Dr. Carla Fowler is an MD, PhD, and elite executive coach. For the last decade, she has been a secret weapon for scores of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other senior leaders. Carla’s unique approach combines the latest research from performance science with timeless best practices to help top performers level up and achieve their goals.
The best way to get in touch with me is through my website or LinkedIn:
Carla Fowler, MD PhD
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Brett Gilliland 00:02
Welcome to The Circuit of Success. I’m your host, Brett Gilliland, and today I’ve got Carla Fowler with me, Carla, how you doing?
Carla Fowler 00:09
I’m doing very well, Brett, thanks for having me on.
Brett Gilliland 00:12
Absolutely. It’s great to be with you. I don’t I don’t get to talk to too many people that are an MD and a PhD very often. So we’ll, we’re gonna have some fun talking about that and get to hear your story. So, but again, where are you coming from again? I forgot to ask you what part of the country you are in right now.
Carla Fowler 00:27
That’s okay! I am calling in from Bend, Oregon currently. Yeah, part of life. I actually my coaching practice is totally virtual. So we move around a fair amount. But currently we are in the mountains of Oregon. And it’s beautiful.
Brett Gilliland 00:46
Awesome. Well, I have to introduce you to my buddy Greg Salciccioli out there. Do you know Greg by chance?
Carla Fowler 00:51
Brett Gilliland 00:52
Okay. He does some coaching out there. He’s an awesome guy. I’ve worked with him for years and I’ll have to introduce you two so anyway, let’s dive into Carla Fowler. And what’s made you the woman you are today? I know, you know, looking at the research I’ve done here you like I said MD PhD, and now an elite executive coach, for the last basically 10 years, you’ve been what they call the secret weapon, right? To CEOs, entrepreneurs and other senior leaders. And so let’s dive into that. But before we do, kind of you could Carla what’s made you the woman you are today?
Carla Fowler 01:26
I love that question. And the story always comes out a little bit different. But I think that’s one of the fun things is that in our lives, so we get to like, constantly think about what our story is. And clearly, like there was one point in my life where the story was, I was going to be like an academic physician. And you know, the story today is, you know, I’m a coach thinking about and studying about and helping people use performance science. So where did it start? You know, I think early life grew up in the Pacific Northwest. And really, I just have to say, my parents are amazing. They took us backpacking. And when I’m talking about backpacking, I mean, like, you know, out in the wilderness for like 10 days, and there were three of us, and they would take us out. And there were three of us at one point, all but like younger than the age of seven. So like one kid’s in a pack, the other two kids have to be walking, because there’s only room for one kid in the pack. But I’m telling this story, because I think that very early in life, there were just some situations you encounter where you realize that you cannot bully reality. So turns out, if you’re five, and you don’t want to be hiking anymore, but you are three days into the wilderness, you know, your parents can’t save you, they will tell you to keep walking, they might also like slowly start to walk down the trail without you to make sure you come along. And but I bring it up because I think I just had some experiences early on where it kind of has you realize that like, you are your own best lifeboat. And so like, yeah, things happen. Sometimes you don’t like the way they turn out. But really, when you realize that with your own two feet, you can make progress. You can work work through it. I think that’s a really empowering sort of starting place. I’m not saying that’s what I was thinking when I was five. But I have come to see it that way.
Brett Gilliland 03:37
Come to realize that.
Carla Fowler 03:39
Yeah, right. Um, but I think, you know, growing up, I was always pretty interested in like, some of the physical activities. I had this amazing teacher who, she was a physical outdoor teacher, but she thought we were kind of, I think, getting soft. And so her whole premise and curriculum was around making us do really challenging stuff. So I’ll give an example. She had us walk around Lake Washington, large lake in the Seattle area. And it’s 55 miles. And we did it in 24 hours. And this was a bunch of like 10 and 11 year olds. Like we just kept walking, and we walked from like 4am to like 4am the next morning, and, and you had to do it, like everyone had to finish you had to encourage each other, you had to just like find a way to like, get that grit and and really build it. So these were kind of some of the experiences that I had when I was young that I think definitely influenced kind of the whole path along the way. And there are certainly moments when you know, at hour 23 of being awake in like a surgical residency where there was and you’ve been on your feet the whole time where you start to think well, yeah, this is kind of like that time, we walked for 24 hours straight. And so, so this was kind of like early life, in my family and my growing up. And, you know, I ended up in medicine, the path kind of headed that way. Because I always liked math and science. I really liked the idea that you could solve things. And I think for me, like, that was a manifestation of that, like, okay, there is a solution, and you can ask questions, you can figure it out. And so I headed off to college, and I thought I would do engineering. And, you know, it’s, it’s interesting that I picked that I think I saw it as like, well, there aren’t a lot of women, engineers, or there are less. And so maybe that will be helpful in getting into college, you know, and getting into the program, I suspect it was. But I rapidly realized that, you know, I was more interested in people and what was going on with people, everyone around me then I was in like circuits, or building a bridge or doing some of that more kind of engineering work. And so I switched majors to focus on medicine. And it was really funny. And this, I think, was when I, I sort of put my finger on something else that often had been happening in my life, which was, so I wanted to switch majors–– walked in to the dean of like, pre med, folks. And I said, “Okay, you know, no one in my family is a doctor, I would like to go into medicine. How do I do that?” Yeah, exactly. And he sort of looks at my transcript. And he’s like, this is after one year of college and he’s like, “Okay, so you’ve taken two semesters of physics, two semesters of inorganic chemistry and two semesters of math. And, you know, two semesters of whatever were the only other classes because you took four each semester. And he’s like, You did that all in one year?” And I was like, “yeah, that’s like a normal, you know, engineer schedule.” He was like, “well, you’re, you’re halfway done with the requirements, for medicine.” But I bring that up because I think often, I didn’t always have total clarity about where I was going. But something that I sort of, I think an instinct I was following was this idea that if you can learn how to do things that are difficult, like if you see something difficult, and it kind of scares you, and you like, lean into that and just say, “Okay, well, I’m just, I’m just gonna go learn how to do that. So I’m not afraid of it anymore.” Even if you don’t end up going in that direction, that kind of like know-how being a person who knows how to take something that’s challenging and somehow muddle your way through it get through it can be a really useful sort of life skill. And it often means even when you transition, even if there’s some change costs to that, that you can make some of those leaps. And so I think that was the case for me and making that transition. But so fast forward, you know, I’m starting to near the end of college, I’m thinking about applying to medical school. I’ve also like taken an interest in immunology, because I took a class and I thought, wow, this is really going to be the future. So I don’t know, like, how familiar you are with like, all the biotech stuff that’s going on around like cancer immunotherapy.
Brett Gilliland 08:36
Carla Fowler 08:36
Yes, yes. Okay.
Brett Gilliland 08:37
Yeah. Well here in St. Louis there’s a huge, there’s a huge landscape of people in that in that space. So yeah, so I’m not an expert by any means, but I’m familiar with it.
Carla Fowler 08:46
Well, so think back in like 1996. Or sorry, let’s see, I guess it would have been no, it was like, probably ’99. Like, so I’m taking this immunology class, and I’m just thinking to myself, Oh, my goodness, like, I don’t know how this is going to shape up, but like the number of like, diagnostics, therapeutics, and like, things that are going to come out of this particular like, biology is going to be big. And I think I should probably be involved with that somehow. And so, so fast forward, I was kind of interested in research, interested in medicine, someone, a friend walks up and says, “Carla, do you know there are these programs where they pay you and you can get an MD and a PhD. So it’ll take you 10 years, but like, you’ll have no debt. And you can do this,” and of course, I heard that and I was like, you have to be kidding. That sounds like the best deal. Like guaranteed job you have a job and and you get to like work on these challenging things that to me, I was like, oh, that sounds awesome. Of course. This friend was like, I think it sounds terrible. So they did not end up doing that deal. They went to med school, med school and and I’m sure our very successful now.
Brett Gilliland 10:02
So you did that. And so obviously, you graduated then. So 10 years later. So I know you went to Brown University and you got your PhD at the University of Washington, and then get your general study of general surgery at Stanford. So you’ve been to some amazing universities. So you spent that much time, energy, money. Right? I would assume, you know, for me, it was a head scratcher. And we talked about being on the podcast. So here’s an MD and PhD, but now is the managing director and a founder of a company that’s doing elite executive coaching, how do you change from that “I’m all in” right, I got these unbelievable degrees to now I’m an executive coach helping people all over the world.
Carla Fowler 10:42
That and that transition is really one of the big pivots, I would say, of my life. You know, in terms of like, headed, as you said, headed through medical school and PhD, I credit those activities to really teaching me how to think and I think particularly how to think about unstructured problems, how to think outside of system. So academics, like some people had a terrible experience with them, I had a very good experience with them, but they do. And so for me, they provided sort of some train tracks, right, like you kind of know what’s expected, you do the test and that. And I think most of us know that actually, a lot of life is really different from being outside of school. And so I think doing a PhD in science, one of the real parallels between that I think, and moving out kind of into the business world where I’m working with executives, was this idea of, “how do you think about an unstructured problem where there is a ton of uncertainty? You’re gonna have to figure it all out. No one’s, there isn’t a playbook to do your PhD, you have to pick a scientific problem that no one has really sort of sorted out. Not only that, but you sort of have to think about not just pick a problem, but you need to pick an interesting and important problem. Ideally, yeah, and I think the same is very true. Like, there are so many parallels between, for example, entrepreneurship, and science. And so even though I know these things sound really different. For me, there actually have been a ton of parallels in the kind of thinking that’s necessary, that kind of mindsets and actions that are necessary, the kinds of things that even help you be successful. There’s actually a ton of parallels. I obviously didn’t know that at the time when I was doing my PhD. But I did know that, you know, I had an advisor who I walked in, and I was like, Well, I think I could run this experiment, and I can run this experiment. And he was like, “Carla, why are you, why? Why are you going to do that?” You know, and also, you should try to not just take someone else’s work and say, well, I could kind of clean up this part of it. Or I could do a little bit of this over here. He’s like, “what’s the thing that you want to do? It’s going to be your own big contribution.” And I think you can see parallels of this everywhere. Like, everyone’s seen the business out there, or the thing where they’re like, well, I could do that just a little better. And so I’m going to start a company to do that thing just a little better. Generally speaking, that’s not that’s not a great strategy, in the sense of, if there’s a huge vacuum, you could be successful. But I find that it’s often a better way to think of it to say, “what is it that I want to start? What is it about?” You know, “what’s going to be most important?” And “how can I generate those results?” This like, this comes up, actually, you know, as you’re thinking, and as I’m working with executives, also, sometimes we all just get inundated, inundated with like, all the all the things we could improve both maybe in the results we’re producing, but also, maybe even in ourselves, our own development. And I think it can actually be a huge source of distraction. Like, because it feels like so much. And our attention is pulled in, like all these different directions. And so, I think one of the big things, again, that I learned over the course of my PhD, but that also plays very heavily into the coaching that I do today with executives is can you figure out what results really matter that are going to be most important, and it’s gonna feel brutal. I actually call it brutal focus, because it’s going to feel so stark, right? And it’s a very different way of thinking than, “okay, I’ve got all my long laundry list of things here. And I’m trying to keep up and kind of do it all.” So it’s, it’s a different kind of thinking. But it is something that can really unlock results in a way for a person who’s already performing at a very high level. It can be something that really kind of unlocks and clarifies some things to bring them to the next level. So, I totally haven’t answered your question about the jump. But that’s all right, we’re hoppin in.
Brett Gilliland 15:08
Go ahead and continue with that. That’s what I was gonna ask. So then the jump was, there was this defining moment you were actually practicing right as a, as a physician, is that correct?
Carla Fowler 15:18
So I was in residency, which you are, you are officially an MD, you have a license. I was in my intern year. So if everyone remembers Grey’s Anatomy, that show when everyone shows up, they were interns as general surgery, interns. It’s nothing like that in reality, that’s my disclaimer. Except for like being up all night.
Brett Gilliland 15:45
Carla Fowler 15:46
Yeah. So um, so I show up. And, you know, part of the reason I chose surgery was again, this thought of, like, what is it I’m gonna learn there, what, who are the people I want to learn from, and one of the things I really liked about surgeons were that, when I looked at them as a group and the way that type of medicine was practice, you really have to see your choices. Because the choice is very binary, it’s often like we’re going to operate, or we’re not going to operate––
Brett Gilliland 16:16
Carla Fowler 16:16
––and to not operate is as much a choice as to operate. And so what I saw in that group of people was that they really had to see that choice, they had to own whatever choice they made. And they often had to make that choice with not a complete set of data, which again, is very parallel, I think, to the situation that many executives aren’t in where they’re leading, they have to make a decision, you don’t have perfect data. And there’s probably even beyond the data you have, there’s a ton of uncertainty, right. So like, so the surgeons were one of these places where the stakes are high, you have to make a choice. And, and then you got to own that choice. And then what there is to do is improve that choice over time. But I kind of, I looked at that and I was like, I think that’s really interesting. I also liked that there was a physical art to it. Because again, I was a person who really liked the, just the play between the mental and the physical, in terms of performance, and so went off to surgery. And I will say this during that year, I learned a lot about I learned a lot of surgery. And I also learned very much that I think the biggest passion area for me more than actually operating like actually being a surgeon really came back to thinking about performance and people. Because I’m surrounded by these really smart, high performing people, it was the same when I was, you know, doing my PhD. It’s been the same on some of the sports teams that I’ve participated in, for college, and also post-college. And it’s this moment where I was like, I think I’ve reached the point where to be good at this is going to take everything, it will be my one thing. And I think I’ve always been a person who wanted more than one thing. And so, and with that, when I thought, well, if you weren’t this, what would you do? And I thought, oh, you know, the connecting thread through this entire story is that I have been interested in you could even say sort of obsessed with thinking about how people do their best work, how do they reach their potential? How do they do it in a way that they thrive? You know, I think there’s a lot of high performance in surgery. I’m not sure that in medicine, in general, people are thriving yet. And that is kind of a whole system of things. You know, I just feel thankful every day that they’re there, you know, if you show up in the middle of the night, and you need to have your appendix out, there’s someone there to do that for you. And so, major, major, thanks for that. So, I think I’ve realized that I needed to make a big pivot, and that what I really loved even more than, like, surgery specifically, or medicine specifically was thinking about behaviorally about performance. And so this is one of those moments where you jump jump off, it’s not necessarily a popular decision. Everyone is like what are you doing?
Brett Gilliland 19:30
Carla Fowler 19:32
And um, but you kind of can see something, you have a vision for something. And so it was kind of my first independent, besides the PhD, it was like “okay, well this is now my independent like, project and challenge that I need to structure for myself.” I wanted to design my practice. So I wanted to not just not just attend a coaching academy or certificate program and open a shop like put up a shingle. I actually wanted to use kind of my science background to say, how do we want to build this? What would really help high level people who are, and executives who are dealing with a lot of the same things I actually encountered through my kind of academic and medical pathway, but really helped them level up and be able to reach ambitious goals that they were setting for themselves, without like wringing themselves out in the process. So that’s how that pivot happened. And we talked a little bit about the parallels along the way. But it was still, it was still a big, pretty big jump.
Brett Gilliland 20:38
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Any time you invest that much time and energy into something and then just totally change it. And to your point to like, people probably thought you were crazy, like, “What in the hell are you doing, you can make good money, be a doctor make a big impact.” But yeah, you got to follow your dreams and go do the things that we want to do, which is what I love to talk about, which is what we’re gonna dive into now. And so what so I’ve had a business coach for years. And I truly believe in them. I think it’s, it’s, it’s a massive investment that people need to make in themselves, because you need a sounding board, right? I mean, I have my black journal everywhere I go with me, all my coaching meetings are in these over the years. And I just think it’s time for us as leaders and people, whether you’re leading companies or leading just your household or leading yourself, we got to make that investment. So I just want to make that disclaimer that I fully believe in that. But what do you see are the biggest tools like you know, there are there are three or four or five tools that you use to help people achieve what’s you’ll see in the back of our microphone here, and we’ll talk about as a future grade than your past that you can do with that?
Carla Fowler 21:43
You know, there are and I think there’s different ways to think about tools, like sometimes tools are a hack, and I do have some of those. But I think some of the biggest benefits that come from coaching, and this is how I coach, is really working on some of those fundamentals or first principles that then sometimes eliminate the need for a hack, eliminate the problem altogether. And so I think that’s the first thing is sort of how I how I view things is, can you set up a foundation with someone for their goal that they want to achieve? And what’s going to be most important for that, that really then helps us say, “Okay, well, if we can see that very clearly, then we’re in a position to say, what’s really a problem and what’s not a problem,” right? What’s a fire, you can let burn, what’s mess you can tolerate? And I bring up, you probably hear me using a lot of language about time. And a big piece of that is because I think many well, many executives, and many people of all sorts, I think, feel like life is busy. Maybe they want something, there’s not enough time to get it. And I think this is just a common refrain. And then I think we also have a culture that’s continually giving us inputs to say, “well, oh, I should do more, I should be doing that I should be doing that.” And this is true at the executive level, as well as just kind of for everybody out there. So I would say there are three lenses that I really use to kind of look through. And they’re sort of topics of conversation that I use with my clients. And again, they can scale like, up and down the stack in terms of for a situation, what’s happening in this moment, this situation, but all the way to how does this impact your whole strategy, how you’re thinking about things? So the first one, so the three things are brutal focus, learning to cultivate power. And the third one is relishing uncertainty. And so how, how I think about these are number one, we already started to talk a little bit about this idea of brutal focus, which is, I think, helps ward off to mistakes that often happen for people when they’re trying to improve their performance, or they have a goal that’s really important to them, but they’re feeling like it’s been elusive, or it’s just really challenging. So, the two mistakes are that often people haven’t really explicitly defined their goal. And this creates a couple different challenges. One is sometimes that means that the goalpost keeps moving, and so they’re always burned out, and maybe they’re doing a bunch of great stuff and making a lot of progress, but they’re not really recognizing it. They’re like that’s yesterday, I’m thinking about today. I call that like performance discounting. You discount your part of your past performance, even if you totally practice. Yeah. But I think the other thing is that often So they haven’t explicitly defined what their goal is would meet, which makes it really difficult to also then ask the question, okay, given that goal and like when it is and why I want it and what’s important about it, it’s really hard to figure out if you haven’t done that what’s most important? Like, where could you invest time and energy that would be most impactful to get you moving towards that. So the other thing is a mistake that people can sometimes make, which is related to this, is they don’t have, they’ve defined the goal, but they don’t have clear focus on what’s most important for getting there. And so there’s a couple different flavors. One is like, they try and do it all. And I think I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this in your life, I think you’ve, you’ve been busy. So like, sometimes you burn out, you’re like, I am just trying to do everything. And it’s kind of spreading out my efforts, and I don’t feel very effective at any of it. And I’m kind of burnt out. Yeah.
Brett Gilliland 26:01
Can I can interrupt you on that. So I mean, I think that’s a that’s a good point. I mean, I think that the burnout is real, right? I mean, especially for people that are trying to do so much in their lives, personally, professionally, just emotionally, intellectually, whatever it may be. But I think what I have found personally is breaking things down into almost four years, right into one year. If that makes sense. And what I mean by that is 90 day calendar is so I focus on 90 day goals. So I’m in my, you know, July one through September goal right now, that’s the quote, unquote, year that I’m looking at those 90 days, and then I get energy. At the end of that I walked through different exercises where I look at my phone, I go through every picture, I’ve taken those last 90 days, and kind of go through that with gratitude, right, and I write it down where we’re at what we did, and then more stuff that I can dive into it a whole nother podcast, I’m sure. And I’ve got this, you know, journal that I’ve created. But for me, it’s that right? And then getting the excitement around that. So would you feel for you that you’ve seen people break it down like that, or someplace differently to where it’s not so much burnout for people?
Carla Fowler 27:11
Oh, I think that’s absolutely a great strategy for it. And different people do it in different ways. The solution you’ve come to for yourself is one wonderful way of doing this. You know, I’m reminded just personally, my husband and I, at the holiday time, our sort of gift to ourselves is we go out to dinner, and we relive our year. So we both go back to our calendars we like and this is professional and personal, but we just go back and then sort of month by month. Remember everything that was accomplished, you know, that was special, even that was hard, right? Because I think, you know, people, we we have to kind of balance this idea of being in the moment. Like in the moment right now, like our life is actually happening right now. And the future is it’s kind of imaginary. Actually, we have lots of ideas about what is going to happen tomorrow. I mean, I’ve got a schedule for tomorrow, I assume that stuff, right? And then there’s the past, right, and the past is actually we can use the past to really help ourselves flourish and create perspective in the moment, like what meanings we take from the past are obviously really powerful. I like these types of rituals, like what you’re talking about, because I think they help us. Number one, view the past somewhat factually as much as possible. So that it’s not just our idea about what happened. But to actually like, if you’ve ever gone back and looked at your calendar for a year, it tells you like how you spend time, what did you invest in? What grade stuff happened? What challenges did you make it through? So I find that ritual to be really wonderful. And these are great ways to sort of say, How do I take myself out of something my brain is sort of trained to tell me about how I think or feel about that thing and say, “No, well, what were the facts of that?” And certainly, part of coaching, I think is being able to be that reflection for someone else. So I do this for my clients a lot, if there’s some performance discounting happening, to say, “Hey, I just want you to remember like, for example, when we first started working together, maybe skill or issue X was at this point, and this is sort of how you were feeling about it. How do you feel about it today?” Or like, “let’s contrast that with where you’ve come at this moment, and all you’ve accomplished,” and so I think that actually is one of the important roles that I play as well. Is to be that foil? Yeah.
Brett Gilliland 29:52
I think asking great questions too, is important, right? I mean, that’s sometimes you mentioned earlier is I don’t really know why or how and, and I always talk about when you know you’re “Why” any “Hows” possible? So I mean, for me, I think it’s starting there. Right? Starting with Why are you choosing to do this? Why do you want to do this? Why do you want to do that? Right? And I think, yeah, the more clarity that there is there, then the how I’m gonna go do this is easier, right? It’s easier to happen. I can set up rituals and habits and stuff like that for that. So for you, either you personally, or the most successful people you work with, what are you finding that morning routine or morning habits looks like for people to have the most productive day possible?
Carla Fowler 30:29
Ah, I love this question. My answer is I it’s not a contrarian. But here’s what I’ll say. I think that there, there’s just a lot articles out there about like, morning routines, and a morning routine can be very powerful. I think the challenge is, when we see these things, we start to equate them with, oh, well, if I’m not like meditating, and like doing a hit workout, and you know, journaling, and this and that and that all before like 7am, then I’m not going to be successful.
Brett Gilliland 31:07
I love that. Yep.
Carla Fowler 31:08
Yeah, so that’s the downside. So I love the morning routine question and what I always recommend, so what I practice myself, and what I recommend to other people is that morning is a special time, it’s the time our brains have just reset. And you could argue that that we are amazing in the fact that we can sleep and then like, then we enter a new today. And so we definitely have some time some more clarity of thinking some more freshness, in that morning time. So I recommend that people use it well, but what is going to be for each person can can depend. So I’ll tell you what, what I do and the kinds of things that people consider. I think, for example, getting some daylight, like literally going outside in the morning, physiologically is very good for circadian rhythm. So that’s the thing. Sometimes that’s combined with exercise, I like to even for just 20 minutes, make sure that I’ve gotten outside, sometimes it’s just a walk. Maybe with silence, maybe with music kind of depends, kind of what I’m looking for. But that’s one of the things that that I like to do. I also think some kind of contemplative practice can be useful. It can be long or short. But for me, sometimes that’s doing like a mind map. But I often find that I am trying to organize what’s most important for the day is one piece that commonly comes up. And then another piece is setting my perspective. So I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I don’t know if you roll out of bed and have a feeling or a thought about a day, like you know what’s on your calendar. And sometimes you wake up and you might feel like I’m so excited about today. And sometimes you might think I feel some sense, I don’t know if it’s worry, but I sort of maybe it’s dread, you know, we get the full range. But, um, you know, I just find it can be really helpful to set perspective. And I think some people do this, like doing a little gratitude journaling, like sometimes people find that a useful practice. But I think the last piece that I do is I spend, I spend a little bit of time with my husband, like we just kind of check in with each other, maybe we have an intellectual conversation about what the other person was thinking about. Or we just kind of talk about what needs to happen. But we just have, again, think 20 minutes, just like a little bit of connection time for what is the most important relationship in my life. And so those are some things that I do in that morning time. And I try for me, I’ve really said I often start coaching like at 8am. So I, I’m not a person who necessarily wants to get up at like, five to do a ton of stuff. So I’ve found that those things work well for me. And so for clients, what I always say is when they’re trying to figure out, okay, well what should be my morning routine? I definitely first say okay, whatever that CEO is doing, you don’t have to do the same thing. Yeah, what what’s gonna make you successful is picking that thing for you. That’s going to be helpful. But then I give some thoughts around often things that are helpful is how do we take care of our brain? How do we take care of our body? How do we take care of our relationships like and and then maybe the last thing is I love to eat the frog. Yeah, okay, we get away so this idea of like the, if you had to eat a frog today, like the best thing to do is just eat the frog in the morning because that frog is not going to look more appetizing at 4pm.
Brett Gilliland 35:07
That’s a, it’s a great book it talks about eating the frog just get thing over right you can call it the shit sandwich, whatever it may be. I’ve heard it called different things. It’s like, yeah, if you if you stew on this deal till you know what time is it right now it’s 3:39. So let’s say like your, to your point, it’s four o’clock almost our time here. If I was waiting all day long to do that thing and putting it off. It’s terrible, right? It takes energy sucks the energy for my day. And so just get it over with. So I agree 100% what you’re saying. So I call it focus 90. So you heard me say earlier the 90 day goals, right? The 90 day year. But also I’ve taken it to where it’s the focus 90 is my first 90 minutes of my day. So I’ve spent years, I’ve spent years, beating myself beating myself up for not being the guy that wants to get up at 5am and go on like your 100 mile run and workout.
Carla Fowler 35:56
I know, right?
Brett Gilliland 35:57
Right. And I can’t do that. And I would try it. And then I’d find after about a week we can have I’m pissed off, I don’t like it, I’m tired, it makes me cranky. And I wasn’t that person. And so now I’ve had to learn to love mornings, by creating things that I want to go do that moves the needle in my life, right? So I talked about F to the fifth power, your faith, your family, your fitness, your firm, which is my work and my fun. And so I create all of my stuff around those five things. If it moves the needle, and one of those five F’s, we’re doing it, right. And so I’ve learned that in the first 90 minutes of my day, I get to create my ideal morning. And if I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to do it. And I found for me, so for our listeners, it’s been very, very helpful. And now, you know, I do reading I actually do the meditation reading. So because I love it, right. But working out for it was tough for me. And so now I’ve recruited them, we have a very active neighborhood. And so I’ve got, I don’t know, 15-18 guys on this text message. And you know, so now it’s my responsibility on Sundays, I do my Sunday planning, I get the workout scheduled. And so Tuesdays and Thursday morning, 6am, we have guys at my house, we come together, there’s three goals, right, and I write this down in my journal, because again, when I know my why any how is possible. The three goals are to live well into my 90s, and to play golf on my 100th birthday. It’s accountability. So that’s the second one, accountability. And then the third one is just brotherhood and fun, right? I love being around these guys. And for me, it allows me when the alarm goes off this I mean, like “ugh” to now like “dude I get to go hang out with a bunch of my buddie!” So taking all that time, but I think it’s important to know create your morning routine around what you want to do and make it fun.
Carla Fowler 37:40
I think, I love that you brought up fun, because again, I think I think performance can be fun. I don’t know that everyone use it that way. But the other thing I wanted to point out that is very brutal focus of you is when I hear what you’ve created around just this piece of working out, right in the morning, you are like you’re finding ways to get a double. So often when we are setting goals, like you’ve got the five F’s, like that’s a lot of stuff in there, you know, many people might pick one of the ones you have, and be like, that would be a whole, you know, whole life right there. So it becomes important to see where you can get a double. And so you’re getting some fun and some fellowship out of that workout. And like you’re staying fit, you know, getting what you need to take care of your body. And I find this is where when we can focus and figure out, for example, if you figure out the “why” you it also helps you figure out like, what the “What” is like, “Okay, this is sort of the value I have, but like, what would that look like in action? If I can really explore what that value means to me, like, what might that look like?” And then also, “are there multiple ways I can get that?” You know, or “are there certain activities that actually literally might get me multiple of my values, or might be an expression of multiple values?” And I think this is one of the things that again, when you start to look through a brutal focus lens and say what is most important, we can start to be creative and find ways to help people do things like, like what you are doing. Or another great example that people often will bring up is like, you know, the university in my car, car university, right? You’re listening to audiobooks, and you have a long commute, like, you could get two hours of learning in every day. That’s over 700 hours of learning every year. Yeah, I mean, if that was your commute, and you turn something that was kind of a negative into a positive, like a negative one to a one. And that’s a huge shift.
Brett Gilliland 39:54
Yeah, and I think it’s, I agree 100% what you’re saying and we keep going back to this why but for me, it’s really clicking is when I talked about living well into my 90s and playing golf on my 100th birthday. So when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning at 5:45, and I know there’s gonna be a bunch of guys in my backyard waiting on me. One, the accountability is huge. Because last week, I there was, it was raining. I didn’t want to go outside, right, but I knew there was gonna be four or five guys waiting on me. And I don’t want them in my own backyard. Right “where the hell’s Brett?” right? And so yeah, that accountability is huge. But again, visualizing and picturing myself at 100, it made that choice that day easier, because I do want to have that focus. And it’s more than playing golf at 100, right? It’s being involved with my grandkids. It’s, it’s just feeling okay, and it’s doing all those stuff. So I think that’s really, really important. So for you, when you hear the word future greater than your past, again, that’s our firm’s mission statement is helping people achieve a future greater than your past, how does that sit with you? And how does that make you feel?
Carla Fowler 41:04
Oh, it resonates deeply with me. I mean, I have this joke that it’s always like, “Hey, how are you going up into the rage?” And I think for me, I mean, one really simple answer is, I don’t know that I will ever retire. I think, I think that I’ve always been interested in like, hey, what’s the next? What’s the next thing that will show me something about myself that I can grow into. And that’s not to say that I want that all the time, I think accurately, it probably looks a little more like, you know, you have like a steep a stream trajectory, and then you kind of get sort of comfortable at that new level, right? You pull some G’s, and then like, you’re like, Whoa, okay, I am looping really fast, I’m iterating really fast, learning a new thing, going from not very good at it to, you know, being really skilled at it. So you get to that plateau. But the thing is, and I see this, this happens, for other people, also, I think it’s a little bit universal, you can kind of get stagnant if you stay on that plateau for too long. It’s okay to like, regroup and recap and and enjoy some of the new skills you’ve learned or the new position you’ve obtained. But I also noticed that one of the things that most commonly I think comes into play, maybe about this midlife period, there’s a lot of things going on. Like for example, there’s often kids, there’s family, there’s work, but by about like mid 40s, many people have kind of gotten to a place where they have been kind of successful, they’ve established themselves, they’ve established a household, they’ve established their work. And that is a lot of work, like going through the growing up of your 20s into the 30s, like putting your head down doing the hard work, and you kind of arrive in a more comfortable spot than you’ve been in for a while. And I think there comes a moment when some people call it like midlife crisis, or there’s lots of names for it, but you just have this sense of like, what like what now that I’m no longer scared to death or really worried about like, doing, like being an adult. And I think, you know, sometimes we put a word like, what’s my purpose? And I think that is when we’ll look at it. But I often have felt like, one of the challenges with that word is it’s so ambiguous, and it feels like going on this journey that, that it’s, there’s not a right answer to and it often doesn’t instruct us in how to go about that. And sometimes I find that it’s really helpful to ask people, and to help people start growing again, like to get out of this stagnation, and then more things become clearer, right. But I think we sometimes get a little stuck. And it’s a time when we need to grow again. And that, that helps us reminds us things about ourselves, but it also helps us build new things about ourselves.
Brett Gilliland 44:26
I think that mission and purpose is tough because it does it’s feels like a lot of stress and pressure. I didn’t like I gotta go out and find my actual mission and purpose and attain date.
Carla Fowler 44:36
Where is it? Is it behind the fridge?
Brett Gilliland 44:39
Yeah, there’s no rulebook for it. You can Google it you can google how to find your purpose and go through 900 different exercises, which I’ve done a lot of those and it it for me, I shouldn’t say for everybody, but for me that future greater than your past hit me like a ton of bricks and I knew exactly what I was put on earth to do. Right but did it just came to me it wasn’t from doing exercises, but I think it is from doing exercises, reading books, surrounding myself with good people, interviewing good people, right? Focused on those things, and doing the right things to move the needle in my life. That’s how it can come over and hit you like a ton of bricks.
Carla Fowler 45:18
Yes, I think you’re describing something really great, which is sort of how I think about like, a mastery loop. So this idea of, how do we like, how do we learn anything? How do we get good at anything? And there’s a couple different ways to look at it. And I love using if it’s okay to just use you as an example. Absolutely. You know, as you’re talking about, how did I figure out this thing? Right? And we could probably put anything into that place. But for, for you, it was like mission and purpose, like, how do you how do you go out and find that, but you know, you did a couple different things. Number one, you spent some time, like just getting inputs, right? Learning, you did some you did some reading, you talked to people. And so you tried to sort of build, I call this building knowledge of the craft, whatever it is, you’re trying to learn, like, try and get some knowledge, build some knowledge of the craft. But you did a second thing that’s really important. And we sometimes forget this part, which is where we give all that knowledge, our own thinking and spin. Like where we really integrate that knowledge and own it ourselves. And that’s kind of the thinking time, even some of the exercises you were doing. You know, it was some practicing. So deliberate practice, but it was also I call it synthesizing, you’re trying to take all this, these inputs that are coming in, you’re trying to sort of help your brain, build something with them. Something that’s your own creation, right? Not someone else’s. I briefly brought up deliberate practice, you were doing the things so you were doing things that you knew were in the right direction that matter to you. And so really, a step of the mastery loop is then doing some deliberate practice, where you’re really intentionally trying to say, “What am I doing?” And “do I need to make a change to it?” If so, I make that change. And then I try it again. And I think I think the last stage of the mastery loop is really this idea of testing yourself. And this is perhaps where the analogy may break down a little bit in your case, but I think that you, you really invested in different ways that align very well with how we learn anything. And so I’m, I am not surprised that you got to some clarity on it. Now, of course, it’s not a direct line, it looks a lot more like
Brett Gilliland 47:41
Carla Fowler 47:42
you loop through it again, you slowly are kind of moving forward. But this is actually a lot of the path that I recommend to my clients, and I help them design. Like, what is that learning pathway look like for them for, for whatever it is, it could be looking for their purpose, but it also could be, “hey, I need to be thinking about whatever we’re, we’re looking ahead to our whatever FDA trials and bringing a product to market and that’s something I don’t know a lot about, I haven’t done that before.” Okay. Like, talk about, let’s talk about but how you what’s a process you can design and then run so that you don’t let that uncertainty of not knowing it just make you paralyzed?
Brett Gilliland 48:33
Yeah, that’s makes me think earlier, too, you see these things on Instagram and like reels and different stuff of like these life hacks. And, and while I get it, I understand life hacks as a way to make you be more efficient and in a manner that you didn’t know before. Right? But at the same time, it frustrates me when I hear hacks because it’s like somebody’s looking for that, you know, five minute ABS or whatever you call it, but in the day, through my experience, I’m 21 years in this business this month of running wealth management, practice and a firm and, and there has been nothing I shouldn’t say, maybe there, is I have not really found too many things that I can say as a life hack, other than just showing up every day and doing the work. Alright, that’s the hack.
Carla Fowler 49:16
You should name that, you should just call that like the Brent life hack.
Brett Gilliland 49:21
Yeah. I’m gonna make, I’m gonna make an Instagram post about that. That’s my life hack is show up to work every day. It’s not fun. It’s just it’s like, you got to do the grueling work. And I’m an only child. I don’t I didn’t understand delayed gratification. And I’ve had to learn that right. And it’s one of those things that you can’t, the delayed gratification you have to learn to love overtime, because it’s absolutely 100% for anything that’s worthwhile is going to take time, right? Raising a child––it takes time, right, and it’s time in the relationship, it’s time out of the relationship. And so, so anyway, last question for you here, Carla is, do you have like principles like, you know, these principles that you would say that from science that help you or help me or help anyone else achieve better or perform better? What would those be?
Carla Fowler 50:21
Well, we talked about three of them, I guess we went in depth on brutal focus. The other two are cultivate power, and relish uncertainty. Cultivate power, in short, is this idea that the results we produce matter. But in areas where it is more difficult to like measure absolute performance, which is most of much of business, frankly, in sports, it’s generally easier to know who won and lost. But pretty much everything else is a little more tricky. So in areas where it is more difficult to measure, we need to make sure that the network, the people around us are seeing our results, and that our results matter from their perspective. So there’s a couple of ways this manifests, I really do think about and help clients think about, like, who knows about what you’re doing? Do we need to help you raise your visibility? You know, do we need to think about network as an asset, right? Who knows what you’re doing? Who knows you, those things matter. So, and I bring that up, because there are a lot of people who are very high performing, and very good at what they do, and who think that that will be enough, but actually in the world, sometimes like that, that can be missed, and you wonder why you didn’t get the promotion, or you didn’t land the investor or, you know, whatever it is. So that’s one, the part about relishing uncertainty, I think we’ve talked a little bit about this, but it’s this idea of that, you know, to do great things, as you pointed out takes time, right. But if you put in time and you are consistent, then your results will compound over time, and can be really incredible. If you have that time. That being said, that is a that is a faith play, right there. I mean, when you have to be patient and keep doing the work. There’s a lot of uncertainty involved in that. And so, but I think that is actually a lot of success stories, when you hear about them, we don’t usually hear about that long tail, before the success part, the hockey stick. But there was a long tail. And I think during that period, you really have to know how to manage that uncertainty. And I always like to say, why manage it, why not relish it, if there’s some uncertainty, then you’re probably doing something interesting and exciting. Like there’s an opportunity there. And I can tell you that not a lot of other people are going to do it and lean in as much as you are and to be patient and to really invest as much as you are. Because as human beings, we hate uncertainty. And so I talk to people continually about what are the mindsets that will help them as an individual manage that uncertainty, you know, how to thrive in the face of it, maybe how to even have some fun with it. Because if there’s uncertainty, then there is the potential that we can be surprised and delighted. It’s also possible that we can create a future that’s even bigger than what we could imagine. So I guess as a, you know, a final thought on this, I think often we have to go or get started moving on something long before we have certainty about it. And also, we have to like, do it. And it’s going to be messy at the beginning. We’re going to be learning we’re going to be in the early stages of that. But to not judge yourself or how it’s going based on the fact that you don’t have certainty and it doesn’t look perfect. Because I think that most great things happened because someone was willing to do that and kept going. And so that’s kind of my my final thought on that relish uncertainty.
Brett Gilliland 54:14
Yeah, and I 100% agree. I mean, I’ve you know, what we do is we bring advisors into our firm, and they’ve been in the business for 20, 30, 40 years, right? And that they don’t, they don’t like the uncertainty like, “Are my clients gonna come?” Right? “Are they gonna come over? Are they gonna do this? Are they gonna do that?” And then every single time, you know, 36-37 times, whatever it’s been, they do. And everybody says, “gosh, I wish I’d done this earlier.” And I’m like, so I lead with all my conversations with with potential advisors that this is the thing and I don’t use the word releasing, relishing uncertainty, but that’s exactly what it is. Right? We’re not gonna have this clear pie. It’s just gonna say this is exactly what’s going to happen here. Right? And it’s just it is and so, so anyway, well I appreciate the time today, Carla. This has been awesome having you On The Circuit of Success and if you are ever in the St Louis area you give us a buzz.
Carla Fowler 55:05
Awesome, thank you so much Brett.
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