Work.” I’m Laurie Ruettimann and I’m here today with a very special guest. Someone I’ve known for what feels like 17 decades, but neither one of us is really that old for that to be true. Today, my guest is Jason Lauritsen. And, Jason, why don’t you say hello?
Jason: Hey everybody, glad to be here.
Laurie: I’m so happy to have you here today because we’re gonna talk about how to fix work. No pressure.
Jason: It’s all good. I’ve been talking about it for years.
Laurie: Yeah, well, I’ve given your bio. I’ve let everybody kind of know who you are and what you do for a living. So let’s get right into the conversation because when I think of you as a leader, I think of you as a leader in the employee engagement space and yet you only seem engaged when you’re self-employed.
Jason: That’s true.
Laurie: Yeah. Yeah. And in fact, behind your back, I’m always like, “Is that guy happy? Can he keep a job?” But you’re an expert at engagement. So tell us what keeps driving you towards self-employment and what makes you feel engaged.
Jason: Sure. So, you know, that is the great irony, right? The guy that wants to help you fix work for your employees is the guy that doesn’t like being an employee. You know, I’ve had…so a couple things I’ve learned through my journey recently. One is that I really, and I can say this, I think with great certainty now, like I really hate being an employee. I’m not cut out for it. I am wired, I’m only happiest when I’m carving my own path. I’m only happiest when I don’t have a net underneath me. So whatever I do, if I fail, if I win, I know how that happened. There’s just this pure, beautiful accountability in that that makes me feel whole.
Laurie: So wait, what do you hate about being an employee though? Because according to the current narrative, you’ve got it all. You’re a middle-aged white guy, right? So you [crosstalk 00:03:42] awesomeness in the workforce. So what do you hate about it?
Jason: You know, maybe I’ve just got too much ego, I don’t know, but I don’t tolerate or I have a very low tolerance for following leaders that don’t know where the hell they’re going. And so as I think about, you know, this throughout my career, one of the things I’ve come to recognize is that I’ve always been a consultant, I’ve always been a consultant at heart or an advisor at heart. And when you are on the outside, someone hires me as a consultant to come in and advise them about what to do. I can come in, we go through the process, I can give them some really great recommendations, and then I leave. And they can ignore me if they want. I mean, if they want a crappy workplace they can ignore me and go on the way that they are. And there’s no real penalty for that other than they paid me some money so they’re out some money.
But when you put me on the payroll, I’m going to do the same thing. But when you ignore my recommendations, it pisses me off because I have to live in the mess. And so that’s why it doesn’t work over time. I’m also a perpetual malcontent. That’s part of how I’m wired. And so I never celebrate. It’s never good enough. I never stop wanting to make it better. That exhausts leaders after a while, if they’re not wired up the same way I am. So eventually they’re just like, “Can we pay you to go away because I’m exhausted and I can’t have you here anymore. Like I love you and you’re smart and I appreciate what you did for my business, but can you please go away?” So that’s how my career has unfolded.
Laurie: And I would imagine that while you’re good at driving change, it can also isolate you from your fellow team members because people don’t come to work every day to hear what’s wrong, right? They wanna focus on solutions and they wanna be celebrated when things are going well. And if you’re a perpetual malcontent, you’re like, “God damn it, this isn’t good enough.” You know, don’t rest on your laurels, and you come off like a Debbie Downer, which I appreciate. I love, you know.
Jason: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s as much of a Debbie Downer as much as it is a rampant critic.
Laurie: She’s too feminine for you?
Jason: And so it’s, I’m always…you know, I’m always finding or I always sort of can look at it and see where we could be more, where we could find more, do more, do it differently. And so it’s not so much being like…it’s not so much that we can’t… I think I’m generally pretty…I mean, people…like I bring a ton of energy to what I do and it’s usually pretty positive energy, but it’s always like people are, like, “Yes, we did it.” And I’m like, “No, we’re only halfway there. Like, I know we just climbed this mountain, but did you see the next one? And it’s a bigger peak. Like, we can go do that.” And they’re like, “Just chill.”
And so, yeah. So I think that’s why I keep getting pulled towards… The only place I can get that is I need to be able to move from one to the next to the next. And sometimes I find leaders that I can help and they go do some amazing stuff with the help I give them. And then others find out that, you know, what needs to be done is too much for them to swallow. And if I can leave and not have to deal with that, then I don’t get as angry at them.
Laurie: Well, tell me, you just described what makes work suck for you and really for a lot of people out there, but what makes work suck for everybody else? Are there themes, are there characteristics that makes the job market so bad out there right now?
Jason: Yeah. Well, so one thing I would say I had the…for a number of years I was locked in a battle with my friend Greg Harris who Runs Quantum Workplace, and they have the best places to work stuff. And he and I went back and forth for years because I would be on this sort of work sucks bandwagon and he would be like, “It’s really not that bad. I don’t think it’s as bad as you think,” because he was looking at best places to work data. And there’s all these companies that are doing some wonderful thing. So I’m conscious to now say, like, there are some really extraordinary workplaces out there and there are some people out there that are having really cool work experiences that love what they do.
On the balance though, you’re right, most people are at minimum in a sort of loveless marriage with their work and at worst in sort of an abusive, terrible situation. I think that what I have come to realize in the last I guess couple years is that I think what’s underlying why it sucks is that… So, you know, I was staring at all this employee research data that I’ve had the benefit to see over the years. And eventually it hit me that when you look at all this data, the stuff that employees are always wanting at work is to…you know, at least according to the data that we get, these surveys, is we want to feel valued and trusted and cared for. And we want to know that somebody is prioritizing our development and all these things. And what occurred to me is that those are all relational things that employees are really…like, they experience work as another relationship in their life and it’s a pretty big one, right? We spend more time there than we do any place else. We get our identity from it and all these things.
And so employees are experiencing work as a relationship and yet most employers are still treating work as a contract. And that’s why…like HR, all HR systems really are built around making damn sure that the company gets their money’s worth out of the employee. Like, “Listen, we’re giving you a paycheck.” And so everything is compliance based, right? I mean, performance appraisals, job descriptions, policy manuals, employee handbooks. And it goes on and on and on. It’s all compliance. So you have employees showing up to work expecting a relational experience and they’re being met with a contractual like mindset and it makes for a crap relationship. And so they’re like, “This sucks. This feels disgusting. I’m going to go try and find something better elsewhere.” The problem is everybody’s running the same damn playbook. So that’s what I think is at the heart of it.
Laurie: I love that you brought that out. The other side of that for me is that employees often show up to work and project all of their emotional insecurity, all their family of origin trauma on the workplace itself. So they come to work and they have a crappy relationship with their parents and then they see an authority figure and all they do is reenact these relationships over and over again. And I think we’re not having an honest conversation about what work is and what work should be. So do you have any insight on that? Any thoughts on what work really ought to be? Because it shouldn’t be a contract, right? We’re not robots. We have to have some relationship, but it’s not a family. It’s not a family.
Jason: Well, the older I get the more of a hippie I become about this really.
Jason: So I’m progressively coming more into the, you know, maybe it shouldn’t be a family, but I think it maybe is going to have to be. And I think that’s the reality that we’re starting to face is that, you know, socially, when you look at what’s happening trend wise is that we…you know, like when my parents were…when I remember growing up, like my parents, we had all these social places. You know, we went to church for socialization. My dad was a member of the Elks and my mom had bridge club, and they had card parties, and they had all these different things they did to create a social fabric for themselves in their lives.
The generation we have coming up today have work and Facebook, right? So they’re not getting that face to face thing. And so there’s not even… That doesn’t mean that our parents were healthier in relationships necessarily because they had the social fabric. But there’s this lack of structural…
Jason: …yeah, to where to go connect. And so we’re coming to work…so work is increasingly playing a bigger role in where we find community, where we make friends, where we meet people, where we meet people that we may want to date. Like all of these things are coming into it, which means the complexities of the workplace are going even…are even increasing, right? I mean all of this, we’re coming to work expecting that more and more and more and more, and work just isn’t…I mean, most workplaces, most employers are still running a model from 1920, right? And so the gap has been big. I think the gap’s getting bigger and it’s not a matter of incrementally changing things. We have to throw it out and start over with thinking differently, completely differently about what the workplace means and what employees need from that to stay.
Laurie: I think when you talk about work being community and work fulfilling a need in us to connect on a human to human level, that appeals to me and that speaks to me. But I come from a family of people who worked in factories and steel mills and candy factories. And so these factories…you know, think about, I’m from Chicago, right? We had the history of the Pullman train cars. And so companies would try to fulfill this need for community, for connectivity, for healthcare, for all education, all sorts of things, and then when profits went away and revenues dipped, the company, you know, packed up and left. And left all of these people emotionally and spiritually and financially bankrupted. So I worry about that with this generation that they’re coming to work, they’re looking for more from work, and you do have companies who are providing food. They’re providing networking opportunities. They’re providing educational resources. But if that goes away, we haven’t enabled this generation to go out on their own and recreate those communities. So I’m actually really worried about that.
Jason: And I agree with that. But I also think that, again, that’s another layer where I think employers have to think about their role differently. Like we have to be building better, more resilient human beings in our workplaces so that when that happens…because if you think about work as a relationship, I mean part of…you know, to your point about the individual, we suck at relationships in general as you know, you’re right. I mean, we’re not great at that. And so I know that, you know, I’ve been on this learning curve for a long time to figure this out and I feel like I’m getting better all the time. My wife, I think would consider me to be generally well-trained.
But, you know, I had a starter marriage and it failed and I learned a bunch from that early in my life or earlier in my life. And then I’ve had a bunch of other relationships and through those relationships I learned and processed that. And I had some people that helped me along the way. But you know, nobody’s…we don’t help people. We’re not teaching people how to be in healthy relationships or that part of a relationship isn’t always forever, right? I mean relationships start and they can be really great for a period of time, and then they go away. I mean, we have friends that come into our life and are there like all the time and then they’re gone at times. We have people that come in and out, and so if work is a relationship, it’s going to be like that.
And so I do think that part of our role as employers, we need to be thinking about how do we help people understand how to be in better relationship with other humans, with the organization. It all extends the same thing. How do we help them understand that relationships come and they go, and they end, and when they end, it’s gonna hurt and it’s gonna suck, and you grieve it. And then you have to move on and you have to find, you know, [crosstalk 00:15:11].
Laurie: Yeah, wait, wait, who does that in an organization? Who’s the guy or the lady that is, you know, chief relationship officer? Because it certainly isn’t your local HR lady or your local business partner who is trying to get payroll done, doing succession planning and doing, you know, a talent review on top of dealing with, you know, me too issues that are in the workplace, right? So who’s the chief relationship officer?
Jason: Well, I think it has to be…well, it should be your CEO, right? It has to start at the top because, this is a cultural shift, and it’s probably a seismic cultural shift. And you’re right, it’s not the local HR person, but it probably should be eventually, or not chief but I mean the… One of the things that I talk about all the time, I advocate for with HR, is that we need to be studying different things, right? We’re running the same playbook instead of studying best practices and what all these other companies before us have done, you should be studying behavioral economics, and psychology, and sociology, and understanding human beings and how they interact with each other and how they interact with the world. That’s what should be guiding how we’re thinking about building organizations as we go forward.
It’s just not enough of that there. And I understand like, listen, I’m an idealist and so I can sit on the outside and say that because I don’t have to deal with all the…you know, I don’t have to process payroll and I understand the reality of all of that, but it’s not long before most of that stuff will be outsourced. And you can outsource a lot of it. If you can get over your insecurity of making yourself a little less depended on. You can let go of a lot of that stuff. Let legal deal with some of this other stuff, that there’s legal, like, we don’t need to do some of that stuff. We can get working on the human stuff, so.
Laurie: Well, I like your recommendations on behavioral economics. I think those are good recommendations for anybody really who’s active and wants to own their career and be part of a new talent-driven economy. So do you have any authors that you’d like to recommend who’ve written really great books on the psychology of work or the psychology of money? I know I like our good friend Dan Crosby, who wrote, “The Laws of Wealth.” I think that’s a really great book and he’s got a lot of really great resources, a YouTube channel, all sorts of cool things. Dan Ariely is another one. I love him. You got any other names?
Jason: Ariely is usually who I point people to as a starting point because there’s so much content there. I also tend to like books like…and these aren’t necessarily purely behavioral economics, but they kind of get at decision sciences, like, “Freakonomics.” The Heath Brothers have some really good stuff out there. I mean, there’s just… So it’s really understanding how human being… The thing that has always stuck Ariely I always love just because this notion of predictably irrational, like, we are not rational beings but we are predictably irrational. And once you understand that, what you can do around designing work and designing workplace is pretty phenomenal.
Laurie: Awesome. Well, before we take a break, I have one quick question about crisis and work because I think we’re having a lot of different crises at work right now. We’re having the, me too crises. We’re having a crisis in leadership. We’re having a crisis in the way that we educate our workforce. But a lot of people talk about a crisis in trust right now, a crisis in trust of institutions. Do you have any thoughts on that, maybe how we could fix the level of trust and maybe potentially fix work?
Jason: We definitely have a crisis in trust. I mean, one of the most depressing things I’ve read this year is the Edelman Trust Barometer, the new study. I mean, every year that comes out and it’s getting worse and [crosstalk 00:18:59] it’s really bad. So I think, you know, there’s some really good stuff, you know, I’ve gotten to because it almost is cliché or overdone, but I really like, “The Speed of Trust” model, the Stephen M. R. Covey stuff. I mean it’s, like you said, Covey, it’s like how many times can we recommend Covey, but…
Laurie: Oh my God but wait, every time my husband and I make a decision, we just knock it out. We go speed of trust. Like we joke about it, you know, like, “Do we need a new fridge?” “Yes, speed of trust,” something like that.
Jason: And the thing I love about that model is that that book in particular breaks down sort of where trust comes from and how it works because there’s some real science underneath trust that’s about, you know, the consistency and competence in these different things transparency. But then also, like, “Here’s the 13 ways that trust is built.” And I think if you can diagnose, you can follow that, but it’s really, really good and it’s a nice simple framework and you don’t need to overcomplicate it’s, like, start with that. I think that’s a pretty good playbook.
Laurie: Yeah, that’s great. Well, listen, when we come back from the break, we’re gonna talk about your starter marriage. No, I’m just kidding.
Jason: Fair enough…
Laurie: We’re gonna talk about fix work and whether we can really fix it or if we can just fix ourselves, and then we’re gonna talk about paying the bills while still dreaming. So everybody sit tight. We’ll be back in a moment with, “Let’s Fix Work” and Jason Lauritsen.
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Laurie: Welcome back everybody. I’m Laurie Ruettimann and this is, “Let’s Fix Work” and today’s guest is Jason Lauritsen. And Jason, it’s weird to say this but we have a weird and strange connection in that you know one of my cousins that I actually like, so I feel like we’re family.
Jason: Like third cousins two or three times removed, something like that?
Laurie: Well, you know, I have a million cousins and I often like to make fun of them and talk about how they’re addicted to Facebook, and they drink too much, and that is true, but that’s not true for that one cousin. So you’ve got one of my good ones.
Jason: Yeah, she’s a good one for sure.
Laurie: Thank you. Thank you. Well, listen, again, you’re a middle-aged white guy, right? You don’t like working. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re pushing yourself towards self-employment and consulting all the time. So there are people out there like you like me who maybe have kids, maybe are in their 40s, and they like to dream, but they don’t know how to do. And so their job sucks, they’re stuck, or at least they’re stuck in their minds. Do you have any advice for them, any insights on how to make that jump or if they even need to make that jump to entrepreneurial-ism?
Jason: Yeah. First I would say just, I do love to work. I just don’t love working for other people.
Laurie: Thank you for clarity.
Jason: I love working. I mean, in fact my kids would say I probably work too much. They can’t quite…although it’s a mystery to them what I do exactly. It’s a mystery to everybody except my wife.
Laurie: Can you explain it and…
Jason: We talk about that. Like my parents don’t understand. Nobody understands really what I do that kind of generally. So it’s a mystery.
Laurie: My grandmother always thought I had a career in Facebook.
Jason: You know, whatever makes…
Laurie: I wish I had those stock options, you know.
Jason: Whatever makes it work, you know, as long as she’s proud and happy, that’s the important thing.
Laurie: Totally, she was.
Jason: So, you know, I think this is a good…I was actually just having a conversation yesterday with someone about this topic. And I think there are a lot of…so there’s a different…there’s two different things like, you know, the dream, how do you connect the dream? Was like first off, you know, a lot of people like to dream and dreaming is fun, but I think there’s a difference between dreaming and planning.
And so, you know, it’s one thing to dream, you know, it’s nice to buy the lottery ticket and think about what you would do with that. But it’s also…this friend of mine I hadn’t seen in years, we were talking and she said, you know, one of the things she always admired about me, she said, “I knew like you always had…like you knew where you were going. You had this big picture plan and you knew where you were going. And like you could always…like, it was just very clear that you were moving with intention.”
And so I think it’s writing…you know, what I generally recommend for people is to sit down and do some writing out, like in 10 years if everything went ideally, here’s where I would be. The problem is most people go, “I have no idea. Like I have no idea what that is.” And so the first thing, rather than, you know, dreaming about something that’s completely disconnected or that’s more…you know, there’s pipe dreams and then there’s the dream that is real or realizable. And so I think that starts with most people aren’t then willing to do the next step, which is a whole bunch of self-awareness and self-assessment work, a lot of reflection. The book that I have recommended a billion times, and it sounds cheesy as hell, every time I do it is, “What Color is Your Parachute?”
Laurie: Oh my God, that book is Great, [crosstalk 00:24:42].
Jason: It’s amazing. It sounds cheesy and people avoid it, self-help, whatever. But I’ve recommended that book more than any other book ever. Every time I run into somebody I’m like, “Take it.” And I’m like, “Don’t just buy it and scan it. Like do the work.” If you do the work, you’ll come out of it with one of two things. You’ll either come out of it with clarity about like what’s next and where you’re going, or you’ll come out and you’ll have very clear realization as why you’re so damn confused because it doesn’t make…maybe it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but then you can bring other people into it as they recommend and you have people look at it. I use that and that really helped me focus my career a number of years ago.
So I think…so number one, you have to get clear or you have to spend some time really sorting for where do you really wanna go, because if you don’t know where you’re going, then you’re just adrift. But then I think after that is most people make it…wanna make it into like an all or nothing. And one of the books that changed really, I thought it was so awesome because it reflected my own experience and some of the mistakes I made was, “Originals,” by Adam grant where he unpacks the whole notion that like you can start this side hustle, right?
So if you’re working in a job that you don’t really feel and you’re not liking it, but you need the money, it’s like fine. Find a way to do at least a little bit of what you love on the side, and as you figure out if you…you know, maybe it’s a side hustle, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s teaching dance or maybe it’s a coaching or reffing. I have a friend of mine that refs kid’s basketball because he loves basketball and he wants to be connected with it. And so that balances it out.
Laurie: So some people used to call side hustles, hobbies, like that happened to having a hobby. So if you’re disconnected with work and work isn’t doing it for you, go take a class, go to the library, go volunteer. Where does that play into part of the ability for people to connect with themselves in a different way?
Jason: I think both are important. I mean, to me a side hustle is you’re chasing dollars, right?
Laurie: Yeah, true.
Jason: It’s connected to your career, your future career trajectory, whereas a hobby or all of that…all of that is important. I think, again, a lot of this…and you alluded to this a couple of times today, is that I think most people aren’t spending the time to get clear on what they want. And so when you don’t give any thoughts, you don’t spend time to thinking about what is it that I want to do? What is it that I’m good at? What is it that…you know, where am I going? If you’re not spending some time on that, then it’s…like, it seems silly to be pissed off that you ended up wherever. I mean, that you just ended up wherever and you’re not sure how you got there or why you got there and you don’t like it. It’s like, well, of course because you weren’t on a path anywhere. You weren’t making decisions with any intention. And that doesn’t mean you have to have a 10 year plan. I realize I am insane that way. Like not many people do that. But knowing at least sort of generally speaking, like why I really liked this kind of work, so I’m going to go that way. But I think the other side of it is paying attention to your own well-being. I mean, most people don’t even know what makes them happy. And so that’s where the self-reflection and self-assessment comes in. Like, what does…
Laurie: Most people don’t even go to the doctor. You know, they don’t take enough time to be mindful and present enough to know what’s going on right in front of their eyes, let alone take 10 minutes, you know, on the toilet when their kids aren’t screaming, and think about, like, “Hey, what do I wanna do when I grow up?” Because it seems like the immediate present existence is going to be the future. We’re so bad at predicting the future that we don’t even give ourselves an opportunity to dream a little, and then from there write down a couple of things to follow, an action plan. We don’t do it.
Jason: Well, the other thing I think that’s helpful and usually people’s head explode when I tell them this, and this could also have something to do with why I’m not long-term employee material. But I’m also very conscious of the trade-off that I’m making, and I think most employees are way, way too, too wrapped up in their employer and they give away a lot more ownership of their soul than they need to. And so, you know, I never had a problem with work-life balance at least in terms of time because I’m, like, “Listen, I understood it as a contract and so I did my part of the contract.” And I’m like, “That’s all you get. If you want more then we can renegotiate, but this is how…” you know what I mean?
Laurie: Yeah, I do.
Jason: Or when they would… Like, I’ll never forget, I had a colleague who was coming in, he was all wrapped up about…his team was struggling and they were complaining because they were understaffed and he was worried about adding a couple more staff because of the, you know, like the impact to our overall profit line or whatever. And I’m like, I said, “Are you on a different bonus plan than I am?” And he looked at me and I said, “How much of the profits do you get back directly?” And he said, “Well, no, none.” I said, “Well then what the hell are you waiting for? Like, why are you punishing these people to make someone else rich?” I’m like, “That’s stupid, like fight for your people.” And then he’s like…like a light bulb went on and he’s like, “Oh.” And then he went back and he hired some people. So I think you have to keep in context like part of it is, part of…you know, we do create some of our own mess as employees for sure.
Laurie: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I was thinking as you were talking about the difference between a side hustle and a hobby and how a hobby can easily become a side hustle. And you know, I’ve got that story in my own life when I was working at Pfizer. I was depressed and bored and traveling all over the world and delivering bad news. And I started blogging because one of my ex-boyfriends had a blog and I thought, “God, if that idiot can do it, I can do it too.” So I started keeping this blog, which was really just a diary of going to London, and going to Rome, and going to Belgium, and totally sharing too much stuff that I could have been fired for it. But from there I realized I liked to write. I can tell a story. I have something to say about work, and life and my hobby became a side hustle and ultimately it became my full time career.
And so I think there’s a message in that like you can take this little thing that you do, give it some time and almost work at it in private. You know, not everything has to be publicly exposed, right on all of our social networking apps. So if you can hone something in private and really enjoy it, it could potentially change your life. And I don’t know about you if you’ve had that experience of doing something small that’s changed your life, but for me that one act of signing up for blogspot.com was everything. And I had no idea. I had no idea.
Jason: I mean, I look back on…I get asked all the time as a, you know, as a professional speaker, they’re like, “How did you start this? Like how’d you get into this?” And I’m like, “Well if I tell the story, it’s just sort of silly.” Like, you know, I can look back and it’s like, well, this is probably something I should have been thinking about. I was really, really good at speech when I was in high school, you know. But like nobody said, “Well, you know, you could do this.” It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t until…it was through volunteerism. I mean, it was through being involved in the community. And then there was an opportunity to do some speaking, some advocacy, and then realized, like, “You know, I’m pretty good at this.” And then it led to…you know, I mean, just sort of one thing after another, but you’ve got to put yourself out there. You have to be active. And I think that…no, you’re absolutely right, follow your instincts.
And the other thing is, I think there’s such a power in just doing something, right? If you’re stuck, if you feel stuck, pick any action and do something, update your resume or go get involved in a…or go by the, “What Color is Your Parachute,” and put aside a couple hours, or go get involved in something, or volun…whatever.
Laurie: Yeah, no, volunteer. I heard that come out of your mouth.
Jason: But take some action because you’ll immediately start to feel better because you’re doing something. Like that forward momentum starts…now that may not solve it long-term, but you start to feel…like, just get unstuck. Because once you get unstuck, opportunities start to show up.
Laurie: That’s amazing. So before we wrap up here, I would really like to know a little bit more about your speaking career and your trajectory because one of the questions I get on a daily basis is, how did you start speaking? And you alluded to it, that it was kind of like something that you fell into and it’s something that I fell into too, and I really have not had to cultivate it. I’ve been really lucky and, you know, I’ve been invited to speak at some fabulous places, like in the next couple of months I’m in Calgary, I’m in South Africa, I’m in Half Moon Bay. I’m like going there really glorious places. I have not done the work that a professional speaker does. I’m just, you know, #blessed. But there are people out there who really put time and consideration into their speaking career. Are you one of them?
Jason: I am. Yeah, there came a point where in my life where I realized like this is what…and that’s where like in my business, a lot of people speak as part of their business. Speaking is my business and I also do some other stuff. And I had to make that conscious choice about 18 months ago, and I’d been building towards that. And I wish I had sold out to it about five or six years ago, full time, because it’s like anything that…once I realized and I started being more intentional about it, like for me, I also…when people ask me about speaking, I talk about…you know, I can talk about like how I will develop material. I talk about how I think about preparation and the performance side of it. I’m very…you know, one of the things that a lot of people don’t, I think, don’t appreciate is that when you choose to be a professional speaker, your eyes have to be open about your audience and what people are hiring you for. Because the way that I rationalize what I do is that, like in any room for every 100 people, there’s probably 85 of them who are there just to be entertained. They want the ride to be enjoying, enjoyable, right.
Then there’s another, let’s call it 13, who are interested, are learners and maybe will take some notes with some intentions that they’ll do something with it, and they’ll write down some notes and then they’ll leave and do nothing. And then there are one or two in the room that need something and that I’m going to give them something that day that changes their trajectory. They will go back, change their life, change their organization, something will happen. And I do it for that one or two. That’s, for me, that’s where my passion is. I do it for the one or two because of that change. But I have to entertain the other 97.
Laurie: Wait, wait, wait, where’s the one guy who’s actively hostile in the audience, where does he fall into consideration because [crosstalk 00:36:00] that long, right?
Jason: Well, the actively hostile is in the 85. It’s just you never win, which is another…like I stopped reading…I don’t read feedback anymore. I stopped a long time ago of speaker feedback because usually I obsess over the negative feedback and I don’t care about that person. I mean, like, I’m never going to make you happy. So I had lost before I showed up. So there’s no point in me obsessing over your feedback. So I don’t read it. I have somebody else read and just tell me if anything…I screwed up anything terribly.
Laurie: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I’m really fascinated and I’m encouraged that you talked about the entertainment aspect of it because so many people would write to me and say, “Oh, I really wanna do what you’re doing. I really wanna speak.” And part of it is following your passion and having a message. But part of it is that preparation to get up on stage, to own your voice, to be able to project in the right ways, to understand what makes good stage presence. And I’ve done a tremendous amount of work as have you, I’m sure, and invested in Improv classes, standup classes, speaker coaches, all these different things to make it look as if it’s effortless to stand in front of a group of 1000 people and not break a sweat. So before we end, any quick speaker tips from anybody who’s in the audience thinking, “I can do that guy’s job.” What does it take to do your job?
Jason: Well, you know, it’s funny, I actually I just wrote a post about this because I get asked this frequently. And I would say the things that it boils down to for me is that I think the difference…a couple things, I think one is you have to treat it as…you have to appreciate that it’s a balance of content and art, right? It’s performance and content, and so you have to work at both. And from a content perspective…you know what I tell…you know, the way I…and I wrote this out, the way I develop stuff is I literally script things verbatim and then I refine and refine and refine, and then I program and program and program, and then eventually it comes to where that language is in my brain. I don’t have to think about it so that when I’m up there, the content’s there, I can be focusing on my audience, I can be focusing…because I think about when you’re speaking is, it’s like dancing. So you’re dancing with your audience.
And so, like I can lead and my job is to lead most of the time. But if your audience stumbles or trips or steps on your toe, like you have to know how to respond and react to that. And if you start to lose them in a particular way, you have to feel that and then bring them back, and then you can’t be thinking about…you can’t be in the dance if you’re thinking about the steps. So that’s a part of it. The other part of it is I think just you got to get out and do a lot of speaking. I mean, it’s the…I don’t know whether it’s 10,000 hours, maybe it is, but you just got to go. And when you’re first getting started, you gotta find stages and get out there and be bad for a while until you get good.
Laurie: Yeah. You can’t be afraid to fail. No, that’s true. Well, Jason, why don’t you tell everybody where we can find you on the internet?
Jason: Well, the easiest place is my website is jasonlauritsen.com, or you can punch my name into your Google search box and about 42 ways to find me will come up there. You know as you are, it’s important not to be hard to find, so I’m pretty easy to find.
Laurie: Hey, everybody. Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jason Lauritsen. God, I love that guy. He’s so pragmatic, and down to earth, and plainspoken, and yet he’s enough of a hippie that he actually believes that work can be fixed and he’s out there on the front lines talking to leaders, talking to executives, having important conversations to remind them that you’re a human being and that workers deserve a better experience.
I also love that conversation because Jason was candid and talked about his own experience in the workforce and why he struggled as a full-time employee and why he’s better off as a consultant. And that I loved the fact that he gave out a ton of resources, a ton of books. We’re gonna link to all of that in the show notes, and certainly if you want to meet Jason, just Google him. He’s at jasonlauritsen.com. If you struggle to meet him and want his super secret email address, I’ll give it to you, like just email me and let me know. But Jason is definitely someone that you need to be connected to because he is committed to fixing work.
So on behalf of Jason and on behalf of my production team at One Stone Creative, I want to thank you for listening today. You know, ultimately, we can fix work. I believe it, but we have to do it together and it’s really just one step at a time. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time on, “Let’s Fix Work.”
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