How are your unhelpful thoughts getting in your way?
How can you develop a growth mindset and "growth hack" yourself?
Last month I was one of 30 self-help leaders featured in the Get Out of Your Own Way masterclass, a series of video interviews about how to eliminate the thinking that's keeping you from tackling your most ambitious goals.
Here's the full recording of my interview with Accountability Evangelist, Stephanie Reh. The topic? What You Think is What You Get! Enjoy... (transcript follows below)
*** Video Transcript ***
Stephanie: Welcome to Get Out of Your Own Way, the masterclass interview series about how to eliminate the beliefs, excuses, and distractions that are keeping you from tackling your most ambitious goals.
I am your host, Stephanie Reh, the Accountability Evangelist. I help accountable people achieve their most ambitious goals so that they can live a life of fulfilment and make a tremendous positive impact on the lives of the people they choose to serve.
Today I am featuring Michael Pietrzak of Mindset and Habits. Mike is a mindset and habits coach to entrepreneurs. He founded So You Want To Write? Inc. which helps writers improve and get published. Michael is passionate about weightlifting, great books and playing guitar. Mike, thank you for joining me today. Mike: Hi, Stephanie, how are you? Thanks for having me. I'm very excited. Stephanie: This is wonderful. Let's start off with what everybody wants to know is how did you get out of your own way? Tell us a little bit about your journey. Mike: Well, it's only been a two decade journey but I'll summarize. I started out my career in politics, working for local government here, and it's what I wanted to do. I loved helping people, but after a time I started to feel a little blah about that and government can be full of red tape, et cetera. So I said it's time to go and when you go, you have to say what's next?
And my what's next conversation took the better part of 10 years but I knew I was a writer, so I said, okay, I'm going to give this a real go and start writing, which I did. I wrote a draft book in half a year.
Then I started connecting with people, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur as well. I started a few businesses and the latest one I have is soyouwanttowrite.org and we help writers improve their work and publish and I also knew that I loved helping people one-on-one.
So I started to coach in 2017 and I really feel like the key to everything is mindset and so I focus 80% of mindset and 20% habits because that's important as well. I just read a lot, I watched a lot of videos. I've worked with therapists and coaches and just talked to really good people and that's how I got out of my own way. It was: you work on yourself. Stephanie: Yeah, that's wonderful. It's very accountable as well. So when we were talking beforehand, we kind of bounced around some ideas and you chose to talk about what you think is what you get. So why don't you tell us a little bit about that? Mike: So you mentioned my love of weightlifting, which I've been doing for the better part of 10 years. It actually started when I was a very young kid and my dad and I used to watch the Olympics and we only watched weightlifting because he was into it as well as a younger man.
I'll tell you a story about a weightlifter called Vasily Alekseyev, a Soviet lifter and in 1970, nobody could seem to lift 500 pounds over their head. There's this movement in Olympic weightlifting called the clean and jerk. You lift the bar from basically the ground to your chest and then up over your head and for whatever reason, nobody could crack that 500 pound mark, which for our European friends is about 227 kilos.
So what happened was his trainers one day loaded up the bar with just less than 500 and he'd lifted this way before so no problem. He threw it up over his head, boom, except that his trainers lied to him.
They had actually loaded up with more than 500 pounds. It was just 500 and a half pounds and so they tricked him into breaking the psychological barrier because he knew he could do this, he'd done it before but what the reality was is there was more weight on the bar.
So it's just a way to illustrate this concept that whatever you think is what you get, if you believe you can, you probably can. And this weightlifter Vasily, he actually topped out at about 564 pounds I think it was and many, many other people cracked this weight after he broke that barrier as well.
Same thing happened with Roger Bannister, the four minute mile, in the fifties, nobody thought it was humanly possible for the human body to run that fast. Roger Bannister did it. He broke the barrier, psychological barrier and I think it was only 45 days that his record stood and then hundreds of other people started breaking that record as well. So the point is what you think is what you get.
Stephanie: As you kind of narrowed my thinking in a good way, when we're talking before about limiting beliefs, this is just beliefs. It's like the limiting side is if you believe that it's the bad stuff, but it also works in your favor, if you believe you could lift 500 and a half pounds, you can. Mike: That's generally right, your mind has incredible power and I personally don't know if there's anything mystical about this. A lot of people talk about the law of attraction and that type of thing. I don't know if that exists or not but it does seem to work for whatever reason.
I mean, this concept that what you think is what you get has existed for thousands and thousands of years, if you read the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says this, the Buddha says your thoughts become your reality. This is in the Bible: "as a man thinketh, so he shall become," the Qur'an says something like this, the Greek and the Roman Stoics, same thing and if you move closer to current day, the forefathers, I guess you could call them of personal development, people like James Allen and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale said the exact same thing as well and now this has spawned a $10 billion personal development industry that includes coaches and you and I as well.
Stephanie: For sure. So I've done a lot of research with these coaches and read a lot of the same things you have and even with me who I thought, I'm a growth mindset person, which I know we're going to talk about a minute, but even with that, you think you're thinking it, but you don't, your subconscious mind, it really doesn't truly believe it. That makes a difference.
I think that weaves into the law of attraction, but I'm with you, I'm not sure about that. I haven't studied it. I'm not sure that that is scientifically proven, but I do believe in the concept of it. So just before we get into the growth mindset, what do you think about the subconscious piece of that, the subconscious mind? Mike: I think there's an incredible potential when you talk about working with the subconscious in order to improve yourself and grow. I'm just starting to delve into this world myself. I've recently discovered Carl Jung's work, he basically, I think focused most of his life on working with the subconscious, trying to bring beliefs out of it because there's a statement that 90% of our thinking happens in the subconscious, which we can never access by the way, we can encourage it to come to the conscious, but it still lives there and it manifests in these shadow archetypes that we have, the King, the warrior, the lover, magician, the shadow versions that are the not so nice versions that are living our subconscious and manifest things like limiting beliefs, things like sabotaging ourselves, addiction.
But as far as the science is concerned, I've actually found a lot of studies out of Korea, the UK, USA that shows things like, I'm simplifying here, but they will show that thoughts create happiness; visualizations can create our future; negativity will literally steal our power and that's the science and they've been doing this work for the last 10 years and there's more and more of it coming out. So the ancients knew something that the scientists were just figuring out now.
Stephanie: For sure. All right. Great. So what do you say we talk a little bit of fixed versus growth mindset? Mike: So this is one of your bailiwicks too?
Stephanie: I love it. It's one of my passions, I believe, since you asked, I believe that it's hard to find an accountable person who doesn't have a growth mindset. There's quite a strong correlation there, I'm not sure about causation, but correlation for sure.
Mike: I suggest it's causation, but you know what, I'm sure people are wondering what's a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. So let me illustrate for a second. I think people remember Lee Iacocca, the Chrysler CEO, I think back in the eighties, and I like to joke that he caught the CEO disease, that sometimes CEOs that come in and they think they know everything if they've done well for like a year, then they're going to keep repeating the same steps and stop growing.
So he actually, at that time, the Japanese carmakers clobbered Chrysler and they ended up doing very poorly at the end of his tenure. And so, unfortunately I think it's because he had a fixed mindset and there's a Stanford professor called Carol Dweck just doing amazing research last 10 years and she came to this, she saw people that were very interested in solving problems and others that weren't and her question was why does some people deal with failure and others don't. So like every great researcher does, you used children and she put children in a room and she had them solve these very complicated puzzles and many of them, they kind of folded and they couldn't do it.
There is a small subset that said, let me at this problem, I love it, really, really just, and it's not about talent. It's about this desire to improve. That's a growth mindset is wanting to improve for the sake of improving. It's running a race with yourself versus other people.
Fixed mindset says you know, look good at any costs, cover up your mistakes, worry about your position in the pecking order and these people believe that you have a fixed amount of talent in birth. So that what you have to do is you seek approval from authority figures, people that are in position to help you.
Whereas people with a growth mindset say, I love a good challenge, they know, they believe and they know that talent is only part of your success and they believe that with hard work there are no limits at all.
Stephanie: So have you found that you can change? So if you have a fixed mindset, can you convert yourself to a growth mindset? Mike: Absolutely. I think if you want to be a happy person, you almost have to believe that, in my opinion. If you believe that you can never change, that your problems are always going to stay the same you're going to be pretty miserable, I think, but they're absolutely are ways to improve.
I mean, reading books is amazing. There's a solution to every problem you could ever possibly have in a book somewhere. You're not that unique that you have this problem that no one's ever had in history. So there's a book somewhere with an answer, there's a book somewhere that can teach you how to grow in any way, in your physical health, in your knowledge, your wisdom. So books are a major one for me.
Putting yourself in tough situations, pushing your limits, that's how they expand, there's a ton of valuable content on YouTube. There's a ton of valuable content on podcasts, which they're exploding right now because people want to learn something new and then of course there's growth hacking, which is kind of something that is the Silicon Valley buzzword right now, buzz phrase.
Stephanie: So let's talk about that. I'm less familiar with growth hacking. I mean, I've heard the term, but I'm a good student of Carol Dweck's, not literally, but I read her book and I embrace all those concepts. So I'm personally more comfortable with that and I'm glad you reviewed it for those people who maybe this is the first time they hearing it, but for me and everyone else, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about the growth hacking movement. Mike: So growth hacking, it's really a Silicon Valley obsession let's call it. It's been like that for quite some time. It's not something I see applied to personal development, or self-help very often, or maybe not ever, but I think we're kind of doing it and we don't know it already.
So growth hacking is for those people that know lean startup methodology, very similar, you don't write a full business plan. You don't get all your product purchased and then start selling something, you do the minimum viable product, which might be an app with basic functionality and then you start putting it in front of potential customers and clients and then you're very rapidly you're testing, you're getting feedback.
Basically, these are experiments you're running with your app or your website or your product, whatever it is and you're measuring your results, you're focusing then on what works, you're modifying your experiment and you repeat this test, test, test, test, test and in this way, a lot of startups, they don't have money to go and buy a television or radio advertising.
So what they would do is they would just do these very little, a hundred dollars in Facebook ads, run people through a lead magnet and into the funnel and see if it's working and then keep changing and changing and changing it and I think we can apply this to ourselves.
Basically I would say with when it comes to beliefs because that's what we're talking about. I would say test changing your beliefs. So if you're someone like me, I really go bananas when I see someone litter or someone being unkind. It really drives me crazy because I think, oh, how could someone be so ignorant, but if I change my belief just a little bit, I'm still working on this. If I changed my belief, I could say, okay, maybe that person, maybe it was an accident they littered, maybe they just weren't raised to know better. Maybe they're having a really hard time in life, maybe someone they love died.
Just to change that small little belief can take me from going or anyone from feeling like really angry or judgmental into compassion and sympathy and we can do this with any of our beliefs, literally any beliefs and some people say, well, yeah, and I've been raised this way or it's hard. Of course, it's hard, but I would respond if you're not responsible for your thoughts, who is? When I heard that the first time, it really blew my mind away. If I'm not responsible for my thoughts, who else is? So great, now we see that we have a responsibility to change our thoughts. So let's take a thought, let's say it's judgmentalism and let's just watch for a week, just monitor, this is our experiment, we're just monitoring. See what happens for a week when you're judging people and write it down literally every day, just write down some results.
And then the next week you can say, all right, I'm going to try my best to not judge and instead apply some compassion, write down your results as well. If you feel like the new belief you have, which might be everyone's doing their best, if that serves you better, then you can probably just adopt that as your new belief.
That's kind of an application growth hacking to yourself and there is more, I won't dive too deeply, but you can use some analytics like they do in Silicon Valley. How tired are you at the end of the week? How much time do you spend in anger versus joy? You can do this by journaling.
Journaling is a fantastic, powerful, foundational tool that can monitor your moves and help you change and then reward the behavior you want. If it's a really great outcome, give yourself a reward for that. Your mind will like that and will continue to adopt this new belief. And of course, there are always third parties, if you want to improve your mindset or your beliefs spend some time with people that have those beliefs that you want to adopt. Stephanie: For sure. So since you said earlier, you have mindset and habits, great minds have been most of the equation and there's still some left for habits. So how would you take that, judgemental for example, you can use that as an example or another one if you like, how would you take that further if you were really determined now that you've kind of done the growth hacking experiment, you've decided that, wow, this feels better not to be judgmental. I'm decided like this I'm committed to changing this. What kind of habit would you recommend forming? How would you go about doing that? Mike: So there are many. I mean the foundational habits that I love number one is journaling, I mean, I'm a writer, so I'm biased, but there's something that happens when you put a pen—and I recommend pen—to paper because when you're moving your hands and using motor skills this does something different to a region of your brain that activates more healthy habits.
If you're writing about your problems, keep doing it every day and there are only so many days in a row that you can write about the same problem before you take action. So if you're writing Monday to Friday, I'm so angry, I'm so angry, I'm so angry. then you're much more likely than if you weren't journaling to start doing something about it. So you literally just have to now choose a different attitude you want to hold.
Let's say I'm angry about this littering thing, my new habit is now I'm going to, every time I catch myself getting angry, I'm going to say, you know what? I feel sorry for this person, or I feel compassionate for this person, another great exercise is, to say to a stranger, "I wish you happiness". This comes from I think a Google employee who had this practice very simple. You see a stranger and you say, I wish you happiness, and you feel much more calm.
Another habit would be practicing gratitude and this is talked about a lot, but it's not always executed well but gratitude is as simple as taking one minute or two minutes in the morning—and hopefully everyone has some healthy morning habits—but two minutes to say, I'm thankful for X, Y, Z. I start my gratitude with what I'm thankful for about myself, integrity, honesty compassion, kindness and then my family and my friends and other things in my external world, the house, the car, all that stuff.
That's a practice where when you're feeling gratitude, you can't feel the negative feelings anymore and after a while of practicing this, your beliefs will start to change automatically. You're going to realize that, oh, I feel much better when I'm practicing gratitude and I'm blocking out the negative limiting beliefs.
Another one I love is walking. Walking is a great habit, people don't spend enough time with themselves. I suggest is go walk 10 minutes a day in your neighborhood and don't bring your phone. Don't bring your headphones, just look at stuff and think if you know it's a great way to get to know yourself. You can't change a belief unless you know what they are. So if you're not hearing yourself, your mind and your heart you're not going to be able to do anything about those negative beliefs. So those are some great practices.
Stephanie: That's wonderful. I have a canal path near me that's just beautiful, perfect background to just take it all in. It's just very therapeutic. So I highly recommend that to people. You were talking about gratitude, and for some reason it's kind of popped up in my mind, it's like the opposite or the complemented gratitude could be forgiveness of yourself or others. So if you encountered that as a challenge in your life or anyone you coach, how does that play in? Mike: So, I mean, as we move through life, we all need to forgive people because we have that stuff happen to us, especially as you get older. And so my example would be, I used to have a business in Africa, in Zambia, where my partner, we were trying to bring solar lighting to all the villages that didn't have any electricity. There's actually a billion people in the world without electricity and so we said, all right, let's do something about this.
We quit our jobs, we got the funding, we went down, we hired some employees and incorporated and after three months it was not going so well so we had to let go of an employee, our first employee and we gave him severance, but unfortunately he was very upset and so he started causing all kinds of problems for us. I was almost kidnapped, I was put into a Land Rover by immigration authorities that he had told them some stuff and the business very quickly fell apart after that and left the country and we basically, we parted on okay terms, but there was a long period where I needed to forgive him.
I didn't feel for a while I needed to, but as time passes you start to see that every single challenge you have, it's an opportunity, there's a benefit out of everything that happens to you. I don't care what it is, there's something you can learn from it at the very least everyone is your teacher.
So I started to realize that he helped end that company, which meant I could stay home here and develop a relationship with the woman who's now my wife, I might've lost her if I continued to work down in Zambia. He taught me so much about business, he taught me so much about putting things in writing and using lawyers. So for me, at this point, I'm mostly grateful for that experience and I thank him.
There's this old Zen saying that well, there's a couple I think, but the one I like is holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die or the other one is holding a hot coal in your hand and waiting to throw it at somebody. Lack of forgiveness only hurts you, so if you can, don't rush this process, but forgive people as quickly as possible and sometimes you do that by using gratitude. Stephanie: And it's a choice, there's the forgive and forget part too. So forgiveness, I think is very good for the soul, but also you have to let it go because you don't have control over it. You're not going to get the closure that you wanted or whatever it is that you're seeking that would make you feel like, okay, now I ready, it's all decision right back to your mind, what you think it's all you can decide, I'm going to let this go and every time I've done that, like immediate relief, literally immediate relief and I realized, why did I hold on to this for so long? Mike: Yeah, it feels so good to forgive doesn't it? Stephanie: It really does. So, what else about the growth; I'm curious about growth hacking, have you done purposeful experiments on yourself? Mike: Yeah, I mean, I'm actually running an experiment every week of my life for the last few years; so I had this insane system that I can share with you after, it's like my New Year's planning basically. So on January first, second, and third, I block that time and I plan my whole year and I go into a yearly plan, quarterly, and then I do weekly and daily plans as well.
With the weekly I've got every week as an experiment and also there's a line for, what am I going to learn this week? So, right now I'm learning about lead funnels and improving mine and my knowledge on that. But an experiment would be let me think of one, oh, Bulletproof Coffee. I actually have my Bulletproof coffee here. This is basically just grass fed butter and MCT oil from coconuts and coffee, whichever everyone drinks anyway but the oils in there they're really good for your brain and it gives me just such a great boost of energy and mental clarity.
So sometimes I can skip breakfast, I can do my intermittent fasting, I eat at lunch and I eat a dinner and then I skip breakfast but the coffee keeps me going. So that was an experiment I started last year and because it was a success I kept doing it. So then once the experiments done and keep going, so that's a type of growth hacking.
Stephanie: Well, it's like serial growth hacking too, you're just continuing to do it as a lifestyle. Mike: Yes, always be testing, absolutely. Stephanie: That's wonderful. Well, great. Well, I think we've covered a lot of different ideas for people to live in today. So if you had to pick one single action you'd recommend based on what we talked about, what would it be? Mike: It's hard to encapsulate into one piece of actionable advice, but I'll tell you a quick story again, to finish off here. Let's actually ask the people watching to imagine something: that you wake up one morning and you're in the middle of the wilderness. You have no idea how you got there, but you look around, you don't see any people or signs of civilization. You see a hill in the background there through the woods, so you have two options.
You can get moving toward the higher ground, see what you can see and learn something or you can sit tight and wait for someone to rescue you. Unfortunately I've noticed that most people fall into the latter camp where they're simply waiting for someone to rescue them or hoping things get better, but hope is not a strategy.
But if it was me, I'd love to go exploring, let's find out what's going on, this is what scientists do. They're exploring the universe because they want to know, they're curious and we forget how amazing this planet is. I mean, we're on a ball of floating magma and rock floating through the universe around an exploding ball of hydrogen, kind of amazing, but we forget this.
We forget to go trudging through the wilderness. So my advice would be, get curious, that's the actual piece of advice to become someone who is curious, get moving toward that higher ground. So you can find out what's over the hill in your own personal life and your external world and your internal world and cultivate that attitude of curiosity, that would be my advice.
Stephanie: Fantastic. Thank you for that and also thank you for the free gift you're offering, which is very generous. Can you tell the audience about that? Mike: Yeah, so I'm big on helping people and serving, as I said. So I would love to offer everyone watching right now one free hour formal coaching session with me, no charge. And you can find that at my website, we can share that URL I'm sure, it's mikepietrzak.com, scroll to the bottom of the page, click free consultation and we're going to have a real solid one hour work session.
You'd be amazed how much we can accomplish in an hour and whether you continue as a client with me or not, it doesn't matter to me. I just want to serve as many people as possible.
Stephanie: Yeah. That's wonderful. I hope lots of people take you up on that, keeping nice and busy in the new year. And how can people keep tabs on you? Is your website the best way? Mike: Yeah, so I'm sort of not a social media person but I love emails. So if you want to get to my website, mikepietrzak.com, you can sign up from there and I send out infrequent emails every two weeks or so, it keeps you up to date.
Stephanie: That sounds wonderful. Well, thank you very much and thank you everyone for joining us. I hope that you continue to listen to the other speakers who are offering great insights about how to help you get out of your own way. I also invite you to join my free Facebook group for ambitious accountability ambassadors. Thank you and we'll see you soon.